Shankaracharya and Ramana Maharshi (study)

by Maithili Vitthal Joshi | 2018 | 63,961 words

This page relates ‘Means to Moksha (according to Ramana Maharshi)’ of the comparative study of the philosophies of Shankaracharya (representing the Vedic tradition and Vedanta philosophy) and Ramana Maharshi (representing modern era). For Shankara (Achreya) his commentaries on the ten major Upanishads are studied, while for Ramana Maharshi his Ulladu Narpadu (the forty verses on Reality) is taken into consideration.

Chapter 3.4(c) - Means to Mokṣa (according to Ramaṇa Maharṣi)

Ramaṇa Maharṣi has discussed the four paths, namely jñāna-mārga, bhakti-mārga, yoga-mārga and karma-mārga, according to the capacity of the aspirants. However, the Self-enquiry is the most approved path by him. He calls it the jñāna-mārga. He does not deny any path to follow, but almost all the times he explains them in the relation with the Self-enquiry. While explaining the term yoga which is found to be attached to each path in the tradition, he asserts the exact role of these paths in attaining the liberation. In his view, the term yoga suggests the eternal union of the individual with the Self. The individual has not been ever separated from the Self. So, the term has not been used in the sense of going and joining the Self as if it is different from the individual. All the yogas aim at removing the long-rooted false notion of the aspirant that he is separate from the Self.[1]


In the tradition of Kevala-advaita-vedānta-philosophy, the jñānamārga has been taught through the practice of śravaṇa, manana and nididhyāsana. Ramaṇa Maharṣi too, discusses the traditional views regarding the path of knowledge in some of the dialogues. He explains the exact sense of these views and does not oppose them. For example, he mentions the traditional view in the following words: One knows the truth intellectually through the śravaṇa. The truth becomes more explicit through the manana. And, one realizes the truth through the nididhyāsana. Even if so, one can attain the realization only through hearing, if he is competent. Otherwise, one has to pass through all the three stages to realize the Self. The knowledge becomes firm only when one attains the direct experience of the Self.[2] Maharṣi further describes this very view in more intricate manner. According to him, śravaṇā etc. help one to remove the thoughts, which are the obstacles in the way to the realization. A person, who is kṛtopāsaka, i.e. one who has done the practice in his past births and hence who is competent, can obtain the firm knowledge by the śravaṇa alone. He does not need the further steps on account of his competence. On the other hand, the akṛtopāsaka, i.e. one who is not yet capable to realize the Self, has to follow the next steps viz. the manana and the nididhyāsana. The repetition of the śravaṇa is necessary until the understanding of subject-matter becomes perfect. The manana is necessary to make all doubts clear. The nididhyāsana is onepointedness of the mind which removes the wrong identification of the Self with the non-self. All these three aids end in the samādhi. [3]

In the Ramaṇa-gītā, more subtle details of śravaṇā etc. are mentioned. Therein, Maharṣi’s own view-point about these terms is also recorded. He puts forth two traditional interpretations of the śravaṇa. According to the first view, the śravaṇa means hearing the sentences of the Upaniṣads by the preceptor along with their meaning and the explanation.[4] The second view is that the śravaṇa means hearing the explanation of the nature of the Self, which is enunciated in the colloquial language by the Self-realized preceptor.[5] In the opinion of Kapali Sastry, the tradition allows the hearing of the Vedānta-texts for the dvija (twice-born i.e. brahmaṇa, kṣatriya and vaiśya) only. This second view of śravaṇa approves the eligibility of the person other than the dvija to hear the truth, since herein the śravaṇa is allowed in one’s own language. Additionally, the aim of the śravaṇa is to know the tātparya viz. the intended purpose of the teaching and this is achieved successfully through one’s own language.[6] Further, Ramaṇa Maharṣi asserts his opinion about the śravaṇa. According to him, in real sense, the śravaṇa means hearing through one’s own mind that one is different from the body and one’s essential nature lies beyond the ahaṃ-vṛtti. One can hear this inner voice by hearing the sentences of the Upaniṣads or by hearing the sentences from the Guru. In their absence, the inner voice can be heard through the comprehension of these sentences by the merit of past births also.[7] In this way, Ramaṇa Maharṣi gives importance to the inner voice rather than the hearing on the gross level. Further, he explains the next step, namely the manana. His own interpretation of the manana is quite different from the traditional view. Traditionally, manana means the reflection on the meaning of the scriptures, but in the opinion of Maharṣi, the manana is the investigation into one’s own nature.[8] This step is not different from the practice of the Self-enquiry.

While explaining the traditional viewpoint of the nididhyāsana, Ramaṇa Maharṣi says that the nididhyāsana is the determination of the intellect about the unity of the jīva with the Brahman, free from the doubt and the wrong knowledge. However, according to Maharṣi, this experience, which is born in the intellect of the believer through the scriptures, is not enough to eradicate the doubt and the wrong knowledge completely. When one loses the faith even a little, both the doubt and the wrong knowledge emerge again. The direct experience or the abidance in the Self alone is suffice for their complete annihilation. This Self-abidance alone is the nididhyāsana. [9] Thus, here, Ramaṇa Maharṣi notes his own viewpoint that the nididhyāsana is none other than the Selfexperience. But, it is accepted in the tradition that the nididhyāsana is the means to the realization and not the realization itself. Ramaṇa Maharṣi too regards it as a means and not a goal in other dialogues.[11] Then, why does he equalize the nididhyāsana with the goal, namely the Self-experience? Kapali Sastry removes this doubt in the commentary on the Ramaṇa-gītā. He comments that the nididhyāsana is not the nidhyāna viz. the experience itself, but it is the desire of the experience. Even if so, one experiences the Self immediately after the rise of the desire of the experience, since this experience of the Self differs from the empirical experience. In the empirical world, there is a distance between the subject and the object as well as between the experience and the desire of the experience. However, the Self-experience is free from the separateness of the triple factors of the knowledge viz. knower, knowledge and things to be known. Herein, the Self itself is the seer, the seen and the sight. So, when one ardently desires to know the Self, he immediately attains the Self. Therefore, in the case of the experience of the Self, there is no distance between the nididhyāsana and the nidhyāna.[13] Thus, here, Ramaṇa Maharṣi is expecting the ultimate state of the nididhyāsana, through which an aspirant can immediately achieve his goal viz. the Self-experience. In other dialogues too, it is seen that Maharṣi has asserted the oneness of the sādhanā (spiritual practice) and the sādhya (goal). He says that the Self-knowledge or the liberation is inherent to one. To realize it, various paths are instructed. These paths are called the means, when one is still practising with conscious efforts. However, when the effortless state is gained, these paths themselves become the goal viz. the Self-realization.[15] Probably, here also, in the case of nididhyāsana and nidhyāna, he is expecting the same sense i.e. the means itself turns into the goal at the perfectly ripe stage.

In this way, Ramaṇa Maharṣi has discussed the various aspects of the traditional viewpoint of śravaṇa, manana and nididyāsana. Additionally, he has mentioned his own viewpoints about them. In his view, the śravaṇa suggests the stage in which one intellectually knows the nature of identification and further discriminates the Self from the body. In the stage of manana, one investigates into the Self ignoring the non-self. The nididhyāsan is the nearest step to the realization. It is the most perfect concentration through which one can immediately get established into the Self. By closely examining these viewpoints, it can be said that Maharṣi has defined these terms considering the steps of the Self-enquiry, the most approved path by him. In another dialogue also, he has connected the traditional path to the Self-enquiry.[17] According to Maharṣi, the Selfenquiry is none other than the jñāna-mārga. [19] Moreover, the Selfenquiry is the central theme of his philosophy. So, henceforth the path of Self-enquiry is discussed.

