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Ramana Maharshi when he was about 60 years old
30 December 1879
|Died||14 April 1950 (aged 70)|
Sri Ramana Ashram in Arunachala
|Quotation||Of all the thoughts that rise in the mind, the thought 'I' is the first thought.|
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Ramana Maharshi (Tamil: ரமண மஹரிஷி) (December 30, 1879 – April 14, 1950), born Venkataraman Iyer, was a spiritual master ("jnani"). He was born to a Tamil-speaking Brahmin family in Tiruchuzhi, Tamil Nadu. After experiencing at age 16 what he later described as liberation (moksha), he left home for the sacred mountain Arunachala. He lived at the mountain for the rest of his life. Although born a Brahmin, he declared himself an "Atiasrami", a Sastraic state of non-attachment to anything in life and beyond all caste restrictions. The ashram that grew around him, Sri Ramana Ashram, is situated at the foothill of Arunchala, to the west to the pilgrimage town of Tiruvannamalai.
Ramana Maharshi maintained that the purest form of his teachings was the powerful silence which radiated from his presence and quieted the minds of those attuned to it. He gave verbal teachings for the benefit of those who could not understand his silence. His verbal teachings were said to flow from his direct experience of Atman as the only existing reality. When asked for advice, he recommended self-enquiry as the fastest path to liberation. Though his primary teaching is associated with Non-dualism, Advaita Vedanta, and Jnana yoga, he recommended Bhakti to those he saw were fit for it, and gave his approval to a variety of paths and practices.
Ramana was born in a village called Tiruchuli (Tiruchuzhi) near Aruppukkottai, Madurai in Tamil Nadu, South India on Arudra Darshanamday, into an orthodox Hindu Tamil (Iyer) family, the second of four children of Sundaram Iyer (1845?-1892), from the lineage of Parashara, and Azhagammal (?-1922), and named Venkataraman at birth. His siblings were Nagaswamy (1877–1900), Nagasundaram (1886–1953) and sister Alamelu (1891/92-1953). Venkataraman's father was a respected pleader.
Venkataraman seemed a normal child with no apparent signs of future greatness. He was popular, good at sports, mischievous, and was very intelligent with an exceptional memory which enabled him to succeed in school without having to put in very much effort. He had a couple of unusual traits. When he slept, he went into such a deep state of unconsciousness that his friends could physically assault his body without waking him up. He also had an extraordinary amount of luck. In team games, whichever side he played for always won. This earned him the nickname 'Tangakai', which means 'golden hand'. When Venkataraman was about 11, his father sent him to live with his paternal uncle Subbaiyar in Dindigul because he wanted his sons to be educated in English so they would be eligible to enter government service, and only Tamil was taught at the village school in Tiruchuzhi. In 1891, when his uncle was transferred toMadurai, Venkataraman and his elder brother Nagaswami moved with him. In Dindigul, Venkataraman attended a British School.
In 1892, Venkataraman's father Sundaram Iyer suddenly fell seriously ill and unexpectedly died several days later at the age of 42. For some hours after his father's death he contemplated the matter of death, and how his father's body was still there, but the 'I' was gone from it.
After leaving Scott's Middle School, Venkataraman went to the American Mission High School. One November morning in 1895, he was on his way to school when he saw an elderly relative and enquired where the relative had come from. The answer was "From Arunachala." Krishna Bikshu describes Venkataraman's response: "The word 'Arunachala' was familiar to Venkataraman from his younger days, but he did not know where it was, what it looked like or what it meant. Yet that day that word meant to him something great, an inaccessible, authoritative, absolutely blissful entity. Could one visit such a place? His heart was full of joy. Arunachala meant some sacred land, every particle of which gave moksha. It was omnipotent and peaceful. Could one behold it? 'What? Arunachala? Where is it?' asked the lad. The relative was astonished, 'Don't you know even this?' and continued, 'Haven't you heard of Tiruvannamalai? That is Arunachala.' It was as if a balloon was pricked, the boy's heart sank."
