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Who am I? Essential Teachings of Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi – “Naanaar”/ “Naan Yaar” நானார்/ நான் யார்?

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கவனிக்க:  ‘நானார்’ மூல நூலில் உள்ள தமிழ் எளிமைப்படுத்தப்பட்டு , ஆங்கில  உரையுடன் இங்கே தரப்படுகிறது.

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Introduction

When young Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi was residing in Virupaksha cave at the Arunachala Hill, Sivaprakasam Pillai , an officer in the Revenue Department and an intellectual, heard of the young Swami. At his very first visit in 1902, he was captivated by the Swami’s aura and became his life-long devotee.

The young Swami was maintaining silence, but Shivaprakasam Pillai was determined to receive teachings him. He brought a slate and started writing questions in Tamil one by one and requested Ramana to write the answers in the slate! This way, Ramana answered  fourteen questions of Pillai. These were later recorded in a note book by Pillai and then expanded and arranged in the form of a booklet  “நானார்? (நான் யார்)” “Who am I?”  This is perhaps the most concise and most widely appreciated prose exposition of the Maharshi’s philosophy, given by the Maharshi at his age of 23, which got widely published much later, in the year 1923.

[NOTE: Another prominent work in prose containing Ramana’s supplementary teachings (in Tamil) titled விசார சங்கிரகம்  (“Vichara Sangraham”) was recorded during his early years in Virupaksha Cave by Gambhiram Sesha Iyer. This also happened some time in 1900-1902. This booklet first got published in the year 1930]

The teachings contained in these two  books remained authentic, needing no future revisions by Bhagvan. In his long life spanning 71 years, Sri Ramana wrote so many other poetic works in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Sanskrit, but the Tamil prose version still remained the basic teaching that found more exposition in those future works.

The Tamil ‘Naanaar’ written almost a century ago will be somewhat difficult to read and grasp for the present day Tamils, because the original contains so many sanskrit words and also the narrative and parsing styles of those days were somewhat different.

Hence I have given here the write-up in a simplified Tamil fairly adhering to the original flow, only doing minimal changes and translating the sanskrit words to Tamil to the extent possible. I am also giving together the English translation, question by question.

I have also done some very minimal shifting of paragraphs here and there and brought down the number of questions to 14 from the present printed versions that contain 28 questions (with the same answer content).

Young Ramana Maharshi

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Sivaprakasam Pillai

 

 

 

நான் யார்? ‘Naan yaar?’ Who am I?

எல்லாருமே துக்கம் என்பதே இன்றி எப்போதும் சுகமாயிருக்க விரும்புகிறார்கள்; எல்லாருக்குமே தன்னிடத்தில் தான் மிக அதிகம் பிரியம் இருக்கிறது; எங்கு சுகம் இருக்கிறதோ அங்கு பிரியம் இருக்கிறது. மனம் வேலை செய்யாது இருக்கும் ஆழ்ந்த உறக்கநிலையில் தினமும் அந்த சுகத்தையே சுபாவமாகவே அனுபவிக்க முடிகிறது. ஆக, தன்னுள்ளேயே  பொதிந்திருக்கும் அந்த சுகத்தை அடைய தன்னைதானே அறிதல் வேண்டும். அப்படி அறிவதற்கு ‘நான் யார்’ என்னும் ஞான ஆராய்ச்சியே முக்கிய சாதனம் ஆகும்.

[All people always aspire for happiness, totally free from sorrow. Everyone loves himself/ herself the most. Where there is happiness, there is liking. In deep sleep state, when mind is totally not functioning, we are able to enjoy that happiness naturally. So, to attain the happiness that is really lying inside each of us, we have to understand our own self. For that, the self inquiry “Who am I” is the prime technique.]

  1.  நான் யார்?  

ஏழு விதமான தாதுக்களால் (அதாவது, குருதி நீர், ரத்தம், மாமிசம், கொழுப்பு, எலும்பு, மஜ்ஜை மற்றும் சுக்கிலம் இவற்றால்) உருவாகியுள்ள இந்த ஸ்தூலமான உடம்பு நான் அல்ல. ஒளி, ஒலி, சுவை, மணம், தொடு உணர்வு என்னும் ஐம்புலன்களை அறிகின்ற கண், காது, மூக்கு, நாக்கு, தோல் எனும் அறிவு உறுப்புகளாகிய  ஐம்பொறிகளும் நானல்ல.  பேசுதல், நடத்தல், கொடுத்தல், மலம் கழித்தல், சுகித்தல் என்னும் ஐந்து தொழில்களை செய்யும் வாய், கால்கள், கைகள், குதம், பிறப்புறுப்பு என்னும் செயல் உறுப்புகளும் நானல்ல.

மூச்சு விடுதல், பிரித்து நீக்கல்,ஜெரித்தல் போன்ற அகத் தொழில்களை இயக்கும்  பிராணன், அபானன், சமானன், உதானன், வியானன் எனும்  ஐந்து வாயுக்களும் நானல்ல. நினைக்கின்ற மனமும் நானல்ல. இப்படி எல்லா  விஷயங்களும், தொழிற்பாடுகளும்  அற்று அதே சமயத்தில் விஷயங்களைப்பற்றிய நுண்ணுணர்வுகளோடு (வாசனைகளோடு) மட்டும் பொருந்தியிருக்கும் அஞ்ஞானமும் நானல்ல.

இப்படி ‘நானல்ல’ ‘நானல்ல’ என்று தள்ளிய பிறகும் தனித்திருக்கும் அறிவே நான். அந்த அறிவின் சொரூபமே (மெய்யியல்பே) சச்சிதானந்தம்.

[1. Who am I?

I am not the gross body made of seven tissues (plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow and seminal fluid); I am not the five sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin) that sense  sight, sound, smell, taste and touch; I am not the five physical organs (mouth, legs, hands, anus and sex organ) that do the acts of speaking, walking, giving, excreting and procreating).

I am not the five pranas (prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana) that control body functions like breathing, digestion etc. I am not the mind that thinks. I am not even the ignorance (ajnana) which is free from actions and sensual inputs but remains associated with vasanas (subtle mental leanings). 

Whatever awareness that remains and stands alone even after negating and discarding all these, is the real “I”. The true nature of this “I” is sat-chit-ananda (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss).]

2.  இம் மெய்யியல்பின்  அனுபவம்  (சொரூப தரிசனம்) எப்போது உண்டாகும்?

எல்லா அறிவிற்கும் எல்லா செயல்களுக்கும் காரணமாகிய மனம் அடங்கிவிட்டால்,  இந்த உலகம் உண்மை என்ற பார்வை நீங்கிவிடும். கயிறைப்  பார்த்து பாம்பு என்று தவறாக என்னும் மன நிலை நீங்கினாலே ஒழிய, கயிறை கயிறாகவே காணும் அறிவு வராது. அதுபோலவே ‘காணும் இந்த உலகம் உண்மை’ என்ற எண்ணம் நீங்கினாலேயொழிய எப்போதும் உள்ள சுயநிலையைக் கண்டுணர்வது முடியாது.

[  2. When can one gain the knowledge of this real “I”?

Seeing the rope as snake

When the mind, which is the basis for all perceptions and actions stops functioning, we will be freed of the notion that the world is real. Only when the misconception of seeing a rope as a snake is removed, the knowledge of rope as a rope  will dawn. In the same way, unless we remove the idea that the world we see is real, what truly exists forever cannot be grasped by us.]

3. மனதின் இயல்பு என்ன?

மனம் என்பது ஆத்மாவின் ஒரு அதிசய சக்தி. அது தான் எல்லா நினைவுகளையும் தோற்றுவிக்கிறது. நினைவுகளையெல்லாம் நீக்கிவிட்டுப் பார்த்தால் தனியாக மனம் என்று ஒரு பொருளும் இல்லை. ஆக, நினைப்பு என்பது தான் மனதின் சொரூபம். அதுபோலவே, நினைவுகளைத் தவிர்த்து இவ்வுலகம் என்ற பொருள் வெளியில் இல்லை. ஆழ்ந்த தூக்கத்தில் நினைவுகளே இல்லை. அந்த நிலையில் உலகமும் இல்லை. ஆனால் விழிப்பு நிலையிலும் கனவுடன் கூடிய உறக்க நிலையிலும் நினைவுகளும் இருக்கின்றன; உலகமும் இருக்கிறது.

ஒரு சிலந்திப்பூச்சி எப்படி தன்  உடம்பிலிருந்தே வெளியில் ஒரு நூல் இழையை நூற்று மறுபடியும் தன்னுள்ளே இழுத்துக்கொள்கிறதோ அப்படியே மனமும் தன்னிடத்தில் இருந்தே இவ்வுலகத்தைத் தோற்றுவித்து மறுபடியும் தன்னிடமே ஒடுக்கிக்கொள்கிறது. மனம் ஆத்ம சொரூபத்திலிருந்து  வெளிப்படும்போது இவ்வுலகமும் தோற்றம் பெறுகிறது. அதனால் உலகம் தோன்றும்போது ஆத்மாவின் சொரூபம் தோன்றாது. ஆத்மா தோன்றும்போது (தானே பிரகாசிக்கும்போது) இவ்வுலகம் தோன்றாது.

‘இந்த மனதின் உண்மை நிலை என்ன?’ என்று விசாரித்துக்கொண்டு போனால் ‘தானே’ மனமாய் முடியும். ‘தான்’ என்பது ஆத்ம சொரூபமே. மனம் எப்போதும் ஸ்தூலமாய் உள்ளவற்றைப் பிடித்துக்கொண்டே நிற்கும். தனியாய் நிற்காது. இந்த மனமே ‘சூட்சும  சரீரம்’ (நுண்ணுடல்) என்றும் ‘ஜீவன்’ என்றும் சொல்லப்படுகிறது.

[ 3.  What is the nature of mind?

Mind is a wonderful power of Atman (Self). It is the one creating all thoughts. If all thoughts are removed, there is no substance called mind. Therefore, ‘thinking’ is the real nature of mind. Likewise, without thoughts, there is no outside world. When in deep sleep, there are no thoughts; no world too, in that state. But in waking and dreaming states, there are thoughts and also the world.

Just as spider produces a yarn from its body and also withdraws it, the mind creates the external world from inside and also withdraws it. When mind comes outward from its true source Atman, the world is perceived. As long as world is seen, Atman cannot be perceived. When Atman is perceived (shines forth), the world cannot be seen.

When one inquires inwards as to what the true nature of  mind is, one will end up in Self. The self is nothing but the real nature of atman. The nature of mind is such that it can exist only by clinging to  gross matters. It has no independent existence. This mind is also known as subtle body or jeeva (soul).]

4.  மனதை அடக்குவது எப்படி?

இந்த உடம்பிலிருந்து ‘நான்’ என்று எந்த உணர்வு கிளம்புகிறதோ அதுவே தான் மனம். இந்த ‘நான்’ உணர்வு உடம்பின் எந்தப் பகுதியிலிருந்து கிளம்புகிறது என்று ஆராய்ந்து பார்த்தால் அது இதயத்திலிருந்து கிளம்புகிறது என்பது தெரியவரும். ஆக, இதயமே மனதின் பிறப்பிடம். ‘நான், நான்’ என்று எண்ணிக் கொண்டிருந்தாலே  அது இதயத்தில் கொண்டுபோய் விட்டுவிடும். மனதில் தோன்றும் நினைவுகள் எல்லாவற்றுக்கும் ‘நான்’ என்ற நினைப்பு தான் முதல் நினைப்பு. இது எழுந்த பிறகே மற்ற எல்லா  எண்ணங்களும் எழுகின்றன. அதாவது, ‘தன்மை’ தோன்றிய பிறகே ‘முன்னிலை, படர்க்கை’கள் தோன்றுகின்றன. ஆக, ‘தன்மை’ இல்லாவிட்டால், முன்னிலை படர்க்கைகளும் இல்லை!

‘நான் யார்’ என்ற விசாரணையிலேயே மனம் அடங்கும். ‘நான் யார்’ என்று கேட்கும் நினைப்பும் கூட, ‘பிணம் சுடு  தடியைப் போல’ மற்ற எல்லா நினைப்புகளையும் அழித்து,  தானும் அழிந்துவிடும். (அதாவது, பிணத்தை  எரிக்க உபயோகிக்கும் விறகுக்கட்டைகள் பிணத்தை எரித்துவிட்டு தாமும் எரிந்து சாம்பலாகி விடுவதைப்போல).