Path of Self-enquiry:

The Ātma-vicāra or the Self-enquiry is one of the most effective methods, which helps one to turn inward and to seek the base of one’s individuality. Literally, Ātma-vicāra means an examination or investigation regarding the nature of the Self.[10] It is not the enquiry into the Self, but it is the enquiry into the ego. One finds out the real nature of the ego, when he reaches its root viz. the Self.[12] The words ‘Enquiry into the Self’ are commonly used while explaining the method of Selfenquiry. However, they do not mean to say that it is an investigation into the Self. Ramaṇa Maharṣi himself proclaims that the term Ātman or Self is seen to be roughly used in various senses, such as man, body, senses, mind, individuality etc. Herein, the enquiry into the Self means the enquiry of the true nature of the ego.[14] Furthermore, in the process of enquiry, the enquirer is the ego.[16] So, the enquiry is done by the ego in the realm of the ego. The search is continued, till the supreme Self i.e. the root of one’s individuality is attained.[18]

In the Ramaṇa-gītā, the eligibility of the Self-enquiry is recorded. One is fit to enquire into the Self, if his mind has purified by the upāsanās or by the good deeds performed in the past births. His mind sees the faults in the body and also in the objects. He has no desire of sense-objects and he knows the transitory-nature of the body. One can recognize his own eligibility through the signs of his own determination about the momentary-appearance of the body and the dispassion towards the objects.[20] At another place, while describing the practice of the japa (repeated utterance of the holy name) Ramaṇa Maharṣi observes that the Self-enquiry is suited for one, whose mind is set for investigation. Such a person cannot perform other practices for a long time. On the other hand, he will start doing investigation leaving these practices.[21] So, it can be said that the purified mind and the investigative temperament are the prerequisites of the practice of the Self-enquiry.

The process of the discrimination is an unavoidable part of the Self-enquiry. One examines the I-thought focusing on its conscious side.[22] To concentrate on the subjective awareness, it is necessary to understand thoroughly what the Self is and what the non-self is. While discriminating the body from the real ‘I’ or the Self, Ramaṇa Maharṣi has frequently explained some traditional ways also. For instance, he proves one’s bodiless existence by examining the three states of being, namely jāgrat, svapna and suṣupti. Especially, he illustrates the state of deep sleep to establish the continuity of the I-awareness in the deep sleep and to confirm the unreality of the body.[23] He uses the method of neti-neti, namely discarding of the five sheaths, to turn one’s attention to the inner pure Self.[24] However, he always warns one not to stop merely on the scriptural or intellectual knowledge of these methods. He strictly bifurcates the Self-enquiry from the intellectual speculations. He asserts that the intellectual process of discrimination is not itself the Selfenquiry. But, it can only be a part of Self-enquiry.[25] He further says that one cannot realize the Self with the help of the intellect, since the Self is the source of the intellect. The intellect only helps in analyzing oneself. After that stage, it merges into the ego and the ego gets dissolved into its source.[26] And, the method of Self-enquiry aims at the total dissolution of the ego. Hence, only the process of discrimination or mere intellectual analysis is not enough for investigating the Self, which is hidden in the cover of the ego or the I-thought.

In the Self-enquiry, the aham-vṛtti or the I-thought is used as a clue to attain the Self.[27] In the opinion of Ramaṇa Maharṣi, the I-thought is the basis of all other objective thoughts. It is the subjective mode of the mind. In other words, it is ‘I-am-the-body’ thought. It implies the identification of the ‘I’ with the body. It is the jīva or the concept of individuality.[28] For the annihilation of this ego-sense, Ramaṇa Maharṣi often suggests to hold on the I-thought and to search its source.[29] Here, holding the I-thought means to fix the attention on finding out the source of the I-thought. The Self-attention does not imply that one should constantly think over the I-thought, as if it is an object. This will only be a deceit, since the I-thought is always the subject. It is impossible that the subject is holding another subject, because there can be only one subject. One ‘I’ cannot hold another ‘I’.[30] Furthermore, Maharṣi says that it is impossible that the ego agrees to kill itself or the mind agrees to kill the mind. One cannot find out the ego, if he looks for it to destroy it. Therefore, holding the ego viz. seeking the source of the ego is the only way to destroy the ego.[31] The words ‘holding the subject’ might be suggesting the sense of concentrating the mind-power solely on searching the source of the I-thought. Normally, the mind-power expands into the trinity of knowledge after the rise of the I-thought or the ego. The tendency of the mind to transform itself into the objective modes gradually becomes weak, if the subject alone is held. In this step, it is tried to find out the true nature of the ‘I’, i.e. the nature of the ‘I’ in the absence of the identification. Thus, the Self-attention directly attacks on the basic identification and bestows Self-realization on the aspirant.

This Self-attention is just impossible without the mindconcentration. Ramaṇa Maharṣi explains that the mind will become weak and cannot do the enquiry, if it turns outward and fills with innumerable thoughts. The Self-enquiry is possible only for the one-pointed mind.[32] To point out the intensity of concentration in the enquiry, he puts forth an illustration of a person, who dives under the deep water to find out a particular valuable thing. Just like this man, if one peeps into the individuality with keen intellect and search the real nature of individuality by controlling the speech and the breath, he can surely attain the source of the ego.[33] Thus, the Self-enquiry aims at transcending the mind. The analysis of the mind by concentrating on the thoughts is not expected at all while doing the enquiry.[34] But, searching the source of the mind is the enquiry.

To control the thoughts, Ramaṇa Maharṣi always suggests concentrating on the subject of these thoughts and tracing it back to its source. The questions ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Whence am I?’ are useful aids in this enquiry. Generally, Maharṣi does not indicate the difference in these two questions.[35] He advises one to ask oneself the questions ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Whence am I?’ to find out the source of the I-thought. However, at some places, he has shown the nuance between these two questions. According to him, the question ‘Who am I?’ denotes the jñāna or the vicāra. And, the question ‘Whence am I?’ denotes the dhyāna, since it admits the existence of the individual who is seeking its source viz. the Self.[36] In another dialogue, he mentions a sequence in these two questions, which was followed by himself while doing the enquiry. In his view, when one concentrates to locates the birth-place of the ego by the question ‘Whence am I?’, the mind becomes still. Thereafter, there remains a very subtle form of ‘I’ which also gets merged by questioning ‘Who am I?’ In the place of the I-thought, there remains only the Self, the source of the individuality.[37] This description suggests that one tries to reach to the source of one’s own individuality by questioning oneself ‘Whence am I?’ This practice helps one to keep away other thoughts. Thereby, the objectifying tendency of the mind becomes weak. The Ithought becomes subtler and subtler in its way to the source. Finally, it gets totally vanished by the question ‘Who am I?’ It is the most intimate stage to the realization while following the path of Self-enquiry. Here, it must be noted that the meaning of the ‘I’ in the question ‘Who am I?’ is also the ego and not the Self, as told by Maharṣi himself.[38]

In some of the dialogues, there seems the confusion about the question ‘Who am I?’ as if it is a kind of mantra. Ramaṇa Maharṣi removes this misbelief and says that one should ask this question, when other distracting thoughts arise. This question is a means to keep away other thoughts and to search the source of the I-thought. Even if so, sometimes Maharṣi advises to repeat the ‘I’ as a mantra by explaining that the ‘I’ is the first name of the God and one can attain the same goal by its repetition. However, this advice is given by him only seeing one’s unfitness for the enquiry.[39] He further notes that the question ‘Who am I?’ is itself a thought. It is used as a tool in the method of Self-enquiry and after annihilating all the thoughts, this question also ultimately gets merged into the Self.[40] It is also not expected to answer in the form of soham-thought to the question ‘Who am I?’[41] One imposes the saḥ (That) on the aham (I) while doing the soham-practice. And, Ramaṇa Maharṣi always rejects to attach any supplement to the ‘I’ while doing the enquiry. He says that one finds out the identity of soham, i.e. one is not different from the supreme Reality, in the end of the enquiry. The soham is the state of the experience and it is not a mere thought.[42] Thus, Maharṣi wants to convey that the supreme Reality is a thought-free state. One has to transcend even the soham-thought to attain that state. And, the method of the Self-enquiry helps one to attain the thought-free state.

