Edited by David Godman
Our rating: ★★★★★ 5 out of 5
Published by Annamalai Swami Ashram
THIS SMALL BOOK IS ONE of a half dozen that we recommend most strongly to people who want to practice self-enquiry in order to realize. It contains transcripts of talks that Annamalai Swami held with seekers during the last six months of his life. His advice about how to practice Self-enquiry is unusually valuable because he worked hard at the practice himself; because he succeeded; and because he explains what to do very plainly and clearly. Annamalai Swami spent nearly ten years with Ramana Maharshi, first as his personal attendant and later as construction manager at Sri Ramana’s ashram.
Question: I want to ask Swamiji about his own experience. Was his own experience a single event, an explosion of knowledge? Or did it happen more gradually, in a more subtle way?
Annamalai Swami: It was my experience that through continuous sadhana I gradually relaxed into the Self. It was a gradual process.
Question: So it is not necessarily something that happens with a big bang?
Annamalai Swami: It is not something new that suddenly comes. It is eternally there, but it is covered by so much. It has to be rediscovered.
Question: But do some people explode into That? I was with a man this morning who claims to be realised. He came here. Do you remember him? He said he had an experience of exploding into it, and that the experience of the Self, he says, stayed with him ever since 1982.
Annamalai Swami [laughing]: If he says ‘I don't know myself’ or if he claims ‘I have known myself,’ both are statements to laugh at. Because you are That. You can be That, but there is nothing to say about it. If somebody says, ‘I am a jnani. I am an enlightened person,’ then who is claiming that?
Question: Yes, exactly. Very good. Can I ask another question about my enquiry? I have been having small little glimpses, especially during sleep, of having no thoughts. There have been other glimpses in the most unlikely places. In Lucknow, which is a big, busy city, with people yelling and screaming everywhere, I was cycling down a crowded street when I suddenly felt the peace of the Self that was underlying everything. I could feel the Self, or at least it was an experience that I thought must have been the Self. There was a stillness and a silence in the midst of these utterly chaotic conditions. At other times the pendulum swings the other way and I feel completely lost in my mental world, and in the chaotic outside world.
I feel a little confusion about the process and the technique of self-enquiry, so much so I have to go back to reading Ramana's teachings on the subject again and again until the confusion leaves me. I would like Swami's comments on this. I know that there is nothing new that he can say about it. I know that I have to continue with self-enquiry.
Annamalai Swami: Constant meditation is the only way. If you bring the light into your room, the darkness immediately goes away. You have to see that the light is not put out. It has to be continuously burning so that there is no darkness. Until you get firmly established in the Self, you have to continue with your meditation. Doubts take possession of you only if you forget yourself.
Question: My doubts are not my only problem. I find that my yearning for the Self is not very strong. This bothers me quite a lot.
Annamalai Swami: When you forget the state of being yourself, then is the time to enquire, ‘Who forgets the Self? Who is in doubt? Who is having the confusion?’ Enquire in this way. Discard all that is not you and come back to yourself.
Question: Sometimes I am overpowered by self-doubt.
Annamalai Swami: If the meditation is not continuous enough, the other part of the mind becomes predominant. You have to overpower this mind that is taking you away from yourself by repeatedly doing this self-enquiry.
When you chum curd and separate butter and buttermilk, they will not become one again after they have been separated. If you take milk from the cow’s udder, it will never go back into the cow again. In the same way, if you become established in the Self, you will never go back into ignorance again.
Question: When I do have these self doubts, the yearning or the desire to know myself does come up quite strongly, but at other times it is not there so strongly. What do you think about this?
Annamalai Swami: Whatever may be happening, enquire, ‘To whom is all this happening?’ Do this and go back to your Self, which is peace.
Question: I thought that this yearning was a plus point in my favour. Isn’t it a help to have this yearning?
Annamalai Swami: If the intensity to know yourself is strong enough, the intensity of your yearning will take you to the Self.
Question: But still, I must keep up with the enquiry.
Annamalai Swami: If you remain in the Self, enquiry will not be necessary. Ifyou move away from the Self and go back to the mind, you then have to enquire again and go back to your Self.
Question: To whom does this intensity to realise the Self arise? It has to arise to the ‘I’ that ultimately has to disappear.
Annamalai Swami: Who is this ‘I’? It is neither the body nor the mind. If you remain as the Self, there is neither body nor mind. So what is this ‘I’? Enquire into it and find out for yourself.
When you see the rope, what happens to the snake? Nothing happens to it because there never was a snake. Similarly, when you remain as the Self, there is a knowing that this ‘I’ never had any existence.
All is the Self. You are not separate from the Self. All is you.
Your real state is the Self, and in that Self there is no body and no mind. This is the truth, and you know it by being it. This ‘I am the body’ idea is wrong. This false idea must go and the conviction ‘I am the Self’ should come to the extent that it becomes constant.
At the moment this ‘I am the body’ idea seems very natural for you. You should work towards the point where ‘I am the Self’ becomes natural to you. It happens when the wrong idea of being the body goes, and when you stop believing it to be true, it vanishes as darkness vanishes when the sun appears.
This life is all a dream, a dream within a dream within a dream. We dream this world, we dream that we die and take birth in another body. And in this birth we dream that we have dreams. All kinds of pleasures and suffering alternate in these dreams, but a moment comes when waking up happens. In this moment, which we call realising the Self, there is the understanding that all the births, all the deaths, all the sufferings and all the pleasures were unreal dreams that have finally come to an end.
Everyone has experienced dreams within dreams. One may dream that one has woken up from a dream, but that waking up is still happening within a dream. Our whole lives are dreams. When this dream life ends and a new one begins, there is no knowledge that both dreams are happening in the underlying dream of samsara.
Bhagavan has instructed us in Who Am I? to see the whole world as a dream. When realisation comes, nothing will affect you because you will have the firm knowledge that all manifestation is an unreal dream.
This page was published on September 27, 2001 and last revised on April 28, 2017.