Ramana Maharshi: India’s Spiritual “Superman”
When residents at a South Indian ashram learned they would be visited by the president of India — Dr. Rajendra Prasad — they immediately began tidying the buildings, cleaning the property, and festively decorating the ashram. Dr. Prasad was visiting specifically to meet with Ramana Maharshi, the ashram mystic and teacher. Because the ashram always attracted a high number of beggars and homeless people, they were instructed to remain away from the ashram center but assured they would be fed later in the day.
Upon arrival, Dr. Prasad was immediately escorted to the small hut occupied by Ramana. But Ramana was not there, nor could he be found. Highly embarrassed, ashram residents searched and eventually found Ramana sitting among the beggars and homeless who had been carefully hidden away from the visiting dignitary.
After some pleading, the residents persuaded Ramana to return to his hut and meet with India’s president. There, Dr. Prasad asked Ramana: “Why were you sitting off the property with the beggars?” Ramana responded: “It was repeatedly announced in the ashram that the beggars should go and wait for their meal under a distant tree. I have been a begging monk my whole life. That’s why I went and stayed with the other beggars.” More importantly, he added that it had been his policy at the Ashram to first serve food to animals, then to the beggars, followed by guests, and finally ashram residents. Ramana’s absence was a powerful reminder for the residents to faithfully adhere to that cherished practice regardless of who was visiting the ashram.