Venkataraman Iyer was born on the 30th of December to a Brahmin family in India (Tiruchuzhi). As a young boy he enjoyed sports and other pastimes of youth.
Venkataraman went through a spontaneous enlightenment transformation when he was just seventeen years old.
At first he told no one about his spiritual alteration. But after two months he decided that a change was needed. He wanted to further evaluate and explore his newfound state of egolessness. So he left home on August 29, 1896, and traveled by train to the town of Mombalappattu. Shortly thereafter he arrived in Tiruvannamalai, his final destination. Venkataraman settled at the sacred hill of Arunachala.
One day he was visited by a sincere seeker named Ganapati Sastri. Ganapati said, “All that has to be read I have read. Even Vedanta Sastra I have fully understood. I have performed japa (repetition of a holy name) to my heart’s content. Yet I have not up to this time understood what tapas is. Hence have I sought refuge at thy feet. Pray enlighten me about the nature of tapas.”
For 15-minutes Venkataraman sat silently and did not respond. Then he explained, “If one watches whence this notion of ‘I’ springs, the mind will be absorbed into that. That is tapas. If a mantra is repeated, and attention directed to the source whence the mantra-sound is produced, the mind will be absorbed in that. That is tapas.”
Out of gratitude Ganapati then composed a poem of several stanzas, and shorted the name Venkataraman to Ramana. Venkataraman was thereafter known as Sri Ramana Maharshi.
There at the foot of Arunachala Sri Ramana Maharshi established an Ashram, took on some disciples, and regularly met with traveling guests to share his knowledge and inspire their spiritual journey.
Here are excerpts from the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Venkataraman’s experience of enlightened transformation …
One day while sitting quietly in his Uncles house Venkataraman unexpectedly was filled with terror and fright. He felt that death had come to claim him. He was in good health up to now and so was perplexed as to why this was happening.
He lay down stretching out his hands and legs. He held his breath and closed his eyes.
Venkataraman later related …
“The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: ‘Now that death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying?
This body dies . . . But with the death of the body am I dead? Is the body I?
The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit.’
All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly. . . From that moment onwards the ‘I’ or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on.”
From “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharishi …
Question: How do we go to sleep and how do we wake up?
Maharishi: Just at nightfall the hen clucks and the chicks go and hide themselves under her wings. The hen then goes to roost in the nest with the chicks in her protection. At dawn the chicks come out and so does the hen. The mother-hen stands for the ego which collects all the thoughts and goes to sleep. At sunrise the rays emerge forth and are collected again at sunset. Similarly, when the ego displays itself, it does so with all its paraphernalia. When it sinks, everything disappears with it.
Question: What about bringing down divine consciousness from above?
Maharishi: As if the same is not already in the Heart? “O Arjuna, I am in the expanse of the Heart,” says Sri Krishna “He who is in the sun, is also in this man”, says a mantra in the Upanishads. “The Kingdom of God is within”, says the Bible. All are thus agreed that God is within. What is to be brought down? From where? Who is to bring what, and why? Realization is only the removal of obstacles to the recognition of the eternal, immanent Reality. Reality is. It need not be taken from place to place.
One Mr. Ramachandar, a gentleman from Ambala, asked where the Heart is and what Realization is.
Maharishi: The Heart is not physical; it is spiritual. Hridayam = hrit + ayam – This is the centre. It is that from which thoughts arise, on which they subsist and where they are resolved. The thoughts are the content of the mind and, they shape the universe. The Heart is the centre of all. Yatova imani bhutani jayante (that from which these beings come into existence) etc. is said to be Brahman in the Upanishads. That is the Heart. Brahman is the Heart.
Question: What is this Self again?
Maharishi: The Self is known to everyone but not clearly. You always exist. The Be-ing is the Self. ‘I am’ is the name of God. Of all the definitions of God, none is indeed so well put as the Biblical statement “I AM THAT I AM” in EXODUS (Chap. 3). There are other statements, such as Brahmaivaham, Aham Brahmasmi and Soham. But none is so direct as the name JEHOVAH = I AM. The Absolute Being is what is – It is the Self. It is God. Knowing
Question: Why are there good and evil?
Maharishi: They are relative terms. There must be a subject to know the good and evil. That subject is the ego. Trace the source of the ego. It ends in the Self. The source of the ego is God. This definition of God is probably more concrete and better understood by you.
Question: So it is. How to get Bliss?
Maharishi: Bliss is not something to be got. On the other hand you are always Bliss. This desire is born of the sense of incompleteness. To whom is this sense of incompleteness? Enquire. In deep sleep you were blissful: Now you are not so. What has interposed between that Bliss and this non-bliss? It is the ego. Seek its source and find you are Bliss.
