B. S. Bagi, M.A., (Vice-Principal, Lingaraj College, Belgaum).

Bearing and tending me in the world in the shape of my
Father and Mother, Thou didst abide in my mind, and before I
feel into deep sea called Jaganmaya and was drowned, Thou
didst draw me by force to Thee and keep me at Thy Feet. O
Arunachala, Consciousness Itself, such is the wonder of Thy Grace!

The Necklet of Nine Gems.

To the human mind there can be but two Entities (and no third) in what we call Existence: One is Sri Bhagavan, the Maharshi, Maker and Redeemer of the world, and the other the world itself. The Maharshi was born at 1 a. m. on the 30th of December, 1879, at Tiruchuzhi some thrity miles away from Madura. Now, how can this be? The two statements together make up an enigma. They involve the idea of the world being in existence prior to the Maker’s birth in it. True, But what harm or offence is there in presuming an enigma which we can neither escape nor disprove? Does it make much difference to say that Sri Bhagavan was never born and yet has ever been in existence? In that case we may not have known Him at all! Sri Bhagavan’s Existence and Operations being Mysteries, their explanation can have no finality in it. In explaining one Mystery we straightway land ourselves in others equally if not more perplexing. The riddle of the Creator and His Creation is very much like the proverbial riddle of the hen and the egg. In Eternity there is neither precedence nor subsequence. Time and Universe are coexisting contemporaries. Even so the time of Sri Bhagavan’s birth, when viewed in the proper context of its immediate and remote circumstances comprises within itself all antecedents and consequents from end to end of Time. And whether we believe it or not His birth in the material sense literally signifies the birth of the Whole Universe too. Only, that birth is not marked off on Time’s calendar. One clue to the paradox of His Existence is that He can take birth in the human way at any time, and yet in the Divine way exist at all times before and after His birth. Consider what we mean by “1 a.m. on the 30th December, 1879.” Does that expression convey to us any significance beyond that of a certain position of the hour - and minute-hands on the dial of a timepiece? - or of a certain page of the Christian calendar? Perhaps a few will picture to themselves the position of the real Time Machine, viz., the planetary system. Still fewer will read in the planetary position the All-pervading Will, in response to which the Incident of 1 a.m. of December 30, occurred.

Sri Bhagavan’s birth in the world is not a stray event, nor the Moment of birth a solitary passing wave in the flow of Time. Even humanly speaking, both are a Perpetuity like Himself. When the Hour rang 1 a. m. at Tiruchuzhi, a Queensland monk had scarce counted a hundred beads at daybreak, a batch of Eastern pilgrims on board a vessel off Azores were on their knees before the setting sun, while (as we can very well conceive) some Californian wayfarers were bent in silent prayer over their midday fare. It is possible that not a single moment intervened among all these several pious employments. They were simultaneous. In fact, every fraction of the twenty-four hour’s of Sri Bhagavan. Was It not a Perpetuity? - a Symbol of Immortal Devotion which Time owes to its Maker? Heavens pity us, mortals, who think of Sri Bhagavan or Anything in terms of birth and death, days, months and ages! The next thing Sri Bhagavan did after birth was to grow up. And He grew up as others do. He grew up like man, bird, tree, and what not? He did not differ from others in the matter of upbringing, education, and all that.