A month later he came across a copy of Sekkizhar's Periyapuranam, a book that describes the lives of 63 Saivite saints, and was deeply moved and inspired by it. Filled with awe, and a desire for emulation, he began devotional visits to the nearby Meenakshi Temple in Madurai and, associated with this bhakti, later reported fever-like sensations. Soon after, on July 17, 1896, at age 16, Venkataraman had a life-changing experience. He spontaneously initiated a process of self-enquiry that culminated, within a few minutes, in his own permanent awakening. In one of his rare written comments on this process he wrote: 'Enquiring within Who is the seer? I saw the seer disappear leaving That alone which stands forever. No thought arose to say I saw. How then could the thought arise to say I did not see.'. As Ramana reportedly described it later:
"It was in 1896, about 6 weeks before I left Madurai for good (to go to Tiruvannamalai-Arunachala) that this great change in my life took place. I was sitting alone in a room on the first floor of my uncle's house. I seldom had any sickness and on that day there was nothing wrong with my health, but a sudden violent fear of death overtook me. There was nothing in my state of health to account for it nor was there any urge in me to find out whether there was any account for the fear. I just felt I was going to die and began thinking what to do about it. It did not occur to me to consult a doctor or any elders or friends. I felt I had to solve the problem myself then and there. The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: 'Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.' And at once I dramatised the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out still as thoughrigor mortis has set in, and imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, and that neither the word 'I' nor any word could be uttered. 'Well then,' I said to myself, 'this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burn and reduced to ashes. But with the death of the body, am I dead? Is the body I? It is silent and inert, but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of I within me, apart from it. So I am the Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit.' All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truths which I perceived directly almost without thought process. I was something real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with the body was centered on that I. From that moment onwards, the "I" or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death vanished once and for all. The ego was lost in the flood of Self-awareness. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time. Other thought might come and go like the various notes of music, but the I continued like the fundamental sruti note ["that which is heard" i.e. the Vedas and Upanishads] a note which underlies and blends with all other notes.".
After this event, he lost interest in school-studies, friends, and relations. Avoiding company, he preferred to sit alone, absorbed in concentration on the Self, and went daily to the Meenakshi Temple, ecstatically devoted to the images of the Gods, tears flowing profusely from his eyes.
Venkataraman’s elder brother, Nagaswamy, was aware of a great change in him and on several occasions rebuked him for his detachment from all that was going on around him. About six weeks after Venkataraman’s absorption into the Self, on August 29, 1896, he was attempting to complete a homework assignment which had been given to him by his English teacher for indifference in his studies. Suddenly Venkataraman tossed aside the book and turned inward in meditation. His elder brother rebuked him again, asking, "What use is all this to one who is like this?" Venkataraman did not answer, but recognized the truth in his brother’s words.
Journey to Arunachala
He decided to leave his home and go to Arunachala. Knowing his family would not permit this, he slipped away, telling his brother he needed to attend a special class at school. Fortuitously, his brother asked him to take five rupees and pay his college fees on his way to school. Venkataraman took out an atlas, calculated the cost of his journey, took three rupees and left the remaining two with a note which read: "I have set out in quest of my Father in accordance with his command. This (meaning his person) has only embarked on a virtuous enterprise. Therefore, no one need grieve over this act. And no money need be spent in search of this. Your college fee has not been paid. Herewith rupees two."
At about noon, Venkataraman left his uncle's house and walked to the railway station. At about three o'clock the next morning, he arrived at Viluppuram and walked into the town at daybreak. Tired and hungry, he asked for food at a hotel and had to wait until noon for the food to be ready. He then went back to the station and spent his remaining money on a ticket to Mambalappattu, a stop on the way to Tiruvannamalai. From there, he set out, intending to walk the remaining distance of about 30 miles (48 km).
After walking about 11 miles (18 km), he reached the temple of Arayaninallur, outside of which he sat down to rest. When the priest opened the temple for puja, Venkataraman entered and sat in the pillared hall where he had a vision of brilliant light enveloping the entire place. He sat in deep meditation after the light disappeared until the temple priests who needed to lock up the temple roused him. He asked them for food and was refused, though they suggested he might get food at the temple in Kilur where they were headed for service. Venkataraman followed, and late in the evening when the puja ended at this temple, he asked for food and was refused again. The temple drummer who had been watching the rude behaviour of the priests implored them to hand over his share of the temple food to the strange youth. When he asked for water, he was directed to a Sastri’s house. He set out but fainted and fell down, spilling the rice he had been given in the temple. When he regained consciousness, he began picking up the scattered rice, not wanting to waste even a single grain.
Muthukrishna Bhagavatar was amongst the crowd that gathered around Venkataraman when he collapsed. He was so struck by Venkataraman’s extraordinary radiance and beauty and felt such compassion for him that he led the boy to his house, providing him with a bed and food. It was August 31, the Gokulastami day, the day of Krishna’s birth, and the Bhagavathar's wife was delighted that a young Brahmin boy with the appearance of a mendicant had visited their home that day, and was only too happy to feed him. Afterwards, Venkataraman asked Bhagavatar for a loan of four rupees on the pledge of his ear-rings so that he could complete his pilgrimage. Bhagavatar agreed and gave Venkataraman a receipt he could use to redeem his ear-rings. Venkataraman continued on his journey, tearing up the receipt immediately because he knew he would never have any need for the ear-rings.
