For the various Sri Ramana followers, advocates, disciples, adherents, and historians, Ganapati Muni is pretty much known as the person that first gave the venerated Indian holy man the title/name Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi --- and as well, in 1911, introduced him to the Bhagavan's first western disciple, an Englishman by the name of Frank H. Humphreys.(see)
Ganapati Muni was born in 1878, one year before Ramana. By the year 1903, when the two of them were just into their mid-20s, Ganapati Muni had heard rumors of a highly Attained young Swami --- called by a small circle of disciples Brahmanaswami --- living near the southern Indian temple city of Tiruvannamalai situated along the lower reaches of the holy hill Arunachala. In that year, 1903, Ganapati Muni traveled from Andhra to the foot of Arunachala, and before a group individuals gathered at the Adi Mudi shrine on the outer Giri Valam loop along the base of the mountain, interpreted for the group a famous invocatory sloka. The young Swami was among the group.
Ganapati Muni was a known Sanskrit scholar and poet, reported to have an eidetic memory. So adept was his memory and mental skills, having never heard one word in Telugu he was able, in 15 days, to totally master the the language, both verbally and written, fluently. So good was he that in 1904 Ganapati Muni was given the position of teacher of the Telugu language in the city of Vellore. However, his days were spent doing standard teaching techniques rather than participating in or imparting mantra japa. By 1907 he left his teaching position and returned to Arunachala to resume mantra japa. One day he was assailed by pains, troubles, and doubts. Seeking an alternate solution other than his own capabilities he decided to visit the young Swami who was now being said to be living in a cave on the side of the hill. Sometime around noon on November 18, 1907, he climbed up to Virupaksha cave and found Ramana sitting outside, alone. He prostrated himself and said:
"All the scriptures that have to be read, I have read. All the mantras and japa that have to be done, I have done. Still I have no peace. Please save me."
The young Swami took a little time. For at least fifteen minutes he silently gazed at him. Then in Tamil, Ramana broke his silence of eleven years and spoke. The English translation of what he said reads thus:
"If one watches whence the notion 'I' arises, the mind is absorbed in That; that is tapas. When you recite a mantra, watch where the sound is coming from, within you; when you sing a song or prayer, watch where it is emanating from: your Heart. Put your attention on That. That is tyaga, that is TAPASYA, that is all."
As the years went by following their initial meeting and the giving of himself over to Ramana, even though on the surface the two sages seemed to parallel and appeared to be side-by-side in their philosophies to outside observers, a huge chasm actually existed between them. For one thing, Ramana used silence to teach, Ganipati Muni, a scholar talked --- and talked and talked. However, in those talks, even though he was an ardent Ramana supporter, how he advocated Ramana's teaching was presented with his own personal spin on it. Ramana was recorded as saying, speaking of Ganapati Muni, that:
"'(L)ong before he began to write the Ramana Gita Kavyakanta used to compose extempore verses and claim that they were from Ramana Gita.' Bhagavan commented about this saying, 'When he bluffed thus, no one dared to call his bluff, for he was a powerful personality, full of resourcefulness.'"
Sometime circa 1980 David Godman, one of the foremost authorities on things Ramana, received an authenticated interview tape of Sadhu Natanananda that had been translated into English wherein the Sadhu said Ramana told him, again speaking of Ganapati Muni:
"They came to me(Sri Ramana), not to get knowledge of my teachings, but to convert me to their own. They tried to get me to agree with them, but I refused. Even though I wouldn’t say what they wanted me to say, they went ahead and published the book. This is a bit like a high-wire circus artist who falls off the wire, does a somersault on the way down to the safety net, and then pretends that falling off was all part of the act."
Ganapati Muni died in 1936. Around that sametime Ramana's popularity was just on the threshold of expanding exponentially. Basically, with Muni no longer in the picture, any potential problems that could have erupted between the Ramana faction and Muni contingent from differences between the two went by the wayside --- and for the most part remain unknown, or at least little known, into the present era.
