Thursday 4 August 2011

Ramana – The Unique Saint

Ramana was a rare spiritual personality with no Guru as such.  Most Divine personalities had Gurus.  Lord Rama had three Gurus – Vasishta, Viswamitra and Agastya.  Lord Krishna had three Gurus – Sandeepini, Gora Angirasa and Jain Teertamkara, Neminatha, who was His cousin.    Parashurama had his one Guru in Lord Dattatreya.  Dattatreya himself had twenty-four Gurus, one of them a cobbler and another a dog! 
Guru is one who opens your eyes!  Ramakrishna had two Gurus – Totapuri and Bhairavi Brahmani.  Shirdi Sai’s Guru was Venkusa, an avadhoota sanyasi.  Sri Aurobindo had no Guru in the strict sense.  He had met a personality known as Vishnu Bhasker Lele, a great yogi and sought his guidance.  Lele merely told him to listen to his inner voice, which Sri Autobindo did.
But Ramana Maharishi never had a Guru. As a boy of 16 he had heard of Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai near Chennai from his uncle.  At the same time, some internal transformation was going on in him already.  Then he went in search of self-realisation to Arunachala, a hillock which itself is worshipped as an embodiment of Lord Shiva.
Ramana’s first spiritual endeavour was to find out whether death was an end of the whole personality itself or whether something in everyone of us survives after death.  For this, he assumed that he was facing death.  He invited death and became stiff.  Slowly he found that death was only of his body, whereas he as aatma was unaffected by death.  It is after this experience, that young lad Ramana proceeded to Arunachala.
Ramana was a poet.  He had written innumerable poetic works in Tamil.  He had written some of his works in Sanskrit.  He knew English and would speak it fluently.  His handwriting was beautiful.
Though Ramana took to sanyaasa, he allowed his mother to stay with him in his ashram.  According to tradition, once a person takes to sanyasa, he is supposed have died.  In fact, to mark this, he performs his own funeral rites as though he had really died.  After embracing sanyasa, he is a new personality, a new man with no physical relatives.  A sanyasi cannot come back to his house.  He cannot interact with any of his relatives of his pre-sanyasi life.  He can not speak to his mother and his mother cannot treat  him as her son. 
This is the tradition prescribed for a sanyasi.  However, this tradition was broken by Aadi Sankara.  Sankara took sanyasa when he was hardly eight years old.  When he was around 15 years of age, he was in the  middle of India and he sensed by clairvoyance that his mother was seriously ill and ailing.  He immediately dematerialised his body, travelled in a trice and re-materialised himself in front of the house where his mother lived in Kaladi near Trichur of Kerala.  The local Namboodri Brahmins objected to Sankara re-entering his ‘poorvashrama’ house contrary to tradition.  Sankara rubbished their objection saying:
Sanyas is not an escape route from the burdens of Grihastha (family) life but an expansion of love.”
He re-entered his house incurring the wrath of the local orthodox Brahmins and did loving service to his ailing mother.
After Sankara, the old tradition was given up and a sanyasi is henceforth permitted to see and interact with his mother.  That is how Ramana permitted his mother to stay with him.  He never allowed this privilege to any other relative of his.   They could only come along with other devotees and have a glimpse of him.  He would not even speak to them.  He, however, showered his immense love and affection on his mother.
In fact, when his mother died, Ramana got a temple erected over her samaadhi (burial place) and got a beautiful Siva Linga installed there.  This again is a breaking of an age-old Hindu tradition and of the  Aagamas, according to which a temple cannot be erected over any burial place.
All great spiritual leaders are great revolutionaries.  They break traditions, transcend them.  Prema, Sathya and Dharma alone are their guiding factors.
Even amongst sanyasis and spiritual leaders, Ramana was different.  Normally, a sanyasi has to wear saffron coloured cloth.  Ramana did not observe this.  He wore a koupeenam (langot or loin cloth).  Most sanyaasis, upon taking to sanyas would acquire a new name with an epithet: “Aananda” or “Giri” or “Thirta” etc.  His original name was: Venkataraman, his name “Raman” forms part of his ‘poorvaashrama’ name.  He had no suffix life “Aananda”, “Thirta”, “Giri” or “Aacharya” to his name.  Here too, he was different.
Ramana was a realised soul, one who is not different from the ultimate God or the Divine consciousness.  A realised soul is love embodied.  When a person emanates causeless love, animals and birds are not afraid of him.  Squirrels ran over Ramana, birds would sit on his lap or shoulders.  Monkeys played with him.  He was fond of his cow which he named as: “Lakshmi”.  When Lakshmi died, he got her buried with ceremonies and rites treating her as another human-being! Ramana was fond of dogs.  His pet dog too received the same affection and love which Lakshmi got from him.  The lord says in Gita:
“The one who sees the same God in a well-versed and humble Brahmin, a Chandala, a cow, an elephant and a dog and treats them all as equals, he alone is a man of wisdom”.
Ramana had that equal vision.  For him there was no caste, no creed and no likes and dislikes.  He was ever serene and blissful.  Towards the end of his life Ramana was afflicted with cancer of the arm.  But it did not cause him any pain.  A Jeevanmukta, fully liberated soul, he had no body-consciousness.  When operated for cancer, he told the doctors that there was no need for anesthesia, local or spinal.  Surgery was done when he was very much awake and conscious.  There was no sign of pain in him.  His patience and power of endurance could be compared with that of Lord Jesus Christ.
There is another event which shows Ramana’s divinity and oneness with the Divine.  One day in his Ashram, bhajans (devotional songs) were being sung.  Towards the end of it, all the devotees were chanting repeatedly: “Ramana”, “Ramana”, “Ramana”.  Bhagwan Ramana who was in their midst, when others were chanting thus with tempo, he too chanted repeatedly: “Ramana”, “Ramana” etc.  A devotee in that group thought to himself:  “Why this man is chanting his own name?”
Pat come the reaction.  Maharishi Ramana himself raised his voice and shouted:
“My dear, do not try to compress this all-pervading Ramana into this six-foot body”.
When a female devotee implored Ramana to give her some mantra, to chant everyday for her spiritual uplift, Ramana wrote in a piece of paper,  “Om Sri Bhagavate Ramanaya”.
God-incarnates when they assume human forms and come down as Avataras while they undergo human sufferings like others, are always conscious of their Divinity.
Article by : M.N.Krishnamani
Source: Bhavan's Journal 30 November 2009
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