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Residing at the Holy Hill: (source http://www.sriramanamaharshi.org)

The first place of Ramana’s residence in Tiruvannamalai was the great temple. For a few weeks he remained in the thousand-pillared hall. But urchins who pelted stones at him as he sat in meditation troubled him. He shifted himself to obscure corners and even to an underground vault known as Patala-lingam. Undisturbed he spent several days in deep absorption. Without moving he sat in samadhi, unaware of even the bites of vermin and pests.

But the mischievous boys soon discovered even this retreat and indulged in their pastime of throwing potsherds at the young Swami. There was at the time in Tiruvannamalai a senior Swami by name Seshadri. Those who did not know him took him for a madman. He sometimes stood guard over the young Swami, and drove away the urchins. At long last he was removed from the pit by devotees without his being aware of it and deposited in the vicinity of a shrine of Subrahmanya. From then on there was some one or other to take care of Ramana. The seat of residence had to be changed frequently. Gardens, groves, shrines – these were the places chosen to keep the Swami who himself never spoke. Not that he took any vow of silence; he just had no inclination to talk. At times texts like Vasistham and Kaivalya Navaneetam used to be read out to him.

A little less than six months after his arrival at Tiruvannamalai, Ramana shifted his residence to a shrine called Gurumurtam at the earnest entreaty of its keeper, one Tambiranswami. As days passed and as Ramana’s fame spread, increasing numbers of pilgrims and sightseers came to visit him. After about a year’s stay at Gurumurtam, the Swami – locally he was known as Brahmana-Swami – moved to a neighboring mango orchard. It was here his paternal uncle, Nelliyappa Aiyar, traced him out. He was a pleader at Manamadurai. Having learnt from a friend that Venkataraman was then a revered Sadhu at Tiruvannamalai, he went there to see him. He tried his best to take Ramana along with him to Manamadurai. But the young sage would not respond. He did not show any sign of interest in the visitor. So, Nelliyappa Aiyar went back disappointed to Manamadurai. However, he conveyed the news to Alagammal, Ramana’s mother.

The mother went to Tiruvannamalai accompanied by her eldest son Nagaswamy. Ramana was then living at Pavalakkunru, one of the eastern spurs of Arunachala. With tears in her eyes Alagammal entreated Ramana to go back with her. But, for the sage there was no going back. Nothing moved him – not pitiable sobs of his mother. He kept silent and sat still.

A devotee who had been observing the struggle of the mother for several days requested Ramana to write out at least what he had to say. The sage wrote on a piece of paper quite in an impersonal way:

The Ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their prarabdhakarma (destiny to be worked out in this life, resulting from the balance-sheet of actions in past lives). Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it. This is certain. The best course, therefore, is to remain silent.

Disappointed and with a heavy heart, the mother went back to Manamadurai. Sometime after this event Ramana went up the hill Arunachala, and started living in a cave called Virupaksha after a saint who dwelt and was buried there. Here also the crowds came, and among them were a few earnest seekers. These latter used to put him questions regarding spiritual experience or bring sacred books for having some points explained.

Ramana sometimes wrote out his answers and explanations. One of the books that were brought to him during this period was Sankara’s Vivekachudamani which later on he rendered into Tamil prose. There were also some simple unlettered folk that came to him for solace and spiritual guidance. One of them was Echammal who, having lost her husband, son, and daughter, was disconsolate till the Fates guided her to Ramana’s presence. She made it a point to visit the Swami every day and took upon herself the task of bringing food for him as well as for those who lived with him.

In 1903 there came to Tiruvannamalai a great Sanskrit scholar and tapasvin known Ganapati Sastri. By the age of 21 he had mastered Sanskrit, intently delved into all the major Puranas and Vedas, engaged in austere tapas at several holy places and had been awarded the title Kavyakantha (one who had poetry in his throat) by an august assembly of scholars and poets in North India. His father had initiated him into the secrets of the worship of the Divine Mother and he intently pursued the path set down by the ancient scriptures of the land.

Ganapati had visited Ramana in the Virupaksha cave a few times, but once in 1907 he was assailed by doubts regarding his own spiritual practices. He ran up the hill, saw Ramana sitting alone in the cave, threw himself on the ground before the sage and appealed to him, saying, “All that has to be read I have read; even Vedanta Sastra I have fully understood; I have done japa to my heart’s content; yet I have not up to this time understood what tapas is. Therefore I have sought refuge at your feet. Pray enlighten me as to the nature of tapas.”

Ramana silently rested his gracious eyes on Ganapati for some fifteen minutes, and then replied:

If one watches whence the notion ‘I’ arises, the mind gets absorbed there; that is tapas. When a mantra is repeated, if one watches whence that mantra sound arises, the mind gets absorbed there; that is tapas.

To the poet-scholar this came as a revelation, a new spiritual path opened to mankind, and he felt the grace of the sage enveloping him. He then proclaimed that henceforth Brahmana Swami, which Ramana was then called, should be addressed as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. He thoroughly surrendered himself to the Guru, composed Sanskrit hymns in his praise and also wrote the Ramana Gita, which explains Ramana’s teachings.

From that day on the young sage was known as Ramana Maharshi, the Maharshi, or just Bhagavan by his devotees.

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