On the morning of September 1, 1896, Venkataraman boarded the train and traveled the remaining distance. In Tiruvannamalai he went straight to the temple of Arunachaleswara. There, Venkataraman found not only the temple gates standing open, but the doors to the inner shrine as well, and not a single person, even a priest, was in the temple. He entered the sanctum sanctorum and addressed Arunachaleswara, saying: "I have come to Thee at Thy behest. Thy will be done." He embraced the linga in ecstasy. The burning sensation that had started back at Madurai (which he later described as "an inexpressible anguish which I suppressed at the time") merged in Arunachaleswara. Venkataraman was safely home.
Early life at Arunachala
The first few weeks he spent in the thousand-pillared hall, but shifted to other spots in the temple and eventually to the Patala-lingam vault so that he might remain undisturbed. There, he would spend days absorbed in such deep samādhi that he was unaware of the bites of vermin and pests. Seshadri Swamigal, a local saint, discovered him in the underground vault and tried to protect him. After about six weeks in the Patala-lingam, he was carried out and cleaned up. For the next two months he stayed in the Subramanya Shrine, so unaware of his body and surroundings that food had to be placed in his mouth or he would have starved.
From there, he was invited to stay in a mango orchard next to Gurumurtam, a temple about a mile out of Tiruvannamalai, and shortly after his arrival a sadhu named Palaniswami went to see him. Palaniswami's first darshan left him filled with peace and bliss, and from that time on his sole concern was serving Ramana, joining him as his permanent attendant. From Gurumurtam to Virupaksha Cave (1899–1916) to Skandasramam Cave (1916–22), he was the instrument of divine protection for Ramana, who would be without consciousness of the body and lost in inner bliss most of the time. Besides physical protection, Palaniswami would also beg for alms, cook and prepare meals for himself and Ramana, and care for him as needed.
Gradually, despite Ramana's silence, austerities, and desire for privacy, he attracted attention from visitors, and some became his disciples. Eventually, his family discovered his whereabouts. First his uncle Nelliappa Iyer came and pled with him to return home, promising that the family would not disturb his ascetic life. Ramana sat motionless and eventually his uncle gave up. It was at the temple at Pavalakkunru, one of the eastern spurs of Arunachala, that his mother and brother Nagaswami found him in December 1898. Day after day his mother begged him to return, but no amount of weeping and pleading had any visible effect on him. She appealed to the devotees who had gathered around, trying to get them to intervene on her behalf until one requested that Ramana write out his response to his mother. He then wrote on a piece of paper, "In accordance with the prarabdha ( destiny to be worked out in current life) of each, the One whose function it is to ordain makes each to act. What will not happen will never happen, whatever effort one may put forth. And what will happen will not fail to happen, however much one may seek to prevent it. This is certain. The part of wisdom therefore is to stay quiet." At this point his mother returned to Madurai saddened.
Soon after this, in February 1899, Ramana moved further up Arunachala where he stayed briefly in Satguru Cave and Guhu Namasivaya Cave before taking up residence at Virupaksha Cave for the next 17 years, using Mango Tree cave during the summers (except for a six month period at Pachaiamman Koil during the plague epidemic).
In 1902, a government official named Sivaprakasam Pillai, with writing slate in hand, visited the young Swami in the hope of obtaining answers to questions about "How to know one's true identity". The fourteen questions put to the young Swami and his answers were Ramana's first teachings on Self-enquiry, the method for which he became widely known, and were eventually published as 'Nan Yar?', or in English, ‘Who am I?’.
Several visitors came to him and many became his disciples. Kavyakantha Sri Ganapati Sastri (literally, "One who has poetry in his throat"), a Vedic scholar of repute in his age with a deep knowledge of the Srutis, Sastras, Tantras, Yoga, and Agama systems, came to visit Ramana in 1907. After receiving instructions from him, he proclaimed him as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Ramana was known by this name from then on.
Discovery by westerners
It was in 1911 that the first westerner, Frank Humphreys, then a policeman stationed in India, discovered Ramana and wrote articles about him which were first published in The International Psychic Gazette in 1913. However, Ramana only became relatively well known in and out of India after 1934 when Paul Brunton, having first visited Ramana in January 1931, published the book A Search in Secret India, which became very popular. Resulting visitors included Paramahansa Yogananda, Somerset Maugham (whose 1944 novelThe Razor's Edge models its spiritual guru after Ramana), Mercedes de Acosta and Arthur Osborne. Ramana's relative fame spread throughout the 1940s. However, even as his fame spread, Ramana was noted for his belief in the power of silence and his relatively sparse use of speech, as well as his lack of concern for fame or criticism. His lifestyle remained that of a renunciate.