There is nothing new to get. You have, on the other hand, to get rid of your ignorance which makes you think that you are other than Bliss. For whom is this ignorance? It is to the ego. Trace the source of the ego. Then the ego is lost and Bliss remains over. It is eternal. You are That, here and now.… That is the master key for solving all doubts. The doubts arise in the mind. The mind is born of the ego. The ego rises from the Self. Search the source of the ego and the Self is revealed. That alone remains. The
Question: What is the best way of living?
Maharishi: It differs according as one is a Jnani or ajnani. A Jnani does not find anything different or separate from the Self. All are in the Self. It is wrong to imagine that there is the world, that there is a body in it and that you dwell in the body. If the Truth is known, the universe and what is beyond it will be found to be only in the Self. The outlook differs according to the sight of the person. The sight is from the eye. The eye must be located somewhere. If you are seeing with the gross eyes you find others gross. If with subtle eyes (i.e., the mind) others appear subtle. If the eye becomes the Self, the Self being infinite, the eye is infinite. There is nothing else to see different from the Self.
He thanked Maharshi. He was told that the best way of thanking is to remain always as the Self.
From “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharishi, in the afternoon …
Visitor: What is the object of Self-Realization?
Maharishi: Self-Realization is the final goal and it is the end in itself.
Visitor: l mean, what is the use of Self-Realization?
Maharishi: Why should you seek Self-Realization? Why do you not rest content with your present state? It is evident that you are discontented with the present state. The discontent is at an end if you realize the Self.
Question: What is that Self-Realization which removes the discontent? I am in the world and there are wars in it. Can Self-Realization put an end to it?
Maharishi: Are you in the world? Or is the world in you?
Visitor: I do not understand. The world is certainly around me.
Maharishi: You speak of the world and happenings in it. They are mere ideas in you. The ideas are in the mind. The mind is within you. And so the world is within you.
Visitor: I do not follow you. Even if I do not think of the world, the world is still there.
Maharishi: Do you mean to say that the world is apart from the mind and it can exist in the absence of the mind?
Maharishi: Does the world exist in your deep sleep?
Visitor: It does.
Maharishi: Do you see it in your sleep?
Visitor: No, I don’t. But others, who are awake, see it.
Maharishi: Are you so aware in your sleep? Or do you become aware of the other’s knowledge now?
Visitor: In my waking state.
Maharishi: So you speak of waking knowledge and not of sleep-experience. The existence of the world in your waking and dream states is admitted because they are the products of the mind. The mind is withdrawn in sleep and the world is in the condition of a seed. It becomes manifest over again when you wake up. The ego springs forth, identifies itself with the body and sees the world. So the world is a mental creation.
Visitor: How can it be?
Maharishi: Do you not create a world in your dream? The waking state also is a long drawn out dream. There must be a seer behind the waking and dream experiences. Who is that seer? Is it the body?
Visitor: It cannot be.
Maharishi: Is it the mind?
Visitor: It must be so.
Maharishi: But you remain in the absence of the mind.
Maharishi: In deep sleep.
Visitor: l do not know if I am then.
Maharishi: If you were not how do you recollect yesterday’s experiences? Is it possible that there was a break in the continuity of the ‘I’ during sleep?
Visitor: It may be.
Maharishi: If so, a Johnson may wake up as a Benson. How will the identity of the individual be established?
Visitor: I don’t know.
Maharishi: If this argument is not clear, follow a different line. You admit “I slept well”, “I feel refreshed after a sound sleep”. So sleep was your experience. The experiencer now identifies himself with the ‘I’ in the speaker. So this ‘I’ must have been in sleep also.
Maharishi: So ‘I’ was in sleep, if the world was then there, did it say that it existed?
Visitor: No. But the world tells me its existence now. Even if I deny its existence, I may knock myself against a stone and hurt my foot. The injury proves the existence of the stone and so of the world.
Maharishi: Quite so. The stone hurts the foot. Does the foot say that there is the stone?
Visitor: No. -‘I’.
Maharishi: Who is this ‘I’? It cannot be the body nor the mind as we have seen before. This ‘I’ is the one who experiences the waking, dream and sleep states. The three states are changes which do not affect the individual. The experiences are like pictures passing on a screen in the cinema. The appearance and disappearance of the pictures do not affect the screen. So also, the three states alternate with one another leaving the Self unaffected. The waking and the dream states are creations of the mind. So the Self covers all. To know that the Self remains happy in its perfection is Self-Realization. Its use lies in the realization of Perfection and thus of Happiness.
Visitor: Can it be complete happiness to remain Self-realized if one does not contribute to the happiness of the world? How can one be so happy when there is a war in Spain, a war in China? Is it not selfishness to remain Self-realized without helping the world?
