By S. Ramakrishna

A trepidation overpowers one while attempting to weave a tiny garland of homage to the immortal sage of Arunachala, Maharshi Sri Ramana, on the occasion of his birth Centenary. The remarks Sri Ramana proffered to his devoted disciples when they planned to celebrate his birthday for the first time in 1912, come back to the mind as a strident warning and severe chastisement: At least on one’s birthday one may mourn his entry into this world (samsara). To glory in it and celebrate it, on the other hand, is like delighting in decorating a corpse. To seek one’s Self and merge in the Self — that is wisdom.

Ye, that wish to celebrate the birthday seek first whence was your birth. That indeed is one’s birthday, when he enters that which transcends birth and death, the Eternal being. Yet, with due deference to the feelings of his devotees, he did not prevent them from celebrating his jayanti year after year. But, as for himself, this celebration was like an inconsequential ripple in the ocean of serenity and silence that he ever was.

In a situation like this, Sri Ramana must have considered two aspects that were involved in the celebrations. Which was his real birthday? Was it not the day when he was well and truly established in the Brahma Stithi — the state of equanimity so eloquently expounded in the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita? Such a one is immune from all delusions. But there were the fervent pleadings of the disciples who yearned to utilise his advent for reinforcing in themselves all that they had learnt at his feet and gave them anchorage in life. They also wished to widen the pathway to the blessings of a purposeful life divine to their brethren all over India and the world.

Sri Ramana could easily fathom the sincerity of the intent, and the selflessness of the effort. His attitude was verily that of the jnani of the Bhagavad Gita who participates in the affairs of the world wisely but with total abandon and disinterestedness.

This brings us to the question of the ultimate goal that Sri Ramana always taught — the goal of Self-knowledge, of Selfidentity, which he had actually experienced and achieved. To him, there was the non-dual Brahman and nothing else. This transcendental experience of the non-dual Brahman could be got only through a constant and searching inquiry into oneself — “Who am I?” Self-enquiry, therefore, is the means he taught to reach this goal.

The numerous anecdotes, accounts of various encounters, and the questions and answers that punctuate the life of Sri Ramana reveal beyond doubt his persevering reiteration of the need for Self-enquiry. Sometimes questions seemingly unconnected with the subject elicited from him instructions regarding Self-knowledge.

This search for the true nature of human personality, the meaning and significance of human life on earth, the source of the “Intimations of Immortality” that gifted men receive now and again, has been going on from time immemorial. Perhaps, in the earlier stages, this search was directed outwards but very soon man turned his gaze inwards and looked for an answer not in the depths and distances of Nature but in the innermost recesses of his heart. We have in the Upanishads, the young seeker Nachiketas turning boldly his eyes inwards and seeking from the God of death an answer to the eternal question, “Who am I?” The quintessence of the life and message of Sri Ramana is also the same — relentless quest for “Self knowledge.”

Sri Ramana never consciously did anything to make an impact and to carve out a niche for himself in the annals of history. He shunned all publicity and image building. He never gave discourses, much less went out on lecture-tours. When people went to him and put questions, he answered them in his own simple way, devoid of pontifical solemnity. True, he did some writing, in response to the entreaties of seekers, but they are very few though very precious. Asleep or awake, he was so fully immersed in the bliss of the immortal Self, that he gave no attention to his mortal, transient self. He was totally unassuming and had successfully effaced himself.

Sri Ramana did not found a new cult or a new religion. He did not insist on compliance with any marga, ritual or line of conduct. Neither did he give any new direction or effect any reform within an existing one. But he showed a new path to adherents of all religions — the direct path of erasing the ego ad discovering the Self, by Self-enquiry.

The timeless snows on the Himalayas have been enriching the plains below with nourishing waters for many millennia and will continue to do so for many more. Similarly, in perpetual confirmation of the standing proclamation of the Lord in the Gita, age after age, whenever the waters of spirituality seemed to be ebbing away, rishis and munis have descended on this punyabhumi of ours and made the tide of spirituality rise higher and bathe the low-lying areas of human existence, again and again. Sri Ramana undoubtedly belongs to this parampara of immortal Godmen.

Strange are the ways in which sages and saints keep the stream of spirituality constantly flowing. Some lead a life of incessant activity, while others withdraw into the quietness and the silence of some hallowed place. There, like a dynamo, they generate the power that transforms people from lead to gold. To the superficial eye, pomp and pageantry might appeal, but behind them all there is a vast storehouse — akshayapatra — of inexhaustible power, luminous and strong, serene and silent.

The Vedas themselves point out that the most potent form of sound is inaudible. It is only wen it gets modified into lower forms that it becomes audible speech. So it was with Sri Ramana. This is his uniqueness. Beneath the small quantum of his utterances lies the depth of wisdom beyond one’s gaze and hearing.

Maharshi Sri Ramana is a symbol of serenity and compassion. He will remain for generations to come as a living embodiment of Advaita Vedanta, the ideal of a perfect jivanmukta.

A few days before he cast off his body, the Maharshi proclaimed, “They say that I am dying, but I shall be more alive than before”.

There is no doubt that the message that this Messiah teaches through silence will become more and more eloquent and reverberate with greater power as the eternal wheel of time — kalachakra — turns on and on.

The highest tribute to such greatness is silence.

Silence is golden.