Ramana Maharshi: the path to self-realisation (Padamalai)

The following verses are taken from Padamalai, a record of teaching statements from Ramana Maharshi which were taken down by one of his foremost devotees, Muruganar. This version I am quoting from is translated by Dr T. V. Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and David Godman – my deep appreciation to them in making this wonderful and instructive work more widely available.

In their translation they have changed the order of the verses and grouped them thematically. The following verses are taken from the chapter entitled ‘The Self’.

My comments are interspersed in italics in grey.

padamalai godman ramana


5. True jnana* is only the removal of wrong knowledge. Only this is useful for liberation.

*Jnana is a Sanskrit word that means knowledge. It is etymologically related to the words gnosis and knowledge. In a spiritual context it implies the height of spiritual knowledge. In an Advaita/non-dual context it is synonymous with self-realisation, liberation/freedom, nirvana or, to use a more commonplace word, enlightenment – that which frees us from suffering. The person who has attained this Jnana is known as a jnani, a ‘knower’ or the ‘one who knows’.

Ramana says that we do not need to gain new knowledge. We just need to remove the wrong knowledge. What is wrong knowledge? It is the beliefs and assumptions we hold, often unconsciously, specifically (false) beliefs about who we are, the nature of our experience and the suffering that flows from these false notions.

8. The weeping of those who come to this world-stage, who play their role and depart, is due to poverty, a lack of jnana.

ie. Jnana ends suffering

10. Jnana, the Self with which one should merge, is the complete cessation of the addiction of the mind towards the non-Self.

Remove the addictive habitual tendencies (compulsive vasanas) that seek pleasure in objects, and this is jnana. We have a belief that we can find relief and satisfaction from objects in the world. Only when this belief is dispelled can jnana arise fully. More on this later.

The Self is ever-attained

13. Through sadhana (spiritual practice) one can attain things that are other than oneself. But with what sadhana can the Self be attained, and who is to attain it?

What can we do to attain what already is here?

17. The ultimate state of supreme liberation is one’s own real nature. It is always attained. Knowing this, be still.

Ramana instructs us to be still. But how many of us actually do it?

22. The Self, that object of supreme value, is always attained. One ‘attains’ it by knowing it well and by getting firmly convinced that one is That.

‘Attaining the Self’ is just a turn of phrase. Here the Self is referred to as ‘that object of supreme value’ – of course, the Self is not really an ‘object’…

23. Even ascetics and sages cannot formulate a definition of the Self, the real, except in negative terms.

All positive definitions of the Self ie. those that attempt to say what it IS, are destined to fail. You can only define the Self in terms of what it IS NOT, ie. in negative terms.

Our True Nature

58. The true jnana is not something that is attained. It exists as one’s own swarupa*.

*Swarupa is a Sanskrit word that means the essence of who we are or our true nature. The prefix Swa- denotes something to do with ourself or the self, and rupa means form. A more literal translation would therefore be the ‘form of the self’.

61. It is impossible to think of swarupa-rasa (the taste of reality), the enjoyment of which goes beyond concepts and transcendence.

The Self is beyond concepts.

63. In that swarupa one can only abide as That. There is no scope for thinking in this state.

66. Jnana-swarupa, one’s real nature, which is entitled to your love, never suffers, gets bewildered or decays.

Desire for the Self

79. Through a longing for the swarupa that waxes more and more as abundant bliss, infatuation for the false world will slip away.

Desire for the Self leads us to feel the bliss of the Self, and the infatuation for the world of objects falls away naturally. Therefore desire the self!

80. The glory of self-realisation is not experienced except in the hearts of those who are very zealous about sinking into the Self.

Self-realisation won’t happen just by thinking about it. You have to let go of object-based desires and ‘sink into the Self’.

81. Those who greatly desire the Self, the state of mere being that transcends all concepts, will not desire anything else.

If you desire an object, either gross or subtle, then that is not the Self you desire.

82. Devotion to the Self, the best of all desires, yields the true jnana sight in which all names and forms are names and forms of the Self.

Desire for the Self takes you away from objects, and eventually this too is lost. More on this later.


84. The compassionate Padam* declares: ‘There is no other mistake like pramada** that ruins your bliss.

*Padam literally means foot in Tamil, and is a devotional term to refer to Ramana Maharshi whose feet were figuratively and literally, in keeping with Indian tradition, adored by Muruganar, the author of this work.

**In this context pramada, a Sanskrit word, means self-forgetfullness. A more literal translation is neglect or indolence.

