A lineage of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi?
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
Sri Ramana Maharshi's Life
Sri Ramana Maharshi's Teaching
Devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Books by and about Sri Ramana Maharshi
In June 2004, Sri Ramanasramam addressed this question when they published this article in their official journal, The Mountain Path:
In the early years when Bhagavan stayed at Virupaksha cave, a Sastri from Sringeri Mutt came to him and said that he would initiate Bhagavan since it appeared he had not received diksha (initiation) from any recognised authority.
Bhagavan said: “He saw me, spoke to me for a long time, and before going to the town for meals, drew near me and with folded arms and great respect said, ‘Swami! I have a request to make. Please hear me.’ When I asked him what it was, he said, ‘Swami, as you are born a Brahmin, should you not take sanyasa in the regular way? It is an ancient practice. You know all that. What is there for me to tell you? I am anxious to include you in the line of our Gurus. Hence, if you give me the permission, I will come here with all the requisite articles from my Mutt and give you the initiation....... You may think over this well and give me a reply. I am going down the hill to take my meals and will come back by 3 p.m. All the members of our Mutt have heard of your greatness and I have come here to see you at their request. Please do this favour.’
“A little while after he left, an old Brahmin came there with a bundle. His face appeared familiar. It could be seen from the outside of the bundle that there were some books in it. As soon as he came, he placed the bundle opposite to me and like an old acquaintance said, ‘Swami, I have just come. I have not had a bath. There is no one to look after this bundle. I am therefore leaving it with you.’ So saying he left the place. As soon as he went away, why, I do not know, but I felt like opening that bundle and seeing the books. As soon as I opened it, I saw a Sanskrit book in Nagari characters with the title ‘Arunachala Mahatmyam’. I did not know before that the Arunachala Mahatmyam is in Sanskrit also. I was therefore surprised and as I opened the book I found the sloka describing the greatness of this place in the words of Iswara:
‘Those who live within 24 miles of this place, i.e. this Arunachala Hill, will get My Sayujyam, i.e. absorption into Me, freed from all bonds, even if they do not take any Diksha. This is my order.’
“As soon as I saw that sloka, I felt I could give a fitting reply to that Sastri by quoting that sloka ….I showed this sloka to the Sastri as soon as he came in the evening. As he was a learned man, he did not say anything further but with great reverence and trepidity saluted me, went away and, it seems, reported everything to Narasimha Bharathi …(who) felt very sorry for what his disciples had done, and told them to stop all further efforts in that direction.”1
In the years that followed there have been many who claimed a special dispensation from Bhagavan and that they have received from him a special diksha, which gives them the right to claim lineage. We are on sticky ground here because Bhagavan does work in mysterious ways and he does directly instruct many of his devotees in silence and secret. In actuality each of us is privy to his knowledge and blessing without any intermediary if we are open and receptive to the teachings. Each of us legitimately can claim lineage from Bhagavan although he himself was not part of any succession but stood alone, and in that sense of linear continuity he neither received nor gave initiation. But that is not the point, because though we each have the right to receive his grace, it is entirely different when it comes to assuming authority to disseminate the teachings. It is here we need to be very clear and separate the claims of wannabe gurus from the genuine devotees who are grateful recipients of grace. There have been many senior devotees of Bhagavan who, in their own right, had both the ability and authority to teach in his name. Muruganar, Sadhu Natanananda and Kunju Swami are some of those who immediately spring to mind. None of them to my knowledge ever claimed pre-eminence and the prerogative to teach. They knew two things. One, there would be many who would bow to their superior knowledge and set them up as an independent source, but secondly, they also knew that to abrogate for themselves the privilege would run contrary to Bhagavan’s mission or purpose. Not one of those who were genuine and close to Bhagavan took upon themselves the role of guru. They resisted the temptation, perhaps also aware of the danger of an inflation of the ego that is something to beware of when an ineligible person is treated as a guru. They did not see their own relatively higher knowledge compared to others around them, warranted any special claim. Moreover they knew Bhagavan is always with them so where was the necessity to claim a singular right? Especially if one really understood the teachings, who exactly are the others that one can teach?
