Ramana Maharshi: Know the Knower

Ramana younger face

It is widely accepted that the text Guru Vachaka Kovai presents the most precise, systematic and authoritative exposition of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teachings; following my previous post, here are some more verses for you:

Download Guru Vachaka Kovai as a PDF file here

Why do people call me learned?
What is the mark of real learning?
Learning that all garnered knowledge
Of things is empty ignorance
And that true knowledge is the search
For the Knower.

He, who by questing inward for
The Knower, has destroyed the ego
And transcended so-called knowledge,
Abides as the Self. He alone
Is a true knower, not one who has
Not seen the Self and therefore has
An ego still.

Those who, learning to forget
Completely all objective knowledge,
Turn inward firmly and see clearly
The Truth, abide serene. Those who
Try to recall forgotten things
Pine bewildered, fretting over
False phenomena.

Self-Enquiry (Vichara Sangraham) by Sri Ramana Maharshi – Ramana’s first spiritual writing

Sri Ramana Maharshi 1902
 The earliest known photo of  Sri Ramana Maharshi, taken in 1902 on Arunachala when he was 22 years old

To download the full text of Self Enquiry by Sri Ramana Maharshi in PDF format click here

The following is the introduction to the text as found in the Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi published by Sri Ramanasramam:

Self-enquiry is the first work the Maharshi ever wrote. It was written about 1901, that is, when he was a young man of about twenty-two. He was already a Jnani (Sage) in perfect realization of the Self, in the resplendent bliss of Divine Knowledge. At that time he was living in Virupaksha Cave on the hill of Arunachala. A number of disciples had already gathered round him. Although he had not actually taken a vow of silence, he seldom spoke, and so wrote his replies to certain questions put to him by Gambhiram Seshayya, one of the earliest devotees. The latter copied them in his diary. After his death this diary was obtained from his brother. The questions and answers were edited by Natanananda and published with Bhagavan’s approval under the name of Vichara Sangraham, or Self-Enquiry. Subsequently they were changed into the form of an essay. The original form has been adopted in the present work.

There is no youthfulness or immaturity in the work. The Master wrote with the authority of full spiritual knowledge, just as in his later years. Like all his expositions, verbal as well as written, this is concerned with practical questions of the path to realization of the Self, never with barren theory. However, it does differ from later expositions in one important respect: that is, that it describes not only the path of Self- enquiry but others also; meditation on one’s identity with the Self and a yogic path based on breath-control. He himself prescribed only Self-enquiry or submission to the Guru. He would say: “There are two ways: ask yourself `Who am I?’ or submit.”

Why did he include the mention of less direct and more elaborate methods in this first exposition? The obvious contingent reason is that the disciple for whom it was written had been reading books about these various methods and asked questions about them. Perhaps also, in a wider sense, it is appropriate that there should first be a general exposition of various methods before the lifelong instruction in that which he prescribed. Certainly the other methods, although described, are scarcely recommended.

The breath control that is described is, of course, not mere physical exercise. It is the spiritual significance of the exercise that makes it an elaborate science. `Science’ is indeed the right word for it, for it is a traditional Indian science of self- purification. This makes it abstruse for the Western reader who has no previous grounding in it, especially as, like all sciences, it has its technical vocabulary which does not permit adequate translation without lengthy notes. One has to remember that in writing this exposition the Maharshi knew that he could count on a technical knowledge of the science in question in the person for whom he wrote. The consolation for Western readers is to remember that he neither recommended nor prescribed this path and in his later works scarcely mentioned it. It is not necessary for them to learn its technicalities.

To download the full text of Self Enquiry by Sri Ramana Maharshi in PDF format click here



Ramana Maharshi: True Wisdom


The following are sayings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, taken from the text Guru Vachaka Kovai which is widely accepted as the most precise, systematic and authoritative exposition of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teachings:

Download Guru Vachaka Kovai as a PDF file here

O worldly folk who long for and run after
An endless series of unenduring things
’Tis wisdom true to seek and know
That one thing, on knowing which
All other things will cease to be.

For those who see with insight keen
The subtle Truth, what is there to gain
From knowledge of gross material things?
What the imperishable inner sense
Perceives surpasses far the sight
Seen by the corporeal eye.

Knowing aright the nature of the Self
And abandoning the non-self as void,
Unreal, is wisdom true.
All other knowledge is ignorance,
And not wisdom.


J. Krishnamurti & Eckhart Tolle: ‘The Power of Now’

Here we have Jiddu Krishnamurti talking about ‘the now’. Many of you will have heard of Eckhart Tolle’s book ‘The Power of Now’, but less people seem to be aware of how influenced by J. Krishnamurti Eckhart Tolle’s teachings are. In fact Eckhart Tolle has spoken about this several times, eg. Eckhart Tolle says in an interview:

I feel actually that the work I do is a coming together of the teaching “stream,” if you want to call it that, of [J.] Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi. They seem very, very dissimilar, but I feel that in my teaching the two merge into one. It is the heart of Ramana Maharshi, and Krishnamurti’s ability to see the false, as such and point out how it works. So Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi, I love them deeply. I feel completely at One with them. And it is a continuation of the teaching.