‘நான் யார்’ என்ற விசாரணைக்கு இடையே பிற எண்ணங்கள் எழுந்தால், அந்த எண்ணங்களைப் பின்பற்றிப்  போய் அவற்றை முடிவுக்கு கொண்டுவர முயற்சிக்காமல், ‘இந்த எண்ணங்கள் யாருக்கு உண்டாயின?’ என்று விசாரிக்க வேண்டும். இப்படி எத்தனை எத்தனை எண்ணங்கள் வெளிக்கிளம்பினால்தான் என்ன? கிளம்பும் போதே ‘இது யாருக்கு உண்டாயிற்று?’ என்று விசாரித்தால், ‘எனக்கு’ என்று தோன்றும். அப்படி ‘எனக்கு’ என்று தோன்றும் அந்த ‘நான்’ யார் என்று மீண்டும் விசாரித்தால் மனம் தன பிறப்பிடத்துக்குத் திரும்பிவிடும். எழுந்த எண்ணமும் அடங்கிவிடும்.

இப்படிப் பழகப் பழக, மனத்திற்குத் தன்  பிறப்பிடத்திலேயே தங்கியிருக்கும் சக்தி அதிகரிக்கிறது.

எப்போதெல்லாம்  சூட்சுமமான இந்த மனம், மூளை மற்றும் பொறி புலன்கள் மூலம் வெளிப்படுகிறதோ, அப்போதெல்லாம் ஸ்தூலமான  உலகப் பொருட்களும் நாம ரூபங்களும் (பெயர், உருவங்களும்) தோற்றமளிக்கின்றன. மனம் இதயத்திலேயே தங்கிவிட்டால் இந்த நாம ரூபங்களும்   மறைந்துவிடுகின்றன.   இப்படி மனத்தை வெளிவிடாது இதயத்திலே தங்க வைத்துக்கொண்டிருப்பதைத் தான் ‘அகமுகம்’ அல்லது ‘அந்தர்முகம்’ என்பார்கள். இதயத்திலிருந்து மனம் வெளிப்படுவதைத்தான் ‘பகிர்முகம்’ என்பார்கள் .

இவ்வாறு மனம் இதயத்தில் தங்கவே, எல்லா நினைவுகளுக்கும்  மூலமான ‘நான்’ என்பது போய், எப்போதும் உள்ள ‘தான்’  மாத்திரம் தான் விளங்கும். ‘நான்’ என்கிற உணர்வு சிறிதுகூட இல்லாத இடமே ‘சொரூபம்’ ஆகும். அதுவே ‘மௌனம்’ என்றும் சொல்லப்படும்.

[ 4.  How to control the mind?

 The feeling that springs up from the body as “I” is the mind. If we investigate from where this “I” rises up in the body, we can identify that its location is the heart. Thus heart is the birth place of the mind. If we keep contemplating “I”, “I”, it would automatically lead to the heart. For all the thoughts arising from mind, “I” is the first thought. Only after “I” arising, all other thoughts arise. That is, only after the first person rises, the second and third person come into picture. Without first person, second and third person have no existence!

The mind can calm down by the very inquiry ‘Who am I?’. Even the thought ‘Who am I’ will get annihilated after quenching all other thoughts; it is like the wood used for burning the corpse in a pyre getting itself burned to ashes finally.

If any other thoughts rise up while inquiring ‘who am I’, instead of pursuing the thoughts with the attempt to terminate them, we should rather inquire “to whom this thought has arisen?”. The answer will be “to me”. Now if you inquire who is that “me”, it will naturally lead us back to the origin of “I” thought. This way the thought too would subside.

By constantly practicing like this, the capacity of the mind to stay put at its source increases.

Whenever this subtle mind goes outward through the brain or through sense organs or organs of action, the gross external world and all things with names and forms get manifested. If the mind stays put in the heart, the world and things with names and forms too disappear. This practice of containing the mind within the heart without allowing it to go out is called ‘aha mukham‘ or ‘antar mukham‘ (dwelling-in). The mind coming outward from heart is called ‘bahir mukham‘ (emanating out).

When the mind stays confined in the heart, the “I” which is the root of all thoughts will go and only the ever-present ‘Self’ remains. The status of ‘swarupam‘ (True Self) is where the feeling of “I” is totally absent. It is also known as mounam –silence.

5.  ஞான திருஷ்டி என்பது என்ன?

சும்மா இருப்பதற்குத்தான் ‘ஞானதிருஷ்டி’ என்றும் பெயர். சும்மா இருப்பது என்பது மனதை ஆன்ம சொரூபத்தில் நிலைக்கச் செய்வது தான்; அப்படியின்றி, பிறர் மனதில் உள்ளதைப் படித்தல்,  கடந்தகாலம், நிகழ்காலம், எதிர்காலம் எனும் முக்காலத்திலும் நடப்பதை அறிதல், எங்கோ  தொலை தூர தேசத்தில் நடப்பதை அறிதல் போன்ற சித்திகளெல்லாம்  ஞானதிருஷ்டி ஆகமாட்டா.

 

[ 4.  What is wisdom-insight (Jnana Drishti)?

To remain quiet (just ‘being’) is also known as wisdom-insight. Just being (quiet) is nothing but establishing the mind in the Self (Atman). On the contrary, siddhis (yogic powers) like reading others’ minds, knowing the past, present and future events, knowing the happenings at a distant place etc are not signs of wisdom-insight.]

6.  ஆன்ம சொரூபம் என்பது உண்மையில் என்ன?

உண்மையில் எப்போதும் உள்ளது ஆன்மசொரூபம் ஒன்றே. உலகம், உயிர்கள், இறையுருவங்கள் (ஜகத், ஜீவ ஈஸ்வர ரூபங்கள்)  எல்லாம் தண்ணீரில் மூழ்கியுள்ள சிப்பி வெள்ளி போல் காட்சியளிப்பதைப்  போன்ற கற்பனைத் தோற்றங்களே. இவை மூன்றும் ஒரே சமயத்தில் தோன்றி ஒரே சமயத்தில் மறைகின்றன. உண்மையில் சொரூபமே உலகம்; சொரூபமே நான். சொரூபமே ஈஸ்வரன். எல்லாமே  கடவுளின் தோற்றம் (சிவசொரூபம்) தான்.

[6. What is the real nature of Self?

What exists for ever is nothing but the Self. The appearance of the world, living beings and forms of Gods are all like seeing seashells lying in water as if they are silver. These three are perceived to appear together and also disappear together. The reality is that Self is the world; Self is “I”. Self is God. Everything is appearance of God (Shiva Swarupam).

7.  மனத்தை அடக்க  வேறு வழிகள் இல்லையா?

மனம் அடங்குவதற்கு விசாரணையைத்  தவிர வேறு தகுந்த முறைகள் (உபாயங்கள்) இல்லை. மற்ற முறைகளைக்கொண்டு அடக்கினால், மனம் சற்றே அடங்கியது போல் இருந்துவிட்டு, மறுபடியும் வெளிக்கிளம்பிவிடும்.

பிராணாயாமம் எனப்படும் மூச்சடக்கத்தால் கூட மனம் அடங்கும். ஆனால், பிராணன் அடங்கியிருக்கும் வரையில் மனமும் அடங்கி இருந்துவிட்டு,  பிராணன் வெளிப்படும்போது தானும் வெளிப்பட்டு,  வாசனைகளால் உந்தப்பட்டு அலைய ஆரம்பித்துவிடும். மனதுக்கும் பிராணனுக்கும்  இருப்பிடம்  ஒன்றே.

(முன்பே சொன்னபடி) நினைவே மனதின் சொரூபம். ‘நான்’ என்னும் நினைப்பே மனதின் முதல் நினைப்பு. அதுவே தான் அகங்காரம். அகங்காரம் எங்கிருந்து உற்பத்தியாகிறதோ அங்கிருந்தே தான் மூச்சும் கிளம்புகிறது. ஆக, இரண்டும் ஒன்றோடொன்று தொடர்பு  உள்ளவை — மனம் அடங்கும்போது பிராணன் அடங்கும்; பிராணன் அடங்கும்போது மனமும் அடங்கும்.

ஆனால், ‘சுஷுப்தி’ எனப்படும் கனவுகளற்ற ஆழ்ந்த  உறக்க நிலையில்  மனம் அடங்கியிருந்தாலும், பிராணன்   அடங்காமல் செயல் பட்டுக்கொண்டுதான் இருக்கும். உடம்பின்  பாதுகாப்புக்காகவும்,’இவன் செத்துப்போய்விட்டானோ’ என்று மற்றவர்கள் சந்தேகப்படாமல் இருப்பதற்காகவும்,  இறைவனின் நியதியால் இப்படி  ஏற்பட்டிருக்கிறது.  விழிப்பு நிலையிலும், சமாதி நிலையிலும் மனம்  அடங்கும்போது பிராணனும் அடங்குகிறது. பிராணனை ‘மனதின் ஸ்தூல வடிவம்’ என்று சொல்வதுண்டு.

மரண காலம் வரை, மனம் பிராணனை உடம்பில் வைத்துக்கொண்திருந்து உடம்பு சாகும்போது, மனம் பிராணனைக் கவர்ந்துகொண்டு போய்விடுகிறது.  ஆகையால், பிராணாயாமம் என்பது மனதை அடக்க உதவியாக இருக்குமே தவிர மனதை அழிக்க உதவாது.

பிராணாயாமம்  போலவே கடவுளின் உருவத்தை தியானம் செய்வது, மந்திர ஜபம் செய்வது, உணவுக் கட்டுப்பாடுகளை மேற்கொள்வது இவையெல்லாமும் மனத்தை அடக்குவதற்கு உதவியாய் இருப்பவைகளே. உருவத் தியானத்தாலும், மந்திர ஜெபத்தாலும் மன ஒருமைப்பாடு கிடைக்கும். எப்போதும் அங்கும் இங்கும்  ஆடியபடியம், துதிக்கையை வீசியபடியும்  இருக்கும் யானையின் தும்பிக்கையில் ஒரு சங்கிலியைக் கொடுத்தால், அது மற்றவற்றைத் துழாவுவதை விட்டுவிட்டு சங்கிலியைப் பிடித்துக்கொண்டே செல்லுமல்லவா?  அதேபோல எப்போதும் அலைபாய்ந்துகொண்டே இருக்கும் மனதிற்கு ஒரு இறை நாமத்தையோ அல்லது உருவத்தையோ  தந்து பழக்கினால், அதையே பற்றிக்கொண்டு நிற்கும்! மனம், எண்ணற்ற நினைவுகளால் விரிந்துகொண்டே போவதால், ஒவ்வொரு நினைவும் மனதை மேலும் பலவீனமாக்குகிறது. நினைவுகள் அடங்க,அடங்க அதனால் மனம் ஒருமைப்பாடு அடைகிறது. அதனால் பலம் பெரும் மனதிற்கு ஆத்ம விசாரம் எளிதாய் கைகூடும்.

உப்பு, புளிப்பு, காரம் போன்ற   சுவைகள் மிகாமல், மென்மையான, எளிதில் ஜீரணிக்கக்கூடிய சாத்வீகமான உணவு உட்கொள்வது எல்லா நியமங்களிலும் சிறந்தது. இப்படிப்பட்ட  சாத்வீகமான உணவை மிதமாக உண்பதை  நியமமாகக் கொண்டால், மனதிலும் சத்துவ குணம் அதிகரிக்கும். அது ஆத்ம விசாரத்திற்கு  உறுதுணையாக இருக்கும்.

[7. Aren’t there any other methods to control the mind?

To quieten the mind, there are no other adequate methods than self inquiry. If you attempt to control the mind by any other technique, it would temporarily quieten for a while and spring up again.

Through pranayama (breath control) too the mind can be quietened; as long as the breath is held, the mind will be calm and once breathing starts, mind too will come out and start wandering. The source of mind and Prana are one and the same.

(As mentioned earlier) the very form of mind is thoughts. The very first thought of the mind is “I”. It is indeed the ego. The origin from where ego emanates is the origin for prana too. Hence both are interrelated. When the mind stops, prana stops; when prana stops, mind too stops.

Jagrat – Swapna-Sushupti (Waking state, dream state, and dreamless sleep state)

But in the state of sushupti (dreamless sleep), even though mind does not work, prana will still be active. It has been ordained so by God in order to protect the body and also avoid possible doubt by others whether the person is dead. Only in waking state and in the state of samadhi, prana stops when mind stops. Prana is also referred as the gross form of mind.

Till the time of death, the mind keeps prana as its associate in the body; upon death, the mind snatches prana and escapes together. Hence pranayama can help in controlling the mind, but not in annihilating the mind.

Like pranayama, meditating the form of God, mantra japa (chanting a mantra), food control etc are helpful in controlling the mind. Both meditation of God’s form and mantra japa can help focus the mind at one point. The nature of elephant is to keep swaying its body and swinging the trunk here and there; suppose we give a chain to grip with the trunk, the elephant will stop its unwanted swinging actions and keep holding the chain. In the same way, if the mind is trained to hold on to a name or form, it will stop from wandering. The mind by nature expands to countless thoughts and each thought potentially weakens the mind. The more and more thoughts subside, the better is the ability to concentrate the mind. A mind strengthened this way becomes conducive for self-inquiry easily.

