Ramana Maharshi was born in Tiruchuzhi, Madurai, TamilNadu,India on 20December 1879. His birth name was Venkataraman Iyer. He was born in a hindu brahmin family to Sunraram Iyer, his father, a court pleader and Azhagammal, his mother. He was one of the four siblings: Elder brother Nagaswami, younger brother Nagasundaram and younger sister Alamelu.
As he was born into a typical Hindu Brahmin family, the touch to religion was inevitable. Two people from his family had already became sannyasins. His family was of Parashara lineage and Smarta tradition, there was regular worship of Siva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Surya and Shakti at his home.
At the age of seven, Upanayana Samskara was performed, a traditional ceremony to start Brahmanical learning and knowledge of self. Upanayana Samskara is one of the sexteen Samskara in Hindu tradition, although their meanings are lost in today’s world and it has remained only as bogus rituals typically. He attended school for three years in his the village.
People’s views of child Ramana Maharshi:
It is said that he had a very good memory which made him able to recall information only after hearing it once. According to B.V. Narasimha, his biographer, he used to sleep very deeply, not waking up from loud sounds nor even when his body was beaten by others.
According to Sri Ramana Vijayam his Tamil biography:
Some incomplete practice from a past birth was clinging to me. I would be putting attention solely within, forgetting the body. Sometimes I would be sitting in one place, but when I regained normal consciousness and got up, I would notice that I was lying down in a different narrow space [to the one where I had first sat down].
Ramana Maharshi’ father wanted him to be a government employee. For this purpose, his father sent him with his elder brother to his paternal uncle, Subbaiyar. This was in year 1890 when Bhagwan Maharshi’s age was 11. Here, in Dindigul, English schools were available which will likely make him help enter in government services. Here, Swami Ramana admitted to a Hindu school with English subject.
After a year in Dindigul, in 1891, while he was 12 years old, Subbaiyar, his paternal uncle got transferred to Madurai. Both, Swami Ramana and his brother nagaswami moved with their uncle, to Madurai. Here in Madurai, he attended Scott’s middle school and American High School. In these years, he got acquainted with Christianity although his spiritual influence was Hinduism.
It is said that at this time he started experiencing deep meditative states.
Death of Swami Ramana’s father:
Swami Ramana Maharshi’s father died on 18 February 1892. It was a sudden death.
Early Youth and Enlightenment:
In 1895, Swami Ramana read Periyapuranam, a book by Sekkizher describing the 63 Nayanars. The book made a great impression on him and he got the conviction that “Divine Union” is possible. He used to visit frequently to Meenakshi Temple of Madurai. According to Bhagwan Ramana’s biographer Osborne, a different awareness was developing in him:
“a state of blissful consciousness transcending both the physical and mental plane and yet compatible with full use of the physical and mental faculties.”
Self, God, Ishwara, Current, Force, Self-Enlightenment
In July 1896, at the age of 17, he was struck by “current”, “a flash of excitement”, “heat, like some avesam”, a “current” or “force”. After self-enquiry he found this “current” to be Self. Afterwaords, he called this self as personal God or Ishwara.
With the flow of “current’, he was grabbed by a sudden fear of death. In this situation, he enquied about What it is that dies? As an answer, he found that only body dies but the “current” or Self never dies and remains alive eternally.
This is what Ramana Maharshi had to say about the whole experience:
“Enquiring within Who is the seer? I saw the seer disappear leaving That alone which stands forever. No thought arose to say I saw. How then could the thought arise to say I did not see.“
and regarding the mind during the whole process by which enlightenment happened:
“After reading the language of the sacred books, I see it may be termed suddha manas [pure mind], akhandakara vritti [unbroken experience], prajna [true knowledge] etc.; that is, the state of mind of Iswara or the jnani.”
According to him, he got akrama mukti or sudden liberation instead of krama mukti meaning gradual liberation.
After the enlightenment, he lost interest in school, friends, family and relations. He would choose to site alone and get absorbed in the “current”. He would visit to Meenakshi Temple on daily basis and would devout himself to the 63 Nayanaras.
On 1st September 1896, after about 1.5 months of enlightenment, he boarded the train to Tiruvannamalai. As he knew that his family would not let him perform his ascetic practices, he embarked on this journey without anybody telling about it. He told his elder brother who was staying with him that he needed to attend a special class at school.
In Arunachaleswara Temple Tiruvannamalai
Upon arriving Tiruvannamalai, Ramana Maharshi stayed in different parts of Arunachaleswara Temple. For first few weeks he stayed in thousand-pillared Hall, then chose some other spots and at last in Patala-lingam vault, where he thought that he would not get disturbed. Here, in Patala-lingam, he spent days absorbed in “current”. He did not eat and was unware of the bites of vermins and pests, completely. After about six weeks, he was found by a local saint, Seshadri Swamigal in Patala-Lingam. After that he got carried out, cleaned up and fed.
After that, he spent 2 months in Subramanya Shrine portion of the temple. As he was again unaware of the body, people used to put the food in his mouth so that he would not starve to death.
In Gurumurtam Temple Tiruvannamalai
In February 1896, after 6 months in Tiruvannamail, he moved from Arunachaleswara Temple to Gurumurtan Temple. It was on outer part of Tiruvannamalai, about a mile away. During this time, he was taken care by Palaniswami. Palaniswami, who once visited Swami Ramana Maharshi, found peace and bliss after seeing him. After that, he stayed with him and took care of him by cooking and preparing meals for him, begging for alms etc.
In Mango Orchard
After 2.5 years in Gurumurtan Temple, in May 1898, he moved to a mango Orchard next to the temple. During this time, he got again absorbed into the “current” and completely unaware of the body. The ants which were biting him incessantly did not matter.
Soon people started visiting him after hearing his virtues and austerities. For him, a bamboo fence was made.
His family got the news of him being here. His uncle, Nelliappa Iyer, visited him and pleaded him to return home, promising that his ascetic practices will not be disturbed. Swami Ramana sat still and his uncle returned. He refused to return even after his mother begged for it.
At Arunachala’s foothill
In September 1898, after five months in mango Orchard, Swami Ramana moved to a Shiva-Temple at the foothills of Arunachala.
In February 1899, after 6 months at Shiva temple, Swami Ramana left for Arunachala.
Ramana’s first teachings on Self-enquiry:
In 1902, aged 23, Sivaprakassam Pillai, while visiting him, with a slate in his hand, put forth 14 questions to him about “How to know one’s true identity?”. The answers came to known as Ramana’s first teachings on Self-enquiry which later got published as “Who am I?” or “Nan Yar?”.
Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi
In 1907, aged 28, Swami Ramana gave his discourse to Kavyakantha Sri Ganpati Sastri, who was a vedic scholar but was not enlightened being. After receiving the discourse, Ganpati Sastri proclaimed him as Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
In 1911, aged 32, he was visited by Frank Humpheys, very first westener to meet him. He was a policeman stationed in India (India was British colony at that time).
In 1912, aged 33, a strange event happened to him. According to his biographer Osborne, it:
“marked the final completion of Sri Bhagavan’s return to full outer normality.”
According to disciples:
His vision got lost, his head was swimming, he felt his heart stopped beating, his breathing seized and his skin turned blue. After about fiften minutes of this, he was back to the normal after “a shock passed siddenly through the body”.
In 1913, aged 34, some articles on him were published in The International Psychic Gazette authored by Frank Humpheys.
In 1916,aged 37, he was accompained by his mother and his younger brother Nagasundaram. Both his mother and brother chose to be sannyasi. People used to call his brother, now known by the name Niranjanananda, Chinnaswami meaning The Younger Swami. During this time, they lived in Skandashram Cave.
Swami ramana composed The Five Hymns to Arunachala.
On 19 May 1922, when he was 42, his mother died.
Ramana Maharshi Ashram: Sri Ramanasramam
After the death of his mother, ramana used to visit her tomb from Skandashram Cave. In December 1922 aged 43, he settled at the foothill. At first, only one hut was there.
In 1924, aged 44, two more huts were built.
In 1928, aged 48, Old Hall was built.
In January 1931, aged 51, Paul Brunton visited Swami Ramana.
In 1931, aged 51, Self Realization: The Life and Teachings of Ramana Maharshi, a biography by B.V. Narasimha was published.
In 1934, aged 54, A Search In Secret India was published by Paul Brunton.
During all these times, Ashram was getting built with buildings included post-office, library, hospital etc.
Cancer and Death
In November 1948, aged 68, a tiny cancerous lump was found on his arm.
In February 1949, aged 69, he got operated by his ashram’s doctor.
In March 1949, aged 69, he got operated again by an eminent surgeon with radium therapy.
In August 1949, aged 69, a third operation was performed.
In December 1949, aged 70, a fourth operation was performed.
As multiple operations only weakened him and were to dead-end, other medicinal systems were also tried, which also did not give any results.
On 14 April 1950, aged 70, Bhagwan Swami Ramana Maharshi left his body.