As Ramana Maharshi was nearing the end of his bodily human life (1879-1950) one of the roaming peacocks of the ashram flew onto the roof above his bed, making a loud rattle and clatter. Hearing the bird, Ramana asked, “Has anyone fed the peacock yet?”, before exhaling his last.
The profundity of his final utterance has been lost on almost everyone who comes across it. Generally considered cute and caring, these words bare a wisdom with rare potential to correct our pretentious and divisive approaches to global conservancy in all walks of life.
Ramana Maharshi, like all great sages and realizers, never spoke casually, compelling listeners to deeply consider all that he said.
Within the traditions of mankind the peacock symbolizes many virtues, and some vices. Throughout Continental India, Indo-China, Java and parts of Africa, prosperity, health, wisdom, omnipotence, immortality, royalty, purity, beauty and vanity, as well as evil and cruelty, are historically attributed to the peacock.
The highest, most revered, symbolism assigned to the bird, with its fanning tail of “thousands of eyes”, is that it represents all energies, including every appearance, of the entire conditional world.
“Has anyone fed the peacock, yet?”, might well be considered among Ramana Maharshi’s most profound and far reaching instructions for bewildered and struggling mankind.
After a life of enormous spiritual embodiment Ramana Maharshi left us with the loving question, “who feeds the peacock?” or, who cares for the natural world in its entirety?
One of mankind’s wisest invokes all of us to consider each moment of our living from a radically different view than we’re inclined.
A fuller appreciation of the great Sage’s final appeal can be gathered by serious study of his sacred teachings.
Ramana Maharshi’s invitation to practice the enquiry, “Who Am I?”, is intended to lead the questioner to the heart of reality. This is one of the cornerstones of his teachings for everyone.
To all those requesting his guidance he suggested they first ask, “Who Am I?” allowing this enquiry to reveal the Source of Being beyond limitations of self and other – a profound instruction, revered by millions.
I suggest that the question, “Who Am I?” can also be heard as the statement, “Who Am I”.
Before “Who Am I?” is a question, it is a declaration, a self-confession of the great Sage’s numinous state of awareness – with “Who”, and “I”, referencing one and the same..
“Who Am I?” is a question and a statement.
“Who” is a statement and a question.
“Who” is Divine Mystery.
“I” is also Divine Mystery.
“Who fed the peacock” (“Has anyone fed the peacock, yet?”) is both a question and a statement.
Divine Mystery fed the peacock.
Divine Mystery fed, and feeds, the living world.
Separate “I” dissolves in Divine Mystery.
No limited “I” ever feeds the peacock.
Only Divine Mystery feeds, lives, and breathes, the world.
To all would-be scientists, ecologists, conservationists, environmental protectors, and mere humans, the great Sage, “Who Am I”, asks directly, “Who feeds the peacock?”.
Indeed, who feeds and sustains the world?
Pursue no further our man-made religions, fearful science, politics, and other dark adventures, without always seriously considering, “Who Feeds the Peacock?” Allow the bird’s great train of tail to remind you of Mystery, Wonder, and the Heart of Life.
Though, and after all, perhaps only the peacock can truly know this…