Consuming soft and easily digestible food having moderate content of salt, sour and spice will be a very conducive discipline for controlling the mind. Satva Guna (quality of purity in thought) will increase if such satvik (soft and mild) food is consumed in moderation. It will be of great support for practicing self-inquiry.]

 

.

.8.  மனதில் விஷய வாசனைகள் (புலன் நினைவுகள்) அளவில்லாமல் எழும்பி  வந்துகொண்டே இருக்கின்றனவே, என்ன செய்வது? செய்த பாவங்களை பற்றிய நினைவுகளும் வந்து அழுத்துகின்றனவே?

காலம் காலமாக உலகியலில் ஆழ்ந்து, புலன்கள் மூலம் அனுபவித்த இன்ப துன்பங்களின் வாசனைகள் (விஷய வாசனைகள்) காரணமாக மனதில் எண்ணங்கள் கடலலைகள் போல அடுத்தடுத்து எழுகின்றன. அவையெல்லாம் தனது ஆத்ம சொரூபத்தை தியானிக்க தியானிக்க அழிந்துவிடும். ‘எல்லா வாசனைகளையும் ஒடுக்கி, சொரூபம்  மாத்திரமே இருக்கும் நிலையை அடையமுடியுமா?’ என்றெல்லாம் சந்தேகப் பட்டுக்கொண்டிருக்காமல் சொரூப தியானத்தை விடாப் பிடியாகப் பிடிக்க வேண்டும்!

மனதில், நல்ல மனம், கெட்ட மனம் என்று இரண்டு இல்லை. மனம் ஒன்றே. மனதில் எழும் வாசனைகளே நல்லவை என்றும் கெட்டவை என்றும் இரண்டு விதமாகின்றன. நல்ல எண்ணங்கள் எழும்போது நல்ல மனம் என்றும் கெட்ட எண்ணங்கள் எழும்போது கெட்ட மனம் என்று சொல்லப்படுகிறது.

ஒருவன் எப்பேர்ப்பட்ட பாவியாக இருந்தாலும் சரி, ‘நான் பாவியாயிற்றே? என்னாலும்  கடைத்தேற முடியுமா?’   என்று ஏங்கி அழுதுகொண்டிருக்காமல் ‘நான் பாவி’ என்ற எண்ணத்தை அறவே ஒழித்து சொரூப தியானத்தை ஊக்கமுடன் செய்து வந்தால் அவன் கண்டிப்பாய் கடைத்தேறுவான்.

[8. What to do as sensual thoughts keep on arising non-stop in the mind? What about the thoughts of sins committed in the past that keep on arising too?

As we have been indulging worldly life in satisfying our sense organs and experienced both pleasure and pain out of them since time immemorial (across several births), their vasanas (subtle memories / residual thoughts) cause unceasing onslaught of thoughts like sea waves in the present. But they will all die if we persist with meditation on Self. Do not harbor doubts  as to whether it ever possible to remain absorbed fully in Self by eradicating all vasanas, but keep persisting with meditating on Self without slackness.

There are no two minds like a good mind and a bad mind! Mind is one. Only the nature of vasanas that spring up from mind make it good or bad. When good thoughts arise, mind is said to be good; when bad thoughts arise, mind is said to be bad.

However gruesome the sin be, let the sinner not keep crying by harboring a thought like ‘what an awful sinner I am; how can I ever be absolved of my sin?’.  Let him engage in the meditation of Self enthusiastically and he is sure to find salvation.]

9.  விசாரணை எதுவரை வேண்டும்? வைராக்கியத்தின்  அவசியம் என்ன?

மனதில் எதுவரை விஷய வாசனைகள் இருக்கின்றனவோ அதுவரையில் ‘நான் யார்’ என்ற விசாரணையும் வேண்டும். நினைவுகள் தோன்றத் தோன்ற, அவற்றையெல்லாம் உடனுக்குடன் அவை உற்பத்தியாகும் இடத்திலேயே நசித்துப் போடவேண்டும்

வெளி விஷயங்களை நாடாதிருத்தல் வைராக்கியம் அல்லது நிராசை எனப்படும். இப்படித் தனக்கு அந்நியமானவற்றை நாடாதிருத்தல் வைராக்கியம் என்றால், தன்னை விடாதிருத்தலே ஞானம் ஆகும். பார்க்கப் போனால் உண்மையில் இவை இரண்டும் ஒன்றுதான்.

முத்துக்குளிப்பவர்கள் எப்படி தம் இடுப்பில் கல்லைக்கட்டிக்கொண்டு ஆழ்ந்து மூழ்கி கடலின் அடியில் கிடக்கும் முத்தை எடுக்கிறார்களோ, அப்படியே ஒவ்வொருவனும் வைராக்கியத்துடன் தன்னுள் ஆழ்ந்து மூழ்கி, ஆத்ம முத்தை அடையலாம்! ஒருவன் தன் ஆத்மசொரூபத்தை அடையும் வரையில் எப்போதும் சொரூப தியானத்தை விடாது செய்வானேயானால் அந்த சாதனை ஒன்றே போதும். கோட்டைக்குள் எதிரிகள் உள்ளவரை அவர்கள் அதிலிருந்து வெளியே வந்துகொண்டேயிருப்பார்கள். வெளியே வரவர அவர்களையெல்லாம் வெட்டிக்கொண்டே இருந்தால் கோட்டை நம் கைவசமாகிவிடும்!

[9. How long should self-inquiry be done?  What is the need for dispassion?

As long as subtle desires / residual thoughts on sense enjoyments exist in mind, one should continue with the “Who am I” self-inquiry. As thoughts spring up from mind one after another, they should be crushed then and there at their very root.

Not seeking sensual gratification from external objects is Vairagya (dispassion) or desirelessness. If not seeking what is outside oneself is Vairagya, keeping a firm hold of one’s real self is Jnana (Wisdom). In a way, both are same.

Just in the same way divers tie  stone to their waists and dive deep into the sea to gather pearl shells, everyone can dive deep within himself with dispassion and pick the pearl of the Self. If one ceaselessly practices meditation of Self till he attains the experience of the Self, that very sadhana (spiritual practice) is good enough. As long as enemies are inside the fort, they will keep on coming outside; if you kill them one after the other as they come out, the fort will soon be conquered by you.]

10.  விசாரணை மார்க்கத்தில் இறைவன், குரு  இவர்களின் பங்கு என்ன? பக்தி, சரணாகதி இவற்றின் பொருளென்ன?

தன் விருப்பமோ முயற்சியோ இன்றி சூரியன் தன் நியதிப்படி உதிக்கும்போது, பூதக்கண்ணாடி தீயை உண்டாக்குவது, தாமரை மலர்வது, நீர் ஆவியாகி வற்றுவது, உலகோர் விழித்தெழுந்து தம் அன்றாடக் காரியங்களில் ஈடுபடுவது எல்லாம் நடக்கின்றன. சூரியன் மறைந்தவுடன் எல்லாம் அடங்குகின்றன. காந்தத்தின் முன்னே ஊசி காந்தத்தை நோக்கிக் கவர்ந்து இழுக்கப்படுகிறது . இவை போலவே, வேண்டுதல் வேண்டாமை இன்றி இறைவன் (ஈசுவரன்) நடத்தும் (படைத்தல், காத்தல், அழித்தல் எனும்) முத்தொழில்களுக்கு உட்பட்டு உலகோர் தத்தமது கர்ம வினைப்படி காரியங்களை செய்து, பின் பின் அடங்குகின்றனர்.

உலகோரின் காரியங்களால் இறைவனுக்கு ஆகவேண்டியது ஒன்றும் இல்லை. அவரை ஒரு கருமமும் ஒட்டாது. சூரியன் உதிப்பதால் ஏற்படும் நிகழ்வுகள் எப்படி சூரியனுக்கு சம்பந்தம் இல்லையோ, எப்படி மண், நீர், காற்று, தீ என்னும் நான்கு பூதங்களின் தாக்கத்தால் ஐந்தாவது பூதமான ஆகாயம் எவ்வித பாதிப்பும் அடைவதில்லையோ அவ்வாறே இறைவனும் உலகினரின் கர்மங்களால் பாதிக்கப் படுவதில்லை.

கடவுளும் குருவும் முக்தியடைவதற்கு வழிகாட்டுவார்களே அல்லாது தாமாகவே ஜீவர்களை முக்தியில்  கொண்டுபோய்ச் சேர்க்க மாட்டார்கள்.

கடவுளும் குருவும் உண்மையில் வேறு வேறு அல்லர். புலி வாய்க்குள் சிக்கிய பிராணி எப்படித் திரும்பிவராதோ, அவ்வாறே குருவின் அருள் பார்வையில் பட்டவர்கள் அவரால் காப்பாற்றப்படுவார்கள்; ஆனாலும் குரு காட்டிய வழிப்படி தவறாது நடத்தல் அவசியம்.

எவன் தன்னையே கடவுளாகிய சொரூபத்தினிடத்தில் தியாகம் செய்கிறானோ அவனே சிறந்த பக்திமான். ஆத்ம சிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை எதுவும் கிளம்புவதற்கு சிறிதும் இடம் தராமல் எப்போதும் ஆத்ம நிஷ்டையிலேயே இருப்பதே தன்னை இறைவனுக்கு சமர்ப்பிப்பதாகும். இறைவனின் மீது எவ்வளவு பாரத்தைப் போட்டாலும் அவர் தாங்கிக் கொள்வார். எல்லாக் காரியங்களையும் இறைவனின் சக்தியே நடத்திக்கொண்டிருக்கிறது; நாம் அதற்கு அடங்கிப் போகவேண்டும். அப்படி அடங்காமல் ‘இதைச் செய்ய வேண்டும், அதைச் செய்ய வேண்டும்’ என்று சதா சிந்தித்துக்கொண்டே இருப்பது எதற்காக?  ரயில் வண்டி எல்லா பாரங்களையும் சுமந்து செல்கிறது என்பது நமக்குத் தெரியும். அப்படி இருந்தும், அதில் பயணம் செய்யும் நாம் நம் மூட்டையை அதில் இறக்கிவைத்துவிட்டு நிம்மதியாய் இல்லாமல், மூட்டையை நம் தலை மீதே சுமந்துகொண்டு பயணித்தால் எத்தனை சிரமம்?

[10.   In the path of Self-Inquiry, what is the role of God and Guru? What is the relevance of bhakti (devotion) and saranagathi (surrender)?

The Sun rises as a matter of routine without any will or effort of its own; as its effect, the lens  produces heat out of sun rays; the lotus blossoms; water evaporates and drying happens; people get up and engage themselves in their daily chores. When the sun sets, all these activities cease. When there is a magnet, the needle gets attracted by it. In a similar way, God, as eshwara,  without any desire or aversion of His own, carries out His triple action — creation, sustenance and destruction and as its consequence, the people in the world, as per their karma, do their acts and then settle.

God has nothing to gain from the activities of the people of the world. No karma ever touches Him. Just as the sun is never affected by the various activities that happen in the world when it rises, just as the sky (the 5th element)  is never affected by any changes in the four other elements — earth, water, air and fire, God too is never affected by the activities of the people in the world.

God and guru will only show the way for liberation and they would not on their own take the souls to liberation.

In fact, God and Guru are not two different entities. Just as a creature caught in the mouth of a tiger will never come back alive, those who have been blessed by the holy look of a guru will always be saved by him. Yet, it is very important to follow the path shown by the guru.

The best devotee is one who dissolves his own identity in God who is the indweller. Surrendering oneself to God really means remaining steadfast in the contemplation of Self with no thoughts other than ceaseless thought of the Self. God can bear any amount of weight put on Him. All activities are getting carried out only through the power of God. We have to simply surrender to its control. Without getting subdued like this, why should we keep on scheming ‘I have to do this or I have to accomplish that?’. We know that the train carries all the luggage. Having known this fact, what is the point in travelling in a train, still carrying all the luggage on our heads?]

11. சுகம் என்பது என்ன?

ஆத்மாவின் இயல்பு நிலையே சுகம் தான்; சுகமும் ஆத்ம சொரூபமும் வேறு வேறு அல்ல. ஆத்ம சுகம் ஒன்றே உள்ளது. அதுவே சத்தியம். உலகப் பொருள்கள் எதிலும் சுகம் என்பது கிடையாது. அவைகளிலிருந்து சுகம் கிடைப்பதாக நாம் நமக்கு விவேகமில்லாத காரணத்தால் நினைக்கிறோம். மனம் எப்போது வெளியே வருகிறதோ அப்போது அது துக்கத்தை அனுபவிக்கிறது. நாம் நமது ஆசை பூர்த்தியாகும்போதெல்லாம் அனுபவிக்கும் சுகம் என்பது உண்மையில் நம் மனம் தனது உண்மை நிலையான ஆத்மாவுக்கு திரும்பி ஒன்றுவதால் கிடைக்கும் ஆத்ம சுகமே தவிற வேறில்லை.

ஆழ்ந்த தூக்கம், சமாதி, மூர்சையடைந்த மயக்க நிலை போன்ற நிலைகளிலும், ஆசைப்பட்டது கிடைக்கும்போதும், வெறுத்த பொருளுக்கு கேடு உண்டாகும்போதும் மனம் உள்முகமாகி ஆத்ம சுகத்தையே அனுபவிக்கிறது. இப்படி மனம் ஆத்மாவை விட்டு வெளியே போவதும் உள்ளே திரும்புவதுமாக ஓய்வின்றி அலைகிறது.

மரத்தடியில் நிழல் சுகமாய் இருக்கிறது; வெயிலில் சூரிய வெப்பம் கொடுமையாய் இருக்கிறது. வெயிலில் அலையும் ஒருவன் நிழலில் போய் நின்று குளிர்ச்சியை அனுபவிக்கிறான்; சிறிது நேரம் கழித்து வெயிலில் கிளம்பிப் போய், பிறகு மீண்டும் வெப்பதின் கொடுமை பொறுக்க முடியாமல் மரத்தடிக்கு ஓடி வருகிறான். இவ்வாறு நிழலிலிருந்து வெயிலில் போவதும், பிறகு வெயிலிலிருந்து நிழலுக்கு ஓடி வருவதுமாகத் திண்டாடுகிறான். இப்படிச் செய்பவன் விவேகமில்லாதவன்.

விவேகம் உள்ளவனோ நிழலை விட்டு நீங்க மாட்டான். இதுபோலவே ஞானியின் மனமும் பிரம்மத்தை விட்டு நீங்குவதில்லை. ஆனால் அஞ்ஞானியின் மனமோ, உலகியலில் ஈடுபட்டு துக்கம் அடைவதும், பிறகு இறைவனிடம் திரும்பி சுகமடைவதுமாக இருக்கிறது. உலகம் என்பது வெறும் நினைவே. உலகம் மறையும்போது அதாவது நினைவுகள் அழியும்போது மனம் ஆனந்தத்தை அனுபவிக்கிறது; உலகம் தோன்றும்போது துக்கத்தை அனுபவிக்கிறது.

[11.  What is happiness?

The very nature of Self is happiness. Happiness and Self are not different entities. What really exists is happiness of the Atman. It is the ultimate Truth. No worldly objects carry happiness. Due to lack of discrimination, we wrongly think that worldly objects give happiness. Whenever mind goes outward, it experiences only sorrow. Whatever happiness we experience when we satiate our desire, it is only the experience of mind turning inward and remaining united with Atman and nothing else.

Whatever bliss we experience when in deep sleep, samadhi or in a state of total unconsciousness, or when a desire is satisfied or when something bad happens to what hate is only the effect of mind turning inward and experiencing the innate happiness of the Atman. Thus the mind wanders restlessly by going outward and turning inward.

The shade under a tree is blissful. The heat of the sun is torturous in the open. A person wandering in hot sun enjoys happiness by taking shelter in the shade under a tree.  After some time, he goes out in the open again, suffers the heat and rushes back to the shade of the tree. Thus he suffers restlessly by shunting between the sunshine and tree shade over his head. Anybody who does so lacks discrimination.

The one with the right sense of discrimination will not leave the shade.  Likewise, the mind of a Jnani (Wise person) never leaves Brahman (God). But the mind of an ajnani (unwise person) gets into worldly activities and experiences pain; then it returns to God to experience happiness. World exists only in thought. When world disappears, that is, when there are no thoughts, mind experiences bliss. When world is perceived, mind experiences suffering.]

12.  தத்துவ ஞானத்தை புத்தக வாயிலாகப்  படித்தறிவது எத்தனை தூரம் முக்கியம்?

எல்லா ஆனமீகப் புத்தகங்களிலும்  முக்தி அடைவதற்கு மனதை அடக்க வேண்டும் என்ற கருத்தே சொல்லப்படுகிறது; மனதை அழிப்பதே ஆனமீக நூல்களின் முடிவான கருத்து என்று தெரிந்துகொண்ட  பிறகு,  மேலும் மேலும் நூல்களை அளவின்றிப் படிப்பதால் பயன் இல்லை.  அடக்குவதற்கு தன்னை யார் என்று விசாரிக்கவேண்டுமே  தவிர, புத்தகங்களில் போய் எதை விசாரிப்பது? தன்னை, தன்னுடைய ஞானக்கண்ணால் தானே தான் அறியவேண்டும். ராமன் தன்னை ராமன் என்று அறிந்துகொள்ளக் கண்ணாடியைப் போய்ப் பார்க்கவேண்டுமா என்ன!

‘தான்’ பஞ்ச கோசங்களுக்குள் இருப்பது. [பஞ்ச கோசங்கள் (ஐந்து உறைகள்) என்பவை :  1. அன்னமய கோசம் (உணவால் ஆன உறை), 2. பிராணமய கோசம் (பிராணனால் ஆன உறை),  3. மனோமய கோசம் (மனத்தால் ஆன உறை),  4. விஞ்ஞானமய கோசம் ( தெளிந்த அறிவாலாகிய உறை, மற்றும் 5. ஆனந்தமய கோசம் (ஆனந்தத்தால் ஆன உறை)]. ஆனால் நூல்களோ இவற்றிற்கு வெளியேஇருப்பவை. ஆகவே, இந்த ஐந்து கோசங்களையம் (நான் இதுவல்ல என்று) நீக்கி விசாரித்து அறிய வேண்டிய ஆத்ம சொரூபத்தைப் புத்தகங்களில் தேடி அலைவது வீணே.

பந்தத்தில் சிக்குண்டிருக்கும் தன்னை யார் என்று விசாரித்துத் தன இயற்கை சொரூபத்தை அறிந்துகொள்வதுதான் முக்தி. எப்போதும் மனதை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பதற்குத் தான் ‘ஆத்ம விசாரம்’ என்று பெயர். தியானம் என்பது தன்னை சச்சிதானந்த பிரம்மமாகப் பாவிப்பது. (நூல் அறிவும் ஒருவித தளையே ஆதலால்)  அனைத்தையும் ஒரு காலத்தில் மறக்க வேண்டிவரும்!

குப்பையைக் கூட்டித் தள்ளவேண்டிய ஒருவன் அந்தக் குப்பையை ஆராய்வதால் பயன் உண்டா என்ன? அப்படியே, தன்னை அறியவேண்டிய ஒருவன், தன்னை அறிய விடாது மறைத்துக் கொண்டிருக்கும் தத்துவங்களனைத்தையும் கூட்டித்தள்ளாமல்  அவை இத்தனை என்றும் அவற்றின் குணங்கள் என்ன  என்றும் ஆராய்ந்துகொண்டிருப்பதால் பயனில்லை.

[12. To what extent it is essential to learn philosophical knowledge about Self through books?

It is stated practically in all spiritual books that control of the mind is essential to attain liberation. Having known that the foregone conclusion of all spiritual books is the annihilation of the mind, there is no purpose in reading numerous spiritual books more and more. To control the mind, one has to engage in self inquiry ‘who am I’;  what is there to keep inquiring in spiritual books? One has to identify his real Self through his ‘wisdom eye’ himself. For Raman to know that he is indeed Raman, should he go and look at the mirror?!

The sense of “I” is encased within 5 sheaths. (The following are the 5-sheaths — Pancha kosha: (1) Annamaya kosha — The sheath of food, (2) Pranamaya Kosha — the sheath of vital air , (3) manomaya kosha — the sheath of mind, (4) Vijnanamaya kosha — the sheath of the intellect and (5) Anandamaya kosha — the sheath of bliss). But books exist outside all these. Hence, it is futile to search the self in books, while the right way is to inquire and negate these sheaths one by one by discarding them by clarifying ‘I am not this’. 

Mukti (liberation) is to get freed from the fetters of worldly attachments and realize one’s true Self. Self inquiry is the process by which the mind is kept united with Atman forever. Meditation is a state of contemplation of oneself as Brahman (God beyond name and form). A state will come when all the bookish knowledge has to be forgotten (since bookish knowledge too, in a way, is a bondage).

When all the rubbish are meant to be swept and thrown away, what is the point in analyzing them? In the same way, the philosophies that tend to hide the Truth of the Self and act as hindrance to know oneself are all meant to be swept aside; It serves no purpose in researching how many of them are there and what their characteristics are.]

13.  விழிப்பு நிலைக்கும் கனவு நிலைக்கும் உள்ள பேதம் என்ன?

இந்த உலகத்தையும் ஒரு கனவு போல் எண்ணிக்கொள்ளவேண்டும். விழிப்பு நிலை என்பது உண்மையில் ஒரு நீண்ட கனவு ; உறக்கத்தில் வரும் கனவு என்பது  மிகக் குறுகிய நேரம் உள்ள கனவு. அவ்வளவு தான் வித்தியாசம். அதைத் தவிர வேறு இல்லை. விழிப்பு நிலையில் நடக்கும் விவகாரங்கள் எல்லாம் எவ்வளவு உண்மையாகத் தோன்றுகின்றனவோ அதே அளவு கனவு காணும்போது அதில் ஏற்படும் நிகழ்வுகள் அந்தக் கனவு நிலையில் உண்மையாகவே தோன்றுகின்றன! கனவில் மனம் வேறொரு உடம்பை எடுத்துக்கொள்கிறது. விழிப்பு நிலை, கனவு நிலை இரண்டிலுமே நினைவுகளும் நாம ரூபங்களும் ஒரே சமயத்தில் எழுகின்றன.

 

[13. What is the difference between waking state and dream state?

We must presume this world too as a work of dream. In reality, waking state is a long dream, while the dream we see in sleep is of a short duration. That’s the only difference between the two and nothing really more. Whatever we experience in our waking state appears to be extremely real; In the same way,  as long as we are in dream state, the dreams we experience too are very real. In dream state, our mind takes up a new body. In both the waking state and dream state, thoughts, names and forms appear simultaneously.]

14.  உலகியல் வாழ்வை எப்படி நடத்திப் போகவேண்டும்?

மற்றவர்கள் எவ்வளவு கெட்டவர்களாய் இருந்தாலும் அவர்களை வெறுக்கக் கூடாது. விருப்பு, வெறுப்பு இரண்டுமே ஒதுக்கவேண்டியவைதாம்.

உலகியல் விஷயங்களில் மனதை அதிகம் ஈடுபட விடக்கூடாது. முடிந்தவரை அடுத்தவர் காரியங்களில் மூக்கை நுழைக்கக் கூடாது.

பிறருக்கு ஒருவன் ஏதேனும் கொடுத்து உதவினால், உண்மையில் அவன் தனக்கே தான் கொடுத்துக்கொள்கிறான். இந்த உண்மையைப் புரிந்து கொண்டுவிட்டால் பின்னர் யார்தான் கொடுக்காமல் இருப்பார்கள்?

‘தான்’ எழுந்தால்  எல்லாம் எழும். ‘தான்’ அடங்கினால், எல்லாம் அடங்கும்.எவ்வளவுக்கெவ்வளவு தாழ்ந்து அடக்கமாய் நடந்து கொள்கிறோமோ அவ்வளவுக்கவ்வளவு நன்மை உண்டு. மனதை அடக்கிக்கொண்டிருந்தால் ஒருவன் எங்கே வேண்டுமானாலும் இருக்கலாம்.

[14. How does one go about leading the worldly life?

Even if other people are of bad behavior, they should never be hated. Both likes and dislikes are to be discarded.

Mind should not be allowed to indulge in worldly thoughts much. To the extent possible, interfering in others’ affairs should be avoided.

Suppose one helps another by giving something, the truth is he is only helping himself. If this truth is understood, who will refrain from helping others?

If the sense of ‘I’ (ego)  rises up, everything arises. If it subsides, everything subsides. To whatever extent we humble ourselves, to that extent we are benefited.

If only the mind is in total control, one can live anywhere.]

If only the mind is in total control, one can live anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief Biography of Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950)

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What is Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi’s uniqueness amid Hindu spiritual masters?

Ramana Maharshi was a true gyani – the knower of self. He was a jivan mukta – one who attained liberation even when he was alive. For his bhaktas who adored him as God, he was an Avatara Purusha – God descended in human form, though for Ramana, as a true Gnyani, the idea of avatar was of least significance. For him everything existing is verily the Self (atman).

