Sonntag, 14. September 2008

2.3 The Death-Experience

Soon thereafter, in the middle of July 1896, at the age of 16, the great change took place in his life. He was at the time a pupil in his final year at secondary school. He later described the incident which changed his life completely and irreversibly, “It was about six weeks before I left Madurai for good that the great change in my life took place. It was so sudden. One day I sat up alone on the first floor of my uncle’s house. I was in my usual health. I seldom had any illness. I was a heavy sleeper. … So, on that day as I sat alone there was nothing wrong with my health. But a sudden and unmistakable fear of death seized me. I felt I was going to die. Why I should have so felt cannot now be explained by anything felt in my body. Nor could I explain it to myself then. I did not however trouble myself to discover if the fear was well grounded. I felt ‘I was going to die,’ and at once set about thinking out what I should do. I did not care to consult doctors or elders or even friends. I felt I had to solve the problem myself then and there.

The shock of fear of death made me at once introspective, or ‘introverted’. I said to myself mentally, i.e., without uttering the words – ‘Now, death has come. What does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.’ I at once dramatized the scene of death. I extended my limbs and held them rigid as though rigor-mortis had set in. I imitated a corpse to lend an air of reality to my further investigation. I held my breath and kept my mouth closed, pressing the lips tightly together so that no sound might escape. Let not the word ‘I’ or any other word be uttered! ‘Well then,’ said I to myself, ‘this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body, am “I” dead? Is the body “I”? This body is silent and inert. But I feel the full force of my personality and even the sound “I” within myself, - apart from the body. So “I” am a spirit, a thing tran-scending the body. The material body dies, but the spirit tran-scending it cannot be touched by death. I am therefore the death-less spirit.’

All this was not a mere intellectual process, but flashed before me vividly as living truth, something which I perceived immediately, without any argument almost. ‘I’ was something very real, the only real thing in that state, and all the conscious activity that was connected with my body was centred on that. The ‘I’ or my ‘self’ was holding the focus of attention by a powerful fascination from that time forwards. Fear of death had vanished once and forever. Absorption in the Self has continued from that moment right up to this time. Other thoughts may come and go like the various notes of a musician, but the ‘I’ continues like the basic or fundamental sruti note which accompanies and blends with all other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading or anything else, I was still centred on ‘I’.

Previous to that crisis I had no clear perception of myself and was not consciously attracted to it. I had felt no direct perceptible in-terest in it, much less any permanent disposition to dwell upon it.”7

Later it was said on more than one occasion that Ramana’s experience had lasted approximately 20 minutes or half an hour. But he himself stressed that there was no concept of time in it.

It is also remarkable that afterwards Ramana never harboured any doubts concerning his Self Realization. The experience remained with him thereafter uninterrupted and was never lost or diminished. He had absolutely no doubts about it and never searched confirmation from a spiritual teacher. He repeatedly stressed in later years, that despite the apparent changing phases of his outward life there was never any change in this experience and he always remained the same.

As a result of this death experience Ramana’s life was instantly and totally changed. He reports, “When I lay down with limbs outstretched and mentally enacted the death scene and realized that the body would be taken and cremated and yet I would live, some force, call it atmic power [power of atman] or anything else, rose within me and took possession of me. With that, I was reborn and I became a new man. I became indifferent to everything afterwards, having neither likes nor dislikes.”8

From now on he swallowed everything that was served to him, whether delicious or tasteless, good or bad, with no regard to how it tasted or smelled, or to its quality. Formerly, if he thought an injustice had been done to him or if other boys teased him, he would stand up for himself. Now he accepted everything without protest. He was also no longer interested in joining in his friends’ sporting activities, but rather sat alone and meditated with eyes closed in yogic posture. At school he started to encounter problems, because he was no longer interested in books. He remembered, “After the ‘death’ experience I was living in a different world. How could I turn my attention to books? Before that, I would at least attend to what the other boys repeated and repeat the same myself. But afterwards, I could not do even that. At school, my mind would not dwell on study at all. I would be imagining and expecting God would suddenly drop down from Heaven before me.”9

Though Ramana told nobody about his great experience and tried to appear as before, other people of course noticed the change which had come over him. His elder brother Nagaswami made fun of him and called him a jnani (enlightened being) or yogiswara (highest of all yogis) and said mockingly that he would do better to take himself off to some dense primeval forest like the seers (rishis) of old.
7 Narasimha Swami: Self Realization, pp. 20-22
8 Mudaliar: Day by Day, p. 41
9 dto., p. 279

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