~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
Disciple: Master! What is the means to gain the state of eternal bliss, ever devoid of misery?
RAMANA MAHARSHI: Apart from the statement in the Veda that wherever there is body there is misery, this is also the direct experience of all people; therefore, one should enquire into one's true nature which is ever bodiless, and one should remain as such. This is the means to gaining that state.
Disciple: What is meant by saying that one should enquire into one's true nature and understand it?
RAMANA MAHARSHI: Experiences such as "I went; I came; I was; I did" come naturally to everyone. From these experiences, does it not appear that the consciousness "I" is the subject of those various acts? Enquiry into the true nature of that consciousness, and remaining as oneself is the way to understand, through enquiry, one's true nature.
Disciple: How is one to enquire: "Who am I?"
RAMANA MAHARSHI: Actions such as 'going' and 'coming' belong only to the body. And so, when one says "I went, I came", it amounts to saying that the body is "I". But, can the body be said to be the consciousness "I", since the body was not before it was born, is made up of the five elements, is non-existent in the state of deep sleep, and becomes a corpse when dead? Can this body which is inert like a log of wood be said to shine as "I" "I"? Therefore, the "I" consciousness which at first arises in respect of the body is referred to variously as self-conceit (tarbodham), egoity (ahankara), nescience (avidya), maya, impurity (mala), and individual soul (jiva) . Can we remain without enquiring into this? Is it not for our redemption through enquiry that all the scriptures declare that the destruction of "self-conceit" is release (mukti)? '". Then, there would shine in the Heart a kind of wordless illumination of the form 'I' 'I'. That is, there would shine of its own accord the pure consciousness which is unlimited and one, the limited and the many thoughts having disappeared. If one remains quiescent without abandoning that (experience), the egoity, the individual sense, of the form 'I am the body' will be totally destroyed, and at the end the final thought, viz. the 'I'-form also will be quenched like the fire that burns camphor*. The great sages and scriptures declare that this alone is release Therefore, making the corpse-body remain as a corpse, and not even uttering the word "I", one should enquire keenly thus: "Now, what is it that rises as 'I.
* i.e., without leaving any sediment.
Disciple: When one enquires into the root of 'self conceit' which is of the form 'I', all sorts of different thoughts without number seem to rise; and not any separate 'I' thought.
RAMANA MAHARSHI: Whether the nominative case, which is the first case, appears or not, the sentences in which the other cases appear have as their basis the first case; similarly, all the thoughts that appear in the heart have as their basis the egoity which is the first mental mode 'I', the cognition of the form 'I am the body'; thus, it is the rise of egoity that is the cause and source of the rise of all other thoughts; therefore, if the self-conceit of the form of egoity which is the root of the illusory tree of samsara (bondage consisting of transmigration) is destroyed, all other thoughts will perish completely like an uprooted tree. 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.
This is the proper means for destruction of the mind (manonasa) which is of the nature of seeing the body as self, and which is the cause of all the aforesaid obstacles. This method which easily destroys egoity deserves to be called devotion (bhakti), meditation (dhyana), concentration (yoga), and knowledge (jnana). Because God remains of the nature of the Self, shining as 'I' in the heart, because the scriptures declare that thought itself is bondage, the best discipline is to stay quiescent without ever forgetting Him (God, the Self), after resolving in Him the mind which is of the form of the 'I'-thought, no matter by what means. This is the conclusive teaching of the Scriptures.
Disciple: Is enquiry only the means for removal of the false belief of selfhood in the gross body, or is it also the means for removal of the false belief of selfhood in the subtle and causal bodies?
RAMANA MAHARSHI: It is on the gross body that the other bodies subsist. In the false belief of the form "I am the body" are included all the three bodies consisting of the five sheaths. And destruction of the false belief of selfhood in the gross body is itself the destruction of the false belief of selfhood in the other bodies. So inquiry is the means to removal of the false belief of selfhood in all the three bodies.
extract from the book self_enquiry.pdf