Ramana’s philosophy reaches out to all segments of spiritual seekers irrespective of their religious moorings. Ramana attained his liberation purely by a simple self-inquiry “Who am I?” It is this simple self-inquiry technique that he preached to all spiritual seekers too. Am I the body? Am I the mind? Am I the intellect? This body perishes. This mind always seems to be wandering aimlessly. The intellect gets confused by contradictions. But behind all this, “I” exist. That “I” exists when I am awake, when I sleep with dreams and when I sleep deep without dreams. Even when I sleep like a log without any bodily conscience, this “I”, though not ascertaining its presence at that time, is very much there, it understood its natural blissful state, to declare when awake saying “I slept so blissfully”.

It is this “I” that Ramana wants everyone to identify. One who has grasped the true nature of that “I” knows Self (Atman). It is none other than the all pervasive Brahaman, that Upanishads talk of. You are that – “Tat twam asi” One who truly experienced it, states by virtue of his personal attainment, “Aham Brahmasmi” (I am Brahman). In Ramana’s scheme of things, there is really no need of any personal God for worship. No need of names and forms. No chanting of mantras. No need of worship. No need of accepting Jesus Christ and the holy trinity. No need to worship in the direction of Mecca and Madina. But Ramana acknowledges the fact that such religious and spiritual practices, widely practiced by many, have their utility in purifying the mind and aiding progress in the spiritual path, “the path of self-inquiry is straight” in his opinion and experience.

No wonder Ramana’s philosophy, which was none other than the ancient Hindu philosophy of Advaita, was lapped up by spiritually earnest seekers, who had their disinclination towards formal and institutionalized form of religions and worships.

Birth and early years

Venkataraman (later Sri Ramana Maharshi) was born on December 30, 1879 at Tiruchuzhi, a small village in Tamil Nadu, some thirty miles off Madurai to  Sundaram Ayyar and Alagamma. He was the second child. He had one elder brother and one younger brother and a younger sister.

When Venkataraman was twelve, Sundaram Ayyar died.  He and his elder brother were sent to live with their paternal uncle, Subbier, at Madurai. Here, Venkataraman studied upto ninth standard. He was an average student, but had a good memory. He was much interested in sports.

In his boyhood years Venkataraman was prone to abnormally deep sleep. He could not be easily awakened from his sleep.

His Spiritual Awakening

An elderly relative who visited their house mentioned to Venkataraman about his visit to Arunachala, the sacred hill in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu. The word ‘Arunachala’ somehow had evoked in him since childhood an inexplicable awe and love. He enquired more from the relative the whereabouts of Arunachala and his inexpicable curiosity and awe over the place increased.

A little later, young Venkataraman came across a copy of the Periapuranam, which  contains stories of sixty-three Tamil saints who received Lord Siva’s grace and vision by their exemplary devotion. As Venkataraman read the book, he was overwhelmed with ecstatic wonder that such deep faith, and bhakti was ever possible in him too.

Sometime in the middle of July 1896, when he was just sixteen and a half years old, Venkataraman realized the Self in a totally unexpected and miraculous manner. Years later, he explained to his devotees what happened that day in the following words:

About six weeks before I left Madurai for good, a great change took place in my life. It was quite sudden. I was sitting alone in a room in my uncle’s house, when a sudden fear of death overtook me. There was nothing in my state of health to account for it. I just felt, ‘I am going to die’ and began thinking about it. The fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, ‘Now that death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? Only this body dies.’ And at once I dramatized the occurrence of death. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed and said to myself, ‘This body is dead. It will be carried to the cremation ground and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body am I dead? Is this body ‘I’? I am the spirit transcending the body. and I am perceiving it now without any doubt. That means I am the deathless Atman.’

Venkataraman seemed to fall into a profound conscious trance wherein he became merged into the very source of his Self, the very essence of Being.

Venkataraman emerged from this amazing experience an utterly changed person. He lost interest in studies, sports, friends and so on. His chief interest now centered in the sublime consciousness of the true Self, which he had found so unexpectedly. He enjoyed an inward serenity and a spiritual strength, which never left him.  In his words: “Another change that came over me was that I no longer had any likes or dislikes with regard to food. Whatever was given to me, tasty or insipid, I would swallow with total indifference.”

Leaving for Arunachala – once for all

Venkataraman’s uncle and elder brother noticed the nonchalant behavior of Venkataraman and were critical about it. Then came the tangible turning point on August 29, 1896. Venkataraman was then studying in tenth standard, preparing for his public examination. His teacher had given him an exercise in English grammar to be written three times. He copied it out twice and was about to do so for the third time when the futility and meaningless of such an exercise stuck him; he pushed the notebooks aside and sitting cross-legged, abandoned himself to meditation.

His elder brother Nagaswamy who was watching this, scolded him for behaving like a yogi while still staying in the family and pretending to study. “Yes”, thought Venkataraman, “What business do I have here?” And immediately came the thought of Arunachala that had caused such a thrill in him a few months ago. He decided then and there to discover the fabulous and mystic hill Arunachala himself.

Venkataraman knew that without a little lie, he would not be allowed to escape from home.  So, he told his brother that he had to attend a special class at the school. Unintentionally providing him with funds for the journey, his brother said, “Take five rupees from the box and pay my college fees.” Venkataraman took only three rupees, no more than what he thought was necessary for reaching Tiruvannamalai. In the note he left (which fortunately is still preserved), he wrote in Tamil:

Ramana’s handwritten note when he left home for good to move to Thiruvannamalai

“ நான் என் தகப்பனாரைத் தேடிக் கொண்டு, அவருடைய உத்தரவின்படி இவ்விடத்தை விட்டுக் கிளம்பி விட்டேன். இது நல்ல காரியத்தில் தான் பிரவேசித்திருக்கிறது. ஆகையால் இதற்காக யாரொருவரும் விசனப்பட வேண்டாம். இதைப் பார்ப்பதற்காக பணமும் செலவு செய்ய வேண்டாம். உன் சம்பளத்தை இன்னும் செலுத்தவில்லை. ரூ. 2 இதோடு கூட இருக்கிறது.

இப்படிக்கு

—————”

I have set out in quest of my Father in accordance with His command. It is on a virtuous enterprise that ‘this’ has embarked, therefore let none grieve over this act and let no money be spent in search of ‘this’. Your college fees have not been paid. Two rupees are enclosed.” The note ended with the word ‘Thus’, and a dash — in place of his signature.

The way this letter had been written has its own significance –  opening sentence in the note began with ‘I’, but later Venkataraman used ‘this’ in reference to himself. Thus, what left Madurai for Tiruvannamalai was not the spirit, which had already got absorbed in the Lord, but the body, now viewed as distinct from the spirit. The personality which began with ‘I’, got merged into ‘this’, and at the end there was no person left to sign.

Venkataraman reached  Tiruvannamalai in a journey involving two trains, a long walk and a couple of trials and tribulations en route on the early morning of September 1, 1896. He went straight to the great Arunachaleswara temple and stood before his Father. His cup of bliss was now full to the brim with inexplicable surge of bliss. The journey’s end, and his homecoming at last.

Immersed in the trance of divine bliss

Coming out of the temple, the youth got his head shaven and threw away all his belongings and clothes except for a strip he tore off his dhoti to serve as a loincloth. Thus renouncing everything, he went back to the temple complex and got immersed in the Bliss of Being, sitting motionless, day after day, night after night without any concern about his body, the need for food or drinking.

Local urchins thought he was a madman and started throwing stones at him wherever he was in the temple complex. To escape from their teasing, the young ascetic took shelter in the Patala Lingam, an underground small Siva shrine within the enormous temple complex, where ants and vermin fed on his flesh during the weeks he spent there. But the young Swami, absorbed in bliss, remained unmoved.

Seshadri Swamigal who was a well known saint and a resident of Thiruvannamalai recognized the young ascetic’s spiritual status and soon words spread about the missing young brahmin Swamy. Some devotees discovered the Swami in the vault, oblivious of the dreadful condition he was in, with worm-infested wounds and oozing pus. they removed him to a nearby shrine within the temple complex. From then on, he continued to move within the complex to various other shrines and groves away from curious onlookers. In all these places, he was looked after by mendicants, devotees from the town, temple functionaries and others. He continued to remain absorbed in the Self and was forcefully fed with a glass of milk obtained after doing abhishekam to the divine Mother’s  deity or a few morsels of cooked rice.

In February 1897, the young Swami was removed to the Gurumurtam – a math, some distance away from the town, where he lived for about nineteen months. He continued to remain Self-absorbed and was looked after mainly by a sadhu named Uddandi Nayanar and his friend Annamalai Thambiran.

About this time, a Malayalee sadhu named Palaniswami, living in great austerity, was devoting his life to the worship of Lord Vinayaka. He came to know of the Brahmin ascetic and as he saw the Swami for the first time, he was stirred to his depths and had discovered his saviour. He devoted the remaining twenty-one years of his life serving the  Maharshi as his attendant.

Very slowly and unwillingly, Venkataraman started responding to the prodding of his devotees and aftair their persistent efforts, he wrote his name  ‘Venkataraman, Tiruchuzhi’ in English. His knowledge of English came as a surprise. He became well known as Brahmana Swamy in Thiruvannamalai town.

In search of the missing Boy

In the meantime, Venkataraman’s relatives were making anxious enquiries and searches at various places, but he could not be traced in the next couple of years. Finally, hearing about a famous young brahmin Swamy at Thiruvannamalai, his paternal Uncle Nelliappa Iyer came to Thiruvannamalai. At first he could not identify him, as the young Swami was with long matted hair, beard and totally unkempt remaining with just a loin cloth.  But later, confirming with his birth marks, he pleaded in vain for the Swami’s return and then left for Madurai empty-handed.

After sometime, the young Swami began to reside at the Pavalakunru shrine on the Arunachala hill, his mother Alagamma came and met her son.  With a mother’s love and concern, she lamented over his condition and pressed him to go back with her, but he sat unmoved despite her repeated entreaties. Based on repeated appeals by devotees to communicate something to his mother, Brahmana swami  wrote in Tamil:

“அவரவர் பிராரப்தப் பிரகாரம் அதற்கானவன் ஆங்காங்கிருந்து ஆட்டுவிப்பன். என்றும் நடவாதது என் முயற்சிக்கினும் நடவாது; நடப்பது என் தடை செய்யினும் நில்லாது. இதுவே திண்ணம். ஆதலின் மெளனமாயிருக்கை நன்று.”

The Ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their prarabdha-karma.Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try hard as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it.This is certain. The best course, therefore, is to remain silent.

His mother too had to return dejected, but she was later quite determined to live with her saintly son. Future events unfolded towards her will.

Shifting to Virupaksha cave

Early in 1899, the young ascetic, accompanied by his attendant Palaniswami took up his residence in the Virupaksha Cave, a cave situated behind a solid rock en route to the top of Arunachala hill.  He stayed in this cave for the next seventeen years.

Here also the young Swami maintained silence for the first few years. His radiance had already drawn a group of devotees around him and an ashram of hardly any facilities had come into being at the cave.  The young swamy gradually started speaking a few words to his devotees. Curious and sincere seekers like Palaniswamy brought spiritual books from the local library and started reading them in front of the swamy and demanding his explanations for their doubts.

It was then that the young swamy really came across formal scriptures like Upanishads and other Vedantic scripts in Tamil. It was rather surprising to them that whatever spiritual experiences he personally had  were being mentioned in the scriptures!

Some time during the year 1912, Brahmana Swamy had a second experience of confronting death. This time, it was not an imagined one, but a real death experience when his heart beat stopped totally and his skin turned blue. He remained in that state for  about 15 minutes, totally conscious of his unchangeable status as Atman.  In a way, it can be said that this second death experience confirmed his unshakable status of Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi. After this experience, The Brahmana Swamy’s life became more normal and his interaction communication with his devotees became much freer and easier.

Some Early Devotees

Sivaprakasam Pillai , an officer in the Revenue Department and an intellectual, heard of the young Swami residing on the hill. At his very first visit in 1902, he was captivated by the Swami’s aura and became his life-long devotee. As the Swami was maintaining silence he answered fourteen questions of Pillai by writing in Tamil on a slate. These were later expanded and arranged in a book form “நானார்?” Who am I? This is perhaps the most concise and most widely appreciated prose exposition of the Maharshi’s philosophy, given by the Maharshi at his age of 23, which got widely published much later, in the year 1923.  Ramana’s another devotee Sri Gambhiram Seshayya too jotted down Sri Ramana’s answers to his queries sometime during 1900-02 and got it published much later as  booklet titled “விசார சங்கிரகம்” (Self inquiry) in the year 1930.

