Sit sometimes happens that someone who follows a spiritual path, or someone who has not even consciously begun the search yet, has a flash of Realization during which, for a short eternity, he experiences the absolute certainty of his divine, immutable, universal Self. Such an experience happened to Maharshi when he was a 16-year-old. He himself described it:
“The big change in my life happened about six weeks before I left Madurai forever. It happened unexpectedly. I was sitting alone in a room on the first floor in my uncle’s house. I was rarely sick, and even that day there was nothing wrong with my health, when suddenly a sudden and violent fear of death engulfed me. There was nothing in my health that would justify it, and I also did not try to explain it or discover if there was any real reason for fear. I just felt “now I’m dying” and I started thinking about what to do in this situation. It didn’t cross my mind to see a doctor, nor did my elders or friends. I felt like I had to solve the problem on my own, then and there. The shock of the fear of death turned my mind inside, and I said to myself, mentally, without actually uttering the words: “Now death has come. What does that mean? What is what dies? The body dies.”
And we instantly dramatized the phenomenon of death. I stretched out holding stiff legs before as if “rigor mortis” had set in, imitating a corpse to give more veracity to the investigation. I held my breath and squeezed my lips tightly so that no sound escaped, so that neither “I” nor any other word could be uttered. “Okay, then,” I said to myself, “this body is dead. Impalement, will be carried to the place of cremation and there burned and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body am I dead? Is the body “I”? The body is silent and inert, but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the “I” inside me, separated from the body. So I am a spirit that transcends the body. It is the body that dies, but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. It therefore means that I am the immortal spirit.” All this was not mere dry thinking; they went through me intensely as living truth that I perceived directly, almost without the process of thinking. “I” it was something very real, the only real thing in my present state, and all the conscious activity related to my body had centered on that “I”. From that moment on, through a strong fascination, the “I” him or the Self focused all his attention on himself. The fear of death disappeared once and for all. From then on the absorption into the Self continued without interruption.”
The last sentence is also the most remarkable, because, as a rule, such an experience passes quickly, although the impression of certainty that it imprints in the mind is never forgotten afterwards. Very rare are the cases in which it is permanently established, leaving a man from then on in constant identity with the Universal Self. One such man was Maharshi.
Soon after this change occurred, the young man who would later be known as “Maharshi” left the parental home as a sādhu. He directed his steps to Tiruvannamalai, the city at the foot of the holy hill Arunachala, where he remained for the rest of his life.
Excerpted from The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi by