Bhagavan’s Death Experience
In 1912 Ramana had a kind of second death experience. One morning, around 10 a.m. he was on his way Backfrom the temple tank at the Pachaiamman Shrine together with his companions Palaniswami, Vasudeva Sastri and others. There they had taken an oil bath. The sun was by now burning hot and the ascent to Virupaksha Cave was causing additional strain. When they came near the Tortoise Rock, which is a huge boulder on the path, Ramana was suddenly overcome by a bodily weakness. He supported himself against the rock. His skin turned dark and his companions thought he was going to die.
Vasudeva Sastri reports, “While all else stood at a distance weeping,I suddenly embraced him. I was a bachelor at the time and had the liberty to do so. No one else used to touch Swami’s body. He was in that state for about ten minutes, I think, and then gained consciousness. I jumped about with joy. “Why this weeping? You thought I was dead? If I am to die, will I not tell you beforehand?’ Bhagavan said, consoling us.
Ramana described his experience as follows, “Suddenly the view of nature in front of me disappeared and got covered up like a sheet of white cloth. ” j All around me was the view of the white cloth. My head was reeling. The circulation of blood and the beating of the heart stopped, and my body began to get dark in colour, same as what happens to a dead body, and as that slowly increased, Vasu thought that I was really dead and began to weep, and embraced me. The change in my body’s colour, Vasu’s embrace, the shivering of his body, and the talks of the others around me “” I was conscious of all these. I was also conscious of my hands and feet getting chill, and the stopping of the beats of my heart, but I had no fear in me. The flow of my thoughts and the consciousness of my self were not lost and I was not worried about my body’s condition.I sat cross-legged in the padmasanam pose [lotus seat]. I was not leaning on the rock behind. The circulation of blood stopped but the sitting posture remained intact. All that lasted for about fifteen minutes. Suddenly energy permeated throughout my body.The circulation of blood and the beating of the heart commenced.The black colour of my body disappeared. I began to perspire profusely from all pores in my body. I opened my eyes, got up and said: “Come on. Let us go.’ We then reached the Virupaksha Cave without any further incidents.
It is possible that this event allowed Ramana’s final transition to a normal outer life. One thing is certain, around this time his life started to follow a normal path again. This development had been gradual and had started to set in in the years leading up to this event. He had started to react to visitors and had slowly started speaking again, although still very little. He ate and drank regularly and took care of his body. He performed all kinds of domestic work. He also carved many walking sticks, which he then gave away, and likewise spoons and cups which he carved out of coconut shells and then polished so long that they started to shine. He developed a good deal of practical ability in daily life, became an extraordinarily good and painstaking cook, a talented architect and in all that he did was extremely economical and tidy. Increasingly his life followed a precise timetable, in which everything had its fixed place.
Source: Ramana Maharshi: His Life A biography by Gabriele Ebert
Soon after his mother and his brother returned home Sri Ramana left Pavalakkunru and moved up the hill. He lived for a short time in the Satguru Swami Cave on the south-eastern slope, then in the Namasivaya Cave. He finally settled down in the Virupaksha Cave,where he remained from 1899 to 1916.
At the time Ramana took up abode there nobody felt responsible for the Virupaksha math and the cave was empty. There was a lawsuit in progress between two different groups, who both claimed possession of, and the income from, the math. But as no decision had yet been made, nobody was caring for it. The issue of possession was, in fact, only resolved some years later. At the following Kartikai festival the successful litigants came up to the cave and started charging a fee to visit it. So access to the Swami who lived there suddenly became conditional upon payment of a fee, although he himself was not informed of the matter. As large numbers of people were now coming up to see him, quite a few had to go away disappointed when they were told they had to pay.
When Ramana heard about this practice, he left the cave and sat down under a tree. Those collecting the fees then declared this place also to be an outer area belonging to the math and continued to demand money from all those who wanted to approach him. He had no alternative, therefore, but to go away again. At first he lived in the Satguru Swami Cave which was lower down, then in another cave, consequently the Virupaksha Cave was no longer a source of revenue. The owners of the cave finally understood that they could not misuse the young Swami for their own purpose, so they gave up the fees they had collected and asked him to continue to live in the cave. As a result Ramana returned and stayed there until 1916.
In winter Virupaksha was a fine lodging, but not so in summer,when the adjoining riverbed dried up and there was not the slightest breeze. In addition, as there were almost no trees, the cave was exposed to the sun, so that it became unbearably hot.
A little higher up the hill, at the foot of a mango tree there was a cave known as the Mango Tree Cave. The nearby Mulaipal Teertham always had a supply of clean water. The first time Ramana had seen it, it had been uninhabitable. But since then two brothers had removed the overhanging rock, had built a small wall with a door and had made the cave inhabitable. They asked the Swami to use it, so he used to spend the summer months here.