The teachings contained in these 2 small small books remained authentic, needing no future revisions by Bhagvan. In his long life spanning 71 years, Sri Ramana wrote so many other poetic works in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Sanskrit, but this Tamil prose version still remained the basic teaching that found more exposition in those future works.

Guru (Bhargwan Ramana) at the left with Sishya (Kavyakanda Ganapathi Sastri at the right). The Sishya was elder to the Guru and the Guru called him Nayana! (Father).

Kavyakanda Ganapati Muni , a renowned Sanskrit scholar and poet, was another devotee (much elder in age to Sri Ramana) who visited the Swami from 1903 onwards and accepted him as his guru in 1907. It was who who christened the name Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi to his Guru. He sang of him as an incarnation of  Lord Subrahmanya (Muruga). The Maharishi’s answers to the questions put by the Muni and his disciples, largely constitute the well-known work Ramana Gita in Sanskrit.

The earliest Western seeker to come under the Swami’s influence (in 1911) was F.H. Humphreys.

Several householder devotees started taking care of Sri Ramana by offering food. Echammal and Alakaraththammal (Mudaliar patti) were two ardent lady devotees of Ramana who started sending food to him to Virupaksha cave and their dedicated service of offering food to Bhagwan continued uninterrupted for almost 50 years!

Evolution of Ramana, the poet

‘The knower of Self becomes the knower of all’ — so goes the saying.

It was during the years in Virupakshi cave that the hitherto unknown face of Sri Ramana — as a mystic poet, came to the fore. Some of the devotees who came to Ramana were Tamil scholars. By way of association with him and by the exposure he got into the poetic devotional works like Thevaram and Thiruvasagam and also Vedanta  Tamil texts like Kaivalya Navaneetam etc through the books brought by his devotees, Bhagwan Ramana got an irresistible inner urge to pour out his supreme knowledge in the form of poems.

Sri Ramana wrote the Tamil poetic works Arunachala Pathikam and Arunachala Ashtakam, praising the glory of the Arunachala Hill. (Related reading —>  Bhagwan Ramana’s attraction towards Arunachala Hill)

Several earnest devotees started staying with him and they used to go begging for food at the town once a day. They requested for an exclusive song to be sung by them as a sign of identification with Sri Ramana when they go around begging at the streets. During one of the Girivalam (circumambulation of Arunachala), Bhagwan composed Akshara mana Maalai song. It was a wonderful piece of poetry, written in devotional Nayaki Bhava (as if a woman expressing her love towards her sweet heart) containing the yearning of Jivatma towards Paramatma (represented by Arunachala Hill) for union. Despite being a Jyani par excellence, Sri Ramana’s tender heart brimmed with emotional bhakti too when he composed Aksharamana Malai as he revealed to his devotees in later years how he was overwhelmed with tears of divine love flowing from his eyes and his throat choking with uncontrollable emotions when he composed those songs.

Ramana’s later poetic works in Tamil covered உபதேச உந்தியார், உள்ளது நாற்பது, உள்ளது நாற்பது அனுபந்தம், தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி ஸ்தோத்ரம், பகவத் கீதா சாரம், அத்தாமலகம், அருணாசல நவமணி மாலை, ஆன்ம வித்தை, அப்பளப்பாட்டு (Upadesa Undhiyaar, Ullathu Narpathu, Ullathu narpathu anubhandam, Dhakshinamoorthy sthothram, Bhagavad Gita saaram, Hasthamalakam, Arunachala nava mani malai, Anma vidyai, Appala paattu etc) etc. Ramana’s ardent devotee and a great Tamil Scholar Muruganar was in a way instrumental in goading Bhagwan Ramana to write many of the later poetic works in Tamil.

Through the association with Ganapathi Sasthri, Ramana picked up sanskrit. Likewise by the association with Telugu and Malayalam devotees, Ramana quickly mastered the nuances of these languages and became adept in even writing poetry in these languages.  Yielding to appeal of these devotees, Bhabwan Ramana translated many of his Tamil works to corresponding poetic works in Telugu and Malayalam too.

His mother’s arrival and stay

During 1914, Alagammal, Ramana’s mother came again to see her son, on her way back from a pilgrimage to Tirupathi. Alagammal fell seriously ill at that time and Ramana took care of her; he fervently prayed to Arunachala for mother’s recovery and composed 4 songs of prayer. His mother soon recovered and went back to live with her other sons.

Two years later, in 1916, Alagammal, battered by the woes of worldly life, decided to come and settle with her saintly saint son permanently. Being an orthodox Brahmin lady, Alagammal had to go through lots of adjustments and sacrifice  even bare minimum comforts  in order be with her son who lived an exemplary life of total renunciation. Ramana was constantly chastising her and teasing her for her brahminical tendencies of following excessive austerities and physical purity demands, her likes and dislikes on “eatable” foodstuff and so on.

Sri Ramana with his mother (at middle) and brother Nagasundaram (Swami Niranjanananda) at left.

A little later after his mother’s arrival, Ramana’s younger brother Nagasundaram, who lost his wife at early age took up renunciation (with a monostic name Niranjanananda) and he too arrived at Thiruvannamalai to live with his saint brother. With a few sadhus already staying with Ramana permanently and with the arrival of the mother and brother, Virupaksha cave which was very small in size became rather over-crowded and there came a need for a bigger ashram.

Shifting to Skandashram

Further up in the hill from Virupaksha cave, there was a natural spring that gave water perennially right throughout the year. Ramana’s ardent devotee Kandasamy took up a great task of levelling a small plot of land in the hilly slopes adjacent to the spring, planted several trees and then with herculean efforts built a small tiled brick building to serve as the new ashram. To acknowledge Kandaswamy’s efforts, Ramana named the ashram “Skandashram” and shifted to that place along with all his companions in the year 1916.

Skandasramam

 

Sri Ramana during his Skandashram days.

Niranjanananda gradually took up the responsibility of coordinating the activities of the ashram and over the following years when the Ashram permanently shifted to the foothills and took shape as Ramanashramam, he became the “Sarvadhikari” (Administrative head) of the Ashram.

Sri Ramama with his mother Alagammal (Skandasram days)

During 1922 after leading a life of strict austerity under her son for 6 years in Skandashram, mother Alagammal became seriously ill with no signs of recovery in the year 1922. Ramana nursed her with utmost care but he was resigned to the fact that her life was nearing end. During her final hours when she was breathing heavily, Ramana sat next to her, put one hand on her chest and another hand on her head. Ramana was determined to grant her moksha and  he subdued all her vasanas that ebbed from her heart as her prana was attempting to get released from her body. Finally Ramana ensured that her soul dissolved in her heart without the scope of escaping through any of the openings of her body and granted her samadhi.

He stood up and declared the fact that there was no need to follow the customary acharas (like not eating food when there is a dead body) as his mother had attained liberation from birth/ death cycle and asked everyone to take their food.

Alagammal’s body was taken down hills and was buried at the foot hills and a Shiva Linga (Matrubhuteswar) was established at the place of burial (adjacent to a water tank called pali thirtham) as per norms followed for those who attained samadhi. Minimal ritualistic worship of the Matrubhuteswar lingam was getting carried out by Niranjananantha for a while by visiting from Skandasram daily.

A few months later, one early morning Sri Ramana visited mother’s samadhi down hills and he opted to remain there without returning to Skandasram. It happened by the end of December 1922.

Ramanashramam

The establishment of Ramanashramam adjacent to the mother’s samadhi began in the form of a thatched hut. (See picture).

This hut is indeed the early beginning of Ramanashramam. Sri Ramana (with a book in hand) is standing in front of the Iluppai tree which is still alive in Ramanashramam today.

Ramanashramam was growing slowly and steadily as more and more spiritually earnest people started coming to meet Sri Ramana and many of them started staying in and around the ashram. One of Ramana’s prime disciples Sri Muruganar, a great Tamil Scholar came and met Bhagwan in the year 1923. He was overwhelmed by Bhagwan’s divinity and within the next few years he came and stayed permanently at Thiruvannamalai.

Sri Muruganar, seated at the feet of his Guru.

By the divine influence of Bhagwan, pristine Tamil poetry flowed ceaselessly from the heart of Muruganar.   He wrote “Guru Vachaka Kovai” (குரு வாசகக் கோவை) containing the teachings of his guru in poetry form. Inspired by Thiruvachagam, he wrote “Ramana Sannidhi Murai” (ரமண சன்னதி முறை). He had written more than 30,000 Tamil verses in his life.

The disciple in turn, considerably influenced the guru to write more works in Tamil. Bhagwan Ramana wrote Upadesa Saram (உபதேச சாரம்/ உபதேச உந்தியார்) that contained in a nutshell all his teachings, as an extension to a poetic work on a story based on Lord Shiva’s divine play wrote half way by Muruganar,  in the year 1927. Later  Bhagwan himself translated this work into Malayalam and Telugu. Kavyakanta Ganapathi Shashtri wrote the translation of Upadesa saram in Sanskrit.

Arrival of Paul Brunton & Other western devotees

Paul Brunton (Raphael Hurst) was a curious seeker of Indian mysticism who met Bhagwan Ramana in 1930. He stayed in Ramanashramam for a few days and practiced Self-Inquiry based on Ramana’s teachings and he could get a glimpse of his Self by the grace of Bhagwan. He wrote about Bhagwn in his famous book A Search in Secret India. In a way, this book paved the way for many western and earnest seekers of spirituality to visit Bhagwan.

Major Chadwick (Sadhu Arunachala with Ramana

Arthur Osborne

In later years Major Chadwick (Sadhu Arunachala), Arthur Osborne, SS Cohen, Maurice Frydman, Robert Adams and such westerners became devotees of Ramana and practiced Ramana’s Self-inquiry as a spiritual method for self-realization.

Golden Jubilee

Like a beacon in the sea shore, Bhagwan Ramana stayed put in Thiruvannamalai al through his life (since his arrival to the holy town in the year 1896). Bhagwan’s ardent devotees decided to celebrate the 50th year (Golden Jubilee) of Bhagwan’s arrival to Arunachala on 1st September 1946).  Ramana’s devotees from across the country including several dignitaries participated in the grand function.

Bhagwan’s unconditional love was not limited to human beings. Monkeys, squirrels, dogs, peacocks and so on received Bhagwan’s love and enjoyed his company freely.

The cow Lakshmi expressed her devotion and love to Bhagwan like human beings and received his attention and care abundantly for more than 20 years in Ramanashramam.

Matrubhuteswar temple

The ashram grew gradually into brick and mortar buildings. In the year 1939, Bhagwan laid the foundation stone for constructing Matrubuteshwar Temple at the samadhi of his mother. It took 10 years of yeomen efforts by Swami Niranjanananda to bring the temple to a compact and yet beautiful shape. The consecration ceremony (Maha Kumbhabishekam) of the temple took place in a grand scale in the year 1949. A granite Shree Chakra Meru was established behind the Lingam in the temple as per Sri Vidya Tantra shatras and Sri Bhagwan sanctified it by touching it by his hand before consecration.

Shri Bhagwan’s blessings sought on the occasion of Mahakubhabishekam.

The cancerous Tumor and the End — “Where can I go? I will be here”

By the end of year 1948, a small tumor appeared at the left elbow of Bhagwan Ramana. The Ashram doctor decided to cut and remove it. After a few days, the tumor appeared again. Surgeons from Madras were called and it was removed by operation again. But as the tumor resurfaced, every one got alarmed. It was causing considerable pain but Bhagwan did not seem to mind it. Soon it was diagnosed as Sarcoma. A couple of operations were followed and Bhagwan remained just a witness to all the suffering allowing the doctors to do their duty in their own limited judgement. The malignant tumor at one stage grew and looked like a small cauliflower and oozed lot of blood. Bhagwan’s body was going weaker by the day. Bhagwan allowed other types of treatment like Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy and so on done onto him by experts from the respective fields but to no avail.

Devotees shed tears to see Ramana’s physical body suffering but they were at a loss  what to do further. Bhagwan stoutly refused a suggestion to amputate his left arm. He said, ” “They take this body for Bhagavan and attribute suffering to him. What a pity! They are despondent the Bhagavan is going to leave them and go away — where can he go, and how?”

Despite all the physical suffering and the efforts of his associates to give him seclusion from the disturbances of visiting devotees , Bhagwan insisted that all those  who are thronging to see him  be allowed to have his darshan. Bhagwan’s eyes were glowing like powerful lamps while his body was undergoing pain and suffering beyond measure. He continued to glance and bless his devotees as they queued up and passed one by one by having a last glimpse outside the entrance of his room.

Finally, Bhagvan breathed his last at 8:47 PM on 14th of April 1950. At that very moment, a comet moved slowly across the sky, reached the summit, of the holy hill, Arunachala, and disappeared behind it.

