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SARANAGATI
SRI RAMANASRAMAM
EXTENDED SUMMER EDITION
JUNE 2024 VOL. 18, NO. 6

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Dear Devotees,
Due to warm summer weather and insufficient rain, the Ashram and Tiruvannamalai are suffering water shortages. The Ashram is bringing in about fifteen trucks per week to meet minimal needs. Ashram accommodations have been left unoccupied over the last few weeks owing to the shortage.
In this issue, we look at the life story of Dr. M.H. Syed who came to Bhagavan in 1935 after reading A Search in Secret India followed by a chance meeting with Maurice Frydman.
See also the continuation of Bhagavan’s witness to the life of simplicity in Ramana Reflections starting on page 8.
For videos, photos and other news of events, go to https://www.gururamana.org or write to us at saranagati@gururamana.org. For the web version: http://sriramana.org/saranagati/June_2024

In Sri Bhagavan,
Saranagati


Table of Content


Calendar of Ashram Events

4th Jun (Tue) Pradosham
12th Jul (Fri) Natarajar Abhishekam
9th Jun (Sun) Punarvasu
16th Jul (Tue) Dakshinaayana Punya Kalam
18th Jun (Tue) Cow Lakshmi Annual Puja
17th Jul (Wed) Tamil month Aadi
19th Jun (Wed) Pradosham
20th Jul (Sat) Full Moon
21st Jun (Fri) Full Moon
21st Jul (Sun) Guru Poornima
3rd Jul (Wed) Pradosham
23rd Jul (Tue) H. C. Khanna Day
6th Jul (Sat) Punarvasu
25th Jul (Thu) Kavyakanta Ganapati Muni Day

IN PROFILE

Dr. Hafiz Syed
daivarata

Introduction
Dr. Mohammed Hafiz Syed came to Bhagavan late in life. He was nearing the end of his career as Professor of Persian and Urdu studies at the University of  Allahabad, where his scholarly research included religious and philosophical inquiry. He was drawn to the Theosophical Society, and his spiritual search intensified  in March 1935 when a friend, Mr. Bertram Keightly gave him a copy of Brunton's A Search In Secret India.

The book treats of the various luminaries, but it was the chapters on Bhagavan Ramana that spoke to the professor. He said he 'devoured it' and from then on, longed to meet Ramana Maharshi. Not long after this, he had a propitious encounter. The professor narrates:

That year during the Christmas week I paid my first visit to Madras to attend the Theosophical Society convention. From there I went to Mysore in response to the invitation of Sir Mirza Mohammed Ismail. On my return to Bangalore, I accidentally met Maurice Frydman. His ascetic life made me curious to know who he was and what made him lead an austere life. It was he who told me a great deal about Ramana Maharshi and roused my sleeping interest in him. Through his good offices I arrived in Tiruvannamalai one morning and was ushered into the Maharshi's presence by Paul Brunton himself.1

Already with this first meeting, Dr. Syed's orientation had changed. Up till then, the professor had been an academic. He had trafficked in the written word and used ideas as the means for transcending the less noble perceptions of the mind and heart. His life had been devoted to the pursuit of knowledge through the analysis of texts and the articulation of theories. His spiritual inquiry, though experimental and daring, had been merely scholarly, i.e. rooted solely in the discursive mind. But the world he was about to enter was something altogether new. Now he would be called to a direct encounter with the ineffable that defied logical analysis and intellectual dissection. He would have to move beyond the comfort zone of academic rigor to embrace the vulnerability of personal transformation where true wisdom lay not in books but in the silent depths of one's own heart. The professor writes:

Although I had been a student of Indian thought and culture for more than a generation, fear of death had never left me. Theoretically I had learnt from the sacred scriptures that man was immortal in his essential nature, yet my fear of disintegration at the time of death was very deep.2

The fruits of his research would no longer be discovered in the margins of a manuscript but in the stillness of the Maharshi's presence. If the repository of knowledge till then had been enshrined within the dusty tomes of the university library, his 'library' now would centre on the silence of a middle-aged sage clothed in a kaupina whose occasional verbal replies would unvaryingly transcend the boundaries of conventional academia:

The great gain that I had from my contact with Maharshi is incalculable. One thing on which Bhagavan laid great stress was the discovery and search of our own real self by means of self-analysis, self-investigation, and self-introspection. By pursuing this simple and profound method, as taught by Maharshi, my faith in the reality and never changing character of the self became deeper. 3

