21. 9 : RAMANA MAHARSHI (1879 –1950)
When he was hardly thirteen even before anybody could tell him that the soul was immortal, Ramana had discovered the fact for himself through inner enlightenment. The boy became a saint then and there. He renounced home and spent fifteen long years in deep meditation on the Arunachala Hills, in Tiruvannamalai, Tamilnadu, India. He had become a mahaRshi. Disciples came one by one and the Ramana ASram grew into a major centre of meditation, learning and training in spirituality. With his tremendous faith in the universal brotherhood of man and the need to attain spirituality by constant questioning of one’s own self, the mahaRshi spread the message of transitoriness of the material and visible world and the divine bliss that is inherent in every being -- by his preachings, certainly, but even more by his silent transmission of spirituality to those who had the good fortune to sit before him and yearn for that message. He may be taken as the greatest devotee of that formless brahman of which we all are so curious to know more but so incapable of understanding. He is considered by his disciples to have been an avatAra of Lord subrahmaNya. He is one of the spiritual triumvirate of the first half of the twentieth century who left an indelible imprint on the common psyche of India– the other two being Swami Viekananda and Sri Aurobindo. There may not be a single Indian of the twentieth century who has not been impressed and or influenced by at least one of these three towering spiritual giants.