Who Am I?
Who Am I?
As all living beings desire to be happy always, without misery, as in the case of everyone there is observed supreme love for one's self, and as happiness alone is the cause for love, in order to gain that happiness which is one's nature and which is expe-rienced in the state of deep sleep where there is no mind, one should know one's self. For that, the path of knowledge, the inquiry of the form "Who am I?," is the principal means.
1. Who am I?
The gross body, which is composed of the seven humors (dhatus), I am not; the five cognitive sense organs, i.e., the senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell, which apprehend their respective objects, i.e., sound, touch, color, taste, and odor, I am not; the five conative sense organs, i.e., the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion, and procreation, which have as their respective functions speaking, moving, grasping, excreting, and enjoying, I am not; the five vital airs, prana, etc., which perform respectively the five functions of in-breathing, etc., I am not; even the mind which thinks, I am not; the nescience too, which is endowed only with the residual impressions of objects, and in which there are no objects and no functions, I am not.
2. If I am none of these, then who am I?
After negating all of the above-mentioned as "not this, not this," that Awareness which alone remains--that I am.
3. What is the nature of Awareness?
The nature of Awareness is existence-consciousness-bliss.
4. When will the realization of the Self be gained?
When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self, which is the seer.
5. Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there (taken as real)?
There will not be.
The seer and the object seen are like the rope and the snake. Just as the knowledge of the rope which is the substrate will not arise unless the false knowledge of the illusory serpent goes, so the realization of the Self which is the substrate will not be gained unless the belief that the world is real is removed.
7. When will the world, which is the object seen, be removed?
When the mind, which is the cause of all cognitions and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.
8. What is the nature of the mind?
What is called mind is a wondrous power residing in the Self. It causes all thoughts to arise. Apart from thoughts, there is no such thing as mind. Therefore, thought is the na-ture of mind. Apart from thoughts, there is no independent entity called the world. In deep sleep there are no thoughts, and there is no world. In the states of waking and dream, there are thoughts, and there is a world also. Just as the spider emits the thread (of the web) out of itself and again withdraws it into itself, likewise the mind projects the world out of itself and again resolves it into itself. When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears (to be real), the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears (shines), the world does not appear. When one persistently inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self (as the residue). What is referred to as the Self is the Atman. The mind always exists only in dependence on something gross; it cannot stay alone. It is the mind that is called the subtle body or the soul (jiva).
9. What is the path of inquiry for understanding the nature of the mind?
That which rises as "I" in this body is the mind. If one inquires as to where in the body the thought 'I' rises first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. That is the place of the mind's origin. Even if one thinks constantly "I," "I," one will be led to that place. Of all the thoughts that arise in the mind, the 'I' thought is the first. It is only after the rise of this that the other thoughts arise. It is after the appearance of the first personal pronoun that the second and third personal pronouns appear; without the first personal pronoun there will not be the second and third.
10. How will the mind become quiescent?
By the inquiry "Who am I?" The thought "Who am I?" will destroy all other thoughts, and, like the stick used for
stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then there will arise Self-realization.
11. What is the means for constantly holding on to the thought "Who am I?"?
When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: "To whom did they arise?" It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with diligence, "To whom has this thought arisen?" The answer that would emerge would be "To me." Thereupon, if one inquires "Who am I?," the mind will go back to its source, and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source. When the mind that is subtle goes out through the brain and the sense organs, the gross names and forms appear; when it stays in the heart, the names and forms disappear. Not letting the mind go out but retaining it in the Heart is what is called "inwardness" (antar-mukha). Letting the mind go out of the Heart is known as "externalization" (bahir-mukha). Thus, when the mind stays in the Heart, the ' I' which is the source of all thoughts will go and the Self which ever exists will shine. Whatever one does, one should do without the egoity "I." If one acts in that way, all will appear as of the nature of Shiva (God).
