Tag Archives: Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi and Lakshmi

Lakshmi was one of Ramana Maharshi’s most devoted and enlightened devotees. What makes this story so special and interesting is that Lakshmi was no regular devotee. She was a cow.

This story comes from the work of David Godman, who wrote on the life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi.  It starts in the middle 1920s when a man called Arunachalam Pillai had a dream instructing him to take a certain calf to Bhagavan. (Bhagavan is the title name of a holy teacher or glorious person.) Arunachalam Pillai did as the dream instructed. It was a long and difficult trip (approximately133km). Bhagavan, however, had a rule, not to accept any animal unless somebody in the ashram volunteered to look after it.

With no volunteers and not wanting the responsibility for himself, Ramana Maharshi tried to convince Arunachalam Pillai to take the mother and the calf back with him. Arunachalam, however, insisted that he had to leave it.  Bhagavan argued that he brought the calf and presented it as the dream demanded, so now with his obligation fulfilled, he could take her and her mother back.

Picture of Ramana Maharshi
Ramana Maharshi (December 30, 1879 – April 15, 1950)
That is when Ramanatha Brahmachari, one of Bhagavan’s devotees, who had no experience with animals, felt urged to jump up saying “I’ll look after it, Bhagavan. I’ll look after it!”

Still skeptical, Bhagavan accepted the calf and her mother to live at the ashram. They named the calf Lakshmi because it arrived on a Friday, Lakshmi’s Day, by Hindu tradition. Lakshmi is the Hindu god of wealth.

The cows made a mess of the vegetable garden, but Maharshi sided with the animals insisting it was the fault of Ramanatha Brahmachari for failing to watch them. The two animals devastated the ashram grounds. It was clear Brahmachari could not watch over them so the Ashram gave up the mother and her calf to a man in town named Pasupatti.

Some time later, Pasupatti came out to Ramanashram to have a bath in the tank that adjoins Ramanashram, bringing the mother and the calf with him.  After he had his bath, he brought Lakshmi and her mother to see Bhagavan.

From that day forward, Lakshmi would leave her caretaker in town every morning, come to Ramanashram and sit in the old hall next to Bhagavan, for the entire day. In the evening, she would go back to her stable in town.

Bhagavan would feed her special foods. She liked some of the same food as the human members of the ashram. She even had a favorite food.

Generally, when Lakshmi approached, she didn’t observe human protocols. There are several stories of her being in a very urgent mood to see Bhagavan. She would charge in trampling people who were standing in her way. Sometimes she would defecate in the hall. Still, Bhagavan never allowed anyone to criticize her or chase her away.

The reason Bhagavan said, is the animals that used to live at Ramanashram were the original tenants. They were the rightful owners of the property. “We’re squatting on their land. We have no right to inconvenience them in any way.”

He made it clear to all, that when Lakshmi entered, it was their job to get out of her way. She wasn’t able to negotiate tight spaces well. She would just walk straight to Bhagavan, trampling anyone in her way. He gave her complete free rein to come and go whenever she liked.

Lakshmi became a priority devotee. “When she comes in, give her some space. Let her come. Let her sit next to me.” Bhagavan instructed.

As she grew Lakshmi had nine calves of her own. Somehow she delivered three of her calves on Bhagavan’s Jayanti. That’s the annual celebration of his birthday. Coincidence or not, the author David Godman, does not know. Three calves in a row, for three years, however, is extraordinary.

Ramana Maharshi didn’t regard Lakshmi simply as a favored pet. She caught him with her devotion the same way that a few other devotees caught Bhagavan with their devotion.

Bhagavan seemed to understand and could mentally communicate with Lakshmi.  David Godman mentioned this to establish that Lakshmi could communicate complex notions and ideas to Bhagavan and Bhagavan could reply without spoken words.

One such incident was when the devotees were not feeding Lakshmi her favorite human food. Bhagavan responded by going on a hunger strike. When asked why he would not eat, he said he would not eat until devotees in the kitchen fed Lakshmi her favorite food. From then on she received her ration.

 photo ramana and lakshmi_zps8jk4u2dw.jpg
Ramana Maharshi and Lakshmi

Lakshmi fell in love with Bhagavan as many devotees did. Every evening, it became more and more difficult to make her take the walk back to town. During this time, Pasupatti had some domestic difficulties. Once Pasupatti could no longer take care of the animals, they returned to the ashram as full-time residents.

Throughout the ashram, the members believed Lakshmi was the reincarnation of a woman who used to look after Bhagavan on the hill. Her name was Keerai Patti. The name Keerai Patti translates into English “Greens Grandmother,” greens as in eatable green plants.

“Greens Granny” was living on Arunachala even before Bhagavan came. Bhagavan said he first met her in the 1890s.

Keerai Patti was one of the first people who took it upon herself to collect food for him, cook for him, and serve him. In the early years of Virupaksha Cave, Bhagavan lived in the cave itself and Keerai Patti lived a few hundred feet down the hill.

