By VS Krishnan
While walking through the streets of Madurai, the young Venkataraman happened to meet an elderly relation. When asked why he was not being seen around and where he had been, the relative replied: “Arunachalam”. The very name Arunachlam made a profound impact on Venkataraman.
A few days later, while at home, suddenly, he was struck by fear of death. This prompted him to inquire all about death. He soon realised that death happens only to the body and not to the Self. Transformed with this knowledge, he proceeded to Tiruvannamalai. He went straight inside and said, “Oh Lord, obedient to Thy call, I have come.” On September 1, 1896, the one who came out of the temple was not Venkataraman, the young school student but an enlightened soul. He soon moved to Virupaksha cave, up the hill where he remained in samadhi most of the time. He was unaware of his body and its needs and remained unresponsive to external matters. Though he studied sacred books, he said they were analysing what he had already felt intuitively.
Seekers, scholars and pundits came to him to get his grace and advice. Some, like Paul Brunton, went back to tell the world about a saint who is totally impersonal and detached. Some came to him and stayed with him like Muruganar and Kunju Swamy to imbibe the nectar of knowledge that flowed from the saint. It was Ganapati Muni, a renowned Sanskrit scholar who described this saint as ‘Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’.
Though many sought his upadesa, rarely did Maharshi give any specific advice. According to him, the Self, the reflection of Brahmn, is the eternal Guru. It is enough if one looks within and contemplates. But, since the mind has an outgoing tendency, it would respond more actively to external factors than to internal factors. So, in order to bring the outgoing mind to the source, Guru appears externally in the form of a human, so that the mind responds. Guru then holds the attention of the extroverted mind and redirects it to its source, the Self. “The greatest service the disciple can give to the Guru is to engage himself in Self-inquiry sincerely,” he said.
Once, a visitor to Ramanashram asked Maharshi which path he should follow. The saint replied: “Before you speak of a path, first find out where are you now. Know first where you are and what you are and then the path will be visible. In fact, there is nothing to be reached. You are always as you really are.”
Self is Consciousness by which one is able to experience existence in all stages of life like youth, middle age and old age and in all states like deep sleep, dream and waking. Though Consciousness reveals itself at all times, the individual is not able to realise it because he falsely identifies himself with the mind and body. The false notion of ‘i’ the ego continues to delude the individual. As he grows, it becomes a conviction; with the result he forgets svarupa, his innate, real and essential nature. To rescue the individual from delusion, Maharshi advised him to inquire: “Who Am I?” When he negates those elements like mind and body which do not constitute his nature, the pure ‘I’ alone remains, leading to Self-realisation.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.