The sure sign of spiritual growth is inwardness. The power o latent tendencies which keep externalizing the mind would weaken and wane as one makes steadfast progress through self-enquiry. Seekers of truth are well aware of the battles to be waged on the way, in the form of negative thoughts, listlessness and lack of enthusiasm. Ramana points out that one's duty lies in working away 'tirelessly and joyously' for this is the one field in which success is assured. This is because the experience of continuous bliss is natural to us. I am the 'sahaja' state. All that is being done is only to remove the obstacles to experiencing it.
The grace of the Sadguru is essential for success of spiritual effort. The Sadguru who is a jnani and a person of steady wisdom is not different from God and the Self. The scriptures are emphatic in asserting it. In Ramana we find all the hallmarks of a Sadguru, constant reveling in the Self and equal treatment, samabhava towards all lire. To be aware of his guidance on the path one should learn to keep his company. It is the best 'sat-sang' - association with 'Sat' with Truth. This has to be done by invoking his presence in whatever way one is naturally inclined, by assiduous practice of self-enquiry, reading his works, through art forms, offering worship at his shrine and that of his mother, or a combination of each in some measure. The important thing is to establish the link, to learn to hold on to him. For this prime significance is to be given to the Name. It is said that "Name permeates the entire universe densely". The lives of great saints like Namdev, Tukaram and Swami Ramdas, to mention a few, exemplify this. Repetition of the name and the rememberance of what it signifies has great merit. Thanks to Ganapati Muni, the world knows the Maharshi as Ramana, the sweet one, and as Bhagavan, the worshipful one.
Worship is done at his shrine at Sri Ramanasramam, daily, through 108 names known as 'Ramana Astottara Sata Nama Stotram' composed by Sri Viswanatha Swami, who had been with Ramana for nearly thirty years. Each name has its own power of drawing one to Ramana, because it attempts to describe the beauty of Ramana, his golden hue, his gracious smile, or his majestic look. Else we find some rich biographical details of the holy place of his birth, Tiruchuzhi, the place of his awakening to Truth, Madurai, or the awakening to Truth, Madurai, or the various places of his stay at Arunachala from where his spiritual ministration is emanating all over the world. Some of the names extol the attributes of Ramana, the sweetness of his life, the potency of his silence, his conquest of the senses, his firm celibacy and the like.
Ramana envelops the Universe. So these sacred words are helpful to everyone who wishes to worship him, whishes to feel his presence. As one reads this Astottara, and uses it for daily or congregational worship, Ramana's grace is deeply felt.
This praise is in Sanskrit. Its author has written a commentary on it in Tamil. It is our purpose to open up this treasure to Ramana devotees who do not know these languages and to give a better understanding to those who do. The English translation of the commentary is not literal. However, it is faithful to the original. We hope that the transliteration would be helpful.
Sri T. N. Venkataraman, President of Sri Ramanasraam, has permitted us the use of original texts. Dr. Sarada, Editor of 'The Ramana Way' has corrected the prof. Sri Muralidhara Hegde has done the cover design. Sri S. Pandurangan of Aridra Printers has done the printing. To all of them we offer our special thanks.
These one hundred and eight attributes in praise of Ramana are used for daily worship at his shrine of Grace at Sri Ramanasramam. This had been composed many years before his Mahasamadhi. Ganapati Muni had appreciated it. The words in this composition refer to Ramana's auspicious attributes or his bewitchingform, or some biographical details. A devotee requested Ramana to recommend some verses for his daily 'parayana'. He selected this Astottara. When a Telugu devotee consulted Ramana about a biography which he was writing he told the author' If you expand the biographical particulars in this Astottara it would provide the needed matter'.
In this book of worship, Ramana is extolled as the incarnation of Subrahmanya, the second son of Lord Siva. Subrahmanya is regarded as the foremost among the knowers of Brahman. There are several reasons for this. Ganapati Muni had a number of divine visions in which he repeatedly saw Ramana as such. Swami Sankarananda, while performing penance in Uttarkasi in the Himalayas, also had a similar vision. His vision was so compelling that he was immediately drawn to Tiruvannamalai, to Ramana's presence. While there he actually composed an Astottaram beginning with the words "Sri Sonaparvatadisa, Sri Kumarasambhava". The peerless poet saint Muruganar has also composed innumerable verses similarly praising Ramana. Sivaprakasam Pillai of 'Who am I' fame had a vision of a golden child thrice coming out of Ramana's head. He has described this in his work 'Anugraha Ahaval'. Reference could also be made to a stray verse composed by Ramana on Lord Ganesa in which he refers to himself as the younger son of Siva.
In the Candogya Upanisad we have the story of Sanatkumara instructing the sage Narada. In that story Narada, though pure of mind and rich in penance, could not attain Self-knowledge. Sanatkumara (meaning the younger one) had to initiate him into it. Similarly Ganapati Muni whose state could be likened to that of Narada, learnt the true meaning of tapas from the same Sanatkumara who had reincarnated as Ramana.
We have also the famous composition of Adi Sankara, 'Subrahmanya Bhujangam' on Sentil Murugan. In that Siva says to Kumara, who was sitting on his mother Uma's lap, 'Come, son' and he at once leaps over to him. In like manner in response to the call of his father Arunachala, Ramana left Madurai, his mother Meenaksi's abode. The letter which he wrote while leaving his home, "I have in search of my father and in obedience to his command, started from here" confirms this.
Ramana is the indweller of every heart, shining as 'I', as 'I'. Therefore it seems appropriate to worship him as Guhesa.
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