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Ramana Maharshi
1879 –1950


Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was probably the most famous Indian sage of the twentieth century. He was renowned for his saintly life, for the fullness of his self-realization, and for the feelings of deep peace that visitors experienced in his presence. So many people came to see him at the holy hill of Arunchala where he spent his adult life that an ashram had to be built around him. He answered questions for hours every day, but never considered himself to be anyone’s guru.

He was born on December 30, 1879 in a village called Tirucculi about 30 miles south of Madurai in southern India. His middle-class parents named him Venkataraman. His father died when he was twelve, and he went to live with his uncle in Madurai, where he attended American Mission High School.
At age 16, he became spontaneously self-realized. Six weeks later he ran away to the holy hill of Arunachala where he would remain for the rest of his life. For several years he stopped talking and spent many hours each day in samadhi. When he began speaking again, people came to ask him questions, and he soon acquired a reputation as a sage. In 1907, when he was 28, one of his early devotees named him Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, Divine Eminent Ramana the Great Seer, and the name stuck. Eventually he became world-famous and an ashram was built around him. He died of cancer in 1950 at the age of 70.
His Self-Realization
At age 16, he heard somebody mention “Arunachala.” Although he didn’t know what the word meant (it’s the name of a holy hill associated with the god Shiva) he became greatly excited. At about the same time he came across a copy of Sekkilar’s Periyapuranam, a book that describes the lives of Shaivite saints, and became fascinated by it. In the middle of 1896, at age 16, he was suddenly overcome by the feeling that he was about to die. He lay down on the floor, made his body stiff, and held his breath. “My body is dead now,” he said to himself, “but I am still alive.” In a flood of spiritual awareness he realized he was spirit, not his body.
His Guru
Ramana Maharshi didn’t have a human guru (other than himself). He often said that his guru was Arunachala, a holy mountain in South India.

Source : http://www.realization.org/page/topics/ramana.htm

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Sri Ramana Maharshi
30-12-1879 – 14-04-1950
Sri Ramanasramam
Tiruvannamalai, South India.
Question: What is Guru’s grace? How does it lead to Self-realisation?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Guru is the Self. Sometimes in his life a man becomes dissatisfied and not content with what he has, he seeks the satisfaction of his desires through prayer to God. His mind is gradually purified until he longs to know God, more to obtain his grace than to satisfy his worldly desires. Then, God’s grace begins to manifest. God takes the form of a Guru and appears to the devotee, teaches him the truth and, more over, purifies his mind by association. The devotee’s mind gains strength and is then able to turn inward. By meditation it is further purified and it remains still without the least ripple. That calm expanse is the Self.
The Guru is both external and internal. From the exterior he
gives a push to the mind to turn it inwards. From the interior he pulls the mind towards the Self and helps in the quietening of the mind. That is Guru’s grace. There is no difference between God, Guru and the Self.
Questioner: In the Theosophical Society they meditate in
order to seek masters to guide them.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The master is within; meditation is meant to remove the ignorant idea that he is only outside. If he is a stranger whom you await, he is bound to disappear also. What is the use of a transient being like that? But so long as you think you are separate or that you are the body, an external master is also necessary and he will appear to have a body. When the wrong identification of oneself with the body ceases, the master will be found to be none other than the Self.
Question: Will the Guru help us to know the Self through initiation?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Does the Guru hold you by the hand and whisper in the ear? You may imagine him to be what you are yourself. Because you think you are with a body, you think he also has a body and that he will do something tangible to you. His work lies within, in the spiritual realm.
Question: How is a Guru found?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: God, who is immanent, in His grace takes pity on the loving devotee and manifests himself according to the devotee’s development. The devotee thinks that he is a man and expects a relationship between two physical bodies. But the Guru, who is a God or the Self incarnate works from within, helps the man to see the error of his ways and guides him on the right path until he realises the Self within.
Question: What are the marks of a real teacher (sadaguru)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Steady abidance in the Self, looking at all with an equal eye, unshakable courage at all times, in all places and circumstances.
Question: There are a number of spiritual teachers teaching
various paths. Whom should one take for one’s Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Choose that one where you find you get shanti (peace).
Question: Should we not also consider his teachings?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: He who instructs an ardent seeker to do this or that is not a true master. The seeker is already afflicted by his activities and wants peace and rest. In other words he wants cessation of his activities. If a teacher tells him to do something in addition to, or in place of, his other activities, can that be a help to the seeker?
Activity is creation. Activity is the destruction of one’s inherent happiness. If activity is advocated the adviser is not a master but a killer. In such circumstances either the Creator (Brahma) or death (Yama) may be said to have come in the guise of a master. Such a person cannot liberate the aspirant; he can only strengthen his fetters.
