Ramana Maharshi answers: What in brief is the means to know one’s own real nature?

ramana maharshi eyes of grace

Questioner:

What in brief is the means to know one’s own real nature? What is the effort that can bring about the sublime inner vision?

Sri Ramana Maharshi:

Strenuously withdrawing all thoughts from sense objects, one should remain fixed in steady, non-objective [ie. subjective] enquiry. This, in brief, is the means of knowing one’s own real nature; this effort alone bring about the sublime inner vision.

Sri Ramana Gita, Chapter 3, verses 4-6

For a more detailed description of the path to liberation see here: The Path of Sri Ramana

How to know God. How to see God.

ramana-maharshi.asr_12.crop

See also: IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

Here a seeker asks Sri Ramana Maharshi how to find or ‘see’ God. When Ramana gives his answer, the seeker objects with a very common objection, let us see. The following dialogue has been recorded in the book Conscious Immortality, page 125:

Questioner: How is God to be seen?
Ramana Maharshi: Within. If the mind is turned inwards, God manifests as the inner consciousness.
Questioner: But isn’t God in all the objects we see around us?
Ramana Maharshi: God is in everything and in the seer. Where can God be seen? He cannot be found outside. He should be felt within. To see the objects, mind is necessary, and to conceive God in them is only a mental operation. But that is not real. The consciousness within, purged of the mind, is felt as God.

We can see that Ramana states that to find God, or see God, one must turn within, away from objects and abide as the Consciousness within, the pure Subject, devoid of objects. The seeker responds with a philosophical argument that seems to make sense to the mind. The seeker’s reasoning is as follows: but if God is everywhere and everything, why must I turn within to find Him?

The problem is that while this seem philosophically correct and so makes sense (to the ego-mind!), it doesn’t work. Ramana Maharshi’s teaching is a practical guide. It actually works!

What we see around us is also God, yes, but it is God as Maya, and is therefore unreal and gives rise only to suffering and confusion. Maya/the world may make us feel we are making progress by giving us superficial temporary realisations and insights together with philosophical platitudes, but this is simply ‘Maya’s way’ of ensnaring us and perpetuating the ego and suffering.

It is only when we turn within and attend to what is Real, namely our own very Self, that we then Abide as the Self and the above is seen for oneself and the Vedanta teachings are transformed from mere concepts to firsthand Reality, and suffering finally comes to an end.

We see the same teaching given in Ramana’s text ‘Who Am I?’, and it explains what could be seen as a rather strange answer to a question by Ramana:

Question: Is not everything the work of God?
Ramana Maharshi: 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. That is like worldly actions not affecting the sun, or like the merits and demerits of the other four elements not affecting all pervading space.

We can see here that Ramana does not simply write ‘yes, all is God, God does all, all is One’ or something similar, but puts forward a different conception of the Self which will orientate our practice as above. He is stating God or the Self is Still, Whole, Unmoving, Unaffected, Self-Shining and does nothing. It is Pure Consciousness, the Subject, the Source of all, and we are to attend to That only. This is all beautifully explained in The Path of Sri Ramana.

So, how can we know this is the only way? Try other teachings if you want! You will eventually see they don’t work – despite all the concepts, practices and words your suffering will continue! All other teachings are based upon objects, Maya (ie. they are based upon thoughts, feelings, sensations, body, mind, world, etc): they are therefore based upon that which is transient and temporary and so do not serve to be a good foundation for firm Happiness.

Until you turn within, suffering will continue! Whenever you attend to (ie. attach to) objects, you tacitly strengthen the ego-notion, so turn within, abide as the Self! It is what you truly are, it is the only constant!

See also:

IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

and

The Path of Sri Ramana

Q. Why turn within? Nonduality as I have experienced it is the actual disappearance of what is considered within and without, one seamless blending

meditation moon prayer

Also see: IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

Q. Nonduality as I have experienced it is the actual disappearance of what is considered within and without. One seamless blending.

Tom: It’s fairly easy for many to realise there is no real within or without, ie. that what we consider inner, such as the mind and thoughts, are non-separate from the supposed outer world. It is all one movement. But it is usually the mind that realises this, in combination with some kind of a genuine seeing.

However these teachings I share here are to end suffering. Most people interested in non-duality do realise on some level the false dividing line between self and other (ie. inner and outer), but suffering still continues due to the habitual egoic tendencies (vasanas).