In 1912, while in the company of disciples, he was observed to undergo about a 15 minute period where he showed the outward symptoms of death, which reportedly resulted thereafter in an enhanced ability to engage in practical affairs while remaining in Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi. In 1916 his mother Alagammal and younger brother Nagasundaram joined Ramana at Tiruvannamalai and followed him when he moved to the larger Skandashram Cave, where Bhagavan lived until the end of 1922. His mother took up the life of asannyasin, and Ramana began to give her intense, personal instruction, while she took charge of the Ashram kitchen. Ramana's younger brother, Nagasundaram, then became a sannyasi, assuming the name Niranjanananda, becoming known as Chinnaswami (the younger Swami).
During this period, Ramana composed The Five Hymns to Arunachala, his magnum opus in devotional lyric poetry. Of them the first isAkshara Mana Malai (the Marital Garland of Letters). It was composed in Tamil in response to the request of a devotee for a song to be sung while wandering in the town for alms. The Marital Garland tells in glowing symbolism of the love and union between the human soul and God, expressing the attitude of the soul that still aspires.
Beginning in 1920, his mother's health deteriorated. On the day of her death, May 19, 1922, at about 8 a.m., Ramana sat beside her. It is reported that throughout the day, he had his right hand on her heart, on the right side of the chest, and his left hand on her head, until her death around 8:00 p.m., when Ramana pronounced her liberated, literally, ‘Adangi Vittadu, Addakam’ (‘absorbed’). Later Ramana said of this: "You see, birth experiences are mental. Thinking is also like that, depending on sanskaras (tendencies). Mother was made to undergo all her future births in a comparatively short time.". Her body was enshrined in a samadhi, on top of which a Siva lingamwas installed and given the name Matrbhuteshwara [Siva manifesting as mother]. To commemorate the anniversary of Ramana Maharshi's mother's death, a puja, known as her Aradhana or Mahapooja, is performed every year at the Matrbhuteshwara.
After this, Ramana often walked from Skandashram to her tomb. Then in December 1922, he came down from Skandashram permanently and settled at the base of the Hill, where Sri Ramanasramam is still located today. At first, there was only one hut at thesamadhi, but in 1924 two huts, one opposite the samadhi and the other to the north were erected.
The Sri Ramanasramam grew to include a library, hospital, post-office and many other facilities. Ramana displayed a natural talent for planning building projects. Annamalai Swami gave detailed accounts of this in his reminiscences. Until 1938, Annamalai Swami was entrusted with the task of supervising the projects and received his instructions from Ramana directly.
The 1940s saw many of Ramana's most ardent devotees pass away. These included Echamma (1945), attendant Madhavaswami (1946), Ramanatha Brahmachari (1946), Mudaliar Granny and Lakshmi (1948). Ramana was noted for his unusual love of creatures and plants. On the morning of June 18, 1948, he realized his favorite cow Lakshmi was near death. Just as he had with his own Mother, Ramana placed his hands on her head and over her heart. The cow died peacefully at 11:30 a.m. and Ramana later declared that the cow was liberated.
Ramana was noted for his belief in the power of silence and relatively sparse use of speech. He led a modest and renunciate life. However, a popular image of him as a person who spent most of his time doing nothing except silently sitting in samadhi is highly inaccurate, according to David Godman, who has written extensively about Ramana. According to Godman, from the period when an Ashram began to rise around him after his mother arrived into his later years, Ramana was actually quite active in Ashram activities until his health failed.
In November 1948, a tiny cancerous lump was found on the Maharshi's arm and was removed in February 1949 by the ashram doctor. Soon, another growth appeared, and another operation was done by an eminent surgeon in March, 1949, with Radium applied. The doctor told Ramana that a complete amputation of the arm to the shoulder was required to save his life, but he refused. A third and fourth operation were performed in August and December 1949, but only weakened him. Other systems of medicine were then tried; all proved fruitless and were stopped by the end of March when devotees gave up all hope. To devotees who begged him to cure himself for the sake of his followers, Ramana is said to have replied, "Why are you so attached to this body? Let it go" and, "Where can I go? I am here."
