Sri Ramana Maharshi's Moment of Realization

Page 3

B.V. Narasimha Swami's interview notes

Fifty-one years after B.V Narasimha Swami interviewed Sri Ramana to obtain information for the passage we reprinted on the previous page, the editor of The Mountain Path published some of his surviving interview notes. We reprint the entire article from The Mountain Path below. Italicized remarks are by the editor of The Mountain Path.

Introduction by the Editor of The Mountain Path

The most detailed account of Bhagavan's Realisation experience is to be found in B. V. Narasimha Swamy's biography, "Self Realisation". It was the first major biography to be written, and all subsequent accounts have relied heavily on his version, either quoting it verbatim or summarising its contents. The account in the book was not a direct transcription of Bhagavan's words, and the author makes this clear in a footnote which has appeared in most of the editions of the book. He said that he was merely summarising, in his own words, a series of conversations which he had with Bhagavan over a period of six weeks in 1930. The following account gives two of the conversations on which his account was based. They are the only records of the conversation which are still in existence, but fortunately they cover all the known aspects of the experience, so it is unlikely that much valuable material has been lost. The first conversation took place on 8-1-30 [January 1, 1930] and the second a few weeks later on 5-2-30 [February 5, 1930].

There are two important points in this account which are not brought out in the published version. The first is Bhagavan's repeated use of the word avesam to describe his initial perception of his experience. In Tamil, the word means "possession" in the sense of being taken over by a spirit. For the first few weeks Bhagavan felt that he had been taken over by a spirit which had taken up residence in his body. The second point is that the feeling persisted until shortly before he left home, and his discovery that the avesam was the Self and not some external being residing in his body may have been a contributory factor in his decision to leave home.

The account is in Bhagavan's own words, and though there are strong traces of the translator's style and preferred terminology, it is still a more accurate version than the ones which have been printed in all of the published biographies.

Sri Ramana Maharshi's Remarks

My fear of death was some six weeks before I left Madurai for good. That fear was only on one day and for a short time. At the time there was a flash of excitement, it may be roughly described as heat, but it was not clear that there was a higher temperature in the body, nor was there perspiration. It appeared to be like an avesam or some spirit possessing me. That changed my mental attitude and habits. I had formerly a preference for some foods and an aversion to others. This tendency dropped off and all foods were swallowed with equal indifference, good or rotten, tasty or tasteless. Studies and duties became matters of utter indifference to me and I went through my studies turning over pages mechanically just to make others who were looking on think that I was reading. In fact my attention was never directed towards the books, and, consequently, I never understood their contents. Similarly, I went through other social duties possessed all the time by this avesam, i.e., my mind was absent from them, being fascinated and charmed by my own Self. I would put up with every burden imposed on me at home, tolerating every slight with humility and forebearance. Periodically, interest in and introspection on the Self would swallow up all former feelings and interests.

That fear was only on the first day, that is, the day of the awakening. It was a sudden fear of death which developed, not merely indifference to external things. It also started two new habits. First, the habit of introspection, that is, having attention perpetually turned on my Self, and second, the habit of emotional tears when visiting the Madurai temple. The actual enquiry and discovery of 'Who I am' was over on the very first day of the change. That time, instinctively, I held my breath and began to think or dive inward with my enquiry into my own nature. 'This body is going to die' I said to myself, referring to the gross physical body. I had no idea that there was any sukshma sarira (the causal body) in human beings. I did not even think of the mind. I thought of the gross physical body when I used the term body, and I came to the conclusion that when it was dead and rigid, (then it seemed to me that my body had actually become, rigid as I stretched myself like a corpse with rigor mortis upstairs, thinking this out) I was not dead. I was, on the other hand, conscious of being alive, in existence. So the question arose in me, "What was this 'I'? Is it this body? Who called himself the 'I'?" So I held my mouth shut, determined not to allow it to pronounce 'I' or any other syllable. Still I felt within myself, the 'I' was there, the sound was there, and the thing calling or feeling itself 'I' was there. What was that? I felt that there was a force or current, a centre of energy playing on the body, continuing regardless of the rigidity or activity of the body, though existing in connection with it. It was that current, force, or centre that constituted my Self, that kept me acting and moving, but this was the first time that I came to know it. I had no idea of my Self before that. From that time on, I was spending my time absorbed in contemplation of that current.

