The question ‘Who am I’ has no answer. No experience can answer it, for the Self is beyond experience. … It has no answer in consciousness and, therefore, helps to go beyond consciousness.
All I can say truly is: ‘I am’, all else is inference. But the inference has become a habit. Destroy all habits of thinking and seeing. The sense ‘I am’ is the manifestation of a deeper cause, which you may call self, God, reality or by any other name. The ‘I am’ is in the world; but it is the key which can open the door out of the world. The moon dancing on the water is seen in the water, but it is caused by the moon in the sky and not by the water.
(Nisargadatta Maharaj, in “I am That”)
Dr. Srinivasa Rao asked Bhagavan, “When we enquire within ‘who am I?’ what is that?”
Bhagavan: It is the ego. It is only that which makes the vichara also. The Self has no vichara. That which makes the enquiry is the ego. The ‘I’ about which the enquiry is made is also the ego. As the result of the enquiry the ego ceases to exist and only the Self is found to exist. (Day by Day; 21-11-45)
To enquire ‘Who am I?’ really means trying to find out the source of the ego or the ‘I’ thought. You are not to think of other thoughts, such as ‘I am not this body, etc.’ Seeking the source of ‘I’ serves as a means of getting rid of all other thoughts. We should not give scope to other thoughts, […,] but must keep the attention fixed on finding out the source of the ‘I’ thought, by asking (as each thought arises) to whom the thought arises and if the answer is ‘I get the thought’ by asking further who is this ‘I’ and whence its source? (Day by Day; 28-12-45)
No seer, no time, no space
On 10-4-46 a letter was read out to Maharshi which said… “that seeing Brahman alone in everything and everywhere is jnanottara bhakti. With reference to this, Bhagavan said, “This is a matter of mere words, whether you call the stage of seeing only Brahman, jnanottara bhakti or bhakti-uttara jnana. In reality, saying ‘We must see Brahman in everything and everywhere’ is also not quite correct. Only that stage is final, where there is no seeing, where there is no time or space. There will be no seer, seeing and an object to see. What exists then is only the infinite eye.” (Day by Day)
Chadwick: Bhagavan’s teaching is clear
Yesterday, a friend forwarded a somewhat naive proclamation which he had stumbled over on his web travels. It is a proclamation by a modern day writer on Ramana Maharshi’s teaching. In it, the writer states that, Ramana Maharshi’s teaching was ill understood by most writers in English, during Ramana’s own lifetime. Needless to say, this is an absurdly misleading statement on a variety of counts! I find it hard to believe that any writer could have the audacity to make such a claim. In my experience, the early books, even those which were not published by the Ashram, were pretty much clear, the muddied puddles of writing seem, in the main, to have fallen after Sri Ramana’s Mahasamadhi. However the real agenda seems to be forthcoming on the same page – a thinly veiled allusion to the effect that that particular writer has a direct line of contact to Ramana Maharshi. 😉
That the teaching was, and is, misunderstood [also mentioned by Chadwick below] is surely more about ego’s indiscriminate, insistent search for unnecessary complication and the non-existent esoteric level. Books, explaining the teaching, were, and are, available. There is no need to fall for any writer’s specious PR.
In his book, “A Sadhu’s Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi” (Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, 2005; 15), Major Chadwick counters the ludicrous idea, that Ramana’s teaching is unclear, rather beautifully. Bear in mind that Chadwick first visited the Ashram on 1st November 1935, decided there and then “here is my Guru,” and moved there permanently soon after. He had ample time to listen, discuss and practice the teaching, under the watchful eye of Bhagavan himself.
“After I had been here a day or two Bhagavan asked somebody to give me a copy of Who am I? and told me to read it. Here is contained the essence of his teaching, though given by him as a youth of only 21 it never needed to be changed. Bhagavan might talk all sorts of philosophy and explain systems in answer to questions, but his teaching and instruction for Sadhana was all contained in Who am I?. Everything else, as far as he was concerned, was padding or expansion for those who were not satisfied with the simplicity and straightforward explanation of this little book. He had always insisted that the book should be sold so cheaply that it was available to the poorest and originally it cost no more than half an anna.
This wonderful little book comprises one of the first set of instructions given by Bhagavan in about I902 in writing as he was not speaking at the time. They are direct from his own experience and in no way influenced by his reading of various Upanishads and other sacred writings which were afterwards brought to him to explain. Later reading these books, he realized the philosophic import of what had happened to him and so was able to co-ordinate his experiences and fit them into the Hindu tradition. But in this book we have his teachings at first hand and uncoloured. Here we find their very essence and by the help of this single brochure can learn all that is necessary. No more is needed.”
Chadwick’s book is also available as pdf download from the Official Sri Ramanasramam web site.
Regarding Self enquiry Chadwick explains, “[t]hat everything is in the mind and that the mind itself is only a passing phenomenon was continually stressed by Bhagavan. “Who is the one behind the mind?” he would ask repeatedly. “Find that one and the mind itself will automatically disappear.” To do this one must repeatedly seek out the source of the “I” by the enquiry “Who am I?”. This process has often been misunderstood, though actually Bhagavan’s teaching is quite clear. In this search one is not to seek for some transcendental “I-Absolute”, but for the ego itself and the point where it arises. Find this, the ego automatically drops away and one then knows there is nothing but the Self. It is like following a stream to its source through the hills, and when one has reached that point whence it arises the stream itself will no longer exist. Source, mind, ego are one and the same and cannot exist apart from each other. The mind cannot know the Self, for how can it know that which is beyond mind? So it is impossible even for a Jnani to explain his state in words, which is only of the mind. To know it is to be it. There is no other way. (p. 59)
Regarding Self enquiry, “Who am I?” reveals –
10. How will the mind become quiescent?
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.
11. What is the means for constantly holding on to the thought ‘Who am I?’
When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: ‘To whom do they arise?’ It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with diligence, “To whom has this thought arisen?”. The answer that would emerge would be “To me”. Thereupon if one inquires “Who am I?”, the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source.
When the mind that is subtle goes out through the brain and the sense-organs, the gross names and forms appear; when it stays in the heart, the names and forms disappear. Not letting the mind go out, but retaining it in the Heart is what is called “inwardness” (antarmukha). Letting the mind go out of the Heart is known as “externalisation” (bahir-mukha). Thus, when the mind stays in the Heart, the ‘I’ which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self which ever exists will shine. Whatever one does, one should do without the egoity “I”. If one acts, in that way, all will appear as of the nature of Siva (God).