Even early on, Dr. Syed was eager to consult with Bhagavan and get clarification on numerous points. He was also not shy about expressing himself. In early January 1936, he addressed the Maharshi openly in the hall, confessing his prior apprehensions about coming to Ramanasramam:

I hesitated at first on arrival. I wondered if I would be permitted to approach you and converse with you. My doubts were soon set at rest. I find that all are equal here. You have established equality among all. I dined with you and others. If I would say so to my people in U.P., they would not believe it. The Brahmins would not drink water with me, nor chew pan with me. But here you have taken me and others like me into your fold. Though Gandhi is striving hard he cannot bring about such a state of affairs in the country. I feel very happy in your presence. 4

He would later reflect with great appreciation for Bhagavan’s spontaneous commitment to equality:

He made no distinction in everyday life between great and small, rich or poor, holy or profane. He treated all alike. He habitually saw the one life vibrant in all. He showered grace on everyone whom he considered eligible for it, whether they were frequent visitors to the ashram and attached to him or not. Those who came from other ashrams and were the disciples of other gurus received the same transmission of grace, if they were ready. I heard him repeatedly say that there is one who governs the world and that it is his task to look after the world. He who has given life to the world knows how to look after it. It is he and not us who bears the burden of the world. He would also say that each was helped according to his nature, in proportion to his understanding and devotion. 5

After his three days' stay at Ramanasramam, Dr. Syed came to take leave of the Maharshi and begged him to grant his blessing. The Maharshi nodded in assent, which was all-important for him at this early stage. The professor made the trip from North India again in 1936, this time during Navaratri. In 1937, a year which would turn out to be 'the most momentous' of his life, he suffered 'a series of misfortunes'. Fortunately, one of the most severe among them struck while he was at Ramanasramam where the new devotee could get help from Bhagavan directly:

I had to stay in one of the rooms in the ashram itself for more than a month on account of a serious illness. It was during these days that I realised vividly the Maharshi's true greatness as a divine man who was endowed with all spiritual and human qualities. While I was lying ill with a high fever, Maharshi was considerate enough to visit me three times and prepared upma for me with his own hand. My eyesight was affected by the high fever. When parting from him for Madras for treatment, I took hold of his toes and touched my eyes with them. For me, that was a sufficient guarantee that my eyesight would not fail me. And it has not. 6

This event marked a significant change in his life. It solidified his relationship with the Master and forever altered his understanding of himself as a mortal form:

This is no small gain for one who has been trained from his childhood to be afraid of a cruel fate, which would seek to transport me to hell or heaven according to my good or evil deeds. The Semitic religions have taught me to think of myself more as an embodied, created spirit than as an immutable, eternal, ancient being that is free from birth and death. Maharshi has made me think and feel in terms of spiritual values. Looking inward within my own self I have begun to identify myself with the spiritual self and the never-changing consciousness. This analytic method, which was all his own, has awakened in me the reality of spiritual life. 7

After the month-long illness, he made it back home, but noted with great appreciation the transformation he had undergone:
I shall never forget the grace he gave me during my serious illness. I had no idea what it was till I returned to my place in North India and felt its purifying effect on my life. I never felt so light and free from all taint of desire as I did in those days.8
In 1939 he came again during the summer vacation. One evening someone inquired about the purpose of creation. Bhagavan replied:

To know the inquirer is the purpose. The different theories of creation are due to the different stages of mind of their authors. 9

Dr. Syed was good at putting questions, and on every visit, he seemed to always have an inquiry. Once he inquired about the purpose of creation. GVS commented on the following exchange:

Usually Sri Bhagavan gave replies in Tamil, Telugu or Malayalam and got them interpreted. This time Sri Bhagavan spoke directly in English. He countered the questioner with a question: "Can the eye see itself?" Dr. Syed replied: "Of course not. It can see everything else, but not itself." Then Sri Bhagavan asked, "But if it wants to see itself, then what?" Dr. Syed paused and said, "It can see itself only reflected in a mirror." Sri Bhagavan seized the answer and commented, "That is it. Creation is the mirror for the eye to see itself." 10

Ramana Maharshi

Then it was asked whether Sri Bhagavan meant 'e-y-e' or 'I'. Sri Bhagavan said that we could take it figuratively as 'e-y-e' and literally as 'I'.

