Born a poor country boy named "Venkataramani" on December 30th 1879, became one of the leading proponents of the Hindu doctrine of Advaita-Vedanta, died as something equivalent to a saint on April 24th, 1950.

At the age of 17, Venkataramani had a spiritual version of a near-death experience:

"He held his breath completely, closed his lips and eyes, lay down as one dead, and began to ponder: 'Now my body is dead. They will carry this body, motionless, to the cremation ground and burn it. But do I really die with this body? Am I merely this body? My body is now motionless. But still I know my name. I remember my parents, uncles, brothers, friends and all others. It means that I have a knowledge of my individuality. If so, the "I" in me is not merely my body; it is a deathless spirit.' Thus, as in a flash, a new realization came to Venkataramana... The fear of death left him. Venkataramana became 'Ramana Maharshi'."

Soon after this experience, the boy ran away from home, questing for a place that he had yearned to go to for some time named Arunachala. When he eventually reached Arunachala, he discovered a temple there (Arunchaleshwara), empty except for a single sanyasin monk named Seshadri. Ramana became a sanyasin under Seshadri's guidance, taking on ascetic vows and undergoing long sessions of meditation. He earned the attention of a local landowner and began to stay at the gentleman's mango grove, where people sought him out for the excellent advice that he gave. His mother came there to plead with him to return home with her and lead a secular life, but he denied her this, saying that each person must follow the dictates of his or her prarabdha karma.

The number of followers grew for Ramana, and eventually an Ashram was built for him and his disciples. He attracted attention from such visiting Westerners as W. Somerset Maugham and Paul Brunton. Ramana stayed at his ashram at Arunachala, giving advice to laymen, guiding his followers, and taking care of the animals he treated with the same respect as humans until he died from a cancerous sarcoma on his left hand. He approached this death without fear or sadness, telling his sorrow-stricken followers: "Every one that is born must die. The body is not the soul. Therefore nobody need feel miserable for the death of the body."

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