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Self-Enquiry (Vicharasangraham) of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Who Am I, Nan Yar, Teachings of Ramana Bhagavan, Gems from Bhagavan, Theory of Self Enquiry, Practice of Self Enquiry, What is Self-Enquiry, Self Enquiry Articles, Atma Vichara, Self Enquiry Practice, Self Enquiry Meditation, Hindu Spiritual Articles Hindu Spiritual Articles and Videos
OF BHAGAVAN SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI
Published by Sri Ramanasramam, India
Translation by Dr. T. M. P. Mahadevan from the original Tamil
The present work in prose consists of forty questions with answers
covering the entire range of spiritual disciplines required for the
gaining of release (moksha). The questioner was Gambhiram Seshayya, one
of the early devotees of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. He was a
Municipal Overseer at Tiruvannamalai about 1900. Besides being an
ardent Ramabhakta (worshipper of Rama) he was interested in the study
and practice of Yoga. He used to read Swami Vivekananda's lectures on
the different yoga's as also an English translation of the Rama-gita.
For resolving the difficulties which he came across while studying
these books and in his spiritual practices, he approached Bhagavan Sri
Ramana from time to time. Bhagavan, who was only twenty-one years old,
was then living in Virupaksha cave on Arunachala Hill. As he was
keeping silent at the time he wrote out his answers to Seshayya's
questions on bits of paper. These writings over the period 1900-1902
were later copied in a note-book by Seshayya. The material thus
gathered was published by Sri Ramanasramam under the little
Vichara-sangraham which literally means 'A Compendium of Self-Enquiry.'
A digest of the teaching contained in this work was later printed in
English bearing the title 'Self-Enquiry'. In that English version, the
questions were omitted and the substance of Bhagavan's teaching was
given, classifying it in twelve short chapters with appropriate
headings. The present English translation is of the entire original
text Vichara-sangraham as it is in Tamil.
The Vichara-sangraham has unique value in the sense that it constitutes
the first set of instructions given by Bhagavan in his own handwriting.
A careful study of the instructions given by Bhagavan here will reveal
that they are based on his own plenary experience as confirmed by the
sacred texts which were brought to his notice by the early devotees and
which he perused for the purpose of clearing the doubts that arose in
the minds of the devotees. In the course of his instructions, Bhagavan
makes use of such expressions as, 'the scriptures declare', 'thus say
the sages,' etc.; he also cites passages from texts like the
Bhagavad-gita and the Vivekachudamani and once he mentions by name the
Ribhu-gita. But it is quite clear that these citations are offered only
as confirmations of the truth discovered by Bhagavan himself in his own
The basic teaching is that of Advaita-Vedanta. The plenary experience
of the non-dual Self is the goal; enquiry into the nature of the self
is the means. When the mind identifies the self with the not-self (the
body, etc.), there is bondage; when this wrong identification is
removed through the enquiry 'Who am I?' there is release. Thus,
Self-enquiry is the direct path taught by Bhagavan Ramana.
The 'I'-experience is common to all. Of all thoughts, the 'I'-thought
is the first to arise. What one has to do is to enquire into the source
of the 'I'-thought. This is the reverse process of what ordinarily
happens in the life of the mind. The mind enquires into the
constitution and source of everything else which, on examination, will
be found to be its own projection; it does not reflect on itself and
trace itself to its source.
Self-discovery can be achieved by giving the mind an inward turn. This
is not to be confused with the introspection of which the psychologists
speak. Self-enquiry is not the mind's inspection of its own contents;
it is tracing the mind's first mode, the 'I'-thought to its source
which is the Self.
When there is proper and persistent enquiry, the 'I'-thought also
ceases and there is the wordless illumination of the form 'I'-'I' which
is the pure consciousness. This is release, freedom from bondage. The
method by which this is accomplished, as has been shown, is enquiry
which, in Vedanta, is termed jnana, knowledge.
True devotion (bhakti), meditation (dhyana), and concentration (yoga)
are identical therewith. As Bhagavan makes it perfectly clear, not to
forget the plenary Self-experience is real devotion, mind-control,
knowledge, and all other austerities. In the language of devotion, the
final goal may be described as the resolution of the mind in its source
which is God, the Self, in that of technical yoga, it may be described
as the dissolution of the mind in the Heart-lotus. These are only
different ways of expressing the same truth.
The path of Self-enquiry is found difficult by those who have not
acquired the necessary competence for it. The mind should first be
rendered pure and one-pointed. This is done through meditation, etc.
So, the various paths, in their secondary sense, are auxiliaries to the
direct path which is Self-enquiry.
In this context, Bhagavan refers to three grades of aspirants: the
highest, the medium, and the lowest. For the highest type of aspirants,
the path prescribed is Vedanta enquiry; through this path, the mind
becomes quiescent in the Self and finally ceases to be, leaving the
pure Self-experience untarnished and resplendent.
The path for the medium is meditation on the Self; meditation consists
in directing a continuous flow of the mind towards the same object;
there are several modes of meditation; the best mode is that which is
of the form 'I am the Self'; this mode eventually culminates in
For the lowest grade of aspirants, the discipline that is useful is
breath-control which in turn results in mind control.