In another interview Eckhart Tolle writes:

Two spiritual teachers that I feel closely connected to, although I’ve never met them in person, are [J.] Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi. Their teachings seem very dissimilar at first. Krishnamurti taught mainly in negative terms just like the Buddha. By this I mean that he didn’t give you any inspiring words, ideas or concepts to believe in. He would tell you to investigate the workings of your own mind, in the same way that the Buddha taught us to investigate how suffering arises and by discovering the roots of suffering in our own minds arrive at a state of consciousness that he described as “the end of suffering.” Whereas Ramana Maharshi would often point to that which lies beyond the realm of thinking, a dimension of consciousness he called the self.

So here below is an excerpt from ‘The Only Revolution’ (Click here to download The Only Revolution by J Krishnamurti as a PDF file) by Jiddu Krishnamurti in which he writes about time and ‘the now’, with my comments interspersed in red italics:


Jiddu Krishnamurti:

Is there – apart from the clock – time at all? We accept so many things; obedience has been so instilled into us that acceptance seems natural. But is there time at all, apart from the many yesterdays? Is time a continuity as yesterday, today and tomorrow, and is there time without yesterday? What gives to the thousand yesterdays a continuity?

Tom: Krishnamurti, like Eckhart Tolle, often differentiates between ‘time by the clock’ (or chronological time) as opposed to psychological time (ie. how the mind perceives itself as existing in a continuity of time which starts from the past, which proceeds into the future). 

A cause brings its effect, and the effect in turn becomes the cause; there is no division between them, it is one movement. This movement we call time, and with this movement, in our eyes and in our hearts, we see everything. We see with the eyes of time, and translate the present in terms of the past; and this translation meets the tomorrow. This is the chain of time.

Tom: we can see that Krishnamurti is writing of how the mind sees through this lens or filter of time and interprets everything through this distorting lens.

Thought, caught in this process, asks the question: “What is time?” This very enquiry is of the machinery of time. So the enquiry has no meaning, for thought is time. The yesterday has produced thought and so thought divides space as yesterday, today and tomorrow. Or it says: “There is only the present”, forgetting that the present itself is the outcome of yesterday.

Our consciousness is made up of this chain of time, and within its borders we are asking: “What is time? And, if there is no time, what happens to yesterday?” Such questions are within the field of time, and there is no answer to a question put by thought about time.

Tom: Krishnamurti is stating that thought is a result of the past, ie. memories and concepts of things that were, and it is this thought that is asking the question. As this thought is itself the movement of psychological time, it cannot answer this question ‘what is time?’ and ‘what happens if there is no psychological time?’. 

Or is there no tomorrow and no yesterday, but only the now? This question is not put by thought. It is put when the structure and nature of time is seen but with the eyes of thought.

Is there actually tomorrow? Of course there is if I have to catch a train; but inwardly, is there the tomorrow of pain and pleasure, or of achievement? Or is there only the now, which is not related to yesterday?

Tom: Here we can see Krishnamurti expand upon the difference between ‘time by the clock’, which is purely a practical things, and ‘psychological time’, which implies striving and seeking pleasure and achievement for the ‘me’. Basically, ‘psychological time’ is referring to the movement of the ego or idea of a separate ‘me’ entity.

In the following paragraphs Krishnamurti will seemingly make a few ‘jumps’ without really explaining how he got there, but you will see he is pointing to an immediate and direct perception of ‘what is’, without the mediating distorting lens of psychological time or thought or memory, ie. without the ego (as I have defined it above), which Krishnamurti here calls ‘yesterday’. See if you can follow him:

Time has a stop only when thought has a stop. It is at the moment of stopping that the now is. This now is not an idea, it is an actual fact, but only when the whole mechanism of thought has come to an end. The feeling of now is entirely different from the word, which is of time.

So do not let us be caught in the words yesterday, today and tomorrow. The realization of the now exists only in freedom, and freedom is not the cultivation of thought.

Then the question arises: “What is the action of the now?” We only know action which is of time and memory and the interval between yesterday and the present. In this interval or space all the confusion and the conflict begin.

What we are really asking is: If there is no interval at all, what is action? The conscious mind might say: “I did something spontaneously”, but actually this is not so; there is no such thing as spontaneity because the mind is conditioned.

The actual is the only fact; the actual is the now, and, unable to meet it, thought builds images about it. The interval between the image and what is, is the misery which thought has created.

To see what is without yesterday, is the now. The now is the silence of yesterday.

Tom: Does Krishnamurti mean that we don’t remember what happened yesterday and that we do not plan for tomorrow? No, he is not referring to ‘time by the clock’, ie. practical affairs that involve chronological time. By ‘yesterday’ he is referring to psychological time, ie. the remembrance of past hurts and pleasures that make a mark on our psyche, and we then interpret the present moment in order to recreate past pleasures or avoid past hurts, and this is the distorting view of psychological time or egoic desire, which Krishnamurti also here calls ‘thought’.

When this is immediately seen clearly, we are no longer trying to get anywhere. Then we are with ‘what is‘. This immediate or direct seeing itself is not the effect or outcome of the egoic mind – we cannot ‘try to see’ this, as this would be more ego, more trying to get somewhere nice. No, simply when this is all seen, then we are with what is already – no, we are not even with what is – there is only what is. Simple, direct, transcendent-immanent, beyond words.