 

Bhagwan Ramana – 1950 – his end approaching. His left arm bandaged after a series of operations to remove sarcoma.

Ramana attains Mahasamadhi.

A   Documentary film on Bhagwan Ramanamahasrhi from the Archives of Ramanashramam

 

To what extent Hinduism has reached the west? Who are the main saints that contributed in spreading Hinduism’s concepts across the globe?

Hinduism is spreading around the world definitely, but not by conversion but by acceptance of Sanatana Dharma (Hindu’s dharmic way of life) by so many followers who won’t figure in any national census identified as Hindus!

Hinduism as a religion practised at a commoner level (worship of different God forms, formal temple worship, rituals etc) may not be spreading (except perhaps for Krishna Consciousness Movement by ISKCON) globally. Unlike abrahamic religions with one god and one holy book, Hinduism has so many  facets. Hence there is is virtually no commonly acceptable mode of conversion to Hinduism. There is no ‘business’ of religious conversion to Hinduism ever existing in it. There is virtually no impetus in Hinduism to convert people of other religions.

Hinduism has such a wide base that there are umpteen paths within it for one to practice Hinduism. One path of Hinduism that is most appealing to many well educated westerners is Jyana Yoga (The path of Knowledge) and Vedanta (essence of Upanishads). Many non-Hindus with spiritual mindset get hooked Vedanta and Bhagavad Gita and they start getting right answers to their nagging doubts on spirituality not satisfactorily answered in their religions.

And there is the contribution of great spiritual masters and Avatara Purushas of Hinduism who have influenced a lot of non-Hindus to the spiritual paths open to them in Hinduism. There are countless followers of these masters across the world:

  • Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836–1886) and Swamy Vivekananda (1862–1902) — Sri Ramakrishna Paramahmsa was a rustic Bengali with little formal education who is considered a Divine Avatar that revived and re-validated practically all major paths and sects of Hinduism during British rule in India.His prime disciple Swami Vivekananda travelled to America and spread the wisdom of Vedanta to eager beavers in the west. At his prompting, a few the other disciples of Ramakrishna — Swami Saradananda, Swami Turiyananda, Swami Trigunatitananda and Swami Abedananda travelled to west and spread the message of Vedanta.

(Picture above: Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa &Swami Vivekananda)

  • Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s talks and discussions on multifarious aspects of Hinduism in the most simplified and easily digestible fashion were recorded and made available in a book The gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by his house holder disciple Sri Mahendranath Gupta. It was later translated into English by Swami Nikilananda. This is one magnum opus in Hindu spiritual literature that is being read and re-read by countless spiritual seekers cutting across all sects and sub-sects of Hinduism and all other religiously and spiritually inclined people across the the world, across religions.

Sri Ramakrishna Vedanta Society building, Boston, USA

Swami Rama Tirtha

Swamy Rama Tirta (1876–1906): He travelled Japan and USA in 1902 and influenced lots of Buddhists and Christians towards Hinduism. He spoke on practical Vedanta to Amrican audience. He was a true sanyasi in the sense that he travelled to USA and several other countries totally without carrying any money or luggage.

 

 

 

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Visiting Ramanasramam – the holy abode of Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai

Where can I go? I will be here”.

This was the soothing words of assurance that Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) gave to his tearful devotees when he was in sickbed, with no recovery from his cancer in his arm  in sight. Ramana breathed his last and left his mortal body at Ramanasramam, at the foot hills of Thiruvannamalai on 14th April 1950 at 8:47 PM.

Ramana Maharshi was a true gyani – the knower of self. He was a jivan mukta – one who attained liberation even when he was alive. For his bhaktas who adored him as God, he was an Avatara Purusha – God descended in human form, though for Ramana, as a true Gnyani, the idea of avatar was of least significance. For him everything existing is verily the Self (atman).

It was in Ramanashramam that the sacred body of Ramana was buried and a samadhi (tomb constructed as per scriptural guidelines) built. It is Hindu belief that where a Jivan Mukta’s samadhi exists, the saint’s vibrant spiritual presence remains there that can easily be felt by earnest believers and spiritual seekers. It is very much true at Ramanashramam. Added to the common belief, Ramana had personally assured to his devotees that he would only be there.

It is no wonder that the earnest spiritual seekers from across the globe constantly stream into Ramanashramam all round the year, stay at the ashram premises under the unobtrusive hospitality of the caretakers of the Ashram and drink the bliss of peace that emanates silently in the samadhi of Ramana.

Ramana sitting on a Tiger skin, gifted by a devotee. Ramana never loved such pomp and grandeur. Photo taken from a picture adoring the New Hall in Ramanasramam.

Ramana’s philosophy reaches out to all segments of spiritual seekers irrespective of their religious moorings. Ramana attained his liberation purely by a simple self-inquiry “Who am I?” It is this simple self-inquiry technique that he preached to all spiritual seekers too. Am I the body? Am I the mind? Am I the intellect? This body perishes. This mind always seems to be wandering aimlessly. The intellect gets confused by contradictions. But behind all this, “I” exist. That “I” exists when I am awake, when I sleep with dreams and when I sleep deep without dreams. Even when I sleep like a log without any bodily conscience, this “I”, though not ascertaining its presence at that time, is very much there, it understood its natural blissful state, to declare when awake saying “I slept so blissfully”.

It is this “I” that Ramana wants everyone to identify. One who has grasped the true nature of that “I” knows Self (Atman). It is none other than the all pervasive Brahaman, that Upanishads talk of. You are that – “Tat twam asi” One who truly experienced it, states by virtue of his personal attainment, “Aham Brahmasmi” (I am Brahman). In Ramana’s scheme of things, there is really no need of any personal God for worship. No need of names and forms. No chanting of mantras. No need of worship. No need of accepting Jesus Christ and the holy trinity. No need to worship in the direction of Mecca and Madina. But Ramana acknowledges the fact that such religious and spiritual practices, widely practiced by many, have their utility in purifying the mind and aiding progress in the spiritual path, “the path of self-inquiry is straight” in his opinion and experience.

No wonder Ramana’s philosophy, which was none other than the ancient Hindu philosophy of Advaita, was lapped up by spiritually earnest seekers, who had their disinclination towards formal and institutionalized form of religions and worships.

If you visit Ramanashramam at Thiruvannamalai, you will find that virtually half of the visitors there are from the west. The climate at Thiruvannamalai is oppressively hot for most part of the year. The food served in the Ashram is downright south Indian staple food, almost the same type of food that Ramana ate there almost three forth of a century ago. Food is served in plantain leaves and people, including westerners have to squat on the floor and eat with hand. Despite all these inconveniences, people from the west throng at Ramanashramam, sit peacefully at his meditation hall and deeply engross themselves in meditation. Once the bliss of Ramana is felt, all the inconveniences become a naught.

Ramana, from his earlier abode Skandashramam up the hills, came down to live here at the foot hills by the end of year 1922. He came to stay in under a thatched roof where his mother’s samadhi had been built about 6 months earlier. Actually, Ramana’s mother Alagammal, at her later years had been staying with her saint son permanently, at Virupakshi cave and Skandasramam up the hills. She attained “moksha” at the hands of her son and her Samadhi was made at the foot hills of Arunachala. It happened in May 1922.

He was a saint without expressive motives (Sankalpa rahita). But whatever he did was in obedience to the divine will and it had only good for the mankind. By coming down the hills permanently, he became easily accessible to more and more devotees, particularly to the aged and infirm who could not climb the hill. When he came here, there was nothing more than a thatched roof for him and his close associates to stay. (See photo). That was the humble beginning of Ramanasramam.

This is the humble beginning of Sri Ramanasramam. The man in loin cloth standing at front under the Iluppai Tree, reading a book is none other than Bhagwan Ramana. That Iluppai tree is still there in the Ashram!

Then the ashram started growing gradually and steadily. Ramana’s own younger brother, Nagasundaram, after marriage and begetting a son and after the demise of his wife, renounced the world and became a Sanyasin by name Swami Niranjanananda. He had earlier come to live under the shade of his saint brother Ramana during Skandashramam days and he became the caretaker of the Ashram. He was primarily instrumental in the growth of the Ramanashramam and the all other constructions including the mother’s temple (Matrubhuteswar Temple, which was consecrated in the year 1949), Ramana’s abode and the living quarters there.

Unlike other ashrams which are normally managed by a board of trustees, Ramana gave his stamp of approval for the management of the ashram by the householder devotees of the descendants of Ramana’s family. Thus after Niranjanananda’s demise, his son Venkataraman (a householder) took charge of Ramanashramam. He too took Sanyas at his final years and presently the Ashram is being managed by the next generation of the family — Sri Sundara Ramanan and his brothers.

Places of significance at Ramanasramam

Matrubhuteswarar Temple (Mother’s samadhi)

The New Hall (The hall in front of Mother’s temple)

Ramana’s Samadhi

The Old hall (meditation room)

The Old dining hall with its wintage photos and pictures

The new dining hall

The book stall

The 400-year old “Iluppai” Tree at the entrance

Ramana’s last bedroom

Ramana Musium

Goshala

Vedic Patasala

Now let is go on a photo tour around Ramanashramam:

Entrance to Ramanasramam. Ramanasramam is located in the Tiruvannamalai-Chengam Road, about 2 km from the Arunachala Temple.

 

This “Iluppai” tree is said to be 400 years old. This tree has witnessed Ramana’s first arrival at the premises and is standing testimony to all the activities of Ramanasramam ever since.

 

Matrubhuteswarar Temple. This temple, built over the Samadhi of Ramana’s mother Alagammal, was consecrated in 1949.

 

Ashram office and Book depot. They still maintain the charm of the olden days.

 

At the left is mother temple and the next (closed door) Ramana’s samadhi. Arunachala Hill ahead; At the right (seen a little), adjacent to the tree is Ramana’s room where he breathed his last.

This is the Samadhi Hall of Bhagwan Ramana. At the far end, Ramana’s samadhi is there on which a Shiv Linga has been established and daily worship is done to it. There is a statue of Ramana in sitting posture behind the linga.

 

This is the “Old Hall” which is currently the meditation room. Ramana stayed in this hall for many years. The sofa that he used to recline is kept there with his life-size photo. Earnest seekers come here to do meditation in his serene presence.

 

This is the old dining hall of Ramanasramam. This place has its own serenity; Ramana sat and ate in this hall, surrounded by all his devotees.

 

This photo has been taken from the painting at Old dining hall. Ramana ate sparsely. He had no specific likes or dislikes on food and he always preferred simple, easy to digest, ‘satvik’ food.  Whatever varieties served to him, he would mix them all and then eat as if a single item! He was an excellent cook too!

 

The old photos that adore the old dining hall have great stories to tell. Various photos of Bhagwan, his close disciples, admirers, distinguished visitors, group photos with Bagwan are in display. Time stands still here!

 

A virtual who’s who of Bhagwan’s close devotees and admirers. Photos of Narasimha Swami, Swami Sivananda, Annamalai Swami, Ramaswami Pillai, Manavasi Ramaswamy Iyer, Kunjuswami, Swami Papa Ramdas, Mata Krishabhai, Echammal, Mudaliar patti….

Do you notice that in the picture at middle, Ramana is depicted as sitting on a peacock? yes. Ramana is considered an Avatar of Lord Muruga and Muruaga’s vehicle is peacock. Peacocks are always roaming around Ramanashramam even now.

This is the new dining hall built in recent years. As the visitors’ count keep swelling, the ashram needed more place to serve food to the visitors.

“Goshala” – The cow shed. Cows had their place in Ramanasramam always. The story of “Pasu Lakshmi”, a cow, that displayed extraordinary love and affection to Ramana and received that love in good measure from him, is a captivating history to read.

Monkeys had their attraction with Ramana right from his early days at the hills. Ramana did not distinguish them from his human visitors in extending his divine grace and hospitality to them.

A special performance by a peacock of Ramanasramam for me to click! Ramana was considered as an Avatar of Lord Muruga. Muruga’s vehicle is peacock. Peacocks always roam around Ramanasramam freely without fear of men right from early days.

 

New Auditorium cum Library building

 

Ashram museum. It houses very rare artifacts associated with Ramana and also lots of manuscripts in Ramana’s own handwriting are very carefully preserved here.

How to stay at Ramanasramam

Ramanasramam management offers free boarding and lodging facilities to devotees who wish to stay at Ramanasramam for a few days and undertake spiritual practices like meditation. Please note that this facility is offered to Ramana’s devotees and earnest spiritual seekers only and is not for casual tourists and travelers.

Please write to the Ashram at least one month in advance and get permission.

Food is served free only for the visitors who stay at the ashram. Strict timings are maintained for serving food.