Basically, the false identity as the ego-mind entity remains intact at a deeper level, and the essential notion of individuality still survives and is believed in despite the ego-mind saying ‘all is one’ or ‘this is it’ or ‘there is already no ego’ or ‘there is already no duality’.

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

After turning inwards, it is then eventually seen that there is no inner/outer, but it is not the ego that sees this and co-opts this, but it is merely the absence of the ego which is itself the illusion of separation. 

It is for this reason practice is almost always required – to end duality at its root and not just on a superficial level. Otherwise the ego-mind, and suffering, both continue.

For a more in-depth understanding of the path to liberation/moksha, please see here: The Path of Sri Ramana

Q. Doesn’t the notion of ‘turning within’ to find yourself create an artificial duality? All is already one! | Self-Enquiry | Atma Vichara

funny face perfect person

Q. Don’t these traditional Vedanta teachings create an artificial duality where there actually is none? Why turn away from the world towards an apparent ‘True Self’? Why create this duality in the first place? All is already one!

Tom: For most, the ego-mind keeps on habitually coming back, causing suffering and perpetuating the illusion of duality until one finally turns to Self-Enquiry and Abides as the Self. You can say ‘all is one’, or ‘this is it already’, or ‘there is no duality’, but usually it is just the ego-mind saying that (ie. it is only on the level of concepts and belief) and so suffering and the illusion of duality continue. The infinite-love-bliss of the Self is not ‘experienced’ or ‘known’.

How to remove the illusion of separation, so it, and the resultant suffering never returns? The only way I know is to abide as the pure consciousness within. This is the teaching of the Vedanta scriptures and of all effective and true spiritual teachings that I have come across.

For most, unless this is done, suffering and peace alternate, which is itself suffering.

The purpose of Satsang/teachers/teachings is only for you to turn within and Be what You already Are. Other than that, no teacher or teaching is required.

‘The seat of Realisation is within and the seeker cannot find it as an object outside him. That seat is bliss and is the core of all beings. Hence it is called the Heart. The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realise it. There is nothing else to do.’

Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk no. 219

 

 

Q. Isn’t it unhealthy and inhumane to turn away from the world? This kind of denial hasn’t worked for me. Integration is working.

lying buddha

Q. Isn’t it unhealthy and inhumane to turn away from the world and turn within? No disrespect, but denial of the world did not work for me – integration is working. Who said God loved loved us any less for embracing neurosis? God loves us maybe even more.

Tom: I know what you mean, especially with such strong language like ‘vile ways’*. It can seem inhumane and even unhealthy to deny what we consider to be an aspect of ourself. The purpose of this teaching is liberation from suffering, and this turning within is the only way I know of to attain that aim. It is also the traditional way that has been taught in various cultures for millennia – in my view, the reason this simple but radical teaching has stuck around for so long is because it works, and it is the only one that works (it goes by different names in different traditions).

The strong language is only to encourage you to turn within. There are many other aspects of life, and integration as you put it can be wonderfully healing and positive, and that is good of course, but my experience is that positive and healing as it is, it is not ultimately liberating – that is, it improves the prison but does not free one from suffering in its totality. For that Self-Enquiry or Abiding as the Self is required, and that means to turn within to find the divine within. We do not need to suppress neurosis – that is unhealthy – but just allow it and all things to be, but turn our attention away from them and all other objects towards our self – then we discover the Kingdom of Heaven within – only then can we truly say that all is one, and it not be a belief or concept in the ego-mind. Only then does suffering end.

*A version of this question was originally asked after I posted the following verses on Facebook; they are teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi taken from the wonderful text Guru Vachaka Kovai:

75. Only mad folk perplexed because
They deem the false world to be real
Find joy in this illusion.
The truly wise find joy in nothing
But Awareness which is Being.

76. Those well established in the Self,
True Being, will never pursue the world’s
Vile ways. For such descent into
The false allurements of the world
Is yielding to the animal weakness
For sense-pleasure.

77. What does one gain, you well may ask,
By giving up the wealth immense
Of worldly pleasure and seeking only
Mere Awareness?
The benefit of true Awareness
Is the unbroken prevalence
Of peace within the heart, the bliss
Of one’s own natural being.

Turn Within? Really? Isn’t this dualistic and doesn’t this just strengthen the ego? | Self-Enquiry | Atma Vichara | Awareness Watching Awareness

om1

The symbol Om represents the Self, the eternal Truth Within

Also see: IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

Some people, when they hear of the true teachings of Self-Enquiry, they attend to it straight away and realise the Self, the eternal happiness and bliss that is devoid of misery and suffering, the Kingdom of Heaven that is found within.