Dr. Syed asked for a method to know the Self and to eliminate the non-self. Bhagavan replied:

When the non-self is eliminated that which remains is Reality. It is not to be attained because it is not outside of you. It cannot be defined or described in words because it is for the ripe soul after complete self-surrender to the Guru to realise for himself. To the realised soul these questions do not arise at all. He lives like the sole monarch or like the child without any cares or worries. He smiles at people discussing the Reality with their minds, which is like the gnat swallowing the whole ether and emitting it out. 11
Bhagavan then narrated, in his characteristically dramatic and thrilling manner, the legendary story of King Janaka and sage Ashtavakra to show how self-surrender automatically brings Self-Realization:

Having read somewhere in the scriptures that the Self could be realised in the interval between a rider putting one foot in the stirrup and raising the other foot for mounting, King Janaka summoned all pandits in his kingdom and demanded of them either to prove the statement or to denounce it. They could not prove it; but as it was a scriptural saying they dared not denounce it. The King, enraged at this, put them all in prison. Sage Ashtavakra passing near Janaka's kingdom was informed of the above and warned not to enter it. Nevertheless, he went in, was summoned before the king and questioned about the saying. He replied that he could prove it under certain conditions. First the king must accept him as Guru and obey him implicitly. Secondly, he must immediately set free all the pandits. Thirdly, he must surrender the kingdom and all his personal possessions. King Janaka carried out all the conditions. Now the sage calling him, "Janaka" as he was no longer the king, ordered him to follow him alone, with a horse, outside the capital city. There he asked Janaka to place one foot in the stirrup and raise the other foot, and then said, "Now comes the supreme condition, you must surrender your self. Are you willing?" Janaka said, "Yes." From that moment Janaka stood transfixed with one foot in the stirrup and the other dangling in the air, frozen like a statue. (Here Bhagavan imitated the posture of Janaka). His people coming and seeing him in that state got alarmed and begged the sage to show grace and save him. The sage said, "Janaka, why are you like this? Ride home on the horse." To the great relief of the people, Janaka rode home and obeyed the sage in everything like a bond-slave. "Now do you admit the truth of the scriptural saying?" asked the sage. "Yes" said Janaka. "Then, rule the kingdom as before," said Ashtavakra. "Is not the kingdom yours now?" Janaka asked, "Yes" replied the sage "but I order you to rule the kingdom in my name." "I obey," said Janaka. 12

All such teachings and stories coming directly from Bhagavan's lips were new for Dr. Syed. He later comments:

One of the plainest teachings the Maharshi gave to seekers of truth was self-surrender to God or Guru. He recommended it because he himself had surrendered himself to the divine and reaped its fruit. This method of approach to truth, he said, was the easiest and the safest if one had an earnest desire to attain liberation. I have often strongly felt that his method of approaching truth was so definite, clear, and direct, it must appeal to the modern mind because it is essentially scientific.13

It became obvious that surrender in the total uncompromising sense in which Bhagavan demands was not easy. Devaraja Mudaliar noted the following exchange between them on the subject:

Dr. Syed asks Bhagavan, "Does not total or complete surrender require that one should not have left in him the desire even for liberation or God?"

Bhagavan: Complete surrender does require that you have no desire of your own, that God's desire alone is your desire.

Dr. Syed: Now that I am satisfied on that point, I want to know the steps by which I could achieve surrender.

Bhagavan: There are two ways; one is looking into the source of 'I' and merging into that source. The other is feeling "I am helpless by myself; God alone is all-powerful and except throwing myself completely on him, there is no other means of safety for me," and thus gradually developing the conviction that God alone exists, and the ego does not. Both methods lead to the same goal. Complete surrender is another name for jnana or liberation. 14

(to be continued)


The Ashram’s Summer Schedule

Ramana Maharshi

Due to the heat this summer, the Ashram management has taken the decision to move the evening Tamil Parayana to mornings starting at 9.15 am IST, just following morning puja in Bhagavan’s Shrine, to make it easier for devotees to attend. Live streaming is taking place between 8-10 am Mon-Sat. —


Events in Sri Ramanasramam: Achalam Guest House Expansion

Ramana Maharshi

About ten years back, Achalam Guest House near the President’s compound was inaugurated with 21 new spacious rooms. It became a favourite of devotees. Now the adjacent property is being made use of for a significant expansion. Some 39 new rooms will be added to the compound, which includes an extra floor on top. This will make for a total of 60 rooms for Ashram guests. On 13th May in the Achalam garden, the bhumi puja for the extension was performed and presided over by the Ashram President with Sushila Manni and devotees in attendance. —


