One way or another, soon after his experience of death, the young Ramana left his father’s home and set off on a train to the sacred Mount Arunachala. That is where he settled, at first meditating in one of the temples located at the foot of the mountain, and later moving to one of the caves on the mountain itself. He sat in silence, being immersed in himself, and survived thanks to a tradition by which local residents fed the hermits of Arunachala, hoping to obtain for themselves spiritual merits and other goods by helping those who devoted themselves to the service of God. In other conditions, such undisturbed immersion within would hardly be doable, and the fate of Maharshi would have turned out somewhat different. Perhaps that is indeed what drew him to Arunachala, that this was from the outset the hand of God? If Maharshi had not regularly received food from devout people, then his position of total external inaction would have changed substantially. He would have either died from hunger, or he would have had to find himself subsistence, which would have substantially changed his entire position of total outward inaction. And as a result, his entire Way would have become different.
Sixteen years after his first experience of transformation, Maharshi experienced a new death. Coming out of the cave to perform his ablution, he suddenly saw a bright white light before him. Then the powers began to leave his body and he began to die. His breathing halted and his heart nearly stopped. Maharshi remained a witness to what was happening, and did not experience either a wish to live or a fear of death. After some time, a powerful impulse of energy entered his body, and it once again became animated. Thus, yet another impulse of God’s Grace was received by him, at least one which we know about. In fact, there may have been many more, but those two – connected to the experience of death – were from all appearance the most vivid. Impulses of Grace may be different in power and depth and the transformation evoked by them is also different. We have become accustomed to looking for only one or two big and main pulses in the life stories of the mystics, the obtaining of which most often is accompanied also by a sensation of dying; but in fact, such impulses usually come much more frequently. They lead to a less profound transformation – that is true – but the nature of the impulse remains the same. One way or another, Maharshi experienced an entire two mystical deaths, and of course went through a serious transfiguration. This is what made him a most real mystic.
Mystics are not born – they become. No matter how mystically a person is inclined, no matter how much he has developed in himself extra-sensory perception or extraordinary abilities, until he receives the impulse of the Grace of God, his changes will not have within them the qualities of transfiguration. He may develop, improve his mind, polish and become aware of his emotional reactions, but his essence and substance will not change. Only the impulse of Grace gives not improvement and development, but transformation. Or a second birth, as the mystics of the past said.
Maharshi spent about 20 years in the cave, living as a hermit and spending most of the time in silence. During that time, a group of followers appeared for him, who accompanied him during his ablutions and tried to be closer to their silent guru. That is generally also part of tradition – if someone sits silently in India for a long time, without paying attention to what is going on, then students will soon be attracted. Although it is possible that Maharshi also radiated a certain power and light.
And then, after 20 years of seclusion, there was a fall – although again, only from the perspective of Indian spiritual tradition. Ramana had left home at the age of 17, and never returned to it. But when his mother and brothers came to him, Maharshi left the cave and settled in a little house on the side of the mountain, thus becoming a householder. From the perspective of the Indian spiritual hierarchy, Maharshi had turned into a commoner, but apparently that didn’t bother him at all. By that time his search was completed, and in principle, he could live as he pleased, although he had become a subject for discussions and condemnation by those who remained in their caves.
Maharshi lived as a householder until the moment of his mother’s death, and immediately afterward, on the place where his house had stood, he began to build an ashram, thanks to the fact that there were a lot of people who wished to behold Raman firsthand.