Can you throw some light on the life of saint ‘Arana’?

Arana was a great Bhakta who lived in the recent past. He lived in New Delhi in the early days of his life and was holding a high office. Once, in his dhyana, Saint Meera appeared in front of him and blessed him. She gave him the nama ‘Arana’.
Soon he moved to Chennai and his devotion to Lord Krishna grew multi-fold. He sang songs on Krishna in different languages. His satsang was always a calm and pleasant one – that is just about performing Kirtan towards developing love for Lord Krishna. The satsang does not criticize or hate anybody or anything, for they believe that everything is a ‘lila’ of Lord Krishna.
Arana lived for a short period after which he attained the feet of Lord Krishna.

I was raised to believe in God and the scriptures. But, I have never seriously done any meditation or pujas. Of late, I have been reading some of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s works. I desire to pursue the path of liberation. But, the ‘concept of bhakti’ versus ‘the concept of truth’ is very confusing to me. I am not sure which the right path is for me and how I should go from here. Please help!

Once Jiddu Krishnamurtiji was asked by a tradition loving person, why he is chastising tradition and scriptures so much. He immediately said, ‘This place is only for those who have lost faith in the scriptures. If you still have faith in them, this is not the right place for you!’
The central theme of Jiddu Krishnamurtiji teaching is that one has observe and be a light unto one’s self. So in short, one has to help one’s self for finding the truth. He termed Truth as pathless. If you want to pursue a path, then Krishnaji’s teachings are not your cup of tea. He has not prescribed any path. Any path supposes a tradition and discipline.
Bhakti is love for the truth. Truth is what that exists here, there everywhere, now and forever. Truth and love can’t be different. Love leads to Truth, and when established in Truth, love blossoms.
Doubts cease completely only in that final experience of truth. So, trying to get rid of doubts by intellect is to only multiply them. It is like plucking leaves of a giant tree one by one, by the time a complete cycle gets over, already new leaves have sprouted!
You used to trust our scriptures, now you tend to trust Sri Jiddu Krishnamurti. That is the only difference!
Path of liberation is really simple. Chanting Divine Names incessantly leads us there in due course of time, as pointed out by great Mahatmas.

It is said that “Madhava Swami was an attendant of Bhagavan Ramana. He was born as peacock in his next birth. But, isn’t this in contradiction to the statement of Bhagavan to another devotee? Specifically, the devotee who wishes to have initiation from Bhagavan only and says “if you do not give me initiation, even you have to take another birth, as only you will be my guru” — to this Bhagavan says, “Once you come here, where is the question of another birth?” I am unable to reconcile these two statements (assuming both are factual and correct). Kindly explain

Bhagavan Ramana Himself never uttered that Madhava Swami being reborn as a peacock, nor did he confirm the statement.
It is only the belief of the Bhaktas that Madhava Swami was reincarnated as a peacock.

I heard from your lecture that Lord Krishna came to rescue Senanayi. He was a great Bhakta indeed and would have chanted the Maha Mantra thousands of times a day. I am not so great as Senanayi and I don’t do as he did. Will Lord Krishna come to rescue me in the same way?

The Lord is equal for everyone. He showers the same compassion and kindness to everyone. He does not distinguish based on caste, creed, religion, color, geography, gender, wealth or status. All He longs for is love and devotion. If you have total faith and devotion to Him, He will definitely come before you some day.

In the book Jnana Yoga, Swami Vivekananda says that every thing that has a shape is a part of Maya. Then what about Gods? Are their shapes (idols) mere Maya or did the supreme lord Vishnu takes His shape by his power of Maya?

The answer for your question is in the book itself.
Go through the book completely – once, twice and many more times, until you find the answer.

Who are truly Sri Ramakrishna, Saradha Devi and Swami Vivekananda? Are they incarnations of God?

Sri Ramakrishna is considered as the avatar of Lord Vishnu and Saradha Devi as Mahalakshmi. Vivekananda is said to be a rishi from the Sapta Rishi Mandala.

An atheist is defined as the one who refutes religion and God. Would be right to call Sri J Krishnamurti an atheist? If not, what is the difference the two?

The difference between the view of J Krishnamurti and an atheist can be likened to that between opposite poles.
The atheist or non-believer denies everything that is about God and spirituality such as the existence of God, authenticity of scriptures, spiritual ideals, role of the Guru etc from a very superficial viewpoint. There is no honest, unbiased, open-minded probe into the deeper levels or a genuine yearning to find the truth. It is more out of hatred rather than open-mindedness.
The rational approach that J Krishnamurti advocates is one that is based on a genuine thirst to know and experience the ultimate truth. J Krishnamurti says that one should find the truth all by himself and not accept it just because it is written in the scriptures or it was told by the Guru. He says that if we simply accept it making no effort to progress it is a reflection of our laziness. It takes us nowhere. That is the context in which JK denies the word of scriptures, Guru or any set of predetermined principles. It is not due to hatred but due an absolutely unbiased, open-minded, sincere, focused approach to find the truth without any presumptions. This path too, if followed in the right way, will lead to liberation because that is the Ultimate Truth.
Besides, we can view JK in this way too.
God, out of His infinite mercy towards all beings, sends Mahatmas and saints to show them the way. The world is full of all kinds of people with varying interests, attitudes and preferences. Therefore Mahatmas too, vary their approach in order to show the Truth to people based on their varying attitudes. Sri Ramakrishna came for a particular purpose and Bhagavan Ramana came for another. Likewise, JK came to show the way for those people who were not oriented towards classical Sanatana dharma and had lost faith in such things

There is no help for you outside of yourself; you are the creator of the Universe. Like the silkworm you have built a cocoon around yourself. Burst your own cocoon and come out aw the beautiful butterfly, as the free soul. Then alone you will see Truth.” These are Swami Vivekananda’s words. How should they be interpreted?

Yes. What Swami Vivekananda says is absolutely right. You will need to come out of the cocoon called Samsara, to eventually get liberated. Now the question is, how do you burst your own cocoon and come out of it? The easiest and simplest way to burst open the cocoon is by chanting God’s Divine Name.

I am a sincere devotee of Sri Raghavendra. Though I accept and chant the Maha Mantra with pleasure, at times, I feel I am doing injustice to Sri Raghavendra. This disturbs me. What should I do?

Sri Raghavendra was a great Mahan and a great Hari Bhakta. He is considered an incarnation of Prahalada Swami, who is the supreme among Bhagavatas. Moreover, the term ‘Raghava’ in the name of Sri Raghavendra denotes Sri Rama. Maha Mantra Kirtan is nothing but Hari Nama Kirtan,which is the favorite of the Bhagavatas. Hence chanting the Maha Mantra will indeed please Sri Raghavendra Swami. He will definitely accept your Kirtan you chant the Maha Mantra in front of his picture.

All major texts mention that Sri Adi Sankara lived about 2500 years ago. However, the book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ cites that Sri Adi Sankara was initiated by Babaji around the 8th Century AD. Which one of them is right?

If Adi sankara Bhagavadpada had been initiated into Kriya Yoga by Babaji, his disciples like Thotakachara or Hastamalaka etc would have mentioned it in their works. Sri Adi sankara Bhagavadpada himself has dedicated all his works to his guru Sri Govinda Bhagavadpada. He would have mentioned his initiation by Babaji in his books, had that been the case. This being a case which cannot be concluded without any trace of doubt, we cannot say any thing further conclusively on initiation of Sri Adi Sankara’s initiation by Babaji.