The Path Inwards: Sri Ramana Maharishi's Teachings on Self-Enquiry

The Path Inwards: Sri Ramana Maharishi's Teachings on Self-Enquiry

Sri Ramana Maharishi unfolds the direct path to self-realization through the profound enquiry into the Self – 'Who am I?'

This enlightening journey is elucidated in the fourteenth verse of his masterpiece 'Forty Verses on Reality' (Ulladu Narpadu). Maharishi asserts that the persistence of the first-person 'I' (the ego-sense or 'I am the body' notion) leads to the coexistence of second and third persons, 'you' and 'he'. Investigating the truth of the ego within dissolves not only the first person but also the subsequent notions, leaving only the eternal 'I AM' – the non-dual awareness, the true essence of one's being.

The 'I'-thought, as the first person, precedes and permeates the second and third persons. During deep sleep, the absence of the 'I' eliminates illusions of 'you,' 'he,' and 'the world.' Hence, the second and third persons emerge as objects born simultaneously with the subjective 'I.' In Arunachala Ashtakam, Maharishi emphasizes that without the 'I'-thought, no other thought arises. Similarly, the triputi of jiva, isvara, and jagat unfolds, with isvara and jagat appearing only after the emergence of the jiva. Individuality becomes the source of illusions, with the individual ego being the primary sprout in absolute existence.

Maharishi introduces the concept of the 'I-current' or dhara, describing it as the subtle flow from the source of the ego. In waking and dream states, the individual-'I' identifies itself with the body, assuming roles such as 'I am a man' or 'I am a sanyasi.' However, in deep sleep, devoid of such identifications, the 'I' persists as simple 'existence,' representing pure consciousness or prajnanam.


The practice of self-enquiry involves directing attention inwards and observing the pulsation of 'I.' By focusing on the sense of individuality within, the ego loses its grip and dissolves into its source. Sri Ramana Maharishi's teachings illuminate this secret path of enquiry with unparalleled simplicity and clarity. This inward quest, the mahayoga, unveils the true nature of the Self, guiding seekers to the essence of 'I' and ultimate self-realization.

This profound inward quest, as revealed by Sri Ramana Maharishi, illuminates the clear process of erasing the ego—an endeavor spoken of in scriptures across various religions. The direct path of self-realization, exemplified in the 'Who am I?' enquiry, uniquely dissolves the limited ego into the boundless expanse of the bhuma or infinity. The teachings emphasize that uncovering one's true nature is an ancient spiritual concept echoed through the ages.

Much like scientific experiments with material objects, spiritual traditions have conducted various mind experiments, positing different theories to unravel the mysteries of the mind. The supreme knowledge of merging the ego into absolute consciousness, as discussed in scriptures like the Yoga Vasishta, has been a secret science transmitted through the guru-sishya parampara. The tradition holds that the power of grace, rahastarpana tarpita—secretly transmitted—functions only when directly received from the Guru. Sri Ramana Maharishi, in revealing this ancient secret, may have responded to the sincere yearning of seekers, making this timeless wisdom accessible to all.

While Maharishi has brought this method into the open, its efficacy relies on the seeker's devotion and sincerity in invoking the grace of the Guru. Focused attention on the ego-'I' through the 'Who am I?' enquiry leads to the dissolution of all identifications, unveiling pure existence within the heart, where the infinite shines forth. The eternal, conscious reality—the real Self—radiates as 'I-I'. Recognizing the Self as 'I AM' and steadfastly abiding in this ego-less state establishes one in sahajatmanishta—a natural abidance in the Self, free from limitations born of body or mind identification.

The teaching methodology of Sri Ramana Maharishi often drew inspiration from ancient stories, such as the narrative of Nidagha and the sage Ribhu. This tale vividly illustrates how a Master guides a seeker to realization. Nidagha, initially not considered ripe for self-realization, goes on to live a worldly life and eventually encounters Ribhu in disguise. The ensuing conversation serves as a profound spiritual inquiry, highlighting the transformative power of self-realization and the grace bestowed upon a sincere seeker by a compassionate Master.

Nochur Sri venkataram
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