Once I reached that conclusion (as I said, on the first day of the six weeks, the day of my awakening into my new life), the fear of death dropped off. It had no place in my thoughts. 'I' being a subtle current, it had no death to fear. So further development or activity was issuing from the new life and not from any fear. I had no idea at that time of the identity of that current with the personal God, or 'Ishvara' as I used to call Him. As for Brahman, the Impersonal Absolute, I had no idea then. I had not even heard the name Brahman. I had not read the Bhagavad Gita or any other religious works except the Periapuranam, and in Bible class, the four Gospels and the Psalms from the Bible. I had seen a copy of Vivekananda's Chicago Lecture, but I had not read it. I could not even pronounce his name correctly; I pronounced it 'Vyvekananda' giving the 'i' the 'y' sound. I had no notions of religious philosophy except the current notions of God, that He is an infinitely powerful person, present everywhere, though worshipped in special places in the images representing Him. This I knew in addition to a few other similar ideas which I picked up from the Bible and the Periapuranam. Later when I was in the Arunachala temple, I learnt of the identity of my self with Brahman, and later with Absolute Brahman, which I had heard in the Ribhu Gita as underlying all. I was only feeling that everything was being done by the current and not by me, a feeling I had had ever since I wrote my parting note and left home. I had ceased to regard the current as my narrow 'I'. That current or avesam now felt as if it 'was' my Self, not a superimposition.

While on the one hand, the awakening gave me a continuous idea or feeling that my Self was a current or force in which I was perpetually absorbed whatever I did, on the other hand, the possession led me frequently to the Meenakshi Sundaresa temple. Formerly I would visit it occasionally with friends, but at that time that produced no noticeable emotional effect, much less a change in my habits. But after the awakening, I would go there almost every evening, and in that obsession I would go and stand there for a long time alone before Siva, Nataraja, Meenakshi and the 63 Tamil saints. I would sob and shed tears, and would tremble with emotion. I would not generally pray for anything in particular, although often I wished and prayed that....

(The rest of this particular manuscript is missing, but a few weeks later, on 5-2-30 [February 5, 1930], Narasimha Swamy questioned him again on this topic, and Bhagavan gave the following answer:)

It was not fear of death that took me to the Madurai temple during those six weeks in 1896. The fear seized me for a short while when I was upstairs in my uncle's house, and it gave rise to that avesam or current. That obsession made me introspective and made me look perpetually into my own nature, and took me also to temples, made me sob and weep without pain or joy or other explanation, and also it made me wish that I should become like the 63 saints and that I should obtain the blessings or grace of Isvara — general blessings, specifying and expecting nothing in particular. I had no thought or fear of death then, and I did not pray for release from death. I had no idea before those six weeks or during those six weeks that life on earth was full of pain, and I had no longing or prayer to be released from samsara or human life or lives. All that idea and talk of samsara and bandha I learnt only after coming to this place and reading books. I never entertained either the idea that life was full of woe or that life was undesirable.

That avesam continues right up to now. After reading the language of the sacred books, I see it may be termed suddha manas, akhandakara vritti, prajna, etc.; that is, the state of mind of Isvara or Jnani.

Question: How is it that there was a perception of difference and prayer that "I should become like the 63 saints and get Isvara's grace?"

Bhagavan: The akhandakara current was sporting with these and still remained despite that desire.

This article appeared originally as "The Death Experience of Bhagavan." The Mountain Path 18.2 (1981): 67-69. Published by Sri Ramanashramam.

This page was published on February 4, 2014 and last revised on April 4, 2014.