In Satsang this week some people were asking about the relationship between the breath and Self-Enquiry – this prompted me to put the following verses and videos together which hopefully gives the full context for the teachings.
The Breath and Self-Enquiry
229. If one takes to Self-attention, the practice of keenly observing only the consciousness ‘I’, then one need not perform any other practice (sadhana). But let those who cannot take to this practice of Self Attention from the very outset, practice for a short while either repetition of mantras (japa) or watching of the movement of the breath, and then let them give up all such practices and cling only to Self Attention.
231. For those who attend keenly to both the inward-going and the outward-coming movements of the breath, the length of both these movements will decrease, and within a short time the breath will be rising and subsiding only within a very slight manner. If they attain this state, it is a sufficient sign (to show that the agitated activity of the mind has decreased). (Therefore at that stage let them give up attending to the breath, and let them attend instead only to the Self.)
234. Relating to the breath, there are two suitable methods of practice (sadhana): one method is, after watching the movements of the breath for a short while, in order that the raging activity of the wavering mind may subside, to leave that breath attention and to engage in Self-attention. The other method is to attend within oneself to the one power that draws in and pushes out the breath, knowing that that one power is not other than the consciousness ‘I’. For some people these methods are appropriate.
The True Path
230. The path that Sadguru Sri Ramana was for fifty-four years repeatedly teaching to us for our salvation was only this primary practice of Self-Attention. Know that the practice of watching the breath was only one among the hundreds of thousands of other methods that He taught so as to guide on the path towards salvation even those people who were not ready to come to the path of Self-inquiry, which alone was His principle teaching.
236. For those who listen and pay heed to what Sri Ramana Bhagavan has said, the path of Self Inquiry is very easy. Only to those who ask, ‘What is this path? What is that path?’, having already confused their mind by learning so much, does it become necessary to teach all the other superficial and extroverted methods of sadhana saying, ‘First subdue the breath (by practicing pranayama), subdue the tongue (by observing silence), and subdue the mischief of the mind (by practicing meditation).’
Developing One-Pointedness through Self-Attention
238. If the mind practices any one thing incessantly, it will naturally gain one-pointedness in that one thing. However, rather than any external object, the first person consciousness ‘I’ is alone the most worthy thing for the mind to have as the target of its attention, is it not? By taking any second person object, such as the movement of the breath, or the right side of the chest, as the target of its attention, the mind will attain only a state of temporary absorption in that object.
239. The state in which the mind, by the strength of practice (abhyasa-bala), abides or immerses itself in the attention to any second person object, however exalted that object may be, is only a state of temporary absorption of the mind (manolaya). On the other hand, by abiding in the state of Self-attention, the natural state of true awakening, the state of destruction of the mind (mano-nasa) will be attained. Since this natural state of Self Knowledge alone is our goal, cling firmly only to this flawless practice (sadhana), or incessantly thinking ‘I, I’.
240. The one-pointedness of mind, which is gained by the practice of repetition of a mantra (japa) or meditation (dhyana), will also be gained by practicing Self-inquiry; but in a very easy manner without the need of any restriction or restraint, such as those that are to be observed while practicing other methods of practice (sadhana). Rather than the common existence-consciousness ‘I am’, which is always experienced by all people, what more worthy and easy target of attention (dhyana-lakshana) is now needed?
241. Whatever kind of person they may be, everyone says, ‘I am’; so what obstacle can there be for anyone to attend unceasingly to that Self- consciousness ‘I am?’ Therefore, without giving room for even an iota of doubt, attend with love and joy only to your own being.
The above verses are taken from the wonderfully clarifying text Sadhanai Saram by Sri Sadhu Om, a direct devotee of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. You can read the entire text here.
‘Therefore, without giving room for even an iota of doubt, attend with love and joy only to your own being.‘