By April 1950, Ramana was too weak to go to the hall, and visiting hours were limited. Visitors would file past the small room where he spent his final days to get one final glimpse. Swami Satyananda, the attendant at the time, reports, "On the evening of 14 April 1950, we were massaging Ramana's body. At about 5 o'clock, he asked us to help him to sit up. Precisely at that moment devotees started chanting 'Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva'. When Ramana heard this his face lit up with radiant joy. Tears began to flow from his eyes and continued to flow for a long time. I was wiping them from time to time. I was also giving him spoonfuls of water boiled with ginger. The doctor wanted to administer artificial respiration but Ramana waved it away. Ramana’s breathing became gradually slower and slower and at 8:47 p.m. it subsided quietly." Henri Cartier-Bresson, the French photographer, who had been staying at the ashram for a fortnight prior to Ramana’s death, recounted the event:
"It is a most astonishing experience. I was in the open space in front of my house, when my friends drew my attention to the sky, where I saw a vividly-luminous shooting star with a luminous tail, unlike any shooting star I had before seen, coming from the South, moving slowly across the sky and, reaching the top of Arunachala, disappeared behind it. Because of its singularity we all guessed its import and immediately looked at our watches – it was 8:47 – and then raced to the Ashram only to find that our premonition had been only too sadly true: the Master had passed into parinirvana at that very minute." Ramana Maharshi was 71 years old at the time of his death.
Cartier-Bresson took some of the last photographs of Ramana on April 4, 1950 and went on to take pictures of the mahasamadhi preparations. The New York Times concluded: "Here in India, where thousands of so-called holy men claim close tune with the infinite, it is said that the most remarkable thing about Ramana Maharshi was that he never claimed anything remarkable for himself, yet became one of the most loved and respected of all.".
Ramana's teachings about self-enquiry, the practice he is most widely associated with, have been classified as the Path of Knowledge (Jnana marga) among the Indian schools of thought. Though his teaching is consistent with and generally associated with Hinduism, theUpanishads and Advaita Vedanta, there are some differences with the traditional Advaitic school, and Ramana gave his approval to a variety of paths and practices from various religions.
His earliest teachings are documented in the book Nan Yar?(Who am I?), first written in Tamil. The original book was published by Sri Pillai, although the essay version of the book (Sri Ramana Nutrirattu) prepared by Ramana is considered definitive as unlike the original it had the benefit of his revision and review. A careful translation with notes is available in English as 'The Path of Sri Ramana, Part One' by Sri Sadhu Om, one of the direct disciples of Ramana. Selections from this definitive version follow:
- As all living beings desire to be happy always, without misery, as in the case of everyone there is observed supreme love for one's self, and as happiness alone is the cause for love, in order to gain that happiness which is one's nature and which is experienced in the state of deep sleep where there is no mind, one should know one's self. For that, the path of knowledge, the inquiry of the form "Who am I?", is the principal means.
- Knowledge itself is 'I'. The nature of (this) knowledge is existence-consciousness-bliss.
- What is called mind is a wondrous power existing in Self. It projects all thoughts. If we set aside all thoughts and see, there will be no such thing as mind remaining separate; therefore, thought itself is the form of the mind. Other than thoughts, there is no such thing as the mind.
- Of all the thoughts that rise in the mind, the thought 'I' is the first thought.
- That which rises in this body as 'I' is the mind. If one enquires 'In which place in the body does the thought 'I' rise first?', it will be known to be in the heart [spiritual heart is 'two digits to the right from the centre of the chest']. Even if one incessantly thinks 'I', 'I', it will lead to that place (Self)'
- The mind will subside only by means of the enquiry 'Who am I?'. The thought 'Who am I?', destroying all other thoughts, will itself finally be destroyed like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre.
- If other thoughts rise, one should, without attempting to complete them, enquire, 'To whom did they arise?', it will be known 'To me'. If one then enquires 'Who am I?', the mind (power of attention) will turn back to its source. By repeatedly practising thus, the power of the mind to abide in its source increases.
- The place where even the slightest trace of the 'I' does not exist, alone is Self.
- The Self itself is God.
Ramana warned against considering self-enquiry as an intellectual exercise. Properly done, it involves fixing the attention firmly and intensely on the feeling of 'I', without thinking. It is perhaps more helpful to see it as 'Self-attention' or 'Self-abiding' (cf. Sri Sadhu Om - The Path of Sri Ramana Part I). The clue to this is in Ramana's own death experience when he was 16. After raising the question 'Who am I?' he "turned his attention very keenly towards himself" (cf. description above). Attention must be fixed on the 'I' until the feeling of duality disappears.
Although he advocated self-enquiry as the fastest means to realization, he also recommended the path of bhakti and self-surrender (to one's Deity or Guru) either concurrently or as an adequate alternative, which would ultimately converge with the path of self-enquiry.