Speaking of the result of the Self-enquiry, Ramaṇa Maharṣi declares that the I-thought completely vanishes at the end of the Selfenquiry. In other words, the realization takes place that there does not exist such an entity named the ego or the mind. This path directly suspects the very existence of the mind or the ego and finally makes one realize the truth that the mind or the ego does not exist at all. That is why Ramaṇa Maharṣi calls it the direct path.[43] When one seeks the birthplace of the I-thought with the extremely pure mind, the I-thought comes to an end in the Self, realizing its own nature. It is just like the river that ceases to be separate from the ocean after merging into the ocean.[44] After the annihilation of the I-thought, there occurs the sfuraṇa viz. the ceaseless throbbing of the supreme, infinite Reality in the form of pure ‘I’.[45] Ramaṇa Maharṣi says that the enquiry should be continued up to this moment. After having the Self-experience, there ends the Self-enquiry.[46] The state of the absence of all the thoughts is suspected by some people as being a void. Maharṣi removes this doubt by affirming that there always remains the witness viz. the Self who knows the void. The existence of the void can be assumed only on the plane of the mind. The duality of knowledge and ignorance pertains to the mind. The Self transcends the mind.[47] In this way, the Self-enquiry results into the attainment of the Self i.e. the firm abidance into the Self. Thereby, all the sorrows come to an end. And, this is the highest result of all.[48]

Ramaṇa Maharṣi describes the Self-enquiry in relation with other paths also. He shows pre-eminence of the method of enquiry over other paths on account of its directness. The very basic thing, which is frequently told by him, is that the subject is the most intimate entity rather than the objects. The core of the subject is the Self itself. So, it is not correct to think over the objects ignoring the subject for attaining the Self-realization. The Self-realization is only delayed by such objective analysis.[49] In other methods, the practice is done on the assumption of the individuality. On the other hand, the reality of the very ego is examined in the path of Self-enquiry. So, it is the direct path.[50] The practice of the other methods too does not end till the ego survives. Therefore, according to Ramaṇa Maharṣi, one has to find out the reality of the ego at the end of all these methods as well.[51] Here lies the salient feature of the enquiry, in which the reality of the ego is questioned and searched from the very beginning. Therefore, the enquirer finds out that the ego or the mind is a superfluous entity, relatively in short time. Thus, here ends the false identification of the Self with the body. One realizes the Self directly in comparison with the other paths and attains the liberation, which is one’s natural state.


Ramaṇa Maharṣi asserts the nature of the actions and the essence of the karma-yoga in the beginning verses of the Upadeśa-sāram. The karman is insentient in its nature and hence it cannot not be called supreme. It is the God by whose order one gets the fruits of the actions. In other words, the conscious entity viz. the God has control over the cycle of the actions and their fruits.[52] These actions are not harmful in themselves, but the desire of their fruits is harmful. The fruits of the actions are perishable and they makes one perform the innumerable actions again and thus obstructs one’s way to the liberation.[53] One gets caught into the circle of the actions and their fruits, when he performs these actions with the desire of their fruits. Hence, the actions done with desire are not benevolent for an aspirant. On the other hand, the actions which are free from the desire and offered to the God purify the mind as well as become the means to the liberation.[54] Hence, offering the actions to the God helps one to be free from one’s desires. Ramaṇa Maharṣi further turns one’s attention to the root-cause of the actions. It is the kartṛtva-bhāvanā or the notion ‘I-am-a-doer’ that makes one act. Owing to one’s individuality, one becomes the agent of the actions and thereby the enjoyer of the results. So, Ramaṇa Maharṣi tells to give up this agency to transcend the saṃsāra. [55] For that he suggests to enquire into the truth of the doer. The sense of individuality comes to an end by doing this enquiry.[56] After the complete annihilation of the sense of individuality, one becomes free from the ownership of the actions and thus attains the state of actionlessness.[57] In this way, the actions can be overcome, if they are done without the desire and the notion of agency. Here, the question arises, ‘how can one perform the actions in the absence of agency?’ Ramaṇa Maharṣi replies that the actions will automatically continue, even though one fixes his attention on the Self. The God controls the interrelation of the actions and their fruits. He makes one act till the end of one’s prārabdha.[58]

Even though the karma-yoga is essential to lose the bondage, it cannot directly lead one to the state of liberation. One cannot become liberated only with the help of the actions. He has to transcend the actions, because the state of liberation is effortless. Ramaṇa Maharṣi says that the karmayoga purifies one’s mind and thereby one attains the liberation.[59] Maharṣi speaks the same about the sat-karmas (virtuous actions). The virtuous actions, such as purification of the body by bath, repeating the prayers at the time of twilight, doing sacrifice, studying the Vedas, worshiping the gods etc., purify the mind of an aspirant who has started the practice of Self-enquiry and whose desires are extremely weak. These good deeds, performed by the mind, speech and body, destroy the actions contrary to them i.e. the bad actions; and thus help one in the way of attaining the liberation.[60] In this way, according to Ramaṇa Maharṣi, the karma-yoga is useful to purify the mind of the disciple. However, one has to follow the path of Self-enquiry to attain the final emancipation.

The next point is whether one can realize the Self while engaged in the actions or the renunciation of the actions is necessary for the Selfexperience. While explaining the forth āśrama viz. the sannyāsa, Ramaṇa Maharṣi says that the real sannyāsa is not different from the pure knowledge. It is not merely wearing the red garment or shaving the head. Then, what is the worth of this forth stage? This āśrama is meant for removing the various obstacles in the pathway of the aspirant.[61] On this verse, Kapali Sastry comments that innumerable obstacles can obstruct one’s way, when he is doing the sādhanā (spiritual practice) to attain the realization, and even he is free from the attachments. To avoid those hindrances, the statement of the sannyāsa is made.[62] At another place, Ramaṇa Maharṣi explains that the four āśramas pertain to the body, whereas the attachment pertains to the mind. The discipline of the sannyāsa-āśrama helps one to attain the dispassion, which is the means to the Self-enquiry. However, if one is not eligible yet to live the life of sannyāsa-āśrama, he should live the householder’s life and practise the renunciation of the mind.[63] Further, referring to the jñānī, Maharṣi explains that the sannyāsa means the renunciation of the I-thought viz. the individuality. Although the jñānī who has thus annihilated the ego performs various actions in the world, in reality he remains inactive. He does not swerve from the Reality, even if he is in the midst of the empirical life.[64] Additionally, Maharṣi says that one thinks that he is a sannyāsin or a gṛhastha (house-holder) only because of the ego. Here, the difference is only of the environment around him, namely the forest or the home. The thoughts of the changed environment too become an obstacle in the way of the aspirant. So, the renunciation in the mind is important.[65] In this way, Ramaṇa Maharṣi has mostly convinced one not to leave the home but to do the practice while performing the household duties. Of course, he does not intend here to blame the sannyāsa-āśrama. He answers in such a manner, probably because he considers the eligibility and the temperament of the person. If one is not prepared properly for the sannyāsa and he is yet attached to the household activities, then it will not be beneficial for his spiritual practice to accept the monastic life. So, according to Ramaṇa Maharṣi, the sannyāsaāśrama is not compulsory to follow the jñāna-mārga. Moreover, he affirms that even an aspirant can practise the path of jñāna while engaged in the actions. And, after doing some practice, he can be indifferent to the actions.[66]

