Sri Ramana Maharshi: Who Am I?

ioh_08_bustSri Ramana’s whole teaching is contained in the short text Who Am I? You can download it here.

In this text Sri Ramana prescribes the Jnana Yoga path (Yoga of Intellect) which he says is only suitable for mature seekers – ie those who have the ability to keenly focus on their thoughts with discrimination (viveka) and dispassion (vairagya).

For those whose minds are carried outwards by thoughts, there are other practices that cultivate interiority, subtlety and concentration, as mentioned by Sri Ramana below.

Below are snippets from the text that highlight Sri Ramana’s view that self-realisation is the result of right effort. While the Self is without effort or struggle, realising the Self requires intense personal application.

The highest form of practice is giving silent attention to ‘I Am’ – as described by Nisargadatta in the post below. However, since most seekers neither understand the instruction nor have the capacity to ‘be still’, easier practices are prescribed that make the aspirant fit and strong for such concentrated effort.

10. How will the mind become quiescent?

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.

11. What is the means for constantly holding on to the thought ‘Who am I?’

When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: ‘To whom do they arise?’ It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with diligence, “To whom has this thought arisen?”. The answer that would emerge would be “To me”. Thereupon if one inquires “Who am I?”, the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source.

12. Are there no other means for making the mind quiescent?

Other than inquiry, there are no adequate means. If through other means it is sought to control the mind, the mind will appear to be controlled, but will again go forth.

Through the control of breath also, the mind will become quiescent; but it will be quiescent only so long as the breath remains controlled, and when the breath resumes the mind also will again start moving and will wander as impelled by residual impressions.

Therefore, 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.

Through meditation on the forms of God and through repetition of mantras, the mind becomes one-pointed. The mind will always be wandering. Just as when a chain is given to an elephant to hold in its trunk it will go along grasping the chain and nothing else, so also when the mind is occupied with a name or form it will grasp that alone.

When the mind expands in the form of countless thoughts, each thought becomes weak; but as thoughts get resolved the mind becomes one-pointed and strong; for such a mind Self-inquiry will become easy.

Of all the restrictive rules, that relating to the taking of sattvic food in moderate quantities is the best; by observing this rule, the sattvic quality of mind will increase, and that will be helpful to Self-inquiry.

23. Is it any use reading books for those who long for release?

All the texts say that in order to gain release 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.

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