As to how it came about that Ganapati Muni gave Brahmanaswami his name, it is as much lore as it is fact. After the young Swami's arrival in Tiruvannamalai and initiated a self-imposed sequestering of himself in in the Patala Lingam, situated underground in the main temple of Arunachaleswarar, Sri Seshadri Swamigal came forward to oversee needs. By the time he moved to the Virupaksha Cave on the side of Arunachala he was accompanied by a self-appointed attendent named Palaniswami. Ganapathi Muni was told by Palaniswami that the young Swami's name was Venkataraman. In hearing his name Ganapati Muni cut out Venkata, added Maharshi and renamed him Sri Ramana Maharshi, or Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Besides being responsible for the name/title of Ramana and the discrepancies that existed between the two regarding their approaches to things spiritual, there are several other areas surrounding Ganapati Muni that are extermely interesting relating to him that are also of major import. For example, Ganapati Muni is the only known person in modern times to have experienced a phenomenon known as kapalabheda, or as found untranslated in the Taittirya Upanishad: vyapohya sirshakapale. Kapalabheda is a word used to describe a physical cleavage, an actual opening or splitting in the skull at 'the knot on the head,' which is a spot on the skull roughly corresponding with what is called the Bregma, with the splitting attributed to having been caused by things spiritual. The Bregma is the region where the frontal and the two parietal bones come together in an almost "Y" shape on top of the skull. At birth the spot is a depression soft to the touch for roughly 12-16 months afterwhich it more-or-less ossifies into a single unit. In The Mountain Path, No.3 (July 1978), pp. 147-148, in an article titled "The Muni and the Maharishi," describing what Ganapati Muni went through relative to the experience, the following is found:
"That night Ganapati suffered terribly. There was an unbearable burning sensation throughout his body...It looked as though his head would break into pieces at any time. He suffered unbearable pain. Suddenly a sound was heard, something like smoke was seen. The Kundalini had caused an aperture at the top of his skull... After that experience for ten days something like smoke or vapour was found emanating from the orifice at the top of the skull. By that time the burning sensation subsided. The play of force became bearable. The long story of suffering, pain and agony ended. The body was filled with the flow of cool nectar of bliss. The face of the Muni reflected an ethereal splendour. His eyes bore the effulgence of the supernatural. After this extraordinary experience of kapalabheda, the Muni lived for fourteen years"(source)
It has been reported in some quarters that all of Ganapati's doubts and delusions were washed away that first day Ramana broke his silence, and if not then, at least when the above experience occurred. However, such was not the case, nor did such an occurance transpire in his lifetime. In spite of the unusual nature of Ganapati's transformation, Maharshi affirmed that he had not attained Enlightenment. When asked whether Ganapati Muni Realized after his death, Ramana replied, "How could he? His sankalpas (inherent tendencies) were too strong." In other words, in Ganapati's case, even though he had the overwhelming power to induce kapalabheda, he was still not yet at that point to realize the all-pervading, formless Self. What he did have was extraordinary mental abilities that enabled him to manifest powers in the area of supernormal perceptual states known as Siddhis. So great was abilities it has been reported he could bring down or stop the rains. He could destroy a whole town. Once when he was harassed during his stay in the city of Nasik he cursed that the whole city should be destroyed. Soon the whole city was destroyed through the dreaded disease of plague.
On the other hand, throughout his life, especially so to outsiders, the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi never exhibited the slightest interest in the instrument or method of use behind experiences such as Siddhis, occult abilities, or psychic powers. That is not to say he was not familiar with them, some even say he was well versed in them. One of Ramana's most well documented experiences in those areas just happened to involve Ganapati Muni --- and the most interesting. Ramana biographer Arthur Osborne in Ramana Maharshi And The Path of Self-Knowledge (2002) pages 104-105, writes about the incident:
"One day, some years ago, I (Sri Ramana) was lying down and awake when I distinctly felt my body rise higher and higher. I could see the physical objects below growing smaller and smaller until they disappeared and all around me was a limitless expanse of dazzling light. After some time I felt the body slowly descend and the physical objects below began to appear. I was so fully aware of this incident that I finally concluded that it must be by such means that Sages using the powers of Siddhis travel over vast distances in a short time and Appear and Disappear in such a mysterious manner. While the body thus descended to the ground it occurred to me that I was at Tiruvottiyur though I had never seen the place before. I found myself on a highroad and walked along it. At some distance from the roadside was a temple of Ganapati and I entered it."(source)
The above bilocation experience is one of the most interesting in regards to Ramana --- and to that of most other bilocation or translocation experiences on record --- because not only was it documented on Ramana's side, it was also documented by the person on the receiving end of the translocation, Ganapati Muni. Osborne writes:
"About a year after his first meeting with Sri Bhagavan, Ganapathi Muni experienced a remarkable outflow of his Grace. While he was sitting in meditation in the temple of Ganapati at Tiruvottiyur he felt distracted and longed intensely for the presence and guidance of the Bhagavan. At that moment Sri Ramana entered the temple. Ganapati prostrated himself before him and, as he was about to rise, he felt the Maharshi's hand upon his head and a terrifically vital force coursing through his body from the touch; so that he also received Grace by touch from the Master."
Ganapati Muni settled in the village of Nimpura in 1934 and died two years later.
FOR MORE SEE:
KAVAKANTHA VASISTHA GANAPATI MUNI
SRI RAMANA'S WESTERN DISCIPLES
HUI SHEN: BHIKSHU
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
THE BUDDHA AND THE QUALITIES OF A DHARMA TEACHER
SPIRITUAL GUIDES: PASS OR FAIL
THE FALSE GURU TEST
ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL
ON THE RAZOR'S
As found in Letters From Sri Ramanasramam. Suri Nagamma recorded Ramana as having said what is quoted on 30th April, 1948 (Letter 185, p. 417 of the 2006 edition)(see)
SECTION 6 – SARVATMABHAVA PRATIPATTI MARGA KATHANAM – CONTEMPLATION OF BRAHMAN
sa ya esho.antarahridaya akashah . tasminnayam purusho manomayah . amrito hiranmayah . antarena taluke . ya esha stana ivavalambate . sendrayonih . yatrasau keshanto vivartate . vyapohya shirshakapale . bhurityagnau pratitishthati . bhuva iti vayau
There is a space within the heart; in it lies the Person consisting of mind, immortal and luminous. The Sushumna passes through the piece of flesh which hangs down like a nipple between the two palates and ends where the skull splits and the roots of hair lie apart. That Sushumna is the path for the realisation of Indra. The souls of the aspirants, passing through the Sushumna, rests in fire, represented by the vyahriti Bhuh; he rests in the air, represented by the vyahriti Bhuvah.