Ramana Maharshi (1879 – 1950) has been considered one of the most important sages of the 20th century. His thought is usually inscribed within the current Vedanta Advaita ( non-duality ). His powerful silence and his teaching of self-inquiry as a technique for deepening self- knowledge led to unanimous recognition of the greatness of his legacy. For most of his life, he lived on the sacred hill of Arunáchala in Tiruvannámalai (Tamil Nadu, India), where he was visited by thousands of people – both from the East and the West – who left testimony of the deep peace and wisdom that constantly emanated of its simple presence.
Ramana Maharshi was born in a small village near Madurai, South India. His father died when he was twelve years old, and his family sent him to live with his uncle in Madurai. There, he studied at the American Mission Institute. At sixteen, he heard the name Arunachala for the first time : although he did not know the meaning of that word, he could not stop thinking about it. Around this time, he obtained a copy of Sekkilar’s Periyapuranam, a book describing the lives of the Shaivite saints — the only religious work that Ramana confessed to having read up to that point — which aroused some curiosity in him about the religious phenomenon.
At the age of seventeen, Ramana Maharshi had a feeling that he was going to die. He lay on the ground, convinced of his death, held his breath and said to himself: My body is dead, but I am still alive . In that superconscious state , he could experience that he was not the body, but the Self; in that instant, he reached a spontaneous knowledge of the Self.
The hill of ArunachalaSoon after, he left his home and moved to Tiruvannámalai, to the temple of Arunachaleshvara . There, he remained absorbed in samadhi for several months, without eating. Ramana Maharshi felt irresistibly connected to the sacred mountain of Arunachala, which, in his words, was the spiritual center of the world. Little by little, captivated by Bhagavan’s silent presence, visitors arrived who would later become disciples.
In 1912, he ended his periods of samadhi and began to lead a completely normal life. At that time, Ramana already had numerous Hindu devotees of diverse origin and condition; among Western devotees, Major Chadwick, Paul Brunton, SS Cohen or Arthur Osborne would stand out.
In 1938, he received a visit from Rajendra Prasad, President of India, who confessed that he had gone to receive the darshan of Bhagavan advised by Gandhi, who had told him: If you want to have peace, go to Sri Ramanáshraman and stay a few days in the presence of Ramana Maharshi. You don’t have to talk or ask questions . Nine years later, his health was feared and, in 1949, a cancerous tumor was detected on his left arm. Ramana underwent various treatments but without clear improvement. On April 14, 1950, Bhagavan left his physical body and merged into the light of the Absolute.
Sri Ramana Maharshi said that he was not inclined to write anything. He wrote four books, but said he was only doing it to satisfy a devotee’s request: The Forty Verses on Existence , Sri Ramana Guita , The Essence of Self-Knowledge , Practices with Ramana Maharshi .