Author Topic: Incidents Related To Awakening to the True Self Of Ramana Maharshi In Madurai  (Read 1301 times)


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In February 1892 Sundaram Iyer unexpectedly died, he was in his mid-forties. He left behind him his wife Alagammal, their three sons, Nagaswami aged fourteen, Ramana aged twelve and Nagasundaram aged six and their daughter Alamelu aged four. When Ramana returned from his school at Dindigul to Tiruchuli, to see his dead father for the last time, he reflected thoughtfully, “When Father is lying here, why do they say that he has gone?” One of the elders answered him, “If this were your father, would he not receive you with love? So you see, he has gone.”

The sudden death of the head of the family was a dramatic event which resulted in the family being split up. Alagammal moved to Manamadurai with the younger children Nagasundaram and Alamelu to live with her younger brother-in-law Nelliappa Iyer,who was also working as a pleader. The two older children moved into the house of Subba Iyer, another uncle on the father’s side,who lived at number 11 Chokkappa Naicken Street near the famous Meenakshi temple.

Ramana was sent to Scott’s Middle School and later to the American Mission High School. He was an average scholar who learned easily, but was not much interested in his lessons. He would often go unprepared to class. If others recited the day’s lesson he would remember enough to enable him to keep up.

Later he told his devotees the following story with regard to his schooldays, “While the school lessons were being taught, lest I should fall asleep I used to tie a thread to the nail on the wall, and tie my hair to it. When the head nods, the thread is pulled tight and that used to wake me up. Otherwise, the teacher used to twist my ears and wake me up.”

Wrestling, boxing, running and other sports were much more appealing to Ramana. He was stronger than most boys of his age and his strength and ability even impressed the older boys. He also liked to play football with his friends. People noticed that his team always won. This and other similar occurrences earned him the nickname ‘Thangakai’ (Golden Hand). It is a title given in Tamil Nadu to people who are always successful in their undertakings.

Ramana did not study Sanskrit or the sacred traditions of Hinduism such as the Vedas or the Upanishads. In both the schools he attended he was taught Christianity, but Hindu boys generally showed little interest in such bible classes – and Ramana was no exception in this respect.

Although he was very much like any other boy, he did have one peculiar trait. His sleep used to be exceptionally deep. When a relative later visited him at the Ashram Ramana recalled the following incident which happened in Dindigul, “Your uncle Periappa Seshaiyar was living there then. There was some function in the house and all went to it and then in the night went to the temple. I was left alone in the house. I was sitting reading in the front room,but after a while I locked the front door and fastened the windows and went to sleep. When they returned from the temple no amount of shouting or banging at the door or window could wake me. At last they managed to open the door with a key from the opposite house and then they tried to wake me up by beating me.All the boys beat me to their heart’s content, and your uncle did too, but without effect. I knew nothing about it till they told me next morning. … The same sort of thing happened to me in Madurai too. The boys didn’t dare to touch me when I was awake,but if they had any grudge against me they would come when I was asleep and carry me wherever they liked and beat me as much as they liked and then put me back to bed, and I would know nothing about it until they told me in the morning.

Soon thereafter, in the middle of July 1896, at the age of 16, the great change took place in his life. He was at the time a pupil in his final year at secondary school. He later described the incident which changed his life completely and irreversibly, “It was about six weeks before I left Madurai for good that the great change in my life took place. It was so sudden. One day I sat up alone on the first floor of my uncle’s house. I was in my usual health. I seldom had any illness. I was a heavy sleeper. … So, on that day as I sat alone there was nothing wrong with my health. But a sudden and unmistakable fear of death seized me. I felt I was going to die.Why I should have so felt cannot now be explained by anything felt in my body. Nor could I explain it to myself then. I did not however trouble myself to discover if the fear was well grounded. I felt ‘I was going to die,’ and at once set about thinking out what I should do. I did not care to consult doctors or elders or even friends. I felt I had to solve the problem myself then and there.

The shock of fear of death made me at once introspective, or ‘introverted’.I said to myself mentally, i.e., without uttering the words – ‘Now, death has come. What does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.’ I at once dramatized the scene of death. I extended my limbs and held them rigid as though rigor-mortis had set in. I imitated a corpse to lend an air of reality to my further investigation. I held my breath and kept my mouth closed, pressing the lips tightly together so that no sound might escape. Let not the word ‘I’ or any other word be uttered! ‘Well then,’ said I to myself,‘this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body, am “I” dead? Is the body “I”? This body is silent and inert. But I feel the full force of my personality and even the sound “I” within myself, - apart from the body. So “I” am a spirit, a thing transcending the body. The material body dies, but the spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. I am therefore the deathless spirit.’

All this was not a mere intellectual process, but flashed before me vividly as living truth, something which I perceived immediately,without any argument almost. ‘I’ was something very real, the only real thing in that state, and all the conscious activity that was connected with my body was centred on that. The ‘I’ or my ‘self’ was holding the focus of attention by a powerful fascination from that time forwards. Fear of death had vanished once and forever. Absorption in the Self has continued from that moment right up to this time. Other thoughts may come and go like the various notes of a musician, but the ‘I’ continues like the basic or fundamental sruti note which accompanies and blends with all other notes.Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading or anything else,I was still centred on ‘I’.

He reports, “When I lay down with limbs outstretched and mentally enacted the death scene and realized that the body would be taken and cremated and yet I would live, some force, call it atmic power [power of atman] or anything else, rose within me and took possession of me. With that, I was reborn and I became a new man. I became indifferent to everything afterwards,having neither likes nor dislikes.”

From now on he swallowed everything that was served to him,whether delicious or tasteless, good or bad, with no regard to how it tasted or smelled, or to its quality. Formerly, if he thought an injustice had been done to him or if other boys teased him, he would stand up for himself. Now he accepted everything without protest. He was also no longer interested in joining in his friends’ sporting activities, but rather sat alone and meditated with eyes closed in yogic posture. At school he started to encounter problems,because he was no longer interested in books. He remembered,“After the ‘death’ experience I was living in a different
world. How could I turn my attention to books? Before that, I would at least attend to what the other boys repeated and repeat the same myself. But afterwards, I could not do even that. At school, my mind would not dwell on study at all. I would be imagining and expecting God would suddenly drop down from Heaven before me.”

After his enlightenment Ramana started to visit the temple regularly.He recalled, “Formerly I would go there rarely with friends,see the images, put on sacred ashes and sacred vermilion on the forehead and return home without any perceptible emotion.

During his last month in Madurai, Ramana suffered from an unusual intense pain in his head and a burning sensation. But all symptoms of his profound change disappeared when he stepped into the temple at Tiruvannamalai for the first time on 1st September 1896.

Source: Ramana Maharshi: His Life A biography by Gabriele Ebert