Arunachala Ramana attained mahasamadhi on 15 Feb. 2010 at 9:16 PM in Tiruvannamalai. He was 80 years old. He had been visiting Tiruvannamalai since 1984, and spent about half of the year here since 1991. He offered satsang to all who came to the AHAM ashram in Tiruvannamalai. When not in Tiruvannamalai, he resided at his other ashram in North Carolina, USA.
His last words (to his attendant, Vivian), were,
“Take no position. Be happy.”
V. Ganesan, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s grand nephew, wrote to a friend of A. Ramana’s passing:
Everything is ended!
The wave has merged with the Ocean, proving and assuring – once again – that the Ocean alone exists and that waves are part & parcel of the Ocean!
The last sentence Sri Ramana Baba spoke to me (during his half-an-hour interlude with me and Anu Ma, nearly two weeks back): “I am fully conscious, Ganesan, I am not the body and I am not the mind; but, that I am pure Awareness.”
This ‘deera’ (courageous) devotee of the Great Master was honest enough to confess and declare that he could never tolerate two things: ‘pain’ and ‘hunger’. And, the last ten days, he lived with pain and hunger without being affected by them !
The last words that I spoke to him (on that same day of his declaration): “Ramana Baba! Surrender completely, spiritually! Give up all forms of your hold on body, mind and the world ! Accept pain; accept suffering! That is the only way to get over them – not by fighting them can you win over them! Arunachala will take you over! Surrender, Ramana Baba, surrender!”
He did it!
He is brave! He is great!
Let us pay our homages to Sri Ramana Baba, with all our Hearts!
The posting below shows the activities of 16 February, 2010. This includes the preparation and interment of the body that once had held this devotee of the Great Master, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Note: If you are squeamish about viewing human remains then you might not want to view this post.
Viewing the body
We walked onto the grounds of AHAM ashram.
Workmen are preparing the samadhi. They had dug a hole, and are now lining it with bricks and concrete.
The remains of A. Ramana are set out in the ashram. They are covered in one of the most elaborate displays of flowers I have seen since coming to India.
Nearby is a picture of sunrise over Arunachala. There were many pictures of Arunachala visible in the ashram. Also of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
The face of A. Ramana looks peaceful. His last days were filled with pain, but the peace is what is seen here.
An oil lamp and incense burn nearby.
Sitting outside are a few people. The man dressed in orange is a sadhu, seemingly supervising this event. He is Swami Ramanananda. He is often seen at Ramanasramam, or riding on Girivalam road on his motor scooter. He has been in Tiruvannamalai, I think, for more than 40 years, since being called to Arunachala by Sri Ramana Maharshi. He was also close to the Coconut Swami, and would read spiritual texts aloud with him.
As we sat with A. Ramana, groups of Indian people would come in and pay their respects.
We left for an hour or so. When we came back, the preparation of the site looked complete.
Preparing the body
A group waits outside the door of the ashram.
Since A. Ramana is seen as a Self-realized saint, the body will be treated very differently than someone, like, say, our friend Sarasvati’s, would be handled. (See here and here for a depiction of this.) The bodies of these saints are considered to be temples by the Hindus, and so are not cremated. Rather, they are buried in a seated meditation posture, preserved by salt and other materials. Their gravesites, called their samadhis, are then turned into holy shrines. See this post to see an example of one of these shrines, and to see how it is revered by those who love the saint.)
The remains are carried out the door.
And seated onto a platform.
Swami Ramanananda makes sure all is correct.
The people pay close attention to what is going on.
The final preparation of the body starts. This is very much like a pooja one sees for a Siva lingam.
Fist rosewater is poured onto the body. The body and head are held erect by helpers.
Water is poured to clean the rosewater.
A mixture of turmeric and water is poured next …
then cleaned with water.
Now the water from tender coconuts is poured.
Then lemons are squeezed, so that the juice anoints the head.
Then honey is poured.
Water for cleanup.
Now milk is poured. If this were performed on a lingam, some of the milk would be collected and offered to devotees. This is not done for these rites.
Water for cleaning.
Fruit is now offered to the remains.