Life at the Virupaksha Cave and Mango Tree Cave was rich in privations but carefree, as Ramana himself stated, “Palaniswami asked me to copy out and give him some stanzas of Shankara, but where were notebooks or paper with us at the time? I collected every scrap of paper I could, stitched them together into a notebook,wrote out the stanzas and gave them to him. At that time we had nothing but a pot; we did not have even a towel. In the early days of our stay in the Virupaksha Cave, Palaniswami alone had a towel to wrap around him. The cave had no iron doors then; it had a wooden door with a wooden latch. We would fasten it from the outside with a small stick, go around the hill, wander hither and yon, return after a week or ten days, then open the door with the help of another stick. That was our key at the time; no need to keep it anywhere! This notebook was the only article we took with us. As Palaniswami wore a towel, he used to fold the book and tuck it into his waist. That was enough for us.
His loincloth was also in a poor state, “My koupina got torn. I do not usually ask anyone for anything. Bodily privacy has however to be maintained. Where could I get a needle and thread available to mend the koupina? At last, I got hold of a thorn, made a hole in it,took out a thread from the koupina itself, put it into the hole and
thus mended the cloth, and, so as to hide the place where it was mended, I used to fold it suitably before putting it on. Time passed like that. What did we need? Such were those days!
Sri Ramana never wore shoes, not even during the hottest months.Rangan, a former classmate, reports, “When Bhagavan and I climbed up to the top of Arunachala, a thorn pricked my foot.Noting that I was lagging behind, Bhagavan removed it. A few yards later a big thorn pricked his foot. When I looked at his foot there were so many unremoved thorns in it. Then I examined the other foot, but the position was not different. “Which one will you remove, the new thorn or the old ones?’, he queried. He broke the thorn by pushing his foot to the ground and started walking again.
There was no cooking in the Virupaksha Cave. Visitors used to bring milk, fruits, cake and other food. Gradually more followers came to live with Ramana and
Palaniswami. Any food donated was always evenly distributed. But as it was not possible to rely on sufficient food for all being brought by visitors, Palaniswami and other devotees would go down to the town to beg for additional food. Then Ramana would mix up all the food donated, make a mash by pouring hot water over it and gave each one a glassful.Often there was not even any salt to flavour it, but Ramana thought it better to be without than to beg anyone for it, “If once we begin to ask for salt, we would feel like asking for dhal, and when we ask for dhal, we would feel like asking for payasam and so on. So we felt that we should not ask for anything, and swallowed the gruel as it was. We used to feel extremely happy over such diet.
The begging mission to town followed a fix course. At least four of Ramona’s devotees started on their way, announcing their arri-val to the inhabitants by blowing their conches. They then went through the streets singing and collecting what was given to them.
Some days there was not enough of anything, on other days there was more than enough eatables. At times Ramana, so as not to disappoint anyone, ended up overeating. There is a well-known story of how one day he planned a day of fasting and started off early in the morning to walk alone on the hill. There he met several women who competed with each other to serve him food. He had to eat all that they served him. Some hours later he met them again and again they forced him to eat. Then he lay down in a mantapam to sleep. In the evening he wanted to return to the Virupaksha Cave when a devotee met him, bringing him mangoes cooked in rasam. He ate this too. Jokingly he said, “It is like the story of the man who fled the town of mice and found himself in the land of tigers.
Sometimes people would also send their carriages to pick him up for a meal. But he always refused, as he feared that if he accepted there would be no end to the invitations.
Source: Ramana Maharshi: His Life A biography by Gabriele Ebert
Incidents Related To Awakening to the True Self of Bhagavan
In February 1892 Sundaram Iyer unexpectedly died, he was in his mid-forties. He left behind him his wife Alagammal, their three sons, Nagaswami aged fourteen, Ramana aged twelve and Nagasundaram aged six and their daughter Alamelu aged four. When Ramana returned from his school at Dindigul to Tiruchuli, to see his dead father for the last time, he reflected thoughtfully, “When Father is lying here, why do they say that he has gone? One of the elders answered him, “If this were your father, would he not receive you with love? So you see, he has gone.
The sudden death of the head of the family was a dramatic event which resulted in the family being split up. Alagammal moved to Manamadurai with the younger children Nagasundaram and Alamelu to live with her younger brother-in-law Nelliappa Iyer,who was also working as a pleader. The two older children moved into the house of Subba Iyer, another uncle on the father’s side,who lived at number 11 Chokkappa Naicken Street near the famous Meenakshi temple.
Ramana was sent to Scott’s Middle School and later to the American Mission High School. He was an average scholar who learned easily, but was not much interested in his lessons. He would often go unprepared to class. If others recited the day’s lesson he would remember enough to enable him to keep up.
Later he told his devotees the following story with regard to his schooldays,
“While the school lessons were being taught, lest I should fall asleep I used to tie a thread to the nail on the wall, and tie my hair to it. When the head nods, the thread is pulled tight and that used to wake me up. Otherwise, the teacher used to twist my ears and wake me up.
Wrestling, boxing, running and other sports were much more appealing to Ramana. He was stronger than most boys of his age and his strength and ability even impressed the older boys. He also liked to play football with his friends. People noticed that his team always won. This and other similar occurrences earned him the nickname “Thangakai’ (Golden Hand). It is a title given in Tamil Nadu to people who are always successful in their undertakings.
