Sonntag, 14. September 2008

17. Sri Ramana's Promise of His Continued Presence

They say I am dying, but I am not going away. Where could I go?
I am here.

Before his death Sri Ramana repeated these words again and again. Of course his promise was meant in a wider sense and was not limited to his presence at the Ashram. But as the Maharshi spent 54 years of his life in Tiruvannamalai and 28 of them at Ramanashram, his presence is felt there with special intensity.

At first it did not seem that the Ashram could continue as a spiritual centre. After the death of the Maharshi people returned home or went on pilgrimage. Most of the devotees who had lived with Sri Ramana for a long time, packed their belongings and left. Balarama Reddy, for example, had already taken the decision to leave during the night of death, “When we came to know that Bhagavan had expired, Viswanatha Swami, Subbarao and I left the crowded, despairing scene at the Ashram and walked down the road, west of the Ashram. We sat on the bridge opposite the Draupadi Temple near the Dharmaraja Tank. Sitting there in a deeply reflective mood, we talked about Bhagavan and what we would all do, now that he was gone. With Bhagavan´s physical absence, a new phase in our lives would begin. None of us thought we would stay in the Ashram, or even return to it once we left. … Now it was all over (so we thought).”130 And so, on the day after the funeral, he packed his belongings and left. Most of the devotees did the same.

Soon the Ashram was deserted. It is reported that thieves had even been able to break in in broad daylight. Financially Ramanashram was barely able to keep its head above water.

But gradually things changed. Devotees started to return. The understanding of what Sri Ramana had meant in his last promise, ripened in them. The overwhelming grief was gradually replaced by an overwhelming joy and the certitude of the continuing presence of the Master. Many devotees discovered a new kind of inner relationship to their Sadguru, feeling his presence more directly than ever.

The orderly daily routine, which was so characteristic of the Ashram, was kept after Sri Ramana´s death. A management committee was formed, with Chinnaswami being chosen as its President. Shortly before his death in 1953 his son T.N. Venkataraman (Venkatoo) succeeded him and since 1994 the latter’s eldest son, V.S. Ramanan has been the Ashram President.

Samadhi Hall today

At first a simple stone with a lingam was erected over Sri Ramana´s burial spot, under a palm tree roof. Later an imposing samadhi was built, which was opened in 1967. Mornings and evenings the Vedas (parayana) are chanted, as was the custom during Ramana´s life-time. After the parayana a puja is celebrated at his burial spot.

The favourite place for silent meditation from the very beginning was the Old Hall. In the small Nirvana room all the objects of Sri Ramana’s daily use have been laid out:- his walking stick, the water jug, the peathingy fan, the rotating bookshelf, his bed and much more.

Today Sri Ramanashram is a vibrant spiritual centre. More than 50 years after the death of the Maharshi it has lost nothing of its attraction, quite the opposite in fact. Ever more people, particularly in the West, have found in the person and teaching of Sri Ramana Maharshi their spiritual home and have chosen to make the pilgrimage to the place where he lived and taught for so long, so that their contact with him may gain in intensity.

It is, nevertheless, very important to point out that the true experience of the presence of Ramana and Arunachala must be in the Heart, it is not bound by time or place, and everything else has only the limited value of a manifestation. “Where could I go? I am here” means that he is the Heart of all living beings, the Self, as it states in Chapter X, verse 20 of the Bhagavad Gita, his favourite verse, “I am the Self, Oh Gudakesa, dwelling in the Heart of every being; I am the beginning, the middle and also the end of all living beings.”
130 Reddy: Reminiscences, pp. 117ff

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