89. The removal of pramada is the attainment of one’s own swarupa, the exalted and changeless essence.

91. Is it not because one forgets the truth of the Self, which always abides changelessly, that one gets involved in endless disputations?

You get caught up in the world, in it confusions, sorrows and dramas – why? Because you have forgotten that unchanging essence, your Self.

92. The agitation of the mind that is associated with pramada will be destroyed by the mental attitude that regards all actions as being those of Siva.

Adopt the attitude that all is done by God, by Him, but Siva. This will calm the mind and allow the Self to be remembered.


94. Only attention directed towards the Self, a seeking without seeking, will unite you with that primal entity whose nature never changes.

This ‘seeking without seeking’, a beautiful and important phrase, tells us that the Self is attained not by seeking, but by not seeking, or by letting go. Just don’t seek objects. That is ‘seeking the self’. The self is already here, why seek it? Just let go, and it is here.

98. What is termed ‘being turned towards the Self’ is the state in which the mind, abandoning the sense objects, which are alien [to the Self], shines as pure, unalloyed consciousness.

When we turn away from sense objects, when we no longer seek pleasure and happiness in gross and subtle things, then there is a natural relaxation into THIS. Consciousness naturally shines, and now it shines seemingly brighter as we are not distracted by the shimmering superficial sense objects.


106. If one abides clinging to the Self, then, through that state of peace, all other attachments will fall away, and only your natural state, liberation, will remain.

107. The heroic ones should attain and remain firmly established in Self-abidance in the Heart. Other than this, what is the point of practising many sadhanas?

108. Unsurpassed and perpetually abiding good fortune exists only in the deep peace wherein one remains as the Self, and in not other state of being whatsoever.

109. The occurrence of the true experience of Self-abidance will not manifest in all its glory unless the ego is totally destroyed.

110. The deception of the mind that roams around without any restrains is extremely wicked. Expel the conceptualising tendencies of the mind through Self-abidance.

The source of evil is ignorance, or to use a word from this selection of quotes, pramada. It is a myth that allowing ourselves to freely seek pleasure in various sense-objects is freedom. This is just a continuation of the ego. Relax, sink into the self, rein in the sense-organs if need be, and purify yourself in the Light of the Self. Allow its Bliss to heal you, to purify you, to burn away the impurities of lust, hate, greed and the like.

111. Those who, instead of recognising the Self, try to know [it] with their minds will get choked and perplexed.

How many seekers tie themselves up in knots trying to figure out self-realisation in their heads? Instead, expose yourself to the teachings of ‘One Who Knows’, and sink into the Self. It is the actual practice of Self-Abidance that leads to Jnana, not the thinking of it. Therefore cultivate a calm mind, do not attach onto your thoughts and desires, and with repeated practice, the Bliss of the Self, of Your Self, will gush into your system.

112. Unless you clearly know your real nature by remaining firmly established in Self-abidance, you will get enmeshed in creation and become bewildered.

A lack of regular practice will lead only to temporary peace, as the tendency of the mind to be outgoing is deeply rooted and strong, due to the power of ignorance manifesting over many cycles of time. It will also take time to curb this habit of seeking happiness in ‘creation’ or objects. This tendency of outwardly seeking objects is the cause of suffering and confusion. Instead, BE STILL.

113. Reach the self, the land of consciousness, the reality, which is your own country. Shun residence in a foreign land.

Ramana delving into immigration politics here! Wonderful poetry. Abide in the Self! 🙂

Self Remembrance

114. Remembering the self, one’s real nature, without faltering even slightly, is the eminent victory of true jnana.

115. With your consciousness hold fast to and never abandon the substratum, your own real nature, the supreme that can neither be held nor relinquished.

How can you hold fast to that which cannot be held? We should see by now that phrases that imply holding onto the Self really mean removing the outgoing tendencies of the mind. This ‘holding on’ to the Self, is really nothing but a letting go of ‘not-self’. Then happiness naturally arises of its own accord. This is Self-remembrance. This is ‘holding to the Self’

116. Only those supreme devotees who firmly stick to the remembrance of the Self as the foremost sadhana are great tapasvins*.

*Tapas is a sanskrit word meaning spiritual austerities. Tapasvins are those that perform tapas in order to attain jnana

18. Thinking of the Self is to abide as that tranquil consciousness. Padam, the true swarupa can neither be remembered nor forgotten.

Here is an instructive verse that tells us what ‘thinking of the Self’ entails: it entails not thinking’! It is to relax, to subside into not-thinking, to abide as Peace, to be the Self. The reference to the Self can neither be remembered or forgotten is a reminder that the self cannot be thought about. It is the light that illumines thought. Thought cannot illumine it.