And washed off. This fruit would be collected and offered to devotees as prasad if this were a normal pooja to a lingam. This is not done today.
Fragrant sandalwood mixed with water is poured.
Water cleans the sandalwood.
Now vibhuti (sacred ash) is piled onto the body.
Finally the body is offered a camphor flame. This is a very sacred moment.
The vibhuti is washed off.
Incense is waved.
And the body is dried with a towel.
A white cloth is brought out.
And wrapped around the remains.
The remains are now almost ready for interment. Note that the thumbs and ankles are tied together with strips of white cloth.
Malas (flower necklaces) are placed onto the body. This is being done by V. Ganesan.
V. Ganesan salutes the remains of A. Ramana.
The remains are now ready.
A big cloth bag is brought out, and the body is placed inside it with the head protruding.
The body is now carried out to the samadhi site.
Final touches are being made by the workmen.
People watch from the veranda.
People are also crowded around the samadhi site.
Sacred leaves are being dropped into the samadhi before the body goes in.
Likewise with vibhuti.
People watch from nearby.
Flower petals are dropped in.
Now the body can be lowered in. Note the ropes attached to the platform. These will be used to gently lower the platform with A. Ramana’s body into the samadhi.
People watch as the body of A. Ramana is lowered in.
Now it is sitting on the bottom of the samadhi.
V. Ganesan and Vivian, A. Ramana’s attendant, look in, holding flower petals which they will later toss in.
The woman to the left in white is Jan. She runs the Tiruvannamalai ashram.
They carefully measure the position of the head. All must be properly aligned so that later the lingam positioned over the body of A. Ramana is correctly located. The spiritual energy of a body is said to be released through the head.
Sacred leaves are dropped in.
V. Ganesan tosses in flower petals.
They float down into the samadhi.
More leaves and petals are thrown in.
Now the mixture of salt, sacred ash, and camphor are being put into the bag that contains the body of A. Ramana. This is to preserve the body.
When the bag is almost full, they start bringing in pans of dirt and sand to surround the body, and to keep it properly located in the center of the samadhi.
The interment continues with more of the same.
They stop again for measurement.
V. Ganesan continues his reverential chanting, kept up, with some of the other devotees, during the whole process.
The body is now completely covered, just the head is out.
More sacred leaves are dropped in.
Flowers are added.
And more flowers.
And more flowers.
The head is now covered in ash. One more measurement is taken.
The crowd leans in to the samadhi site to get a good look.
Now to finish up, loads of sand are brought in and dumped.
The stick is inserted. It will stay in for the rest of the process.
More dirt and sand have been added.
An incense burner had been lit and is burning nearby throughout the ceremonies. Incense is added as needed to keep it going.
Almost full now.
People standing nearby.
This is Vivian on the right. The old lady standing with her has been here all day. She also attended the special pooja for the Coconut Swami.
Beautiful flowers bloom in a tree nearby. These will grace the samadhi in years to come.
From within the samadhi, the remains of A. Ramana face Arunachala, which he so loved.
The samadhi has been filled. Now a layer or bricks is added.
A rose has been placed in the stick that connects to the head of A. Ramana.
More bricks are laid.
The layer of bricks is then covered with sand.
A stone has been positioned next to the stick that marks A. Ramana’s head. This will be the first version of the lingam that will be worshiped in future years as people remember this saint who lived with Arunachala.
Finally flowers are laid out over the samadhi. The love of those attending has been shown by the care that was taken today.
I talked with a local Tamil man during this interment. He felt that while there have been many saints in Tiruvannamalai over the past few millennia, there might not be any more in the future, given all the changes that are happening in India. I noted that A. Ramana is an example of a new generation of saints from the West that now are finding Arunachala as their home. I believe that A. Ramana is the fourth Westerner to be interred in this manor. These started with Western devotees of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
A shrine will soon be built over this site. The shrine will be used in the years ahead to remember A. Ramana and his love for the Great Master, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, and for Arunachala.
Building this shrine will be costly. If this is something that you would like to help with, contact AHAM, through their website www.AHAM.com. Your donations would be most appreciated by them, and will help to fund the construction of the permanent memorial to A. Ramana.