Bhagavan explains the difference between jnana-yoga (path of knowledge)
and dhyana-yoga (path of meditation) thus: jnana is like subduing a
self-willed bull by coaxing it with the help of a sheaf of green grass,
while dhyana is like controlling it by using force. Just as there are
eight limbs for dhyana-yoga, there are eight for jnana-yoga. The limbs
of the latter are more proximate to the final stage than those of the
former. For instance, while the pranayama of technical yoga consists in
regulating and restraining breath, the pranayama that is a limb of
jnana relates to rejecting the name-and-form world which is non-real
and realizing the Real which is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
Realization of the Self can be gained in this very life. In fact,
Self-realization is not something which is to be gained afresh. We are
already the Self; the Self alone is. It is ignorance that makes us
imagine that we have not realized the Self. When this ignorance is
removed through Self-knowledge, we realize our eternal Self-nature.
One who has gained this realization is called a jivan-mukta (liberated
while living). To others, he may appear to continue to tenant a body.
For the benefit of those others it is stated that the body will
continue so long as the residue of the prarabdha-karma (that karma of
the past which has begun to fructify in the shape of the present body)
lasts, and that when the momentum is spent the body will fall and the
jivan-mukta will become a videha-mukta. But from the standpoint of the
absolute truth, there is no difference in mukti. What needs to be
understood is that mukti or release is the inalienable nature of the
This, in substance, is Bhagavan Sri Ramana's teaching in the
University Of Madras.
T. M. P. MAHADEVAN
November 15, 1965.
Note to the Eighth Edition
The earliest edition of this work in Question-Answer form, I have come
across, is dated 1930, published by A. Shivalinga Mudaliyar and V.
Subrahmanya Achari and printed at Saravana Bava Press, Madras. This
bears a foreword by Muruganar which is dated June 16th, 1930. It is
mentioned in the foreword that it was Natanananda that edited the work
in Question-Answer form. In his preface, Natanananda observes that the
work contains the teachings given in writing by Bhagavan Ramana to
Gambhiram Seshayya in the years 1901-1902. It is in the Question-Answer
form that this work is included in the 'Collected Works' in Tamil, in
its early editions, published by the Asramam. In the third edition
published in 1940, as well as in subsequent editions, the Self-Enquiry
appears in the form of a digest. In the footnote that occurs at the end
of the Publisher's Note, it is stated that the manuscript copy given by
Gambhiram Seshayya's brother was edited by Shivaprakasam Pillai, and
was put into Question-Answer form by Natanananda.
T. M. P. MAHADEVAN
January 18, 1971.
Is there any way of adoring the Supreme which is all, except by abiding
firmly as that!
Disciple: Master! What is the means to gain the state of eternal bliss,
ever devoid of misery?
Master: Apart from the statement in the Veda that wherever there is
body there is misery, this is also the direct experience of all people;
therefore, one should enquire into one's true nature which is ever
bodiless, and one should remain as such. This is the means to gaining
Disciple: What is meant by saying that one should enquire into one's
true nature and understand it?
Master: Experiences such as "I went; I came; I was; I did" come
naturally to everyone. From these experiences, does it not appear that
the consciousness "I" is the subject of those various acts? Enquiry
into the true nature of that consciousness, and remaining as oneself is
the way to understand, through enquiry, one's true nature.
Disciple: How is one to enquire: "Who am I?"
Master: Actions such as 'going' and 'coming' belong only to the body.
And so, when one says "I went, I came", it amounts to saying that the
body is "I". But, can the body be said to be the consciousness "I",
since the body was not before it was born, is made up of the five
elements, is non-existent in the state of deep sleep, and becomes a
corpse when dead? Can this body which is inert like a log of wood be
said to shine as "I" "I"? Therefore, the "I" consciousness which at
first arises in respect of the body is referred to variously as
self-conceit (tarbodham), egoity (ahankara), nescience (avidya), maya,
impurity (mala), and individual soul (jiva) .
Can we remain without enquiring into this? Is it not for our redemption
through enquiry that all the scriptures declare that the destruction of
"self-conceit" is release (mukti)? Therefore, making the corpse-body
remain as a corpse, and not even uttering the word "I", one should
enquire keenly thus: "Now, what is it that rises as 'I'". Then, there
would shine in the Heart a kind of wordless illumination of the form
'I' 'I'. That is, there would shine of its own accord the pure
consciousness which is unlimited and one, the limited and the many
thoughts having disappeared. If one remains quiescent without
abandoning that (experience), the egoity, the individual sense, of the
form 'I am the body' will be totally destroyed, and at the end the
final thought, viz. the 'I'-form also will be quenched like the fire
that burns camphor (without leaving any sediment). The great sages and
scriptures declare that this alone is release.
Disciple: When one enquires into the root of 'self conceit' which is of
the form 'I', all sorts of different thoughts without number seem to
rise; and not any separate 'I' thought.