Holding onto the Self

120. Always hold tight to the Heart, which is full of perfect peace, without abandoning it through desire or inattention.

How to ‘abandon’ the self? Though desire (for objects) or through inattention (dullness of mind). These are analogous to rajas (passionate object focussed desires) and tamas (dullness). How to ‘hold tight to the Heart’? Don’t abandon the Self.

121. Do not get spoiled by thinking about the non-Self with your mind. Hold tightly to yourself and attain peace.

How to ‘get spoiled’? Think about the non-self – ie. objects, either in the body, mind or world. The removal of thoughts and desire for objects is ‘holding tightly to yourself’. Be still and ‘attain peace’.

122. To shine as consciousness without thoughts is the jnana samadhi of holding tightly to swarupa.

Here Bhagawan (Ramana) makes it clear: what is it to hold tight to the Self? Let go of ALL thoughts. Consciousness is already shining steadily and constantly without change – it will just appear brighter as we are no longer distracted by various objects in the body, mind or world.

124. By holding tightly to the one who has no attachments, your attachment to the non-Self will go away. When that [attachment to non-Self] has gone, holding tightly to the one who has no attachments will also cease, and all attachments will come to an end.

Another instructive verse. The Self is already and always unattached. It is already pure and blissful, the source of all happiness. What more could you want? When this is seen, when the outgoing mind is curbed, then the bliss of the self is manifest. Then, quite naturally, the mind stays here and stops seeking objects. Eventually, the knot of the ego is severed, the outgoing tendency of the mind to seek pleasure through objects is gone, and then there is no need to hold tightly to or identify as the Self. Then there is no need of this dualistic teachings of Self and not-Self. This is Jnana.

The bliss of the Self

125. The deeper one subsides within the Heart, the greater will be the rising of the nature of the flood of supreme bliss.

127. Why do you lament, crying ‘Where can the sate of true bliss be found?’ You yourself have happiness as your own true nature, and its location is the Heart.

128. In a heart in which true love is overflowing, it will be known clearly that one’s own real nature is nothing but bliss.

130. Leaving the hot sun of samsaric misery, remain steadfastly in the shade of the tree of jnana, the blissful real nature of the Self.

136. If the mind, which rarely subsides, actually does subside, bliss will multiply many million-fold.

137. The bliss of jnana, the Self, that manifests in the tranquil mind will disappear and cease to appear in the ghora vritti [rajasic mind*]

*rajasic mind here refers to the passionate outward seeking mind that is concerned with gross and subtle objects and seeks pleasure in them

140. Padam sternly warns: ‘So long as you are seeking something other than yourself as the agent for gaining bliss, there is no bliss for you.’

Turn away from objects. Let go of ALL objects. What are objects? Anything you can perceive: thoughts, feelings, sensations, experiences, memories, imaginations, psychic phenomena, intuitions, knowledge and understanding – all these are subtle objects. Gross objects are the gross body, including other people, and the contents of the material world. If it is perceived, it is an object. Experiences and states of consciousness are also objects. All objects come and go. Therefore no object or experience leads to lasting satisfaction.

In desiring objects, the road to suffering has been paved. DO NOT GO DOWN THAT ROAD. Instead renounce objects and relax. See their allure is only fleeting, and when they go, suffering and confusion ensue. Instead sink back into the Self. Allow its bliss to bubble up, and let go of that too.

If you must think, think of the Self. If you must desire, desire the Self. Allow the magnetism of the Self (the Heart, the Swarupa), to draw you in, envelop and destroy you (the ego).

Allow ignorance to be rooted out, burnt away by the fire of the Self.

Allow Jnana to shine – it has always been shining – free, unalloyed, blissful and resplendent!

Allow the bliss, allow Your Self to shine!

Oh, I bow down to Ramana who has spoken these words!

I overflow with gratitude to him, him who is none other than HIM, him who is none other that I, the Self.

Praise to Ramana! Praise to HIM in the highest. All praise to HIM!

Also see:

How to actually do Self-Inquiry/Self-Enquiry/Atma Vichara

In Ramana Maharshi’s own words: How to do Self Enquiry | Atma Vichara |

11 thoughts on “Ramana Maharshi: the path to self-realisation (Padamalai)

  1. His teachings are great. I was lucky enough to spend time at the mountain where he lived for a good period of his life. Tiruvannamalai. Such a beautiful place

    Liked by 1 person

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