Question: How can I find my own Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: By intense meditation.
Question: If it is true that the Guru is one’s own Self, what is the principle underlying the doctrine which says that, however learned a disciple may be or whatever occult powers he may possess, he cannot attain Self-realisation without the grace of the Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Although in absolute truth the state of the Guru is that of oneself (the Self), it is very hard for the self which has become the individual (jiva or embodied soul) through ignorance, to realise its true state or nature without the grace of the Guru.
Question: What are the marks of the Guru’s grace?
Sri Ramana: It is beyond words or thoughts.
Question: If that is so, how is it that it is said that the disciple
realises his true state by the Guru’s grace?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is like the elephant, which wakes up on seeing a lion in his dream. Even as the elephant wakes up at the mere sight of the lion, so too is it certain that the disciple wakes up from the sleep of ignorance into the wakefulness of true knowledge through the Guru’s benevolent look of grace.
Question: What is the significance of the saying that the nature of the real Guru is that of the Supreme Lord (Sarvesvara)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: First, the individual soul, which desires to attain the state of Godhood, or the state of true knowledge, practises incessant devotion. When the individual’s devotion has reached a mature stage, the Lord, who is the witness of the individual soul and identical with it, manifests. He appears in human form with the help of Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence, Consciousness and Bliss Absolute), his three natural features, and form the name, which he also graciously assumes. In the guise of blessing the disciple he absorbs him in Himself. According to this doctrine the Guru can truly be called the Lord.
Question: How then some great persons attain knowledge without a Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: To a few mature persons the Lord shines as the formless light of knowledge and imparts awareness of the truth.
Question: How is one to decide upon a proper Guru? What is the swarupa (nature or real form) of a Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: He is the proper Guru to whom your mind is attuned. If you ask, “How to decide who is the Guru and what is his swarupa?”, he should be endowed with tranquillity, patience, forgiveness and other virtues; he should be capable of attracting others even with his eyes just as a magnet attracts iron; he should have a feeling of equality towards all. He who has these virtues is the true Guru, but one wants to know the swarupa of the Guru, one must know one’s own swarupa first. How can one know the real nature of the Guru if one does not know one’s own real nature first? If you want to perceive the real nature or form of the Guru you must first learn to look upon the whole universe as Guru rupam (the form of the Guru). One must see the Guru in all living beings. It is the same with God. You must look upon all objects as God’s rupa (form). How can he who does not know his own Self perceive the real form of God or the real form of the Guru? How can he determine them? Therefore, first of all know your own real form and nature.
Question: Isn’t a Guru necessary to know even that?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: That is true. The world contains many great men. Look upon him as your Guru with whom your mind gets attuned. The one in whom you have faith is your Guru.
Question: What is the significance of Guru’s grace in the attainment of liberation?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Liberation is not anywhere outside you. It is only within. If a man is anxious for deliverance, the internal Guru pulls him in and the external Guru pushes him into the Self.
This is the grace of the Guru.
Question: Some people reported you to have said that there was no need for a Guru. Others gave the opposite report.
What does Maharshi say?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: I have never said that there is no need for a Guru.
Questioner: Sri Aurobindo and others refer to you as having had no Guru.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: It all depends on what you call a Guru. He need not be in a human form. Dattatreya had twenty-four Gurus including the five elements- earth, water, etc. Every object in this world was his Guru.
The Guru is absolutely necessary. The Upanishads say that none but a Guru can take a man out of the jungle of intellect and sense perceptions. So there must be a Guru.
Questioner: I mean a human Guru- Maharshi did not have one.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: I might have had one at one time or other. But did I not sing hymns to Arunachala? What is a Guru? Guru is God or the Self. First a man prays to God to fulfil his desires.
A time comes when he will no more pray for the fulfilment of material desires but for God Himself. God then appears to him in some form or other, human or non-human, to guide him to Himself in answer to his prayer and according to his needs.
Question: When loyal to one master can you respect others?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Guru is only one. He is not physical.
So long as there is weakness the support of strength is needed.
Questioner: J.Krishnamurti says, “No Guru is necessary.”
Sri Ramana Maharshi: How did he know it? One can say so after realising but not before.
Question: Can Sri Bhagavan help us to realise truth?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Help is always there.
Questioner: Then there is no need to ask questions. I do not feel the ever-present help.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Surrender and you will find it.
Questioner: I am always at your feet. Will Bhagavan give us some upadesa (teaching) to follow? Otherwise how can I get help living 600 miles away?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The sadguru (the Guru who is one with Being) is within.
Questioner: Sadguru is necessary to guide me to understand it.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The sadguru is within.
Questioner: I want a visible Guru.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: That visible Guru says that he is within.