Master: Whether the nominative case, which is the first case, appears
or not, the sentences in which the other cases appear have as their
basis the first case; similarly, all the thoughts that appear in the
heart have as their basis the egoity which is the first mental mode
'I', the cognition of the form 'I am the body'; thus, it is the rise of
egoity that is the cause and source of the rise of all other thoughts;
therefore, if the self-conceit of the form of egoity which is the root
of the illusory tree of samsara (bondage consisting of transmigration)
is destroyed, all other thoughts will perish completely like an
uprooted tree. Whatever thoughts arise as obstacles to one's sadhana
(spiritual discipline) - the mind should not be allowed to go in their
direction, but should be made to rest in one's self which is the Atman;
one should remain as witness to whatever happens, adopting the attitude
'Let whatever strange things happen, happen; let us see!' This should
be one's practice. In other words, one should not identify oneself with
appearances; one should never relinquish one's self.
This is the proper means for destruction of the mind (manonasa) which
is of the nature of seeing the body as self, and which is the cause of
all the aforesaid obstacles. This method which easily destroys egoity
deserves to be called devotion (bhakti), meditation (dhyana),
concentration (yoga), and knowledge (jnana). Because God remains of the
nature of the Self, shining as 'I' in the heart, because the scriptures
declare that thought itself is bondage, the best discipline is to stay
quiescent without ever forgetting Him (God, the Self), after resolving
in Him the mind which is of the form of the 'I'-thought, no matter by
what means. This is the conclusive teaching of the Scriptures.
Disciple: Is enquiry only the means for removal of the false belief of
selfhood in the gross body, or is it also the means for removal of the
false belief of selfhood in the subtle and causal bodies?
Master: It is on the gross body that the other bodies subsist. In the
false belief of the form "I am the body" are included all the three
bodies consisting of the five sheaths. And destruction of the false
belief of selfhood in the gross body is itself the destruction of the
false belief of selfhood in the other bodies. So inquiry is the means
to removal of the false belief of selfhood in all the three bodies.
Disciple: While there are different modifications of the internal
organ, viz. manas (reflection), buddhi (intellect), chitta (memory) and
ahankara (egoity), how can it be said that the destruction of the mind
alone is release?
Master: In the books explaining the nature of the mind, it is thus
stated: "The mind is formed by the concretion of the subtle portion of
the food we eat; it grows with the passions such as attachment and
aversion, desire and anger; being the aggregate of mind, intellect,
memory and egoity, it receives the collective singular name 'mind', the
characteristics that it bears are thinking, determining, etc.; since it
is an object of consciousness (the self), it is what is seen, inert;
even though inert, it appears as if conscious because of association
with consciousness (like a red-hot iron ball); it is limited,
non-eternal, partite, and changing like wax, gold, candle, etc.; it is
of the nature of all elements (of phenomenal existence); its locus is
the heart-lotus even as the loci of the sense of sight, etc., are the
eyes, etc.; it is the adjunct of the individual soul thinking of an
object, it transforms itself into a mode, and along with the knowledge
that is in the brain, it flows through the five sense-channels, gets
joined to objects by the brain (that is associated with knowledge), and
thus knows and experiences objects and gains satisfaction. That
substance is the mind". Even as one and the same person is called by
different names according to the different functions he performs, so
also one and the same mind is called by the different names: mind,
intellect, memory, and egoity, on account of the difference in the
modes - and not because of any real difference. The mind itself is of
the form of all, i.e. of soul, God and world; when it becomes of the
form of the Self through knowledge there is release, which is of the
nature of Brahman: this is the teaching.
Disciple: If these four - mind, intellect, memory and egoity - are one
and the same why are separate locations mentioned for them?
Master: It is true that the throat is stated to be the location of the
mind, the face or the heart of the intellect, the navel of the memory,
and the heart or sarvanga of the egoity; though differently stated thus
yet, for the aggregate of these, that is the mind or internal organ,
the location is the heart alone. This is conclusively declared in the
Disciple: Why is it said that only the mind which is the internal
organ, shines as the form of all, that is of soul, God and world?
Master: As instruments for knowing the objects the sense organs are
outside, and so they are called outer senses; and the mind is called
the inner sense because it is inside. But the distinction between inner
and outer is only with reference to the body; in truth, there is
neither inner or outer. The mind's nature is to remain pure like ether.
What is referred to as the heart or the mind is the collocation of the
elements (of phenomenal existence) that appear as inner and outer. So
there is no doubt that all phenomena consisting of names and forms are
of the nature of mind alone. All that appear outside are in reality
inside and not outside; it is in order to teach this that in the Vedas
also all have been described as of the nature of the heart. What is
called the heart is no other than Brahman.
Disciple: How can it be said that the heart is no other than Brahman?
Master: Although the self enjoys its experiences in the states of
waking, dream, and deep sleep, residing respectively in the eyes,
throat and heart, in reality, however, it never leaves its principal
seat, the heart. In the heart-lotus which is of the nature of all, in
other words in the mind-ether, the light of that self in the form 'I'
shines. As it shines thus in everybody, this very self is referred to
as the witness (sakshi) and the transcendent (turiya literally the
fourth). The 'I'-less supreme Brahman which shines in all bodies as
interior to the light in the form 'I' is the Self-ether (or
knowledge-ether): that alone is the absolute Reality. This is the
super-transcendent (turiyatita). Therefore, it is stated that what is
called the heart is no other than Brahman. Moreover, for the reason
that Brahman shines in the hearts of all souls as the Self, the name
'Heart' is given to Brahman*. The meaning of the word hridayam, when
split thus 'hrit-ayam', is in fact Brahman. The adequate evidence for
the fact that Brahman, which shines as the self, resides in the hearts
of all is that all people indicate themselves by pointing to the chest
when saying 'I'.
