The Scriptures tell us that it is as difficult to trace the path a sage pursues as it is to draw a line marking the course a bird takes in the air while on its wings. Most humans have to be content with a slow and laborious journey towards the goal. But a few are born as adepts in flying non-stop to the common home of all beings - the supreme Self. The generality of mankind takes heart when such a sage appears. Though it is unable to keep pace with him, it feels uplifted in his presence and has a foretaste of the felicity compared to which the pleasures of the world pale into nothing.
Countless people who went to Tiruvannamalai during the life-time of Maharshi Sri Ramana had this experience. They saw in him a sage without the least touch of worldliness, a saint of matchless purity, a witness to the eternal truth of Vedanta. It is not often that a spiritual genius of the magnitude of Sri Ramana visits this earth. But when such an event occurs, the entire humanity gets benefited and a new era of hope opens before it.
About thirty miles south of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India, there is a village called Tiruchuli with an ancient Siva temple about which two of the great Tamil saint-poets, Sundara-murti and Manikkavachakar, have sung. In this sacred village there lived in the latter part of the nineteenth century a pleader, Sundaram Aiyar by name, with
his wife Alagammal. Piety, devotion and charity characterised this ideal couple. Sundaram Aiyar was generous even beyond his measure. Alagammal was an ideal Hindu wife. To them was born as their second son, Venkataraman ? who later came to be known to the world as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi - on the 30th of December, 1879 was an auspicious day for the Hindus, the Ardra-darsanam day. On this day every year the image of the Dancing Siva, Nataraja, is
taken out of the temples in procession in order to celebrate the divine grace of the Lord that made Him appear before such saints as Gautama, Patanjali, Vyaghrapada, and Manikkavachakar. In the year 1879 too, on the Ardra day, the Nataraja Image of the temple at Tiruchuli was taken out with all the attendant ceremonies, and just as it was about to re-enter, Venkataraman was born.
There was nothing markedly distinctive about Venkataraman’s early years. He grew up just as an average boy. He was sent to an elementary school in Tiruchuli, and then for a year’s education to a school in Dindigul. When he was twelve his father died. This necessitated his going to Madurai along with the family and living with his paternal uncle Subbaiyar. There he was sent to Scott’s Middle School and then to the American Mission High School. Though highly intelligent, with a powerful memory, he was an indifferent student, not at all serious about his
studies. He was a strong, healthy lad, and his schoolmates and other companions were afraid of his strength. If some of them had any grievance against him at any time, they would dare play pranks with him only when he was asleep, for his sleep was unusually deep: he would not know of anything that happened to him during sleep. He would be carried away or even beaten without his waking up in the process.
From his childhood, Venkataraman intuitively felt that Arunachala was something grand, mysterious and almost unreachable. One day, in his sixteenth year, an elderly relative of his called on the family in Madurai. The boy asked him where he had come from. The relative replied, “From Arunachala.” The very name ‘Arunachala’ cast a spell on Venkataraman, and with an evident excitement he exclaimed, “What! From Arunachala! Where is it?” And he got the reply that Tiruvannamalai was Arunachala.
Referring to this incident the Sage says later on in one of his hymns to Arunachala:
Oh, great wonder! As an insentient hill it stands. Its action is difficult for anyone to understand. From my childhood it appeared to my intelligence that Arunachala was something very great. But even when I came to know through another that it was the same as Tiruvannamalai I did not understand its meaning. When, stilling my mind, it drew me up to it, and I came close, I found that it was the Immovable.
Quickly following the incident, which attracted Venkataraman’s attention to Arunachala, there was another event that aroused his deep spiritual leanings. He happened to see a copy of Sekkilar’s Periyapuranam which relates the lives of the famous sixty-three Saivaite saints. He read the book and was enthralled by it. This was the first book of religious literature that he read. The example of the saints fascinated him; and touched a deep chord in his heart. A longing arose in him to emulate the intense spirit of renunciation and love of God that marked the life of those saints.
More details of Maharshi's life are available at the official website of Sri Ramanashram (link given bove)
Life of Sri Ramana Maharshi is also available in Gujarati (a rare book) at
Direct Link: http://www.swargarohan.org/Ramana-maharshi.htm