Others spend time roaming and suffering in the arid desert of other ways (or ‘non-ways’) and teachings first, teachings that pertain to gross and subtle objects (ie body, mind and world, thoughts, feelings, experiences, knowledge, etc). Only later do they realise that despite all their knowledge and insights and experiences, despite their proclamations of oneness, etc, their suffering still continues, and maybe they then find the motivation to try something else and turn within.

OBJECTION: WHY TURN WITHIN? ISN’T THAT DUALISTIC?

Q .But if all is one or non-dual, why turn within at all? Is this not creating an artificial duality between the inner and the outer, and do not all practices strengthen the ego?

A. Because only then is suffering removed and the bliss of the self realised. Without this practice of turning within, suffering continues. See this for yourself in your own experience – has your suffering ended? If not, turn within and abide as the Self. Suffering is the hallmark of ego/ignorance.

WHY IS THIS THE CASE?

Q.Why is it so?

A. Because without this specific practice, objects are continually attended to, and this nurtures the notion ‘I am a body-mind entity living in a world’. Or rather it doesn’t attack or destroy this ignorance, which is deep rooted, habitual and strong (seemingly). The habitual ignorance ‘I am the separate body-mind entity’ continues to intermittently rise and cause suffering. Out of habit, ignorance continues, and with it suffering too.

‘The ego-thief pretends to be the policeman who catches the thief’.

Without this practice of attending to the Self or pure consciousness within, ignorance and suffering both continue, in spite of superficial proclamations such as ‘all is one’ or ‘nothing needs to change’. Similarly, other practices which involve attending to gross or subtle objects also do not sever this ignorance, although they may weaken it (or strengthen it).

OBJECTION: DOES THIS PRACTICE NOT STRENGTHEN THE EGO?

A. This is the only practice that does not strengthen the ego. All practices, except Self-Enquiry or Self-Attention, need the identity ‘I am the body-mind’, ie. the ego, to practice them. In Self-Enquiry it is not accepted that you are the body-mind from the outset.

The mind, when attending to gross and subtle objects, is called the mind. When this same mind attends to the Subject, itself, it is no longer the mind but is simply Consciousness or Awareness Being Consciousness or Awareness, ie. Self Being Self. (Ramana Maharshi states In Day by Day with Bhagavan: ‘The mind turned inwards is the Self; turned outwards, it becomes the ego and all the world’. The traditional Advaita text Yoga Vasishta states: ‘Consciousness, which is undivided, imagines to itself desirable objects and runs after them. It is then known as the mind.’ )

This practice, unlike all others, is not a doing (ie. not an act by the body-mind entity), but BEING SELF.

It is only through BEING SELF and not through attending to various gross and subtle objects that the egoic vasanas/ignorance can be rooted out and suffering ended at its source. See for yourself how suffering continues otherwise, how without this practice the ego continues itself.

A TRUE TEACHING

This is why Sri Ramana Maharshi taught this teaching. This is why Shankara taught this teaching. This is why Buddha taught this teaching. This is why Krishna and Vasishta taught this teaching. This is why Shiva taught this teaching. Why else has this teaching been taught for millennia?

Hence this is the true teaching of Vedanta that has been handed down, generation to generation, for millennia, and it is the true teaching of all genuine and effective spiritual paths.

My gratitude to Sri Ramana Maharshi for revitalising this ancient teaching, purifying it of all dross and superstition and making it easily accessible for all.

DO NOT ALLOW THOUGHT/THE EGO TO PHILOSOPHISE THIS TEACHING AWAY

Discover this yourself, not with intellectualising or philosophising, but by trying and seeing for yourself. Do not reject this teaching saying – ‘all is already one’, or ‘what is needed to be yourself?’ or ‘This is It, already – what practice is required and for who?’. This is the ego’s way of avoiding its own destruction. You will know this is the case as suffering is the sign of the ego. Are you still suffering? If so, attend to the Self, the pure consciousness, the subject, within. If you do not, suffering will continue until you do.

