Author Topic: some basic questions and answers on self enquiry  (Read 1685 times)


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some basic questions and answers on self enquiry
« on: October 29, 2012, 01:34:01 PM »
Be As You are David Godman's edition of Bhagavan Ramana Maharsihee teachings talk in detail about self enquiry detailed practice.

David Godman summarized the self enquiry practice in a initial summary on that chapter.  It was later followed by Q & A between Ramana and various visitors.

If one sees the initial summary, David Godman stressed on focussing attentino to the inner feeling of "I".   Questions like who am i,   whence am i are only aids to shift back the attention the inner sense of "I"  in which one has to focus his attention.

Even the small booklet of who am i  ,  did not speak anyting about this type of inner focus or attention on feeling of I.  Infact for a new person,    he will link Self Enquiry only to the constant looking for 'who am i', 'where from this I comes etc.

So I asked David Godman ,  if this inner attention or feeling on 'I" is really emphasised by Ramana or this is a discovery by David himself by result of his long standing practice in cities /  kannapa temple forest alike.

In respsone,  David Godman gave the following replies.

He gracefully agreed and gave his permission to publish my question and his answer in Ramana
Maharishee related forums.

I thank him for all his unfolding details on Self Enquiry.  I repeat here the entire conversation.

My Question:

In Be As you are ,  you have summarized self enquiry practice and then quoted many q & as on the practice followed by your summary
What I wonder is,  this subjective feeling of I,  the inner feeling of I is mentioned by you as main focus and who am I being an aid for this subjective feeling of the I
I could not find any dialogue until now where Maharshi directly used the word subjective feeling or inner feeling.
All dialogues are about the questions like who am I,  the source of I,  whence am I ,  where am I etc.
I am interested and curious to know where Maharshi has mentioned to stay on this subjective feeling of I.
I have even read about mental repetition of I as a method given to a house wife but never could find these terms except in your book.
I think nobody wrote a detailed summary as you did before.  Is this knowledge discerned on you and that you used it in your book?
I am not questioning the validity but simply wanted to know how self enquiry was understood pre David Godman’s book.

David Godman's reply:

Bhagavan taught that the experiencing subject (the 'I'-thought) and the objects it sees both arise in the Self, and that by directing attention to the subject (the 'I') objects vanish, leaving the pure 'I'. This pure 'I' is not the Self; the true 'I' is experienced when this pure 'I' disappears and subsides into the Self, something it will do when it is no longer distracted by objects. This is achieved, according to Bhagavan, by enquiry (asking 'Who am I?' or 'Where does the "I" originate?), by repeating 'I', 'I', or by paying constant attention to the feeling of 'I' as it is experienced within oneself. These are different ways of describing the same process: being aware of the subject 'I' while not being distracted by any of the objects it ordinarily wants to connect with.

The thought rises up as the subject and object. ‘I’ alone being held, all else disappears. (Talks 352)

Vritti Jnana alone can destroy ‘ajnana’ (ignorance). Absolute Jnana is not inimical to ajnana.There are two kinds of vrittis (modes of mind). (1) vishaya vritti (objective) and (2) atma vritti (subjective). The first must give place to the second. That is the aim of abhyasa (practice), which takes one first to the puriashtaka and then to the One Self...

Vritti-Jnanam is usually associated with objective phenomena. When these cease there remains the atma-vritti or the subjective vritti that is the same as Jnanam. Without it ajnanam will not cease. The puriashtaka also will not be found associated with anything outside, and the Self will shine forth uniform and harmonious. (Talks 629)

The phrase 'holding on to the subjective feeling of "I"' is one that I use in my explanations of this process. Though it does not occur as a direct quotation in Bhagavan's explanations of what self-enquiry is and how it works, I think it summarises his many explanations on this topic.

In Talks Bhagavan advises a visitor to enquire and be aware of the 'subjective' 'I':

46. After hearing the Malayalam version of Upadesa Sara chanted, Mr. Ramachandra Iyer of Nagercoil asked in a characteristically unsophisticated way about the mind, concentration and control. The Master said that the mind is only identity of the Self with the body. It is a false ego that is created; it creates false phenomena in its turn, and appears to move in them; all these are false. The Self is the only Reality. If the false identity vanishes the persistence of the Reality becomes apparent. It does not mean that Reality is not here and now. It is always there and eternally the same. It is also in everyone’s experience. For everyone knows that he is. “Who is he?” Subjectively, “Who am I?” The false ego is associated with objects; this ego itself is its own object. Objectivity is the falsity. Subject is alone the Reality. Do not confound yourself with the object, namely the body. This gives rise to the false ego, consequently of the world and your movements therein with the resulting misery. Do not think yourself to be this, that or anything; to be so and so, or to be such and such. Only leave off the falsity. The Reality will reveal itself.

In the following well-known passage from Talks Bhagavan advises a devotee to hold on to the 'I', and when the devotee asks to be shown the way, Bhagavan tells him that it is not an object that can be pointed out. It is, instead, something subjective that has to be experienced for oneself:

486. Mr. Ganapatram: How shall I find out “Who am I”?
M.: Are there two selves for the one self to find the other?
D.: The Self must be only one consisting of two aspects of ‘I’ and sankalpa (i.e., of thinker and thought).
After a time he continued:
Please say how I shall realise the ‘I’. Am I to make the japa, “Who am I?”
M.: No japa of the kind is meant.
D.: Am I to think “Who am I”?
M.: You have known that the ‘I’-thought springs forth. Hold the ‘I’-thought and find its moola (source).
D.: May I know the way?
M.: Do as you have now been told and see.
D.: I do not understand what I should do.
M.: If it is anything objective the way can be shown objectively. This is subjective.
D.: But I do not understand.
M.: What! Do you not understand that you are?
D.: Please tell me the way.
M.: Is it necessary to show the way in the interior of your own home? This is within you.
D.: What do you advise me to do?
M.: Why should you do anything and what should you do? Only keep quiet. Why not do so? Each one must do according to his own state.
D.: Please tell me what is suitable to me. I want to hear from you.
No answer.