12. Are there no other means for making the mind quiescent? Other than inquiry, there are no adequate means. If
through other means it is sought to control the mind, the mind will appear to be controlled, but will again go forth. Through the control of breath also, the mind will become quiescent; but it will be quiescent only so long as the breath remains controlled, and when the breath resumes, the mind also will again start moving and will wander as impelled by residual impressions. The source is the same for both mind and breath. Thought, indeed, is the nature of the mind. The thought 'I' is the first thought of the mind; and that is egoity. It is from that whence egoity originates that breath also originates. Therefore, when the mind becomes quiescent, the breath is controlled, and when the breath is controlled the mind becomes quiescent. But in deep sleep, although the mind becomes quiescent, the breath does not stop. This is because of the will of God, so that the body may be preserved and other people may not be under the impression that it is dead. In the state of waking and in samadhi, when the mind becomes quiescent the breath is controlled. Breath is the gross form of mind. Till the time of death, the mind keeps breath in the body; and when the body dies the mind takes the breath along with it. Therefore, the exercise of breath control is only an aid for rendering the mind quiescent (manonigraha); it will not destroy the mind (manorasa).
Like the practice of breath control, meditation on the forms of God, repetition of mantras, restriction on food, etc., are but aids for rendering the mind quiescent.
Through meditation on the forms of God and through repetition of mantras, the mind becomes one-pointed. The mind will always be wandering. Just as when the chain is given to an elephant to hold in its trunk it will go along grasping the chain and nothing else, so also when the mind is occupied with a name or form it will grasp that alone. When the mind expands in the form of countless thoughts, each thought becomes weak; but as thoughts get resolved the mind becomes one-pointed and strong; for such a mind Self-inquiry will become easy. Of all the restrictive rules, that relating to the taking of sattvic food in moderate quantities is best; by observing this rule, the sattvic quality of mind will increase, and that will be helpful to Self-inquiry.
13. The residual impressions (thoughts) of objects appear unending like the waves of an ocean. When will all of them be removed?
As the meditation on the Self rises higher and higher, the thoughts will get destroyed.
14. Is it possible for the residual impressions of objects that come from beginningless time, as it were, to be resolved, and for one to remain as the pure Self?
Without yielding to the doubt "Is it possible or not?," one should persistently hold on to the meditation on the Self. Even if one be a great sinner, one should not worry and weep "Oh! I am a sinner, how can I be saved?"; one should completely renounce the thought "I am a sinner" and concentrate keenly on meditation on the Self; then one would surely succeed. There are not two minds--one good and the other evil; the mind is only one. It is the residual impressions that are of two kinds--auspicious and inauspicious. When the mind is under the influence of auspicious impressions it is called good; and when it is under the influence of inauspicious im-pressions it is regarded as evil.
The mind should not be allowed to wander toward worldly objects and what concerns other people. However bad other people may be, one should bear no hatred for them. Both desire and hatred should be eschewed. All that one gives to others one gives to one's self. If this truth is understood, who will not give to others? When one's self arises, all arises; when one's self becomes quiescent, all becomes quiescent. To the extent we behave with humility, to that extent there will result good. If the mind is rendered quiescent, one may live anywhere.
15. How long should inquiry be practiced?
As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the inquiry "Who am I?" is required. As thoughts arise they should be destroyed then and there in the very place of their origin, through inquiry. If one resorted to contemplation of the Self unintermittently, until the Self was gained, that alone would do. As long as there are enemies within the fortress, they will continue to sally forth; if they are destroyed as they emerge, the fortress will fall into our hands.
16. What is the nature of the Self?
What exists in truth is the Self alone. The world, the individual soul, and God are appearances in it, like silver in mother-of-pearl; these three appear at the same time and disappear at the same time.
The Self is that where there is absolutely no 'I' thought. That is called Silence. The Self itself is the world; the Self itself is 'I'; the Self itself is God; all is Shiva, the Self.
17. Is not everything the work of God?
Without desire, resolve, or effort, the sun rises; and in its mere presence, the sun-stone emits fire, the lotus blooms, water evaporates; people perform their various functions and then rest. Just as in the presence of the magnet the needle moves, it is by virtue of the mere presence of God that the souls governed by the three (cosmic) functions or the fivefold divine activity perform their actions and then rest, in accordance with their respective karmas. God has no resolve; no karma attaches itself to Him. This is like worldly actions not affecting the sun, or like the merits and demerits of the other four elements not affecting the all-pervading ether.