In this connection, the question was asked to Ramaṇa Maharṣi why he had himself left the house, if the renunciation of the household duties is not essential. The answer given by Maharṣi is that it is owing to his prārabdha. [67] Moreover, he proclaims that one’s prārabdha cannot be changed in any circumstances. If one is destined to leave the home, he will definitely do that even without any question. On the other hand, if one is destined to perform the house-hold duties, he can never avoid them. The renunciation of the household duties is solely depended on one’s destiny.[68] Therefore, according to Ramaṇa Maharṣi, it is the maturity or the fitness of the mind of the aspirant that plays an important role to attain the Self-realization. Then, the external circumstances do not obstruct the way of the aspirant. Therefore, further, he states that the duties performed in the first three āśramas viz. brahmacarya, gṛhastha and vānaprastha do not disagree with the Self-realization. This sequence of the āśramas is instructed only for the proper course of the empirical activities.[69] In this way, the house-holder is also certainly eligible to attain the Self-knowledge, when he is perfectly detached.[70] Now, the question is whether all the actions, prescribed in the scriptures, are compulsory for the ripe aspirant. In the opinion of Ramaṇa Maharṣi, one can follow the path of jñāna only when he has completed the other methods in his past births. For such a follower of the jñāna-mārga, it is not necessary to perform all the actions prescribed in the scriptures. Even if so, he should not purposefully cross the injunctions of the scriptures and perform the prohibited acts.[71] Thus, Ramaṇa Maharṣi facilitates the way of the aspirant, who is nearer to the ultimate jñāna. But, at the same time, he cares about the empirical life that it should not get disturbed.


Generally, it is believed that the notion of bhakti is based on the concept of duality, i.e. the devotee worships the God, whom he regards different from himself. According to the dualistic streams, the bhakti starts with the duality and also ends in the duality. In the viewpoint of the Kevala-advaita-vedānta-philosophy, although the bhakti starts in duality, it must end in the state of non-duality. The term bhakti denotes the love or the surrender to the God.[72]

While defining the bhakti, Ramaṇa Maharṣi says that everyone loves the Self by nature. There is nothing more beloved than the Self. The bhakti is the uninterrupted or unbroken love for the Self, just like the flow of the oil.[73] The jñānī knows the truth that the Īśvara is not different from the Self. On the contrary, the ignorant bhakta (devotee) regards the Īśvara to be different from oneself. In this case also, Maharṣi says that the devotee merges into the Self at the end. The devotee loves the Īśvara uninterruptedly. This love definitely leads him to the Self, even if he has no desire to attain the Self.[74] How can it be said that the attainment of the Self is possible even in the absence of its desire? Kapali Sastry removes this doubt by using a very appropriate simile of a man sitting in a boat. The man arrives at the place where the boat ultimately reaches, even if he does not know about that place or does not want to go there. Similarly, the devotee who is established in the unbroken supreme love attains the Self at the end.[75] Further, Kapali Sastry shows the way by which the devotee gets absorbed into the Self. At the beginning, the devotee worships the God in the sense of duality. However, at the end, he offers himself to the God under the influence of the supreme love for the God and thus becomes free from the individuality.[76] So, the important thing here is the consistency or steadiness in the contemplation either on the Self or on the God. By the force of this constant flow of the love, the individuality of the devotee ultimately merges in the supreme Self. This is the fulfillment of the bhakti.

The culmination of bhakti is called parā-bhakti (supreme devotion). It is called aparā-bhakti (lower devotion) as long as the devotee considers himself different from the God or the Self. The aparā-bhakti is done on a lower stage. In the parā-bhakti, there does not remain any differentiation between the devotee and the God. There is no room even for a single mode of mind in it. Ramaṇa Maharṣi defines the parā-bhakti as the firm establishment in the Existence, attained by the strength of abhedabhāvanā i.e. the meditation on the soham-thought. This state is devoid of any thought.[77] The complete surrender viz. the complete absorption of the individuality is expected in this state.[78] According to the school of Qualified-monism, the individuality is retained even after the surrender and one serves the God reaching the divine region. Ramaṇa Maharṣi refutes this view by saying that the God expects complete surrender and not mere service from his devotees.[79] He further affirms that the parābhakti or the complete surrender is not different from the jñāna, since it suggests the sense of complete destruction of individuality.[80]

Ramaṇa Maharṣi describes the vicchinnā bhakti (unsteady devotion) also. He regards it as a pre-step of steady or uninterrupted devotion. In the vicchinnā bhakti, the contemplation on the God is not continuous like the flow of the oil.[81] While facing the calamities in the life, the jīva considers itself limited and worships the omnipresent supreme Reality, thinking it in the form of a deity, to remove those obstacles.[82] Furthermore, the devotee imposes the name and the form on the deity to worship it. Finally, he conquers all other names and forms in the world with the help of the particular name and the form of this deity.[83] Here, the devotion or the surrender is not complete, because the devotee regards himself to be different from the God. Sometimes, one worships the God to fulfill his worldly desires or the desires in the next world. However, the devotion does not end even after the fulfillment of the specific desire. The love and the faith on the God gradually increase and the devotee continuously worships the God until he attains the eternal Bliss.[84] In this manner, Ramaṇa Maharṣi assures that the unsteady devotion too, gradually turns into the supreme devotion.

Here, the essential thing to be noted is that Ramaṇa Maharṣi often approves only two paths. They are: the path of Self-enquiry and the path of bhakti. They are primarily based on the seeking and the devotional temperament of a human mind.[85] According to Maharṣi, one should follow the path of bhakti, if he does not have the seeking attitude. Whichever method one follows, he attains the ultimate goal.[86] Furthermore, he tells that these two methods cannot be bifurcated extremely. The God is not different from the Self. In this sense, the Self-attention is none other than the devotion to the God.[87] Thus, Maharṣi shows interrelation between the bhakti and the enquiry.


The term yoga and its usages are so ancient that they can be traced in the Vedic literature also. There are various explanations of this term found in the various ancient treatises. The Yoga-sūtras of Patañjali is known as the oldest treatise mainly devoted to the yoga-practices. According to this treatise, the yoga means the restraint of the modes of mind.[88] Traditionally, the Yogas ystem is associated with the Sāṅkhyasystem, because most of the doctrines of the Yogas ystem resemble with the Saṅkhyas ystem. However, the yoga-practices have been accepted by various religions and philosophical systems. The Kevala-advaitavedānta-philosophy is also not an exception to it.

