How To Do Self-Enquiry

Sri Sadhu Om’s book on Self-enquiry is usually regarded as the definitive instruction manual for that practice. He was Sri Ramana Maharshi’s direct disciple and Muruganar’s literary executor. This article contains the entire chapter on technique from his book. In our opinion, these are the most thorough and authoritative instructions in existence for Sri Ramana’s method.
Sri Sadhu Om

By Sri Sadhu Om

At the young age of sixteen, when He was not even aware of the fact, ‘This is the sadhana of Self-enquiry that directly bestows the experience of Brahman’, it so happened one day that, without any prior intention, Bhagavan Sri Ramana embarked upon this rare sadhana! On that day, as if He were about to die, a great fear of death possessed Him all of a sudden. Because of it, an impulse to scrutinize death also arose in Him spontaneously. He was not perturbed to see the fast-approaching death, nor did He feel inclined to inform others about it! He decided to welcome it calmly and to solve the problem all alone. He lay down, stretching His limbs like a corpse, and began to scrutinize death practically, face to face. Since it is of prime importance for the readers to know the technique of Self-enquiry performed by Sri Bhagavan, the Sadguru, let us see it here in the very words in which He later narrated His experience.

This article is reprinted from the book The Path of Sri Ramana Part One.

“All right, death has come! What is ‘death’? What is it that is dying? It is this body that is dying; let it die!’ Deciding thus, closing the lips tightly, and remaining without breath or speech like a corpse, what came to my knowledge as I looked within was: ‘This body is dead. Now it will be taken to the cremation ground and burnt; it will become ashes. All right, but with the destruction of this body, am I also destroyed? Am I really this body? Although this body is lying as a speechless and breathless corpse, undoubtedly I am existing, untouched by this death! My existence is shining clearly and unobstructed! So this perishable body is not ‘I’! I am verily the immortal ‘I’ (Self)!! Of all things, I alone am the reality! This body is subject to death; but I who transcend the body am eternally living! Even the death that came to the body was unable to touch me!’ Thus it dawned directly, and along with it the fear of death that had come at first also vanished, never to appear again! All this was experienced in a split second as direct knowledge (pratyaksham) and not as mere reasoning thoughts. From that time onwards, the consciousness (chit) of my existence (sat) transcending the body has ever continued to remain the same” — thus Sri Ramana narrated.

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Although Sri Bhagavan later explained all this to us in so many words, He emphasized the all-important fact: ‘All this took place within a second as a direct experience, without the action of mind and speech’.

On account of this fear of death, the concentration of Sri Bhagavan was fixed and deeply immersed in Self-attention in order to find out ‘What is my existence? What is it that dies?’ Thus it is proved by what Sri Bhagavan Himself did that, as we have been explaining all along, only such a firm fixing of our attention on Self is ‘Self-enquiry’ (atma-vichara). He has confirmed the same idea in the work Who am I? where He says: “Always keeping the mind (the attention) fixed In Self (in the feeling ‘I’) alone is called Self-enquiry’… Remaining firmly in Self-abidance, without giving even the least room to the rising of any thought other than-the thought of Self (that is, without giving even the least attention to any second or third person, but only to Self), is surrendering oneself to God (which alone is called parabhakti, the supreme devotion65)”. When Sri Bhagavan was asked, ‘What is the means and technique to hold constantly on to the ‘I’ -consciousness?’, He revealed in His works the technique of Self-enquiry which, as explained above, He had undertaken in His early age, but in a more detailed manner as follows:

65. The enquiry ‘Who am I?’ (the path of knowledge or jnana marga) and self-surrender (the path of love or bhakti marga) are the two great royal paths found out by Bhagavan Sri Ramana from His own experience and taught by Him for the salvation of humanity. In this book, The Path of Sri Ramana — Part One, the path of pure, non-dual knowledge, the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ alone is dealt with, while in chapter two of The Path of Sri Ramana — Part Two a full exposition of the nature of this supreme devotion (parabhakti) is given.

“Self (atman) is that which is self-shining in the form ‘I am that I am’. One should not imagine it to be anything such as this or that (light or sound). Imagining’ or thinking thus is itself bondage. Since Self is the consciousness which is neither light nor darkness, let it not be imagined as a light of any kind. That thought itself would be a bondage. The annihilation of the ego (the primal thought) alone is liberation (mukti). All the three bodies consisting of the five sheaths are contained in the feeling ‘I am the body’; therefore if, by the enquiry ‘Who is this I?’ (that is, by Self-attention), the identification with (attachment to) the gross body alone is removed, the identification with the other two bodies will automatically cease to exist. As it is only by clinging to this that the identifications with the subtle and casual bodies live, there is no need to annihilate these identifications separately.

“How to enquire? Can the body, which is insentient like a log and such things, shine and function as ‘I’? It cannot.

The body cannot say ‘I’ …

Ulladhu Narpadhu, verse 23

Therefore, discarding the corpse-like body as an actual corpse and remaining without even uttering the word ‘I’ vocally —

Discarding the body as a corpse, not uttering the word ‘I’ by mouth, but seeking with the mind diving inwards ‘Whence does this I rise?’ alone is the path of knowledge (jnana marga)…

Ulladhu Narpadhu, verse 29

— if keenly observed what that feeling is which now shines as ‘I’, a sphurana66 alone will be experienced without sound as ‘I-I’ in the heart.

66. Sphurana: an experience of a new, clear and fresh knowledge of one’s existence.

When the mind reaches the Heart by enquiring within ‘Who am I?’, he, ‘I’ (the ego), falling down abashed, the One (the Reality) appears spontaneously as ‘I-I’ (I am that I am)…

Ulladu Narpadhu, verse 30

When sought within ‘What is the place from which it rises as I?’, ‘I’ (the ego) will die. This is Self-enquiry.

‘Upadesa Undhiyar’, verse 19

Where this ‘I’ dies, there and then shines forth spontaneously the One as ‘I-I’ That alone is the Whole (puranam).

‘Upadesa Undhiyar’, verse 20

“If without leaving it we just be, the sphurana, completely annihilating the feeling of individuality — the ego, ‘I am the body’ — finally will come to an end just as the camphor flame dies out. This alone is proclaimed to be liberation by Sages and scriptures.

“Although in the beginning, on account of the tendencies towards sense-objects (vishaya-vasanas) which have been recurring down the ages, thoughts rise in countless numbers like the waves of the ocean, they will all perish as the aforesaid Self-attention becomes more and more intense. Since even the doubt “Is it possible to destroy all of them and to remain as Self alone?’ is only a thought, without giving room even to that thought, one should persistently cling fast to Self-attention. However great a sinner one may be, if, not lamenting ‘Oh, I am a sinner! How can I attain salvation?’ but completely giving up even the thought that one is a sinner, one is steadfast in Self-attention, one will surely be saved. Therefore everyone, diving deep within himself with desirelessness (vairagya), can attain the pearl of Self.

“As long as there are tendencies towards sense-objects in the mind, (since they will always create some subtle or gross world-appearance) so long the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ is necessary. As and when thoughts rise of their own accord, one should annihilate all of them through enquiry then and there in their very place of origin. What is the means to annihilate them? If other thoughts rise disturbing Self-attention, one should, without attempting to complete them, enquire ‘To whom did they rise?, It will “then be known ‘To me’; immediately, if we observe ‘Who is this I that thinks?’, the mind (our power of attention which was hitherto engaged in thinking of second and third persons) will turn back to its source (Self). Hence (since no one is there to attend to them), the other thoughts which had risen will also subside. By repeatedly practising thus, the power of the mind to, abide in its source increases. When the mind thus abides in the Heart, the first thought, ‘I’ (‘I am the body’, the rising ‘I’), which is the root of all other thoughts, itself having vanished, the ever-existing Self (the being ‘I’) alone will shine. The place (or state) where even the slightest trace of the thought ‘I’ (‘I am this, that, the body, Brahman and so on’) does not exist, alone is Self. That alone is called Silence (maunam).

