Ramana Maharshi
(1879–1950)
   advaita Vedanta teacher and mystic
   Ramana Maharshi was a GURU of international renown from southern India who taught the non-dual philosophy of ADVAITA VEDANTA.
   Ramana was born on December 30, 1879, as Venkataraman Ayyar at Tiruchuli near Madurai Ramana Maharshi (1879–1950), widely recognized teacher, mystic, and foremost exemplar of advaita (non-dual) consciousness (Courtesy Sri Ramanashramam, Tiruvan-namalai, Tamil Nadu) in the state of Tamil Nadu. He was the son of Shundaram Ayyar, a scribe and country lawyer. The family was religious, giving ritual offerings to the family deity and visiting temples. As a child, Ramana was largely uninterested in school; throughout his life he showed a marked inclina-tion toward introspection and self-analysis.
   In 1896, at age 17 he entered an altered state of consciousness that had a profound effect on him. He experienced what he understood to be his own death and return to life. Without any training by a teacher or any personal discipline, he attained a profound experience of the true Self and real-ized that the body dies but consciousness is not touched by death. He saw the real “I” as immortal consciousness, as a powerful living truth experi-enced directly. Thereafter, all attention was drawn to this “I” or Self and he remained conscious of his identity with the absolute at all times. All fear of death was permanently extinguished.
   Ramana ran away from home to the holy mountain Arunachala near Tiruvannamalai. He spent 10 years in silent Self-absorption at the temple there, at the foot of the mountain, and in various caves on the mountain. Throughout these years he remained silent and maintained disciplines of spiritual purification and nonattach-ment. Against the pleas of his family, he refused to return home. His absorption in higher conscious-ness was so deep that he neglected care of his body and was at times famished and chewed by insects. Disciples began to gather around him to take care of his physical needs and to gain aware-ness of his non-dual state of consciousness. His disciples gave him sacred books, and he became conversant with the religious traditions of South India.
   When Ramana broke his silence, he responded to questions about Self-consciousness. His teach-ing was given largely through conversations with guests who visited him on the mountain, where his ASHRAM began to develop. His advice to those who sought SELF-REALIZATION was to direct them to the question “Who am I?”—a self-inquiry that he insisted be used tirelessly as each student discov-ered deeper and deeper levels of awareness. The aim of this inquiry was for each person to find an awareness of non-duality, in which the oneness of the Self and cosmos could be perceived. He taught that a person who is not attached to the results of action can live in the world as an actor who plays a role in a drama but is immune to emotional dis-turbance, because the person realizes that action is only play acting on the stage of life.
   Ramana remained at Arunachala for the dura-tion of his life, welcoming visitors from East and West, while becoming a living example of non-dual consciousness. He died there of cancer on April 14, 1950, sitting in a lotus position.
   The Ramanashramam exists today as a sanctu-ary that houses Ramana’s grave, his cave residence, and accommodation for many visitors.
   Further reading: Paul Brunton, A Search in Secret India (Bombay: B. I., 1934); David Godman, Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi (New York: Pen-guin, 1989); Arthur Osbourne, Ramana Maharshi and the Path of Self-Knowledge (New York: S. Weiser, 1970); Arthur Osbourne, ed., The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1970); Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (Turuvannamalai: Sri Ramanash-ramam, 1984).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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