The discussions of the yoga-practices are found in the works of Ramaṇa Maharṣi also. He has mainly explained some of the Aṣṭāṅgayogic practices, which form a major part of Pātañjala-rāja-yoga. At some places, he has expressed his opinions about the haṭha-yoga and the kuṇḍalinī-yoga also. Of course, these descriptions are comparatively very few. His objective is not to teach the yoga-practices. He describes all these practices mostly comparing them with the practice of Self-enquiry. According to him, the aspirant performing any yoga-practice starts with the belief that he is separate from the supreme Being and he will be united with it at the end of the yoga-practice. On the contrary, the aspirant of jñāna-mārga searches the very reason of the separation.[89] At another place, Ramaṇa Maharṣi expresses his disapproval to the suppression of the citta-vṛttis (modes of the mind). In his view, the mind gets controlled in some states, such as sleep, swoon etc. But it becomes active again at the end of these states. Hence, mere suppression of the mind is of no use. On the other hand, by following the method of Self-enquiry, the mind is annihilated automatically in its source.[90]

Ramaṇa Maharṣi precisely describes the aṣṭāṅga-yoga, namely the yoga consisting of eight parts, in one of his dialogues named SelfEnquiry.[91] This description is mostly based on the aṣṭāṅga-yoga prescribed in the Yoga-sūtrās of Patañjali. However, Maharṣi mainly discusses the three parts of the aṣṭāṅga-yoga in his works. They are: prāṇāyāma, dhyāna and samādhi. Although he explains these methods, it is not his intention to instruct them as a main practice. He has described them mainly because he had questions about them from the devotees.

Ramaṇa Maharṣi has often recommended the practice of the prāṇāyāma (breath-control) to control the mind. He says that the mind and the prāṇa have the same source, namely the Self. The mind refers to the power of consciousness and the prāṇa refers to the power of action. Both these powers are the branches of the original power of the Self. They rise from the same place and merge also into the same place.

Therefore, the mind gets temporarily absorbed into the Self by restraining the prāṇa. It is just like a bird caught in a net.[92] Maharṣi further states that there is no need of the practice of prāṇāyāma for one who can control the thoughts. The prāṇāyāma proves to be a useful aid, when one is unable to concentrate the mind. The mind is forcefully controlled by the practice of prāṇāyāma, just like controlling the movement of the horse in one direction by using the reign.[93] T. V. Kapali Sastry explains this elaborately in the commentary on the Ramaṇa-gītā. He says that Ramaṇa Maharṣi teaches the way of practice according to the eligibility of the aspirant. While enquiring into the Self, the prāṇa follows the mind and becomes restrained and thereby calm, if one’s mind is strong and endowed with the saṃskāras of previous virtuous deeds. Otherwise, the weak mind is carried away by the prāṇa to the external objects. Thus, the unfit and externalized mind is always dominated by the prāṇā. [94] The practice of prāṇayāna is one of the useful methods to control the externalized mind. Even if so, the prāṇāyāma has the temporary effects. When one stops practicing the prāṇāyāma, the controlled mind gets externalized again. Therefore, Maharṣi always advises one not to get satisfied only with the mechanical prāṇāyāma, but to do other practices such as Self-enquiry or meditation when the mind gets concentrated by the prāṇāyāma. The temporary mind-control is certainly not useful to attain the realization.[95] It is also important to see the exact type of the prāṇāyāma recommended by Maharṣi. He mostly advises to watch constantly the inhalation and the exhalation of the prāṇa by the mind. By doing this, according to him, the kumbhaka viz. the restraint of the prāṇā is accomplished.[96] In this way, though Ramaṇa Maharṣi sometimes suggests the practice of prāṇāyāma, he considers it as a secondary practice.

The next part of the aṣṭāṅga-yoga elaborated by Ramaṇa Maharṣi is the dhyāna (meditation). According to him, the fundamental thing in the meditation is to concentrate on one particular thought. By the virtue of the constant meditation, other distracting thoughts can be kept away. When one begins the meditation, all other thoughts gather together and try to remove the thought on which one meditates. Hence, Maharṣi compares the meditation with the battle. These distracting thoughts can be overcome only when the meditation becomes deep-rooted.[97] Ramaṇa Maharṣi uses two illustrations, namly the flow of the ghee and the current of the water, to point out the continuity and intensity in the meditation.[98] Here, Ganapati Muni comments that the illustration of the flow of the ghee is used to indicate the devotional and affectionate attitude in the meditation and the illustration of the current of the water is used to indicate the purity in the meditation.[99] Ramaṇa Maharṣi does not deny any kind of meditation, such as meditation on the God or on the mantra etc. but he specifically mentions that the soham-meditation, in which the unity of the jīva with the Brahman is imagined, is more purifying than the meditation practised with the thought of differentiation.[100] This sohammeditation, however, is not itself the end because it comes under the sphere of the bhāvanā (thought) and the ultimate Reality is beyond the mind. Maharṣi, therefore, mentions that the meditation on the sohamthought is useful in seeking the highest Reality until one identifies himself with the body. But, after attaining the state of non-duality, it is futile. Anyone does not repeat the sentence ‘I am a man’. Similarly, it is totally unnecessary to repeat the soham-mantra, when one gets established permanently in the Self.[101] Further, Maharṣi often compares the meditation with the path of Self-enquiry. In the meditation, one concentrates on the subtle or the gross object, unquestioning the truth of one’s own individuality. However, in the path of Self-enquiry, one aims at investigating the truth of individuality. This is the basic difference between these paths. The objective of both these methods is the same, namely the Self. However, in the Self-enquiry one directly seeks the source of the subject i.e. the root of the individuality and gets merged into it with awareness. So, it is a straight path. On the other hand, the meditator concentrates on the particular objective thought, which ultimately merges into the Self. The meditator tries to attain the supreme Reality, whereas the enquirer directly holds the subject. Therefore, the process of meditation takes long time in comparison with the Selfenquiry.[102]

The succeeding part explained by Ramaṇa Maharṣi is the samādhi. He defines the samādhi as passing beyond the dehātma-buddhi, i.e. the identification of the Self with the body. This definition suggests the culmination of the state of the samādhi. Maharṣi divides the samādhi into two parts: the savikalpa samādhi and the nirvikalpa samādhi. In the savikalpa samādhi, the mind is expected to be withdrawn from the external objects as well as from the internal thoughts, which try to distract the mind. The mind is fixed into the Self with efforts. On the other hand, in the nirvikalpa samādhi, one merges into the Reality and does not become aware of the appearance of the world. When the mind constantly remains merged in the Reality without any efforts, it is called the sahajanirvikalpa-samādhi. [103] Ramaṇa Maharṣi, in his works, mostly concentrates on this nirvikalpa samādhi and classifies it into two types: the kevala-nirvikalpa and the sahaja-nirvikalpa. In the kevala-nirvikalpasamādhi, the objects are not perceived and the mind merges in the light of the Self. However, this state is temporary. The mental and the vital activities start again as soon as one comes out of this samādhi. It is like the bucket with the rope merging in the water of the well. This bucket can be drawn out by the other end of the rope. In the sahaja-samādhi also, vikalpas do not exist. But the difference is that the mind is dead and totally absorbed into the Self. This is like a river united with the ocean.[104] This steady unitary awareness in the sahaja-samādhi does not get disturbed even when the objects are perceived, whereas the kevalanirvikalpa-samādhi is continued only in the absence of the objects. After coming out of this samādhi, one perceives all the differences again.[105] While differentiating the state of the samādhi from its early stage viz. the meditation, Ramaṇa Maharṣi says that the deliberate mental efforts are needed for the meditation, whereas the samādhi is effortless.[106] Further, he distinguishes the samādhi from the states like deep sleep, swooning etc. In these states one merges into the Self without awareness, whereas one attains the Self with full awareness in the state of samādhi.[107]

