How I was brought to Ramana

A friend asked me recently to write about how I came to Ramana. I was brought to him by a chain of events that started with my father’s death and culminated in a visit to Meenakshi Amman Temple in southern India. I’ve written about some of those events on this blog in individual posts but I don’t think I ever described the whole sequence in one place.

Here’s a summary of what happened.

  • In 1985 when I was 32 years old my father died.
  • I became obsessed for months by the thought, “I’m going to die too. Life is short. I must find out the most important thing I can do with my life, and then I must do it before time runs out.” That thought was a desire.

I’ll interrupt here to say that the two bullet points above are what set this whole chain of events in motion. Everything else on this page unfolded from them.

  • My parents had been planning to attend a wedding in India. Now that my father was dead, my mother asked me to accompany her.
  • My American girlfriend had been to India a few years earlier as a tourist, so I asked her where I should go on my trip. She said, “Go to Meenakshi Temple in Madurai”. I now realize this was a very strange thing for her to say because she had no interest in Hinduism and no knowledge of it, and Meenakshi Temple was not a usual tourist destination for Westerners.
  • I knew nothing about Hinduism or meditation or liberation or Ramana or anything of the kind. I was an atheist.
  • A month or two later I walked into Meenakshi Temple and went into an altered state of consciousness. I stumbled around the temple for two days and did many peculiar things, including staring at the Nataraja statue and the statues of the 63 Nayanars. Like I said, I knew nothing about Hinduism and had no idea what I was looking at.
  • Gradually, very slowly, from that day forward, I began to feel a desire for liberation. At first it seemed like a desire to fly. I tried to fly in dreams like a super hero and then, when that wasn’t enough, became a pilot. Ordinary airplanes didn’t give me the feeling of freedom that I wanted so I learned to do aerobatics (flying upside down, in loops, etc.). That didn’t satisfy me either so I flew gliders for a year or two.
  • One day after I had flown aircraft for four years I suddenly realized, “I don’t want to fly in the air. I want to fly in consciousness.” I became intensely aware that I felt like I was physically trapped inside my skull and I wanted to escape. I began to read spiritual books and meditate and experiment with Buddhism, Yoga, Daoism, everything I came across. Thirteen years after the experience in Meenakshi Temple my kundalini became active. As the result of kundalini activation I had many profound holy experiences of God but I knew intuitively that this wasn’t the kind of enlightenment I was looking for. I knew I was looking for something else but didn’t know what.
  • Fourteen years after the experience in Meenakshi Temple, I stumbled across one of Ramana’s writings on the Internet. This was the first time I had heard of him. I skimmed the document and within a few minutes understood the basic idea that I should turn my attention inward, away from its usual outward-facing direction, and place it on myself. Instantly I knew, I KNEW that this was the teaching I had been looking for. I knew that I had found my path and my teacher. Immediately I started trying to practice the method that Ramana teaches in his pamplet “Who Am I?”
  • By coincidence I lived a few miles from Arunachala Ashrama (the American affiliate of Sri Ramanasramam). It sells all the Sri Ramanasramam publications. A few weeks after I learned of Sri Ramana for the first time, I went to the American ashram with the intention of buying a copy of every ashram book. A life-size statue of Ramana, a duplicate of the one in the Indian ashram, is located in the American ashram. When I saw the statue, I flopped flat on my belly in front of it and cried for about 15 minutes. I was surprised by my behavior. I had never prostrated before. There was nothing about prostration in my cultural background. And how did such intense emotion concerning Ramana build up so fast? I had only heard of him a few weeks earlier. I think the emotion had built up over 14 years as a result of my experience in the temple but I hadn’t known it consciously.
  • I became obsessed with Ramana and read his writings and dozens of books about him including his biography. I learned for the first time that he realized the Self in a house a few hundred feet from Meenakshi Temple. I learned for the first time that during the six weeks after he realized, he went frequently to that temple and cried while looking at the statues I mentioned, the Nataraja and Nayanars. I think the reason those statues attracted my attention in 1985 was because I felt an echo of what he felt when he stood there 89 years earlier. I suppose that’s a kind of transmission across time.
  • I think the Goddess (i.e., Meenakshi, i.e. Parvati) planted a seed in me during those two days in 1985, and the seed took many years to sprout, but it eventually took over my life. I think she hooked me up to Ramana or placed me on a track to emulate him or something of the sort. Thirty years later in 2015 I developed the ability to speak with her and asked why she had given me that seed. “Why me?” I asked. “Because you wanted it,” she said. “Huh?” I said. “I knew nothing about these things. I didn’t want it.” She replied by showing me that on the day in 1985 when I entered her temple, my head was filled with the desire that followed my father’s death, the desire to know the most important thing I could do with my life. She made me realize that the desire for what is most important is actually the desire for God and liberation. That desire, she said, is automatically self-fulfilling.
  • When I began to hear her, almost the first thing she said was, “You should meet my husband.” Her husband is Shiva (he is called Sundareshwarar in the temple in Madurai) so she meant I should become like Ramana; I should realize the Self. I think everything she has done to me and for me over the years was meant to help make that happen.

