Annamalai Swami was born in a tiny village called Tondankurichi in Tamil Nadu, India, in 1906. Soon after his birth, his father, who was an astrologer, came to the conclusion that the boy would become a sannyasin, a monk. To prevent this from happening his father decided to keep him illiterate by taking him out of school at a very early age. Despite his father’s efforts, he taught himself to read and felt an attraction toward religion.
He recalled later, “Nobody had ever talked to me about religious matters, but somehow I had always known that there was a higher power called God, and that the purpose of life was to attain this God. Without being told, I instinctively felt that everything I saw was somehow illusory and not real. These thoughts, along with the idea that I should not become attached to anything in this world, were part of my consciousness even in my earliest boyhood.”
At age 17 he ran away from home and became a sannyasin. When he was 22, he decided that Sri Ramana Maharshi was his guru after seeing a photograph of him. He went to Sri Ramana’s ashram and worked there for nearly a decade, first as Sri Ramana’s personal attendant and later as the construction manager.
After ten years of service, Sri Ramana told him to leave the ashram and devote himself to Self-enquiry. He moved to a house near the ashram where he practiced Self-enquiry for decades and eventually realized the Self. He died in 1995.