Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi

Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi was an enlightened Jnani ( Saint ) in India and in the year 1896, at the age of 16 Ramana had a “death-experience” where he became aware of a “current” or “force” which he recognized as his true “I” or “self”,which he realized as Lord Shiva which is Ishvara. Six weeks after this experience, Ramana left his uncle’s home in Madurai to reach Tiruvannamalai where the holy Arunachala mountain exists and remained in Arunachala for the rest of his life.
Ramana was named as Venkataraman Iyer when he was born, but later in life he was mostly known by the name Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. He attracted devotees from all over the world that regarded him as an incarnation of Shiva and came to him for blessings and seeking to know the truth of the self. Since the 1930s his teachings have been popularized in the West, resulting in his worldwide recognition as an enlightened saint.Most of his teachings were in silence.Ramana Maharshi always recommended the path of self enquiry “ Who Am I” as the principal means to remove ignorance and abide in the self.

Ramana Mahrshi Birth & Early life

Ramana was born on 30 December 1879 in Tiruchuli,Tamil Nadu,India. He was the second of four children in an orthodox Hindu Brahmin family. His father was Sundaram Iyer (1848–1890) and his mother was Azhagammal (1864–1922). He had two brothers Nagaswami (1877–1900) and Nagasundaram (1886–1953) and a younger sister named Alamelu (1887–1953). When he was about eleven his father sent him to live with his paternal uncle Subbaiyar in Dindigul as he wanted his sons to be educated in the English language so that they would be eligible to enter government service. Only Tamil was taught at the village school in Tiruchuli which he attended for three years.

In 1891, when his uncle was transferred to Madurai, Venkataraman and his elder brother Nagaswami moved with him.
His father Sundaram Iyer died suddenly on 18 February 1892.After his father’s death, the family split up and Venkataraman and Nagaswami stayed with Subbaiyar in Madurai.Venkataraman first attended Scott’s Middle School and then the American Mission High School.

In July 1896 at age 16, he had a sudden fear of death. He was struck by “a flash of excitement” or “heat”, like some “avesam”, a “current” or “force” that seemed to possess him while his body became rigid. He initiated a process of self-enquiry, asking himself, “what it is that dies?” He concluded the body dies, but this “current” or “force” remains alive, and recognized this “current” or “force” as his Self, which he later identified with “the personal God or Ishvara
In one of his rare written comments on this process Ramana Maharshi wrote, “inquiring within myself who is the seer? I saw the seer disappear leaving “that” alone which stands forever. No thought arose to say I saw. How then could the thought arise to say I did not see.”

In July 1896 at age 16, he had a sudden fear of death. He was struck by “a flash of excitement” or “heat”, like some “avesam”, a “current” or “force” that seemed to possess him while his body became rigid. He initiated a process of self-enquiry, asking himself, “what it is that dies?” He concluded the body dies, but this “current” or “force” remains alive, and recognized this “current” or “force” as his Self, which he later identified with “the personal God or Ishvara
In one of his rare written comments on this process Ramana Maharshi wrote, “inquiring within myself who is the seer? I saw the seer disappear leaving “that” alone which stands forever. No thought arose to say I saw. How then could the thought arise to say I did not see.”

Final years (1940–1950)
Final years (1940–1950)
Final years (1940–1950)

1896–1897 - Patala lingam vault

When Ramana arrived in Tiruvannamalai, he went straight to the temple of Arunachaleswara. He spent the first few weeks in the thousand-pillared hall of the temple, then shifted to other spots in the temple, and eventually to the Patala lingam vault so that he could remain undisturbed. There, he spent days absorbed in such deep samādhi that he was unaware of the bites of vermin and pests. Seshadri Swamigal a local saint discovered Ramana in the underground vault and tried to protect him from other people who were trying to disturb Ramana. After about six weeks in the Patala lingam vault he was carried out and cleaned up. For the next two months he stayed in the Subramanya Shrine, so unaware of his body and surroundings that people had to feed food into his mouth to keep him from starving.

