Q.408 Ramana’s ‘Who am I?’

Q: I would like to ask a question about the practice of Sri Ramana’s teachings and in particular the way of carrying out the self-enquiry ‘who am I?’

According to what I’ve seen so far regarding instructions, when a thought arises one enquires ‘to whom this thought has arisen’. If the answer to that is ‘to me’, the enquiry continues with ‘who am I?’

At this stage, the mind becomes silent. Are we supposed to remain in this silence until another thought arises or should we continue enquiring ‘who am I?’ every few seconds or so?

Would you be kind enough to clarify this for me.

A (Dennis): If you are committed to following those ideas that are frequently claimed as representing the essential teaching/method of Ramana, then I am not the best person of whom to ask these questions.

Ramana was not a traditional teacher; he was not trained in the methodology of any sampradAya. There is no doubt of his status as a j~nAnI and transcriptions of his talks show brilliant insights into many aspects. But I have to say that the ‘enquiry’ as you describe it is most unlikely to lead to Self-knowledge. I prefer to think that such practice can only lead eventually to the realization that one needs a teacher to provide the guidance via the proven succession of shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana. It is primarily an intellectual process – the mind is both the problem and the solution. You have to hear the truth, expounded in a convincing manner; ask questions to clear doubts; then repeat in whatever manner is available. Silence will not tell you anything.

I also suggest you read my article on manonAsha.

Ramana on the deep-sleep state

SInce some of the participants in discussions at this site respect the words of Ramana Maharshi above those of most other sources, I thought the following might be instructive for the present topic of the deep-sleep state.

from “Maha Yoga Or The Upanishadic Lore In The Light Of The Teachings Of Bhagavan Sri Ramana” by “Who”, SRI RAMANASRAMAM, Tiruvannamalai, 2002

The State of Deliverance is egoless. So is deep sleep. So it would seem as if one can become free by merely going to sleep. But it is not so. No one becomes free by going to sleep. When he awakes he finds himself as much in bondage as ever before. We have seen that even the Yogi, when he comes out of his trance, called Samadhi, is in the same predicament. The question is: “Why does not the sleeper, who becomes egoless in sleep, stay egoless? Why does the ego revive again on waking?”

Before we consider the answer, we may notice another feature of sleep, which we find from Revelation. Not only is sleep not the gateway to Deliverance; it is also an obstacle to It. We shall see later on that if the seeker of the Self falls asleep while engaged in the Quest, he has to begin over again on waking. Only if he keeps wide awake all the time, and persists actively in the Quest till the Revelation of the Self takes place, does he become free from bondage. We find this indicated in the third part of the Taittiriya Upanishad, where we are told that Bhrigu, who received his teaching from his father, Varuna, obtained Experience of the real Self – therein named Bliss, Ananda – straightaway from the sheath of the intellect; he did not shed that sheath and become lost in the sheath of bliss – the Anandamaya – which would have meant falling asleep. This last sheath – the causal body – is not separately transcended, but only along with the sheath of intelligence. Continue reading

Q. 386 – Has enlightenment been ‘dumbed down’?

Q: Self-Realization is a very rare occurrence – the Gita states something like 1 in a billion, and there are very few authentic, fully realized beings known to us, such as Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj and a few others, (as well as the great anonymous ones). Granted, the world has changed and everything is much faster than it was, but this cannot surely apply to self-realization. The Neo-Advaitins’ awakenings or enlightenments cannot possibly be synonymous with the self-realizations of the great sages such as Ramana and Nisargadatta? 

Also, the hallmark of the great sages such as those mentioned above is that they have a transparent, translucent quality that emanates contentment and  peace.  The Neo-Advaitin teachers that I have observed do not emanate peace, instead, they come across with their body-mind personality traits/baggage as either ‘manic’, ‘neurotic’, ‘depressed’, ‘nihilistic’, etc. The talking, and so much talking at that,  is coming from the mind, and not from “mauna”. It is more like a mixture of counseling, psychotherapy and psycho-babble rather than pragmatic Advaitin philosophy. 

So my question is … has self-realization been dumbed down and redefined by the Neo-Advaitins, or do they not claim full self-realization, but only to be ‘awakened’ or ‘enlightened’?   Tolle comes to mind and Mooji, too… the talking never stops.

Responses from Melanie, Martin, Ramesam, Charles, and Dennis Continue reading


The ‘Real I’ verses the ‘Presumed I’ – An Examination of chidAbhAsa

Ramana Maharshi’s instruction to seekers to ask themselves ‘Who am I?’ is lauded by many modern Western teachers as sufficient, on its own, to lead to enlightenment.  I suggest that this is not strictly true; that what it can do is rather to give us insight into what we are not and thereby point us in the direction of traditional teachings to learn about our real nature. It is inciting us to conduct Self-inquiry in the proven manner, i.e. by listening to a qualified teacher interpret the scriptures, rather than merely providing a mantra or formula to provide an answer directly.
An explanation of how traditional teaching can lead us to an understanding of who I am might begin with an analysis of our three states of consciousness – this is the so-called avasthA traya prakriyA of traditional advaita.
We almost certainly begin with the belief that who-I-really-am is only fully present in the waking state. In the dream state, I am not in command of my mental faculties so that the mind free-wheels outside of my control even though I am not actually unconscious. And we no doubt accept the deep sleep state as one in which mind and body rest and recuperate in order to be ready for the trials that the next day may bring. According to this interpretation, consciousness in deep sleep is in a resting state, as indicated by the lowered activity shown by EEG displays. (This view, also supported by many Western philosophers, claims that consciousness is a by-product or ‘epiphenomenon’ of the brain; an evolutionary advantageous development to enable an animal to find food and mate more efficiently than before. This is also the view of the chArvAka-s or materialists of thousands of years ago – it is certainly not new!) Continue reading

Q. 363 – Divine Grace

Q: Over the past eight years I have developed a personal relationship with a God of my understanding – or should I say with a God of my non understanding and I know that the term God is loaded and perhaps not word enough. I love God and naturally want to be with God.

