'The Sage of Arunachala'
30th Dec. 1879 to 14th April 1950
Throughout the history of mankind spiritual giants have appeared on very rare occasions to exemplify the Highest Truth. Guiding followers by their conduct in every moment of their lives; Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was such a giant. Unique in our time, He perfectly embodied the ultimate truth of Self-realisation, or complete absorption in the Supreme Itself.
Drawn from His home by the power of Arunachala at the age of sixteen, he remained at Its feet throughout the rest of His life and became known as the Sage of Arunachala.
He wrote very little, but is known to have translated and corrected a number of important works for the benefit of devotees. He preferred to communicate through the power of overwhelming Silence, a silence so deep and powerful that it stilled the minds of ardent seekers who were attracted to Him from all over the world.
Although preferring silence, He was always willing to answer the questions of sincere aspirants and never failed to guide them in the right direction.
His highest teaching of 'Self-enquiry' (vichara) was understood in the infinite silence of his presence. Through this silence, countless numbers of devotees and visitors experienced the pure bliss of True Being. That same experience of perfect peace is still available to sincere souls who turn to him and practice his teachings with devotion.
This act of perfect grace can be experienced anywhere, but it is especially palpable at the foot of the holy Arunachala Hill, a hill that has attracted saints and sages for thousands of years. The Maharshi's teaching of 'Self-enquiry' (Pure Advaita) is simplicity itself, requiring no outward formalities, no outer change of life, only a simple change in 'point of view' and a sustained effort on the part of the seeker. The goal is no heaven after death or a faraway ideal, but rather the removal of the ignorance that prevents us from knowing that we are eternally One with our Source, the Supreme Self, or God. It is an experience than can be had NOW! All that is required is a sincere effort, which earns us the necessary grace.
On his deathbed the Maharshi told his grieving devotees, "You say I am going away, but where can I go? I am always here. You give too much importance to the body." His promise of a 'continued presence' is daily being experienced by numerous devotees around the world, and it is that experience of 'continued presence' that has inspired many to devote themselves to the path of peace and love.
Residing at the Holy Hill:
The first place of Ramana’s residence in Tiruvannamalai was the great temple. For a few weeks he remained in the thousand-pillared hall. But urchins who pelted stones at him as he sat in meditation troubled him. He shifted himself to obscure corners and even to an underground vault known as Patala-lingam. Undisturbed he spent several days in deep absorption. Without moving he sat in samadhi, unaware of even the bites of vermin and pests.
But the mischievous boys soon discovered even this retreat and indulged in their pastime of throwing potsherds at the
young Swami. There was at the time in Tiruvannamalai a senior Swami by name Seshadri. Those who did not know him took him for a madman. He sometimes stood guard over the young Swami, and drove away the urchins. At long last he was removed from the pit by devotees without his being aware of it and deposited in the vicinity of a shrine of Subrahmanya. From then on there was some one or other to take care of Ramana. The seat of residence had to be changed frequently. Gardens, groves, shrines – these were the places chosen to keep the Swami who himself never spoke. Not that he took any vow of silence; he just had no inclination to talk. At times texts like Vasistham and Kaivalya Navaneetam used to be read out to him.
A little less than six months after his arrival at Tiruvannamalai, Ramana shifted his residence to a shrine called Gurumurtam at the earnest entreaty of its keeper, one Tambiranswami. As days passed and as Ramana’s fame spread, increasing numbers of pilgrims and sightseers came to visit him. After about
a year’s stay at Gurumurtam, the Swami – locally he was known as Brahmana-Swami – moved to a neighboring mango orchard. It was here his paternal uncle, Nelliyappa Aiyar, traced him out. He was a pleader at Manamadurai. Having learnt from a friend that Venkataraman was then a revered Sadhu at Tiruvannamalai, he went there to see him. He tried his best to take Ramana along with him to Manamadurai. But the young sage would not respond. He did not show any sign of interest in the visitor. So, Nelliyappa Aiyar went back disappointed to Manamadurai. However, he conveyed the news to Alagammal, Ramana’s mother.