About Michael James
Before writing anything further, I would first like to emphasise that this website is not about me as a person, but is about the real 'me', which is the absolute reality, the one fundamental, essential, immutable, infinite, undivided and non-dual consciousness of our own being, which we each experience as 'I am'.
However, since visitors to a website often wish to know something about the person or people responsible for it, and since readers of non-fictional books and other writings often like to know about the background and credentials of the author or writer, I give below some relevant information about myself and my background.
My name is Michael James. I came to know about the spiritual teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana in 1976, while travelling around India in search of something that would give a meaning and purpose to my life. The little that I first heard about his life and teachings aroused my interest, so I decided to visit Tiruvannamalai (the town in south India where he lived for fifty-four years) in order to learn more, and I ended up living there for the next twenty years.
The first book of Sri Ramana that I read was an English translation of his brief treatise Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?), and I was immediately attracted by the simple and clear yet very profound truth expressed in it. Though my initial understanding of it was probably quite limited and superficial, it was sufficient to convince me that what Sri Ramana was saying in this small booklet was the ultimate truth.
Therefore I started to read every available book about the teachings of Sri Ramana. In particular I wanted to understand clearly how to practise ātma-vicāra or 'self-enquiry', which Sri Ramana taught as the direct means to attain true self-knowledge.
Unfortunately, however, most of the people who had recorded or translated Sri Ramana's teachings in English, or who had written English books about his teachings, appeared not to have a very clear understanding either of the philosophy or of the practice that he taught. In fact some of the most popular English books that were then available gave confusing and misleading explanations about the practice of 'self-enquiry', so even after reading several such books, I was still unsure about the exact 'method' or 'technique' of practising 'self-enquiry'.
Fortunately, after I had been just a few weeks in Tiruvannamalai, I was lent the book The Path of Sri Ramana by Sri Sadhu Om. In this book, Sri Sadhu Om clearly explained that 'self-enquiry' is simply the practice of self-attention, that is, the practice of turning our attention or power of knowing away from all thoughts and objects, towards our fundamental consciousness of our own being, which we always experience as 'I am'. So clear and convincing was this explanation of Sri Sadhu Om that I was left in no doubt that this was the real meaning of the term ātma-vicāra or 'self-enquiry' used by Sri Ramana.
Soon after reading his book, I met Sri Sadhu Om, and I found that he was able to answer in an extremely clear, simple and convincing manner all the questions that I asked him about the philosophy and practice of the teachings of Sri Ramana. For the next eight-and-a-half years, until his passing away in March 1985, I was fortunate to be able to spend most of my waking life in the company of Sri Sadhu Om, and to imbibe from him a clear understanding of the philosophy, science and art of true self-knowledge as taught by Sri Ramana.
During those years that I spent in the company of Sri Sadhu Om, I was able under his clear guidance to study in minute detail and great depth all the original Tamil writings of Sri Ramana, and other important works such as Guru Vācaka Kōvai, which is the most comprehensive and reliable collection of the sayings of Sri Ramana, recorded in Tamil verses by his foremost disciple, Sri Muruganar. Thus I had a unique opportunity to gain a deep insight into the teaching of Sri Ramana, learning directly from the source texts in their original Tamil with the personal help and guidance of one of his closest disciples (by which term I mean not merely those who were blessed to live close to him physically, but those who followed his teachings most closely and faithfully).
Like Sri Muruganar, Sri Sadhu Om was an inspired Tamil poet who dedicated his talents and his entire life to Sri Ramana. However, whereas Sri Muruganar lived with Sri Ramana for nearly twenty-seven years, and played an intimate and major role in his life, eliciting from him many of his most important works such as Upadēśa Undiyār, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Āṉma-Viddai, Sri Sadhu Om lived with Sri Ramana for less than five years, and therefore played no significant role in his outward life.