“After coming to know that the final decision of all the scriptures (sastras) is that such destruction of the mind alone is liberation (mukti), to read scriptures unlimitedly is fruitless. In order to destroy the mind, it is necessary to enquire who one is; then how, instead of enquiring thus within oneself, to enquire and know who one, is in scriptures? For Rama to know himself to be Rama, is a mirror necessary? (That is to say, for one to know oneself through Self-attention to be ‘I am’, are scriptures necessary?) ‘Oneself’ is within the five sheaths, whereas the scriptures are outside them. Therefore, how can oneself, who is to be attended to within, setting aside even the five sheaths, be found in scriptures? Since scripture-enquiry is futile, one should give it up and take to Self-enquiry” — thus says Bhagavan Sri Ramana.67

67. Refer to the first chapter of Vichara Sangraha and to the whole of Who am I? from which the above six paragraphs are paraphrased.

By means of an example, let us make more clear this technique (sadhana) of fixing the attention only on Self, which has been described above in the words of Sri Bhagavan. But from the very outset it must be conceded that, since the nature of Self is unique and beyond comparison, it cannot be explained fully and accurately by anyone through any example whatsoever. Though most of the examples which have been given in accordance with the intellectual development of the people and the different circumstances of their times may be appropriate to a great extent, these insentient (jada) examples can never fully explain Self, the sentient (chit). The example of a cinema projector often pointed out by Sri Bhagavan and the fallowing example of a reflected ray of the sun from a mirror are given solely with the view that they may remove many doubts of the readers and clarify their understanding. But one should not fall into the error of stretching the example too far, as did the blind man68 who concluded, ‘My child swallowed a crane’, when he was told, ‘Milk is white’.

68. The story of the blind man: Once a man, blind from birth, was informed that a son was born to him. While he was still rejoicing over the happy event, the very next day brought him the shocking news of his child’s death. With grief he asked:

“How did my baby die?”

“By drinking milk,”

“How is milk?”

“Milk is white”

“How is white?”

“White is like the crane.”

“How is the crane?”

Losing his patience, the messenger made the blind man feel his hand, which he bent like a crane, and said, “The crane is like this.” At once the blind man lamented, exclaiming, “Ah! No wonder my small child should die on taking such a big thing!”

A broken piece of mirror is lying on the ground in the open space, in full sunshine. The sunlight that falls on that piece of mirror is, reflected, and the reflected light enters a nearby dark room and falls on its inner wall. The ray from the mirror to the inside wall of the dark room is a reflected ray of the sun. By means of this reflected ray, a man in the dark room is able to see the objects inside that room. The reflected light, when seen on the wall, is of the same form or shape as the piece of mirror (triangular, square or round). But the direct sunlight (the original light, the source of the reflected ray) in the open space shines indivisible, single, all-pervading and unlimited by any specific form or shape. Self, our existence-consciousness, is similar to the direct sunlight in the open space. The ego-feeling or mind-knowledge, the ‘I am the body’ — consciousness, is similar to the reflected ray stretching from the mirror to the inner wall of the room. Since Self-consciousness is limitless like the vast, all-pervading direct sunlight, it has no form-adjunct (rupa-upadhi). Since, just as the reflected ray takes on the limitations and size of the piece of mirror, the ego-feeling experiences the size and form of a body as ‘I’, it has adjuncts. Just as the objects in the dark room are cognized by means of the reflected light, the body and world are cognized only by means of the mind knowledge.

Although the world and the mind rise and set together, it is by the mind alone that the world shines…

Ulladu Narpadhu, verse 7

Let us suppose that a man in the dark room wants to stop observing the objects in the room, which are seen by means of the reflected light, and is possessed instead by a longing to see its source, ‘Whence comes this light?’. If so, he should go to the very spot where the reflected beam strikes the wall, position his eyes and look back along the beam. What does he see then? The sun! But what he now sees is not the real sun; it is only a reflection of it, Furthermore, it will appear to him as if the sun is lying at a certain spot on the ground outside the room! The particular spot where the sun is seen lying outside can even be pointed out as being so many feet to the right or left of the room (like saying, “Two digits ‘to the right from the centre of the chest is the heart”). But, does the sun really lie thus on the ground at that spot? No, that is only the place whence the reflected beam rises! What should he do if he wants to see the real sun! He must keep his eyes positioned along the straight line in which the reflected beam comes and, without moving them to either side of it. follow it towards the reflected sun which is then visible to him.

Just as the man in the dark room, deciding to see the source of the reflected beam which has come into the room, gives up the desire either to enjoy or to make research about the things there with the help of that reflected beam, so a man who wants to know the real Light (Self) must give up all efforts towards enjoying or knowing about the various worlds which shine only by means of the mind-light functioning through the five senses, since he cannot know Self either if he is deluded by cognizing and desiring external objects (like a worldly man) or if he is engaged in investigating them (like our modern scientists). This giving up of attention towards external sense-objects is desirelessness (vairagya) or inward renunciation. The eagerness to see whence the reflected ray comes into the room corresponds to the eagerness to see whence the ego. ‘I’, the mind-light, rises. This eagerness is love for Self (swatma-bhakti). Keeping the eyes positioned along the straight line of the beam without straying away to one side or the other corresponds to the one-pointed attention fixed unswervingly on the ‘I’ — consciousness. Is not the man now moving along the straight line of the reflected beam from the dark room towards the piece of mirror lying outside? This moving corresponds to diving within towards the Heart.

Just as one would dive in order to find something that had fallen into the water, so one should dive within with a keen (introverted) mind, controlling breath and speech, and know the rising-place of the rising ego. Know thus!

Ulladu Narpadhu, verse 28

Some, taking only the words ‘should dive within controlling breath and speech’, set out to practise exercises of breath control (pranayama). Although it is a fact that the breath stops in the course of enquiry, for it to be stopped the roundabout way of pranayama is not necessary. When the mind, with a tremendous longing to find the source which gives it light, turns inwards, the breath stops automatically69! If the breath of the enquirer is exhaled at the time of his mind thus giving up knowing external sense-objects (vishayas) and starting to attend to its original form of light, Self, it automatically remains outside without being again drawn in. Likewise, if it is inhaled at that time, it automatically remains inside without being again exhaled! These are to be taken as ‘external retention’ (bahya kumbhaka) and ‘internal retention’ (antara kumbhaka) respectively. Until there is a rising of a thought on account of non-vigilance (pramada) in Self-attention, this retention (kumbhaka) will continue in an enquirer quite effortlessly. By a little scrutiny, will it not be clear to anyone that even in our everyday life when some startling news is suddenly brought to us or when we try to recollect a forgotten thing with full concentration, the breath stops automatically on account of the keenness of mind (the intensity of concentration) that takes place then? Similarly, the breath will stop automatically as soon as the mind, with an intense longing to see its original form of light and with earnest one-pointedness, begins to turn keenly and remain within. In this state of retention (kumbhaka), no matter how long it continues, the enquirer does not experience suffocation, that is, the urge to exhale or inhale. But while practicing pranayama, if the units of time (matras) of the retention are increased, one does experience suffocation. If the enquirer’s attention is so intensely fixed on Self that he does not even care to know whether the breath has stopped or not, then his state of retention is involuntary and without struggle. There are some aspirants, however, who try to know at that time whether or not the ‘breath has stopped. This is wrong, for since the attention is thus focusing on the breath, Self-attention will be lost and thereby various thoughts will shoot up and the flow of sadhana will be interrupted, That is why Sri Bhagavan advised, ‘Control breath and speech with a keen (introverted) mind’. It would be wise to understand this verse thus, by adding ‘with a keen mind’ (kurnda matiyal) in all the three places, ‘Control the breath with a keen mind, dive within with a keen mind, and know the rising-place with a keen mind’.

