Sonntag, 14. September 2008

8.4. The First Works Came into Being

Various people used to come up the hill to see the young Swami - the curious, the educated, who only wanted to test his knowledge, and spiritual seekers. Simple folk, children, even animals, all would come. Increasingly visitors with spiritual questions came to have their doubts cleared and to have spiritual scriptures explained. Ramana would write the answers down on little scraps of paper or on a slate using a piece of chalk, as at the time he was not talking.

One of Ramana’s earliest disciples was Gambhiram Seshayya who worked as a Municipal Office Overseer at Tiruvannamalai. He was studying the teachings of Vivekananda on different yoga techniques such as breath control, raja-yoga and jnana-yoga. As there were parts he did not understand he used to bring his books and explain his difficulties. Ramana glanced over the books and answered the questions by writing down the essence of the teachings in simple Tamil on small scraps of paper. So, over time, Seshayya found himself the owner of a large bundle of scraps of paper covering the years 1900 - 1902. He copied the answers given into a small notebook.

When Seshayya died in the late twenties, the booklet was found in his belongings. His elder brother made it available to Ramanashram. It was eventually published as the earliest work of Sri Ramana with the title ‘Vichara Sangraham’ (Self-enquiry), which is also included in ‘The Collected Works’.

Another of Sri Ramana’s disciples was Sivaprakasam Pillai, a philosopher, who was employed in the Revenue Department. In the many books he had studied he could not find the answer to his existential quest “Who am I?”. In 1902 he came to Tiruvannamalai for the first time on official duties. He heard about the Swami on the hill, visited him and asked him the burning questions that were troubling him. Again the answers were written down by Ramana on the floor or with chalk on a slate. Afterwards Sivaprakasam Pillai made notes of the questions and answers from memory. In 1923 he published them under the title ‘Nan Yar’ (Who am I?), which is again found in ‘The Collected Works’.

‘Nan Yar’ starts with the following introduction, “As all living beings desire to be happy always, without misery, as in the case of everyone there is observed supreme love for one’s self, and as happiness alone is the cause for love, in order to gain that happiness which is one’s nature and which is experienced in the state of deep sleep where there is no mind, one should know one’s Self. For that, the path of knowledge, the inquiry of the form ‘Who am I?’ is the principal means.”36 In the following passage Sri Ramana explains in greater detail what is meant by the quest and how it should be undertaken (see also Chapter 18).

What was explained by Sri Ramana to his early disciples in his first works, when he was barely more than twenty years old, has remained unchanged over the years. Above all ‘Nan Yar’ contains the essence of what Ramana taught throughout his life. When newcomers used to arrive at Ramanashram and ask him about his teaching, he would point to this booklet. He insisted that it should be sold so cheap that even the poorest could afford it.

It must be stressed that Ramana himself never felt moved to formulate his teaching of his own accord, either verbally or in writing. His writings – of which there are few – came into being as answers to questions asked by his disciples or through their urging, with the exception of a few hymns, which were his own initiative.
36 Collected Works, p. 39

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