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Celebrating the Birthday

By Jean Dunn

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was requested by Vasudeva Sastri in 1912 to allow his birthday to be celebrated by his devotees. Bhagavan refused to be drawn into our illusion and, as do all his actions and words, his reply on this occasion serves as a guide to bring us out of illusion into reality:

You who wish to celebrate the birthday, seek first whence was your birth. One's true birthday is when one enters that which transcends birth and death – the Eternal Being.

At least on one's birthday one should mourn one's entry into this world (samsara). To glory in it and celebrate it is like delighting in and decorating a corpse. To seek one's self and merge in the Self – that is wisdom.

Sri Bhagavan had no reasons of his own for anything he did. All was for our benefit. By "our" I mean all of us who have been drawn to him, all those who in the future will be drawn to him. What was he teaching us by this verse? What does it mean, "Seek first whence was your birth?" Aren't we all aware of who our parents are and the date of our birth? Yes, but that is the date of the birth of a body and the parents are the bodies from which this body is born. Are we the body? If so we will surely die. What did Bhagavan do when, as a youngster of sixteen, he was faced with the overwhelming certainty of immediate death? By a deep enquiry he discovered that he was not the body, that he was never born and would never die. That was his true birthday, when he "entered that which transcends birth and death – the Eternal Being" He was reborn as the spirit Immortal. Ignorance had vanished and he knew his true identity – the Eternal Being. The illusion that he was a body in time and space died. We can only imagine that state, but because of Bhagavan, we know that it is possible for us also to attain. In truth, as he tells us, there is nothing to attain, only question the illusion and it will disappear.

"To seek one's self and merge in the Self, that is Wisdom". How to seek one's self? Bhagavan has told us repeatedly to enquire, in every situation, whatever happens, "to whom is this happening? "Who am I?", to keep our attention focused on this "I". Gradually our mind will lose interest in the magic show of the world and our own self will grow stronger. We have so many concepts about everything - our self, the world, God, and even the Absolute. These concepts we have gathered from others and made our own, thereby imprisoning ourselves. No one else binds us, we bind our self with bonds of illusion. The mind tends to be satisfied with words. If we can name a thing, we think we know it; we fail to seek the meaning of words. Bhagavan was uncompromising in his insistence that we need only remove illusion; no effort is needed for realization because it is already there. By persistent enquiry, ignorance will vanish. This is wisdom. We have great joy and good cause for celebration in the birth of Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great sage whose presence will guide us out of our ignorance to wisdom. Although the body has died, the truth which is Bhagavan, our own Self, lives eternally.