The following text is section 69, ‘Self-enquiry,’ reprinted in its entirety from Guru Vachaka Kovai.
Giving up the attitude of outwardly enquiring more and more, “Who are you? Who is he?”, it is best to always inwardly enquire with great interest about oneself, “Who am I?”
If one attends to the centre of oneself with a keen mind to know “Who am I?”, the identification ‘I am the body’ will die and the Reality will shine forth as ‘I-I’. Then all the illusory differences, which are like the blueness seen in the sky, will disappear.
All doubts and questions pertaining to duality and otherness will be destroyed by the question “Who am I?” This question, “Who is this ‘I’ who doubts and asks about other things?”, will itself turn out to be the Brahmashtra, and will destroy the appearance of all otherness, which is nothing other than dark ignorance.
By destroying the mischievous and frisky ego through the enquiry, “Who is this ‘I’ who sees the outside world through the deceitful senses?”, to remain permanently in Mei-Jnana-Para-Nishta is truly the means for one to attain Liberation.
The individual who enquires into his real nature, “Who am I?”, will die as the ‘I’-less Self.
Restraining the mind from going outside [through the senses], and fixing it always in its Source, Self, which is known as the Heart, so that the vain ‘I’-thought will not rise again, is the Atma-Vichara [Self-enquiry].
To know the Supreme Thing, which shines in the heart as Existence-Consciousness, it is useless to search for It [as God] outside with great enthusiasm, instead of slowly and steadily attending to It [as It is] by remaining in solitude. [To search for It outside is] just like trying to dive within the water with a naked lamp in one’s hand, in order to find a person who has drowned in a flood.
Self, which shines within the five sheaths, should be attended to within the Heart. Instead of doing so, to enquire for It in the scriptures is only scriptural enquiry – how can it be Self-enquiry?
When mano-laya is gained by restraining the breath, one should keenly enquire, using such a peaceful mind which is now condensed from the scattered five [sense-knowledges] into the one ‘I’-consciousness, and know that Sat-Chit which is not the body.
Those who take to the pure path of Self-enquiry are never derailed because, like the sun, this supremely direct path itself reveals to them its own unchallengeable clarity and uniqueness.
Since death is nothing but pramada, those who want to conquer death should always ward off pramada; and since this alone is essential, there is no rule prescribing a time or place to enquire into Self.
Since time, place, etc., which seem to exist, cannot have a real existence of their own apart from the undivided and perfect Brahman, none of them can be unsuitable for practicing Self-enquiry.
One’s unceasing effort to turn the mind – which is always extroverted due to the force of habit [cultivated in past births] – towards Self by the Self-enquiry “Who am I?” is [the significance of] the great war being fought between devas and asuras [which is described in the Puranas].
Whenever a thought arises, instead of trying even a little either to follow it up or to fulfil it, it would be better to first enquire, “To whom did this thought arise?”
When one thus inwardly enquires, “Is it not to me that this thought has arisen – then who am I?”, the mind will return to subside in its Source, and the already risen thought will also vanish.
When one daily practices in this manner, since the impurities are being removed from the mind, it will become purer and purer to such an extent that the practice will become so easy that the mind will reach the Heart as soon as the enquiry is commenced.
Just as the creature which come out of the bushes to save their lives, being unable to bear with the heat of the wild forest-fire, are surely burnt to death, so all the vasanas hiding in the Heart will be destroyed, being unable to stand before the growing and blazing fire of the strength of Self-enquiry.
The thought “Who am I?”, after destroying all other thoughts, will itself finally die just like the stick which is used to stir the funeral pyre, and then the supreme Silence will prevail for ever.
When the delusion which has veiled Self, the Light of Consciousness of unlimited Bliss [Sat-Chit-Ananda], is destroyed by the clear enquiry “Who am I?”, one’s own Nature will shine forth gloriously as the Atmakasha [i.e. Space of Self].
Just as an iron ball which is heated in fire will itself shine as fire, when the impure jiva is burnt in the fire of Self-enquiry, it will itself shine as Self.
By enquiring, “Who am I, the deluded one who suffers so much?”, the delusion will be dissolved, the Reality will be attained, Jnana will dawn, Mouna will flow forth and the Bliss of Peace will prevail.
It is only due to the delusion which is caused by not learning the Truth of Self that jivas are suffering. Therefore, always take to the practice of Jnana – the inward enquiry “Who am I that is suffering?”
By contact with the philosopher’s stone – proper and unceasing enquiry – the ghostly jiva will lose the rust of mental impurities and will be turned into the supreme Shiva.
If the son of God, the jiva who has forgotten his real Nature [i.e. Self], eagerly enquires within, “Who am I that is lamenting over the miseries of life?’, he will realise his greatness, namely that he is truly One with his Father – Self.
Text copyright © Michael James.
Muruganar (1890–1973) was a poet and direct disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi.
This page was published on May 9, 2017 and last revised on May 17, 2017.