69. Therefore, by the practice of fixing the mind (the attention) in the Heart (Self), the pure consciousness, both the destruction of tendencies (vasanas) and the control of the breath are accomplished automatically.

Ulladhu Narpadhu — Anubandham, verse 24

By his very moving along it, does not the man who positions his eyes on the reflected beam reduce its length? Just as the length of the beam decreases as he advances, so also the mind’s tendency of expanding shrinks more and more as the aspirant perseveres in sincerely seeking its source.

…When the attention goes deeper and deeper within along the (reflected) ray ‘I’, its length decrease more and more, and when the ray ‘I’ dies, that which shines as ‘I’ is Jnana.

Atma Vichara Patikam, verse 9

When the man finally reaches very near to the piece of mirror, he can be said to have reached the very source of the reflected ray. This is similar to the aspirant diving within and reaching the source (Heart) whence he had risen. Does not the man now attain a state where the length of the reflected ray is reduced to nothing — a state where no reflection is possible because he is so close to the mirror? Similarly, when the aspirant, on account of his diving deeper and deeper within by an intense effort of Self-attention, is so close to his source that not even an iota of rising of the ego is possible, he remains absorbed in the great dissolution of the ‘I am the body’ — feeling (dehatma­buddhi), which he had hitherto had as a target of attention, This dissolution is what Sri Bhagavan refers to when He says, ‘I’ will die”, in Upadesa Undhiyar verse 19.

Because of his mere search for the source of the reflected ray of the sun, does not the man now, after leaving the dark room, stand in the open space in a state of void created by the non-existence of that reflected ray? This is the state of the aspirant remaining in the Heart-space (hridayakasa) in the state of great void (maha sunya) created, through mere Self-attention, by the non-existence of the ego-’I’. The man who has come out of the room into the open space is dazed and laments, “Alas! The sun that guided me so far (the reflected sun) is now lost”, At this moment, a friend of his standing in the open space comes to him with these words of solace, “Where were you all this time? Were you not in the dark room! Where are you now? Are you not in the open space! When you were in the dark room, that which guided you out was just one thin ray of light; but here (in this vast open space) are not the rays of light countless and in an unlimited mass? What you saw previously was not even the direct sunlight, but only a reflected ray! But what you are now experiencing is the direct (sakshat) sunlight. When the place where you are now is nothing but the unlimited space of light, can a darkness come into existence because of the void created by the disappearance of the reflected ray? Can its disappearance be a loss? Know that its disappearance itself is the true light; it is not darkness”.

Similarly, by the experience of the great void (maha sunya) created by the annihilation of the ego, the aspirant is some-what taken aback, ‘Alas! Even the ‘I’ consciousness (the ego) which I was attending to in my sadhana till now as a beacon-light is lost! Then is there really no such thing at all as ‘Self’ (atman)?”. At that very moment, the Sadguru, who is ever shining as his Heart, points out to him thus, “Can the destruction of the ego, which is only an infinitesimal reflected consciousness, be really a loss? Are you not clearly aware not only of its former existence, but also of the present great void created by its disappearance? Therefore, know that you, who know even the void as ‘this is a void’, alone are the true knowledge; you are not a void70!”, in an instant as a direct experience of the shining of his own existence-consciousness by touching (flashing as sphurana) in Heart as Heart! The aspirant who started the search ‘Whence am I?’ or ‘Who am I?’ now attains the non-dual Self-knowledge, the true knowledge ‘I am that I am’, which is devoid of the limitations of a particular place or time.

70. …Know that I (Self) is the true knowledge; It is not a void!

Ulladhu Narpadhu, verse 12

Clinging to the consciousness ‘I’ and thereby acquiring a greater and greater intensity of concentration upon it, is diving deep within. Instead of thus diving within, many, thinking that they are engaged in Self-enquiry, sit down for hours together simply repeating mentally or vocally, “Who am I?” or “Whence am I?”. There are others again who, when they sit for enquiry, face their thoughts and endlessly repeat mentally the following questions taught by Sri Bhagavan. “To whom come these thoughts? To me; who am I?”, or sometimes they even wait for the next thought to come up so that they can fling these questions at it! Even this is futile Did we sit to hold thus a court of enquiry, calling one thought after another! Is this the sadhana of diving within! Therefore, we should not remain watching ‘What is the next thought?’. Merely to keep on questioning in this manner is not Self-attention. Concerning those who thus merely float on the surface of the thought-waves; keeping their mind on these questions instead of diving within by attending to the existence-consciousness with a keen mind, thereby controlling mind, breath and all the activities of the body and senses, Sri Bhagavan says:

Compare him who asks himself ‘Who am I?’ and ‘From which place am I?’, though he himself exists all the while as Self, to a drunken man who prattles ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Where am I?’.

Ekatma Panchakam, verse 2

and further, He asks:

…How to attain that state wherein ‘I’ does not rise — the state of egolessness (the great void or maha sunya) — unless (instead of floating like this) we seek the place whence ‘I’ rises? And unless we attain that (egolessness), say, how to abide in the state of Self, where ‘We are That’ (soham)?

Ulladhu Narpadhu, verse 27

Therefore, all that we are to practise is to be still (summa iruppadu) with the remembrance of the feeling ‘I’. It is only when there is a slackness of vigilance during Self-attention that thoughts, which are an indication of it, will rise. In other words, if thoughts rise it means that our Self-attention is lost. It is only as a contrivance to win back Self-attention from thought-attention that Sri Bhagavan advised us to ask, ’To whom do these thoughts appear?’ Since the answer ‘To me’ is only a dative form of ‘I’, it will easily remind us of the nominative form, the feeling ‘I’. However, if we question, ‘Who thinks these thoughts?’, since the nominative form, the feeling ‘I’, is obtained as an answer, will not Self-attention, which has been lost unnoticed, be regained directly? This regaining of Self-attention is actually being Self (that is, remaining or abiding as Self)! Such ‘being’ alone is the correct sadhana71; sadhana is not doing, but being!!

71. “What our Lord Ramana firmly advises us to take to, as the greatest and most powerful tapas is only this much, ‘Be still’ (summa iru), and not anything (dhyana, yoga and so on) as the duty to be performed by the mind.”

Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 773

Some complain, “When the very rising of the ego from sleep is so surreptitious as to elude our notice, how can we see whence it rises? It seems to be impossible!” That is true, because the mind’s effort of attention is absent in sleep, since the mind itself is not at all there! As ordinary people are not acquainted with the knowledge of their ‘being’ but only with the knowledge of their ‘doing’ (that is, the knowledge of their making efforts), for such people it is impossible to know from sleep the rising of the ego from there. Since the effort considered by them as necessary is absent in sleep, it is no wonder that they are unable to commence the enquiry from sleep itself! But, since the whole of the waking state is a mere sportive play of the ego and since the effort of the mind here is under the experience of everyone, at least in the waking state one can turn and attend to the pseudo ‘I’ shining in the form ‘I am so-and-so’.

‘Turning inwards, daily see thyself with an Introverted look and it (the Reality) will be known’ — thus didst Thou tell me, O my Arunachala!

Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai, verse 44

The enquiry begins only during the leisure hours of the waking state when one sits for practice. Just as a thing comes to our memory when its name, is thought of, does not the first person feeling come to everyone’s memory as soon as the name (pronoun) ‘I’ is thought of? Although this first person feeling is only the ego, the pseudo ‘I’­consciousness, it does not matter. Having our attention withdrawn from second and third persons and clinging to the first person — that alone is sadhana. As soon as the attention turns towards the first person feeling, not only do other thoughts disappear, but also the first thought, the rising and expanding pseudo ‘I’-consciousness, itself begins contracting!

When the mind, the ego, which wanders outside knowing only other objects (second and third persons), begins to attend to its own nature, all other objects will’ disappear and, by experiencing its true nature (Self), the pseudo ‘I’ will also die.

Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 193

…If the fickle mind turns towards the first person, the first person (the ego) will become non-existent and That which really exists will then shine forth…

Atma Vichara Patikam, verse 6

…Attending to the first person is equal to committing suicide…

Atma Vichara Patikam, verse 7

This is the great revelation made by Bhagavan Sri Ramana and bestowed by Him as a priceless boon upon the world of spiritual aspirants in order to bring Vedanta easily under practical experience.

Just as a rubber ball72 gains greater and greater momentum while bouncing down the staircase, the more the concentration in clinging to the first person consciousness is intensified the faster is the contraction of the first thought (the ego), till finally it merges in its source. That which now merges thus is only the adjunct (upadhi), the feeling ‘so-and-so’ which, at the moment of waking, came and mixed with the pure existence-consciousness, which was shining in sleep as ‘I am’, to constitute the form of the ego, ‘I am so-and-so’, ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’. That is, what has come and mixed now slips away. All that an aspirant can experience in the beginning of his practice is only the slipping away (subsidence) of the ego. Since the aspirant tracks down the ego from the waking state, where it is in full play, in the beginning it is possible for him to cognize only its removal. But to cognize its rising (how it rises and holds on to ‘I am’) from sleep will be more difficult for him at this stage.

72. The simile of the rubber ball: Let us suppose that a rubber ball is bouncing down from the top of a staircase, the steps of which are one foot high, After falling on to the second step, if it bounces to a height of half a foot, will it not now fall on to the third step from a height of one-and-a-half feet? It will then bounce to a height of three-quarters of a foot. Hence, the height from which it falls on to the next step will be one-and-three-quarter feet. Does it not thus gain greater and greater momentum? Likewise, the shrinking of the first thought, ‘I’, gains greater and greater momentum till finally it merges in its source.

When Self-attention is started from the waking consciousness ‘I am so-and-so’, since it is only the adjunct, the feeling ‘so-and-so’, that slips away (because it is merely non-existent, an unreal thing [the unreal dies and the Reality alone survives, satyameva jayate]), the aspirant even now (when ‘so-and-so’ has dropped off) feels no loss to the consciousness ‘I am’ which he had experienced in the waking state. Now he attains a state which is similar to the sleep he has experienced every day and which is devoid of all and everything (because, ‘The ego is verily all — sarvam’73, since the whole universe, which is nothing but thoughts, is an expansion of the ego). But a great difference is now experienced by him between the sleep that, without his knowledge, has been coming and overwhelming him all these days due to the complete exhaustion of mind and body, and this sleep which is now voluntarily brought on and experienced by him with the full consciousness of the waking state. How?

73. Refer to Ulladlhu Narpadhu, verse 26.

Because there is consciousness, this is not sleep, and because there is the absence of thoughts, it is not the waking state; it is therefore the existence- consciousness (sat-chit), the unbroken nature of Siva (akhanda siva-swarupam). Without leaving it, abide in it with great love.

Sadhanai Saram74

74. Sadhanai Saram is a book in Tamil containing the answers given in verse form by the author of this book to clear the doubts of questioners. It has been published in English as A Light on the Teaching of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by AHAM Publications.

Whenever the aspirant during the time of sadhana becomes extroverted from this voluntarily brought-about sleep-like state, he feels absolutely certain, ‘I was not sleeping, but was all the while fully conscious of myself’. But, though his real aspect (existence-consciousness) is ever knowing without he least doubt its own existence in sleep as ‘I am’, whenever he becomes extroverted from everyday sleep, since he (the mind) did not even once have the experience of continuing to know ‘I am’ from the waking state, he can only say, ‘I slept, I did not know myself at that time’, The truth is this: since the state of his Self-existence, devoid of the adjunct ‘so-and-so’, is traced out and caught hold of in the voluntarily brought-about sleep with the full consciousness (prajna) continuing from the waking state, the knowledge that the pure existence-consciousness (sat-chit) knows itself as ‘I am’ is clear in this sleep state. That is why the aspirant now says, ‘I did exist throughout, I did not sleep’! But prior to his sadhana, since he was throughout the waking state identifying as ‘I’ the mind, which is the form of the adjunct ‘so-and-so’, after waking up from the ordinary daily sleep, where the mind did not exist, this mind (the man) says, ‘I did not exist in sleep’! That is all!!

Those who experience many times this removal of the ego through practice, since they have an acquaintance with the experience of their pure existence-consciousness as ‘I am’ even after the removal of the ego, can minutely cognize, even at the moment of just waking up from sleep, how the adjunct ‘so-and-so’ comes and mixes. Those who do not have such strength of practice cannot cognize, from sleep itself, the ego at its place of rising. The only thing that is easy for them is to find the ego’s place of setting (which is also its place of rising) through the effort started from the waking state. In either case, the end and the achievement will be the same. When the attention is focused deeper and deeper within towards the feeling ‘I am’ and when the ego thereby shrinks more and more into nothingness, our power of attention becomes subtler than the subtlest atom and thereby grows sharper and brighter. Hence, the strength of abidance (nishtha-bala) will now be achieved to remain balanced between two states, that is, in a state after the end of sleep and before waking up, in other words, before being possessed by the first thought. Through this strength, the skill will now be gained by the aspirant to find out the adjunct ‘so and so’, which comes and mixes, to be a mere second person (that is, although it has hitherto been appearing as if it were the first person, it will now be clearly seen to be his mere shadow, non-Self, the primal sheath, a thing alien to him). This is what Janaka, the royal Sage, meant when he said, “I have found out the thief (the time of his coming — the time and place. of the ego’s rising) who has been ruining me all along; I will inflict the right punishment upon him”. Since the ego, which was acting till now as if it were the first person, is found to be a second person alien to us, the right punishment is to destroy it at its very place of rising (just as the reflected ray is destroyed at its place of rising) by clinging steadfastly to the real first person (the real import of the word ‘I’), existence-consciousness, through the method of regaining Self-attention taught by Bhagavan Sri Ramana (‘To whom? To me; who am I?’):

As you practise more and more abiding in this existence-consciousness (that is, remaining in the state between sleep and waking), the ordinary sleep which had previously been taking possession of you will melt away, and the waking which was full of sense-knowledges (vishayas) will not creep in again, Therefore repeatedly and untiringly abide in it.

Sadhanai Saram

By greater and more steadfast practice of abiding in this existence-consciousness, we will experience that this state seems to come often and take possession of us of its own accord whenever we are free from our daily work. But, since this state of existence-consciousness is in fact nothing but ‘we’, it is wrong to think that such a state comes and takes possession of us! While at work, we attend to other things; after that work is over and before we attend to some other second or third person, we naturally abide in our real state, existence-consciousness. Though this happens to one and all every day, it is only to those who have the experience of Self-consciousness through the aforesaid practice that the state of Self-abidance will be clearly discerned after leaving one second parson thought and before catching another one (that is, between two thoughts).

Why has it been said (in the above two verses of Sadhana Saram) that one ought to make effort repeatedly to be in that state (our existence-consciousness) and ought to abide in it with more and more love? Because, until all the tendencies (vasanas) which drive one out of it are completely exhausted, this state will seem to come and go75. Hence the need for continued effort and love to abide in Self.

When, through this practice, our state of existence-consciousness is experienced always as inescapably natural, then there will be no harm even if waking, dream and sleep pass across,

For those who are well established in the unending Self-consciousness, which pervades and transcends all these three so-called states (waking, dream and sleep), there is but one state, the Whole, the All, and that alone is real! This state, which is devoid even of the feeling ‘I am making effort’, is your natural state of being! Be!!

Sadhanai Saram

75. Just as the moving of clouds creates the illusion that the moon itself is moving in the opposite direction, the coming end going of the vasanas causes the illusion that our natural state of existence-consciousness is often coming and taking possession of us of its own accord, and then going away leaving us.

Just as the man came out into the open space from the dark room by steadfastly holding on to and moving along the reflected ray, so the enquirer reaches the open space of Heart, coming out of the prison — the attachment to the body through the nerves (nadis) — by assiduously holding on to the feeling ‘I am’. Let us now see how this process takes place in the body of an advanced enquirer.

Just on waking up from sleep, a consciousness ‘I’ shoots up like a flash of lightening from the Heart to the brain. From the brain, it then spreads throughout the body along the nerves (nadis). This ‘I’ consciousness is like electrical energy. Its impetus or voltage is the force of attachment (abhimana-vega) with which it identifies a body as ‘I’. This consciousness, which spreads with such a tremendous impetus and speed all over the body as ‘I’, remains pure, having no adjunct (upadhi) attached to it, till it reaches the brain from the Heart. But, since its force of attachment (abhimana-vega) is so great that the time taken by it to shoot up from the Heart to the brain is extremely short, one millionth of a second so to speak, ordinary people are unable to cognize it in its pure condition, devoid of any adjunct. This pure condition of the rising ‘I’-consciousness is what was pointed out by Sri Bhagavan when He said, “In the space between two states or two thoughts, the pure ego (the pure condition or true nature of the ego) is experienced”, in Maharshi’s Gospel, Book One, chapter five, entitled ‘Self and Ego’.

For this ‘I’-consciousness that spreads from the brain at a tremendous speed throughout the body, the nerves (nadis) are the transmission lines, like wires for electrical power. (How many they are is immaterial here.) The mixing of the pure consciousness ‘I am’, after reaching the brain, with an adjunct as ‘I am this, I am so-and-so, I am the body’ is what is called bondage (bandham) or the knot (granthi). This knot has two forms: the knot of bondage to the nerves (nadi-bandha-granthi) and the knot of attachment (abhimana--granthi). The connection of this power, the ‘I’-consciousness, with the gross nervous system is called ‘the knot of bondage to the nerves’ (nadi bandha granthi), and its connection (its dehabhimana) with the causal body, whose form is the latent tendencies, is called ‘the knot of attachment’ (abhimana-granthi). The knot of bondage to the nerves pertains to the breath (prana), while the knot of attachment pertains to the mind.

Mind and breath (prana) which have thought and action as their respective functions, are like two diverging branches of the trunk of a tree, but their root (the activating power) is one.

Upadesa Undhiyar, verse 12

Since the source of the mind and the prana is one (the Heart), when the knot of attachment (abhimana-granthi) is severed by the annihilation of the mind through Self-enquiry, the knot of bondage to the nerves (nadi-bandha-granthi) is also severed. In raja yoga, after removing the knot of bondage to the nerves by means of breath-control, if the mind which is thus controlled is made to enter the Heart from the brain (sahasrara), since it reaches its source, then the knot of attachment is also severed.

When the mind which has been subdued by breath control is led (to the Heart) through the only path (the path of knowing Self)76, its form will die.

Upadesa Undhiyar, verse 14

76. In the Tamil original of this verse, the words used by Sri Bhagavan are or vazhi, which mean both ‘the only path’ and ‘the path of knowing’. That the ‘only path’ mentioned here is Self-enquiry and not any one of the paths of meditation is made clear in Guru Vachaka Kovai verse 392, where Sri Bhagavan emphatically says: “When mental quiescence (mano-laya) is gained by restraining the breath…one should keenly enquire and know that existence-consciousness (sat-chit) which is not the body.

However, since the knot of attachment is the basic one, until and unless the destruction of attachment (abhimana) is effected, by knowing self, even when the knot of bondage to the nerves is temporarily removed in sleep, swoon, death or by the use of anesthetics, the knot of attachment remains unaffected in the form of tendencies (vasanas), which constitute the causal body, and, hence rebirths are inescapable. This is why Sri Bhagavan insists that one reaching kashta-nirvikalpa-samadhi77 through raja yoga should not stop there (since it is only mano-laya, a temporary absorption of the mind), but that the mind so absorbed should be led to the Heart in order to attain sahaja-nirvikalpa-samadhi, which is the destruction of the mind (mano-nasa), the destruction of the attachment to the body (dehabhimana-nasa). In the body of such a Self-realized One (sahaja jnani), the coursing of the ‘I’­consciousness along the nerves, even after the destruction of the knot of attachment, is like the water on a lotus leaf or like a burnt rope, and thus it cannot cause bondage. Therefore the destruction of the knot of attachment is anyway indispensible for the attainment of the natural state (sahaja sthiti), the state of the destruction of the tendencies (vasanakshaya).

77. Kashta-nirvikalpa-samadhi: a state like sleep in which the body remains inert like a log.

The nerves (nadis) are gross, but the consciousness power (chaitanya-sakti) that courses through them is subtle. The connection of the ‘I’-consciousness with the nerves is similar to that of the electrical power with the wires, that is, it is so unstable that it can be disconnected or connected in a second. Is it not an experience common to one and all that this connection is daily broken in sleep and effected in the waking state? When this connection is effected, body-consciousness rises, and when it is broken, body-consciousness is lost. Here it is to be remembered what has already been stated, namely that body-consciousness and world-consciousness are one and the same. So, like our clothes and ornaments which are daily removed and put on, this knot is alien to us, a transitory and false entity hanging loosely on us! This is what Sri Bhagavan referred to when He said, “We can detach ourself from what we are not”! Disconnecting the knot in such a way that it will never again come into being is called by many names such as ‘the cutting of the knot’ (granthi-bheda), ‘the destruction of the mind’ (mano-nasa) and so on. ‘In such a way that it will never again come into being’ means this: by attending to it (the ego) through the enquiry ‘Does it in truth exist at present?’ in order to find out whether it had ever really come into being, there takes place the dawn of knowledge (jnana), the real waking, where it is clearly and firmly known that no such knot has ever come into being, that no such ego has ever risen, that ‘that which exists’ alone ever exists, and that which was existing as ‘I am’ is ever existing as ‘I am’! The attainment of this knowledge (Self-knowledge or atma-jnana), the knowledge that the knot or bondage is at all times non-existent and has never risen, is the permanent disconnecting of the knot. Let us explain this with a small story.

“Alas! I am imprisoned! I have been caught within this triangular room! How to free myself?” — thus was a man complaining and sobbing, standing in a corner where the ends of two walls joined. Groping on the two walls in front of him with his two hands, he was lamenting, “No doorway is available, nor even any kind of outlet for me to escape through! How can I get out?”

Another man, a friend of his who was standing at a distance in the open, heard the lamenting, turned in that direction and noticed the state of his friend. There were only two walls in that open space. They were closing only two sides, one end of each of them meeting the other. The friend in the open quickly realized that the man, who was standing facing only the two walls in front of him, had concluded, due to the wrong notion that there was a third wall behind him, that he was imprisoned within a three-walled room. So he asked, “Why are you lamenting, groping on the walls?” “I am searching for a way through which to escape from the prison of this triangular room, but I don’t find any way out!” replied the man.