Sri Ramana Maharshi states:

‘The seat of Realisation is within and the seeker cannot find it as an object outside him. That seat is bliss and is the core of all beings. Hence it is called the Heart. The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realise it. There is nothing else to do.’ (Talks 219)

JUST A LITTLE PRACTICE MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Whilst practice gradually increases over time an infiltrates into your entire being and all of the three states (waking, dreaming, deep sleep), even a small amount of practice, even when NOT performed with great skill, leads to immense reduction in suffering and egotism. What may take years through mental philosophising is cut through quickly with devoted practice. This will build your faith in the teachings and take you home.

So start small and allow the momentum to gradually build, like a snowflake becoming an avalanche.

THE METHOD

Also see: IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

Another quote from Sri Ramana Maharshi, this time from the Sri Ramana Gita, a small text that outlines the entire teaching of Ramana in concise form:

Q. What in brief is the means to know one’s own real nature? What is the effort that can bring about the sublime inner vision?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Strenuously withdrawing all thoughts from sense objects, one should remain fixed in steady, non-objective [ie. subjective] enquiry. This, in brief, is the means of knowing one’s own real nature; this effort alone bring about the sublime inner vision.

Sri Ramana Gita, Chapter 3, verses 4-6

Here are some other quotes for you:

Nisargadatta focus on your Self

Shankara meditates on that which never changes

Vasistha the supreme meditation

🕉Om Guru Ramana 🕉

🙏🙏🙏

The entire path explained: the Path of Sri Ramana (Parts 1 and 2; PDF downloads)

Ramana younger face
Sri Ramana Maharshi
See also: IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

‘The path of Sri Ramana is meant for anyone who craves for happiness…’

These texts, written by Sri Sadhu Om, himself a direct devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi, clearly, unambiguously and thoroughly explain the path to Self-Realisation, which is the extinguishment of suffering, as taught by Sri Ramana Maharshi.

  • Part one focuses on Self-Enquiry (the path of knowledge or Jnana), which is the principal path for liberation/Moksha.
  • Part two focuses on Self-Surrender (the path of Bhakti or love/ devotion).

Together these texts summarise the entire Vedanta path, and are consistent with the Vedanta scriptures, but the teachings are arranged practically for those with a genuine yearning for liberation and not just philosophical study.

Sri Sadhu Om (1922-1985), sometimes known as Sri Sadhu Om Swamigal, spent 4 years with Sri Ramana Maharshi from 1946 until Ramana’s death in 1950. He was regarded by many other direct devotees as both Self-Realised and an authority on Ramana Maharshi’s teachings.

We are indeed fortunate to have these clear and precise teachings to hand!
All we have to do is understand them and put them into practice!

Click on the links below to download these precious texts, and then put them into practice:

The Path of Sri Ramana Part One (PDF file)

The Path of Sri Ramana Part Two (PDF file)

Sri Sadhu Om Mind turn towards first person
Sri Sadhu Om

“We should not run after the world; we should not look outwards at the world, we should look inwards at Self. Those sannyasis who run after the world achieve neither the world nor Self (God). If we try to chase after our shadow, we will never catch it; but if we go towards the sun, our shadow will automatically come running behind us.

Those sannyasis who are always attending to the world with the aim of teaching the world became spoilt in the end. . . No Sage (jnani) who ever came on earth was the product of an ashramam, math or any such institution. Each one of them stood alone and realized the Truth by himself.

There is no rule that a man can attain true knowledge (jnana) only by becoming an inmate of a religious institution. Therefore, in the name of service to the world, let no one cheat himself and retard his spiritual progress by forming foundations and associations and by preaching, shouting slogans and running magazines”

~ Sri Sadhu Om

ramana-maharshi face

IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

Om red multiple

For more detailed explanations of the entire path to liberation see this link – I recommend you read and study the two texts found here and put them into practice: The Path of Sri Ramana

Suffering: our predicament

Ever-obsessed with the transient*, we suffer. Ever-involved with that which changes*, the Self remains (seemingly) covered** and unrealised, and so we, taking ourselves to be a separate body-mind entity, remain in bondage and illusion and continue to suffer and feel confused.

Our True Nature

What you truly are has never suffered, has never undergone change, has never been confused and never been subject to birth, death, illusion or delusion. It is beyond both happiness/peace and suffering/sorrow. It is that pure consciousness ‘within’, it is That which you truly are.

How to Attain Liberation (Moksha)

Release yourself from this suffering and destroy ignorance in its totality by turning away from transient things and attending to your Self, that Pure Consciousness which is You. Turn your attention to That Which You Are and in doing this Be What You Are. Know the Knower, attend to the Seer, that is, Be Your Self and abide as such, until illusion/suffering/ignorance/doubt is no more.

Why This Practice is Necessary

For most, without this sadhana (spiritual practice), ignorance will continue to rise up again and again due to the strength of the habitual tendencies (vasanas) to identify as a separate body-mind entity, and so confusion and suffering will continue as will the seeking and various doubts.

In Summary

So Attend to what You Are, Be what You Are, Abide as the Self until ego/maya/ignorance/delusion is no more 🙏

🕉🕉🕉***

Turn within? Really?

For objections that the mind throws our way, please see the following posts:

Q. Turn Within? Really? Isn’t this dualistic and doesn’t this just strengthen the ego?
Q. Isn’t it unhealthy and inhumane to turn away from the world? This kind of denial hasn’t worked for me. Integration is working.
Q. Why turn within? Nonduality as I have experienced it is the actual disappearance of what is considered within and without, one seamless blending
Q. Doesn’t the notion of ‘turning within’ to find yourself create an artificial duality? All is already one!

Q. Who or what does Self-Enquiry? Why still the mind? Isn’t this more mind?

Notes

*’the transient’ or ‘that which changes’ refers to the body, mind (thoughts, feelings, imaginings, experiences, conceptual knowledge) and the world, also known as Maya or illusion.

**for practice purposes of the teaching, in this context it is said that the Self is covered by Maya, as this is how it seems to the suffering seeker of truth and liberation. This aspect of the teaching has a practical orientation and places instruction on the path to liberation above mere conceptual/intellectual notions such as ‘the Self is never covered’, etc. These intellectual notions are are often used by the ego to avoid spiritual practice and liberation, which is the ending of egotism, and perpetuate ignorance-ego-suffering.

***the True Self is symbolised by the symbol ‘Om’, the Pure Consciousness within, that which is beyond name, form, description, conceptualisation, knowledge or experience. It is beyond both suffering and happiness/peace. It is also the meaning of the terms ‘true knowledge’ (Jnana) and ‘direct experience’ (Aparokshanubhuti), Bliss (Ananda) and Peace (Shanti), and Non-Duality (Advaita). It is what is signified in the Mandukya Upanishad as Turiya or AUM

Also see

This first link, The Path of Sri Ramana, contains detailed descriptions and explanations of the entire path in an easy to read way. I recommend you read, study and put into practice these two texts:

The entire path explained: the Path of Sri Ramana (Parts 1 and 2; PDF downloads)

How to know God. How to see God.

Ramana Maharshi: Know the Knower

Ramana’s own writing: Who Am I? (Nan Yar?) by Sri Ramana Maharshi

Q. What in brief is the means to know one’s own real nature? What is the effort that can bring about the sublime inner vision?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Strenuously withdrawing all thoughts from sense objects, one should remain fixed in steady, non-objective [ie. subjective] enquiry. This, in brief, is the means of knowing one’s own real nature; this effort alone bring about the sublime inner vision.

Sri Ramana Gita, Chapter 3, verses 4-6

The Upanishads and Vedanta

Amritabindu Upanishad:

The mind severed from all connection with sensual objects, and prevented from functioning out, awakes into the light of the heart, and finds the highest condition. The mind should be prevented from functioning, until it dissolves itself in the heart. This is Jnana, this is Dhyana, the rest is all mere concoction of untruth.

Advaita Vedanta: Gaudapada’s Method (Mandukya Upanishad Karika):

When the mind…remains unshakable and does not give rise to appearances, it verily becomes Brahman.

The controlled mind is verily the fearless Brahman.

When the mind, after realising the knowledge that Atman alone
is real, becomes free from imaginations and therefore does not
cognise anything, for want of objects to be cognised, it ceases
to be the mind.

Shankara: How to Meditate for Self-Realisation:

Dwelling on external objects will only increase evil propensities, so wisely recognising this fact, one should abandon external objects and and constantly attend to one’s true nature within, the Atman [the Self].

Katha Upanishad:

When the five organs of perception become still, together with the mind, and the intellect ceases to be active: that is called the Supreme State [Brahman]

Svetavastara Upanishad:

Be absorbed, through samadhi, in the eternal Brahman.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

The Self alone is to be meditated upon.

Mandukya Upanishad:

Mandukya Up not simple consciousness

Mandukya Up cessation of all phenomena

Om red multiple

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

132.
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.

133.
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.

134.
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