Events at Sri Ramanasramam Maha Puja Celebrations

Ramana Maharshi

One day in 1916, Mother Alagammal went up the Hill to visit her son, with no intention of coming down again. Motherly longing developed into a deep spiritual thirst that initiated an inner journey toward selfhood, culminating in her full release on 19th May 1922. The first Mahapuja took place the following day at the foot of the Mountain at the site of her samadhi which was, as it turned out, the first construction at Sri Ramanasramam 102 years ago this month. Mahapuja celebrations have taken place every year since. This year’s celebrations commenced on the morning of 31st May with mahanyasa japa in the Mother’s Shrine and concluded with Deeparadhana around 9.30 am. For Mahapuja video footage, see: Maha Puja Video


Events in Sri Ramanasramam: Gobar Gas Expansion

Ramana Maharshi

Some twenty years back, the Ashram constructed a Gobar Gas plant in the Ashram gosala for the purposes of converting cow dung into usable cooking gas to supplement the Ashram kitchen’s fuel needs. Gobar gas or biogas is a clean affordable energy source produced from cow dung, making use of ‘anaerobic digestion’ inside a bioreactor. Biogas is considered to be renewable because its production-and-use cycle is continuous, and it generates no net carbon dioxide and can be cleaned and upgraded to natural gas standards. On 30th May, Mr. and Mrs. President attended the inauguration of the new plant which hopes to provide for all the Ashram kitchen’s fuel needs. —


RAMANA REFLECTIONS

Simplicity and Self-Emptying in the Age of Quantity (Part II)
Ramana Maharshi

Simplicity and Self-Emptying in the Age of Quantity (Part II)

IN THE FIRST segment we extolled the composure communicated by Bhagavan's physical form as he lay in blissful repose on his sofa in the hall. Every detail of his comportment expressed a profound simplicity and, as we said last time, embodied the idea that perfection is achieved not by adding anything new, but rather, by shedding all that is extraneous. We saw how Bhagavan's outward form clothed in a kaupina seemed to suggest the principle that less is more. We also heard King Kubera's story which revealed that earthly possessions are ultimately unsatisfactory. By contrast, when a small thing is sanctified, it confers great blessings. When we pare down the excess in our lives to focus on the essentials, internal harmony becomes a viable option. The psychology of lack is born of a nagging sense of there never being enough. We called the perpetual effort to fill the hole 'the disease of more', which just means living with an insatiable drive for more experiences, possessions, and worldly accomplishments. Scarcity thinking fuels ongoing consumption and endless stimulation of the mind and body in the belief that more will lead to happiness. Mahatma Gandhi once said:

In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.

If we know this to be true, what keeps us from simplifying our lives?

The 20th century poet, Robert Bly talked about the big black bag we carry around with us. Since our earliest youth, every insult or tender event got stuffed into the black bag — our father shouted at us, a schoolteacher corrected us in a harsh way, a neighbourhood bully mistreated us, a boss ranted at us, we were cheated in business, a friend betrayed us, or we lost a loved one but were unable to fully grieve the loss. We just stuffed the unresolved grief into the black bag. We have been carrying around the black bag with us everywhere we go, and by the time we reach our mid-forties, the black bag, Bly says tongue in cheek, "is 110 metres long, making it difficult to climb stairs and get into elevators, making going to work real drudgery." 1

Sifting through the black bag is what we least desire. After all, we spent our whole lives hiding away all the anguish that comes in the course of a human life. Here is why training in Bhagavan's surrender and inquiry is so challenging. Inquiry means looking into our black bag, and surrender means allowing what we find there to be accepted and assimilated. We are left with two options: trying to paper over the menacing effects of the black bag by indulging in external distractions or taking stock of everything within and bearing the discomfort that comes with sorting through it. How do we muster the courage to dig up the very things we spent our lives keeping buried?

No doubt, in our early youth, stuffing things into the black bag was a necessary means for dealing with the wounding we were developmentally incapable of processing at the time. But in our adulthood, such stuffing is maladaptive, and is the very source of our suffering, even if it brings momentary relief.

