THE PRACTICE OF SELF-ENQUIRY
by Sri Ramana Maharshi
PURE MIND LEADS TO REALIZATION
It is only by the mind that is impure and is under the influence of rajas and tamas that Reality (i.e., the Self) which is very subtle and unchanging cannot be experienced;
But in the pure mind that has been rendered subtle and unmoving by the meditation described above, the Self bliss (i.e., Brahman) will become manifest.
THE PRACTICE OF SELF-ENQUIRY
The enquiry ‘Who am I?’ is the principal means to the removal of all misery and the attainment of the supreme bliss. When in this manner the mind becomes quiescent in its own state, Self-experience arises of its own accord, without any hindrance. Thereafter sensory pleasures and pains will not affect the mind. All (phenomena) will appear then, without attachment, like a dream. Never forgetting one’s plenary Self-experience is real bhakti (devotion), yoga (mind control), jnana (knowledge) and all other austerities. Thus say the sages.
By the enquiry ‘Who am I?’. The thought ‘Who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.
When other thoughts arise (other than ‘who am I’), one should not pursue them, but should inquire ‘To whom do they arise?’ It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with diligence, ‘To whom has this thought arisen?’. The answer that would emerge would be ‘To me’. Thereupon if one inquires ‘Who am I?’, the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source. When the mind that is subtle goes out through the brain and the sense-organs, the gross names and forms appear; when it stays in the Heart, the names and forms disappear. Not letting the mind go out, but retaining it in the Heart is what is called ‘inwardness’ (antarmukha). Letting the mind go out of the Heart is known as ‘externalisation’ (bahirmukha). Thus, when the mind stays in the Heart, the ‘I’ which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self which ever exists will shine. Whatever one does, one should do without the egoity ‘I’. If one acts in that way, all will appear as of the nature of Siva (God).
Whatever thoughts arise as obstacles to one’s sadhana (spiritual discipline), the mind should not be allowed to go in their direction, but should be made to rest in one’s Self which is the Atman; one should remain as witness to whatever happens, adopting the attitude ‘Let whatever strange things happen, happen; let us see!’ This should be one’s practice. In other words, one should not identify oneself with appearances; one should never relinquish one’s Self.
Without yielding to the doubt ‘Is it possible, or not?’, one should persistently hold on to the meditation on the Self. Even if one be a great sinner, one should not worry and weep ‘O! I am a sinner, how can I be saved?’ One should completely renounce the thought ‘I am a sinner’ and concentrate keenly on meditation on the Self; then, one would surely succeed.
In all manner of ways possible one should endeavour gradually not to forget one’s (true) Self that is God. The mind should not be directed to any other matter.
As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ is required. As thoughts arise they should be destroyed then and there in the very place of their origin through enquiry. If one resorts to contemplation of the Self unintermittently, until the Self is gained, that alone would do. As long as there are enemies within the fortress, they will continue to sally forth; if they are destroyed as they emerge, the fortress will fall into our hands.
This method which easily destroys egoity deserves to be called devotion (bhakti), meditation (dhyana), concentration (yoga), and knowledge (jnana).