There were His loving mother and His devout father and other relations, who did their duties by Him exactly as mothers, fathers and relations do everywhere. For sixteen years He had His share of tears and smiles, so they say who saw Him then. His elders reproved Him when He did not do His class work. His playmates engaged Him in quarrels in which He gave as well as He got. In short, these sixteen years are a pretty old tale, as old as the Sacred Hill of Arunachala. Vainly do we trouble ourselves to trace any external sign of Divinity there. After all, why should the Divine differ from the Human when the Former undertakes to act the latter part? If It did could It be called Divine? Perhaps it would be more proper to call Sri Bhagavan’s human part not an acting but a being is the very height of the actor’s art, since in it the actor’s part synchronises with his character. So it happened that Sri Bhagavan, the Divine, was invisible in Sri Bhagavan, the human. Not all can see Sri Bhagavan when He manifests Himself to mortal sight. (Another paradox of mortal mind!) A few see him, some do not; some wonder why they should not see what the few have seen, and some wonder too if He be not self-deceived like themselves. Yet the wonder of wonders is He is in all of them; pitying the fallen and helping the faithful. Every man judges Sri Bhagavan by the measure of his own self. But no judgment of him can be right unless the judge transcends himself; even as no Faith is true until Disbelief disowns itself. While routine life hedged Sri Bhagavan in on all sides during His boyhood He set little store on it. Life was to Him a giddy whirl of unstable things. There was nothing in it He could securely seize upon. The ceaseless flow of circumstances, within which His Body and Life blossomed, was like things seen outside the windows of a moving railway carriage. Of what use is it, He thought, to pamper a body that will sooner or later turn into dust? Of what use is it to please a mind which only seeks to please the body? The only lasting pleasure is in PermananceStabilitySomething that is Achala like a Hillor in Nothing.

Yet while all things move or flow within and without each individual, his perceiving Self never changes. From childhood to old age there is an unbroken continuity in the perceiving “I”. Neither sleep nor sickness, neither mutilation nor growth affects its sameness. It is an Impersonal Awareness, crystal-clear, in which the illusions of personal life are reflected. It is the basic monotone in which Life’s myriad harmonies begin and end. But these reflections belong to the mortal plane. Their value to a mortal is doubtful until their validity is proved by Death. The test of Immortality is to die and to survive Death. Sri Bhagavan resolved to experiment with Death. Once He simulated Death as far as mortal powers could. Again in 1912 He realised Death by completely withholding all vital processes of His Body for a quarter of an hour, a short period, indeed, when compared to the decades of time we waste in our lives, awake or asleep, but a pretty long one for Death to snatch with ease a million lives. But nothing happened to Him. He could not die. Breath may stop, pulses abandon their function, and body grow rigid and cold. But the living consciousness continues. That was the moral of His experiments.

But bare knowledge of a moral does not constitute morality, else every living thing should have been moral. Knowledge justifies itself when it becomes a part of the whole existence. Sri Bhagavan resolved to withdraw from the world to justify for its sake the truths He had discovered. Long had He cherished a devout fancy for “Arunachala”. Both in sound and sense the Name echoed His Heart’s Highest Aspirations. He left home for Arunachala (Tiruvannamalai) surreptitiously on a Saturday noon, 29th of August, 1896. He had three rupees in His pockets and nothing on Him except His daily wear. On the 1st of September he reached His destination. During the journey He had pawned His ear-rings, eaten two bare meals and slept on cold ground. The little of money He still had he threw away along with His clothes and the sacred thread. What a pity for His terrestrial father if he had lived to see it! - and what a tragedy to His mother! Heavens wept literally to see Sri Bhagavan thus returning to the temples of the Sacred Hill, His Everlasting Home.

From then begins Sri Bhagavan’s fuller experience of his Self. Immersed within Himself He spent months and years at the foot of Arunachala. At any rate, that is all that words can do to describe what He did at the Sacred Hill. But Sri Bhagavan knows He did more than He seemed to the world to be doing. Immersion of the Self within Itself is not what everyone can do. And he who does it, to the extent to which he succeeds, finds the Self expanding into a Universe, as vast as - rather vaster than - the one from which he withdrew. He finds himself the sole Monarch of it. For him the suns shine, stars keep watch and comets carry messages. All within himself! He is more human with a forgotten Past and an unknown Future, but a Living, All-inclusive Present. He is Sri Bhagavan, the Divine, the Self comprising all other selves and more! This did not mean a change in Sri Bhagavan’s outer Selfthe worldwhich He is born to redeem, (and for all we know, has already redeemed). Sri Bhagavan and the world from One inconceivable Relativity in which what looks like Perpetual change to mortal eyes is to him a stable four (or more) dimensional Unity; the same as the picture which presents to the sight an illusion of movement or undulation, but proves to touch a plain and stable surface.

