Life and Legacy of Shri Ramana Maharishi

✍ Smt. Sujata

In the hushed town of Tiruvannamalai, beneath the sacred Arunachala hill, a sage adorned with serenity and wisdom emerged as a guiding light for spiritual seekers worldwide. Sri Ramana Maharshi, born as Venkataraman Iyer on December 30, 1879, in Tamil Nadu, Bharat, remains an iconic figure whose profound teachings continue to echo through the corridors of time.

Early life and spiritual awakening

Venkataraman’s spiritual journey commenced at the age of 16 in Madurai when a spontaneous fear of death propelled him into a deep introspective quest. This pivotal moment led him to the profound inquiry, “Who am I?” serving as a gateway to self-realization.

After his near-death experience, Bhagavan often went to the Meenakshi temple, and stood in front of Mother Meenakshi’s idol for hours together, looking at her eyes with tears rolling out. The unique gift that Mothers Meenakshi gave her son Venkataraman was the power to initiate and bless his devotees with just a look which, almost every devotee of Bhagavan talked about later in life as a part of their spiritual experience with him. Both Venkataraman’s uncle and his elder brother became extremely worried and critical of his changed attitude towards life.

In the year 1896, when Venkataraman was then studying in tenth grade, preparing for his public examination, he suddenly pushed his books away, sat cross-legged and went into deep meditation. His elder brother, who watched this, scolded him for not studying and behaving like a yogi while still staying in the family. Such remark which was also made in the past hit really hard this time.

Journey to the sacred abode of lord Shiva

Driven by an inner call, Venkataraman left his family and embarked on a pilgrimage to the holy hill of Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai. There, in 1896,

he experienced a deep sense of oneness and surrendered to the divine. Choosing a life of seclusion, he settled in caves and temples around Arunachala, immersed in profound states of meditation. This period marked the culmination of his spiritual quest as he merged with the eternal truth of the Self. During this period of intense introspection, he attained a state of enlightenment and from that moment, he came to be known as Sri Ramana Maharshi and spent the rest of his life sharing his profound insights with seekers who were drawn to his presence.

Embodiment of love and compassion for all

One of the most striking aspects of Ramana Maharshi’s demeanour was his unconditional love for all beings. Once a large crowd of mendicants visited the Ramana Ashram during the time for lunch. Ramana’s disciples did not allow them saying there was no place for such people inside the ashram and drove them out.

After a while, Maharishi went missing from the ashram and all the disciples started searching for him frantically everywhere in the town of Tiruvannamalai.

Finally, they found him in a remote pond around the hill, sitting silently. When they asked him, he said, “I overheard people in the Ashram saying that there is no place for any Paradesis inside. Since I am also a paradesi, I had to leave. There cannot be a special rule for me against other mendicants”.

The disciples realizing their mistake fell on his feet, asking forgiveness and agreed to bring all those mendicants back to the Ashram. Only then, Bhagwan returned to the Ashram.

He treated everyone with equal respect and love, be it a visitor, a devotee, or even animals that wandered near him. His eyes reflected the depth of his compassion, offering solace and serenity to those who sought guidance or comfort. regardless of their background, caste, creed, or status. He would patiently listen to their troubles, offering silent guidance that often resolved their inner conflicts. His mere presence and silence had a transformative effect, bringing solace and a sense of inner peace to those in distress.

Teachings and Philosophy

Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teachings mostly revolved around the practice of self-inquiry, also known as “Atma Vichara.” He advocated looking within oneself by asking, “Who am I?” to realize one’s true nature beyond the ego-mind.

His teachings also revolved around the concept of non-duality or “Advaita,” asserting that the individual soul (Jivatma) and the supreme reality (Paramatma) are one and the same. He taught that the realization of this oneness leads to liberation from suffering and the cycle of birth and death.

While self-inquiry was the primary method he advocated for self-realization, he also emphasized the significance of selfless service (karma yoga) and compassion toward others as ways to purify the mind and progress on the spiritual path.

Maharshi often promoted silent meditation and the practice of being in the present moment. He believed that a quiet mind leads to self-realization, as it allows individuals to directly experience the underlying reality beyond thoughts.

Some of his words of wisdom are:

➢ Just like the practice of breath-control, meditation on the forms of God, repetition of mantras, and restriction on diet, are ways to control one’s mind from wandering outside.

➢ However sinful a person may be, if he would zealously carry on meditation on the Self, he would most assuredly get reformed.

➢ The mind should not be allowed to wander towards worldly objects and what concerns other people.

➢ However bad other people may be, one should bear no hatred for them. ➢ To the extent we behave with humility, to that extent good will result.

➢ If the mind becomes still, one may live anywhere.

➢ What exists in truth is the Self alone. The Self is that where there is absolutely no “I” thought and that the “Self” itself is God.

  • It is important to surrender one’s ego and one’s individual will to the divine or higher power. By doing so, the sense of separateness is dissolved thereby enabling the grace to guide the seeker towards self-realization.
  • Whatever burdens are thrown on God, He bears them all. Since the supreme power of God makes all things move, why should we, constantly worry ourselves with thoughts as to what should be done and how, and what should not be done and how not? We know that the train carries all loads, so after getting on it why should we carry our small luggage on our head to our discomfort, instead of putting it down in the train and feel at ease?

Impact and Global reverberation

The magnetic aura of Sri Ramana Maharshi attracted a myriad of seekers from diverse cultures and backgrounds. His teachings resonated beyond the boundaries of nations, drawing intellectuals, philosophers, and spiritual aspirants to his abode. His profound silence and unwavering tranquillity conveyed more than words ever could, leaving an indelible impression on all who encountered him.

The Ramana Ashram, a sanctuary of spiritual solace established by his devotees at Tiruvannamalai in 1922, stands as a testament to his enduring legacy. His writings, notably “Who Am I?” and “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi,” serve as timeless reservoirs of wisdom, guiding generations on the path to self-discovery.


On April 14, 1950, Sri Ramana Maharshi left his physical form, yet his spiritual presence continues to inspire countless individuals on their spiritual journey. His life and teachings serve as an eternal reminder that the ultimate truth lies not in external pursuits but in the exploration of one’s inner self by simply peeling away layers of ego. It remains as a beacon of light in an increasingly complex world, offering comfort, guidance, and timeless wisdom to seekers of the eternal truth within oneself. Maharshi’s

legacy continues to live on, gently nudging humanity to look within themselves and realize the eternal truth of their existence.

(Author is Vidya Bharati karyakarta and school development committee member in a Vidyalaya in Chennai.)


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