Biography of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Sri Ramana Maharshi was born in 1878. In his 17th year he attained enlightenment through a remarkable experience as if undergoing death of the physical body while remaining in full consciousness. Following the transformation, he left his home and was drown irresistibly to the sacred hill of Arunachala. He never left it. In the ashram which was formed around him he taught the purest form of Advaita Vedanta (non-duality) through the supremely simple discipline of Self -Enquiry. Ramana Maharshi’s presence invoked a remarkable and transformational impression of benevolence and dignity, kindness and simplicity. which proved to be fundamental to the movement toward spiritual enlightenment in the Western world. Ramana saw God in everything. He had the utmost respect for animals, and there are many wonderful stories of his interactions with them, some of which I have recounted below.
Sri Ramana Maharshi and the Ashram Animals.
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi the Indian Saint showed the same consideration to the animals whom destiny had brought into contact with him as to the people. And animals were drawn to him just as people were. Birds and squirrels would build their nests close to him and mother monkeys were often seen to bring their babies to him for blessings in the same way human mothers would bring their children for blessings. He never referred to animals in the usual Indian style as ‘it’ but always as ‘he’ or ‘she.’ At meal time at the ashram the animals were always fed first, then any beggers who might have chanced by, and then the devotes. He referred to the ashram dogs as “the Lads.”
Many animals found their way to the ashram including dogs, cats, cows, peacocks, squirrels, birds and monkeys. Squirrels would hop through the window of Ramana’s room. He always kept treats for them by his side. The animals felt his Grace and he loved them in return.
Despite protests from his followers, Ramana would not have the snakes who inhabited the ashram grounds killed. He felt that the human beings had invaded their home and that they should be respected. He treated the snakes with the greatest reverence and respect and no one was ever harmed by one. Many animals would gather in the evenings when Bhagavan sat in the hall to talk and pray with his devotees. On occasions when Bhagavan would be delayed, the animals would come to the hall and peer anxiously in the direction of his empty couch. Bhagavan was very intimate with the animals especially the local monkeys who considered him one of their own. Once Bhagavan had been walking with a group of people. They had gone much farther than they expected that day and had become very hungry. Out of nowhere appeared a band of monkeys who swarmed to the top of a high fig tree shaking its branches so that all of the fruit dropped to the ground for Bhagavan and his followers. The monkey left as quickly as they had appeared taking no fruit for themselves.
The most favored of all the animal devotees was a cow named Lakshmi. She was brought along with her mother as a gift to Bhagavan. He felt he could not properly care for the cows and so they were taken to farm in a neighboring village. After Lakshmi had been with the farmer for a year or more he went one evening to Ramanas ashram for prayers bringing Lakshmi and her mother with him for a visit. Lakshmi was irresistibly attracted to Ramana and must have noted carefully the way to the ashram. The next day she appeared on her own and from then on came every day returning, by herself the farm in the evening. At some point along the way she became a permanent member of the ashram. During her life at the ashram, Lakshme bore several calves at least three of them on Bhagavan’s birthday.. She was extremely devoted to Bhagavan and he showed her the utmost Grace and kindness.
On June 17, 1948 Lakshmi became very ill and it was clear that her time had come to an end. Bhagavan went to her and said: “Amma (Mother), do you want me near you?” He sat down beside her and cradled her head in his lap putting one hand on her head and one over her heart just as he had done when his own human mother lay dying. He gazed into her eyes for a long time and lay his cheek against hers stroking her gently. She focused all of her attention on Bhagavan and was conscious up to the end, her eyes bright and clear. On June 18th at 11:30 am she left her body peacefully. She was buried in the Ashram compound and given full funeral rights. Her grave was beside that of a deer, crow and dog which Bhagavan had also buried there. A stone was placed over her grave with her likeness carved into it. On the stone was also engraved the epitaph he had written for her stating that she had attained (Mukti) final liberation. The word mukti is used in two different ways. Generally when it is said that someone has attained mukti it means that they have died. The more spiritual term Mukti means that the soul (usually a very advanced soul) has attained final liberation from this realm of existence. When Bhagavan was questioned as to which definition he was referring to when speaking of Lakshmi, did he mean that she had died or that she had attained liberation, he said Mukti - final liberation!
Books and Teachings Page for more information on
Ramana Maharshi. See the Meditation section for the article
"Creating a Force Field of Love" for another story of Ramana and animals.
Material for this article is taken from the book
"Ramana Maharshi" and the "Path of Self-Knowledge" by Arthur Osborne and from stories that have been past along word of mouth by Ramana's followers.