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Summary of Ramana Bhagavan's Who Am I? (Nan Yar?)
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
Every living being longs always to be happy, untainted by sorrow;
and everyone has the greatest love for himself, which is
solely due to the fact that happiness is his real nature. Hence, in
order to realize that inherent and untainted happiness, which indeed he
daily experiences when the mind is subdued in deep sleep, it is
essential that he should know himself. For obtaining such knowledge the
inquiry 'Who am I?' in quest of the Self is the best means.
'Who am I?' I am not this physical body, nor am I the five organs of
sense perception; I am not the five organs of external activity, nor am
I the five vital forces, nor am I even the thinking mind. Neither am I
that unconscious state of nescience which retains merely the subtle
vasanas (latencies of the mind), while being free from the functional
activity of the sense-organs and of the mind, and being
unaware of the existence of the objects of sense-perception.
Therefore, summarily rejecting all the above-mentioned physical
adjuncts and their functions, saying 'I am not this; no, nor am I this,
nor this' -- that which then remains separate and alone by itself, that
pure Awareness is what I am. This Awareness is by its very nature
If the mind, which is the instrument of knowledge and is the basis of
all activity, subsides, the perception of the world as an
objective reality ceases. Unless the illusory perception of
the serpent in the rope ceases, the rope on which the illusion is
formed is not perceived as such. Similarly, unless the illusory nature
of the perception of the world as a objective reality ceases, the
Vision of the true nature of the Self, on which the illusion is formed,
is not obtained.
The mind is a unique power (sakti) in the Atman, whereby thoughts occur
to one. On scrutiny as to what remains after eliminating all thoughts,
it will be found that there is no such thing as mind apart from
thought. So then, thoughts themselves constitute the mind. Nor is there
any such thing as the physical world apart from and
independent of thought. In deep sleep there are no thoughts: nor is
there the world. In the wakeful and dream state thoughts are present,
and there is also the world. Just as the spider draws out the thread of
the cobweb from within itself and withdraws it again into itself, in
the same way the mind projects the world out of itself and absorbs it
back into itself.
The world is perceived as an apparent objective reality when the mind
is externalized, thereby forsaking its identity with the Self. When the
world is thus perceived, the true nature of the Self is not
revealed: conversely, when the Self is realized the world ceases to
appear as an objective reality.
By a steady and continuous investigation into the nature of the mind,
the mind is transformed into That to which 'I' refers; and
that is in fact the Self. Mind has necessarily to depend for its
existence on something gross; it never subsists by itself. It
is this mind that is otherwise called the subtle body, ego,
jiva, or soul.
That which arises in the physical body as 'I' is the mind. If one
inquires whence the 'I'-thought in the body arises in the first
instance, it will be found that it is from hrdayam (literally 'I am the
Heart), or the Heart. That is the source and stay of the
mind. Or again, even if one merely continuously repeats to oneself
inwardly 'I-I' with the entire mind fixed thereon, that also leads one
to the same source.
The first and foremost of all thoughts that arise in the mind is the
primal 'I'-thought. It is only after the rise or origin of
the 'I'-thought that innumerable other thoughts arise. In other words,
only after the first personal pronoun, 'I', has arisen, do
the second and third personal pronouns ('you, he' etc.) occur to the
mind; and they cannot subsist without the former.
Since every other thought can occur only after the rise of the
'I'-thought and since the mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts, it
is only through the inquiry 'Who am I?' that the mind subsides.
Moreover, the integral 'I'-thought, implicit in such enquiry, having
destroyed all other thoughts, gets itself destroyed or consumed, just
as the stick used for stirring the burning funeral pyre gets consumed.
Even when extraneous thoughts sprout up during such enquiry, do not
seek to complete the rising thought, but instead, deeply
enquire within, 'To who has this thought occurred?' No matter
how many thoughts thus occur to you, if you would with acute
vigilance enquire immediately as and when each individual
thought arises to whom it has occurred, you would find it is to 'me'.