The friend: “Well, why don’t you search for a way out on the third wall behind you!”

The man (turning behind and looking): “Ah, here there is no obstacle! Let me run away through this way.” (So saying, he started to run away.)

The friend: “What! Why do you run away? Is it necessary for you to do so? If you do not run away, will you remain in prison?”

The man: “Oho! yes, yes! I was not at all imprisoned! How could I have been imprisoned when there was no wall at all behind me” It was merely my own delusion that I was imprisoned, was never imprisoned, nor am I’ now released! So I do not even need to run away from near these walls where I am now! The defect of my not looking behind was the reason for my so-called bondage; and the turning of my attention behind is really the sadhana for my so-called liberation! In reality, I am ever remaining as I am, without any imprisonment or release!”

Thus knowing the truth, he remained quiet.

The two walls in the story signify the second and third persons. The first person is the third wall said to be behind the man. There is no way at all to liberation by means of second and third person attention. Only by the first person attention ‘Who am I?’ will the right knowledge be gained that the ego, the first person, is ever non-existent, and only when the first person is thus annihilated will the truth be realized that bondage and liberation are false.

So long as one thinks like a madman ‘I am a bound one’, thoughts of bondage and liberation will last. But when looking into oneself ‘Who is this bound one? the eternally free and ever-shining Self alone will (be found to) exist. Thus, where the thought of bondage no longer stands, can the thought of liberation still endure!

Ulladu Narpadhu, verse 39

Just as we have explained the three walls as representing the three places78, the first, second and third persons, we can also explain them as representing the three times, the present, past and future. Even through the attention to the present — avoiding all thoughts of past and future — in order to know what is the truth of the present, all thoughts will subside and the ‘present’ itself will vanish. How? That which happened one moment before now is considered by us to be past, and that which will happen one moment from now is considered to be future. Therefore without paying attention to any time even one moment before or after this, if we try to know what that one moment is that exists now, then even one millionth of the so-called present moment will be found to be either past or future. If even such subtlest past and future moments are also not attended to and if we try to know what is in between these two, the past and future, we will find that nothing can be found as an exact present. Thus the conception of present time will disappear, being non-existent, and the Self-existence which transcends time and place alone will then survive.

78. In the grammar of most language, including Sanskrit, the first person, ‘I’, the second person, ‘you’, and the third person, ‘he, she, it end so on’, are each denominated as a person (purusha). But in Tamil grammar these three are termed respectively as the first place, second place and third place. Classifying them thus as places is a very helpful clue for aspirants. How? Is not the sole aim of sincere aspirants on the path to Reality to transcend maya and to reach Brahman, the Supreme Thing? How then to cross or transcend maya?

Time and place are the two foremost conceptions projected by maya. Not even a single thought can be formed which is not bound up with maya in the form of these two conceptions, time and place. Every thought must involve a past and future time (because each thought is formed in a moment of time, and each moment of time is merely a change from past to future) and must also involve an attention to a second or third person. On the other hand, if one tries to form a thought of either the present time or the first person (that is, if one attends to either of these), all thoughts will cease — because the present out of the three times and the first person out of the three places are the root-conceptions, and the important characteristic of these two root conceptions is that they will disappear, losing their existence, if they are sought for by being attended to. Thus, when this primal time (the present) and primal place (the first person) lose their existence, even their source maya (which means ‘that which does not exist’), itself vanishes, since it has no true existence of its own. This is the state transcending maya, and hence the ever-existing, one, whole and unlimited Self alone then shines!

The past and future can exist only with reference to the present, which is daily experienced; they too, while occurring, were and will be the present. Therefore, (among the three times) the present alone exists. Trying to know the past and future without knowing the truth of the present (i.e. its non-existence) is like trying to count without (knowing the value of the unit) one!

Ulladhu Narpadhu, verse 16

When scrutinized, we — the ever-known existing Thing — alone are; then where is time and where is place? If we are (mistaken to be) the body, we shall be involved in time and place; but, are we the body? Since we are the One, now, then and ever, that One in space, here, there and everywhere, we — the timeless and spaceless Self — alone are!

Ulladhu Narpadhu, verse 18

Hence, attending to the first place (the first person) among the three places or attending to the present time among the three times is the only path to liberation. Even this, the path of Sri Ramana is not really for the removal of bondage or for the attainment of liberation! The path of Sri Ramana is paved solely for the purpose of our ever abiding in our eternal state of pure bliss, by giving up even the thought of liberation through the dawn of the right knowledge that we have never been in bondage.

Only the first place or the present time is advised to be attended to. If you keenly do so, you will enjoy the bliss of Self, having completed all yogas and having achieved the supreme accomplishment. Know and feast on it!

Sadhanai Saram

Let us now again take up our original point. When the attention of an aspirant is turned towards second and third persons, the ‘I’-consciousness spreads from the brain all over the body through the nerves (nadis) in the form of the power of spreading; but when the same attention is focused on the first person, since it is used in an opposite direction, the ‘I’ -consciousness, instead of functioning in the form of the power of spreading, takes the form of the power of Self-attention (that is, the power of ‘doing’ is transformed into the power of ‘being’). This is what is called ‘the churning of the nadis’ (nadi-mathana). By the churning thus taking place in the nadis, the ‘I’-consciousness scattered throughout the nadis turns back, withdraws and collects in the brain, the starting point of its spreading, and from there it reaches, drowns and is established in the Heart, the pure consciousness, the source of its rising.

In raja yoga, the ‘I’-consciousness pervading all the nadis is forcibly pushed back to the starting point of its spreading by the power generated through the pressure of breath-retention (prana-kumbhaka). But this is a violent method. The following is what Sri Bhagavan used to say: “Forcibly pushing back the ‘I’-consciousness by breath-retention, as is done in raja yoga, is a violent method, like chasing a run-away cow, beating it, catching hold of it, dragging it forcibly to the shed and finally tying it there; on the other hand, bringing back the ‘I’-consciousness to its source by enquiry is a gentle and peaceful method, like tempting the cow by showing it a handful of green grass, cajoling and fondling it, making it follow us of its own accord to the shed and finally tying it there”. This is a safe and pleasant path, To bear the churning of the nadis effected through the method of breath-retention in raja yoga, the body must be young and strong. If such a churning is made to happen in a body which is weak or old, since the body does not have the strength to bear it, many troubles may occur such as nervous disorders, physical diseases, insanity and so on. But there is no room for any such dangers if the churning is made to take place through enquiry.

To say, ‘By holding the attention on Self, the consciousness, and by practising abiding in it, he became insane’, is just like saying, ‘By drinking the nectar of immortality, he died’.

Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 746

In the path of enquiry, withdrawal from the nadis takes place without any strain and as peacefully as the incoming of sleep. The rule found in. some sastras that the goal should be reached before the age of thirty is therefore applicable only in the path of raja yoga, and not in enquiry79, the path of Sri Ramana!

79. This is illustrated by the story of Chudala in Jnana Vasishta.

The channel through which the ‘I’-consciousness, which has risen from the Heart and has spread all over the body, is experienced while it is being withdrawn is called the sushumna nadi. Not taking into consideration the legs and arms, since they are only subsidiary limbs, the channel through which the ‘I’-consciousness is experienced in the trunk of the body from the base of the spine (muladhara) to the top of the head (sahasrara) is alone the sushumna.