1897–1898 - Arrival at Tiruvannamalai

In February 1897, six months after his arrival at Tiruvannamalai, Ramana Maharshi moved to Gurumurtam, a temple about a mile away.In May 1898 Ramana Maharshi moved to a mango orchard next to Gurumurtam.

While living at the Gurumurtam temple his family discovered his whereabouts. First, his uncle Nelliappa Iyer came and pleaded with him to return home, promising that the family would not disturb his ascetic life. Ramana Maharishi sat motionless and eventually his uncle gave up.

In September 1898 Ramana Maharishi moved to the Shiva temple at Pavalakkunru, one of the eastern part of Arunachala. In those days when Ramana stayed there, it was out of the city and on the edge of the forest and fields that surrounded the city at that time.But at present this place is surrounded by buildings. It is there that he had his first meeting with his mother, where she tried to get him to return back to home with her. Ramana responded to his mother by writing to her in a paper.

The message was – “In accordance with the Prarabdha of each person,the Ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their past deeds. Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, however hard you may try. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, however hard you may try to stop it. This is certain. The best course, therefore, is to remain silent. He refused to return even though his mother begged him to return.At this point his mother returned to Madurai, saddened.

1899–1922 - Arunachala Mountain

1899–1922 - Arunachala Mountain

Soon after this, in February 1899, Ramana Maharshi left the foothills to live on Arunachala mountain itself. He stayed briefly in Satguru Cave and Guhu Namasivaya Cave before taking up residence at Virupaksha Cave for the next 17 years, using Mango tree cave during the summers, except for a six-month period at Pachaiamman Koil during the plague epidemic. Soon after this, in February 1899, Ramana Maharshi left the foothills to live on Arunachala mountain itself. He stayed briefly in Satguru Cave and Guhu Namasivaya Cave before taking up residence at Virupaksha Cave for the next 17 years, using Mango tree cave during the summers, except for a six-month period at Pachaiamman Koil during the plague epidemic.

In 1916 his mother Alagammal and younger brother Nagasundaram joined Ramana at Tiruvannamalai and followed him when he moved to the larger Skandashram Cave, where Bhagavan lived until the end of 1922. His mother took up the life of a sannyasin and Ramana Maharishi began to give her intense and personal instructions while she took charge of the Ashram kitchen.
Ramana Maharishi’s younger brother, Nagasundaram, then became a sannyasi, assuming the name Niranjanananda, becoming known as Chinnaswami (the younger Swami).
During this period, Ramana Maharshi composed The Five Hymns to Arunachala, his magnum opus in devotional lyric poetry. The first hymn is Aksharamanamalai.It was composed in Tamil in response to the request of a devotee for a song to be sung while wandering in the town for alms. The Marital garland hymn tells the glowing symbolism of the love and union between the human soul and God, expressing the attitude of the soul that still aspires.
Starting in 1920, his mother’s health deteriorated and Ramana tended her with utmost care and affection, sometimes spending sleepless nights sitting up with her.
She died on 19 May 1922 and on the day of her death, from early in the morning, Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi sat next to her and placed his left hand on the mother’s head and his right hand on the right side of her chest. He remained like that for nearly eight hours. The devotees who had gathered there knew that Ramana’s mother’s life had come to a end. They observed the beauty and sanctity of a son elevating his mother’s soul to the Infinite. Kunju Swami who was present later said that the devotees observing this felt it was a physical demonstration of the soul’s journey to the Absolute; it was like heat and light spreading from a flame. When that soul and mind had merged in the Self, Bhagavan took his hands off and then said, “When the soul merges with the Self and is completely annihilated, a soft ring like that of a bell can be felt.”
As tradition demands in the case of a liberated being, Algammal’s body was not cremated but buried. Since no burial is allowed on the Hill,her body was buried at the foot of the hill on the southern side. It was less than a hour’s walk down from Skandasramam and Ramana Maharishi often walked from Skandashram to his mother’s tomb.
In December 1922 Ramana did not return to Skandashram, and settled at the base of the Hill. Thus Sri Ramanasramam came into being. He said: “Not of my own accord I moved from Skandasramam. Something placed me here and I obeyed.”