Nevertheless, though he did not have the same opportunity as Sri Muruganar to enjoy an outwardly close and intimate relationship with Sri Ramana, inwardly Sri Sadhu Om surrendered himself entirely to him, turning his mind selfwards to merge in the clear light of pure self-consciousness, which is the true form of Sri Ramana. Thus his life is a fine example to those of us who never had the opportunity to associate with the physical form of Sri Ramana. As Sri Ramana himself taught, the true sat-saṅga or association with the guru is not merely association with his physical form, but is association (saṅga) with his true form, which is our own real self or essential being (sat), the infinite, indivisible, non-dual and absolute reality.
Sri Sadhu Om's unique clarity of understanding, which shone through all his spoken and written words, arose both from his wholehearted and single-minded devotion to Sri Ramana and his teachings, and from his own profound spiritual experience, which resulted from such devotion. Because he had thoroughly erased his own ego or sense of individuality, he was like a clear lens through which the teachings of Sri Ramana shone without obstruction as the perfect clarity of true knowledge.
In the 1950's, after the passing away of the physical form of Sri Ramana, a close and intimate friendship naturally began to develop between Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om. Till the end of his bodily life, the surging spring of Sri Muruganar's poetic inspiration continued to flow uninterruptedly, producing many thousands of verses praising the divine grace of Sri Ramana, expressing his teachings in an infinite variety ways, and describing the indescribable experience of true non-dual self-knowledge that Sri Muruganar had attained by his grace. Knowing the great value of this vast poetic outpouring of Sri Muruganar's transcendent experience, Sri Sadhu Om spent many years working closely with him, helping him to preserve all his verses and to arrange them under suitable headings and in an appropriate order for future publication.
During the last years of his bodily lifetime, Sri Muruganar asked Sri Sadhu Om to edit and supervise the publication of the final editions of two of his major works, Śrī Ramaṇa Sannidhi Muṟai and Guru Vācaka Kōvai, which Sri Sadhu Om then did in close consultation with him. Finally in 1973, shortly before he passed away, Sri Muruganar entrusted all his manuscripts, which included thousands of unpublished verses, to the care of Sri Sadhu Om, and for the next twelve years Sri Sadhu Om spent much of his time finalising the arrangement of all those unpublished verses and supervising their publication in a massive nine-volume series entitled Śrī Ramaṇa Jñāna Bōdham.
Having worked so closely with Sri Muruganar and with his vast output of poetry, Sri Sadhu Om had a very intimate understanding of all his verses, so when I assisted him in translating Guru Vācaka Kōvai into English, he was able to explain to me the background of many of the verses, and to point out all the subtle implications contained in each one of them. Likewise, when arranging the verses of Śrī Ramaṇa Jñāna Bōdham, he often used to explain to me their deep and subtle meaning. Unfortunately, however, I was not able to record in writing all the explanations that he gave me, because they were far too detailed and lengthy for me to have time to do so. Nevertheless, all that I heard from him sank into my mind, building a firm foundation of deep understanding, which I am now able to share with others through my writings.
By saying this, I do not mean to claim that my understanding of the philosophy and science of true self-knowledge as taught by Sri Ramana is perfect, or even close to perfect. Until we surrender ourself entirely to him, allowing our finite mind to be wholly consumed in the infinite clarity of pure self-consciousness, which is always shining in the innermost core of our being but which we choose to ignore due to our strong attachment to our false sense of individuality and all that arises with it, we can never have a truly perfect understanding of his teachings. All I mean to say, therefore, is that through my close association with Sri Sadhu Om I was blessed with a very rare opportunity to become intimately acquainted with many profound and subtle insights into the fundamental teachings of Sri Ramana.
Though my understanding is no doubt far from perfect, I enjoy and find great benefit in musing upon the teachings of Sri Ramana, and in writing my musings, because doing so helps me to gain further clarity and insight. However, though I write primarily for my own benefit, I believe that my limited understanding and insight may perhaps be useful to other people who have not had the same opportunities that I have been fortunate to have, so I am happy to share my writings with anyone who is interested to read them.