It has been said that the greatest human fear is the fear of one's own mind.2 Why should that be so? Because of the black bag. Jung called it the Shadow, and said it is the root of all mental dysfunction. We may fear that if others knew how murky the contents of our black bag really are, they would reject us. The contrary is the case. By being willing to look within, acknowledging our vulnerabilities with honesty and humility, we overcome our anxieties about what is there and how we might appear in the eyes of others if it were known to them. For Jung, if we overcome the fear of our own mind through a descent into the heart, then other fears and anxieties will be sorted out in turn.

Children's Stories
The great mythologies coming down to us through children's stories speak of inner demons. We recall the fairy tale where the hero dives into a deep lake under the cover of dark night to battle a sea-monster 3. In another tale, a prince descends to the bottom of the sea to snatch the pearl of wisdom from a fierce dragon in order to be crowned king 4. It should be noted that being crowned king is archetypal language for coming to oneself in maturity. We can only reach this state by becoming intimate with what is most frightening to us.

Peeking into the black bag to take stock of the less flattering qualities within us is the first step towards spiritual and psychological integration. If instead we opt for polishing the self-image and piling things on top of the black bag to hide it from awareness, it is because we want to avoid the samskaras of the past. If there are things in our black bag we do not want to face, we are likely to be harsh in judging others. We will take a hard stand on those who do not conform to our standards, unwilling to recognise that we are not living up to those standards ourselves. We may try to off-load some of the discomfort caused by the neglected black bag by projecting it onto others in the form of blame, truly believing that other people are the cause of our trouble. Here we are reminded of the oft-quoted line from Solzhenitsyn:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human person. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Bhagavan tells us that freedom does not involve acquiring things to pile on top of the neglected black bag, but rather by inquiring into its contents to know them directly. When we bring the power of inquiry to bear on what is hidden away, bringing it into the light of awareness, the awareness itself does the healing, and our black bag becomes lighter. This is the beginning of what might be called self-emptying. What is self-emptying? It is healing all that is not yet resolved and complete within us, all that is not yet true within us, thereby, releasing it.

An ancient scripture reads, no man can see the face of God and live. 5 Why? Because to see God's face, is to see that the one we imagined ourselves to be is not true. Only by seeing ourselves as we truly are does God's true face come into view. A 14th century Dominican monk said it this way:

To get at the core of God at his greatest, one must first get to the core of himself at his least, for no one can know God who has not first known himself.6

Quantitative Living
From the start, the need for quantity is only an attempt to insulate ourselves from the harassing effects of the black bag. Heaping things on top of it is born of the root logic of consumerism, namely, replacing what is dissatisfying with what can be gotten from the outside. Consumerism is about the freedom to want more whereas true freedom is born of the freedom from wanting anything at all. The latter becomes a reality only when we start emptying the black bag through inquiry. Bhagavan asks:

Why all this earnest searching for the bliss that shines in simple stillness? … When the inner and outer organs abide in stillness day and night true Being shines clear. 7

As we discussed in the first segment, deliverance does not lie in accumulating merit to become worthy in Bhagavan's sight, but in emptying ourselves of wants and fears. When we imitate Bhagavan by making our hearts empty of worldly concerns, he will fill us with his silence and blessing. The same monk stated it like this:

When I can establish myself in nothing, and nothing in myself, uprooting and casting out what is in me, then I can pass into the naked being of God. 8

If the quantitative orientation to the world seems to rule our lives, then we may ask ourselves, How did I get here? How did things become so confused?

Quantitative living is most often a compensation for a deep sense of lack. We hope to justify ourselves through productivity and accomplishment in order to gain a sense of validation. Barraged with internal messages that equate busyness with worth, we unconsciously pressure ourselves to be on the go, juggling multiple tasks in an effort to overcome feelings of unworthiness. In the digital era, however, this age-old fool's errand has been significantly ramped up. Texting, social media, Zoom, web surfing, and vying for 'likes' on our Facebook page compel us to stay ever connected. The sense of ever being 'on' and never truly being able to 'switch off' leads not only to stress and exhaustion but can leave us feeling bereft of any meaning in our lives. Alternating between the exhilaration of stimulation and the depletion it brings can be made to work for a time. But like all addiction, its appeal eventually wears off. Getting momentary relief through external activities that ultimately harm us proves counterproductive.

In one of his numerous published articles on Sri Bhagavan, Dr M. H. Syed sums up the quantitative endeavour of seeking outwardly in an effort to solve an inward problem. He writes:

The materialistic mind fails to discern the fact that the root of the malady lies in oneself, that one's misery and happiness are primarily of one's own making, and that they are the inevitable outcome of an externalised outlook which tries to ignore the higher calls of the Spirit within. The tragedy lies in the fact that modern man fails to see that unless his inward being is rebuilt on spiritual foundations, his material prosperity and power can never make him happy.9

Confucius said, Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated. If that was true 2,500 years ago, how much more so today.