Final years (1940–1950)

In November 1948, a tiny cancerous lump was found on Ramana Maharshi’s arm and was removed in February 1949 by the ashram’s doctor. Soon, another growth appeared, and another operation was performed by an eminent surgeon in March 1949 with radium applied. The doctor told Ramana Maharishi that a complete amputation of the arm to the shoulder was required to save his life, but Ramana refused.

A third and fourth operation were performed in August and December 1949, but only weakened him. Other systems of medicine were then tried.But everything proved fruitless and were stopped by the end of March when devotees gave up all hope. To devotees who begged him to cure himself for the sake of his followers, Ramana Maharishi is said to have replied, “Why are you so attached to this body? Let it go”, and “Where can I go? I am here.

By April 1950, Ramana Maharishi was too weak to go to the hall and visiting hours were limited. Visitors would file past the small room where he spent his last days to get one final glimpse.

Ramana left the physical body on 14 April 1950 at 8:47 p.m to merge with Arunachala forever. There was no struggle, no spasm, none of the signs of death. At that very moment, a comet ( some called it a shooting star ) moved slowly across the sky, reached the summit of the holy Arunachala hill and disappeared behind it. The light that illumined the earth as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi had now merged with the Eternal Light which is the source of all creation.
All the English and Tamil papers from Madras in 16th April,1950 gave wide publicity in banner headlines to the passing of the Maharshi. They also referred to the meteor which had been seen in the sky all over the State of Madras covering hundreds of thousands of square miles at 8-47 pm on the night of April 14 by a large number of people in different places and reported to the Press. These eye-witnesses had been struck by its peculiar look and behavior which led them to ascribe the strange phenomenon to the passing of a great spiritual soul. Such a mass of evidence speaks for itself even if such a evidence is required . Ramana Maharshi’s devotees regard him to be as Dakshinamurthy and as an avatar of Skanda, a divine form of Lord Shiva. Ramana brought Jnana Marga close to the people and Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi showed that the purpose of life was to enlighten ourselves by seeking the truth of the self through self enquiry of “who am i ?” and by abiding and surrendering to the supreme truth of the self.By following this truth we can all be liberated and enlightened in this life.

Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi Teachings

Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi agreed that there are many ways to salvation but however Ramana Maharshi mainly emphasized on self-enquiry and constantly recommended it. Ramana always used to say self enquiry of “who am I” is the direct path to realization – liberation. Ramana says this is the direct method.

All other methods are practiced while retaining the ego and therefore many doubts arise and the ultimate question “who am I” still remains to be tackled in the end. But in the path of self enquiry the final question is the only one and is raised from the very beginning. This is what Ramana often meant by saying that the true teaching is always taught in silence.

Self-enquiry - “who am I”

Self-enquiry leads directly to self-realization by removing the obstructions which make you think that the self is not already realized. But other ways of trying to realize the self,like meditation and yoga requires an object to meditate on or to do any action. In Self-enquiry there is only the subject and no object. This is the main difference between self enquiry and meditation / yoga.

Only in self enquiry the mind (thoughts ) can be destroyed . All the other paths of spirituality can be followed only by the use of the mind. In other paths of spirituality the ego may take different and more subtle forms at different stages but it is never gets destroyed. The attempt to destroy the ego or the mind by methods other than self-enquiry is like a thief turning policeman to catch the thief that is himself. Self enquiry alone can reveal the truth that neither the ego nor the mind really exists and enable one to realize the pure, undifferentiated Being of the self or the Absolute. Without destroying the mind one cannot be liberated.

’ Jnana’

To a question from a devotee asking ‘Who am I?’Ramana’s replied that ‘Knowledge itself is “I”’. The nature of knowledge is sat-chit-ananda.’The word that is translated as ‘knowledge’ is the Tamil equivalent of ‘jnana’. So the answer to that original question ‘Who am I?’ Jnana is “I” and the nature of jnana is sat-chit-ananda’.The Self is Pure Consciousness. Yet a man identifies himself with the body which is insentient and does not itself say “ I ” am the body’. Someone else says so. The unlimited Self does not say “I am the Body”. Seek this “ I ” and it will vanish like a Phantom(Ghost). The phantom is the ego or mind or individuality. All the scriptures are based on the rise of this phantom (ego), whose elimination is their purpose. The present state is mere illusion.Its dissolution is the goal in our life and nothing else.Self-enquiry is certainly not an empty formula. The very purpose of Self-enquiry is to focus the entire mind at its source.

