Yogi Ramaiah

B. V. Narasimha Swami was the first English biographer of Sri Ramana Maharshi. He asked many devotees and disciples to write about their lives and experiences with the Master. Yogi Ramiah submitted a 2000 word essay, from which B.V.N. extracted a short edited account to print in his book, titled Self-Realization.

The following is B. V. Narasimha Swami's edited account published in Self Realization, followed by the full autobiographical essay written by the Yogi himself. All this text has been printed in Arunachala's Ramana, Boundless Ocean of Grace, Book II, published by Sri Ramanasramam and available at the Ashram Bookstall in Tiruvannamalai.

Yogi Ramiah belongs to the community of Reddiars and was a wealthy land proprietor of Annareddipalayam, near Buchi Reddipalayam, Nellore District. He received hardly any education. Being the sole owner of his properties he had every inducement to pass his days merrily with his thoughtless companions, boys of his own age. But at about the age of eighteen his thoughts took a serious turn and he gave up his former associates and took an interest in religion.

A Brahmin Guru imparted to him the Rama Taraka Mantram and asked him to repeat it five thousand times daily. .If the number is exceeded, what then?. asked the ardent youth.

"So much the better," was the Guru's reply.

"If I repeat it always?" was the next query. The Guru was delighted at the keenness of the disciple's enthusiasm and expressed warm approval.

Ramiah went on with his japam from morning till night, whatever he might be doing. He also began to practice pranayanam, breath control. Consequently, vairagya, or disgust with his worldly surroundings, grew so strong in his breast that he suddenly left home to go north to perform tapas in holy places like Kasi, etc.

On the way, he met his Guru who asked him if he had obtained his mother's permission for the pilgrimage. When he admitted that there was no intimation or permission, the Guru sent him back to Annareddipalayam, telling him to "Go and do your tapas in the seclusion of your garden and later on I shall come and see how you have progressed." Ramiah returned home and went on with his tapas. He developed both breath control and meditation without any one to help him. He was able to remain several hours in a blissful mood, beholding the tip of his nose, i.e, breath being easily regulated and stilled. His mind was equally stilled and happy. Perfect continence, sattvic food, just barely enough to keep the body and mind working, and intense devotion through his japa to God (Rama) carried him soon to illumination in samadhi. He noted with surprise how God Rama as an external being vanished and gave place to the feeling of God in the Self. Again he noted that though at the outset he retained the distinction between himself (the subject) and the objects he perceived or thought of, the distinction was dissolved as soon as he was lost in Samadhi,when he experienced no real difference between subject and object. Yogi Ramiah sitting on the ground, B. V. Narasimha Swami behind him, with pencil and paper. Circa 1929 "Could the two be after all identical?" was the hought that occurred to him. As it was a novel and puzzling experience, he did not feel sure of his conclusions and asked local pundits about it. Their replies did not satisfy him. So he came to Tiruvannamalai in 1925 and in Maharshi's presence asked Kavyakantha Ganapathi Sastri about it. .The subject is of course different from the object,. was the Sastri's reply. Ramiah was disappointed and looked up to the Maharshi, who at once supplemented or corrected the Sastri's reply: "Subject and object are distinct in the phenomenal world to the ordinary man, but in samadhi they merge and become one." Ramiah was very glad to note this corroboration from this eminent Swami. Thence forward he took Maharshi as his sole guide.

For many years he still continued with his life of yoga, with mounam (silence) and tapas, as its support. He ate little, controlled his breath and stayed many hours at a stretch in blissful ecstasy, mostly in the cottage of his own garden. He would also stay for a few months each year with Maharshi at Ramanasramam. He loved and was loved by the Maharshi. As Yogi Ramiah did not know Tamil, the Maharshi translated his Tamil poems .Upadesa Saram. and .Ulladu Narpadu. into Telugu. In appreciation, Yogi Ramiah helped in repairing Palithirtam, in the construction of Asramam hall and the Asramam well.