We increasingly live our lives in a vicarious manner through testimonies and postings of others on the internet, as if we had no real life of our own, as if all we are is a reference to something else. Quantitative living is encapsulating and keeps us from seeing the relation of ourselves to the world as a whole. In time, quantity comes to betray us, and we doubt whether we are doing enough, or if what we are doing has any lasting value. The ever-present fear of not being enough drives us to further engagement in a futile spiral of endless effort. We search for ways to push ahead to some future moment where, by virtue of relentless striving, we would arrive at a permanent sense of okayness. But the moment never comes. Stuck in a horizontal track that moves ever across the surfaces of things, the feeling of not being enough persists. Here we recall a line from the Gita:

You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions.10

What is keeping us from a deeper engagement with our life? The answer, of course, is our neglect of the black bag.

The Journey of Self-Emptying

In self-emptying, we come to understand that what we seek cannot be pointed to but can be uncovered by healing what is incomplete within us. The Brahma Sutra says, Whenever we deny something unreal, it is in reference to something real. Why can we not delineate the real that is being referred to? It is because it is not a thing, is not an object of the senses. It has been said that a good thing is not as good as no-thing. 11What does this mean? A good thing is an ego that is prim and proper and does and says all the right things with a smile. And yet, it is not who we are, no matter how polite. Far better is ego-reduction and being true to ourselves in each moment, greeting each person and situation from the heart.

In emptying, we free ourselves of what blocks our vision of the divine and are delivered from what weighs us down.

All we have to lose are our chains, goes a saying. Because we have become friendly with what hurts us, we need to look ever more deeply at what we cling to. Only a fool would adopt a deadly snake and treat it as their child, protecting it and caring for it. While caring is a good thing, caring for the wrong thing eventually leads to our harm. What is the snake here? It is the idealised, made-up small self. If our heart remains banished and locked away in the recesses of the black bag, the improvised self appears as a reasonable replacement. But it is a phantom. Here we recall the line from Rumi:

When you let go of who you are, you become who you might be.

Self-emptying means letting go of our chains and all that binds us, including the made-up small self. While simple in practice, we face immense internal resistances. Here is where quantity figures in—anything to spare us the ordeal of facing hidden fears.

Once, Chadwick sat with Bhagavan in the hall and the two spoke of the hesitation people have. Chadwick said:

People will not be content with simplicity; they want complexity. Bhagavan responded:

Quite so. Because they want something elaborate, attractive, and puzzling, many religions have come into existence and each of them is complex, and each has its own adherents and antagonists. For example, an ordinary Christian will not be satisfied unless he is told that God is somewhere in the far-off heavens not to be reached by us unaided. If told the simple truth, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you", the ordinary Christian will not be satisfied but will read complex and farfetched meanings into such statements. ... Mature minds alone can grasp the simple Truth in all its nakedness.

Bhagavan hastened to point out that adherents of other religions too, even the best among them, can get caught in the same trap. TKS told how when studying the Upanishads in his youth, he always visualised the divine abode in the Sun God and performed such practices regularly. As he had undergone trying experiences, he referred the matter to Bhagavan. Bhagavan responded:

So, you want to go to the Divine World? You are here and now in the Divine World. You are like a thirsty man wanting to drink, while he is all the time standing neck-deep in the Ganga. Give up all efforts and surrender. Let the 'I' that wants the Divine World die, and the divine in you will be realised here and now. For it is already in you as the Self, not different from the Divine—nameless, and formless. 12

The path to self-emptying is the via negativa. What is the via negativa?13 It is the path of letting go of all that is not essential. It is the search for the Divine World by ridding oneself of all that is not the Divine World. It is approaching the Divine beyond the realm of ordinary perception in the recesses of the heart. Following this path means discarding all that presents itself to the senses and facing directly what we resist. Bhagavan adds:

When stillness and silence have been attained there will be contentment and peace. Perfect silence free from samskaras is the only means of experiencing eternal bliss. 14

We don't need to know everything about self-emptying, all the whys and whats, but only the how — how we might make it a reality, how we might discover it as a path to freedom, a means to opening the heart, reconfiguring the inner life, accepting ourselves, and dispensing with the conditioning of the deserted black bag which formerly led us to harshly scrutinise our every action. Someone once said, Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door. 15 This is the medicine for the tightly closed black bag.