Maharishi: The Self was pointed out to you to cover the universe and also transcend it. The world cannot remain apart from the Self. If the realization of such Self be called selfishness that selfishness must cover the world also. It is nothing contemptible.
Visitor: Does not the realized man continue to live just like a non-realized being?
Maharishi: Yes, with this difference that the realized being does not see the world as being apart from the Self, he possesses true knowledge and the internal happiness of being perfect, whereas the other person sees the world apart, feels imperfection and is miserable. Otherwise their physical actions are similar.
Visitor: The realized being also knows that there are wars being waged in the world, just like the other man.
Visitor: How then can he be happy?
Maharishi: Is the cinema screen affected by a scene of fire burning or sea rising? So it is with the Self.
The idea that I am the body or the mind is so deep that one cannot get over it even if convinced otherwise. One experiences a dream and knows it to be unreal on waking. Waking experience is unreal in other states. So each state contradicts the others. They are therefore mere changes taking place in the seer, or phenomena appearing in the Self, which is unbroken and remains unaffected by them. Just as the waking, dream and sleep states are phenomena, so also birth, growth and death are phenomena in the Self which continues to be unbroken and unaffected. Birth and death are only ideas. They pertain to the body or the mind. The Self exists before the birth of this body and will remain after the death of this body. So it is with the series of bodies taken up in succession. The Self is immortal. The phenomena are changeful and appear mortal. The fear of death is of the body. It is not true of the Self. Such fear is due to ignorance. Realization means True Knowledge of the Perfection and Immortality of the Self. Mortality is only an idea and cause of misery. You get rid of it by realizing the Immortal nature of the Self.
From “Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharishi,” compiled and edited by Prof. Laxmi Narain, 2009:
Contact with Ramana Maharshi can change our outlook and convince us not only of the reality but also of the immense utility of spiritual values. He does not believe in propaganda of any kind, nor does he lecture to any of his numerous admirers and devotees. Most of the time he sits silently transforming the hearts and minds of those who are privileged to be near him. By the living example of his intensely methodical and practical life he helps and reforms us. His plain, simple and unsophisticated philosophy vividly reflected in his day-do-day conduct serves as a key to unlock the mystery of life and solves in a practical way some of the complicated social, political and economic problems that confront us today.
He enjoins on us that there is only One Self, One Life which is vibrant in every atom, One Light which is vibrant in every creature, One Love that embraces all in Oneness. According to Sri Ramana, unless you realize purity and goodness in yourself, you cannot do anything really good to ‘others’.
The Sage of Arunachala is really a spiritual scientist, who has adopted the scientific method of approach to Truth by investigating the realm of the Unknown with the aid of his intuitive genius, which has assimilated reason. He has attained self-realization through his own self effort and intensive introspection. He is the greatest of modern Sages of India.
From “Maharishi’s Gospel,” first published on the occasion of the 60th Jayanti of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi, 27th December 1939
Maharishi: Meditation is your true nature. You call it meditation now, because there are other thoughts distracting you. When these thoughts are dispelled, you remain alone — that is, in the state of meditation free from thoughts; and that is your real nature, which you are now trying to gain by keeping away other thoughts. Such keeping away of other thoughts is now called meditation. But when the practice becomes firm, the real nature shows itself as true meditation.
Guest: Other thoughts arise more forcibly when one attempts meditation!
Maharishi: Yes, all kinds of thought arise in meditation. That is only right; for what lies hidden in you is brought out. Unless it rises up, how can it be destroyed? Thoughts rise up spontaneously, as it were, but only to be extinguished in due course, thus strengthening the mind.
Guest: Does not death dissolve the individuality of a person, so that there can be no rebirth, just as the rivers discharged into the ocean lose their individualities?
Maharishi: But when the waters evaporate and return as rain on the hills, they once more flow in the form of rivers and fall into the ocean; so also the individualities during sleep lose their separateness and yet return as individuals according to their samskaras or past tendencies. Even so it is in death; and the individuality of the person with samskaras is not lost.
Quotes from Sri Ramana Maharshi
Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.
You and I are the same.
What I have done is surely possible for all.
You are the Self now and can never be anything else.
Throw your worries to the wind, turn within and find Peace.
Relative knowledge pertains to the mind and not to the Self. It is therefore illusory and not permanent. Take a scientist, for instance. He formulates a theory that the Earth is round and goes on to prove it on an incontrovertible basis. When he falls asleep the whole idea vanishes; his mind is left a blank. What does it matter whether the world remains round or flat when he is asleep? So you see the futility of all such relative knowledge. One should go beyond relative knowledge and abide in the Self. Real knowledge is such experience, and not apprehension by the mind.
Nearly all mankind is more or less unhappy because nearly all do not know the true Self. Real happiness abides in Self-knowledge alone. All else is fleeting. To know one’s Self is to be blissful always.