Ramaṇa Maharṣi describes the sahaja samādhi as the ultimate state. He, therefore, insists that one should continue the practice till he attains the sahaja-sthiti. Furthermore, he warns the aspirants to ignore the eightfold siddhis (occult powers), if one attains them while doing the practice. They are of no use in realizing the Self. On the other hand, there is a danger of swerving from the discipline, if one is caught in the trap of the siddhis. Maharṣi further explains that the occultist, who wants to display his siddhis, always wants the appreciation from others. If he would not get it, he becomes unhappy. Even if he finds the higher occultist, he becomes jealous and finally unhappy. Thus, he goes far away from the happiness and finally loses his path. Additionally, these siddhis come in the range of the mind and they are not natural to the Self. So, these can never be permanent.[108] Hence, according to Maharṣi, it is not worthy to get tempted by the siddhis. While speaking about the disclosure of the siddhis by the jñānī, Maharṣi says that it is not necessary that the Self-realized one must possess the siddhis. If one has gained the siddhis while doing the practice, he may get them after realization also. The other, who has not attempted for the siddhis, will not manifest these siddhis after realization. Even these siddhis can be attained after the realization also, but this is done only with the certain purpose, namely for the welfare of the people. The most important thing here is that the jñānī, who abides in the sahaja samādhi, is always indifferent to these siddhis and he never gets deluded by them.[109]

Apart from the aṣṭāṅga-yoga-practices that have been described above, Ramaṇa Maharṣi has occasionally discussed his views regarding the haṭha-yoga and the kuṇḍalinī-yoga also. However, he speaks about these practices mostly while answering the questions asked by the devotees, who were eager to know them. He does not intend to teach the haṭha-yoga or the kuṇḍalinī-yoga to the aspirants in full length. On the other hand, it can be easily seen that he is mostly against all these practices owing to the complexity in their nature.

In the context of the haṭhayogic practices, Ramaṇa Maharṣi mainly speaks of the prāṇāyāma. He seldom speaks of particular āsanas or mudrās, regarding them to be irrelevant for the path of jñāna. Moreover, in his view, the practice of meditation can be done in their absence also.[110] He usually advises the aspirants to watch the flow of the prāṇa. If one is unable to do this, he sets forth some of the haṭhayogic practices of the prāṇāyāma. For instance, the puraka (inhaling) and the recaka (exhaling) should be done in one unit of time and the kumbhaka (restraining) should be of four units of time. By doing this, the naḍīs will be purified and the prāṇa will be restrained gradually. The complete restraining of the prāṇa is the pure kumbhaka. [111] However, Ramaṇa Maharṣi shows the risk factor of such haṭhayogic practices to the disciples. According to him, performing these practices without the proper guidance is dangerous.[112] He compares the haṭhayoga with the Self-enquiry and emphasizes the pre-eminence of the enquiry. According to him, the prāṇa is held on in the haṭhayoga, whereas the mind is held on in the Self-enquiry. The Self can be attained through both these ways.[113] Other than prāṇāyāma, Maharṣi does not elaborate other practices seen to be prescribed in the treatises of the haṭha-yoga. [114]

At some places, Ramaṇa Maharṣi has compared the kuṇḍalinī-yoga with the Self-enquiry. He explains that the kuṇḍalinī śakti ascends to the brain, viz. the centre of the sahasrāra through the suṣumnā nerve. Therein, the yogī obtains the bliss of samādhi, but this peace is disturbed by his inherent vāsanās. So, to remove all the vāsanās, he has to come down to the spiritual heart from the sahasrāra through the jīvanāḍī, which is a continuation of the suṣumnā nerve. The samādhi becomes permanent only when he reaches the spiritual heart. In this manner, the suṣumnā nerve has a curve. It rises from the mulādhāra and goes to the sahasrāra through other cakras. From there it turns down and ends in the spiritual heart. Thus, in the viewpoint of Ramaṇa Maharṣi, the yogī does not attain the liberation in the sahasrāra centre. But it is the heart-centre, where one finds the ultimate peace. The jñānī, however, by the practice of the jñāna-mārga i.e. by finding out the source of the mind, directly attains the heart-center.[115] This is the difference between both these practices. In this context, Maharṣi has opposed the opinion of the yogis that the jīva gets separated from the supreme Being and enter the body through the fontanelle. According to him, the jīva is nothing else but the wrong identification of the Self with the non-self. It never becomes separated from the Self in the real sense of term.[116]

At one place, Ramaṇa Maharṣi has directly expressed his rejection to the intricacy of the various concepts in the yoga-path. In his view, the objective of all the practices is to free the man from the various concepts and to make him establish in the thought-free state of the Self. Instead of doing that, the complexity of such new concepts explained in some of the yoga-practices prove to be additional encumbrances to the man. Therefore, one should proceed by the straight-way, i.e. one should follow the practice of Self-enquiry.[117] In this manner, Ramaṇa Maharṣi does not reject the yoga-practices, but he opposes the complexity in it. Moreover, he proves the supremacy of the path of Self-enquiry over all these yogapractices on the ground of its directness.

In this way, Ramaṇa Maharṣi explains the various paths or methods while answering the questions of the disciples. In his opinion, it cannot be definitely said which method is the easiest one. The specific method is suitable for one due to his temperament, which depends on his saṃskāras of the past births.[118] So, he further says that it is not correct to convert an aspirant to another path by force. It is like a car running at top speed. If one tries to stop it or to turn it forcefully, the car gets damaged.

Therefore, the Guru allows one to follow his own method, but he teaches the disciple the supreme path at the right time.[119] Ramaṇa Maharṣi discusses all these methods, but it does not mean that he instructs them to the disciples. It is easily found in his dialogues that he always tries to turn one’s attention to the subjective consciousness by using various ways, especially asking one various types of counter-questions.[120] In his view, the Self-enquiry is the first and the foremost method. Other paths too lead one to the liberation, but they are all based on the hypothesis of the existence of individuality, which is accepted as the root of the bondage. On the contrary, one directly concentrates on seeking the truth of the individuality, while following the path of Self-enquiry. All other methods try to solve various doubts of the aspirant. On the other hand, the enquirer directly holds on the doubter and ultimately comes to know that the doubter or the questioner does not exist at all in the supreme state of the Self. And, thus, in the absence of the doubter there does not remain any doubt to solve.[121] In this way, Maharṣi discusses various paths of Self-realization.

So, to sum up, according to Ramaṇa Maharṣi, the concept of jīva rises in between the Self and the body. It is the subject in the form of the Ithought. The identification of the body with the Self takes place owing to the ignorance. The jīva passes through three states daily. The substratum of these states is the turīyāvasthā, which is none but the Self. The difference between the jīva and the Īśvara is seen on account of the delimiting adjuncts. They are essentially same. The jīva is intrinsically identical with the Brahman. Ramaṇa Maharṣi does not regard the objective phenomena to be different from one’s thoughts. So, in some of the dialogues, he approves the Eka-jīva-vāda.

Ramaṇa Maharṣi does not have interest in explaining the sequence of the creation. He mostly describes the simultaneous creation, i.e. the world rises with the rise of the subject and it comes to an end with the end of the subject. The phenomenal objects do not have separate existence from mental thoughts. The world does not exist in the supreme state of the Self. Moreover, anything cannot be originated at all from the standpoint of the ultimate Reality. At some places, Maharṣi describes the concepts māyā and śakti for the sake of explaining the empirical plane.