If life's bumps born of past actions and their assimilation are natural processes, then interrupting them may generate fresh samskaras, complicating the picture. Here we see how suffering can lead to further suffering whereas taking responsibility for the black bag leads to the resolution of all suffering simply by addressing its root cause.

Allowing and Accepting
The spiritual path is not about learning to feel good but about learning to feel fully. When life breaks our heart—as it will from time to time—are we able to allow its blows to be absorbed, grieved, and healed naturally, or do we put them off, saying, 'I don't have time for this now'?

Ramana Maharshi

If we deny life's wrinkles, if we routinely avoid dealing with them and assimilating them in real time, if we imagine they are not there, or stoically pretend they don't affect us, then it is safe to say that our black bag is not getting lighter.

What is being asked of us here?
We are being asked to take stock of the walled-off heart, to grieve ungrieved wounds, and to face frontally all that comes to us in our lives which would invariably include loss, disappointment, and humiliation. If we do this, the Ramana Way opens up right before us—magically, effortlessly. This is the path to non-neurosis.

If the idealised self likes the thought of non-neurosis, it is because it wants to curate an improved self-image free of the appearance of any neurosis. Such efforts only magnify the condition and drive the root confusion further down into the black bag.

In the effort to let go of appearances, gentleness is required, after all, the idealised self is born in part from the reaction to the disappointments and rough treatment of early life. Killing to heal doesn't work; rather, inquiry rooted in awareness and care is the path forward.

Conclusion
If the mirror of the world reflects our internal shadows and the despair of the abandoned black bag, we are being called to clean up the mess. If our quiet interior labour goes unnoticed by others, we are asked to trust that in embodying Bhagavan's inquiry and the transformation it promises, we will succeed in sparing the collective of the troubles of at least one heart.

We are being called to face what we have rejected all our lives and to let go of what we have been clinging to, and in the space that remains, reclaim our innocence to become, at long last, genuine devotees of Bhagavan. —

(to be continued)


In Focus: April Edition

Ramana Maharshi

In Focus: May Edition, click the following link: In Focus - May 2024


Sri N.V. Renganathan (1975-2024)

Ramana Maharshi

We are sad to announce the demise of Sri N.V. Renganathan, Ashram auditor, born into a long line of Ramana devotees going back to his great-grandfather, Renganathan, who was associated with Bhagavan in the early days and grandson of NR Krishnamoorthy Iyer, the physicist. Sri N.V. Renganathan passed away on 16th May from kidney failure at the tender age of 49. In an upcoming issue of Saranagati, we will present an obituary of his life and a profile of his remarkable family. —


Events at the Ashram Dispensary: Ashram President’s 60th Birthday

Ramana Maharshi

On 8th May 2024, Ashram President Dr. Venkat S. Ramanan celebrated his 60th birthday. The Ashram Dispensary held a grand celebration with festoons and cake. At 11 am, Ashram devotees near and far were invited in for Bhagavan’s prasadam in the Ashram Dining Hall, and all wished the President many happy returns of the day! —


Events at the Ashram Dispensary: Bhagavan Ramana Centre for the Specially-Abled

Ramana Maharshi

Since children with autistic spectrum disorder often suffer social interaction limitations, early intervention can make a huge difference. Occupational play, for example, is a pleasurable activity that enhances the child’s problem-solving skills, manual dexterity, decision-making, and functioning in a group.

Sri Ramanasramam in association with V-Excel Educational Trust has inaugurated the Bhagavan Ramana Center for Specially-Abled Children on 6th May 2024 to provide special education and therapeutic rehabilitation services free of cost to children with special needs. The services to begin in early June will include early intervention for children from a lower socio-economic family background with ‘at-risk’ developmental delays in the age group 0+ to 8 years, remedial education for school-going children with specific learning disabilities in the age group 3+ to 14 years, lunch, and transportation. The team of rehabilitation professionals from V-Excel include Smt. Lekshmi Ramesh, Smt. Lavanya Ashok, Sri. Arun Kumar, Sri. Sivaprakash and Prof. Anand Jagadeesan. The initiative is supported by Smt. Usha Rajagopal & Shri. CA. Rajagopal of ESVI Sarada Foundation & V-Excel, and Sri. S. Krishnan of Sri Ramanasramam, Dr. Nitya Ramanan, Pediatrician, and Ashram President, Dr. Venkat S. Ramanan.


