Ramana Maharshi: The Embodiment of Advaita Vedanta
My First Contact with Ramana
I was perhaps around 30 years of age, when I had the grace to receive the blessings of Ramana and to begin the great Inquiry. I was working at a famous bookstore called the Bodhi Tree Bookstore in Hollywood. Each night after work I would generally stay for an hour or more reading book after book, from Indian teachers to occult lore to channeled teachings to UFOs. In other words, I devoured the books around me. Yet I never came across Bhagavan's teachings, at least not directly. Then one day I awoke with the feeling that is best described by Yogananda as metaphysical indigestion. I couldn't pick up another book. Well, not all books--"A Course in Miracles" was the only one I would read. Towards the end of the book the author of The Course stated that now one must forget the course, forget all words, forget everything, and come totally empty handed onto God. And when the book ended I didn't pick up another one. Until...
Time passed and I was very comfortable being empty of books. It was like a wonderful fast. Then this gregarious customer started talking to me about his time in India and this ashram where he had felt great peace--Ramanashram. He asked if I had ever heard of Ramana Maharshi and I said no. He then started to lead me over to Ramana's section and I followed reluctantly. I told him I was tired of books. He held out Ramana's, "Who Am I?" I took it apprehensively in my hand. I liked the wafer size of this book. And then I opened it and was immediately struck by the directness, the simplicity, and the silence. Then I began practicing Self Inquiry.
It was a matter of perhaps days or a few weeks when I had a dream. I lay in the far back seat of my old station wagon named Nandi. In the middle seat sat Bhagavan. I was excited and slowly lifted my head to peer over the seat to see him, and as I did so, he turned and held my eyes in his gaze. I fell into bliss and awoke in tears. Subsequently, I have been blessed by many dreams with Ramana. And when the thought arises to go to India to sit in the place where he had sat and to circumambulate the Hill, I remember his admonition to all of us that he is but the Self and the Self is everywhere, and I ask who is it that wants to travel there and the thought disappears back into its Source.
In hindsight and connecting the dots, I realize that when I was living in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer I came across "The Razor's Edge, by Somerset Maugham. After reading the hero's encounter with the master in the book, I wanted to meet such a master. It was years later that I realized that the master was based on Somerset's visit to Ramana. This book inspired me to travel to Nepal after my duties were finished to trek in the Himalayas where my life forever changed and God became my focus.
The following is a wonderful short film by Jean Raphael Dedieu, an Advaita Production. Alan Jacobs reads some of the teachings and conversations of Ramana Maharshi, with a wonderful montage of photographs of Ramana.
The teachings of Ramana, which is to go to the source of thoughts is the highest teaching of Advaita Vedanta, which is knowledge of there is "not two." That there is no other. There is only Brahman and you are That.