Teachings and Advaita
Ramana's teachings and the traditional Advaitic school of thought pioneered by Adi Shankara have many things in common. Ramana often mentioned and is known to have encouraged study of the following classical works: Ashtavakra Gita, Ribhu Gita and Essence of Ribhu Gita, Yoga Vasista Sara, Tripura Rahasya[], Kaivalya Navaneetam, Advaita Bodha Deepika,and Ellam Ondre. However, there are some practical differences with the traditional Advaitic school, which recommends a negationist neti, neti (Sanskrit, "not this", "not this") path, or mental affirmations that the Self was the only reality, such as "I am Brahman" or "I am He", while Ramana advocates the enquiry "Nan Yar" (Tamil, "Who am I"). Furthermore, unlike the traditional Advaitic school, Ramana strongly discouraged most who came to him from adopting a renunciate lifestyle.
- The traditional Advaitic (non-dualistic) school advocates "elimination of all that is non-self (the five sheaths) until only the Self remains". The five kosas, or sheaths, that hide the true Self are: Material, Vital, Mental, Knowledge, and Blissful.
- Ramana says "enquiry in the form 'Who am I' alone is the principal means. To make the mind subside, there is no adequate means other than self-enquiry. If controlled by other means, mind will remain as if subsided, but will rise again"
Method of teaching
Ramana considered his own guru to be the Self, in the form of the sacred mountain Arunachala. Ramana did not publicize himself as a guru, never claimed to have disciples, and never appointed any successors. While a few who came to see him are said to have become enlightened through association, he did not publicly acknowledge any living person as liberated other than his mother at death. Ramana declared himself an atiasrama (beyond all caste and religious restrictions, not attached to anything in life), and did not belong to or promote any lineage. Despite this, there are numerous contemporary teachers who assert being in his lineage.
Ramana's method of teaching was characterized by the following:
- He urged people who came to him to practice self-enquiry;
- He directed people to look inward rather than seeking outside themselves for Realization. ("The true Bhagavan resides in your Heart as your true Self. This is who I truly am.");
- He viewed all who came to him as the Self rather than as lesser beings. ("The jnani sees no one as an ajnani. All are only jnanis in his sight.");
- He charged no money, and was adamant that no one ever ask for money (or anything else) in his name;
- He never promoted or called attention to himself. Instead, Ramana remained in one place for 54 years, offering spiritual guidance to anyone of any background who came to him, and asking nothing in return;
- He considered humility to be the highest quality;
- He said the deep sense of peace one felt around a jnani was the surest indicator of their spiritual state, that equality towards all was a true sign of liberation, and that what a true jnani did was always for others, not themselves.
Over the course of Ramana's lifetime, people from a wide variety of backgrounds, religions, and countries were drawn to him. Some stayed for the rest of their lives (or his) and served him with great devotion, and others came for a single darshan and left, deeply affected by the peace he radiated.
Quite a number of followers wrote books conveying Ramana's teachings. Muruganar  (1893–1973), one of Ramana's foremost devotees who lived as Ramana's shadow for 26 years, recorded the most comprehensive collection of Ramana's sayings in a work called Guru Vachaka Kovai (The Garland of Guru's Sayings). Ramana carefully reviewed this work with Muruganar, modifying many verses to most accurately reflect his teaching, and adding in additional verses. Muruganar was also instrumental in Ramana's writing of Upadesa Saram (The Essence of Instruction) and Ulladu Narpadu (Forty Verses on Reality). Sri Sadhu Om  (1922–1985) spent five years with Ramana and about 28 years with Muruganar. His deep understanding of Ramana's teachings on self-enquiry are explained in his book The Path of Sri Ramana – Part One. Suri Nagamma wrote a series of letters to her brother in Telugu, describing Ramana's conversations with devotees over a five year period. Each letter was corrected by Ramana before it was sent. Attendants of Ramana included Palaniswami (from 1897), Kunju Swami (from 1920), Madhava Swami, Ramanatha Brahmachari, Krishnaswami, Rangaswamy, Sivananda, Krishna Bhikshu and Annamalai Swami (from 1928). The devoted ladies who cooked for Bhagavan and his devotees in the ashram kitchen include Shantamma, Sampurnamma, Subbalakshmi Ammal, Lokamma, and Gowri Ammal.