Bliss is not something to be got. On the other hand you are always Bliss. This desire [for Bliss] is born of the sense of incompleteness. To whom is this sense of incompleteness? Enquire. In deep sleep you were blissful. Now you are not so. What has interposed between that Bliss and this non-bliss? It is the ego. Seek its source and find you are Bliss.
Mind is consciousness, which has limitations. We are originally unlimited and perfect. Later on we take on limitations and become the mind.
Meditation depends upon the strength of mind. It must be unceasing even when one is engaged in work. Particular time for it is meant for novices.
When one makes the mind stick to one thought, the mind becomes rock-steady and the energy is conserved.
There is no death nor birth. That which is born is only the body. The body is the creation of the ego. But the ego is not ordinarily perceived without the body. It is always identified with the body.
If a man considers he is born he cannot avoid the fear of death. Let him find out if he has been born or if the Self has any birth. He will discover that the Self always exists, that the body which is born resolves itself into thought and that the emergence of thought is the root of all mischief.
The mind is only a bundle of thoughts. The thoughts have their root in the I-thought. Whoever investigates the True “I” enjoys the stillness of bliss.
When the mind is left without anything to cling to, it becomes still.
The inquiry “who am I” turns the mind introvert and makes it calm.
There is no mind to control if you realize the self. The mind having vanished, the self shines forth. In the realized man, the mind may be active or inactive, the self remains for him.
Meditation helps concentration of the mind. Then the mind is free from thoughts and is in the meditated form.
Meditation is sticking to one thought. That single thought keeps away other thoughts; distraction of mind is a sign of its weakness; by constant meditation it gains strength.
When we turn the mind inwards, God manifests as the inner consciousness.
See who is the doubter, who is the thinker. It is the ego. Hold it; the other thoughts will die away – the ego will be left pure. See the source from where the ego arises and abide in it. That is pure consciousness.
The “I” thought is said to be the sum total of all thoughts. The source of the “I” thought has to be enquired into.
The mind of one meditating on a single object becomes one-pointed. And one-pointedness of mind leads to abidance in the self.
Real attainment is to be fully conscious, to be aware of surroundings and the people around, to move among them all, but not to merge consciousness in the environment. One should remain in inner independent awareness.
You cannot deny your existence in sleep. Nor can you deny you were happy then. You are now the same person speaking and raising doubts. You are not happy according to you. But you were happy in sleep. What has transpired in the meantime that happiness of sleep has broken down? It is the rise of the ego. That is the new arrival in the jagrat (waking) state. There was no ego in sleep.
The birth of the ego is called the birth of the person. There is no other kind of birth. Whatever is born is bound to die. Kill the ego: there is no fear of recurring death for what is once dead. The Self remains even after the death of the ego. That is Bliss – that is immortality.
Once the current of awareness of the self is set afoot, it becomes everlasting and continuous by intensification.
Realization is to get rid of the delusion that you have not realized.
The mind is intangible; in fact it does not exist. The surest way to control it is to seek it. Then its activities cease.
There is no difference between the dream and the waking state except that the dream is short and the waking long. Both are the results of the mind
The seer and the seen together constitute the mind. See if there is such a thing as the mind. Then, the mind merges in the Self and there is neither the seer nor the seen.
Wrong knowledge is the false identification of the Self with the body and the mind. This false identification must go, and then the Self alone remains.
Good thoughts keep off bad thoughts. They must themselves disappear before the state of realization.
Realization is for everyone; realization makes no difference between the aspirants. This very doubt, whether you can realize, and the notion “I have not realized” are themselves the obstacles. Be free from these obstacles also.
The state of being is permanent; things in the world are not. They are fleeting phenomena passing on the screen of being consciousness, which is eternal and stationary.
The ultimate truth is so simple. It is nothing more than being in the pristine state. This is all that need be said
Truly there is no cause for you to be miserable and unhappy. You yourself impose limitations on your true nature of infinite being, and then weep that you are but a finite creature. Then you take up this or that spiritual practice to transcend the nonexistent limitations. But if your spiritual practice itself assumes the existence of the limitations, how can it help you to transcend them?
Realization is our true nature. It is nothing new to be gained. What is new cannot be eternal. Therefore there is no need to be doubting whether we would gain or lose the self.
A realized one sends out waves of spiritual influence in his aura, which draw many people towards him. Yet he may sit in a cave and maintain complete silence.
Turn the mind inward and cease thinking of yourself as the body; thereby you will come to know that the self is ever happy. Neither grief nor misery is experienced in this state.
Sri Ramana Maharshi is an inspiration and source of profound knowledge to every seeker on the path toward eternal blissful existence.
Read his words, contemplate the teachings, and meditate to become a living embodiment of the timeless essence of life.