The Iconography of the Mother’s Shrine

Ramana Maharshi

The Deity Ardhanarisvara

Each month we would like to take a deity from the Mother’s Shrine and contemplate its significance. This month we focus on Ardhanarisvara, ‘the halffemale Lord’. This image appears on the right-hand column closest to the sanctum sanctorum facing eastward. Ardhanarisvara is Lord Siva combined with Goddess Parvati, the right half being Mahadeva depicted with traditional attributes.

Ardhanarisvara symbolizes the totality that lies beyond duality, the unity of opposites — the dynamic and the static, form and formlessness, the still point at the centre and the phenomenal world that rotates around it. Ardhanarisvara depicts the inseparability of male and female principles (Purusha and Prakriti) and recalls the boon Lord Siva offered Uma after she had completed her tapas in Tiruvannamalai under the guidance of Rishi Gautama. In reply, she said, “Lord, may I be merged with you and never be separated from you again.” —


Best Shot: Arunachala Agni Nakshatram Monochrome

Ramana Maharshi

Temperatures in the month of April were the highest ever recorded around the globe. The month of May was slightly better, but 2024 remains on track to be the hottest year on record. Call it global warming or climate change, it seems unstoppable. Those of means took refuge in AC, others made do with ceiling fans while rural folk took this hot season in their timeless stride, sleeping outdoors, resting in the shade of trees, far from the thermal radiance of concrete jungles. Is there a lesson here for humanity? Let us pray for rain and renewal. —


Obituary: Sri T. R. Ramachandran (1933-2024)

Ramana Maharshi

As a young boy, T.R. Ramachandran (called TRR by friends) had the darshan of Bhagavan Ramana when his mother, Saraswati brought him along with her to the Ashram in the late 1930s. He obtained his B.A. (Hons.) degree in Economics from Madras University in 1953 and subsequently worked as a journalist in Indian Finance and the United States Information Service at Calcutta. With a natural flair for advertising and marketing, he was invited to join the Reader’s Digest, Indian edition, at Bombay where he did very good work. He then went to Hong Kong and served in the government.

When he took early retirement and returned to India in the late 1970s, he went to the Sringeri Sarada Peetha. With the blessings of the then Sankaracharya Swami Abhinava Vidya Tirtha, he founded and edited the monthly, Tattvaloka (‘Splendour of Truth’) and by devoted work made it a popular spiritual magazine. Some years back, with the permission of Mahasannidhanam H.H Bharati Tirtha, he stepped down as editor and his colleague, Sarala Panchapakesan took over with the blessings of the Mahasannidhanam. With great qualities of head and heart, TRR remained a celibate of spotless character for the whole of his life. He regularly visited Sri Ramanasramam. He left this world in peace to merge at the Feet of Bhagavan on the 3rd May 2024. —


Obituary: Smt. Radha Arunachalaramanan (1955-2024)

Ramana Maharshi

Smt. Radha Arunachalaramanan came to Tiruvannamalai in 1973 at the time of her marriage to Sri Arunachala Ramanan, son of C.P. Nathan and Subbulakshmi, who were Bhagavan devotees right from the 1940s. From 1973 to 1985, Radha devoted herself to assisting Subbulakshmi Ammal in feeding and caring for the Swamis and the many Ramana devotees, among them, Sri Sadhu Om and Sri Tinnai Swami. During the construction of Sri Sadhu Om’s Samadhi, she worked tirelessly feeding the many workers. Despite personal setbacks, such as the unexpected demise of her husband in 1999, she continued in a spirit of service to Bhagavan devotees and served the numerous sadhaks in Tiruvannamalai with motherly love and care. Her door was open to one and all, regardless of time of day. No one ever went away hungry. After suffering a hip fracture in 2019, she gave up her kitchen duties to her daughter-in-law and retired to a slower pace of life. At the age of 69, after suffering a brief illness, she peacefully merged with Arunachala on the night of 23rd May 2024, surrounded by near and dear ones chanting Aksharamanamalai. She is survived by her son and daughter and their families, including two grandchildren. —


Preethi the Dog (2010-2024)

Ramana Maharshi

We are sad to announce the loss of Preethi the Dog who lived her entire life in the Ashram. She merged with Bhagavan on 28th May.