18. Of the devotees, who is the greatest?
He who gives himself up to the Self that is God is the most excellent devotee. Giving one's self up to God means re-maining constantly in the Self without giving room for the rise of any thoughts other than the thought of the Self.
Whatever burdens are thrown on God, He bears them. Since the supreme power of God makes all things move, why should we, without submitting ourselves to it, constantly worry ourselves with thoughts as to what should be done and how, and what should not be done and how not? We know that the train carries all loads, so after getting on it why should we carry our small luggage on our head to our discomfort, instead of putting it down in the train and feeling at ease?
19. What is nonattachment?
As thoughts arise, destroying them utterly without any residue in the very place of their origin is nonattachment. Just as the pearl-diver ties a stone to his waist, sinks to the bottom of the sea and there takes the pearls, so each one of us should be endowed with nonattachment, dive within himself and obtain the Self-Pearl.
20. Is it not possible for God and the Guru to effect the release of a soul?
God and the Guru will only show the way to release; they will not by themselves take the soul to the state of release.
In truth, God and the Guru are not different. Just as the prey which has fallen into the jaws of a tiger has no escape, so those who have come within the ambit of the Guru's gra-cious look will be saved by the Guru and will not get lost; yet each one should by his own effort pursue the path shown by God or Guru and gain release. One can know oneself only with one's own eye of knowledge, and not with somebody else's. Does he who is Rama require the help of a mirror to know that he is Rama?
21. Is it necessary for one who longs for release to inquire into the nature of the categories (tattvas)?
Just as one who wants to throw away garbage has no need to analyze it and see what it is, so one who wants to know the Self has no need to count the number of categories or inquire into their characteristics; what he has to do is to reject altogether the categories that hide the Self. The world should be considered like a dream.
22. Is there no difference between waking and dream?
Waking is long and a dream short; other than this there is no difference. Just as waking happenings seem real while awake, so do those in a dream while dreaming. In dream the mind takes on another body. In both waking and dream states, thoughts, names, and forms occur simultaneously.
23. Is it any use reading books for those who long fbr release?
All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore their conclusive teach-ing is that the mind should be rendered quiescent; once this has been understood there is no need for endless reading. In order to quiet the mind one has only to inquire within one-self what one's Self is; how could this search be done in books? One should know one's Self with one's own eye of wisdom. The Self is within the five sheaths; but books are outside them. Since the Self has to be inquired into by discarding the five sheaths, it is futile to search for it in books. There will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned.
24. What is happiness?
Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no happiness in any object of the world. We imagine through our ignorance that we de-rive happiness from objects. When the mind goes out, it ex-periences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled, it re-turns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the states of sleep, samddhi, and fainting, and when the object desired is obtained or the object dis-liked is removed, the mind becomes inward-turned and en-joys pure Self-happiness. Thus the mind moves without rest, alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, revolves in the world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact, what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e., when there is no thought, the mind experiences happi-ness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.
25. What is wisdom-insight (jnana-drsti)?
Remaining quiet is what is called wisdom-insight. To re-main quiet is to resolve the mind in the Self. Telepathy, knowing past, present and future happenings, and clair-voyance do not constitute wisdom-insight.
26. What is the relation between desirelessness and wisdom? Desirelessness is wisdom. The two are not different; they
are the same. Desirelessness is refraining from driving the mind toward any object. Wisdom means the appearance of no object. In other words, not seeking what is other than the Self is detachment or desirelessness; not leaving the Self is wisdom.
27. What is the difference between inquiry and meditation?
Inquiry consists in retaining the mind in the Self. Medita-tion consists in thinking that one's self is Brahman, existence-consciousness-bliss.
28. What is release?
Inquiring into the nature of one's self that is in bondage and realizing one's true nature is release.
( An outline of talks given by Sunil Khatri )
This essay describes Ramana Maharshi, and his teachings. I feel that his teachings are extremely precise. In addition, he provides a method to achieve "self-realization" that is extremely simple and conceptually very appealing.
