Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality:


Click here to go to the next issue

Highlights Home Page | Receive the Nondual Highlights each day

Issue #1368 - March 6, 2003 - Editor: Gloria


Living the Inspiration of Sri Ramana Maharshi

A dialogue between David Godman and Maalok, an Indian academic now teaching in America

Sri Ramana Maharshi

Maalok: Ramana Maharshi has had a lasting influence on your life. For those of us who don't know much about the Maharshi, could you please share some of the salient aspects of his life that have influenced you deeply.

David: About two or three times a year someone asks me this question, 'Summarize Ramana Maharshi's life and teachings in a few words for people who know little or nothing about him'. It's always hard to know where to start with a question like this. 

     Let me say first that Ramana Maharshi was one of the most highly regarded and widely respected spiritual figures that twentieth-century India produced. I can't think of any other candidate who is as persistently held out to be an example of all that is best in the Hindu spiritual tradition. Everyone reveres him as the perfect example of what a true saint and sage ought to be. 

     How did this come about? While he was still in his teens Sri Ramana underwent a remarkable, spontaneous experience in which his individuality died, leaving him in a state in which he found his true identity to be the Self, the immanent and transcendent substratum. It was a permanent awakening that was truly remarkable because he had not previously had any interest in spiritual matters. He left his family home a few weeks later, without telling anyone where he was going, and spent the remainder of his life at the foot of Arunachala, a holy mountain and pilgrimage center that is about 120 miles south west of Chennai. 

     After a few years there - a period in which he was largely oblivious to the world and his body - he began to attract devotees because there was a spiritual radiance emanating from him that many people around him experienced as peace or happiness. This, I think, is the secret of his subsequent fame and popularity. He didn't get a reputation for being a great sage because of what he did or said. It came about because people, who arrived at his ashram with all kinds of questions and doubts, suddenly found themselves becoming quiet, peaceful and happy in his presence. There was a continuous, benign flow of energy coming off him that somehow evaporated the mental anxieties and busy minds of the people who came to see him. He didn't ask people to come. People just came of their own accord. A 19th century American author once wrote that if you invent a better mousetrap, even if you try to hide yourself in the woods, people will beat a path to your door. People beat a path to Sri Ramana's door - for many years he lived in very inaccessible places - because he had something far better than an improved mousetrap to offer; he had a natural ability to induce peace in the people around him. 

     Let me expand on this because this is the key to understanding both his state and the effect he had on other people. When he had his final experience at the age of sixteen, his mind, his sense of being an individual person vanished forever, leaving him in a state of unassailable peace. He realized and understood that this was not some new experience that was mediated by and through his 'I', his sense of being an individual person. It was, instead, his natural state, something that is there all the time, but which is only experienced when the mind and its perpetual busy-ness is absent. By abiding in this natural and effortless state of inner silence he somehow charged up the atmosphere around him with a healing, quietening energy. People who came to see him spontaneously became happy, peaceful and quiet. Why? Because Sri Ramana himself was effortlessly broadcasting his own experience of happiness, peace and quietude in such a way that those people who were around him got an inner taste, an inner flavor of this natural state that is inherent to all of us. I should say that this power was not restricted to his physical vicinity, although it did seem to be stronger there. People who merely thought about him wherever they happened to be discovered that they could experience something of this peace simply through having this mental contact with him. 

     So, having given that background, I can now answer the question: 'Who was Ramana Maharshi and what were his teachings?' 

     Sri Ramana Maharshi was a living embodiment of peace and happiness and his 'teachings' were the emanations of that state which helped other people to find and experience their own inner happiness and peace. 

     If all this sounds a little abstract, let me tell you a story that was passed on to me by Arthur Osborne's daughter. In the 1940s their house was a kind of dormitory for all the stray foreigners who couldn't find anywhere else to stay near Sri Ramana's ashram. A miserable, crabby women appeared one evening, having been sent by the ashram. They put her up, gave her breakfast and sent her off to see Sri Ramana the next morning. She came back at lunchtime looking absolutely radiant. She was glowing with happiness. The whole family was waiting to hear the story of what happened, but she never said anything about her visit to the ashram. Everyone in the house was expecting some dramatic story: 'He looked at me and this happened,' or 'I asked a question and then I had this great experience.' As the lunch plates were being cleared away, her hosts could not contain their curiosity any longer. 

     'What happened?' asked one of them. 'What did Bhagavan do to you? What did he say to you?' 

     The woman looked most surprised. 'He didn't do anything. He didn't say anything to me. I just sat there for the whole morning and then came back for lunch.' 

     She had been just one new person sitting in a crowd of people, but the power coming off Sri Ramana had been enough to wash away a lifetime of depression, leaving her with a taste of what lay underneath it: her own inherent, natural happiness and peace. 

     Sri Ramana knew that transformations such as these were going on around him all the time, but he never accepted responsibility for them. He would never say, 'I transformed this woman'. When he was asked about the effect he was having on people, he would sometimes say that by continuously abiding in his own natural state of peace, a sannidhi, a powerful presence, was somehow created that automatically took care of the mental problems of the people who visited him. By abiding in silence as silence, this energy field was created, a field that miraculously transformed the people around him. 

