Meet a Guru: Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi is a very well known Indian guru of the Advaita Vedanata philosophy. He died in 1950 but his quotes and books of his teachings continue to influence people today. (His birth name was Venkataraman Iyer and he is also sometimes called Ramanasramam).

ramana maharshi

Background

It is said that he became self-realized/enlightened by self-reflection (incited by ruminating on his father’s death) and did not seek to go out and teach. Rather, students slowly began to flock to him because of his serene presence. It was at age 16 that Maharshi believed he became self-realized. Traveling around to various temples, he became more and more ascetic.

Teaching

Our true self is already enlightened and free, we just need to see it. He advocated using mostly self-inquiry (though not as an intellectual exercise, but as a spiritual one) and also bhakti (devotional and self-surrendering practices).

Here are some quotes attributed to Sri Ramana Maharshi:

*Mind is consciousness which has put on limitations. You are originally unlimited and perfect. Later you take on limitations and become the mind.

*No one succeeds without effort… Those who succeed owe their success to perseverance.

*All bad qualities centre round the ego. When the ego is gone, Realisation results by itself. There are neither good nor bad qualities in the Self. The Self is free from all qualities. Qualities pertain to the mind only.

*You need not aspire for or get any new state. Get rid of your present thoughts, that is all.

Criticism

Sri Ramana Maharshi is one of the most respected gurus in the world. It seems as though he lived as he taught and kept away from material possessions (being an ascetic) and scandal.

Here are some examples of Sri Ramana Maharshi responding to criticism made directly to him: http://bhagavan-ramana.org/criticism.html

People sometimes bring up something about him approving of Hitler, but that appears to be an exageration. Here’s what my source for all things guru controversy has to say about that: http://guruphiliac.blogspot.ca/2006/03/ramana-hearted-hitler.html

My Experience

In 1931 a biography of Maharshi (Self Realization) was published and it brought knowledge of him to the west. He has been an enormous influence on Hinduism in the west and that can’t help but reach me. Advaita philosophy like he taught is the basis of my beliefs. I’m not very familiar with him and his legacy, but I know it affected my life from before I was born.

Learn More

Books:

* I am not endorsing any of the teachers highlighted in this feature

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • HARRY

    @ Ambaa

    My mother used to say that if you look for blemish you will always find it on everything because it’s your nature to find it and that’s the way human being is built and nothing can be done about that. But to look beyond the blemish is very hard and difficult but without that one cannot understand the human being and it’s very nature. Therefore it’s not hard to find blemish on the gurus, because in the end they are human being first divine later.

    • Ambaa

      So true!

      Too many people, I feel, are not willing to see that great and enlightened gurus are also human. Just as we are human with human failings, but have the potential within us to be just as divine as they.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Enlightenment provides perspective, not sainthood. But I think there are saints.

    • Ambaa

      That’s an interesting perspective. I’d not thought of it like that. What would the definition of a saint be for you?

      • Kevin Osborne

        Attention out. There’s a scale of attention on my site that is,
        Love as attention out
        Love as help
        Love as duty
        Love as attention on oneself
        God manifests as all things, of course, but one of them could be said to be attention, or focus. A saint would tend to have his or her attention out nearly all the time. When we love our attention is on the other person (when you have children this is very clear).
        If we don’t or can’t have our attention on the other person we can help them, but then we have some attention on ourselves.
        With less attention on the other person love becomes duty. We ought to love and/or help.
        When attention is on oneself we get the conversion folks. They want you to put your attention on them. In a way you don’t even exist to that individual except as their creation. If you don’t do what they want, something is wrong with you.
        Not that there is any morality attached to any of these We all can do what we want. But for me, a Saint is interested in the other person and has very little attention on oneself. And the solution for love problems, therefore, is always attention on the other person. You’ll figure out what is wrong, even if you don’t like the answer.
        I am a long way from a saint but can imagine, I think, what that would be like.

        • Kevin Osborne

          Ambaa, do you have a definition of a Saint?

          • Ambaa

            I always equated fully realized person with saint and didn’t give it more thought than that. Do you think that your definition of saint is easier or harder to achieve? Because it seems to me that learning to have attention out would be a step along the way towards enlightenment.

          • Kevin Osborne

            I would define enlightenment as stepping out of the physical limits of the universe, meeting God, and knowing that it has happened. You know. After that the system of this place comes into view. One sees how things work, not all at once, but as one sees different parts of the place it all makes sense.
            One still is faced with motion and living. This place just don’t stop. Either one drops consciously full bore into it-Robert Penn Warren’s “…out of history into history and the Awful responsibility of Time.”, or acquires an amused detachment, or is somewhere in between. None of which is sainthood, to me.
            You become enlightened in your own way, but the system lets you out when you put a particle in full relationship to the rest of the system-you fully understand one thing. Boom, you’re out.
            We don’t understand (which is to say we don’t see) because of all the motion. Everything is in motion relative to everything else and the entire universe is in a very fast spin that we are not aware of.
            Meditation effectively stops all that motion and just living life in a willingness to understand can move one along.
            A saint may or may not immediately understand all that, in my opinion. But he or she is in a more direct touch with God and a relatively larger existence and is not interested in looking inside a farthing. A saint is interested in the outside and therefore loves everything as God loves everything, in a full personal now.
            At least that’s my take.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Wow, I just read the above statement, we are already free. Agree 100 percent.


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