 I have some experience of Hinduism and spent time studying Buddhism, I even spent time living at a Buddhist center while going about my ordinary business of work, life and family. I couldn’t continue with Buddhism even though they were wonderful people because in my heart I knew it was not the right path for me and I felt conflicted. I returned to my love of Hindu practices because it felt more right for me and over the past two years I have tried to find my way. I have deepened my understanding through reading books, internet teachings on you tube and meditation. 

 More recently I have ventured upon Advaita Vedanta and it feels right for me. However, I have no teacher and no one to ask when I have questions.  Sometimes it all gets a bit too non dual for me and I feel disconnected from the love part with all the philosophy and intellectual explanations.  I experienced the grace of God eight years ago when I was in a desperate plight and Divine Grace is an absolute for me. What I want to know is how does Grace happen, is it Brahman or Divine consciousnesses. Thank you for any time and consideration you might give to answer my question. Continue reading

What is Brahman? (Part 4)

(Read Part 3)

Leo Hartong also uses the metaphor of clouds, as thoughts, in the blue sky of ‘I am’ awareness:

“Ramana Maharshi recommended that one investigates by asking the question ‘ Who am I?’ When asked who you are, there might be a hesitation as to what to answer; but when asked if you exist, there is no such doubt. The answer is a resounding, ‘ Yes, of course I exist.’ When the answer to the first question is as clear as the answer to the second question, there is understanding.

“The realization is that both questions have in fact the same answer. That which is sure of its existence –the innermost certainty of I Am- is what you essentially are. In other words: I Am this knowing that knows that I Am. The Hindus say Tat Tvam Asi (Thou Art That). In the Old Testament, God says, ‘ I Am that I Am.’ This undeniable ‘ I Am’ is not you in the personal sense, but the universal Self. Ramana Maharshi called the fundamental oneness of ‘ I Am’ and the universal Self ‘ I-I.’ Continue reading

Q. 359 – Some potential practices

sleeperQ: As a long-time Krishnamurti fan, I often “practice” awareness (mindfulness): when a thought arises I watch it live out its life and disappear; when I sip coffee I am aware of the feel of it, the taste, the fact that I am sipping coffee, etc.

 1. Is it okay for me to continue doing this while I am studying Advaita Vedanta? (OK in the sense of not undermining the Advaita learning process.)

 2. Does Advaita hold that is valuable/beneficial to practice this kind of nonjudgmental awareness? Is there a similar practice in Advaita?

A: According to (traditional) Advaita, you are supposed to have gained sAdhana chatuShTaya before you embark upon the formal path of self-enquiry (shravaNa-manana-nididhyAsana). This includes shamAdi shakti sampatti, the sixfold ‘accomplishments’. And the first of these are shama and dama, tranquil mind and sense control. This is obviously a similar sort of idea to mindfulness. So any practice which helps bring the mind under control, so it is not thinking about something else while supposedly giving attention to Advaita, is fine. But very definitely the idea is become disciplined first, so that you can direct the whole of your attention. If you try to do it at the same time, you will end up doing neither well! Continue reading

Attending to the work


“Attending to the Self means attending to the work. Because you identify yourself with the body, you think that work is done by you. But the body and its activities, including that work, are not apart from the Self. What does it matter whether you attend to the work or not? When you walk from one place to another you do not attend to the steps you take and yet you find yourself after a time at your goal. You see how the business of walking goes on without your attending to it. So also with other kinds of work.” Ramana Maharshi

Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, David Godman, Arkana,
ISBN: 0140190627. Buy from Amazon US, Buy from Amazon UK

Beyond Stillness – Q. 331

Q : I am a “solo practitioner” of the advice of Ramana Maharshi, as I understand what I absorb of it. My enquiries move between an apophatic and cataphatic flavor.

 When I do this, I am moved to an absolute stillness. Upon ‘coming back’, there is a sensation of still not passing the barrier of stillness. I am not sure how to continue. Should I continue to practice just like this? Until I have destroyed differentiation? Should this be a lesson on what the real really is?

[Note (Dennis): Here are the meanings of those terms from my Oxford dictionary –

apophatic /ap’fatk/ – adjective Theology (of knowledge of God) obtained through negating concepts that might be applied to him. The opposite of cataphatic.

cataphatic /kat’fatk/ – adjective Theology (of knowledge of God) obtained through defining God with positive statements. The opposite of apophatic.] Continue reading

Book Extract – The Selfward Facing Way

From Chapter 3: “Knowledge Must Apply Directly to the Whole”. This is the first volume (‘Understanding’) of a two-part work by Sally Ross (the second volume will be ‘Practice’). Sally’s teacher is Claudio, whose influences include Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta, Suzuki Roshi, Ramesh, J. Krishnamurti, Shankara and Anandamayi Ma.