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Ramana Maharshi

He dared to ask the hardest question: Who am I?

By Phil Catalfo

Described by yoga scholar Georg Feuerstein as one of the 20th century's greatest adepts in jnana yoga (yoga of wisdom), Ramana Maharshi was born in the southernmost part of India in 1879. At age 17, he was seized one day by an intense fear of death, which led him to ask, "Is this body 'I'?" The realization that it was not catalyzed his enlightenment. He soon left the family home for Arunachala, the sacred hill in Tiruvannamalai; for the next 54 years (until his passing in 1950), he lived there in a blissful state of oneness, never leaving the holy hill or Sri Ramanasramam, the ashram that devotees built there. Over the decades, his fathomless, often silent presence attracted thousands, including Swamis Sivananda and Chinmayananda, Harilal Poonja ("Poonjaji"), and monks of the Ramakrishna Order—themselves luminaries who came to bask in the grace of the Advaita Vedanta master. Maharshi's primary teaching was to encourage the practice of atma vichara (self-inquiry). Asked about God, he replied, "Why do you want to know what God is before you know what you are?" Maharshi named no heir to succeed him, but his presence is still felt at Sri Ramanasramam and among his worldwide followers, as well as in the many books by and about him. Visit www.arunachala.org or www.ramana-maharshi.org to find more information.


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