Who am I? The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
This is the quintessential, aphoristic work, constituting one of the earliest recordings of the Maharshi s teachings, that spells out the nature of the Self and the practice of Self-Inquiry.
The text begins as follows:
All living beings desire to be happy always, without any misery. In everyone there is observed supreme love for oneself. And happiness alone is the cause of love. In order therefore, to gain that happiness which is one’s nature and which is experienced in the state of deep sleep, where there is no mind, one should know oneself. To achieve this, the Path of Knowledge, the enquiry in the form of ‘Who Am I?’ is the principal means.
Introduction to Ramana Maharshi & Who Am I?
Who is Ramana Maharshi?
Ramana Maharshi was an Indian sage and jivanmukta (liberated being). He was born named Venkataraman Iyer, but he is most commonly known by the name Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.(1)
At the age of 16, he had a “death-experience” where he became aware of a “current” or “force” (avesam) which he recognised as his true “I” or “self”, and which he later identified with “the personal God, or Iswara, that is, Shiva.(1)
Six weeks later he journeyed to the holy mountain Arunachala where he took on the role of a sannyasin (though not formally initiated), and remained for the rest of his life.(1)
About Who Am I?
“Who am I? is the title given to a set of questions and answers bearing on Self-enquiry.”
“The questions were put to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by Sri M. Sivaprakasam Pillai, about the year 1902…This record was first published by Sri Pillai in 1923 (in the original Tamil), along with a couple of poems composed by himself relating how Bhagavan’s grace operated in his case by dispelling his doubts and by saving him from a crisis in life.”
“Along with Self-Enquiry, Who am I? constitutes the first set of instructions in the Master’s own words. These two are the only prose pieces among Bhagavan’s works. They clearly set forth the central teaching that the direct path to liberation is Self-enquiry.”
“The mind consists of thoughts. The ‘I’-thought is the first to arise in the mind. When the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ is persistently pursued, all other thoughts get destroyed, and finally the ‘I’-thought itself vanishes leaving the supreme non-dual Self alone. The false identification of the Self with the phenomena of non-self such as the body and mind, thus ends, and there is illumination”
The Ultimate Question: Who am I?
- On the World
“The world should be considered like a dream.”
“Waking is long and dream short; other than this there is no difference. Just as waking happenings seem real while awake, so do those in a dream while dreaming. In dream the mind takes on another body. In both waking and dream states thoughts, names and forms occur simultaneously.”
- On Mind
“What is called ‘mind’ is a wondrous power residing in the Self. It causes all thoughts to arise. Apart from thoughts, there is no such thing as mind. Therefore, thought is the nature of mind. Apart from thoughts, there is no independent entity called the world.“
“That which rises as ‘I’ in this body is the mind. If one inquires as to where in the body the thought ‘I’ rises first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. That is the place of the mind’s origin. Even if one thinks constantly ‘I-I’, one will be led to that place. Of all the thoughts that arise in the mind, the ‘I’-thought is the first. It is only after the rise of this that the other thoughts arise.“
“Not letting the mind go out, but retaining it in the Heart is what is called ‘inwardness’ (antarmukha). Letting the mind go out of the Heart is known as ‘externalisation’ (bahirmukha). Thus, when the mind stays in the Heart, the ‘I’ which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self which ever exists will shine. Whatever one does, one should do without the egoity ‘I’. If one acts in that way, all will appear as of the nature of Siva (God).“
“There are not two minds – one good and the other evil; the mind is only one. It is the residual impressions that are of two kinds – auspicious and inauspicious. When the mind is under the influence of auspicious impressions it is called good; and when it is under the influence of inauspicious impressions it is regarded as evil.”
- Who Am I?
“As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the inquiry ‘Who am I?’ is required. As thoughts arise they should be destroyed then and there in the very place of their origin, through inquiry. If one resorts to contemplation of the Self unintermittently, until the Self is gained, that alone would do. As long as there are enemies within the fortress, they will continue to sally forth; if they are destroyed as they emerge, the fortress will fall into our hands.“
“The gross body…I am not; the five cognitive sense organs…I am not; the five cognative sense organs…I am not; the five vital airs…I am not; even the mind which thinks, I am not; the nescience too, which is endowed only with the residual impressions of objects and in which there are no objects and no functionings, I am not.”