If then you enquire 'Who am I?' the mind gets introverted and the
rising thought also subsides. In this manner as you persevere more and
more in the practice of Self-enquiry, the mind acquires increasing
strength and power to abide in its Source.
It is only when the subtle mind is externalized through the activity of
the intellect and the sense-organs that gross name and form
constituting the world appear. When, on the other hand, the mind stays
firmly in the Heart, they recede and disappear. Restraint of the
outgoing mind, and its absorption in the Heart, is known as
introversion (antarmukha-drishti). The release of the mind, and its
emergence from the Heart is known as bahirmukha-drishti (objectiveness).
If in this manner the mind becomes absorbed in the Heart, the ego or
'I', which is the centre of the multitude of thoughts,
finally vanishes and pure Consciousness or Self, which subsists during
all the states of the mind, alone remains resplendent. It is
this state, where there is not the slightest trace of the 'I'-thought,
that is the true Being of oneself. And that is called Quiescence or
This state of mere inherence in pure Being is known as the Vision of
Wisdom. Such inherence means and implies the entire subsidence of the
mind in the Self. Nothing other than this, and no psychic powers of the
mind such as thought-reading, telepathy, and clairvoyance, can be
Atman alone exists and is real. The threefold reality of world,
individual soul, and God is, like the illusory appearance of silver in
the mother of pearl, an imaginary creation in the Atman. They appear
and disappear simultaneously. The Self alone is the world,
the 'I' and God. All that exists is but the manifestation of the
For the subsidence of mind there is no other means more effective
and adequate than Self-enquiry. Even though by other means
the mind subsides, that is only apparently so; it will rise again.
For instance, the mind subsides by the practice of pranayama (restraint
and control of breath and vital forces); yet such subsidence
lasts only as long as the control of breath and vital forces
continues; and when they are released, the mind also gets
released and immediately, becoming externalized, it continues to wander
through the force of its subtle tendencies.
The source of the mind is the same as that of breath and vital forces.
It is really the multitude of thoughts that constitutes the mind; and
the 'I'-thought is the primal thought of the mind, and is
itself the ego. But breath too has its origin at the same place whence
the ego rises. Therefore, when the mind subsides, breath and vital
forces also subside; and conversely, when the latter subside, the
former also subsides.
Breath and vital forces are also described as the gross manifestation
of the mind. Till the hour of death the mind sustains and supports
these forces in the physical body; and when life becomes
extinct the mind envelops them and carries them away. During sleep,
however, the vital forces continue to function, although the
mind is not manifest. This is according to the divine law and is
intended to protect the body and to remove any possible doubt as to
whether it is dead or alive while one is asleep. Without such
arrangement by nature, sleeping bodies would often be
cremated alive. The vitality apparent in breathing is left
behind by the mind as a 'watchman'. But in the wakeful state
and in samadhi, when the mind subsides, breath also subsides. For this
reason (because the mind has the sustaining and controlling power over
breath and vital forces and is therefore ulterior to both of them), the
practice of breath control is merely helpful in subduing the mind, but
cannot bring about its final extinction.
Like breath control, meditation on form, incantations, invocations,
and regulation of diet are only aids to control of the mind.
Through the practice of meditation or invocation the mind
becomes one-pointed. Just as the elephant's truck, which is otherwise
restless, will become steady if it is made to hold an iron
chain, so that the elephant goes its way without reaching out for any
other object, so the ever-restless mind, which is trained and
accustomed to a name or form through meditation or invocation, will
steadily hold on to that alone.
When the mind is split up and dissipated into countless varying
thoughts, each individual thought becomes extremely weak and
inefficient. When, on the contrary, such thoughts subside more and more
till they finally get destroyed, the mind becomes one-pointed and,
thereby acquiring strength and power of endurance, easily reaches
perfection in the method of enquiry in quest of the Self.
Regulation of diet, restricting it to satvic food taken in
moderate quantity, is of all the rules of conduct the best;
and it is most conducive to the development of the satvic qualities of
the mind. These, in their turn, assist one in the practice of Atma
vichara or enquiry in quest of the Self.
Countless vishaya-vasanas (subtle tendencies of the mind in
relation to objects of sense gratification), coming one after
the other in quick succession like the waves of the ocean, agitate the
mind. Nevertheless, they too subside and finally get destroyed with
progressive practice of Atma dhyana or meditation on the Self. Without
giving room even to the thought which occurs in the form of
doubt, whether it is possible to stay merely as the very Self, whether
all the vasanas can be destroyed, one should firmly and unceasingly
carry on meditation on the Self.
However sinful a person may be, if he would stop wailing inconsolably:
'Alas! I am a sinner, how shall I attain Liberation?' and, casting away
even the thought that he is a sinner, if he would zealously carry on
meditation on the Self, he would most assuredly get reformed.
So long as subtle tendencies continue to inhere in the mind, it is
necessary to carry on the enquiry: 'Who am I?'. As and when thoughts
occur, they should one and all be annihilated then and there, at the
very place of their origin, by the method of enquiry in quest of the
Not to desire anything extraneous to oneself constitutes vairaga
(dispassion) or nirasa (desirelessness). Not to give up one's hold on
the Self constitutes jnana (knowledge). But really vairaga
and jnana are one and the same. Just as the pearl diver, tying stones
to his waist, dives down into the depths and gets the pearl
from the sea bed, so every aspirant pledged to vairaga can
dive deep into himself and realize the precious Atman. If the earnest
seeker would only cultivate the constant and deep
contemplative 'remembrance' (smrti) of the true nature of the Self till
he has realized it, that alone would suffice. Distracting thoughts are
like the enemy in the fortress. As long as they are in possession of
it, they will certainly sally forth. But if, as and when they come out,
you put them to the sword the fortress will finally be captured.
God and the Guru are not really different: they are identical. He that
has earned the Grace of the Guru shall undoubtedly be saved and never
forsaken, just as the prey that has fallen into the tiger's
jaws will never be allowed to escape. But the disciple, for his part,
should unswervingly follow the path shown by the Master.
Firm and disciplined inherence in the Atman, without giving the least
scope for the rise of any thought other than the deep
contemplative thought of the Self, constitutes self-surrender
to the Supreme Lord. Let any amount of burden be laid on Him, He will
bear it all. It is, in fact, the indefinable power of the
Lord that ordains, sustains, and controls everything that happens. Why
then should we worry, tormented by vexatious thoughts, saying: 'Shall
we act this way? No, that way,' instead of meekly but happily
submitting to that Power? Knowing that the train carries all
the weight, why indeed should we, the passengers traveling in
it, carry our small individual articles of luggage on our laps to our
great discomfort, instead of putting them aside and sitting at perfect
That which is Bliss is also the Self. Bliss and the Self are not
distinct and separate but are one and the same. And That
alone is real. In no single one of the countless objects of
the mundane world is there anything that can be called happiness. It is
through sheer ignorance and unwisdom that we fancy that happiness is
obtained from them. On the contrary, when the mind is
externalized, it suffers pain and anguish. The truth is that
every time our desires get fulfilled, the mind, turning to its source,
experiences only that happiness which is natural to the Self. Similarly
in deep sleep, in spiritual trance (samadhi), when fainting, when a
desired object is obtained, or when evil befalls an object considered
undesirable, the mind turns inwards and enjoys that Bliss of Atman.
Thus wandering astray, forsaking the Self, and returning to it again
and again is the interminable and wearisome lot of the mind.
It is pleasant under the shade of a tree, and scorching in the heat of
the sun outside. A person toiling in the sun seeks the cool shade of
the tree and is happy under it. After staying there for a
while, he moves out again but, unable to bear the merciless heat of the
sun, he again seeks the shade. In this way he keeps on moving
from shade to sun and sun to shade.
