Sri Ramana Maharshi Biography

Last updated on June 20th, 2024 at 10:58 am

Your own self-realization is the greatest service you can render the world – Sri Ramana Maharshi

Who was Ramana Maharshi? What was he known for? Was he an avatar? How did he get enlightened? Find answers to these and many more questions about him, in this biography of Sri Ramana Maharshi which gives you an insight into his life and teachings.

Life Story of Sri Ramana Maharshi

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi

Born as Venkataraman Iyer on December 30, 1879 in Tiruchuzhi, Virudhunagar, Madras Presidency in British India (which is today’s Tamil Nadu), Ramana Maharshi belonged to a Hindu brahmin family. As a child, he had very good memory, could recall information only after reading or hearing it once, and he had memorized many Tamil poems at an early age.

It is said, that he used to sleep very deeply, and at a tender age of 12, he is considered to have experienced deep meditative states. At his village school, only Tamil was taught, but Venkataraman’s father wanted him to learn English so that it would be easier for him to join government service later in life. With this purpose in mind, he sent young Venkataraman to his uncle Subbaiyar in Madurai. Due to the sudden death of his father, Venkataraman continued to stay with his uncle thereafter. He went to Scott’s Middle School and later to American Mission High School. There he was introduced to Christianity.

At a young age, he was attracted to the holy mountain Arunachala. He read and was influenced by Periyapuranam, a book about 63 Nayanmars. In July 1896, when he was aged 16, he had a fear of death. He was struck by some force or current after which his body got rigid. He started self-enquiry in which he realized that it is the body that dies but the current remains alive and that is the real self or the Iswara.

Hereafter, he had no interest in school, he was always seen self-absorbed, as if awaiting God. He used to think about the ‘current’, and visit the Meenakshi Temple every day and pray to be blessed like the Nayanmars and the Nataraja. He aspired to be a Sanyasi, but fearing that his family would not allow, lying that he had to attend class, he went off to Tiruvannamalai and stayed there as long as he lived.

At Tiruvannamalai, he stayed at the Arunachaleswara temple for a few months, where he confined himself to an underground vault and went into deep samadhi.

In February 1897, he shifted to Gurumurtam, where he got his ardent follower Palaniswami who served as his attendant and who took care of him.

In May 1898, he moved to a nearby orchard. There, he was totally immersed in meditation and ignorant of ants biting him. During this time, he got some followers and some of them built a protective fence around him.

In September 1898, he shifted to the Shiva temple in Pavalakkunru.

In February 1899, he started living in Arunachala at the Virupaksha cave, which was his residence for 17 long years.

In 1902, Sivaprakasam Pillai visited Ramana Maharshi and asked him 14 questions, the answers to which came to be his first teachings about Self-enquiry, a method for which he was widely famous. In 1907, a vedic scholar Sri Ganapati Sastri visited Ramana Maharshi. When he received Ramana Maharshi’s knowledge about self-enquiry, he gave him the name Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.

In 1911, Frank Humphrey published articles about Ramana Maharshi. He was the first individual from the West to find Maharshi.

In 1916, Maharshi’s mother and younger brother came to stay with him at Tiruvannamalai and then they moved to the larger Skandashram Cave. His mother and brother started living as sanyasis. Five Hymns of Arunachala, a work in devotional poetry was composed by Maharshi during this time.

After the demise of Maharshi’s mother in 1922, her tomb was built, around which Sri Ramanasramam, an ashram was established and that remained to be the residence of Maharshi thereafter. Starting as just a humble hut and surrounding space, Sri Ramanasramam eventually developed to consist of a library, a hospital, a post office and many other facilities. Maharshi took active part in the building projects in the ashram space and in daily activities like cooking and preparing leaf plates.

In 1948, a cancerous lump was found on Maharshi’s arm, which was surgically removed. When the growth reappeared, the doctor advised arm amputation which Maharshi refused. He underwent four surgeries in all, but he could not be cured. By April 1950, he was very weak and he left for heavenly abode on April 14, 1950. Interestingly, a shooting star was seen at the same time.