Ramaṇa Maharṣi approves the traditional definition of the Brahman, namely saccidānandaṃ Brahma and points out that this definition suggests the transcendence of the Brahman from the opposite pairs, such as sat -ast and so on. The Īśvara is the omnipotent source of the world and the jīva, but he is not involved in the worldly activities. The Īśvara too, is a mental concept, if he is seen to be different from the Self. The three concepts, namely Īśvara, jagat and jīva appear on the ultimate Reality i.e. the Self. The Self is the pure ‘I’, the substratum of the Ithought. The hṛdaya is the seat of the Self in respect of the body. But, in real sense of term, the hṛdaya is the Self itself. It is the source of the subjective as well as the objective thoughts.

The egoless state wherein all kinds of actions get vanished is called mukti, by Ramaṇa Maharṣi. The state of liberation can be attained through the unitary experience of the Self. The mukti is of three kinds: rūpiṇī, arūpiṇī and ubhayātmikā. But, in truth, the state of liberation has no types and gradations. Maharṣi has discussed the four paths of mokṣa, namely jñāna, karma, bhakti and yoga, according to the capacity of the devotees. However, the Self-enquiry is his most approved path. In his opinion, it is the jñāna-mārga. His philosophy is centred round the Selfenquiry. He explains other paths mainly in comparison with the Selfenquiry.

Footnotes and references:


“Find out to whom is Viyoga. That is yoga. Yoga is common to all paths. Yoga is really nothing but ceasing to think that you are different from the Self or Reality.” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 219; See also [Day by Day with Bhagavan] pp. 18, 154, 270


“It is also said that hearing helps the intellectual understanding of the Truth, that meditation makes the understanding clear, and finally that contemplation brings about realisation of the Truth.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 20


“The aspirant may be kritopasaka or akritopasaka. The former is fit to realise the Self, even with the slightest stimulus… For the other all these aids are necessary; for him doubts crop up even after repeated hearing; therefore he must not give up aids until he gains the samadhi state.” Ibid pp. 213-214; See also [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 260


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] XV.3


Ibid XV.4


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā-prakāśa] XV.4


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] XV.5-6


Ibid XV.7


Ibid XV.8 Ibid XV.10-12




“How will the hearing of the Truth, reflection and concentration help him? They comprise upasana (the nearest approach to Truth) and will end in his SelfRealization.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 93


“There is no investigation into the Atman. The investigation can only be into the non-self.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 82


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā-prakāśa] XV.8; Ibid XV.12


“Engage in Self-investigation, then the non-self will disappear… The one word Self is equivalent to the mind, body, man, individual, the Supreme and all else.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 200


Bhakti, jnana, yoga—are different names for Self-realisation or mukti which is our real nature.” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 87; See also [Guru Vachaka Kovai] II.579


“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.” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 43


“The enquiry “Who am I?” is the sravana. The ascertainment of the true import of ‘I’ is the manana. The practical application on each occasion is nididhyasana. Being as ‘I’ is samadhi.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 631


“Just as water is got by boring a well, so also you realise the Self by investigation.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 202


“The jnana method is said to be vichara (enquiry).” Ibid p. 635; See also [Guru Vachaka Kovai] II.763, 845; [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 276


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] VII.9-11


“If I say “Do -Rama, Rama” to one who has not struggled through books like you, he will do it and stick to it. If I say so to one like you who have read much and are investigating matters, you will not do it for long, because you will think, “Why should I do it? Above all, who am I that should be repeating the mantra?” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 318


“The ego is therefore called the chit-jada granthi. In your investigation into the source of aham-vritti, you take the essential chit aspect of the ego…” [Maharshi’s Gospel] p. 65


[Sad-darśanam] 25


“The gross body which is composed of the seven humours (dhatus), I am not… After negating all of the above mentioned as ‘not this’, ‘not this’, that Awareness which alone remains—that I am.” [Who am I?], Q. 1, pp. 36-37


[Sad-darśanam] 31; See also [Guru Vachaka Kovai] I.391, II.531; [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 277


“The intellect is useful thus far, it helps you to analyse yourself, and no further.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 605


“Self-enquiry by following the clue of aham-vritti is just like the dog tracing its master by his scent.” [Maharshi’s Gospel] p. 63


“…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’…” [Self Enquiry], Q. 4, p. 6; See also [Maharshi’s Gospel] p. 64


“Hold the ‘I-thought’ and find its moola (source).” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 482


“Do you mean to say that there is one ego to hold another ego or to eliminate the other? Are there two egos?” Ibid p. 559


“Hold the ego first and then ask how it is to be destroyed… Can the ego ever agree to kill itself?... If you seek the ego you will find it does not exist.” Ibid pp. 597-598; See also [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] pp. 51, 168, 481; [Day by Day with Bhagavan] pp. 36-37


“…but as thoughts get resolved the mind becomes one-pointed and strong; for such a mind Self-enquiry will become easy.” [Who am I?], Q. 12, pp. 40-41


[Sad-darśanam] 30


Explaining the role of the mind in the enquiry, Mahadevan T. M. P. (1959: 21) observes, “The inquiry ‘Who am I?’ is not to be regarded as a mental effort to understand the mind’s nature. Its main purpose is ‘to focus the entire mind at its source’. The source of the pseudo–‘I’ is the Self. What one does in Self-inquiry is to run against the mental current instead of running along with it, and finally transcend the sphere of mental modifications.”


“The enquiry ‘Who am I?’ means really the enquiry within oneself as to wherefrom within the body the ‘I’-thought arises.” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 344; See also [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 89


“The former is vichara -Who am I? (Koham?)… The latter is dhyana -Whence am I? (Kutoham?)” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 622


“Whence is it born? What is its nature (swaroopa)? Enquiring thus the mind also disappears. Then what remains over is seen to be ‘I’. The next question is ‘Who am I?’ The Self alone. This is contemplation. It is how I did it.” Ibid p. 43


“In the question ‘Who am I?’, by ‘I’ is meant the ego.” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 84; See also [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 89


“No. ‘Who am I?’ is not a mantra… 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.” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 224


“The thought "Who am I?", after destroying all other thoughts, will itself finally die just like the stick which is used to stir the funeral pyre…” [Guru Vachaka Kovai] I.401


“Why should we go on saying soham? One must find out the real ‘I’.” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 84; See also Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, preface, p. xv


“…If one enquires ko aham, i.e., Who am I… then in the heart of such a one the omnipresent God Arunachala will shine as ‘I’, as sa aham or soham…” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 113; See also [Reality in Forty Verses] 10, p. 124


[Upadeśa-sāraḥ] 19 [Upadeśa-sāra] 17


[Aruṇācala-pañcaratna] 3; See also [Ramana Puranam] lines 523-526


[Upadeśa-sāra] 20; See also [Sad-darśanam] 32


“When once you have found what you seek, vichara (enquiry) also ceases and you rest in it.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 158


“Absence of thoughts does not mean a blank. There must be one to know the blank.” Ibid p. 209; See also [Guru Vachaka Kovai] I.352, 354; [Day by Day with Bhagavan] pp. 76-77; [Ramana Puranam] lines 375-380


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] VII.6


“The objects are alien to the seer. The seer is intimate, being the Self…The man must directly see the seer and realise the Self.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 412; See also [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 185


“Reality is simply the loss of the ego. …This is the direct method. Whereas all other methods are done, only retaining the ego.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 134


“Whatever other method may be chosen, there will be always a doer. That cannot be escaped. Who is that doer must be found out. Till that, the sadhana cannot be ended. So eventually, all must come to find out ‘Who am I?” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 325


