Of all the works of the Sri. Ramana Maharishi, UPADESA SARAM is considered the supreme legacy of His teaching.
Sri Muruganaar (Ramana’s devotee) was translating the texts of ShivaMahaPuran when he reached the text that spoke of Shiva teaching the Rishis about liberation by removing their ignorance about Karmakanda (rituals and rites). Since this portion was to be in the voice of Shiva as the Mahaguru, he wanted Bhagavan Ramana to complete this portion. In Murguna’s eyes, Bhagavan was a manifestation of Shiva Himself. Bhagavan was compassionate to write the remaining portions. These verses narrate Lord Shiva enlightening the ascetics of the Daruka Forests. These 30 verses that Bhagavan Ramana sung and translated became to be known as UPADESA SARAM that explains in depth the teaching of Shiva about liberation.
The background story from ShivaMahaPurana is this.
While the Puranas describe the householder ascetics life, their tapas shows that they were following the path of ‘kamya karma.’ This mean one emphasizes on deeds and performing rituals. They were performing tapas for a long duration and prayed to Shiva. They were staunch ritualists who believed that rituals karmas were the way to ultimate Bliss. They exhibited their ignorance by performance of various kinds of yagas and yagnas –sacrificial rites to obtain siddhis – powers for both this world and the next. They had become intoxicated by the use of mantras, yantras and tantras techniques. ‘Karma alone is of foremost importance; even God cannot prevent them from yielding fruits’ was their arrogant attitude.
They were not to realize that, whatever be the deeds, is there One Who provides the doer with the fruits? How can inanimate deeds automatically give fruits. Not realizing these facts, the rishis pursued their dogma of karma. These paths are prescribed by the Purva Mimamsa school which concerned with the interpretation and practice of Karma Kanda. This portion of Vedas relates to rituals and ceremonial rites.
In all His compassion, Lord Shiva appears to purify their minds by teaching the ultimate truth. This was to make them realise that actions are born out of ignorance of one’s own nature. Knowledge is the only way to the Ultimate Reality. So Lord Shiva’s makes his advent as a Bhikshatanar-beggar. Vishnu accompanies as his wife, Mohini, glamorous girl. In this form the Lord is naked but quite enchanting. His appearance is Urdhvalinga, with an erect phallus. So was Mohini. The Naked Lord came to the street of the rishis to get alms and Mohini followed Him. The rishis are attracted to the enchanting Mohini and started following her. They forgot all about their karmas. On the other hand the rishi pathinis, the wives, are attracted to the robust-built Shiva. They forgot what they were doing, allowed their clothes to fall off and followed Him. They were also dancing, singing and love-sick. The rishis get upset. They started to have double standards. While they were in pursuit of Mohini, they got upset with Shiva as their wives have lost their virtue by following a Naked Beggar. So they uses all the mantras and ritualistic powers to destroy Shiva. They performed abhichayagam which will produce bad effects. They directed snakes, demons, tigers, fire and drum that came out of the yagna fires against the Lord. Shiva was beyond defeat and made them all as ornaments. He peeled off the skin of the tiger and wore it round his waist; caught hold of the ball of fire in his left hand and held it aloft and calmed the serpent and wore it round his neck as an