Disciple: If the entire universe is of the form of mind, then does it
not follow that the universe is an illusion? If that be the case, why
is the creation of the universe mentioned in the Veda?
Master: There is no doubt whatsoever that the universe is the merest
illusion. The principal purport of the Veda is to make known the true
Brahman, after showing the apparent universe to be false. It is for
this purpose that the Vedas admit the creation of the world and not for
any other reason. Moreover, for the less qualified persons creation is
taught, that is the phased evolution of prakriti (primal nature),
mahat-tattva (the great intellect), tanmatras (the subtle essences),
bhutas (the gross elements), the world, the body, etc., from Brahman:
while for the more qualified simultaneous creation is taught, that is,
that this world arose like a dream on account of one's own thoughts
induced by the defect of not knowing oneself as the Self. Thus, from
the fact that the creation of the world has been described in different
ways it is clear that the purport of the Vedas rests only in teaching
the true nature of Brahman after showing somehow or other the illusory
nature of the universe. That the world is illusory, every one can
directly know in the state of realization which is in the form of
experience of one's bliss-nature.
Disciple: Is Self-experience possible for the mind, whose nature is
Master: Since sattva-guna (the constituent of prakriti which makes for
purity, intelligence, etc.) is the nature of mind, and since the mind
is pure and undefiled like ether, what is called mind is, in truth, of
the nature of knowledge. When it stays in that natural (i.e. pure)
state, it has not even the name 'mind'. It is only the erroneous
knowledge which mistakes one for another that is called mind. What was
(originally) the pure sattva mind, of the nature of pure knowledge,
forgets its knowledge-nature on account of nescience, gets transformed
into the world under the influence of tamo-guna (i.e. the constituent
of prakriti which makes for dullness, inertness, etc.), being under the
influence of rajo-guna (i.e. the constituent of prakriti which makes
for activity, passions, etc.), imagines "I am the body, etc.; the world
is real", it acquires the consequent merit and demerit through
attachment, aversion, etc., and, through the residual impressions
(vasanas) thereof, attains birth and death. But the mind, which has got
rid of its defilement (sin) through action without attachment performed
in many past lives, listens to the teaching of scripture from a true
guru, reflects on its meaning, and meditates in order to gain the
natural state of the mental mode of the form of the Self, i.e. of the
form 'I am Brahman' which is the result of the continued contemplation
of Brahman. Thus will be removed the mind's transformation into the
world in the aspect of tamo-guna, and its roving therein in the aspect
of rajo-guna. When this removal takes place the mind becomes subtle and
unmoving. It is only by the mind that is impure and is under the
influence of rajas and tamas that Reality (i.e. the Self) which is very
subtle and unchanging cannot be experienced; just as a piece of fine
silk cloth cannot be stitched with a heavy crowbar, or as the details
of subtle objects cannot be distinguished by the light of a lamp flame
that flickers in the wind. But in the pure mind that has been rendered
subtle and unmoving by the meditation described above, the Self-bliss
(i.e. Brahman) will become manifest. As without mind there cannot be
experience, it is possible for the purified mind endowed with the
extremely subtle mode (vritti) to experience the Self-bliss, by
remaining in that form (i.e. in the form of Brahman). Then, that one's
self is of the nature of Brahman will be clearly experienced.
Disciple: Is the aforesaid Self-experience possible, even in the state
of empirical existence, for the mind which has to perform functions in
accordance with its prarabdha (the past karma which has begun to
Master: A Brahmin may play various parts in a drama; yet the thought
that he is a Brahmin does not leave his mind. Similarly, when one is
engaged in various empirical acts there should be the firm conviction
"I am the Self", without allowing the false idea "I am the body, etc."
to rise. If the mind should stray away from its state, then immediately
one should enquire, "Oh! Oh! We are not the body etc.! Who are we?" and
thus one should reinstate the mind in that (pure) state. The enquiry
"Who am I?" is the principal means to the removal of all misery and the
attainment of the supreme bliss. When in this manner the mind becomes
quiescent in its own state, Self-experience arises of its own accord,
without any hindrance. Thereafter sensory pleasures and pains will not
affect the mind. All (phenomena) will appear then, without attachment,
like a dream. Never forgetting one's plenary Self-experience is real
bhakti (devotion), yoga (mind-control), jnana (knowledge) and all other
austerities. Thus say the sages.
Disciple: When there is activity in regard to works, we are neither the
agents of those works nor their enjoyers. The activity is of the three
instruments (i.e., the mind, speech, and body). Could we remain
(unattached) thinking thus?
Master: After the mind has been made to stay in the Self which is its
Deity, and has been rendered indifferent to empirical matters because
it does not stray away from the Self, how can the mind think as
mentioned above? Do not such thoughts constitute bondage? When such
thoughts arise due to residual impressions (vasanas), one should
restrain the mind from flowing that way, endeavour to retain it in the
Self-state, and make it turn indifferent to empirical matters. One
should not give room in the mind for such thoughts as: "Is this good?
