‘Who am I’ is the question or thought that lingers every person but only a few get intrigued by the very thought and starts searching for the truth behind. One such Jnani who went deep in understanding the truth of the self is Bhagavan Ramanar who started his quest of the everlasting ‘Who am I’. Born in 1879 at Madurai as Venkataraman was an ordinary school student before he came across the place “Arunachalam” from one of guest who visited his home. This gave him the very flash of Arunachala hill and he started his mental journey towards the holy hill. Venkatraman started learning and mastered Thiruvasgam and Periya Puranam Which further fueled his spiritual quest which dwindled interest in school studies.
One day Venkataraman felt jitters by the very thought of Death and started meditating where he found the truth that he is not this material body nor the senses but he is something beyond which doesn’t change which is everlasting and the only ultimate truth is ‘Brahmam’ which is omnipresent. This incident on whole changed his quest of ‘Who am I’.
With the dwindling interest in school education, the frequent rebuttal from his family about being in the state of spiritual bliss. Venkatraman decided to pursue the hill of Arunachala and he decided to start his journey immediately. Without sufficient money he started his journey to Arunachalam through train getting food to eat from a passerby, selling his ear stud he reached Arunachalam from Villupuram.
Bala Venkatraman for the first time entered Arunachala temple and got mesmerized by the sight of the deity this changed his course of action denouncing all material pleasures and identity, he sacrificed his hair, sacred thread (Yagnopaveetham) and even his dress having only little cloth(Kaupina). This is the transition of Bala Venkataramana into Bhagavan Ramanar. He started meditating in various caves of Arunachala was always in the state of bliss and in the path of self-inquiry unaware of the bites of insects and vermin. Seshadri Swamigal a well-renowned Sanyasi and true Jnani found Bala Ramana and saved him from the underground vault.
Silence and Meditation is the only resort of Bhagavan Ramanar and he started to meditate at various locations of the Aurncahala hill his proficiency in various texts and Vedanta was visible through this conversation with Seshadri Swamigal when he explained about Maha vakyam “Aham Brahmasmi”. His mastery of scriptures is from his self-realization and self-inquiry process. He becomes popular in the western world by Paul Brunton who was on his spiritual tour in India around the 1930s where he happened to meet Kanchi Mahaperiyava who directed him to Atma jnani Bhagavan Ramanar, through writings of Paul Brunton Bhagavan nama became popular in the west attracting large spiritual seekers. One Interesting anecdote mentioned in many books is when Paul Brunton visited Bhagavan Ramanar he happened to use too much ‘I’ in all his enquires and questions. Bhagavan Who was patiently listening to all this told him that he used too much of ‘I’ and questioned him whether ever he tried to find “I”. Over the period of the conversation, Paul Brunton understood the wisdom of Bhagavan and his reference to “Who am I” and only through self-inquiry and refined internal search one can find the knowledge of self and meaning of “I”.
Another one such experience of a devotee who asked Bhagavan Ramanar that ” I want Peace”. Bhagavan replied devotee to drop “I” and want and eventually he will find peace. This answer astonished everyone and instilled the true thought of destroying egoistic “I” to experience Satcitananda.
When the darkness of ignorance is removed one will experience the Oneness and not many which are a result of illusion. Ramanar’s spiritual wisdom will continue to inspire many in the path of self-realization and understanding true nature of self. Bharatha Boomi is blessed to have such great philosophers and Atma Jnanis whose emanating grace manifest in different forms of energy.
About the Author:
Vasanth is a passionate Electrical Engineer both by education and profession. His deep interest includes industrial automation and process excellence with the demonstrated professional expertise of leading several projects improving the operating model of large industrial processes with high efficiency and effectiveness. Beyond profession, he is a spiritually inclined person who is always in the quest of ‘knowledge of non-dual self. You can reach him out @VasanthRaghavan