A spiritual classic of modern times, this authoritative work on the life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi dispels the popular notion that books of this kind are meant only for the philosophically inclined'. Though a serious work, it makes for absorbing reading.
The Maharshi's habitual silence that communicated more than speech, his intuitive grasp of a questioner's mind, his simple answers to the most complex philosophical and religious problems, his sense of kinship with the animals and birds who sought his company, his compassion and humour, and above all the power and radiance of his mere presence -- all these are captured by Osborne in page after page.
Some of the best commentaries on the Sage of Arunachala have come from his western disciples, like Paul Brunton and S.S.Cohen; and Osborne is foremost among them. With ease and precision, Osborne evokes the spirit of the south Indian religious and social customs of the early part of this century, especially of the life in the Ashram at the foothills of Arunachala.
Ramana Maharshi insisted that the only way to freedom is through the enquiry `Who am I?'. It is a quest that reveals that what we call the mind is an illusion, and thus liberates us from our accumulated tendencies (`vasanas'). It can be undertaken by anybody at any time and requires neither scholarship nor austerities. The timelessness of such an ancient teaching adapted by the Maharshi to suit the modern times comes through lucidly in the author's presentation.
In `discovering' this book, one sets out on a journey of self-discovery.
- K. Krishnamurthy (firstname.lastname@example.org), Madras, India
By the relentless pursuit of this question, "Who Am I?" Maharshi believes the ego can break through to the Self. And if anyone should know it is he.
Ramana Maharshi is one of the great Hindu saints and certainly the most authentic of the last century. Many gurus have come and gone with mixed messages, one of them being that a guru should live lavishly (cf. the experience of the Beatles). Maharshi served no one, not even himself. He was as truly detached as it seems a human being can get. In contrast to so many teachers, he didn't even prattle on about the universe, the soul, and Brahman. If he did speak to issues it was usually in pithy responses to well-formed questions. And, almost always, he ended by encouraging the seeker to follow the question above. In short, his message was simple.
So why did he get it and we don't? Maharshi taught the quintessence of Vedanta. Like a powerful acid he burned down to the bedrock of Hindu thought-the teaching of nonduality. For Maharshi, as for the Hindu sages throughout time, all was Maya-illusion-including the self itself. The core mythology is this: Brahman-the All-plays a game, the Cosmic hide-and-seek. By forgetting itself, Brahman can come to rediscovery and delight, just like a child at play. One of the many obfuscations in this game is the ego. Question it, ask oneself again and again, "Who Am I," and the ego will, like a cornered child in the game of tag, eventually relent. Underneath all the vestiges of ego, as one undresses it with the question, lies Brahman smiling.
The philosophy is lucid, elegant, and incredibly simple-typical characteristics of the Truth-but I find it elusive still. So must most seekers because though they ask the question, they do not end up like the Bhagavan, Maharshi.
Maharshi, after his realization at the age of 16, made his way to the sacred mountain of Arunachala and never left its shadow. His life was simple and devoid of any attention-seeking behaviors, though a great flock settled around him. He participated in the daily round of food preparation, sweeping, etc. and lived an austere life. Eventually, as his reputation spread, people came to visit from all parts, first Indians and then cosmopolitans. Among others, W. Somerset Maugham visited. He was not quite so struck as others by the Bhagavan's presence but still retained him as the prototype for the guru in The Razor's Edge.
Though he avoided speaking much, the many who visited professed a very powerful influence by witnessing the man's gentle radiance. With a look into Maharshi's eyes, most peoples' questions would resolve themselves. He eventually died from a cancer and yet his reputation remains.
Such a being kindles mystery but is not a great teacher unless one, presumably, is a great student.