M.G. Shanmukam’s Tamil biography Ramana Maharshi – Life and Teachings was published in 1937. His father, a police officer, along with the Swami of Ishanya Mutt, Tiruvannamalai, was instrumental in the construction of the old hall during 1926-7, where Sri Ramana lived for two decades.
During my 24 years of personal association with Bhagavan, I found that he seldom preached elaborately. He would give hints which keen seekers had to absorb carefully. He once said categorically, for practising atma vichara everyday is auspicious. All other sadhanas require external objects and congenial environment, but for atma vichara nothing external to oneself is required. Turning the mind within is all that is necessary. While one is engaged in atma vichara one can attend to other activities also.
Traditional upbringing gradually involved me in the study of the sastras, doing japa, bhajan, and regular puja three times a day. I came to the conviction that the highest human attainment was the state of jivanmukti (full enlightenment whilst still in the body). During 1921-25, as a college student, I fervently prayed that I should meet a jivanmukta and receive his blessings.
My prayers were soon answered! My father was transferred to Tiruvannamalai. At Katpadi, while travelling in train towards Tiruvannamalai, I had a remarkable vision of Bhagavan. Thus my sadguru came to me and absorbed me even before I could have His physical darshan!
When I arrived at the Ashram, Bhagavan gave me a warm welcome with a benign smile. As He was seeing me for the first time, His two spontaneous utterances surprised me. Like an affectionate mother, He asked me, “When did you come?” and “How is your right hand?” My right hand was badly fractured when I was 14 years old, and though it had healed up, it remained bent and short. I used to cover it up
with full sleeves and even my friends did not know of this serious deformity. How did Bhagavan know about it? And what affectionate concern He showed! After Bhagavan inquired about it, my sense of inferiority, because of the defect, totally disappeared. More than all this, He asked me to be seated in front of Him. Gazing at Him I sat down and I do not know what happened to me then. When I got up two hours had elapsed. This was an experience I had never had before and I have always cherished it as the first and foremost prasad and blessing received from my sadguru. That day I understood the purport of the statement, ‘The sadguru ever gives unasked!’ That moment I knew I had been accepted into His Fold. He allowed me to enjoy this strong bond until His mahasamadhi, and even after.
Daily I would go to Him by two in the afternoon and return home only at 8 p.m. Bhagavan would quote from Ribhu Gita, Kaivalya Navaneetha, Yoga Vasishtam and other advaitic texts and explain to me their greatness. All the while I felt that I was in the blissful presence of a brahmajnai (one who has realised the Self), so highly extolled in our scriptures.
Once sitting before Him, the following thoughts rose in my mind with great force and were running repeatedly for a long time: ‘Do not argue on controversial points of philosophy or read too much of philosophical books.’ ‘Silently practise either vichara or dhyanam’ (meditation). ‘Do not do anything which you know to be wrong.’
Some of Bhagavan’s personal instructions to me were: (i) If you observe the breathing one-pointedly, such attention will lead you into kumbhaka (retention), which is jnana pranayama. (ii) The more you humble yourself, the better it is for you. (iii) You should look upon the world only as a dream. (iv) Except attending to the duty-work in life, the rest of the time should be spent in atma nishta (absorption in the Self).
(v) Do not cause slightest hindrance or disturbance to others. (vi) Do all your work yourself. (vii) Both likes and dislikes should be discarded and eschewed. (vii) With attention focused on the first person and on the heart within, one should relentlessly practice ‘Who am I?’ During such practice, the mind might suddenly spring up; so you have to vigilantly pursue the vichara ‘Who am I?’
Sri Ramana was a sarvajnani (all-knower). I got many proofs of it. My father gave me pocket-money of three annas a day. For that amount I would buy sambrani (incense), which was burnt in a brazier in
Bhagavan’s hall. One day I did not get the pocket money and therefore refrained from going to Bhagavan. The next day, Bhagavan graciously remarked, “Yesterday you did not come because you could not get sambrani. Veneration in the heart is enough.“
My father was suddenly transferred to Vellore. None of us, particularly myself, wanted to leave Tiruvannamalai since darshan of Bhagavan would then be denied. We ventilated our grievance to Bhagavan. He gave me a benign smile. A few days after, strangely, the transfer order was cancelled!
I noticed the strange way in which the doubts in one’s mind got answered. The doubt you had would mysteriously be got expressed by someone else in the hall to Bhagavan and He would not only give the answer but look at you with a smile as if to say, ‘Has your doubt been cleared?’
Bhagavan would be seated like a rock with eyes open for hours together and silence would pervade the hall; and everyone’s heart would be filled with peace and stillness. This silence was His real teaching!