Dr. S. V. Ram, M.A., Ph.D.,
Head of the Dept. of Political Science, Lucknow University.

As the poet says, the proper study of mankind is man. But wisdom lies in one making oneself the object of investigation, analysis and the sole object of quest and realisation. This is as much true today, in this “atomic age of scientific advance,” as it was centuries ago. The life and teaching of Sri Ramana Maharshi establish the truth of this statement beyond all possible doubt.

Life in modern times, in spite of its material prosperity and intellectual and artistic attainments, has not been conducive to human happiness. Hindu and Buddhist thinkers with singular unanimity declare that avidya (ignorance) is the source of our sorrow and suffering. The primary characteristic of avidya is the ego-centered outlook of man. Consciously or unconsciously he gives preference to his individual needs, though they may conflict with the well-being of society. He developes an acquisitive instinct and looks upon every other being as his potential enemy. He clings to the things of the world, to his hearth and home, to his neighbours, to his community, in short to everything evanescent and unreal. He thus becomes a divided being through his ego-centric nature on the one hand and attachment to worldly things on the other. In this welter of conflicting claims he is tormented by fear, doubt and disbelief.

He makes the world his world of incessant activity. The tragedy of the whole situation is that in spite of man’s mighty intellectual attainments he has added little to his moral stature. He has overrated the importance of the virtues of the head, to which he has entirely subordinated the virtues of the heart. Indeed, so dense is his avidya that he is not even conscious of the fact that all the while he has been in the darkness of ignorance. He therefore presumes he has himself the fullest moral worth and competence for reforming the society and the world, without bestowing a single thought on the need of reforming himself, in the first instance. And the worst part of the tragedy is that when, due to his frustrated activity, he becomes sick of the world and the social conditions, he grows insensible to the moral values that should govern his conduct. Only when man understands the true aim of life will he find real and abiding happiness, the happiness which is the inalienable treasure hidden in the heart of every human being. Nothing reveals to us this aim of life more clearly, more powerfully, than the life and teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Saints and sages are best studied in their day-to-day life. The study of a world-personality as that of Sri Ramana Maharshi is of the utmost value for us, provided it is first-hand and unbiased. though I had heard previously much about the spiritual pre-eminence of Sri Maharshi, it is only recently that I had the good fortune of coming into direct contact with him at the Hill of the Holy Beacon. My old and esteemed friend, Dr. M. H. Syed, led me to the sacred presence of the Sage, and it was no surprise for me to find among the assembled devotees men from distant countries like Europe and America. One of the most remarkable features about Sri Maharshi is that his teachings are mirrored to perfection in his life. He teaches the path of Self-enquiry, and with Self-enquiry he began his spiritual career. Abidance in the Self, declares the Sage, is the highest attainment, and it is in this State Transcendent does one find him at all times. It is a still more remarkable fact that this harmony we now find between the Sage’s precept and practice had commenced with his boyhood life at the Hill of Arunachala.

One evening, some fifty years ago, while he was engaged in a routine class-work, he was impelled to enquire into the nature of the Self, the “I”, which is the common denominator of all thought, speech and activity. With lightning speed he dived into his being and reached That, which is beyond the ephemeral ego. He knew at once the nature of his true Being, the Self Immortal. Within a few weeks he left his home without informing anybody his actual destination. To this youth of seventeen renunciation of the world and realisation of the Self came almost simultaneously; and it is indeed a mighty realisation which, from that sacred day when he came alone to Tiruvannamalai to this moment when thousands of seekers approach his gracious presence, has kept him steadfast to the life in the Spirit.

There are certain very unique features in relation to the life and teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, which require special mention. The first and foremost among them is the simplicity of his spiritual message. He does not preach a complicated code of sadhana, but declares that man has merely to realise his inherent nature which is Eternal Bliss. This simplicity of his teaching may be explained by the fact that the Sage himself had his realisation in its pristine purity and without the prop of scholastic learning. Secondly, his teachings have a strong rational appeal, evidently because his own realisation, being based entirely on his own experience, is independent of all extraneous authority. It is due to this rational appeal that we find today men of all castes and creeds, of all races and religions and from distant parts of the globe paying their homage to the venerable Sage.

Perhaps there is no instance in history of a sage, who, during his life-time, had so influenced the thoughtful aspirants in his own country as well as in foreign lands, while he himself did not stir for more than fifty years from the place he chose for his abode. What has appealed to me most is the divinity and grace that radiates from the countenance of the Sage, who captivates the heart of the educated and illiterate, of the young and old, the prince and the pauper, men, women and children, nay even animals and birds. Perhaps all of them find, for the nonce at least, reflected in their own heart the divinity realised by the Sage.