Ramana did not study Sanskrit or the sacred traditions of Hinduism such as the Vedas or the Upanishads. In both the schools he attended he was taught Christianity, but Hindu boys generally showed little interest in such bible classes and Ramana was no exception in this respect.
Although he was very much like any other boy, he did have one peculiar trait. His sleep used to be exceptionally deep. When a relative later visited him at the Ashram Ramana recalled the following incident which happened in Dindigul,
“Your uncle Periappa Seshaiyar was living there then. There was some function in the house and all went to it and then in the night went to the temple. I was left alone in the house. I was sitting reading in the front room,but after a while I locked the front door and fastened the windows and went to sleep. When they returned from the temple no amount of shouting or banging at the door or window could wake me. At last they managed to open the door with a key from the opposite house and then they tried to wake me up by beating me.All the boys beat me to their heart’s content, and your uncle did too, but without effect. I knew nothing about it till they told me next morning. ” j The same sort of thing happened to me in Madurai too. The boys didn’t dare to touch me when I was awake,but if they had any grudge against me they would come when I was asleep and carry me wherever they liked and beat me as much as they liked and then put me Backto bed, and I would know nothing about it until they told me in the morning.
Soon thereafter, in the middle of July 1896, at the age of 16, the great change took place in his life. He was at the time a pupil in his final year at secondary school. He later described the incident which changed his life completely and irreversibly, “It was about six weeks before I left Madurai for good that the great change in my life took place. It was so sudden. One day I sat up alone on the first floor of my uncle’s house. I was in my usual health. I seldom had any illness. I was a heavy sleeper. ” j So, on that day as I sat alone there was nothing wrong with my health. But a sudden and unmistakable fear of death seized me. I felt I was going to die.Why I should have so felt cannot now be explained by anything felt in my body. Nor could I explain it to myself then. I did not however trouble myself to discover if the fear was well grounded. I felt “I was going to die,’ and at once set about thinking out what I should do. I did not care to consult doctors or elders or even friends. I felt I had to solve the problem myself then and there.
The shock of fear of death made me at once introspective, or “introverted’.I said to myself mentally, i.e., without uttering the words “” “Now, death has come. What does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.’ I at once dramatized the scene of death. I extended my limbs and held them rigid as though rigor-mortis had set in. I imitated a corpse to lend an air of reality to my further investigation. I held my breath and kept my mouth closed, pressing the lips tightly together so that no sound might escape. Let not the word “I’ or any other word be uttered! “Well then,’ said I to myself, “this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body, am “I dead? Is the body “I ? This body is silent and inert. But I feel the full force of my personality and even the sound “I within myself, – apart from the body. So “I am a spirit, a thing transcending the body. The material body dies, but the spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. I am therefore the deathless spirit.’
All this was not a mere intellectual process, but flashed before me vividly as living truth, something which I perceived immediately,without any argument almost.
“I’ was something very real, the only real thing in that state, and all the conscious activity that was connected with my body was centred on that. The “I’ or my “self’ was holding the focus of attention by a powerful fascination from that time forwards. Fear of death had vanished once and forever. Absorption in the Self has continued from that moment right up to this time. Other thoughts may come and go like the various notes of a musician, but the “I’ continues like the basic or fundamental sruti note which accompanies and blends with all other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading or anything else,I was still centred on “I’.
He reports, “When I lay down with limbs outstretched and mentally enacted the death scene and realized that the body would be taken and cremated and yet I would live, some force, call it atmic power [power of atman] or anything else, rose within me and took possession of me. With that, I was reborn and I became a new man. I became indifferent to everything afterwards,having neither likes nor dislikes.
From now on he swallowed everything that was served to him,whether delicious or tasteless, good or bad, with no regard to how it tasted or smelled, or to its quality. Formerly, if he thought an injustice had been done to him or if other boys teased him, he would stand up for himself. Now he accepted everything without protest. He was also no longer interested in joining in his friends’ sporting activities, but rather sat alone and meditated with eyes closed in yogic posture. At school he started to encounter problems,because he was no longer interested in books. He remembered, “After the “death’ experience I was living in a different world. How could I turn my attention to books? Before that, I would at least attend to what the other boys repeated and repeat the same myself. But afterwards, I could not do even that. At school, my mind would not dwell on study at all. I would be imagining and expecting God would suddenly drop down from Heaven before me.
After his enlightenment Ramana started to visit the temple regularly.He recalled, “Formerly I would go there rarely with friends,see the images, put on sacred ashes and sacred vermilion on the forehead and return home without any perceptible emotion.
During his last month in Madurai, Ramana suffered from an unusual intense pain in his head and a burning sensation. But all symptoms of his profound change disappeared when he stepped into the temple at Tiruvannamalai for the first time on 1st September 1896.
Source: Ramana Maharshi: His Life A biography by Gabriele Ebert