When Keerai Patti died, she was buried under a tree along the road. Since that time, the local highway department decided that all of those gravestones were encroachments and bulldozed them away. Now, no one knows exactly where she was buried.

Keerai Patti died in the early 1920s and Lakshmi was born three years later.  Coincidentally, the town of Lakshmi’s birth was Gudiyatham, the same town as Keerai Patti’s birth.

Ramana Maharshi would never answer a direct question on whether Lakshmi was Keerai Patti reborn. The devotees who wrote about this said Bhagavan never said it wasn’t Keerai Patti. When books were written claiming Lakshmi was Keerai Patti, Ramana Maharshi always approved them for publication. Lakshmi died in 1948. Ramana Maharshi died on April 14, 1950.

If you liked this story or if you are interested in more detail, I suggest you see David Godman Youtube Video, talks on Sri Ramana Maharshi: Narrated by David Godman – Lakshmi the Cow. It is truly a great historical documentary on Ramana Maharshi.

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Gangaji – what do you want?

What do you really want? Do you know? Could you possibly only think you do? Maybe thinking about it seems as a waste of time. There are so many responsibilities.  “It’s just pie in the sky.” Life dictates too many other obligations.

Suppose you are in a group of people instructed to make personal want lists. Many want a better life, a better job, more money, a new car, to be happy all the time, or to find love. Others want status, fame, power, enough money to quit working, or maybe a better sex life.

The first thing you notice is that many of those goals are vague. What is a better life? Let’s say you want more money. Suddenly a strange man approaches.  “Here ya go mate, have a twenty-dollar bill on me.” Then he gives you the money. Let’s say another person wants love. “Here you go, take this puppy. She’ll love you and be your most loyal friend.”

Those outcomes fit the definitions of the goals but may fall short of what was intended. You need to be specific. Isn’t that what the self-help experts tell you? Of course, it is. Next, you clean up your goal list and they send you on your way.

Now that the goals are specific, let’s go deeper. Gangaji suggests you ask “What will that give me?” In Code of the Extraordinary Mind, Vishen Lakhiani of Mindvalley asks the similar question. Next, he instructs you to separate ends goals from means goals.

For example, take the goal – I want money. That is primarily a means goal says Lakhiani. You use the money to get something else. You need to ask yourself some questions. Why do you want it? What for?  A person might give this answer. “I want money to travel, so I can see new places and meet lots of people.” That is an ends goal. But maybe you don’t need money for that. What? Are you crazy?  No, I’m not. Maybe what you need is the right job.

Picture of Gangaji
Picture of Gangaji on 2003 autobiography

Maybe you need to get out of your current rut and find a job that lets you do more of those things. You may not travel the world, but maybe you can travel the country, the state, or even just the city and surrounding areas. That could be a huge start. It sure beats sitting in a cubical or standing on an assembly line. You will certainly meet more people. You may have to cut your cost of living, but if you are happier isn’t it worth it?

I think you get the idea. A college degree is a means goal. The job you want is the ends for that goal.  Means goals are as important as ends goals. There are times and places for both. It is helpful to know the difference. Knowing the desired end prevents you from an endless pattern of means goals that never lead to an end. Knowing the desired end can save you time and make the difference between drudgery and happiness.

This sounds great. You are specific, and can now separate the means from the ends, and sometimes find quicker ways to your goal. Then what? Could there be more?

Let’s say you want to meet people. You want to help people. Maybe you want security. A $90,000 per year job and 1.5-million-dollar brokerage account may represent security. The perfect soul mate will bring you joy and love. That dream job may give you fulfillment. Helping people may give you purpose.

But wait! Could there be any Deception? Could we still be confusing the end goals with means goals at a deeper hidden level. Could your end goal be a means goal in disguise? And once we reach our goals, don’t we always just want something else?

Everyone wants love, happiness, significance, spiritual meaning, or some kind of enlightenment. Many people want security.  We are lead to believe our goals will give us those things. The questions Gangaji asks are “Are those things really dependent on an outside circumstance? Or are they already within you?”

Is a marriage partner required for love? Could that goal simply be another attempt at seeking happiness externally? Could that concept of love be a boxed-in or limited view of love? Beware of the ego here. It will quote you some psychological so-called facts to convince you that what you think, or what society teaches is correct, only to keep you on a never ending quest.

Gangaji says you already have it within you. Love and peace come from within you. If the final answer to your goals is to be at peace or to rest in the truth, then it is possible now and in this moment. Peace, love, and rest have nothing to do with those other external things. And can you really find security in the outside world? And isn’t peace, love, happiness and joy the ultimate end of all goals?

Gangaji instructs us that if we discard our preconceived ideas, or most of what society has programmed into us, we can find many of these things regardless of any internal or external circumstances. In other words, we can short-circuit the whole progression because we already have it within us.

Ramana Maharshi Picture
Ramana Marharshi

Ramana Maharshi at beginning of “Who Am I?” states that all beings desire to be happy and that happiness alone is the case for love.