Mind – Right Heart

To say ‘I am not this’ or ‘I am that’ there must be an ‘I’. This ‘I’ is the ego.After the rising up of this ‘I’ thought, all other thoughts arise. The ‘I’ thought is therefore the root thought. If the root is destroyed then every thought and ego is destroyed. Therefore, seek the root which is the ‘I’ and question yourself ‘Who am I?’ By this self enquiry you will reach the source and then all these other thoughts will vanish and the pure Self will remain.That which arises in the physical body as ‘I’ is the mind. If one enquires, ‘In what place in the body does this “I” first arise?’ and it will be known to arise from the hrudayam (right heart). That is the birthplace of the mind. Even if one incessantly thinks “I” – “I”- “I” it will lead to that place. Of all thoughts that arise in the mind, the thought ‘I’ is the first one. After this all other thoughts arise.

Whatever form your enquiry may take, you must finally come to the one ‘I’, the Self. Where is the scope for making the distinctions of ‘you’ and ‘I’ which pertain only to the body? When you turn the mind inwards, seeking the source of your thoughts, where is the ‘you’ and where is the ‘I’? You should seek and be the Self that includes all. The mind will only subside by means of the enquiry ‘Who am I?’
This self enquiry of ‘Who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts and will itself be finally destroyed like the stick used for stirring the funeral fire.

Mind and its Source

If other thoughts arise, one should, without attempting to complete them, enquire, ‘To whom did the thoughts occur?’.At the moment that each thought rises, if one vigilantly enquires ‘To whom did this appear?’ it will be known ‘To me’. If you then enquire ‘Who am I?’ the mind will turn back to its source and the thought that had arisen will also subside. By repeatedly practicing in this way, the mind will increasingly acquire the power to abide at its source. When the mind merges with the heart and abides in the Heart in this way, the ‘I’, the root of all thoughts disappear and now the ever-existing Self alone will shine. The state where not even the slightest trace of the thought ‘I’ remains is one’s true nature. This is true silence and being still.

Bhagavan always said ‘There is no goal to be reached. There is nothing to be attained. You are the Self. You exist always. All that is required of you is to give up the thought that you are this body and give up all thoughts of external things or the non-self.


Continuous practice and effort is essential until one attains that natural and primal state of mind which is free from thoughts and hence for that state can be achieved only if the “ I ”, “MY” and “Mine” are completely eradicated and destroyed.

Where is the source ?

Who am I ? is a self enquiry that leads us to find the source of the ego or the “I” thought. You must not work the mind with other thoughts such as “ I ” am not the body. Seeking the source of the “ I ” serves as a means of getting rid of all other thoughts. You should not allow any scope for other thoughts such as you mention but should keep the attention fixed on finding the source of the “ I ” by asking “who am I” and when any other thought arises ask and enquire “ For whom does these thoughts arise for ?”. And if the answer is ‘To me”,then you then resume the self enquiry – “Who am I” ‘What is this ‘I’ and from where are these thoughts arising from ? what is it’s source – Where is the source ?

Pursuit of Wisdom

When the mind unceasingly investigates its own nature it transpires that there is no such thing as the mind. This is the direct path for all. The mind is merely thoughts. Of all thoughts the ‘I’ is the root. Therefore, the mind is only the thought ‘I’. When does this thought ‘I’ arise? Seek for it within yourself and it will vanish. This is the pursuit of Wisdom. When the ‘I’ vanishes there is only Infinite. If the ego is everything then everything is also ego. If the ego is not, nothing else is. Indeed the ego is all. Therefore the self enquiry as to what this ego is leads us inward into the heart and to the source where the ‘I’ originates from and finally liberates us from Maya ( illusion ) and show us the absolute Self.