Paul Brunton's writings about Ramana brought considerable attention to him in the West. Other Westerners who wrote about Ramana include Arthur Osborne (the first editor of the ashram journal, The Mountain Path), Major Chadwick (who ran the Veda Patasala during Ramana's time), Ethel Merston, and S.S. Cohen. More recently, David Godman, a former librarian at the ashram, has written about Ramana's teaching, as well as a series of books (The Power of the Presence) vividly portraying the lives of a number of lesser-known attendants and devotees of Ramana. Swami Ramdas visited Ramana Maharshi while on pilgrimage in 1922, and after darshan, spent the next 21 days meditating in solitude in a cave on Arunachala. Thereafter, he attained the direct realization that "All was Rama, nothing but Rama".
Maurice Frydman (a.k.a. Swami Bharatananda), a Polish Jew who later translated Nisargadatta Maharaj's work "I Am That" from Marathi to English, was also deeply influenced by Ramana's teachings.
William Somerset Maugham, the English author, wrote a chapter entitled "The Saint" in his last book "Points of View." This chapter is devoted to Ramana Maharshi, whom Maugham had at one time visited before Indian independence.
Indian National Congress politician and freedom-fighter, O. P. Ramaswamy Reddiyar, who served as the Premier of Madras from 1947 to 1949, was also a devoted follower of Ramana Maharshi. Ramaswami Pillai, Balarama Reddy, Ramani Ammal, Kanakammal, Meenakshi Ammal, Perumalswami and Rayar are some of the other long standing devotees who came into the Sannadhi of Bhagavan during his life at Sri Ramanasramam.
Many of Ramana Maharshi's followers asked for a hymn to sing while on their rounds for alms. They felt this would help distinguish them from other hermits. After much persuasion, Ramana Maharshi composed Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai (The Marital Garland of Letters) in praise of Lord Shiva, manifest as the mountain Arunachala. The hymn consists of 108 stanzas composed in poetic Tamil, praising the formless Shiva as Arunachala and the different aspects of life and salvation that it symbolizes. A rendering of this hymn was done by the Ramananjali Bhajan Mandali. 
- Who am I?Naan Yaar
- Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi by Munagal Venkataramiah
- Day by Day with Bhagavan by A. Devaraja Mudaliar. An account of daily discussions during the period 1945 to 1947 (ISBN 81-88018-82-1).
- Gems from Bhagavan by A. Devaraja Mudaliar (ISBN 8188018058)
- Be as You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi by David Godman (ISBN 0-14-019062-7)
- Letters from Ramanasram by Suri Nagamma Letters from Ramansram
- A Search in Secret India by Paul Brunton The book credited with introducing Bhagavan to followers in the West
- The Path of Sri Ramana, Part One, by Sri Sadhu Om(ASIN B000KMKFX0) 
- The Path of Sri Ramana, Part Two, by Sri Sadhu Om (ASIN B000KMKFX0) 
- Happiness and the Art of Being" A Layman's Introduction to the Philosophy and Practice of the Spiritual Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana (ISBN 1-4251-2465-8)
- Ramana Puranam, composed by Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Muruganar (ISBN 8162890599)
- Origin of Spiritual Instruction, by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi (ISBN 978-0970366733)
- Ulladu narpadu = Forty Verses On Reality, by Ramana Maharshi, translation and commentary by S.S. Cohen (ISBN 0722401612)
- The Essential Teachings of Ramana Maharshi: A Visual Journey (ISBN 1-878019-18-X)
- Padamalai: Teachings of Ramana Maharshi, recorded by Sri Muruganar, edited by David Godman (ISBN 0971137137)
- The Spiritual Teaching of Ramana Maharshi (ISBN 1-59030-139-0
- Maharshi and His Message, by [Paul Brunton]
- Timeless in Time: Sri Ramana Maharshi, by A.R. Natarajan (ISBN 81-85378-82-7)
- Ramana Maharshi: His Life, by Gabriele Ebert (ISBN 978-1411673502)
- Ramana Pictorial Souvenir Commemorating the Kumbhabhishekam on 18-6-1967. Tiruvannamalai, India: Board of Trustees Sri Ramanasramam. 1969. OCLC 140712. (Anonymously edited volume with many appreciations and reminiscences from others, plus many quotes from Ramana Maharshi)
- A Sadhu's Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi, by Major A. W. Chadwick (ISBN 81-88018-37-6)
- Living By The Words of Bhagavan, by David Godman (no ISBN) about Annamalai Swami
- The Power of the Presence, Part One, by David Godman (ISBN 0-9711371-1-0), about several devotees
- The Power of the Presence, Part Two, by David Godman (ISBN 0-9711371-0-2), about several devotees
- The Power of the Presence, Part Three, by David Godman (ISBN 0-9711371-2-9), about several devotees
- Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, by Suri Nagamma (ISBN 81-88018-10-4), contains 273 letters from the period 1945 to 1950, each one corrected by Sri Ramana.