In Talks 148 Bhagavan says that the 'subject should be firmly held':

After it [attention to nada] is felt the practice should not be made an end in itself. Nada is not the objective; the subject should firmly be held; otherwise a blank will result.

Attention to the subject 'I', rather than focusing on the objects it perceives is brought out in this passage from Talks in which Bhagavan (talk 338) contrasts meditation (attention to objects that are seen or perceived) with a direct focus on the subject 'I':

D.: Is it not better to say ‘I am the Supreme Being’ than ask ‘Who am I?’
M.: Who affirms? There must be one to do it. Find that one.
D.: Is not meditation better than investigation?
M.: Meditation implies mental imagery, whereas investigation is for the Reality. The former is objective, whereas the latter is subjective.
D.: There must be a scientific approach to this subject.
M.: To eschew unreality and seek the Reality is scientific.

The phrase 'feeling of I' does not occur very often in Talks, but in the following dialogue (Talks 24) Bhagavan speaks about it and says that it must be firmly held onto:

D.: Thoughts cease suddenly, then ‘I-I’ rises up as suddenly and continues. It is only in the feeling and not in the intellect. Can it be right?
M.: It is certainly right. Thoughts must cease and reason disappear for ‘I-I’ to rise up and be felt. Feeling is the prime factor and not reason.
D.: Moreover it is not in the head but in the right side of the chest.
M.: It ought to be so. Because the heart is there.
D.: When I see outside it disappears. What is to be done?
M.: It must be held tight.

The teaching that one should hold on firmly to the feeling of 'I' is articulated more frequently in Letters from Sri Ramanasramam. I think this may be due to the translator's preference for this word, rather than a different emphasis on this aspect of the teaching:

Further questioning was, “It is said that that buddhi must be made one with Atma. How is that?” Bhagavan replied, “How can it be made one with Atma when it is not a thing which comes from outside? It is within oneself. The feeling or the shadow of Atma is buddhi. If that buddhi, the static thing, is known, one remains as one’s own self. Some call that ‘buddhi’, some ‘shakti’ and some call it ‘aham’. Whatever the name, it must be caught hold of firmly to drive away all that comes from elsewhere.
Letters 24th April 1947

And finally, you asked about references for repeating 'I' as a practice. Bhagavan wrote about this in Who am I?, and he also mentioned it in the following two replies:

Sadhu: Am I to keep on repeating "Who am I?” so as to make a mantra of it?
Bhagavan: No. 'Who am I?' is not a mantra. It means that you must find out where in you arises the I thought which is the source of all other thoughts. But if you find this vichara marga too hard for you, you can go on repeating "I, I" and that will lead you to the same goal. There is no harm in using 'I' as a mantra. It is the first name of God.
God is everywhere, but it is difficult to conceive Him in that aspect; so the books have said : "God is everywhere; He is also within you. You are Brahman." So remind yourself : “I am Brahman". The repetition of “I" will eventually lead you to realise "I am Brahman".
Day by Day 8.5.46

Mrs. C. then referred to the portion in the book (Who am I?) where it is said, "Even if you keep on saying 'I', 'I', it will take you to the Self or reality" and asked whether that was not the proper thing to be done. I explained, "The book says one must try and follow the enquiry method which consists in turning one's thoughts inwards and trying to find out wherefrom the 'I', which is the root of all thoughts, arises. If one finds one is not able to do it, one may simply go on repeating 'I', 'I', as if it were a mantram like 'Krishna' or 'Rama' which people use in their japa. The idea is to concentrate on one thought to exclude all other thoughts and then eventually even the one thought will die." On this, Mrs. C. asked me, “Will it be of any use if one simply repeats 'I', 'I' mechanically?" I replied, "When one uses 'I' or other words like 'Krishna', one surely has in one's own mind some idea of the God one calls by the name 'I' or anything else. When a man goes on repeating 'Rama' or 'Krishna', he can't be thinking of a tree as the meaning behind it." After all this, Bhagavan said, “Now you consider you are making an effort and uttering 'I', 'I' or other mantrams and making meditation. But when you reach the final stage, meditation will go on without any effort on your part. You can't get away from it or stop it, for meditation, japa, or whatever else you call it, is your real nature."
Day by Day 24.11.46


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Re: some basic questions and answers on self enquiry
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2012, 01:50:43 PM »
Dear Krishnan and others,

In Chapter I of Maharshi's Gospel, Volume II, Sri Bhagavan says:

'Self Inquiry is an an empty formula. It is more than the repetition of any mantra. If the inquiry Who am I? were a mere mental
questioning, it would not be of much value. The very purpose of Self Inquiry is to focus the entire mind at its source. It is not
therefore, a case of one 'I' searching another 'I'.
Just as a person by frequent immersion in water is rid of dirt of his body, similarly mind, by its frequent immersion in the Heart, in a
thought free state, sheds all its accretions and Vasanas acquired in several births.

Arunachala Siva.