Sri Bhagavan is the Immutable Law. His Greatness is in preserving the Law and not in playing juggler’s tricks of turning cocks into bulls and vice versa. Nor is Sri Bhagavan an exception to His own Law, Why should He be? When He sat for meditation, neighbouring urchins were not slack in their inherent mischief of laughing or throwing stones at Him. The vermin that infested His place of worship did not bite Him the less savagely because of His Holiness. Only He was unconcerned. Vermin and man are his children, equally dear to Him. He is their Feeder and Saviour.

Sri Bhagavan’s kith and kin failed to understand Him when He suddenly disappeared from home. His conduct was construed as due to a fit of light-headedness common to boys of unstable temper. He was expected to return home with the return of better judgment. Alas, the expectation failed. He was suspected to have joined a dramatic troupe. A studious search was made for Him far and near in all places except His proper abode - the Heart. So nothing came out of the search. Behold their surprise when they saw Him two years later at Tiruvannamalai with matted hair, over-grown nails and sun-burnt complexion! - sunk deep in meditation! An uncle fervently prayed to Him to come home. Mother wept bitter tears. But Sri Bhagavan, who knew home and tears as well as anybody else, remained unmoved like a Sphinx. After a great deal of importunity He vouchsafed to tell the mother in writing that she had rather leave Destiny have Its own way and abide by Its decision.

Was it not obstinacy, this unusual behaviour of His? Not exactly. It was pitiful Necessity - imperious and inevitable. From end to end of the world, inside and outside man, is an unbending Will, which does everything man does, makes him do what he does not, and prevents his doing what he shall not. Sri Bhagavan saw in His mother’s tears the futility of human sentiments set against a Cosmic Current. The Mother could no more make Sri Bhagavan leave His hermitage than She could induce Him to change His complexion or grow a supernumerary limb. Sri Bhagavan has not left the Sacred Hill of Tiruvannamalai since 1896. Why should he? There is an imperative Fixture of purpose in Sri Bhagavan’s life and conduct, which appears as utterly indifferent to the world at sometimes, as at others it seems to melt into touching sympathy. Perhaps, every adjective we employ in describing Him does more justice to our own sentiments with regard to Him than His with regard to Himself.

He is not the Duality we are. But this is certain: whether indifferent or sympathetic in either case the world gains by Him as it does from skies whether they are sulky or sunny. If by His renunciation His relation lost a kin, His austerities have made him a gain to the whole animate world. Pilgrims from all over the world flock to Tiruvannamalai for Sri Bhagavan’s Darshan and are blessed with or without their knowledge. Mysterious are His ways with men. Though nothing unusual happens at the time of Darshan to a curious pilgrim, a mild surprise overtakes him later when he begins to notice subtle proclivities in his mode of living and thinking - nay, perhaps in external affairs too. The man who denied the fact of Sri Bhagavan’s Divinity some time back grows a trifle cautious about this denial. He reads and hears about Sri Bhagavan; ponders on what he reads; rereads and broods. Behold, his very preoccupation has been doing for him a part of what Sri Bhagavan in person might do. Disbelief has given way to an awful feeling of ‘Perhaps’. Furtive belief has uneasily fretted away into a frank desire for belief. Finally, one fine morning, the quondam disbeliever falls prostrate in a passion of tears before his own mental image of Sri Bhagavan seeking pardon for his erstwhile wandering mind. This is the unconfessed story of hundreds of people. This is also one of the ways in which Sri Bhagavan has been redeeming the world. Sins of whole lives are forgiven by one act of His Grace. Faith and hope are the only price the sinner pays for His forgiveness. There is nothing for man to do but to keep his hold firm on faith and hope even as a miser keeps his on the last pie of his hoarding. There is a significance of high import in Sri Bhagavan’s even tenor of life, which in more eventful lives is at best doubtful.

His life is a demonstration of the great potentials that lie hidden in the most ordinary and unpromising souls. To read Him is to see the uniqueness of the unique, just as we see in a clod of earth the vital processes that make flower and fruit. We learn from Him what self-deceived shadows we are all, entombed in toiling body-minds - mere fantasies of a narrow dream called Life, spun out within a corner of his Superintending Watchfulness. The wary of us will question themselves, “Is this life a toilsome delusion? Who is to blame? Had we not rather blame ourselves who take the delusion seriously, when our better judgment asks us to wake up?” The warier of us will think further, “Whether delusion or reality, we cannot judge. Be it our joy to take it as it is, good and evil alike in good part, and surrender our judgment to Sri Bhagavan whose life has been to us a reassurance against gloom and despair. May His pleasure be our aim in what we think and talk, and His remembrance in what we do. He knows all our errors and sins. We err even to ask for deliverance. May His Grace be everywhere!” One word more. Whatever may be written about Him, Bhagavan Sri Ramana, there is no such thing as knowing Him. Remembrance is all. May He be in the remembrance of all who seek the Truth about themselves!

In Sri Bhagavan and Him alone
All things agree nor ever oppose.
With stronger kinship than I own
To myself, There I find repose.
In Sri Bhagavan if I be blind,
I still can see, and only good;
If deaf, my ears will sooner find
All Truth than hearing ever could.
In Sri Bhagavan is Far and Near;
I need no toilsome journeys make.
In Sri Bhagavan I need not fear
To die, for Death shall me awake.

* * *

SELF-KNOWLEDGE “KNOW THYSELF!” is the burden of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching, as it is the breath of His being. But Sri Bhagavan Himself is not merely in what we see of Him, nor merely in what we hear him say. He is in the personal experience of those who see Him honestly in themselves. He is the Subject of the subject seeking the Truth. Till one can claim to know Him as He is, claim Him as one’s own Silent Self or the self,one has to hear what He says and know what He teaches.

Self-Knowledge is the way of the Jnani towards the Highest Good, the Universal Good. As an attainment it is the Pure Being or Brahman, One and Indivisible, the Substratum of all that exists. As a process it is the persistent inquiry into the uninquiring Self,what it is, how and where it is,a process in which the spirit that inquires attempts to get down to the level of the Subject of inquiry. The moment the level is reached, the process ceases and the Highest Good descends into the inquirer and bears him on in triumph into the Mighty Self, which is neither the inquirer nor the inquired into, but something which includes and transcends both. All searching perishes there into Attainment, and the Object of search becomes an ecstasy of first-hand Experience, it becomes the Subject, One and Absolute. It is the State where nothing is lost and everything is gained. It is the State where one gains all by losing the nothingness of the ego. It is the State completed and perfect. It is Bliss Supreme. But alas, it is also a State each must find for himself or herself.

The question “WHO AM I?” is a razor’s edge and cuts through all other questions that earthly imagination may conceive. All questions resolve themselves into it. The physicist who ponders on “What is light?”, the beggar who piteously begs asking himself “Why must I beg?” and the prince who nightly broods “Why do my subjects rebel?”,all beg the same question in different ways. “Who am I?” is, therefore, the Question of questions and goes directly to the root of every problem and sums up the entire spirit of quest. Indeed, whatever be the object of man’s quest, he cannot avoid the quest for the Self.

Let us first consider the physicist; who is prepared to, reduce everything into nothing,than whom none is supposed to be less concerned with spiritual truths. What does he investigate into? Light, (let us say). Does he know how light is seen? Of course. He presumes that he knows. Is it the eye which sees light? Or is it the retina, or the brain-centre? If any or all of these see light, why is not light perceptible to the lifeless corpse, which possesses the whole physical mechanism of perception?

Obviously, the act of seeing as well as the object seen have something to do with the Self that sees. But how it sees without its own physical attributes or even material existence is more than mortal mind can guess. The physicist knows that his learning and scholarship has some very intimate relation with his mind and intellect. But does he know what his mind and intellect are? Can the mind know why it thinks? Thinking why, it will continue to think but will never know the why. One thing is clear, that as long as one does not know what the seeing Self is apart from the act of seeing and the object seen, all seeing is mere guess-work, necessarily incomplete and inaccurate. It may be eminently practical, but it will be equally untrue. Inference based on incomplete data is as bad as investigation conducted with inaccurate instruments. The subject cannot help seeing the object in relation to himself. The nature of his own perceptive faculty must necessarily determine to some extent the nature of the object seen. The human eye sees light as selfrevealing, whereas the eye of the owl sees it as darkness and sees darkness as light. How can the subject know exactly what the object is in itself, when he does not know himself? How dare he presume that what he knows of the object is really true? The Self is nearer to him than any object he may see or investigate into; without himself there is no object for him to see or investigate. How then dare he ignore himself, the subject, and try to know about the object?

The beggar and the prince are no better than the physicist. In a sense they too are investigators. They want to know why certain things are outside their control. The beggar is never sure of getting his food, and the prince obedience form his subjects. But do they ever inquire why and for whom they want anything? Who are they? They seem to know only their wants and not themselves. Then, is not the prince who wants something he hasn’t got as much a beggar as one who begs for something when he has actually nothing even for his physical sustenance? Really, is not the prince, full of desires seeking fulfilment, worse than the beggar? Because, having as much as he already has by virtue of his power and position, he wants something more; still he feels the want. The mind seems to conspire against itself. The Prince has his power and wealth, yet like the beggar’s dog he meekly follows the beggarly mind. Some rare discriminating soul discovers the tragedy inherent in the situation. That is why, perhaps, a thoughtful prince or a mighty monarch,a Buddha or an Asoka,gives up his kingdom, and becomes a beggar. Who is the beggar and who is the prince? The prince who remained a beggar in his palace, or the Prince who became a beggar leaving the palace?

All want, pain, grief and fear are due to craving for things which are not strictly yours. The limpid stream of pure Consciousness called “I” is contaminated by throwing into it the rubbish of not-”I”. Why, then, wonder that the simple selfawareness, the “I”, the Self that you really are, has become a psychological mystery? Its very familiarity renders it paradoxically unknown, and makes you a stranger to yourself. The newly born babe, which takes time to recognise its limbs as its own, is perhaps nearer the truth about itself than adult man, - its wayward offspirng, - who claims everything as his except himself. If all growth from childhood is a continuous deviation from true self-hood, when shall man get out of the wilderness and discover himself as the Monarch of all he surveys? When shall he know his own magnificence, that he is the Self Absolute in whose eternal being myriads of worlds rise, remain for a time and finally vanish?

In short, man is not the conception he creates of himself. Nor is the world what he thinks it to be; it is monumental lie, and if he runs after it he belies his true nature. Man as a Man is but the Perfection of Truth. But when he identifies himself with the body and the rubbish of the world, he becomes a monumental lie, assiduously built and vainly sustained. Let him, then, give up the world and its riches, take up the quest for the “I”, the eternal Treasure within. Let him unlearn what he has so painfully learnt, and learn afresh, That which is his without learning. Truly, the Good Shepherd had learnt more than what all the learnedness of the libraries could teach. Oh, what does it profit man if he gains all the world but has lost his soul? Not all his learning and wit will avail him to know who he is unless he ceaselessly brushes aside his thousand and one thought-processes and pursues the solitary needle-pointed quest of “WHO AM I?”