“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.” — Ramana Maharshi
At some point the seeker realizes that which he seeks cannot be found in books. Entertaining additional ideas reinforces the very mind that must be stepped away from. There are hundreds of books written about Ramana Maharshi. None of them are needed. One can only understand Maharshi by sharing in his experience. Who are you? That is the whole of his teaching.
Self-inquiry is not a new technique. It shares the aim of many spiritual practices: clearing the mind so that your inner light can shine through. From our very first day on this world we have been building the mind. It is an accumulation of all the experiences and ideas we’ve absorbed. We need it to function and survive. However, there comes a point when mere survival is not sufficient. The heart reaches for the immortal Self beyond the mind. Spiritual practices are tools to facilitate this process.
“Gain access to Knowledge and you will become free of the mind.” — Greater Community Spirituality, What Must Be Unlearned?
Maharshi’s technique is simple. Asking “Who Am I?” whenever a thought arises creates a distance between the seeker and the thought. It serves as a constant reminder that we are greater than our mind. Thoughts take on less and less significance over time. Eventually, there is nothing left but the Presence. This is Knowledge. This is enlightenment.
Can this technique be sufficient today where from a very young age people are bombarded by influences of every kind? Does it adequately prepare the student to face the difficult times ahead? These are questions that need to be asked. The fundamental truth and nature of being human has not changed but we live in a radically different context. Some might argue that modern spiritual practices need to be introduced.
Maharshi’s greatest contribution was perhaps how he conducted his every day affairs. He lived a very simple life. He made a point to make himself available 24 / 7 to any visitor that might need him. Often seen cutting vegetables, guests frequently mistook him for a servant. Maharshi’s demonstration puts present day celebrity gurus to shame. His silence spoke louder than all their glitzy marketing campaigns.
It was about six weeks before I left Madurai for good that the great change in my life took place. It was quite sudden. I was sitting alone in a room on the first floor of my uncle’s house. I seldom had any sickness and on that day there was nothing wrong with my health, but a sudden violent fear of death overtook me…
Read the rest of Ramana Maharshi’s enlightenment story.