It is said Bhagavan is a manifestation of Dakshinamurti, the aspect of Siva the peerless teacher who taught in silence. If we investigate the legends in the Puranas, we unearth the story of the four sons of Brahma who were dissatisfied with the breathtaking powers and onerous duties bestowed on them by their father Brahma, the Creator. They left their allotted tasks and went in search of a preceptor who could satisfy their hunger to understand. Eventually they came across Dakshinamurti, the supreme preceptor, at Arunachala. There he demonstrated the highest teachings in silence.
There is a metaphoric element of truth in myths which we can learn from. We are all sons of Brahma; we are all creating our own worlds and we are all generally dissatisfied. Whatever teachings we imbibe there are invariably vital elements missing. Bhagavan said according to the capacity of the seeker, their vessel will be filled. What if our receptivity to understand is limitless? What if nothing apparently can satisfy us? We are bewildered and usually settle, reluctantly, for second best because there seems to be no alternative. What if we suddenly come across that which we know would satisfy us? Would we not pay whatever price necessary to fulfil the yearning?
Lineage in the ordinary sense of the word implies an organisation. It implies a giver and a receiver. Religions have lineages. Be it the Shankaracharya’s of the various mutts established by Adi Sankara to sustain the dharma, the Pope in Rome, or the Tibetan Rimpoches. Bhagavan is not a religion; he is the spirit of the teachings. He does not represent them, he exemplifies them. In this respect Bhagavan is the lineage. He manifests the possibility of transmission of the teachings. He is the first and last. Bhagavan through his own life established the possibility that we too are eligible for enlightenment. He did not live in our physical world to maintain the formality of the sanatana dharma; he came to elucidate the teachings obscured by prejudice and selfishness by a unique deed of genius. He went right to the root of all thought. He showed us not only the possibility but also the certainty that we too can be free. He was then, when physically alive and now, continues to be accessible to all comers whose only qualification is the desire to understand. But really it is even more basic than that: to think of Bhagavan automatically entitles us to a relationship with him.2
The subtle penetrative influence of Bhagavan is that strong. He exists as a guru for his devotees. What attracts us to Bhagavan defines his function. He teaches exactly what we need in that moment according to our level. His function is to fulfil our needs. And then he takes us beyond. While we see ourselves separate from Bhagavan his external function is necessary.
“It is said that the guru can make his disciple realise the Self by transferring some of his power to him: is this true?
“Yes, the guru does not bring about Sefl-realisation, but simply removes the obstacles to it. The Self is always realised. So long as you seek Self-realisation the guru is necessary. Guru is the Self.”3
This is what lineage truly is all about. It is an abhishekam, an anointment into a new way of life. It is the cleansing of our propensities by the gift of discrimination so we can see that most of what we imagined or desired is worthless. It is a transmission. It is the gift of a key to unravel the maze of thought that obscures the light. We see if but for an instant, the full clarity of light independent of all our imaginings. We know for certain not by thought, which is intermediary, but by direct experience.
Bhagavan said at the end of his life when asked not to leave his body: “Where can I go?” That being the case it indicates to us in the strongest language possible that he is still very much with us. He said all along that he was not the body. Now it is up to us to verify it on the strength of his words, and if we have faith in Bhagavan, then what more do we need than the ability to listen plus our resilience and dependence upon this rock on which we build our lives? Since we each are recipients of Bhagavan’s grace we are all in the lineage and avatars of our self. In this sense of the word there is lineage. When we qualify ourselves to be holders of the teachings, do we require a trumpet? Is not silence in the spirit of Bhagavan the obvious rejoinder?
If we are ignorant and in dire need of salvation where is Bhagavan? He is before us, he is behind us, and he is our very ‘I’. He is so close that we don’t need to search for him. If we too are enlightened, who is Bhagavan and more crucially who are we? We can only be one with him. Where then is the necessity of lineage?
1. Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, Suri Nagamma, No 66., Acceptance of Diksha, 13th January, 1949.
2. The traditional saying is: birth in Tiruvarur, to have darshan of Chidambaram, to die in Varanasi grants us liberation but to even think of Arunachala has the same efficacy.
3. Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 282.