Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.
Sri Ramana Maharshi was born on 30th December 1879 and entered mahaasamaadhi on 14th April 1950. Sixty five years ago. Yet the presence of this great saint, the 'sage of silence', pervades the whole world. The world does not necessarily know him, but he is there. In the same way that Buddha and Yeshu and Muhammad and our own sweet Gurudev are ever present. All true God-men whose legacy was far more than their physical presence.
Just as Yeshu declared to his disciples 'The kingdom of God is within you!' (as purely a Vedantic statement as you will find in any Sanskrit scripture), doing His utmost to turn the focus of the people into their own self-enquiry, so it was that Ramana-ji only ever responded to questions of how? why? when?... with 'Who asks this? Who is the "I" spoken of?'
There is much, indeed, that could be (and has been!) written of the life and effects of Sri Bhagavan, as he is often called. Most of it can be found in an easy online search, so to repeat it here would be something of a futile effort.
Perhaps what is better is to give an account of our Gurudev, who came into contact with the saint during his time as an atheistic and hard-edged journalist.
One day while traveling, Balakrishnan Menon passed by Tiruvannamalai, and was told that a sage named, Ramana Maharshi, lived there. Feeling a pull to see the Maharashi, Swami Chinmayananda-to-be decided to go to Tiruvannamalai by the next available train. He walked from the train station to the ashram in the blazing hot sun. Arriving at the ashram, he entered in the dark hall where the Maharshi was sitting with a few others. Here is Gurudev's first hand account of what happened, excerpted from "Mananam," a magazine published by the Chinmaya Mission in America during the late 70's early 80's.**
"It so happened that I had sat down at the foot of the wooden couch. The Maharshi suddenly opened his eyes and looked straight into mine; I looked into his. A mere look, that was all. I felt that the Maharshi was, in that moment, looking deep into me — and I was sure that he saw all my shallowness, confusions, faithlessness, imperfections and fears. I was ashamed but I did not want to take my eyes away from his embracing look. Yet I could not stand that honest, kind and pitying look of pure love and deep wisdom. In fact, it was I who had to look away – and the next moment, when I gazed at his face again, he had once more closed his eyes.
I cannot explain what happened in that one split moment. I felt opened, cleaned, healed, and emptied! A strange feeling – fear mixed with love, hate coloured by affection, love honeyed with shyness, joy drowned in sorrow.
A whirl of confusions: my atheism dropping away, but scepticism flooding in to question, wonder, and search. My reason gave me strength: "It is all mesmerism, my own foolishness." Thus assuring myself, I got up and walked away. However, I knew, the boy who left the hall was not the boy who had gone in some ten minutes before. After my college days, my political work, and after my years of stay at Uttarkashi at the feet of my master, Sri Tapovanam, I knew that what I had gained on the Ganges banks was that which I had been given years before by the saint of Tiruvannamalai on that hot summer day – by a mere look."
This is the form of experience shared by all who come into the presence of a true master of the spirit. It can be the experience even when not in the presence, but when exploring as instructed. A personal example of this blogger was of an incredible moment when studying at Sandeepany and our text was Upadesha Sara, a lyrical scripture from the maharishi (great saint). Such was the depth and clarity of vision which came with the reading, that during the writing of notes, only poetry came through. Not scribbles, not point-form, not prompt notes. Pure poetry translating the verses. There was a sense of being written 'through'.
In any other situation this would, quite naturally, have caused something of a confusion and concern. In an ashram setting, with only spiritual peers and a personal guru in Sw. Advayananda, the event and the results were not even questioned; indeed they were welcomed.
**The Mananam Magazine faded, but has been revived, in a way, by a new shelf of books called the Mananam Series which relate all aspects of Chinmaya Mission from the point of view of the devotees. These can be obtained from a Mission centre near you... or the Great Book Shop in the Ether! The first in the series is entitled HE DID IT and gives an excellent history and biography with a view to being read by 'outsiders'. It is highly recommended.