Let us fast forward to question 24 of that work – What is Happiness?
Answer:
“Happiness is the self. We imagine through our ignorance that we derive happiness from objects. When the mind goes out it experiences misery. In truth when its desires are fulfilled it returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is self. (As opposed to the object.)

“The mind moves without rest going out of the self and back into it. A person in the hot sun feels cool when he sits in the shade of a tree. Someone who keeps going from the sun to the shade with no good reason is a fool. A wise person simply stays in the shade.”

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Books worth checking:
The Diamond in Your Pocket – Gangaji
Code of the Extraordinary Mind – Vishen Lakhiani

Free on the web:
A free copy of Who Am I?  Ramana Maharishi
A Quick Look at the Story of Ramana Maharshi

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A Quick Look at the Story of Ramana Maharshi

picture of Ramana Marharshi

 

Ramana Maharshi was born in 1879 as Venkataraman Iyer, in what is now Tiruchuli, Tamil Nadu, India.  After a near death experience and spiritual awakening in 1896, he had to sneak away from his family because they would not approve of him becoming a sannyasin – one whose life is marked by renunciation of material desires and who detaches from material life. He took a train to Tiruvannamalai and stayed in that area till the end of his life.

[See map below – The lower star is Tiruchuli. the upper star is Tiruvannamalai.]

Early Spiritual Life

Three years later in February 1899, Ramana left the foothills to live on the Arunachala Hill (actually a mountain) eventually taking up residence at Virupaksha Cave for the next 17 years.

One of Ramana Maharshi’s first teachings of note was his reply to a series of questions asked by Sri M. Sivaprakasam Pillai about the year 1902.  Pillai was visiting the area representing the Revenue Department of the South Arcot Collectorate.  While there, he went to Virupaksha Cave on Arunachala Hill and met Ramana Maharshi This record of this was first published by Sri Pillai in 1923 and titled Who Am I (Nan Yar?). [ There is a link to free copy at end of article.]

Another slightly longer work, titled Self-Enquiry, was published by Gambhiram Seshayya during the same time period.  Seshayya was the Municipal Overseer at Tiruvannamalai circa 1900. This work, titled Self-Enquiry, came from notes taken between 1900 -1902. Both this work and ‘Who Am I?’ are available for free on the internet.

googlemapTiruchulitoTiruvannamalai
Lower star is Tiruchuli. Upper star is Tiruvannamalai.

Introduction to the west

Other works included a biography of Ramana Maharshi, Self Realisation: The Life and Teachings of Ramana Maharshi, written by B. V. Narasimha, published in 1931, and A Search in Secret India, by Paul Brunton. Brunton’s book became a best-seller and it was then that Ramana Maharshi became well-known outside of India.

His Passing

In November 1948, a tiny cancerous lump was found on Ramana’s arm. The story is that since he was so beloved, he had access to the best medal treatment available but did not take much interest. Ramana gave his medical patch to another suffering man to see if perhaps it would help him. The other man lived, but Ramana Maharshi died on April 14, 1950 at 8:47 P.M. At the same time of his death, a shooting star was seen.

Self-Enquiry

Ramana Maharshi’s teachings recommended self-enquiry as the principal means to remove ignorance and gain self-awareness when combined with bhakti (devotion). Keep in mind that his not the same self-enquiry of modern psychology.  Ramana Maharshi ‘s method of Self-Enquiry consists of the question ‘Who am I?’. Ramana Maharshi taught it is the primary means of gaining happiness and knowing one’s self or true nature.

The answer to “Who Am I’ is not what is commonly given – “I am so-and-so. I have a wife and two kids and work at such-and-such.” Instead, it consists of the stripping away of what you are not. You are not the body. You are not the senses, you are not the organs of speech, movement, etc. You are not the breath. Neither are you nescience.  Neither are you the mind, thoughts or emotions.

What he uncovers is that what remains after all these things or ideas are stripped away is who you are.  You are the awareness that remains, the observer, the one who sees, or the one who watches what the mind thinks.  You are the force that allows all these things to happen. Once who you are departs, they stop.

You will note this runs contrary to some popular western ideas such as, “You are the sum total of all your thoughts,” or that all the above is the compilation of who you are. Which is right? That is for you to decide.

Ramana Maharshi’s teachings say you are that force, spirit, or observer period. You are not a combination of body, mind, and a spirit – you are the spirit. The spirit is a separate entity and all those other things are merely instruments of it. You are the observer and once you realize this and stay in that knowledge your problems begin to crumble.

The method is simple, but carrying it out is difficult.

Article by The Old Dirt Road – Paul Nieto

Free Links for his works:
Self-Enquiry http://selfdefinition.org/ramana/Self-Enquiry.pdf
Who Am I? (Nan Yar?) http://www.sriramanamaharshi.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/who_am_I.pdf

Article by The Old Dirt Road – Paul Nieto

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