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RAMANA KENDRA DELHI
To propagate the teachings of Sri Ramana, several centres have come up both in India and abroad. In Delhi, some like-minded friends got together in 1960 to recapitulate and share the experiences of their association with Bhagavan at Sri Ramanasramam in Tiruvannamalai, little realizing that this meeting would gather momentum and grow into a dynamic centre for sadhana, study and service dedicated to Maharshi’s philosophy. Thanks to the initiative of these ardent devotees, Ramana Kendra, Delhi, came into being and was registered as a Society on March 28, 1963.
The Kendra’s shrine and adjacent complex at 8 Institutional Area, Lodi Road, was inaugurated on 1st September 1974. The shrine is built in the shape of the Arunachala Hill and provides an ideal atmosphere for spiritual study and sadhana. Throughout the day, men and women from all walks of life visit the shrine for silent meditation. It has a good auditorium and library where Ramana literature in English, Hindi, Tamil & Telugu are available to the devotees. Occasions like Bhagavan’s Jayanti, Advent Day, Kartikai Deepam etc., are celebrated with great fervor.
For further details please contact the Secretary on telephone No. 24626997 or through email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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BHAGVAN SRI RAMANA MAHARISHI
Bhagavan Shri Ramana Maharshi is one of the unique shining stars on the spiritual firmament of our country which is legitimately proud of its rich and variegated heritage as well as of its saints, seers and sages from time immemorial.
Born in Tiruchuzhi, a small village in Tamil Nadu, as the second son to pious Alagamma and Sundaram Ayyar, a pleader, a little past midnight of December 29/30, 1879 he was named Venkataraman. Besides an elder brother, he had a younger brother and sister. It was a happy middle class family. He had his early schooling in his native town and went to Dindigul for middle school for a year. On the sudden death of his father in 1892, the family was split between the two paternal uncles – Venkataraman and his elder brother were taken to Madurai by their younger paternal uncle, and the two younger children, with their mother, Alagamma, were taken to Manamadurai by the elder paternal uncle. In due course, Venkataraman joined the American mission high school at Madurai. He did not take his studies too seriously but was intelligent and had an excellent memory and so got promoted from class to class. There was at this time little to show that he was spiritually inclined. Endowed with a robust physique, he was much interested in games and used to win in wrestling and swimming competitions. He was also adept in domestic chores.
In November 1895, an elderly relation spoke 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 learnt for the first time that Arunachala was in Tiruvannamalai, a real and near place. A little later, a copy of Periapuranam fell into Venkataraman’s hands and he was overwhelmed with joy as he read the stories of the sixty-three saints who had obtained the grace of Lord Siva.
The great event which formed a turning point in Venkatraman’s life took place in the middle of July 1896. He was sitting alone on the first floor of his uncle’s house when he suddenly felt an unaccountable fear of death. This turned his mind inward and he pursued an enquiry somewhat like this: ‘Now I am dying. What does this death mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.’ He dramatized the act of death, extended his limbs and made them rigid, held his breath and kept his mouth closed. He continued the silent enquiry: ‘Well then, the body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the cremation ground and reduced to ashes. But am I dead? Is the body I ? The body is silent and inert, but I feel the full force of my personality and even hear the voice, the sphurana, of the ‘I’ within. Hence I am awareness transcending the body. I am the spirit immortal. This entire enquiry was not an intellectual exercise but a living experience of the pure “I am” awareness which he went through viscerally without words.
After this event, Venkataraman fell more and more into fits of Self-absorption and went through his studies mechanically. He became more meek and humble in his dealing with people and visited the temple oftener and with deeper emotional fervor. The stories of the Periapuranam and the images of the sixty-three Nayanars which he had seen in the temple now attained a new significance. After the awakening into the new life he would go almost every evening to the temple alone, and stand before Siva or Minakshi or Nataraja or the sixty three saints for long periods. He would feel waves of emotion overcoming him. The former hold on the body had been given up by his spirit; the spirit therefore longed to have a fresh hold. He did not pray for moksha or mukti, but prayed to have the same bhakti that the saints had. He knew nothing of bondage or freedom from the cycle of births.
He lost interest in studies and would shut his eyes and start meditating. His elder brother once scolded him for behaving like a yogi while staying in the family and pretending to study. Venkataraman took the hint and decided then and there to leave home and go to Arunachala.
He told his brother that he would go to school for attending a special class. His brother told him, “Then take five rupees from the box downstairs and pay my college fees on the way”. Venkataraman thought that the journey to Tiruvannamalai would cost three rupees and took only that sum, and left the remaining two rupees with a letter in Tamil to the following effect: “I have set out in quest of my Father and at his bidding. 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 herewith.” The reference to the writer as ‘this’ and the absence of a signature reveal the state of mind he was in.
After an eventful journey en route, Venkataraman reached Tiruvannamalai on the morning of September 1, 1896. He went straight to the temple of Sri Arunachaleswara and stood before his Father. The cup of his bliss was full to the brim. The fever that had raged within his body for days left it now. It was journey’s end and homecoming.