[Upadeśa-sāra] 1


Ibid 2


Ibid 3;See also [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 503


Karma yoga is that yoga in which the person does not arrogate to himself the function of being the actor.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 623


“Enquire within; the sense of doership will vanish. Vichara (enquiry) is the method.” Ibid p. 415


“Whether or not one is performing actions, if the delusion of individuality–the ego, ‘I am the doer of actions’–is completely annihilated, that is the attainment of actionlessness.” [Guru Vachaka Kovai] I.476; See also [Guru Vachaka Kovai] II.703-704


“According to the prarabdha [of the jiva], the Supreme makes the jiva act until it [the prarabdha] comes to an end.” [Guru Vachaka Kovai] III.1190; See also [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 23


See III.291, p. 174; See also [Guru Vachaka Kovai] II.764


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] VII.12; Ibid VII.14; Ibid VII.15


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] VIII.5


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā-prakāśa] VIII.5


“Instead of wasting one’s life by entering the order of ascetics before one is fit for it, it is better to live the householder’s life.” [Spiritual Instruction]-II, Q 22, pp. 62-63


“…although the sage may perform any number of empirical acts, in reality he performs nothing…” [Self Enquiry], Q. 14, pp. 14-15; See also [Guru Vachaka Kovai] I.162


“But the mental obstacles are always there for you. They even increase greatly in the new surroundings.” [Maharshi’s Gospel] p. 4


“It may be difficult in the earlier stages for a beginner, but after some practice it will soon be effective and the work will not be found a hindrance to meditation.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 12


“That is my prarabdha (fate). One’s course of conduct in this life is determined by one’s prarabdha.” Ibid p. 219


“You cannot renounce or hold as you choose.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 236


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] VIII.4


Ibid VIII.8


“…he need not bother himself that he has not done the various karmas prescribed by sastras. But he should not wilfully transgress the sastraic injunctions by doing things prohibited by them.” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 341; See also [Guru Vachaka Kovai] II.819, 830


Śabdakalpadrūma-III, p. 463


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] XVI.2


Ibid XVI.3-4; See also [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 138


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā-prakāśa] XVI.4


Ibid XVI.3


[Upadeśa-sāra] 9 [Upadeśa-sāra-bhāṣyam of Gaṇapati Muni] 9


“In place of the original ‘I’, perfect self-surrender leaves a residuum of God in which the ‘I’ is lost. This is the highest form of devotion (parabhakti), prapatti, surrender or the height of vairagya.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 31


“Can the sound of the word “service” deceive the Lord? Does He not know? Is He waiting for these people’s service? Would not He -the Pure Consciousness -ask in turn: “Who are you apart from Me that presume to serve Me?” Ibid pp. 182-183


“On scrutiny, supreme devotion [parabhakti] and Jnana are in nature one and the same.” [Guru Vachaka Kovai] II.722; See also [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 85


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] XVI.9


Ibid XVI.5-6; See also [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 343


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] XVI.7


Ibid XVI.10


“Really there are only two methods: enquiry and devotion.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 167


“If, however, the aspirant is not temperamentally suited to Vichara Marga (to the introspective analytical method), he must develop bhakti (devotion)…” Ibid p. 27; See also [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] pp. 348, 571


“Attending to Self is devotion to the supreme Lord, because the Lord exists as Self.” [Guru Vachaka Kovai] II.731: B-13


“Yoga aims at union of the individual with the universal, the Reality… the Path of Knowledge tries to find out how viyoga (separation) came about.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 11


“Yoga teaches chitta vritti nirodha (control of the activities of the mind). But I say Atma vichara (Self-investigation). This is the practical way… nirodha (control) is useless and cannot be of lasting benefit.” Ibid p. 481


[Self Enquiry], Q. 27, pp. 21-23


[Upadeśa-sāra] 11-12; See also [Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] VI.3-4; [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 166 [Upadeśasāra-bhāṣya of Gaṇapati Muni] 12


“If one is able to make the mind one-pointed without the help of pranayama, he need not bother about pranayama.” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 76


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā-prakāśa] VI.4


“Even by breath-control the mind will subside, but this subsidence will last only so long as the breath remains controlled.” [Guru Vachaka Kovai] II.757; See also [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] pp. 166, 351


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] VI.5


“The good thought must gradually gain strength by repeated practice. After it has grown strong the other thoughts will be put to flight.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 352


[Upadeśa-sāra] 7


[Upadeśasāra-bhāṣya of Gaṇapati Muni] 7


[Upadeśa-sāra] 8


SD 38


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] VII.26 Ibid VII.22; See also [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 320


“Holding on to Reality is samadhi… Holding on to Reality with effort is savikalpa samadhi… Merging in Reality and remaining unaware of the world is nirvikalpa samadhi… Remaining in the primal, pure natural state without effort is sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] pp. 373-374


“… you refer to sahaja nirvikalpa and the other refers to kevala nirvikalpa. In the one case the mind lies immersed in the Light of the Self… In sahaja, however, the mind has resolved itself into the Self and has been lost.” Ibid p. 159


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] V.10


Dhyana is achieved through deliberate mental effort; in samadhi there is no such effort.” [Spiritual Instruction]-II, Q. 15, p. 61


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] V.20-21


“Occult powers will not bring happiness to anyone, but will make him all the more miserable!” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 18


“Self-Realisation may be accompanied by occult powers or it may not be.” Ibid p. 573


“Any asana, possibly sukha asana (easy posture or the half-Buddha position). But that is immaterial for jnana, the Path of Knowledge… meditation is not prohibited in the absence of asanas, or prescribed times, or any accessories of the kind.” Ibid pp. 11-12


[Śrī-ramaṇa-gītā] VI.7,8


“Retaining breath, etc., is more violent and may be harmful in some cases, e.g., when there is no proper Guru to guide the sadhak at every step and stage.” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 56


Vichara surpasses pranayama.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 48


While explaining the reason of Maharṣi’s indifference towards the haṭhayogic practices, Godman D. (1992: 136) says, “When visitors asked Sri Ramana about these practices he would usually criticise hatha yoga because of its obsession with the body. It is a fundamental premise of his teachings that spiritual problems can only be solved by controlling the mind, and because of this, he never encouraged the practice of spiritual disciplines which devoted themselves primarily to the well-being of the body.”


“By yogic practice one goes down, then rises up, wanders all through until the goal is reached; by jnana abhyas one settles down directly in the centre.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] pp. 381- 382 “If one concentrates on the Sahasrara there is no doubt that the ecstasy of samadhi ensues. The vasanas, that is the latencies, are not however destroyed… Therefore the seeker’s aim must be to drain away the vasanas from the heart… This is achieved by the search for the origin of the ego and by diving into the heart. This is the direct method for Self-Realisation.” Ibid pp. 598-599


“All these are however on the assumption that the jiva is separate from the Self or Brahman. But are we separate? “No”, says the jnani.” Ibid p. 382 “The Self does not come from anywhere else and enter the body through the crown of the head. It is as it is, ever sparkling, ever steady, unmoving and unchanging.” Ibid p. 599


“The man is already overwhelmed by world concepts. Other concepts are now added in the shape of this Yoga.” Ibid p. 221


“One of the methods will be found easy for one person and another method for another. There is no definiteness about it.” Ibid p. 558


“Each should be allowed to go his own way, the way for which alone he may be built.” [Day by Day with Bhagavan] p. 49


“Let us first understand what Karma is, whose Karma it is and who is the doer.” [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] p. 431


“You ignore the doubter but try to solve the doubts. On the other hand, hold on to the doubter and the doubts will disappear.” Ibid p. 198

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