While the ‘I’-consciousness is withdrawing through the sushumna, an aspirant may have experiences of the places of the six yogic centres (shadchakras) on the way, or even without having them may reach the Heart directly. While travelling in a train to Delhi, it is not necessary that a man should see the stations and scenes on the way. Can he not reach Delhi unmindful of them, sleeping happily? However, due to the past devotional tendencies towards the different names and forms of God, which are bound by time and place, some aspirants may have experiences of the six yogic centres and of divine visions, sounds and so on therein. But for those who do not have such obstacles in the form of tendencies, the journey will be pleasant and without any distinguishing feature (visesha). In the former case, these experiences are due to non-vigilance (pramada) in Self-attention, for they are nothing but a second person attention taking place there! This itself betrays that the attention to Self is lost! For those tremendously earnest aspirants who do not at all give room to non-vigilance in Self-attention, these objective experiences will never occur! The following replies of Sri Ramakrishna are worth being noted in this context: When Swami Vivekananda reported to Him, “All say that they have had visions, but I have not seen any!” the Guru said, “That is good!” On another occasion, when Swami Vivekananda reported that some occult powers (siddhis) such as clairvoyance seemed to have been gained by him in the course of his sadhana, his Guru warned him “Stop your sadhana for some time, Let them leave you!” It is therefore clear from this that such experiences can be had only by those who delay by often stopping on the way on account of their Self-attention being obstructed by lack of vigilance (pramada).

Even though the ‘I’-consciousness while being withdrawn courses only along the sushumna nadi, on account of its extreme brilliance it illumines the five sense organs (jnanendriyas), which are near the sushumna, and hence the above—mentioned experiences happen. How? When the light of ‘I’-consciousness stationed in the sushumna illumines the eye, the organ of sight, there will be visions of Gods and many celestial worlds; when it illumines the ear, the organ of hearing, celestial sounds will be heard such as the playing of divine instruments (deva dundubhi), the ringing of divine bells, Omkara and so on; when it illumines the organ of smell, delightful divine fragrances will be smelt; when it illumines the organ of taste, delicious celestial nectar will be tasted; and when it illumines the organ of touch, a feeling of extreme pleasure will permeate the entire body or a feeling of floating in an ocean of pleasantness will be experienced. There is no wonder that these experiences appear to be clearer and of greater reality than the sense-experiences in the ordinary waking state, because the experiences of the present waking world are gained through the gross five senses, which are functioning by the impure ‘I’—consciousness scattered all over the body, whereas these experiences of celestial worlds are gained through the subtle five senses, which are functioning by the pure, focused ‘I—consciousness. Yet all these are only qualified mental experiences (visesha-mana­anubhavas) and not the unqualified Self-experience (nirvisesha-ekatma-anubhava).

Since the mind is now very subtle and brilliant because it is withdrawn from all the other nadis into the sushumna, and since it is extremely pure because it is free from worldly desires, it is now able to project through the subtle five senses only the past auspicious tendencies (purva subha vasanas) as described above. However, just because of these visions and the like, one should not conclude that the mind has been transformed into Self (atman). Even now there has not been destruction of the mind (mono-nasa). Being still alive with auspicious tendencies, it creates and perceives subtler and more lustrous second and third person objects, and finds enjoyment in them. So this is not at all the unqualified experience of true knowledge (nirvisesha-jnana-anubhava), which is the destruction of the tendencies (vasanakshaya). Whatever appears and is experienced is only a second person knowledge, which means that sadhana, the first person attention, is lost at that time! Many are those who take these qualified experiences (visesha-anubhavas) of taste, light, sound and so on to be the final attainment of Self-knowledge (brahma-jnana), and because they have had these experiences they think that they have attained liberation and they become more and more entangled in attention to second and third persons, thus losing their foothold on Self-attention. Such aspirants are called ‘those fallen from yoga’ (yoga-bhrashtas). This is similar to a man bound for Delhi getting down from the train at some intermediate station, thinking ‘Verily, this is Delhi’, being deluded by its attractive grandeur! Even siddhis, the superhuman powers that may come during the course of sadhana are only our illusion, barring our progress to liberation and landing us in some unknown place.

What are we to do to escape from falling into such dangers? Even in this difficult situation, the clue given by Bhagavan Sri Ramana alone serves as the proper medicine! How? Whenever one is overtaken by such qualified experiences, the weapon of Ramana (Ramanastram), ‘To whom are these experiences?’, is to be used! The feeling ‘To me’ will be the response! From this, by the enquiry ‘Who am I?’, one can immediately regain the thread of Self-attention. When Self-attention is thus regained, those qualified experiences of second and third persons will disappear of their own accord because there is no one to attend to them (just as a spirit possessing a man jumps and dances more and more so long as others attend to and try to hold the man, but leaves him if there is nobody to attend to him). When the mind, giving up knowing those qualified external sense-objects, again turns towards its form of light80 (consciousness), it will sink into its source, the Heart, and lose its form forever. Therefore, the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ alone is the best sadhana even for aspirants on the path of raja yoga), which will guard and guide us to the end and save us. It is the invincible supreme weapon (brahmastram) which is bestowed only by the Grace of Sri Ramana Sadguru! It is the beacon-light which safeguards us lest we should stray away from the path to eternal happiness, which is the aim of the whole world! It is the path of Sri Ramana, which alone transforms us into Self, ‘I am that I am’!

80. ‘When the mind, giving up knowing external sense-objects, knows its form of light’ (veli vidayangalai vittu manam tan oliyuru ordale): refer to Upadesa Undhiyar, verse 16.

During the course of sadhana, an aspirant will now be able, by the strength of practice, to cognize tangibly what is the state of the absorption of the ego and what exactly is Self-consciousness, at which he has been aiming till now. Although his pure Self-existence, devoid of body-consciousness or any other adjunct, will often be experienced by him, this is still the stage of practice and not the final attainment! Why? Since there are still the two alternating feelings, one of being sometimes extroverted and the other of being sometimes introverted, and since there is the feeling of making effort to become introverted and of losing such effort while becoming extroverted, this stage is said to be ‘not the final attainment’, What Sri Bhagavan reveals in this connection is : “If the mind (the attention) is thus well fixed in sadhana (attending to Self), a power of divine Grace will then rise from within of its own accord and, Subjugating the mind, will take it to the Heart”. What is this power of divine Grace? It is nothing but the perfect clarity of our existence the form of the Supreme Self (paramatman), ever shining with abundant Grace in the heart as ‘I-I’!

The nature of a needle lying within a magnetic field is to be attracted and pulled only when its rust has been removed. But we should not conclude from this that the magnetic power comes into existence only after the rust is removed from the needle. Is not the magnetic power always naturally existing in that field? Although the needle was all the while lying in the magnetic field, it is affected by the attraction of the magnet only to the extent that it loses its rust. All that we try to do by way of giving up second and third attention and clinging to Self-attention is similar to scraping off the rust. So the result of all our endeavours is to make ourself it to become a prey to the attraction of the magnetic field of pure consciousness the Heart, which is ever shining engulfing all (that is reducing the whole universe to non-existence) with spreading rays81 of Self-effulgence. Mature aspirants will willingly and without rebelling submit themselves to this magnetic power of the Grace of Self-effulgence. Others, on the other hand, will become extroverted (that is, will turn their attention outwards) fearing the attraction of this power. Therefore, we should first make ourself fit by the intense love (bhakthi) to know Self and by the tremendous detachment (vairagya) of having no desire to attend to any second or third person. Then, since our very individuality (as an aspirant) itself is devoured by that power, even the so-called ‘effort of ours’ becomes nil. Thus, when the ‘I’-consciousness that was spread all over the body is made to sink into the Heart, the real waking, the dawn of knowledge (jnana), takes place. This happens in a split second!

81. ‘Engulfing all with spreading rays’ (viri kadiral yavum vizhungum); refer to Sri Arunachala Pancharatnam, verse 1.

