Ramana Maharshi (India)
Ramana Maharshi (1879 – 1950), born Venkataraman Iyer, was an Indian sage. He lived a renunciate life and attracted many devoted followers from both India and the western world. After experiencing at age 16 what was later described as liberation (moksha) or enlightenment, he left home for the sacred mountain Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai. He lived at the mountain for the rest of his life, first in temples and caves and later in Ramanasramam, the ashram which grew around him at the foothill of Arunchala.
Early on, Indian devotees were attracted by the deep stillness he radiated, sat in his presence and took care of his physical well-being. He was recognised as a swami, “the living embodiment of the Holy Scriptures”, and a sadguru. He received his full name Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in 1907 from Ganapati Sastri. In later life, he came to be regarded as Dakshinamurthy, an aspect of Shiva as a guru. From 1911 on, he also attracted western devotees. He was popularised in the west by Paul Brunton in the 1930s through Brunton’s book A Search in Secret India.
During his life Ramana became acquainted with the classic Indian teachings on Vedanta and Yoga, but also Shaiva Siddhanta and the Bhakti movement, and used them to answer questions from devotees. He insisted that “awareness of the “I” thought was a pre-requisite for Self-realisation”. In response to questions on self-liberation and the classic texts on Yoga and Vedanta, Ramana recommended self-enquiry as the means to awaken to the “I-I” and the Self. He also recommended other methods such as Bhakti to those who could not pursue self-enquiry, and gave his approval to a variety of paths and practices.