“After negating all of the above mentioned as ‘not this’, ‘not this’, that Awareness which alone remains – that I am.”
“The nature of Awareness is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.”
“Inquiry consists in retaining the mind in the Self. Meditation consists in thinking that one’s self is Brahman, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.”
- On Self-Realization
“By the inquiry ‘Who am I?’. The thought ‘Who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.“
“When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer.”
“When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.“
- On Self
“When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears (to be real), the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears (shines) the world does not appear. When one persistently inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self (as the residue). What is referred to as the Self is the Atman.“
“What exists in truth is the Self alone. The world, the individual soul and God are appearances in it, like silver in mother-of-pearl; these three appear at the same time and disappear at the same time. The Self is that where there is absolutely no ‘I’-thought. That is called ‘Silence’. The Self itself is the world; the Self itself is ‘I’; the Self itself is God; all is Siva, the Self.“
“Giving one’s self up to God means remaining constantly in the Self without giving room for the rise of any thoughts other than that of the Self.”
- On Liberation
“Each one should, by his own effort pursue the path shown by God or Guru and gain liberation. One can know oneself only with one’s own eye of knowledge, and not with somebody else’s.“
“God and the Guru will only show the way to liberation; they will not by themselves take the soul to the state of liberation.”
“Inquiring into the nature of one’s self that is in bondage, and realising one’s true nature is liberation.”
“All the texts say that in order to gain liberation one should render the mind quiescent; therefore their conclusive teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent; once this has been understood there is no need for endless reading. In order to quieten the mind one has only to inquire within oneself what one’s Self is; how could this search be done in books? One should know one’s Self with one’s own eye of wisdom. The Self is within the five sheaths; but books are outside them. Since the Self has to be inquired into by discarding the five sheaths, it is futile to search for it in books. There will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned.“
- God & Nature
“Whatever burdens are thrown on God, He bears them. Since the supreme power of God makes all things move, why should we, without submitting ourselves to it, constantly worry ourselves with thoughts as to what should be done and how, and what should not be done and how not? We know that the train carries all loads, so after getting on it why should we carry our small luggage on our head to our discomfort, instead of putting it down in the train and feeling at ease?”
“Without desire, resolve, or effort, the sun rises; and in its mere presence, the sunstone 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.”
- On Wisdom
“Remaining quiet is what is called wisdom-insight. To remain quiet is to resolve the mind in the Self.”
“Desirelessness is wisdom. The two are not different; they are the same. Desirelessness is refraining from turning the mind towards any object. Wisdom means the appearance of no object. In other words, not seeking what is other than the Self is detachment or desirelessness; not leaving the Self is wisdom.”
- On Non-Attachment
“As thoughts arise, destroying them utterly without any residue in the very place of their origin is non-attachment. Just as the pearl-diver ties a stone to his waist, sinks to the bottom of the sea and there takes the pearls, so each one of us should be endowed with non-attachment, dive within oneself and obtain the Self-Pearl.”
- On Happiness
“Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no happiness in any object of the world. We imagine through our ignorance that we derive happiness from objects. When the mind goes out, it experiences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled, it returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the states of sleep, samadhi and fainting, and when the object desired is obtained or the object disliked is removed, the mind becomes inward-turned, and enjoys pure Self-Happiness.”
“Thus the mind moves without rest alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, revolves in the world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact, what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e., when there is no thought, the mind experiences happiness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.”
- On Compassion
“The mind should not be allowed to wander towards worldly objects and what concerns other people. However bad other people may be, one should bear no hatred for them. Both desire and hatred should be eschewed. All that one gives to others one gives to one’s self. If this truth is understood who will not give to others? When one’s self arises all arises; when one’s self becomes quiescent all becomes quiescent. To the extent we behave with humility, to that extent there will result good. If the mind is rendered quiescent, one may live anywhere.“
- On Breath Control
“The exercise of breath control is only an aid for rendering the mind quiescent (manonigraha); it will not destroy the mind (manonasa).”
“Like the practice of breath control, meditation on the forms of God, repetition of mantras, restriction on food, etc., are but aids for rendering the mind quiescent.”