For devotees of Lord Siva, Ardra Darshan is ever auspicious. Scriptures say to have Darshan of the lord on this day is to attain liberation. But Ardra Darshan December 30th, 1879 was auspicious for another reason. That night in a modest village in South India, just when the temple deity was re-entering the temple and devotees, exhilarated after the night procession, were departing for their homes, a unique soul took birth. "A son, a son" cried a voice from the delivery room. Hearing it, Sundaram Iyer, the child's father, rejoiced and began offering gifts to well-wishers, friends and family members. Shortly thereafter, he chose to name his son after the family deity and so called him Venkataraman. But not so many years later this youngster would become known throughout the world as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Three decades after this, in 1912, devotees were busy planning the first Jayanti celebration. Sri Bhagavan, true to his teachings, inquired into their reasons for celebrating a soul's entry into samsara, likening it to "decorating a corpse". He went on to say:
To seek one's Self and merge in the Self - that is wisdom. You that wish to celebrate a birthday, seek first when was your birth. That indeed is one's birthday, when one enters that which transcends birth and death.
Ever established in the Self, to celebrate or not to celebrate was all the same for Bhagavan. However, he indulged his devotees' wishes to commemorate this first Jayanti. No doubt acknowledging their sincerity and selflessness, Bhagavan saw that this was a way for devotees to express their love and devotion as well as strengthen within themselves what they had learned because of hi,. From their perspective it was an honour as well as a duty to celebrate his birthday.
For nearly a century now devotees have celebrated Bhagavan Ramana's Jayanti. Pilgrims from all over India and the world have come to Sri Ramanasramam to imbibe Sri Bhagavan's wisdom and grace and in recent years their number has grown dramatically. In this 125th Jayanti year with its Jnana Ratha Yatra tens of thousands are able to listen to Bhagavan Ramana's teachings for the first time. Books on or about Bhagavan are being translated into languages around the world as are videos of Bhagavan's life and audio recordings of verses Bhagavan wrote. There appears to be an emergent receptivity within the global collective for the wisdom and insight that Sri Bhagavan began bequeathing to the world - perhaps ahead of his time - one hundred years ago. This year 2004 allows us to celebrate in a new way the life of this great soul.
In commemoration of the one hundred and twenty five years since the momentous event of December 30th, 1879, the present souvenir collection is respectfully offered. In humility it is hoped that this compilation might contribute to the cause of making Sri Bhagavan's teachings available to greater number. If any credit is due, let it be directed to those who laboured at the compositions presented here.
The Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi 125th Birth Anniversary Celebrations Committee would like to express their gratitutde to those whose financial assistance made possible not only the preparation and publication of this volume but numerous other undertakings this year, e. g., the renovation of Pali tirtam, restoration of the ancient temples at Pavala Kundru and Pachaiamman, completion in Ramanathapuram of the shrine/library dedicated to the poet-devotee Sri Muruganar, as well as the Jnana Ratha Yatra, bringing Bhagavan's message to more than 100 cities and towns in South India. They would also like to thank to all those who donated precious time and energy to these and other projects.
In the world of fleeting forms, Bhagavan point to that which is not fleeting. How can one not take great comfort in this!
May this 125th Jayanti year bring Bhagavan's boundless blessings to devotees and seekers everywhere!
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