The original manuscript, wherein Yogi Ramiah tells in his own words about his life and experiences:

From my boyhood I had great devotion (bhakti) towards Sri Rama Namam. Till I was nineteen years old I was generally of a rajasic temperament and was fearless. I used to listen attentively whenever elders recited stories of God or taught dharma; and I used to make friendship with such elders. Once I heard of the life of Kabir from an old gentleman and at once I became sorrowful that I had wasted my life till then. .How to get undistracted devotion (ananya bhakti)?. .How can I become fit for God's mercy (kripa)?. These were my desires. Though I was not a bhakta from childhood like Kabir, I got vairagyam and wanted to do penance (tapas) like Valmiki, until the body is covered with ant hills. I then knew that penance meant meditating on Rama Namam continuously like the constant flow of oil, and to be in samadhi, forgetting this body. Thus I acquired bhakti and vairagyam. Subsequently love for the body (dehabhimanam) disappeared.

Formerly I had many friends, but the feeling of friendship for them left me. I couldn.t leave the continuous dhyanam (meditation) even for a minute. I used to feel sorry that the nights were being wasted in sleep. I used to feel that I was meditating even in my sleep. I used to be in meditation when I awoke. I used to get up at 3 o.clock in the morning, bathe and, sitting in a secluded place, would meditate till 8 o.clock. From 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. I would read Bhagavatam. After meals I would listen to Bhagavatam read by a Brahmin. In the evenings, I would go outside the town and meditate sitting alone. Even if such a place be the pathway used by men and cattle, I would neither know of or hear anything during meditation. I used to offer puja, imagining the form of Vishnu in my heart.

When Brahmanantha Thirtha Swami was at Nellore, I went and prayed to him to give me upadesa and teach me yoga so that I could meditate upon Rama and conquer the mind. He then gave me Rama Tarakam Mantram and asked me to meditate on it, observing pranayama, for a little while, at the time. He said that to practice pranayama vigorously, solitary living and food restrictions are necessary.

I was then meditating by focusing my attention towards the middle of the eyes. In a short time, Chitkalas (guiding spirits) began to appear in a variety of ways, but they disappeared after some time. Then a flame like the sun began to appear. This would appear even when meditating with eyes closed, but there would be nothing when opening my eyes. I thought that Surya Bhagavan was appearing. Knowing that the vision was from inside, I began to practice vigorously. After some time the vision assumed a clearer form like the moon. Later on in the place of this moon a jyoti began to appear. While in this condition, the drik (subject) and drisyam (object) would disappear and I would feel that the atma was Poornam, the Perfect survivor. At that time this condition would not last continuously, but would only recur from time to time. I then got extra vairagyam. It was at that time that I left my home.

Without telling anybody I wanted to go to Dandaka Forest and do penance like Valmiki and the rishis. Before traveling north, I got down from the train to meet my Guru at Bapatla, in the Guntur District. As soon as he saw me he asked whether I had left home after informing my people. I told him the truth, that is, that I did not inform anyone. He then told me, "You cannot stay there (Dandaka Forest) and do penance. There are many difficulties there. Have an asramam in your village and do penance there. I will come and see you occasionally. Go back home to your village." Before leaving to return to my home, he gave me upadesam.

When I first got vairagyam I started a water pandal for distribution of water on Narasimha Jayanti days. It is still going on. I started my own asramam and named it Rama Asramam. It has been useful for meditation and also other purposes. Within two years of my spiritual life there was a break in yoga. I felt very sorry for this break and with firm determination, giving up all things, I joined this Rama Asramam in 1922. By constant meditation, sitting on an asana, I used to become fatigued. To get over this fatigue I would immediately do pranyama. While doing this and learning from books, such as Jnana Vasishtam, Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavatam, that yoga should be practiced keeping the lakshyam at the tip of the nose, I began to do likewise. Practicing like this for some time and seeing nothing at the end of the nose I began to feel discouraged. Summoning confidence, however, from my firm belief that what is written in the sastras can never be untrue, I gave up interest in food and sleep and assumed a meditative posture. I was always doing dhyana, dharana and pranayama. Gradually I achieved breath retention. Now and then I used to feel the sushumna, subtle force, rise up. Since then a jyoti began to appear. For some months there was no body sense and the Self was all pervading. Ahamkara disappeared. It was realized that it was not I that was meditating, the I was the witness of the ahamkara, that I really am Atman and that this is my true form. The external vision decreased by constant concentration of the Self.

There was no desire to eat anything. In spite of bodily difficulties the mind was always happy. I was thinking of Rama in saguna aspect and offering puja to Hari in my heart.

