Some Characteristics and Approach of Sri Ramana

Among the qualities that endeared Sri Ramana to thousands, was his soulabhya - easy accessibility. He sacrificed all privacy of time and sat in the hall day in and day out, and even slept in the presence of all. He did everything possible to make himself available to the devotees. With advancing age, the Ashram management thought of some rest for him after lunch by closing the doors of the hall for two hours. When Sri Ramana learnt about it, he sat outside the hall after lunch saying: "To see me, people come from different parts of the world. They may have some other urgent work. The management is welcome to close the doors but I am free to meet the visitors outside." It took a lot of persuasion to make him relent.

Equally charming was his sahajata - the utter normality of behaviour. His manners were so natural that the newcomer immediately felt at ease with him. By a single glance, a nod of the head or by a simple enquiry from him, the visitor felt that Sri Ramana was his very own and that he cared for him. He was extremely humble and unassuming. There was no pontifical solemnity in his expositions; on the contrary, his speech was lively. When a devotee asked why his prayers were not being answered, Sri Ramana laughingly said, "If they were, you might stop praying."

Much could be written about the way Sri Ramana practised samatva - equality. In his presence all were alike: high or low, rich or poor, man or woman, child or adult, human or animal. He would never tolerate any consideration or attention being shown to him more than to any other in the Ashram. Last two paras at p. 74 show how Sri Ramana opposed any physical concession to himself. If some little excess was served to him of any dish or any delicacy above the quantity served to others, he would chide whoever was responsible. Refer Index under the head 'Samatvd' for some incidents. Sri Ramana had compassion for all species of life. The text contains many episodes of his love for animals.

Sri Ramana taught the Ashram inmates more by example than precept.

Sri Ramana stressed that the path to peace is through service, and he himself set an example in the daily life at the Ashram. He would diligently correct manuscripts and proofs, cut vegetables, clean grain, shell nuts, stitch leaf -plates and assist in cooking, thus exemplifying the dignity of labour and charm of simplicity. Karma was, for him, not some special ritualistic action, but the daily tasks that are our common lot.

Sri Ramana's teachings were mirrored to perfection in his life. He declared that to abide in the Self was the highest attainment, and it was in this State Transcendent that one found him at all times. He had the characteristics of a jivanmukta - emancipated, while yet in the physical body. According to the Yoga Vasistha, to such a person: "Pleasures do not delight, pains do not distress. He does not work to get anything for himself. There is nothing which he has to achieve. He is full of mercy and magnanimity. He rests unagitated in Supreme Bliss."

Sri Ramana always laid stress on maunam - the silence, which is not meant to be negation of activity. It is something very positive. It is Supreme Peace, immutable like a rock that supports all activities, all movements. Answering the puzzlement of her Western friends about the 'inactivity' of Sri Ramana, Ella Maillart writes: Having identified ourselves with our bodies, we are convinced that one has got to be visibly active. We forget that inactivity is the basis of its corollary activity; that the useful wheel could not exist or move without a motionless base.

Sri Ramana never consciously did anything to make an impact or to carve out a niche for himself in the annals of history. He shunned all publicity and image building. He had successfully effaced himself. Paul Brunton, a British journalist, who lived near Sri Ramana for a few weeks in 1930, writes: "I like him greatly because he is so simple and modest, when an atmosphere of authentic greatness lies so palpably around him; and also because he is so totally without any traces of pretension and he strongly resists every effort to canonize him during his lifetime."

Sri Ramana never gave discourses, much less went on lecture-tours. After leaving home, he lived continuously for fifty-four years on or near the Arunachala hill. When people went to him and put questions, he answered them in his own simple way, devoid of solemn discourses.

Sri Ramana was much against miracles. He once said, "A magician deludes others by his tricks, but he himself is never deluded. A siddha who manifests his siddhis is inferior to the magician as he is deceiving others as much as himself." The 'miracles', which used to happen from time to time looked like coincidences, and if brought to Sri Ramana's attention he would just laugh them away. Sri Ramana would use the term 'Automatic Divine Action' for the 'miracles' and he made the devotee believe that he had no part to play in the matter.

Sri Ramana did not found a new cult or religion. He did not insist on compliance with any established religious mode, ritual or line of conduct. He emphasized the unity of Being and its accessibility through one's own efforts. According to him, the practical path to realization is atma-vichara, the search for the Self, through constant and deep meditation on the question Who am I? The approach is neither a religion nor a philosophy.
It entails no belief, no scholarship and no psychological doctrine.

In Sri Ramana's view the trouble afflicts us due to the mistake of limiting ourselves to the body. Constant self-questioning helps us to understand and imbibe the true knowledge about our identity, which is our Higher Self (atman), residing in the body.

Sri Ramana clarified that Who am I? is not a mantra to be repeated. The purpose of asking the question is to withdraw the mind from going outward and diving deep within one's own Self. The monkey-mind which is only a bundle of thoughts, would eventually vanish through persistent and serious meditation on the question Who am I?

The Last Days

Towards the end of 1948, a small nodule appeared above the left elbow of Sri Ramana. Operations were performed but the malignant tumour appeared again. The disease did not yield to any treatment. The sage was quite unconcerned and remained supremely indifferent to his suffering. Entries by the doctors who attended on Sri Ramana are significant in this regard.

Sri Ramana allowed himself to be operated to satisfy his devotees. Major Chadwick writes: "The night before the last operation I went to see Bhagavan and on my knees begged him not to have it. It was obvious that it could do no good. Each time the tumour had grown bigger and bigger. I prayed that this extra suffering was useless and that he would let us be spared of the strain. But he refused, for, as he said, the doctors had taken so much trouble, it would be shame to disappoint them now. Bhagavan's attitude had all along been to let everybody have a chance; no one should be disappointed."

Sri Ramana had compassion for those who grieved over his 'suffering' and he sought to comfort them by referring to the basic truth, the core of his message, that we are not the body. In his unique way he would ask whether we ever retained the leaf-plate after the meal was over.

The end came on April 14, 1950 at 8.47 p.m. At that very moment a bright comet moved slowly across the sky, reached the summit of hill Arunachala and disappeared high in the sky. The super soul reached its source.

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Published by: Sri Ramana Kendram, Hyderabad