HOW TO END EGO-SUFFERING (and why other spiritual paths tend not to ultimately work)

Buddha face close up

Also see:


Turn Within? Really? Isn’t this dualistic and doesn’t this just strengthen the ego?

Buddhism vs Advaita, no-self vs Self

To find the Truth, turn inwards, attend to the subject that you are. Only then is it seen that ‘all is Truth’, ‘all is One’, ‘This is it already’, ‘there is no inner or outer’, ‘all is liberation’, and that any division or separation is just an illusion.

However, without turning inward first, it ends up being the ego-mind proclaiming ‘there is no inner/outer’ or ‘all is one’, etc.

How to tell the difference? How to know if you have genuinely seen truth or if the ego-mind is still in control?


Well if you are still suffering, that means it is a mere proclamation of the ego-mind. Even if there is some kind of genuine insight there, it is the ego-mind’s insight.

If you are still suffering, it means ego-mind-thought is still in control. It means you are still operating predominantly on the superficial level of thought.

If you are still suffering, that means you have not succeeded in venturing inwards, turning within.


Perhaps you have rationalised away the ‘turn within’ teachings as being dualistic and ego-perpetuating? If so, logical as that sounds, it is actually the ego-thought-mind that has concluded this, and in doing so it preserves itself and suffering and confusion continues.


The ego-mind, thinking itself to be a real entity, does not want to turn within and end itself. It therefore finds numerous ways to not turn within and instead occupy itself with various gross and subtle objects (thoughts, feelings, sensations, imaginings, body, mind and worldly objects).

The ego-mind has come up with teachings such as ‘the ego-mind does not need to end’ or ‘there is no need to practice as all is already one’ or ‘this is already THAT’ and rationalises its position in order to defend itself and prevent its inevitable demise.


Preoccupation with objects (defined anything that is perceived, or anything that arises in consciousness) perpetuates the ego-mind-ignorance-suffering. This is why these objects are collectively termed Maya – it is for the purposes of the teaching. True Self or Self is also a concept for the purposes of the teaching.

I’ll repeat that: preoccupation with objects perpetuates the ego-mind-ignorance-suffering.

The teaching’s aim is to turn within, to turn away from Maya towards Self. Only then is Maya also seen to be Self/One. Otherwise it is just the clever ego-intellect perpetuating both itself and the resultant suffering is the ego’s hallmark.


Think to yourself – why do all the true and effective traditional teachings state we must turn within? Why do all the great sages state we must turn within? Why did Ramana Maharshi teach self-enquiry? Why did Shankara, that great exponent of non-duality, tell us to attend to the Self? Why did Buddha stress meditation and turning towards the deathless?

Did these great souls not realise that though this teaching appears dualistic (to the ego-mind!!), it actually works? Why else did these teachings continue to thrive for thousands of years?


My own experience is that most seekers, while they may find superficial and temporary relief from other paths/teachings or so-called non-teachings, they go round and round and continue to suffer and remain confused (note that alternating confusion and clarity is actually just more confusion) until they turn within, away from Maya-objects-illusion, towards the Subject-Self-Truth-Divine.


The True Teacher is within. All other teachers and teachings are Maya.

The true external teacher/teaching is also Maya, but it’s relative value is that it encourages you, by various methods, to turn within (that is to be uninvolved with various objects) and attend to the Subject-Self.

With respect to liberation, the false external teacher, even if they are honest and genuine, the false external teacher encourages attending to and involvement with objects and so maya-ego-suffering is perpetuated.


It is important to look after the body-mind, be an ethical person and discharge your social duties during this process. ie. be good! be kind! be responsible! look after your body-mind! look after other body-minds! minimise harm and negativity (ahimsa!)


There are many ways to this, but they all culminate or end up in this simple practice of inward Self-Attention or Self-Abidance or BEING devoid of objects. Why not take the short-cut and go straight there to the final practice?

All other practices rely on the ‘me’, the separate entity to carry out the practice, and eventually the question must be asked ‘who am i?’ or ‘what is the entity that is carrying out the practice?’. Only self-enquiry doesn’t admit of the separate ‘me’ in the first instance. You are That already! So abide as that and stop attending to objects, and be That Pure Invisible Formless Subjectivity that you already are!