As the external vision decreased, I wanted to go to experienced gurus with Brahma Nishta and tell them about my experiences and to find out what their experiences were. By enquiry I found out that there were many who had read books only, without experiencing the Self and I could not find any with Brahma Nishta. In my boyhood when I came on a pilgrimage to Arunagiri I saw Bhagavan. Since then, at times, I used to think of him. Learning that Bhagavan knows Telugu, I went to him, offered my respects, sat in his presence and was looking at him. I found that he was introverted, his eyes were not moving, breath appeared to have stopped . no movement was visible in him. Seeing that, I also turned my vision inside. As I had acquired dharana siddhi at the tip of the nose, I found it easy to turn my vision inside. When the vision is turned to the drik (subject) inside, the drisya (objects) are not seen. Self was all pervading and perfect (purna). In this state I was sitting for two hours. I came to the conclusion that when the mind was subdued and the objects are not seen, the subject and object are merged in the Self, and that Self is all pervading and perfect. Ganapathi Sastri had come there and I questioned him about this. The sastri replied that the subject and object are different. I couldn.t agree with what he said. Bhagavan immediately said that when the mind is subdued there is only one thing, and that the subject and object are not different. I felt very happy on hearing this and concluded with certainty that he was the Guru and that he had realized the truth.

I then told Bhagavan about my eyes and he replied that they would get right after some time and that there was no danger. As it was Kartika Deepam time and, as there was a big crowd of people, Bhagavan said that if I went to see him in the night it would be more convenient. I agreed and went away. When I went there in the night, the doors were closed and all inside were asleep. Thinking it would not be proper to disturb them in their sleep I lied down on the pial outside. As it was the winter season the cold was severe, mosquitoes began to bite and I was unable to sleep. At about three in the morning Bhagavan came outside and saw me. I prostrated. Bhagavan who was all kindness said that I had been put to much trouble and asked me to come inside and sleep by his side. That night I asked him some questions:

Q. What is Nirvikalpa Samadhi?
A. That which has no sankalpam to Nirvikalpa.
Q. In Samadhi, will there not be even the Brahma Bhava?
A. If there is Bhava, it will not be Nirvikalpa.
Q. What is meant by Rama?
A. That in which everything takes its origin, exists and disappears, is Rama.

I then determined that all practices are only means to attain this final stage. I was giving up my former spiritual practices little by little. I felt immensely attracted to Bhagavan and felt quite at home in Ramanasrmam. Bhagavan was all love. After meeting Bhagavan I did not go to any other Guru.

I then read the life of Maharshi. By reading it one acquires vairagyam and dispassion. Just to see him is upadesam; to sit in his presence gives peace. This is my firm belief.

After some time, with Bhagavan's permission, I went back to my native place. I would come twice every year to see him. I heard blessed words from him regarding his experiences.The Swami himself would look after my food arrangements. Just as a father would nuture motherless children, he was always filled with limitless kindness. As I have no strength to walk any distance, I always stay in my cottage or with the Maharshi. And as speech may cause chitta chalanam (thought movement), I observed mounam (silence).

Some time later I came to see Bhagavan again and was in the Asramam for some days. One day I told him about my experience of that time. I told him that at the time of meditation only, the whole thing would appear to be one, and then at other times the subject and object appear to be different, and I asked him how this difference would disappear. He told me that there was still dehavasana, i.e., attachment to the body, and asked me to carry on with my meditation till it disappeared entirely.

I then asked him to tell me how to concentrate. He then said: "When a man dies the funeral pyre is prepared with fuel and the dead body is laid on the pyre. The pyre is lit. First the skin is burnt, then the flesh, and then the bones, until the whole body is converted into ashes. What remains thereafter? Only the spirit. But by Self inquiry the spirit also disappears."

"When this dehavasana goes, ahamkara also vanishes and the Self alone remains."

He had composed .Upadesa Saram. in Tamil. I prayed that he might translate it into Telugu. He rendered it in dwipada (couplets) form in Telugu. I then stayed in the Asramam for some days, went abroad for some time, and then returned to my Asramam. I then gave up everything. When I returned to Tiruvannamalai I would sometimes stay in the Mango Tree Cave near Mulaipal Thirtham.

After Bhagavan had composed .Ulladu Narpadu. in Tamil (.Reality in Forty Verses.), I prayed to him to teach it to me in Telegu. He rendered it into Telegu prose and taught it to me. Reflecting on what he taught me the mind was subdued and dissolved in the Self. Now nothing different from Self is seen.

This is from THE MAHARSHI News Letter - July / August 2008 Vol. 18 – No. 4

Ome Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya