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Visualization of Silence

meerajay's picture


This photograph is of Ramana Maharishi, a South Indian saint who lived in Tamil Nadu, India, from the late 1800s to mid-1900s. I have personal ties to this saint because I was raised to believe in his teachings, as my father is a follower of his. Ramana spent most of his existence living on one hill, called Tiruvanamalai, which he believed was the source of energy from the god Shiva. He became aware of this energy at the age of sixteen and travelled hundreds of miles to Tiruvanamalai, and then spent several years living there in near-solitude. He gave up all worldly posessions, fasted, and dressed only in a single cloth. Soon, he began to attract devotees. They flocked to him, questioning him about life and suffering and love, and he taught them in his way. Oftentimes, anxious and scared devotees would come to see him to ask questions and advice, but they would sit in his presence, look at his peaceful, silent face, and realize the futility of their constant worrying and anxieties, and would leave things to a higher power. Or they would come and ask a burning question that they had; sometimes Ramana would answer and other times, when he would not, they found the answer within themselves after silent contemplation.  He did write several books and poetry about the power of self-realization and highly intellectual philosophy in advaita, or purist Hinduism, but more than any other way to happiness, Ramana advocated for silence. He believed that silence was the purest form of intellectual pursuit and would lead to highest level of understanding of the self. 

I am a skeptic and largely agnostic despite being raised in a very religious household. Yet, I've always found something comforting about his face. It's the face of a productive, contemplative silence, and the face of incredible peace, of the happiest man in the world. He had to have been doing something right. When people see his photo in my room and ask who he is, I tend to just say he's my grandfather, because his presence is just so sweet and grandfatherly in its silence.