Some people who did not know either of them closely used to say that Sri Sadhu Om was a disciple of Sri Muruganar. Similarly, many people who did not understand him correctly believed that Sri Sadhu Om was acting as a guru and that I was his disciple. However, neither Sri Muruganar nor Sri Sadhu Om ever considered themself to be a guru, because they knew from their own direct experience that no intermediary is ever necessary between Sri Ramana and any of his followers or devotees.
Not only did they not regard themself to be the guru of anyone, but they also actively discouraged anyone else from regarding them as such, saying that if we sincerely wish to practice the teachings of Sri Ramana, he will himself act directly as our guru, providing us with all the help and guidance that we need in order to turn our mind inwards and thereby to merge and lose our separate individuality in the clear light of true self-knowledge, which is the essential and real nature of the guru. Therefore neither Sri Sadhu Om nor I ever considered our friendship to be a relationship between guru and disciple.
Sri Sadhu Om used to refer to all of us who were close to him simply as his 'friends', and he made it clear that he did not regard any of us as his disciples, but considered us all to be fellow devotees and disciples of Sri Ramana. For my part, I considered Sri Sadhu Om to be a very dear and close friend, but also a true guide and philosopher, and though in many respects our friendship was on a perfectly equal footing, I nevertheless inwardly felt great respect and regard for him as a very much more senior and truly dedicated disciple of Sri Ramana than myself.
Though it is not true to say either that Sri Muruganar was the guru of Sri Sadhu Om, or that Sri Sadhu Om was my guru, I do gratefully acknowledge the fact that my understanding of Sri Ramana and his teachings has to a very great extent been formed, strengthened, deepened and clarified through the direct influence of my close friendship with Sri Sadhu Om, and that as a result of the intimate friendship that existed between the two of them, through the clear and unobstructed channel of Sri Sadhu Om my understanding has also been very strongly influenced by Sri Muruganar.
Sri Sadhu Om often said that no true disciple of Sri Ramana can be a guru, because Sri Ramana alone is the guru of all who are attracted to his teachings. Whenever anyone asked him whether it is not necessary for us to have a 'living guru', Sri Sadhu Om used to laugh and say, "guru alone is living, and we are all dead", and he explained the real guru is not a physical body but is the ever-living spirit, the infinite consciousness of being that exists within each one of us as our own true self.
That infinite and eternal spirit appeared in the physical form of Sri Ramana in order to teach us that we are not this mortal body that we now mistake ourself to be, and that in order for us to know ourself as we really are, we must turn our attention away from all external objects and focus it wholly and exclusively upon our own real self or essential being. Having given us this teaching, the physical form of Sri Ramana has served its purpose as the outward manifestation of the eternal guru, so now our aim should not to be to find another 'living guru' (a term that most people understand to mean an 'enlightened person' whose body is still living) but should be to find the real inner guru, who is our own true self and who is always waiting to draw our mind inwards so that it may subside and merge in the clarity of true self-knowledge.
Because he was truly never the physical form that he appeared to be, but has always been and will always be the infinite spirit, which is our own real self, Sri Ramana's guiding help or 'grace' can never be diminished in any way, and is therefore no less potent now than it was when he appeared to be living in a physical form. All the help and guidance that we will ever need in order to attain true self-knowledge are available to us outwardly in the form of the teachings of Sri Ramana, and inwardly as our own natural clarity of self-consciousness, which we always experience as 'I am' (the true form of both God and guru), so all we need do is to turn our attention selfwards in order to experience the true nature of this consciousness 'I am'.
The purpose of this website is to explore and discuss the teachings of Sri Ramana, so that we can each clarify our understanding of them, and thereby reinforce our love and effort to practice the simple but subtle art of self-attentive being, which is the only means by which we can attain the ultimate experience of absolute, non-dual self-knowledge.