Question: Is success not dependent on the Guru’s grace?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, it is. Is not your practice itself due to such grace? The fruits are the result of the practice and follow it automatically. There is a stanza in Kaivalya which says, ‘O Guru! You have been always with me, watching me through several incarnations, and ordaining my course until I was liberated.’ The Self manifests externally as the Guru when the occasion arises, otherwise he is always within, doing what is necessary.
Question: Some disciples of Shirdi Sai Baba worship a picture of him and say that it is their Guru. How could that be?
They can worship it as God, but what benefit could they get by worshipping it as their Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: They secure concentration by that.
Question: That is all very well, I agree. It may be to some extent an exercise in concentration. But isn’t a Guru required for that concentration?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Certainly, but after all, Guru only means guri (concentration).
Questioner: How can a lifeless picture help in developing deep concentration? It requires a living Guru who could show it in practice. It is possible perhaps for Bhagavan to attain perfection without a living Guru, but is it possible for people like myself?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: That is true. Even so, by worshipping a lifeless portrait, the mind gets concentrated to a certain extent. That concentration will not remain constant unless one knows one’s own Self by enquiring. For that enquiry, a Guru’s help is necessary.
Question: It is said that the Guru can make his disciple realise the Self by transmitting some of his own power to him? Is it true?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes. The Guru does not bring about Self-realisation. He simply removes all the obstacles to it. The Self is always realised.
Question: Is it absolutely necessary to have a Guru if one is seeking Self-realisation?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: So long as you seek Self-realisation the Guru is necessary. Guru is the Self. Take Guru to be the real Self and your self as the individual self. The disappearance of this sense of duality is the removal of ignorance. So long as duality persists in you the Guru is necessary. Because you identify yourself with the body, you think that the Guru is also a body.
You are not the body, nor is the Guru. You are the Self and so is the Guru. This knowledge is gained by what you call Self-realisation.
Question: How can one know whether a particular individual is competent to be a Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: By the peace of mind found in his presence and by the sense of respect you feel for him.
Question: If the Guru happens to turn out incompetent, what will be the fate of the disciple who has implicit faith in him?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Each one according to his merits.
Question: May I have Guru’s grace?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Grace is always there.
Questioner: But I do not feel it.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Surrender will make one understand the grace.
Questioner: I have surrendered heart and soul. I am the best judge of my heart. Still I do not feel the grace.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: If you had surrendered the question would not arise.
Questioner: I have surrendered. Still the questions arise.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Grace is constant. Your judgment is the variable. Where else should the fault lie?
Question: May one have more than one spiritual master?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Who is a master? He is the Self after all. According to the stages of development of the mind the Self manifests as the master externally. The famous ancient Dattatreya said that he had more than twenty-four masers. The master is one from whom one learns anything. The Guru may be sometimes inanimate also, as in the case of Dattatreya. God, Guru and the Self are identical.
A spiritually minded man thinks that God is all pervading and takes God for his Guru. Later, God brings him in contact with a personal Guru and the man recognises him as all in all. Lastly the same man is made by the grace of the master to feel that his Self is the reality and nothing else. Thus he finds that the Self is the master.
Question: It is said in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita: “Realise the Self with pure intellect and also by service to the Guru and by enquiry.” How are they to be reconciled?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: ‘Iswaro Gururatmeti’- Iswara, Guru and Self are identical. So long as the sense of duality persists in you, you seek a Guru, thinking that he is different from you. However, he teaches you the truth and you gain the insight.
He who bestows the supreme knowledge of Self upon the soul by making it face towards Self alone is the supreme Guru who is praised by sages as the form of God, who is Self. Cling to him. By approaching the Guru and serving him faithfully, one should learn through his grace the cause of one’s birth and one’s suffering. Knowing then that these are due to one’s straying from Self, it is best to abide firmly as Self.
Although those who have embraced and are steadfastly following the path to salvation may at times happen to swerve from the Vedic path either due to forgetfulness or due to some other reasons, know that they should not at any time go against the words of the Guru. The words of sages assure that if one does a wrong to God, it can be rectified by the Guru, but that a wrong done to a Guru cannot be rectified even by God.
For one who, due to rare, intense and abundant love, has complete faith in the glance of grace bestowed by the Guru, there will be no suffering and he will live in this world like Puruhuta (a name if Indra, the king of the gods).
Peace, the one thing which is desired by everyone, cannot be attained in any way, by any one, at any time or in any place, unless stillness of mind is obtained through the grace of the Sadguru. Therefore, always seek that grace with a one-pointed mind.
Question: There are disciples of Bhagavan who have had his grace and realised without any considerable difficulty. I too wish to have that grace. Being a woman, and living at a long distance I cannot avail myself of Maharshi’s holy company as much as I would wish and as often as I would. Possibly I may not be able to return. I request Bhagavan’s grace. When I am back in my place, I want to remember Bhagavan. May Bhagavan be pleased to grant my prayer.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Where are you going? You are not going anywhere. Even supposing you are the body, has your body come from Lucknow to Tiruvannamalai? You simply sat in the car and one conveyance or another moved. And finally you say that you have come here. The fact is that you are not the body. The Self does not move, the world moves in it. You are only what you are. There is no change in you. So then, even after what looks like departure from here, you are here and there and everywhere. These scenes shift.
As for grace, grace is within you. If it is external it is useless.
Grace is the Self. You are never out of its operation. Grace is always there.
Questioner: I mean that when I remember your form, my mind should be strengthened and a response should come from your side too. I should not be left to my individual efforts, which are after all only weak.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Grace is the Self. I have already said, if you remember Bhagavan, you are prompted to do so by the Self. Is not grace already there? Is there a moment when grace is not operating in you? Your remembrance is the forerunner of grace. That is the response, that is the stimulus, that is the Self and that is grace. There is no cause for anxiety.
Question: Can I dispense with outside help and by my own effort get to the deeper truth by myself?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The very fact that you are possessed of the quest for the Self is a manifestation of the divine grace. It is effulgent in the Heart, the inner being, the real Self. It draws you from within. You have to attempt to get in from outside. Your attempt is the earnest quest; the deep inner movement is grace. That is why I say there is no real quest without grace, nor is there grace active for him who does not seek the Self. Both are necessary.
Question: How long is a Guru necessary for Self-realisation?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Guru is necessary so long as there is ignorance. Ignorance is due to the self-imposed but wrong limitation of the Self. God, on being worshipped, bestows steadiness in devotion, which leads to surrender. On the devotee surrendering, God shows his mercy by manifesting as the Guru. The Guru, otherwise God, guides the devotee, saying that God is within and that he is not different from the Self. This leads to introversion of mind and finally to realisation.
Question: If grace is so important, what is the role of individual effort?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Effort is necessary up to the state of realisation. Even then the Self should spontaneously become evident, otherwise happiness will not be complete. Up to that state of spontaneity there must be effort in some form or another.
There is a state beyond our efforts or effortlessness. Until it is realised effort is necessary. After tasting such bliss, even once, one will repeatedly try to regain it. Having once experienced the bliss of peace no one wants to be out of it or to engage in any other activity.
Question: Is divine grace necessary for attaining realisation, or can an individual’s honest efforts by themselves lead to the state from which there is no return to life and death?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Divine grace is essential for realisation. It leads one to God realisation. But such grace is vouchsafed only to him who is a true devotee or a yogi. It is given only to those who have striven hard and ceaselessly on the path towards freedom.
Question: Does distance have any effect upon grace?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Time and space are within us. You are always in your Self. How do time and space affect it?
Question: On the radio those who are nearer hear sooner.
You are Hindu. We are American. Does it make any difference?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: No.
Questioner: Even thoughts are read by others.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: That shows that all are one.
Question: Does Bhagavan feel for us and show grace?
Sri Ramana Maharshi:You are neck deep in water and yet cry for water. It is as good as saying that one who is neck deep in water feels thirsty, or that a fish in water feels thirsty, or that water feels thirsty.
Grace is always there. Dispassion cannot be acquired, nor realisation of the truth, nor inherence in the Self, in the absence of Guru’s grace.
But practice is also necessary. Staying in the Self by one’s efforts is like training a roguish bull confined to his stall by tempting him with luscious grass and preventing him from straying.
Quetioner: I have recently come across a Tamil song in which the author laments he is not like the tenacious young monkey that can hold on to its mother tightly, but rather like a puling (weak) kitten that must be carried by the neck in its mother’s jaws. The author therefore prays to God to take care of him. My case is exactly the same. You must take pity on me Bhagavan. Hold me by the neck and see that I don’t fall and get injured.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: That is impossible. It is necessary both for you to strive and for the Guru to help.
Question: How long will it take for one to get the grace of the Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Why do you desire to know?
Questioner: To give me hope.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Even such a desire is an obstacle. The Self is ever there; there is nothing without it. Be the Self and the desires and doubts will disappear.
Grace is the beginning, middle and end. Grace is the Self. Because of the false identification of the Self with the body the Guru is considered to be a body. But from the Guru’s outlook the Guru is only the Self. The Self is one only and the Guru tells you that the Self alone is. Is not then the Self your Guru? Where else will grace come from? It is from the Self alone. Manifestation of the Self is a manifestation of grace and vice versa. All these doubts arise because of the wrong outlook and consequent expectation of things external to oneself. Nothing is external to the Self.

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