Perhaps the greatest example of contentment that I know of is the life of Ramana Maharshi. One of the most revered of contemporary Indian sages, Ramana had an extraordinary awakening in 1896 when he was just sixteen years old. After school one day, young Ramana was overcome by thought of death. How could it be that everything was destined to die? More to the point, how could it be that he was going to die? Stricken with fear, he lay down and allowed his awareness to examine what exactly it was that would die and what could possibly remain. In a span of twenty minutes, he realized what he called the Self, the substratum of existence, which infuses everything. Because he recognized his fundamental nature as that substratum. the fear of death left him and never returned. Moreover, he was filled with love, an appreciation of Self in all its forms. So absorbed was he in this newfound delight that he could no longer bear the mundane activities of life as a schoolboy. Ordinary studies seemed to be a distraction from his immersion in Self. Six weeks after his realization, he left home and went directly to the mountain Arunachala, a sacred pilgrimage spot that had always held a mysterious lure for him.
There, on and around the mountain, Ramana spent the rest or his life. So great was his contentment that until his death in 1950 he never left Arunachala, even for a day. For many of his initial years there he lived in complete silence, dwelling in caves, clad only in loincloth. After sometime, devotees began to collect around him, drawn by the silent love that emanated from him. Eventually an ashram formed to accommodate the devotees and visitors. Scholars, writers, heads of state, spiritual teachers, and seekers from around the world also came to sit in his presence. Over the years, Ramana would occasionally answer questions but mostly he remained silent, helping out with ashram chores, tending to animals, or resting on his dais. Having never sought the world, the world came to him. I was a young woman- when I first saw a photo of Ramana Maharshi taken in his later years. I remember looking at the picture and having the thought "That is what I would like to look like at that age." His face radiated contentment; his eyes gazed into forever. It was perhaps the most beautiful face I had ever seen. I attempted to read few of his teachings, but they were too simple and direct for my complicated spiritual needs and beliefs at the time. It was a long journey to come home to them. Who could have known that in meeting my teacher nearly twenty years later I would find myself with a teacher whose own living teacher had been Ramana Maharshi?
The deepest contentment comes from recognizing the pervading life force in everything. It is the experience of witnessing an infinitely creative intelligence endlessly manifesting itself. We call its comings and goings life and death. But from another perspective, all is consciousness, endlessly rearranging itself into form and formlessness. There is no need to demand that its creatures of form should continue past death in some manner when the underlying reality from which they spring is infinite. Knowing this, we are witness to eternity, if only for a short while.