1. About myself.
· Background, upbringing etc
· With what authority do I write this? Short answer - none! Do I speak from experience? Short answer -minimally.
· How I ran into Ramana's teachings.
· Why despite my background in science I find his teaching appealing.
- Teachings are extremely simple.
- Embraces all religions in a sense, and distills their common core.
- Absence of pretension, simplicity and non-commercialism in his teachings.
2. Life of Ramana Maharshi (1879 - 1950)
· Born and lived in South India
· Fascination with Arunachala in childhood
· Experience of death at 16. Fear, then fearlessness. In his words - "Now death is come. What does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies." Realized that 'T' was apart from whatever it was that was dying. That 'T' was a thing transcending the body.
· Ran away from home, found that Arunachala was a real place. Went to Arunachala. Lived there for the rest of his life.
· Spent years in silence and meditation on Arunachala hill.
Subsequently read several Hindu scriptural works (including the Bhagwad-Gita) and found that they were talking about what he had directly experienced.
Gradually people came to him for advice, and started a small ashram
Accessible at any time. Teaching was substantially in silence. Lived an extremely simple life, helped in Ashram chores, etc.
Minimally exhibited siddhis, strongly shunned their importance.
Never claimed superiority or an exalted state.
3. Core teachings of Ramana Maharshi
· Definitions - "big Self" and "little self". The Self is the same in all beings, animate or inanimate. It is a unitary state, so there is no "experiencing" it - rather you can only "be" that state. Since it is unitary there can be no explaining it (recall neti-neti).
· Self-realization is here now. We are all self-realized. But our ego has clouded the experience of the Self by identifying with the body.
· Notion of "I between two thoughts". Problem is that thoughts are continuous!
· So the task is to remove this error in judgment. How do we remove the error in judgment? - Self-enquiry. Self-enquiry. Self-enquiry. - No need to do anything else. - What is Self-enquiry anyway?
* In a meditative state, enquire "who am I"?
* Do not answer the question. It is as if you are asking this question of your self (or ego). You want it to answer the question. It is not stated repeatedly like a mantra. It is a genuine enquiry you make of your ego.
* If other thoughts arise, do not get agitated. Rather, ask "to whom did this thought arise?". This will reinstate the self-enquiry thought. After a while other thoughts don't arise so frequently.
* Hold on to the 'T' thought during this enquiry.
* Perform this self-enquiry all the time!.
* Whenever anything good or bad happens to you, ask "to whom did it happen?". This is self-enquiry in practice.
* Destroy vasanas similarly. If I feel like indulging in a unproductive thing, I should ask - "who is it that wants to do this?".
* Ramana says that by repeated asking of this question, the ego gets weaker, and loses its hold. Eventually, it gives up and you see the Self which is "behind" the ego, as it were. At this stage you realize that the ego is fictitious. It does not exist. All that is real is the Self, which is common to all.
* The ego will try to resist being defeated in this way. This will manifest as thoughts, temptations, fears etc. Ramana says keep persisting in spite of this.
* Ramana says that this method has no dangers or side-effects.
* Ramaha says the world is a dream. Matches with the notion of Maya. Agrees with teachings of Nisargadatta. Agrees with the experience of a friend in Grand Lake who had an awakening experience in December (he felt the relative unreality of the world in comparison to the other state).
· What about reading scriptures? It is useful only to the extent that it generates an interest in seeking the Self. Beyond that the work of seff-enquiry alone can help.
· What about "knowledge"?. Here I refer to knowledge in the coarser sense. Any knowledge, even of scriptures, is of no use. The Upanishads mention this too. My theory is that people with the least "knowledge" in this sense are those that are at an advantage!! As evidence, the highest spiritual souls were minimally educated.
· What about pranayama, bhakti, karma-yoga? They are inferior to self enquiry. Why?
- In all the techniques that are proposed in the bodies of spiritual literature, the common (often unstated) goal is to make the mind quiet. So if the interval between thoughts is large enough, then we can be the 'T' between thoughts.
- Pra~ayama does thfs. There ~s a stated ~ink between thoughts and breath. By controlling (even stopping) breath, the mind can be stopped. But Ramana says that this is only temporary, once the breath start again, thoughts flood in again. He would recommend pranayama for a short duration (about I month) for disciples who had trouble doing self-enquiry.
