One day in his seventeenth year, Venkataramana had a very profound experience that was to become the turning point in his life. As usual he was in the first floor of his uncle’s house in a mood of deep thought. All of a sudden he was seized by the fear of death. He started asking himself what death is and what happens to him after he dies. He lay down with his arms stiffly to his sides as if dead, held his breath and pretended to be dead;
“Now death has come but what does it mean? What is it that is dying? The body dies and is carried off to the cremation ground and reduced to ashes. But with the death of the body, am I dead? The body is now motionless, but still I have knowledge of my individuality. If so the ‘I’ in me is not merely my body; it is a deathless spirit.”
The awareness of this knowledge took full possession of him, and the fear of death vanished once and for all. Venkataramana became more and more absorbed in himself. After this experience he completely lost interest in his studies, sports and friends. He became indrawn and indifferent to his surroundings. He avoided company and preferred to sit alone and be absorbed in meditation. Every evening he went to the Minakshi temple in Madurai. He stood in front of the images of gods and saints inside the temple and tears would flow from his eyes as he contemplated the lives of the saints. His elder brother, Nagaswami, noticed these changes in Venkataramana and criticized him for his laziness and indifference. One day a few weeks after the ‘death’ experience he was asked by one of his teachers to copy a few passages from a textbook as punishment for not being able to answer a question. He wrote two lines and stopped.Understanding the uselessness of what he was doing, he pushed his books aside and sank into the contemplation of the inner Self. Venkataramana wanted to give up everything, leave his home and his former life behind and proceed onward to a life of spirituality. He resolved to go to Arunachalam. He decided to run away from home without informing anybody.