Or, is that good? Can this be done? Or, can that be done?" One should
be vigilant even before such thoughts arise and make the mind stay in
its native state. If any little room is given, such a (disturbed) mind
will do harm to us while posing as our friend; like the foe appearing
to be a friend, it will topple us down. Is it not because one forgets
one's Self that such thoughts arise and cause more and more evil? While
it is true that to think through discrimination, "I do not do anything;
all actions are performed by the instruments", is a means to prevent
the mind from flowing along thought vasanas, does it not also follow
that only if the mind flows along thought vasanas that it must be
restrained through discrimination as stated before? Can the mind that
remains in the Self-state think as 'I' and as 'I behave empirically
thus and thus'? In all manner of ways possible one should endeavour
gradually not to forget one's (true) Self that is God. If that is
accomplished, all will be accomplished. The mind should not be directed
to any other matter. Even though one may perform, like a mad person,
the actions that are the result of prarabdha-karma, one should retain
the mind in the Self-state without letting the thought 'I do' arise.
Have not countless bhaktas (devotees) performed their numerous
empirical functions with an attitude of indifference?
Disciple: What is the real purpose of sannyasa (renunciation)?
Master: Sannyasa is only the renunciation of the 'I' thought, and not
the rejection of the external objects. He who has renounced (the "I"
thought) thus remains the same whether he is alone or in the midst of
the extensive samsara (empirical world). Just as when the mind is
concentrated on some object, it does not observe other things even
though they may be proximate, so also, although the sage may perform
any number of empirical acts, in reality he performs nothing, because
he makes the mind rest in the Self without letting the 'I' thought
arise. Even as in a dream one appears to fall head downwards, while in
reality one is unmoving, so also the ignorant person, i.e., the person
for whom the 'I' thought has not ceased, although he remains alone in
constant meditation, is in fact one who performs all empirical actions.
Thus the wise ones have said.
Disciple: The mind, sense-organs, etc., have the ability to perceive;
yet why are they regarded as perceived objects?
Master: Drik -
Drisya - (Known object)
Pot (i.e. the seen object)
2. The eye
Body, Pot, etc.
3. The sense of
The eye organ
The sense of sight
5. The individual
6. Consciousness (the
The individual soul
As shown in the above scheme, since we, the consciousness, know all
objects, we are said to be drik (knower). The categories ending with
pot are the objects seen, since they are what are known. In the table
of 'knowledge: ignorance (i.e. knower-known)' given above, among the
knowers and objects of knowledge, it is seen that one is knower in
relation to another; yet, since that one is object in relation to
another, none of those categories is, in reality, the knower. Although
we are said to be the 'knower' because we know all, and not the 'known'
because we are not known by anything else, we are said to be the
'knower' only in relation to the known objects. In truth, however, what
is called the 'known' is not apart from us. And so we are the Reality
that transcends those two (the knower and the known). All the others
fall within the knower-known categories.
Disciple: How do egoity, soul, self, and Brahman come to be identified?
2. The heated
The soul which appears as a superimposition on the Self
3. The fire that is
The light of consciousness, i.e. the immutable
Brahman, which shines in the soul in everybody
4. The flame of fire
The all pervading Brahman which remains as one
From the examples given above, it will be clear how egoity, soul,
witness, and All-witness come to be identified.
Just as in the wax-lump that is with the smith numerous and varied
metal-particles lie included and all of them appear to be one wax-lump,
so also in deep sleep the gross and subtle bodies of all the individual
souls are included in the cosmic maya which is nescience, of the nature
of sheer darkness, and since the souls are resolved in the Self
becoming one with it, they see everywhere darkness alone. From the
darkness of sleep, the subtle body, viz. egoity, and from that (egoity)
the gross body arise respectively. Even as the egoity arises, it
appears superimposed on the nature of the Self, like the heated
iron-ball. Thus, without the soul (jiva) which is the mind or egoity
that is conjoined with the Consciousness-light, there is no witness of
the soul, viz. the Self, and without the Self there is no Brahman that
is the All-witness. Just as when the iron ball is beaten into various
shapes by the smith, the fire that is in it does not change thereby in
any manner, even so the soul may be involved in ever so many
experiences and undergo pleasures and pains, and yet the Self-light
that is in it does not change in the least thereby, and like the ether
it is the all-pervasive pure knowledge that is one, and it shines in
the heart as Brahman.
Disciple: How is one to know that in the heart the Self itself shines
Master: Just as the elemental ether within the flame of a lamp is known
to fill without any difference and without any limit both the inside
and the outside of the flame, so also the knowledge-ether that is
within the Self-light in the heart, fills without any difference and
without any limit both the inside and the outside of that Self-light.
This is what is referred to as Brahman.
Disciple: How do the three states of experience, the three bodies,
etc., which are imaginations, appear in the Self-light which is one,
impartite and self-luminous? Even if they should appear, how is one to
know that the Self alone remains ever unmoving?