Ramana Maharshi’s Teachings

  • He described the self as a current or force and used the term ‘sat-chit-anand’ to describe the concept of self. He considered the self to be indestructible and permanent.
  • He believed in and practiced the idea of teaching with silence. According to him, the true and only upadesa (teaching) is silence and that it can be understood only by an advanced seeker.
  • He said that self-enquiry is the best way of self-realization. According to him a constant attention to one’s inner awareness is the key to know oneself. Through the path of self-enquiry, one learns that the ego is non-existent, and this realization helps one to conquer his destiny.
  • While self-enquiry is a fast way to achieve a realization of self, Maharshi also recommended self-surrender or bhakti as the means to gain self-realization. Through bhakti marg or surrendering to God, the ego is destroyed, which in turn helps one conquer his destiny.
  • According to Maharshi, reincarnation does not exist.
  • He believed that God, Guru and Self are forms of the same reality. He considered the sacred mountain of Arunachala as his guru, which is believed to be a manifestation of Lord Shiva. He credited the spiritual power of Arunachala for his self-realization.
  • As a mark of veneration, he used to smear his forehead with ash.
  • He did not promote any lineage, did not declare anyone as his disciple or successor and did not refer to himself as a guru.
  • Texts written by Maharshi have been compiled into Collected Works. He has also translated some works for his devotees, a notable one being his translation of 42 verses of the Bhagavad Gita into Tamil.
  • Teachings of Ramana Maharshi have been elaborately explained on the website
  • Sri Ramana Maharshi Quotes >> Link

For the Devotees

  • Maharshi was widely recognized as an enlightened being and many thought of him as an avatar of Lord Shiva. Devotees considered him to be an embodiment of Dakshinamurti, as an avatar of Shiva, a form of Shiva known in Tamil Nadu.
  • Some followers regarded him as an incarnation of Jnana Sambandar, one of the 63 Nayanars, and as an incarnation of Kumarila Bhatta.
  • Maharshi was of the view that he should be accessible to his devotees, but at times, overwhelmed by the big number of visitors, he felt like leaving the ashram to live in solitude.
  • His followers wanted to touch him and his belongings as they considered it as prasad and a way to obtain his blessings.
  • Some of his notable devotees include Arthus Osborne and David Godman who worked at his ashram and later wrote about his life and work. Paul Brunton, through his written work introduced Westerners to Maharshi.
  • O.P. Ramaswamy Reddiyar, an Indian National Congress politician, Gudupati Venkatachalam, a Telugu writer and Ganapati Muni, a Sanskrit scholar, poet and activist for Indian Independence, are among the most notable Indian devotees of Ramana Maharshi.

Works About Ramana Maharshi

  • A biography of Maharshi was published in 1931. It was titled ‘Self Realization: The Life and Teachings of Ramana Maharshi’ and was authored by B.V. Narsimha.
  • In 1934, Paul Brunton, after meeting Maharshi published a book titled A Search in Secret India, in which he has referred to Maharshi as one of the last of India’s spiritual supermen. Due to this book, Maharshi rose to greater fame in and out of India.
  • Many other visitors who turned into his followers after meeting him, wrote about him, thus helping in publicizing his teachings in different parts of the world.
  • There are documentaries describing his life and philosophy and some of his conversations with his devotees have been recorded.
  • These works serve as the means to know him better, and future generations may benefit from his spiritual teachings recorded in this works.

The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi – This work contains almost everything written by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, his inspired compositions and teachings.

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was perhaps the most famous Indian sage of the 20th century. It is difficult to fully describe him or fathom his philosophy, but he can briefly be described as a great Hindu saint who advocated self-enquiry and bhakti (devotion or self-surrender) as the two primary ways of removing ignorance and attaining self-realization. Devotees consider him to be a liberated human being and respect him as one of the greatest seers and spiritual masters of our times.

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