Even more rare than those highly mature souls who are able to experience the Truth as soon as they hear it, there are some people who without ever hearing the Truth experience it spontaneously. But such people are very rare indeed. The sage known as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was one such extremely rare Existence who experienced the Truth spontaneously without ever having heard or read anything about it. He spontaneously attained the experience of true Self-Knowledge one day in July 1896, when he was just a 16-year-old schoolboy. That day he was sitting alone in a room in his uncle’s house in the south Indian town of
, when suddenly & with no apparent cause an intense fear of death arose within him. Madurai
Instead of trying to put this fear out of his Mind, as most of us would do, he decided to investigate & discover for himself the truth about death. "All right, death has come ! What is death ? What is it that dies ? This Body is going to die – let it die." Deciding thus, he lay down like a corpse, rigid & without breathing, & turned his Mind inwards to discover what Death would actually do to him. He later described the Truth that dawned upon him at that moment as follows:
"This Body is dead. It will now be taken to the cremation ground, burnt, & reduced to ashes. But with the destruction of this Body, am I also destroyed ? Is this Body really “I” ? Although this Body is lying Lifeless as a corpse, I know that I exist. Unaffected in the least by this death, my Existence is shining clearly. Therefore I am not this Body which dies. I am the 'I' which is indestructible. Of all things, I alone am the Reality. This Body is subject to Death, but I, who transcend the Body, am that which lives eternally. The Death that came to this Body cannot affect me."
Although he described his experience of Death in so many words, he explained that this Truth actually dawned upon him in an instant, not as reasoning or verbalized thoughts, but as a direct experience, without the least action of Mind. So intense was his fear & consequent urge to know the truth of Death, that without actually thinking anything he turned his attention away from his rigid & Lifeless Body & towards the innermost core of his Existence – his essential, unadulterated & Non-Dual Self–Consciousness "I exist". Because his attention was so keenly focused on his Consciousness of Existence, the True Nature of that Existence-Consciousness revealed itself as a flash of direct & certain Knowledge – Knowledge that was so direct & certain that it could never be doubted.
Thus Sri Ramana discovered himself to be the pure Trans–personal Consciousness "I exist", which is the one, un-limited, un-divided & Non-Dual whole, the only existing Reality, the Source & substance of all things, & the True Self of every living Existence. This Knowledge of his Real Nature destroyed in him forever the sense of Identification with the physical Body – the feeling of Existence an individual person, a separate conscious entity confined within the limits of a particular Time & Place.
Along with this dawn of Non-Dual Self-Knowledge, the Truth of everything else became clear to him. By knowing himself to be the Infinite Spirit, the fundamental Consciousness "I exist", in which & through which all other things are known, he knew as an immediate experience how those other things appear & disappear in this essential Consciousness. Thus he knew without the least doubt that everything that appears & disappears depends for its seeming existence upon this fundamental Consciousness, which he knew to be his Real Self.
When reading some of the recorded accounts of his Death experience, people often get the impression that when he lay down like a corpse, that Sri Ramana merely simulated the signs of physical Death. But he explained on several occasions that he did not merely simulate it, but actually underwent the experience of physical death at that Time. Because he fixed his whole attention so firmly & intensely upon his Non-Dual Consciousness of Existence, not only did his breathing cease, but his heart stopped beating. All the other biological functions that indicate Life also came to a standstill. Thus his Body literally lay Lifeless for about 20 minutes, until suddenly Life surged through it once again, & his heartbeat & breath started to function as normal.
However, though Life returned to his physical Body, the person who had previously identified that Body as "I" was dead, having been destroyed forever by the clear light of true Self-Knowledge. But though he had died as an individual person, he had thereby been born again as the Infinite Spirit – the fundamental & unlimited Consciousness of Existence, the Non-Dual Self–Consciousness "I exist".
Though outwardly he appeared to behave as an individual person, his personality was in fact just an appearance that existed only in the view of other people, like the charred form of a rope that remains after the rope itself has been burnt. Inwardly he knew himself to be the all-inclusive Consciousness that transcends all limitations, & not merely a separate individual Consciousness confined within the limits of a particular Body.
Therefore, the conscious Existence that other people saw acting through his Body was not really an individual person at all, but was only the Supreme Spirit – the Infinite & Absolute Reality that we usually refer to as "God". Soon after this true Self-Knowledge dawned upon him, Sri Ramana left his childhood home & traveled a few hundred miles north to Tiruvannamalai, a temple town nestled at the foot of the holy mountain Arunachala, where he lived as a sādhu or religious mendicant for the remaining 54 years of his bodily Life. Since he had ceased to identify himself with the Body that other people mistook to be him, he also ceased to identify with the name that had previously been given to that Body. Therefore, from the Time he left home, he stopped using his childhood name Venkataraman, & he signed his parting note with just a line.
Thus when he first came to Tiruvannamalai, no one there knew his name, so they referred to him by various names of their choosing. More than 10 years later, however, one of his devotees, who was a Sanskrit poet & Vedic scholar, announced that he should be called "Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi", & somehow this became the name by which he was generally known thereafter.
However, till the end of his bodily Life, Sri Ramana never claimed this or any other name as his own, & he always declined to sign any signature, even when asked to do so. When he was once asked why he never signed his name, he replied, "By what name am I to be known ? I myself do not know. At various Times various people have called me by various different names".
Because he did not experience himself as an individual person, but knew himself to be the One Reality, which is the source & substance of all names & forms, but which has no name or form of its own, he responded to whatever name people called him, without ever identifying any of those
names as his own.
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"There is no Creation, no Destruction, no Bondage, no longing to be freed from Bondage, no striving for Liberation, nor anyone who has attained Liberation. Know that this to be Ultimate Truth."
– the "no creation"
, Shankara, Ramana, school of Gaudapada Nome – Ajata Vada
for very succinct summary of the teaching & practice, see: www.ajatavada.com/