As the ashram is run on donations, visitors who wish to stay are welcome to contribute as per their wish and capacity.

In Quest of Summit – Climbing to the peak of the Arunachala Hill

This desire had originally sprouted when I visited and stayed at Ramanashramam last year. To day (19th February 2006) as I was sitting under the cool shades of the trees and enjoying the divinely peace at Skandashramam on the Arunachala hill, the desire intensified and stayed centered at my heart! I wanted to scale up the Arunachala hill and see the top where the traditional ‘Annamalai Deepam’ is lit once a year in November/ December.

At this age of 49, quite accustomed to a sedentary city life with little physical exertion ever to cope with, the question whether I am fit enough to aspire for such a fete was looming large at another nook of my heart. But the desire refused to budge. ‘I am getting older by the day; The physical stamina is proportionately waning; If not today, when?’

I have already heard that for novices like me, a tread up the hill is no cake walk; a Guide to take you along safely to the summit is a must. Rangasamy, a casual laborer at Skandasramam, had eyed on me a couple of times and saluted me with a sense of anticipation since morning. I called him and started querying him on the subject. He must be in his mid fifties but looked strong and healthy so typical of a simple villager.

“It is one my regular jobs, Sir. I have taken countless ‘White men’ to the top. Don’t worry, Sir, I have taken people much older than you, why, even blind people up there and brought them back safely. Whatever you pay with satisfaction, I will accept it, Sir”. I took a decision to trust him and go ahead, though there was a worry at the back of my mind whether Rangasamy, upon our successful return, would demand and accept his payment, only if made in Dollars!

Taking due notice of my all-white hair and an older-than-the-actual-age look, Rangasami gave me a hand-made walking stick and assured me that its utility is equivalent to having a third leg. We filled up 2 bottles with the natural spring water available at Skandasramam and started our journey at 2:45 PM. “If you ensure a brisk walking, I will bring you safely back to foot hills before dusk”, assured Rangasamy.

Assured to be the ‘Gross physical Body of Lord Shiva’ by none other than Bhagawan Sri Ramana, we walked up over this holy body in quest of the head which ‘Lord Bramha himself failed to see’. With no man-made steps to climb, but following only a trail of naturally formed small rocks on which people had been walking up and down from time immemorial, we climbed up the hill slowly. En route, there were very huge sloping rocks. Trekking over them definitely required expert guidance and a helping hand from Rangasamy. A ten minute of continuous climb was just enough for my lungs to pump air in and out like a steam engine and my heart leapt up from its safe abode to reach my throat! Seeing my status, Rangasamy said with care “Just sit for a while on that rock; gulp down some water”.

Rangasamy was full of expert advice as we walked up. “Catch hold of the big rocks at the sides and walk close to it. Never go to the edge at the open side of the slope; avoid seeing slope down below – you will get scared; always look ahead; Don’t put your foot on the loose sands, lest you slip; always walk over the firm stones. Climb up in small steps or else your knee joints will start paining too soon. I am taking you by a path which slopes up gradually. Look! There is another path over there which is too steep for the inexperienced like you…”

As I rested over small rocks at regular intervals, the sight of the Annamalaiyar Temple down below and the Thiruvannamalai township was a feast to the eyes. As we progressed, the blaring horns and purring noise of vehicles from the town was gradually waning.

After an hour of climbing, we reached a cave. Rangasamy informed me that until lately a Sadhu by name ‘Narayana Sami’ was staying there almost permanently. Many devotees of him, including Rangasamy used to serve him by bringing him bare minimum essentials from the town. Rangasamy showed me broken Rocks that he personally arranged in the form of a makeshift wall near the entrance of the cave to protect the Sadhu from rains; “I did so much for him; but he left the place without even informing me, Sir” lamented Rangasami.

We climbed up further and reached a landmark known as “Ezhu sunai” (Seven springs). I felt curious to look around the place as the name of this place finds reference on and off in the history of Bhagawan Ramana. There were small pools of water at 7 places in this rocky terrain.

Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi at Annamalai hill

It is here that Bhagawan and his associates, in one of their uphill trekking, planned to cook their meals and relax a while; They had brought all the essentials like Cereals, pulses, vegetables and utensils, but forgot to bring a match box to make fire! Bhagawan’s associates tried all means that men of ancient civilization used to whip up fire, but failed miserably! While they waited to get a match box by sending message through the wood-cutters who were going down hills, Bhagawan Ramana, sitting comfortably at this place, took the opportunity to explain to them the second sloka from Sri Sankara’s ‘Atma Bhotam’ which was quite fitting to the situation. The meaning of the Sloka ran like this: “Just as no cooking is possible without fire even if all other ingredients are present, self-realisation is not possible without Gyana (True knowledge) despite undergoing all austerities”.

Just a few yards ahead, there was another cave, whose entrance was too narrow – just enough to squeeze you in if you moved your body sideways. Inside, it was cool and soothing, spacious enough for 4 to 5 people to lie down. Rangasamy asked me to relax comfortably for a while and he hid himself from my eyesight to enjoy a puff off his Beedi. After a while, he emerged into the cave and proffered a few leaves for me to eat. With hesitation, I put them in my mouth and munched; It was a surprise – it tasted sweet! Rangasamy said that its name was ‘chakkara Vilvam’ (Sweet Bilwa).

I was by this time quite tired and was looking like a balloon devoid of gas! Rangasamy taking due note of my not-so-impressive-stamina, sounded a timely warning. “Sir, we are hardly half way up vertically. The remaining climb is going to be steeper and tougher. We are already behind schedule and if we proceed at this rate, we may not be able to return to foot hills before dusk. If you wish, we can abort our journey here and trek back downwards. If you still want to proceed to the top, well, I have no problem”.

I was indeed in a dilemma now. The weakling in me who had been silent so far, started voicing his concern now. He wanted to call it quits. The adventurous second-half in my personality wanted to go up, come what may. After remaining confused over these two conflicting inner voices, I felt I should put the responsibility on Lord Shiva’s shoulders and move up to complete the journey. I didn’t have the physical stamina on my own capacity. As I write this piece now, I comprehend quite unshakably that it was not on my personal physical capacity that I walked up the hills over the remaining height. Unlike the earlier part of the journey, I do not cleary remember any in-between stages of the journey nor the passage of time till we reached near the top.

Near about 5 PM, we reached close to the peak. “Well done Sir, you have somehow managed” was the word of encouragement from Rangasamy. The bark of a dog greeted us. There were 2 village-folks sitting close to the peak near a makeshift tent along with a dog. Perhaps, they were self-appointed ‘priests’ intent on making some quick bucks out of the stray visitors, I thought.

We removed the footwear and climbed up the last few steps up the huge rock at the top. The smell of putrid ghee filled my nostrils. The rock formation at the top was somewhat flat with curved slops and undulations covering radius of about 20 feet, with a solitary piece jutting out as the summit- about 10 feet by 10 feet and waist high. All the area around was char black in color, with oily coating caused by the splattering of ghee and soot produced by the ‘Dheepam’ that had been lit some two months ago.

Karthigai Deepam ignited

Rangasamy pointed out 4 steel bolts fitted permanently at the peak, and said, “This is the holy rock on which the huge “Kopparai” (Lamp bowl) will be fitted using these bolts and the ‘Dheepam’ lit”. It was the moment of reverence and a subdued ecstasy. Voicing aloud ‘Om Namasivaya’, I craned down my neck and placed my forehead on the rock. There was a surge of inexplicable emotion in my heart – a mixture of peace, devotion and bliss as I remained in that pose for a minute of so, with heavy breathing that continued unabatedly owing to the strain of the ascend.

Every year the huge lamp bowl, about 6 to 8 feet in diameter and about 6 feet tall is brought from the Annamalaiyar Temple by a group of about 10 persons, experienced in the task of tactfully roping and carrying them along the same arduous path. It is then filled with hundreds of litres of ghee. A long Cloth, about 15 to 20 feet is coiled to form the wick and is submerged in the ghee. The tip of the wick is generously loaded with camphor. On the day of Dheepam festival, at the auspicious time of 6:00 PM when the Utsava of Artanaariswara is brought out from the Temple at the foot hills and the huge lamp near the Dhwajasthamba is lit, the Grand Dheepam over here is lit immediately.

I looked all around. Being the summit, places to a distance of even 20 to 30 km all around were visible clearly. I was told that on the auspicious day of Kartigai Dheepam, it is the practice of many devotees who are within this range of visibility to have their first meal of the day only after seeing the holy light of the Dheepam atop the hill. Hundreds of adventurous devotees who have verve and vigor use to climb the hill and position themselves at vantage points to have a closer darshan of the Lamp lighting Ceremony. Rangasamy informed me that he normally utilizes the opportunity to set up a small Kiosk closer to the hill top to sell fruits flowers and camphor to such devotees and make some quick buck off the occasion.

Arunachala – Hill top – 2670 ft from sea level. The ‘Annamalaiyar padam’ chiseled on the rock.

Some 12 feet away from this ‘lamp’ rock, there was an image of ‘The holy feet of Annaamalaiyar’ chiseled on the flat rock. Rangasamy held my hand took me there over the slippery rock. For the benefit of the stray visitors like me, a sack had been spread near the image of the holy feet. I prostrated myself there on the sack, placed my head over the Annamalayar Paadam and chanted the lord’s name. There was again a feeling of emotional surge- a mixture of peace, devotion and bliss. I felt as though my mind stopped working for a moment. I remained prostrate there for a minute or so, with heavy breathing still continuing to rule over my body.

I rose up to stand. The physical weakness caused my feet to stumble and Rangasamy stabilized me by gripping my hand. I felt more relaxed now to look around – the path of the ‘Girivalam’, Adi-Annamalayar temple at the other side of the foot hills, Parvata Malai (another famous hill away from here) and the ‘Javvadhu Malai’ still beyond. The path of Girivalam (Circumambulation of the hill) looked too long and winding and it made me wonder whether it was the one which I walked around a couple of days back.

We climbed down from the top rock and put on our fotwear. The two youngsters sitting near the Tarpaulin tent with the dog looked at us eagerly. Rangasamy asked them to serve me a cup of ‘herbal water’. One of them went into the tent and came back with a pot and a coconut shell. He poured a dull colored water into the shell and asked me to drink. With my usual hesitation and a worry about a possible amoebic infection, I drank a cup of the drink. It was salted lemon water and it its taste was great and very refreshing to my parched throat. I took and gulped a couple of more cups of the liquid and paid them some money.

It was now time to begin our descent. The two folks advised Rangasamy to take me by the ‘shorter route’ as the time was not sufficient to reach down hill before dusk if we were to go by the same route by which we ascended.

The ‘shorter route’ proved to be too steep and arduous to descend. It was now that the walking stick I brought proved its worth. The distance from one step to the next sometimes was too steep that I had to sit first and then slide down. The moment I sat, my knees proved to be too weak and wobbly to make me erect again! My knees creaked and groaned as we descended rather too fast to my own standards. I fumbled and stumbled at several places and Rangasamy was always there to extend a stabilizing hand. With stops over rocks to catch the breath and gulp down some water once in every ten minutes, and my body and mind becoming weaker by each step, we were descending robotically. After half an hour or so, the two youngsters who were at the top overtook us along with their dog and disappeared in no time. It was then I understood that my walk down hills was not all that swift as I had imagined it to be!

The very huge sloping rock that was closer to the Skandasramam came at last and Rangasamy held my hand firmly and took my down through zigzag treads on the rock and I followed him blindly with quivering legs. The sweet sound of the spring water that continuously fell over the rocks adjacent to Skandasramam could be heard now giving me the hope that the arduous journey was coming to an end after all.

As we settled at the Rocky steps near the entrance of Skandasramam, it was time to bid good bye to Rangasamy. It was already 6:45 PM and the twilight was diminishing rapidly. I paid Rangasamy an amount that seemed to be satisfactory to him and thanked him profusely for his care and consideration. While I had to walk alone now in the near darkness towards Ramanasramam (about 2 km to my right) Rangasamy bid goodbye and walked straight down towards the town.

With little to no energy left, I walked like an 80-year-old, striking my walking stick hard on the steps, producing enough sound to ward off stray animals and snakes, it at all any, en route.

The journey up and down, according to my mindset was more of a pilgrimage and not a trekking for the thrill of it. If it were so, I should have been uttering my Mantra (God’s Holy Name) all the while, keeping my mind at an elevated spiritual level. But what was the reality? How many times did I remember or utter God’s Holy name during my descent so far? Hardly ever! The mind, all along was thinking about my safety, pain, exertion, and the need to return in time with all limbs in tact!

With mixed feelings of guilt, a sense of humility coupled with the thrill of having completed a fete not so familiar to me , I walked my lonely journey towards Ramanasramam.

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