- A Practical Guide to Know Yourself: Conversations with Sri Ramana Maharshi (ISBN 81-85378-09-6)
- Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi: On Realizing Abiding Peace and Happiness (ISBN 1-878019-00-7)
- Guru Ramana, by S.S. Cohen (ISBN 81-88225-22-3)
- Moments Remembered, Reminiscences of Bhagavan Ramana, by V. Ganesan (ISBN 978-8188018437)
- Living with the Master, Reminiscences by Kunjuswami (ISBN 81-88018-99-6)
- Sri Ramana Reminiscences, by G. V. Subbaramayya
- Sri Ramana, Friend of Animals: Hobbler and the Monkeys of Arunachala (ISBN 81-8288-047-5)
- Sri Ramana, Friend of Animals: The Life of Lakshmi the Cow
- Ramana Thatha (Grand Father Ramana), by Kumari Sarada (ISBN 81-85378-03-7)
- Ramana Maharshi (Amar Chitra Katha: The Glorious Heritage of India series) (ISBN 81-7508-048-5)
- The Boy Sage, by Geeta Bhatt (author), S.K. Maithreyi (Illustrator) (ISBN 978-8182881129)
- Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi the Atiasrami, p.1
- Be As You Are Introduction
- and concentration.html Sri Ramana's approval of other practices
- Arthur Osborne, Ramana Maharshi and the Path of Self-Knowledge
- Interview on Sri Ramana Maharshi's life and teachings, p.1
- Sri Ramana Leela, Krishna Bikshu
- Krishna Bikshu, Sri Ramana Leela
- Timeless in Time, Sri Ramana Maharshi, A. R. Natarajan
- Path of Self-Knowledge:1
- Sri Ramana Maharshi's Life
- Ramana Maharshi and the Path of Self-Knowledge, Arthur Osborne
- Bhagavan Ramana, the complete book on the website dedicated to Arunachala and Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
- Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, A Pictorial Biography
- Bhagavan Sri Ramana, A Pictorial Biography
- Bhagavan Sri Ramana, A Pictorial Biography, Joan and Matthew Greenblatt
- The Path of Sri Ramana (Part One), Sri Sadhu Om
- Bhagavan Sri Ramana, A Pictorial Biography. page 34
- Timeless in Time, Sri Ramana Maharshi, A.R. Natarajan, pages 27-29
- Who Am I?
- The path of Sri Ramana, Part One by Sri Sadhu Om. Fifth Ed. page 15
- Account of Frank Humphreys, First Western Disciple
- Sri Ramana Maharshi and Somerset Maugham
- Sri Ramana Maharshi's Response to Criticism
- Introduction to Sri Ramana's Hymns to Arunachala
- Sri Ramana Maharshi's Mother
- Krishnamurti Aiyer in David Godman's "The Power of the Presence - Part One" (2000) p.140
- Living by the Words of Bhagavan, David Godman
- Sri Ramana Leela, Ch 40
- Interview on Sri Ramana Maharshi's life and teachings, p.3
- Memoirs and Notes, S. S. Cohen
- PAGE TWO: Here Lies the Heart
- Who Am I?
- Path of Sri Ramana - Part Two, by Sri Sadhu Om
- TRIPURA RAHASYA. Chapters I - XV of XXII
- Ellam Ondre
- Vivekachudamani, Verse 210, Sri Sankaracharya
- "Nan Yar" by Sri Ramana as reproduced in Path of Sri Ramana, Part One, Fifth Edition. Page 149, :152. Note that "Nan Yar" was documented by his disciple M. Sivaprakasam Pillai, who was already heavily influenced by traditional Advaita, and so had added notes about the traditional Advaitic negation method for his own clarification; these additional notes were later removed by Sri Ramana (ibid: Page 147)
- Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi the Atiasrami, p.1
- Sri Muruganar
-  The Mountain Path, Vol. 1 - October 1964 - No. 4
- Guru Vachaka Kovai
- Sadhu Om
- The Path of Sri Ramana - Part One
-  The Mountain Path, January 1965
- Self Inquiry (2012-06-19). "Sri Ramana Maharshi's Aksharamanamalai.m4v". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-08-04.
- PDF available at http://www.happinessofbeing.com/path_ramana.html
- PDF available at http://www.happinessofbeing.com/happiness_art_being.html
- Available at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7390375386934930566
- "Ramana Maharshi - Abide As The Self - YouTube". Video.google.com. 2012-06-07. Retrieved 2012-08-04.