It is an unwise person who acts thus, whereas the wise man never leaves
the shade: in the same way the mind of the Enlightened Sage (Jnani)
never exists apart from Brahman, the Absolute. The mind of
the ignorant, on the other hand, entering into the phenomenal
world, suffers pain and anguish; and then, turning for a short while
towards Brahman, it experiences happiness. Such is the mind of the
This phenomenal world, however, is nothing but thought. When the world
recedes from one's view -- that is when one is free from thought -- the
mind enjoys the Bliss of the Self. Conversely, when the world appears
-- that is when thought occurs -- the mind experiences pain and anguish.
Not from any desire, resolve, or effort on the part of the rising sun,
but merely due to the presence of his rays, the lens emits heat, the
lotus blossoms, water evaporates, and people attend to their various
duties in life. In the proximity of the magnet the needle moves.
Similarly the soul or jiva, subjected to the threefold
activity of creation, preservation, and destruction which
take place merely due to the unique Presence of the Lord, performs acts
in accordance with its karma (fruits of past actions, in the
present life), and subsides to rest after such activity. But
the Lord Himself has no resolve; no act or event touches even
the fringe of His Being. This state of immaculate aloofness can be
likened to that of the sun, which is untouched by the activities of
life, or to that of the all-pervasive ether, which is not affected by
the interaction of the complex qualities of the other four elements.
All scriptures without any exception proclaim that for attaining
Salvation the mind should be subdued; and once one knows that control
of the mind is their final aim it is futile to make an
interminable study of them. What is required for such control is actual
enquiry into oneself by self-interrogation: 'Who am I?' How can this
enquiry in quest of the Self be made merely by means of a study of the
One should realize the Self by the Eye of Wisdom. Does Rama need a
mirror to recognize himself as Rama? That to which the 'I' refers is
within the five sheaths (physical, vital, mental,
knowledge-experience, and bliss), whereas the scriptures are
outside them. Therefore, it is futile to seek by means of the
study of scriptures the Self that has to be realized by summarily
rejecting even the five sheaths.
To enquire 'Who am I that is in bondage?' and to know one's real nature
is alone Liberation. To keep the mind constantly turned within, and to
abide thus in the Self is alone Atma-vichara (Self enquiry),
whereas dhyana (meditation) consists in fervent contemplation of the
Self as Sat-Chit-Ananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss). Indeed, at some
time, one will have to forget everything that has been learnt.
Just as it is futile to examine the rubbish that has to be swept up
only to be thrown away, so it is futile for him who seeks to
know the Self to set to work enumerating the tattvas (classifications
of the elements of existence) that envelop the Self and examining them,
instead of casting them away. He should consider the phenomenal world
with reference to himself as merely a dream.
Except that the wakeful state is long and the dream state is short
there is no difference between the two. All the activities of
the dream state appear, for the time being, just as real as
the activities of the wakeful state seem to be while awake. Only,
during the dream state, the mind assumes another form or a
different bodily sheath. For thoughts on the one hand, and name and
form on the other, occur simultaneously during both the wakeful and
There are not two minds, one good and the other evil. It is only the
vasanas or tendencies of the mind that are of two kinds, good
and favorable, evil and unfavorable. When the mind is
associated with the former it is called good, and when associated with
the latter it is called evil. However evil-minded other people may
appear to you, it is not proper to hate or despise them. Likes and
dislikes, love and hatred, are equally to be eschewed. It is also not
proper to let the mind often rest on objects or affairs of mundane
life. As far as possible one should not interfere in the affairs of
others. Everything offered to others is really an offering to
oneself; and if only this truth were realized, who is there that would
refuse anything to others?
If the ego rises, all else will also rise; if it subsides all else will
also subside. The deeper the humility with which we conduct ourselves,
the better it is for us. If only the mind is kept under control, what
matters it where one may happen to be?