The Arunachala hill itself had long been regarded by Hindus as a manifestation of Siva, and in later years, Venkataraman often said that it was the spiritual power of Arunachala which had brought about his Self-realisation. His love for the mountain was so great that from the day he arrived until his death in 1950 he could never be persuaded to go more than two miles away from its base.
After a few years of living on the slopes, his inner awareness began to manifest as an outer spiritual radiance. This radiance attracted a small circle of followers and, although he remained silent for most of the time, the immense depth and priceless wisdom of words that emanated from him were recorded meticulously by his devoted followers. One of his earliest followers, Kavya Kanta Ganapathi Muni, impressed by the evident saintliness and wisdom of the young man, decided to rename him Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. It soon became the title by which he became known to the world.
At this stage of his life Sri Ramana was speaking very little and so his teachings were transmitted in an unusual fashion. Instead of giving out verbal instructions he constantly emanated a silent force or power which stilled the minds of those who were attuned to it and occasionally even gave them a direct experience of the state that he himself was perpetually immersed in. In later years, he became more willing to give out verbal teachings, but even then, the silent teachings were always available to those who were able to make good use of them. Throughout his life, Shri Ramana insisted that his silent flow of power represented his teachings in their most direct and concentrated form.
The importance he attached to this is indicated by his frequent statements to the effect that his verbal teachings were only given out to those who were unable to understand his silence.
These verbal teachings flowed authoritatively from his direct knowledge that consciousness was the only existing reality. Consequently, all his explanations and instructions were geared to convincing his followers that this was their true and natural state. Few of his followers were capable of assimilating this truth in its highest and most undiluted form and so he often adapted his teachings to conform to the limited understanding of the people who came to him for advice. Because of this tendency it is possible to distinguish many different levels of his teachings. At the highest level that could be expressed in words he would say that consciousness alone exists. If this was received with skepticism he would say that awareness of this truth is obscured by the self limiting ideas of the mind and if these ideas were abandoned then the reality of consciousness would be revealed.
Most of his followers found this high-level approach a little too theoretical – they felt that the truth about consciousness would only be revealed to them if they underwent a long period of spiritual practice. To satisfy them, Ramana prescribed an innovative method of self-attention which he called self-enquiry. When asked how a beginner should start this practice, he replied: “The mind will subside only by means of the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ What does it matter however many thoughts rise? At the very moment that each thought rises, if one vigilantly enquires ‘To whom did this rise?’ it will be known ‘To me’. If one then enquires, ‘Who am I’, the mind will turn back to its source (the Self) and the thought which had risen will also subside. By repeatedly practicing thus, the power of the mind to abide in its source increases. The thought ‘Who am I?’ destroying all other thoughts, will itself finally be destroyed like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre.”
As the years passed, he became more and more famous. A community grew up around him, thousands of visitors flocked to see him and for the last twenty years of his life, he was widely regarded as India’s most popular and revered holy man. Some of these thousands were attracted by the peace they felt in his presence, others by the authoritative way in which he guided spiritual seekers and interpreted religious teachings, and some merely came to tell him their problems. Whatever their reasons for coming, almost everyone who came into contact with him was impressed by his simplicity and his humbleness. He made himself available to visitors twenty-four hours a day by living and sleeping in a communal hall which was always accessible to everyone, and his only private possessions were a loin-cloth, a water-pot and a walking stick.
Although he was worshipped by thousands as a living God, he refused to accept anything which could not be shared equally by everyone in his ashram. He shared in the communal work and for many years he rose at 3 a.m. in order to prepare food for the residents of the ashram. His sense of equality was legendary. When visitors came to see him – it made no difference whether whether they were VIPs, peasants or animals – they would all be treated with equal respect and consideration. His egalitarian concern even extended to the local trees; he discouraged his followers from picking flowers or leaves off them and he tried to ensure that whenever fruit was plucked from the ashram trees it was always done in such a way that the tree only suffered a minimum amount of pain.
The centre of ashram life was the small hall where Sri Ramana lived, slept and held court. He spent most of his day sitting in one corner radiating his silent power and simultaneously fielding questions from the constant flow of visitors who descended on him from every corner of the globe. He rarely committed his ideas to paper and so the verbal replies given out during the period 1925-50 (by far the most well-documented of his life) represent the largest surviving source of his teachings.
Sri Ramanasramam continues to be run in the same vein even today and the milling crowds that congregate on festive occasions like full moon, Kartikai deepam, Jayanti etc. is to be seen to be believed. There is a book stall that makes available Ramana literature by way of books, tapes and videos to devotees in many languages, including foreign. The ashram has also set up the Ramanasramam Archives, with state-of-the-art facilities housing a large variety of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s works and articles, including many hundreds of black and white photographs and negatives, articles gifted to and used by Shri Bhagavan, manuscripts of original writings and corrections in Sri Ramana’s handwriting.