     Your original question was, 'Why has Ramana Maharshi influenced me so much?' The answer is, 'I came into his sannidhi and through its catalytic activity I discovered my own peace, my own happiness.'


the rest of the article at :

Thanks to Viorica Weissman on MillionPaths


sliver of a moon

behind me someone looks up
her eyes following
the angle of my cocked head

is she relieved?
does she smile?
does she see

is the sliver
waking us up?

or is the moon singing us a lullaby
with no regard for its tune?

Thanks to Su Gandolf on NDS


We don't *have* awareness, we *are* awareness. And awareness *is*
love. When it is wide open, when it is not fixated on some narrow and
contrived identity, some narrow craving, argument, irritation, or fear,
the nature of awareness is unconditionally affectionate, tender,
sensitive, and compassionate. Advaita Vedanta, Christian meditation,
the Buddhadharma, Kabbalah, Vipassana, Tibetan Dzogchen, Zen practice,
Sufi practice, and all true forms of mysticism, at their very best, are
simply doors to this discovery. The radical, unconditional mercy of Jesus,
the uncorrupted compassion and understanding of the Buddha - these are
just metaphors for your own pure heart, the core of your own being.
Yours, mine, everyone's.

Scott Morrison

Thanks to Gill Eardley on Allspirit


Your perceptive mind is already luminous and shining brightly.  But
you color it with all your attachments.  It is not easy to understand
this, and many do not.  They do not cultivate their perceptive mind. 
But that mind, luminous and brightly shining, is fundamentally free
from all attachments, because they come and go.  This you should
understand and for you there should be cultivation of the perceptive
mind.  --Anguttara Nikaya

Thanks to Atimaya on TheUnbornMind


      Bestiary by Dr. Joanna Macy

      short-tailed albatross
            whooping crane
                  gray wolf
                        peregrine falcon
                              hawksbill turtle

In Geneva, the international tally of endangered species, kept up to date in
looseleaf volumes, is becoming too heavy to lift. Where do we now record the
passing of life? What funerals or farewells are appropriate?

      reed warbler
            swallow-tailed butterfly
                  Manx shearwater
                        Indian python
                              howler monkey
                                    sperm whale
                                          blue whale

Dive me deep, brother whale, in this time we have left. Deep in our mother ocean
where once I swam, gilled and finned. The salt from those early seas still runs
in my tears. Tears are too meager now. Give me a song...a song for a sadness too
vast for my heart, for a rage too wild for my throat.

                  grizzly bear
                        brown bear
                              Bactrian camel
                                    Nile crocodile
                                          American alligator

Ooze me, alligator, in the mud whence I came. Belly me slow in the rich
primordial soup, cradle of our molecules. Let me wallow again, before we drain
your swamp, before we pave it over and blast it to ash.

      gray bat
                  marsh mouse
                        blue pike
                              red kangaroo
                                    Aleutian goose
                                          Audouin's seagull

Quick, lift off. Sweep me high over the coast and out, farther out. Don't land
here. Oil spills coat the beach, rocks, sea. I cannot spread my wings glued with
tar. Fly me from what we have done, fly me far.

      golden parakeet
            African ostrich
                  Florida panther
                        Galapagos penguin
                              Imperial pheasant
                                          Utah prairie dog

Hide me in a hedgerow, badger. Can't you find one? Dig me a tunnel through leaf
mold and roots, under the trees that once defined our fields.

My heart is bulldozed and plowed over. Burrow me a labyrinth deeper than

      thick-billed parrot
            zone-tailed pigeon
                  desert bandicoot
                        Southern bald eagle
                              California condor
                                    lotus blue butterfly

Crawl me out of here, caterpillar. Spin me a cocoon. Wind me to sleep in a
shroud of silk, where in patience my bones will dissolve. I'll wait as long as
all creation if only it will come again and I take wing.

      Atlantic Ridley turtle
            pearly mussel
                  helmeted hornbill
                        sea otter
                              humpback whale
                                    monk seal
                                          harp seal

Swim me out beyond the ice floes, mama. Where are you? Boots squeeze my ribs,
clubs drum my fur, the white world goes black with the taste of my blood.

                  sand gazelle
                        swamp deer
                              musk deer
                                                Asian elephant
                                                      African elephant

Sway me slowly through the jungle. There still must be jungle somewhere, my
heart drips with green secrets. Hose me down by the waterhole, there is buckshot
in my hide. Tell me the old stories while you can remember.

      fan-tailed flycatcher
            flapshell tortoise
                  crested ibis
                        hook-billed kite
                                    frigate bird

In the time when his world, like ours was ending, Noah had a list of animals,
too. We picture him standing by the gangplank, calling their names, checking
them off on his scroll. Now we also are checking them off.

      ivory-billed woodpecker
            brown pelican
                  Florida manatee
                        Canada goose

We reenact Noah's ancient drama, but in reverse, like a film running backwards,
the animals exiting.


Your tracks are growing fainter. Wait. Wait. This is a hard time.

Thanks to Gill Eardley on Allspirit

top of page

Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality: