Sri Ramana; Thiruvāchakam

Sri Ramana Maharishi is likely a distant if reluctant relative of mine from Madurai. And my first mentor. I have to watch my step here.


Sri Ramana Maharishi is by common consent seen as the preeminent modern teacher from the Vedanthic Tradition:

‘The Self is that where there is absolutely no “I” thought.. the place [idam] where even the slightest trace of ‘I’ does not exist is Swarupa [‘True Self’: One’s Real Nature]’.

That is called ‘Silence’. The Self itself is the world; the Self itself is “I”; the Self itself is God; all is Shiva, the Self.’

‘By the inquiry ‘Who am I?’, the thought ‘Who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.’


‘Like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre’. This is Ramana’s principal formula, one that he repeatedly uses in his Talks and Writings. As must be evident, this is as pure a concrete metaphoric version of Yājñavalkya’s Rule as you will find.

The ‘Stick..will itself in the end get destroyed‘ is the rounding of the Rule. It boils down to whether the stick truly burns out, the self-scuttle truly completes, or some splinter remains.

By the time of Ramana Maharishi, the tradition of Upakausalya: ‘Skillful Means’ [‘To speak at the speed of listening of the listener’] was well developed and he was its accomplished practitioner. The level and ease of his Teachings varied widely depending on the nature of the audience.

While most of his early lectures and writings terminate in the notion of the Vedanthic ‘Self’, his later work, shortly before his death, was moving towards an absence of a ‘Witness’, the tail-end of modeled-interpretation.

And I know of at least one important writing where he denies its presence altogether. He was, in other words, settling into Shūnyam.


My thoughts upon that Nature dwelt
till thoughts there were no more.
There is nothing else other than You.
Approaching and approaching, 
I become worn down to an atom,
then worn away till I was one with Him.
Hail Shiva, dwelling in holy Perunturai!
There is nothing that You are,
Yet without You, nothing is!
Who indeed can know You?’

ikkavāchakar’s Thiruvāchakam
Tiruperunturai, Circa 8th Century

I cite this extract from ikkavāchakar’s rightly celebrated poem in Classical Tamil, just to convince you that this track of being ‘Brought to Nothing’ is both universal and very old. The above preceded St. John by about 800 years. You can locate parallel verses in any serious Tradition.

[I can’t recall the very talented translator. If you recognize it, drop me a note.]