Death is a matter of a split second! The leaving off of sleep is a matter of a split second! Likewise, the removal of the delusion ‘I am an individual soul (jiva)’ is also a matter of a split second! The dawn of true knowledge is not such that glimpses of it will be gained once and then lost! If an aspirant feels that it appears and disappears, it is only the stage of practice (sadhana); he cannot be said to have attained true knowledge (jnana). The perfect dawn of knowledge is a happening of a split second; its attainment is not a prolonged process. All the agelong practices are meant only for attaining maturity. Let us give an example it takes a long lime to prepare a temple cannon-blast, first putting the gunpowder into the barrel, giving the wick, adding some stones and then ramming it, but when ignited it explodes as a thunder in a split second. Similarly, after an agelong period of listening and reading (sravana), reflecting (manana), practising (nidi-dhyasana) and weeping put in prayer (because of the inability to put what is heard into practice), when the mind is thus perfectly purified, then and then only does the dawn of self-knowledge suddenly break forth in a split second as ‘I am that I am’! Since, as soon as this dawn breaks, the space of Self-consciousness is found, through the clear knowledge of the Reality, to be beginningless, natural and eternal, even the effort of attending to Self ceases then! To abide thus, having nothing more to do and nothing further to achieve, is alone the real and supreme state.

Sadhanai Saram

That which we are now experiencing as the waking state is not the real waking state. This waking state is also a dream! There is no difference at all between this waking and dream. In both these states, the feeling ‘I am’ catches hold of a body as ‘I am this’ and, seeing external objects, involves itself in activities. To awaken as described above from the dream of this waking state is the dawn of knowledge, our real state, or the real waking.

In this connection, some raise the following doubt: “If it is said that we have awakened from one dream and have come to another dream, the present waking state, why, after we awaken from this waking state, will even that not be another dream like this? How are we to determine, ‘Another awakening is no longer necessary; this is the real waking’?” Whatever state it may be which we feel to be waking, so long as there is an experience of the existence of any second or third persons, which are other than oneself, it is not at all the real waking state; it is only a dream! Verify, our real waking (our real state) is that in which our existence alone (not attached to any kind of body) shines unaided and without cognizing anything other than ‘we’. The definition of the correct waking is that state in which there is perfect Self-consciousness and singleness of Self- existence, without the knowledge of the existence of anything apart from Self! From this one can determine the real waking.

It is this waking that Sri Bhagavan refers to in the following verse:

Forgetting Self, mistaking the body for Self, taking innumerable births, and at last knowing Self and being Self is just like waking from a dream of wandering all over the world. Know thus.

Ekatma Panchakam, verse 1

Just as one place, a big hall, is divided into three chambers when two walls are newly erected in it, so our eternal, non-dual, natural and adjunctless existence-consciousness appears to be three states, namely waking, dream and sleep, when the two imaginary walls of waking and dream, which are due to the two body-adjuncts (the waking body and the dream body), apparently rise in the midst of it on account of tendencies (vasanas). If these two new imaginary risings, waking and dream, are not there, that which remains will be the one state of Self-consciousness alone. It is only for the sake of immature aspirants who think the three states to be real, that the sastras have named our natural, real state, the Jnana-waking, as ‘the fourth state(turiya avastha). But since the other three states are truly unreal, this state (the fourth) is in fact the only existing state, the first, and so it need not at all be called ‘the fourth’ (turiya), nor even ‘a state’ (avastha). It is therefore ‘that which transcends the states’ (avasthatita). It is also called ‘that which transcends the fourth(turiyatita). Hence, turiyatita should not be counted as a fifth state. This is clearly said by Sri Bhagavan:

It is only for those who experience the waking, dream and sleep states, that the state of wakeful sleep is named turiya, a state beyond these. Since that turiya alone really exists and since the apparent three states do not exist, turiya itself is turiyatita. Thus should you bravely understand!

UIladhu Narpadhu — Anubandha, verse 32

It is only for those who are not able to immerse and abide firmly in turiya (the state of Self), which shines piercing through the dark ignorance of sleep, that the difference between the first three dense states and the fourth and fifth states are (accepted in sastras).

Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 567

When, through the aforesaid Self-attention, we are more and more firmly fixed in our existence-consciousness, the tendencies (vasanas) will be destroyed because there is no one to attend to them. Thus, the waking and dream states, which have been apparently created by these imaginary tendencies, will also be destroyed. Then the one state which survives should no more be called by the name ‘sleep’.

When the beginningless, impure tendencies, which were the cause for waking and dream, are destroyed, then sleep, which was (considered to be) leading to bad results (that is, to tamas,) and which was said to be a void and ridiculed as nescience, will be found to be turiyatita itself!

Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 460

Since that which has been experienced till now as sleep by ordinary people was liable to be disturbed and removed by waking and dream, it appeared to be trivial and temporary. That is why it was said on pages 41 to 42 of this book that sleep is a defective state, and in the footnote of the same pages that the real nature of sleep would be explained later in the eighth chapter. Therefore, our natural state, the real waking, alone is the supreme Reality.

Since this real waking is not experienced as a state newly attained, for a Liberated One (jivanmukta) the state of liberation does not become a thought! That is, since bondage is unreal for Him, He can have no thought of liberation. Then how can the thought of bondage come to Him? The thought of bondage and liberation can occur only to the ignorant one (ajnani), who thinks that he is bound. Therefore, to remain in this state of Self, having attained tile supreme bliss (the eternal happiness which is, as pointed out in chapter one. The sole aim of all living beings), which is devoid of both bondage and liberation, is truly to be in the service of the Lord in the manner enjoined by Bhagavan Ramana. This alone is our duty. This alone is the path of Sri Ramana.

To remain in the state (of Self), having attained the supreme bliss, which is devoid of both bondage end liberation, is truly to be in the service of the Lord.

Upadesa Undhiyar, verse 29

Sri Ramanarpanamastu.

This article is reprinted from the book The Path of Sri Ramana Part One. Copyright © 1971 Michael James.

Sri Sadhu Om was a direct disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi. In later years he was Muruganar’s literary executor and a collaborator with Michael James on numerous literary projects.


Recommended Books

The Path of Sri Ramana, Part One

By Sri Sadhu Om

According to David Godman, the world’s foremost scholar of Ramana Maharshi’s teachings, this is “the only text which gives a detailed explanation of the correct way of doing self-enquiry.”

Sadhu Om was a close disciple of Ramana’s, a skilled Tamil poet, and Sri Muruganar’s literary executor. This book contains 145 pages of exact instructions for practicing self-inquiry plus literal English translations of several of Ramana’s works. In this volume, part one of the work, the author covers Jnana Marga (self-enquiry); part two deals with Bhakti Marga (surrender).

A free copy of this book can be downloaded here.

See it on Amazon.

The Path of Sri Ramana, Part Two

By Sri Sadhu Om

This is the second volume of Sri Sadhu Om’s textbook about the paths to enlightenment taught by Ramana Maharshi. This volume deals with Bhakti Yoga (devotion) and Karma Yoga (selfless works).

A free copy of this book can be downloaded here.

See it on Amazon.

A Light on the Teaching of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi

By Sri Sadhu Om

This is the third volume of Sri Sadhu Om’s textbook about the path to enlightenment taught by Ramana Maharshi.

This volume is a collection of Tamil poems and songs composed by Sri Sadhu Om, most of them written in reply to questions raised by aspirants on various aspects of spiritual practice. Sadhu Om was a direct disciple of Ramana Maharshi.

A free copy of this book can be downloaded here.

See it on Amazon.

This page was published on May 1, 2017 and last revised on May 16, 2017.


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