So here is one possible way forwards:

(1) pray to Bhagavan Sri Ramana for His Blessings and Grace

(2) let go of body-mind-world; surrender all to God; trust that Bhagavan will take care of everything

(3) do not take yourself to be the body-mind. Know you are pure consciousness/awareness. Take the body-mind-world to be a dream-like illusion.

(4) relax, be still. Allow the mind in its own natural way to become quiet and still. Use hatha yoga, chanting, a mantra or watching the breath, etc, as aids to this if you need them. This makes the mind subtle and fit for enquiry.

(4) happily and lovingly attend to (turn your attention to) the Subject-Self and let go of/turn away from objects

(5) abide as the Self, subjectivity/consciousness devoid of objects: ie. BE what you truly are until ego-mind-suffering is no more.

For a more in-depth understanding of the essential teaching see here: The Path of Sri Ramana


12 thoughts on “HOW TO END EGO-SUFFERING (and why other spiritual paths tend not to ultimately work)

  1. Ouch! Straight through the heart there Tom. Thank you. I needed that.
    I got tears in my eyes and could practically feel my heart crack open as I read your post. For years I’ve been one of those ‘all is already one’, or ‘This is It, already’ persons claiming there is no need for any practice. I even had a long period when I didn’t want to read your blog since I felt you were way too ‘practice-oriented’. However, during the past 6 months an illness that has not only given me severe physical discomfort but also often preventing me from sleeping, has led to me taking up the practice of sitting meditation again during nighttime. Having spent 30+ years on the meditation cushion (before my ego decided I was already that so no need for such duality) it was easy enough to again slip into some kind of state of awareness even if I consciously avoided picking up a mediation object and actually ‘meditate’.

    It was during one of these nights I started contemplating how I never really had understood what Ramana meant when he was talking about self-enquiry. What did he actually want us to do? During almost ten years I had read so many books, so many different takes on what the ‘Who am I?’ question really meant and how it should be used. I had my first contact with Advaita Vedanta through a book about Ramana Maharshi that fell into my hands by chance years ago.
    I have read a lot of Advaita teachings during the years that have passed since then and gained a very clear intellectual understanding of the path. There have been moments of bliss and brief moments of touching the Self…but it always faded away within matter of weeks and then all was back to normal again, which had led to continued suffering. I felt that something was missing. Having clarity / insight is not the same as liberation. No doubt about that.

    So during this summer I’ve been experimenting with turning inwards again, after rejecting the need for sadhana for so many years. I just had to humble myself and admit that there is still a need for practice here. There is still work to be done. It feels like a big surrender has taken place.
    When it comes to the actual method of self-enquiry, I never felt comfortable with using the question ‘Who am I?’. It felt more right to focus on the feeling ‘I-am’ or simply ‘I’, than using words. I experimented with finding and holding on to the ‘feeling’ of the place where I (and other thoughts) rises up. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but for the first time I felt that self-enquiry really had some effect. After doing this for a couple of weeks I had to start reading Ramana material again to find some sort of confirmation that I was on the right path. And the instructions were all over the place really, I just hadn’t been open to it before or not ready to take it all in.
    With this I felt determined to continue practice by turning within towards this feeling of ‘I’ and its rising and been doing it since then. I try to hold on to it as much as I can, during many intermittent periods during day and night. There is definitely a change in feeling happier and and more at ease, but the big change is the love I now feel for Ramana in my heart. I always had a problem with the bhakti thing, but now I see what they mean when they say jnana and bhakti converge at some point to become one and the same path. Ramana is the true inner guru for me. It took years for this feeling to melt my arrogant heart but now I’m filled with love and gratitude for him and the blessings of his teaching.

    I think the arrogance of my ‘This is It already-attitude’ and the idea that I needed no more sadhana has been my main vasana causing me much suffering. I guess it’s like you say in your post Tom, that it was one of the ego’s ways to defend itself. Now there is a strong determination to finish this once and for all no matter what, with the help of grace from within.

    Once again – thank you for the spot-on post.


    1. Wow, what a powerful and inspiring testimony Seth. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences with myself and other readers of this blog, and am happy to hear that you have developed a love for both Ramana and His Teachings. I hope you continue to put them into practice! Please feel free to stay in touch and let me know how you are doing, namaste


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