Ramana always said that Arunachala was his guru, but we know he realized the Self while living a half block from Meenakshi Temple. I wonder whether the Goddess had something to do with it.

The chain of events that led to Ramana’s realization began with the death of his father when he was 12. He began to wonder, “Did my father die when his body died? Was he his body? I’m like him, and I can find the answer by discovering what I am.” His wondering culminated in his death experience in 1896 when he realized the Self.

The chain of events in my case also began with my father’s death, and I also began to wonder something: “What is the most important thing?”

In case I’ve offended anyone by comparing myself to Ramana instead of distancing myself from him by putting him on a pedestal, please read what Sadhu Natanananda told V. Ganesan.

The highest form of devotion to Sri Ramana is to make the strongest possible efforts to be like him.


Sadhu Natanananda’s Ferocious Lecture About Self-Enquiry
“What do you think you have come to Bhagavan for? For what function has he chosen you?”

Earlier posts where I described these events in more detail

My Two Days at Meenakshi Amman Temple

Ramana and Meenakshi Amman Temple

The Desire for God is God

4 thoughts to “How I was brought to Ramana”

  1. I am at a phase where I want to be in Self always. The first ray of Self I became aware in 2016, initially to hold it was difficult. Then by practice I learnt to stay in self even during a business meeting or in any situation, but still not Sahaja!
    I was a meditator always…. Never had Shakthi or Amman experience but directly launched in Shiva or Self!
    I wish to stay anonymous!

  2. I heard about Ramana from a friendly Dutch gentleman who had stayed at Arunachala for several years. I met this gentleman at a Kriya Yoga retreat centre in The Netherlands, more than 15 years ago. He was the only one who was sleeping outside, not in a tent or the dorms. Which was very brave, with all the mosquitos and ticks. When I asked him about it, he shrugged and said something along the lines of ’the necessity of sleeping under a roof is just a social construct.’ He said that he had slept under the stars for years at Arunchala. He only came back to The Netherlands when he became ill. He wasn’t planning to, but out of the blue one of the local swamis had come to him, telling him to go back to The Netherlands, or he would die from the illness. So he used his credit card, which he had kept as a back up, and booked a flight back. At Amsterdam airport, they wanted to quarantine him, but he managed to run away, and went straight home. Survived to tell the story. I always admired his dedication and toughness.

  3. Freddie,

    Now that we’re settled with Ramana’s Atma vichara method, and understand it inside out, are we to progress to his original/first suggestion of surrender?

    I ‘m reaching it only now, after years of selfgazing.

    Now that I REALLY understand that there is nothing to do I turn to doing nothing/surrender – which is found in Ramana’s writings and also in Taoism/zazen, Steven Harrison books and Wu Wei, to name names..

    It’s a delight to let go and let be. No more resistance. No more fight or flight and cortisol and excess and contraction.

    It’s all about freedom, this release and acceptance of life.
    It’s new, refreshing and cool. Sounds like an ad to a new beverage..

    In this scenario I no longer fight with my writing and paperwork, (for example) and let it happen. no worries..

    Lets see how it goes… (:

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