- Bhakti is the same way. By single-mindedly focusing on the deity, other thoughts are stopped. But then once again, thoughts are likely to come in. Ramana states that even after the union with the deity, we need to surpass the deity and reach the next higher plane of being the Self. Hence bhakti is an indirect method unlike self-enquiry which directly seeks the Self.
- Karma-yoga. Some conflict between what the Gita and Ramana say.
- Mantra-japa. The repetition dulls the mind into submission. Again, this lasts as long as the mantra is repeated.
· Siddhis are not to be sought. They are a distraction and a diversion. They in fact may inflate the ego. Ramana had siddhis, which he explicitly down-played.
· "There is no need to let Him know your needs. He knows them Himself and will look after them"
· When one seeks to enquire into the nature of the ego, then karmas do not apply. Otherwise every part of our life is pre-determined by our karmas.
Minor comments - shepherd's lost sheep, tiger experience, koupinam comment, birds in the ashram.
4. How to practice his teachings. Collected from books below. My interpretations added.
(aside) I would suggest that most of us at some time or the other have felt a "taste" of the Self. Often we see a beautiful cloud or mountain or flower and are dazed by the beauty. At such times, the mind momentarily stops and we are filled with this bliss. This is a state called manolaya in the scriptures. Once this momentary state passes, thoughts rush back, and we become aware of surroundings again. This suggests that the state of being the Self is not far. The goal is to make it a permanent state by rnanonasa. The mind and ego are always conspiring against this, and the aim is generally to negate them.
· Perform self enquiry all the time. See above section about how. The important thing is regularity. It is stated that if this meditation is broken even for a day, then you have to restart from scratch. I don't completely believe this.
· In the discussion of self-enquiry in the previous section, it was said that 'in a meditative state, enquire "who am I"?'. How is this meditative state to be achieved? This can be the topic of an altogether new discussion, but here are some brief ideas:
- Start with long and slow breathing for a few minutes. Focus your mind on one point. Say the forehead, or space between the eyes, or the "heart". Use a mantra to aid the process - one that is suggested by many is "so-hum" (translated it means "I am that").
- Thank everyone in your life, especially your enemies.
- Give thanks for the food, health and shelter that you enjoy.
- Let the breathing become more regular.
- Now the mind is somewhat calmed. Begin the self-enquiry by asking the "who am I" question. If stray thoughts enter the mind, remove them by enquiry as stated in the previous section
- Hold on to the 'T' thought when you sense it. Don't let go.
- Attempt to do this at all times. It is hard on some busy days. But they say that once you start, state continuous self-enquiry is easier than it seems.
- At the very least, even on busy days, it is easy to do self-enquiry while waiting for traffic lights, waiting in queues etc. Don't do it while driving!
· See everyone as an extension of yourself.
· No strong likes or dislikes. Self-enquire them away.
· Perform charity etc but without a sense of doership or pride.
· If a beggar comes to you for $5, he has come into your "atmosphere" for a reason. You should give this money even if you know he will spend it on alcohol.
· Before meditation, thank your "enemies". Love them. Pretty soon you find it harder to hate anyone as an enemy.
5. Reference material
· (good summary) The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi - edited by Arthur Osborne
· (good summary) The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharshi - Shambhala Dragon Editions
· (good summary) Be as You Are - The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi - edited by David Godman
· (detailed) Talks with Ramana Maharshi- Inner Directions Publishing
· (written by a realized disciple - good supplement to above) Silence of the Heart - Robert Adams
· (perspective of disciples - good supplement to above 2 books) Living by the Words of Bhagavan - David Godman
· (biographical) Sri Maharshi - A Short Life-sketch - Sri Ramanasramam
· (not about Ramaha, but fundamentally similar) I am That - Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - The Acorn Press
· (not about Ramana, but fundamentally similar) Prior to Consciousness - Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - The Acorn Press
· (not about Ramana, but related) The Jewel in the Lotus - Deeper Aspects of Hinduism - Mumtaz Ali