4. The inner
Nescience or the causal body
The five cognitive sense-organs
7. The inner
Deep sleep in which the causal body is manifest
8. The middle
Dream in which the subtle body is manifest
9. The outer
Waking state in which the gross
body is manifest
The Self which is the lamp (1) shines of its own accord in the inner
chamber, i.e., the causal body (7) that is endowed with nescience as
the inner wall (4) and sleep as the door (2); when by the vital
principle as conditioned by time, karma, etc., the sleep-door is
opened, there occurs a reflection of the Self in the egoity-mirror (5)
that is placed next to the door-step - Mahat-tattva; the egoity-mirror
thus illumines the middle chamber, i.e., the dream state (8), and,
through the windows which are the five cognitive sense-organs (6), the
outer court, i.e., the waking state. When, again, by the vital
principle as conditioned by time, karma, etc., the sleep-door gets
shut, the egoity ceases along with waking and dream, and the Self alone
ever shines. The example just given explains how the Self is unmoving,
how there is difference between the Self and the egoity and how the
three states of experience, the three bodies, etc., appear.
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Disciple: Although I have listened to the explanation of the
characteristics of enquiry in such great detail, my mind has not gained
even a little peace. What is the reason for this?
Master: The reason is the absence of strength or one-pointedness of the
Disciple: What is the reason for the absence of mental strength?
Master: The means that make one qualified for enquiry are meditation,
yoga, etc. One should gain proficiency in these through graded
practice, and thus secure a stream of mental modes that is natural and
helpful. When the mind that has in this manner become ripe, listens to
the present enquiry, it will at once realize its true nature which is
the Self, and remain in perfect peace, without deviating from that
state. To a mind which has not become ripe, immediate realization and
peace are hard to gain through listening to enquiry. Yet, if one
practices the means for mind-control for some time, peace of mind can
be obtained eventually.
Disciple: Of the means for mind-control, which is the most important?
Master: Breath-control is the means for mind-control.
Disciple: How is breath to be controlled?
Master: Breath can be controlled either by absolute retention of breath
(kevala-kumbhaka) or by regulation of breath (pranayama).
Disciple: What is absolute retention of breath?
Master: It is making the vital air stay firmly in the heart even
without exhalation and inhalation. This is achieved through meditation
on the vital principle, etc.
Disciple: What is regulation of breath?
Master: It is making the vital air stay firmly in the heart through
exhalation, inhalation, and retention, according to the instructions
given in the yoga texts.
Disciple: How is breath-control the means for mind-control?
Master: There is no doubt that breath-control is the means for
mind-control, because the mind, like breath, is a part of air, because
the nature of mobility is common to both, because the place of origin
is the same for both, and because when one of them is controlled the
other gets controlled.
Disciple: Since breath-control leads only to quiescence of the mind
(manolaya) and not to its destruction (manonasa), how can it be said
that breath-control is the means for enquiry which aims at the
destruction of mind?
Master: The scriptures teach the means for gaining Self-realization in
two modes - as the yoga with eight limbs (ashtanga-yoga) and as
knowledge with eight limbs (ashtanga-jnana). By regulation of breath
(pranayama) or by absolute retention thereof (kevala-kumbhaka), which
is one of the limbs of yoga, the mind gets controlled. Without leaving
the mind at that, if one practises the further discipline such as
withdrawal of the mind from external objects (pratyahara), then at the
end, Self-realization which is the fruit of enquiry will surely be
Disciple: What are the limbs of yoga?
Master: Yama, niyama, asana, ,pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana,
and samadhi. Of these --
(1) Yama -- this stands, for the cultivation of such principles of good
conduct as non-violence (ahimsa), truth (satya), non-stealing (asteya),
celibacy (brahmacharya), and non-possession (apari-graha).
(2) Niyama -- this stands for the observance of such rules of good
conduct as purity (saucha), contentment (santosha), austerity (tapas),
study of the sacred texts (svadhyaya), and devotion to God
(3) Asana -- Of the different postures, eighty-four are the main ones.
Of these, again, four, viz., simha, bhadra, padma, and siddha are said
to be excellent. Of these too, it is only siddha, that is the most
excellent. Thus the yoga-texts declare.
(4) Pranayama -- According to the measures prescribed in the sacred
texts, exhaling the vital air is rechaka, inhaling is puraka and
retaining it in the heart is kumbhaka. As regards 'measure', some texts
say that rechaka and puraka should be equal in measure, and kumbhaka
twice that measure, while other texts say that if rechaka is one
measure, puraka should be of two measures, and kumbhaka of four. By
'measure' what is meant is the time that would be taken for the
utterance of the Gayatrimantra once. Thus pranayama consisting of
rechaka, puraka, and kumbhaka, should be practised daily according to
ability, slowly and gradually. Then, there would arise for the mind a
desire to rest in happiness without moving. After this, one should
(5) Pratyahara -- This is regulating the mind by preventing it from
flowing towards the external names and forms. The mind, which had been
till then distracted, now becomes controlled. The aids in this respect
are (1) meditation on the pranava, (2) fixing the attention betwixt the
eyebrows, (3) looking at the tip of the nose, and (4) reflection on the
nada. The mind that has thus become one-pointed will be fit to stay in
one place. After this, dharana should be practised.
(6) Dharana --This is fixing the mind in a locus which is fit for
meditation. The loci that are eminently fit for meditation are the
heart and Brahma-randhra (aperture in the crown of the head). One
should think that in the middle of the eight-petalled lotus that is at
this place there shines, like a flame, the Deity which is the Self,
i.e. Brahman, and fix the mind therein. After this, one should meditate.
(7) Dhyana --This is meditation, through the 'I am He' thought, that
one is not different from the nature of the aforesaid flame. Even,
thus, if one makes the enquiry 'Who am I?', then, as the Scripture
declares, "The Brahman which is everywhere shines in the heart as the
Self that is the witness of the intellect", one would realize that is
the Divine Self that shines in the heart as 'I-I'. This mode of
reflection is the best meditation.
(8) Samadhi -- As a result of the fruition of the aforesaid meditation,
the mind gets resolved in the object of meditation without harbouring
the ideas 'I am such and such; I am doing this and this'. This subtle
state in which even the thought 'I-I' disappears is samadhi. If one
practises this every day, seeing to it that sleep does not supervene,
God will soon confer on one the supreme state of quiescence of mind.
Disciple: What is the purport of the teaching that in pratyahara one
should meditate on the pranava?
Master: The purport of prescribing meditation on the pranava is this.
The pranava is Omkara consisting of three and a half matras, viz., a,
u, m, and ardha-matra. of these, a stands for the waking state,
Visva-jiva, and the gross body; u stands for the dream-state
Taijasa-jiva, and the subtle body; m stands for the sleep-state,
Prajnajiva and the causal body; the ardha-matra represents the Turiya
which is the self or 'I'-nature; and what is beyond that is the state
of Turiyatita, or pure Bliss. The fourth state which is the state of
'I'-nature was referred to in the section on meditation (dhyana): this
has been variously described - as of the nature of amatra which
includes the three matras, a, u, and m; as maunakshara (silence
syllable); as ajapa (as muttering without muttering) and as the
Advaita-mantra which is the essence of all mantras such as
panchakshara. In order to get at this true significance, one should
meditate on the pranava. This is meditation which is of the nature of
devotion consisting in reflection on the truth of the Self. The
fruition of this process is samadhi which yields release which is the
state of unsurpassed bliss. The revered Gurus also have said that
release is to be gained only by devotion which is of the nature of
reflection on the truth of the Self.
Disciple: What is the purport of the teaching that one should meditate,
through the 'I am He' thought, on the truth that one is not different
from the self-luminous Reality that shines like a flame?
Master: (A) The purport of teaching that one should cultivate the idea
that one is not different from the self-luminous Reality is this:
Scripture defines meditation in these words, "In the middle of the
eight-petalled heart-lotus which is of the nature of all, and which is
referred to as Kailasa, Vaikundha, and Parama-pada, there is the
Reality which is of the size of the thumb, which is dazzling like
lightning and which shines like a flame. By meditating on it, a person
gains immortality". From this we should know that by such meditation
one avoids the defects of (1) the thought of difference, of the form 'I
am different, and that is different', (2) the meditation on what is
limited, (3) the idea that the real is limited, and (4) that it is
confined to one place.
(B) The purport of teaching that one should meditate with the 'I am He'
thought is this: sahaham: soham; sah the supreme Self, aham the Self
that is manifest as 'I'. The jiva which is the Shiva-linga resides in
the heart-lotus which is its seat situated in the body which is the
city of Brahman; the mind which is of the nature of egoity, goes
outward identifying itself with the body, etc. Now the mind should be
resolved in the heart, i.e. the I-sense that is placed in the body,
etc., should be got rid of; when thus one enquires 'Who am I?',
remaining undisturbed, in that state the Self-nature becomes manifest
in a subtle manner as 'I-I'; that self-nature is all and yet none, and
is manifest as the supreme Self everywhere without the distinction of
inner and outer; that shines like a flame, as was stated above,
signifying the truth 'I am Brahman'. If, without meditating on that as
being identical with oneself, one imagines it to be different,
ignorance will not leave. Hence, the identity-meditation is prescribed.
If one meditates for a long time, without disturbance, on the Self
ceaselessly, with the 'I am He' thought which is the technique of
reflection on the Self, the darkness of ignorance which is in the heart
and all the impediments which are but the effects of ignorance will he
removed, and the plenary wisdom will be gained.
Thus, realizing the Reality in the heart-cave which is in the city (of
Brahman), viz. the body, is the same as realizing the all-perfect God.
In the city with nine gates, which is the body, the wise one resides at
The body is the temple; the jiva is God (Shiva). If one worships him
with the 'I am He' thought, one will gain release.
The body which consists of the five sheaths is the cave, the supreme
that resides there is the lord of the cave. Thus the scriptures declare.
Since the Self is the reality of all the gods, the meditation on the
Self which is oneself is the greatest of all meditations. All other
meditations are included in this. It is for gaining this that the other
meditations are prescribed. So, if this is gained, the others are not
necessary. Knowing one's Self is knowing God. Without knowing one's
Self that meditates, imagining that there is a deity which is different
and meditating on it, is compared by the great ones to the act of
measuring with one's foot one's own shadow, and to the search for a
trivial conch after throwing away a priceless gem that is already in
Disciple: Even though the heart and the Brahmarandhra alone are the
loci fit for meditation, could one meditate, if necessary, on the six
mystic centres (adharas)?
Master: The six mystic centres, etc., which are said to be loci of
meditation, are but products of imagination. All these are meant for
beginners in yoga. With reference to meditation on the six centres, the
Shiva-yogins say, "God, who is of the nature of the non-dual, plenary,
consciousness-self, manifests, sustains and resolves us all. It is a
great sin to spoil that Reality by superimposing on it various names
and forms such as Ganapati, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Mahesvara, and
Sadashiva", and the Vedantins declare, "All those are but imaginations
of the mind". Therefore, if one knows one's Self which is of the nature
of consciousness that knows everything, one knows everything. The great
ones have also said: "When that One is known as it is in Itself, all
that has not been known becomes known". If we who are endowed with
various thoughts meditate on God that is the Self we would get rid of
the plurality of thoughts by that one thought; and then even that one
thought would vanish. This is what is meant by saying that knowing
one's Self is knowing God. This knowledge is release.
Disciple: How is one to think of the Self?
Master: The Self is self-luminous without darkness and light, and is
the reality which is self-manifest. Therefore, one should not think of
it as this or as that. The very thought of thinking will end in
bondage. The purport of meditation on the Self is to make the mind take
the form of the Self. In the middle of the heart-cave the pure Brahman
is directly manifest as the Self in the form 'I-I'. Can there be
greater ignorance than to think of it in manifold ways, without knowing
it as aforementioned?
Disciple: It was stated that Brahman is manifest as the Self in the
form 'I-I', in the heart. To facilitate an understanding of this
statement, can it be still further explained?
Master: Is it not within the experience of all that during deep sleep,
swoon, etc., there is no knowledge whatsoever, i.e. neither
self-knowledge nor other-knowledge? Afterwards, when there is
experience of the form "I have woken up from sleep" or "I have
recovered from swoon" - is that not a mode of specific knowledge that
has arisen from the aforementioned distinctionless state? This specific
knowledge is called vijnana. This vijnana becomes manifest only as
pertaining to either the Self or the not-self, and not by itself. When
it pertains to the Self, it is called true knowledge, knowledge in the
form of that mental mode whose object is the Self, or knowledge which
has for its content the impartite (Self); and when it relates to the
not-self, it is called ignorance. The state of this vijnana, when it
pertains to the Self and is manifest as of the form of the Self, is
said to be the 'I'-manifestation. This manifestation cannot take place
as apart from the Real (i.e. the Self). It is this manifestation that
serves as the mark for the direct experience of the Real. Yet, this by
itself cannot constitute the state of being the Real. That, depending
on which this manifestation takes place is the basic reality which is
also called prajnana. The Vedantic text "prajnanam brahma" teaches the
Know this as the purport of the scripture also. The Self which is
self-luminous and the witness of everything manifests itself as
residing in the vijnanakosa (sheath of the intellect). By the mental
mode which is impartite, seize this Self as your goal and enjoy it as
Disciple: What is that which is called the inner worship or worship of
Master: In texts such as the Ribhu-gita, the worship of the
attributeless has been elaborately explained (as a separate
discipline). Yet, all disciplines such as sacrifice, charity,
austerity, observance of vows, japa, yoga, and puja, are, in effect,
modes of meditation of the form 'I am Brahman'. So, in all the modes of
disciplines, one should see to it that one does not stray away from the
thought 'I am Brahman'. This is the purport of the worship of the
Disciple: What are the eight limbs of knowledge (jnana-ashtanga)?
Master: The eight limbs are those which have been already mentioned,
viz., yama, niyama , etc. but differently defined. Of these -
(1) Yama -- This is controlling the aggregate of sense-organs,
realizing the defects that are present in the world consisting of the
(2) Niyama -- This is maintaining a stream of mental modes that relate
to the Self and rejecting the contrary modes. In other words, it means
love that arises uninterruptedly for the supreme Self.
(3) Asana -- That with the help of which constant meditation on Brahman
is made possible with ease is asana.
(4) Pranayama -- Rechaka (exhalation) is removing the two unreal
aspects of name and form from the objects constituting the world, the
body etc., puraka (inhalation) is grasping the three real aspects,
existence, consciousness and bliss, which are constant in those
objects, and kumbhaka is retaining those aspects thus grasped.
(5) Pratyahara -- This is preventing name and form which have been
removed from re-entering the mind.
(6) Dharana -- This is making the mind stay in the heart, without
straying outward, and realizing that one is the Self itself which is
(7) Dhyana -- This is meditation of the form 'I am only pure
consciousness'. That is, after leaving aside the body which consists of
five sheaths, one enquires 'Who am I'?, and as a result of that, one
stays as 'I' which shines as the Self.
(8) Samadhi -- When the 'I'-manifestation also ceases, there is
(subtle) direct experience. This is samadhi.
For the pranayama, etc., detailed here, the disciplines such as asana,
etc., mentioned in connection with yoga, are not necessary. The limbs
of knowledge may be practised at all places and at all times. Of yoga
and knowledge, one may follow whichever is pleasing to one, or both,
according to circumstances. The great teachers say that forgetfulness
is the root of all evil, and is death for those who seek release; so
one should rest the mind in one's Self and should never forget the Self
: this is the aim. If the mind is controlled, all else can be
controlled. The distinction between yoga with eight limbs and knowledge
with eight limbs has been set forth elaborately in the sacred texts; so
only the substance of this teaching has been given here.
Disciple: Is it possible to practise at the same time the pranayama
belonging to yoga and the pranayama pertaining to knowledge?
Master: So long as the mind has not been made to rest in the heart,
either through absolute rete