Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dialogue on self-enquiry

The following conversation comes from the diary of a devotee called Sri Yalamanchili who met Bhagavan in 1928 and had a discussion with him on self-enquiry. It was published in Arunachala Ramana in February 1982:

Question: How to realise the Atman?

Bhagavan: Whose Atman?

Question: Mine.

Bhagavan: Then you yourself have to do it.

Question: I am unable to do and know it.

Bhagavan: To whom is it not known?

Question: To myself.

Bhagavan: Try to know who is that ‘myself’.

Question: That is what you have to tell.

Bhagavan: [Smiling] It seems you have come here to test me. Will it really benefit you if I tell you what you are? Will you be satisfied if I just tell you? Ask yourself ‘Who am I?’ After questioning you will get the answer within yourself, and that will satisfy you.

Question: I have been doing sadhana for a long time but in vain.

Bhagavan: You will have to search for ‘I’ [aham]. Then, the apparent ‘I’ will vanish.

Question: Please give me the details of the process.

Bhagavan: Mind is, in reality, a bundle of thoughts. And every thought springs from the ‘I’. So, it is the first thought. Instead of dwelling on the secondary thoughts, the seeker has to concentrate on the primary thought, which is this ‘I’.

Question: What is the difference between a thought and the ‘I’?

Bhagavan: Thoughts are not independent. They have a standing only when they are associated with the ‘I’. But the ‘I’ can stand by itself. Actually, this ‘I’ is also not independent. In its turn it is supported by the Atman.

Again and again it rises from the Self and sinks there. It subsides in deep sleep and it comes out again in waking. We have to find out the place of its birth with an introverted vision.

Question: I have been questioning in this way but getting no answer.

Bhagavan: If you ask this question with zeal and proceed inward, the false ‘I’ disappears and the real ‘I’ emerges.

Question: What is the real ‘I’?

Bhagavan: This is what we call ‘soul’ or ‘God’.

Question: When I start the enquiry numerous thoughts come in the way and obstruct me. When I eliminate one, another appears in its place. It seems there is no end.

Bhagavan: I am not telling you to grapple with the thoughts. There will be no end if you do it that way. Here lies the secret: there is the ‘I’, the source of all thoughts, and we have to catch it and see from where it arises. This is absolutely necessary. As a dog traces his master by following the track of his smell, you have to follow the inner development of the ‘I’ to reach its source, which is the [true] soul.

Question: From this I understand that one can reach the source by one’s own effort.

Bhagavan: It is by the grace of God that you come to desire to know yourself. This desire to know yourself is itself a clear sign of the Atman’s grace. So, there is grace already working as the source of your effort. Grace is not an external quality of the Self but its very nature. It abides in your Heart, pulling you inward into itself. The only task you must do is turn your attention inward and search the source of ‘I’. This is the only personal effort we have to put in. That is why [one can say that] where there is no grace, there is no desire at all for the quest for the Self.

Question: Is there no need for a Guru then?

Bhagavan: When it is necessary the Self itself will take the form of an external Guru and initiate you into the process. He will push you in and hand you over to the inner Guru who is already there. Finally, the Atman, which abides in the Heart, embraces you there.

Question: Now, may I know sir, what is the distinguishing feature of this method?

Bhagavan: The sense of ‘I’ is always present in us. So, it is relatively easy to find the Self through this ‘I’, which is an emanation of the Self. Further, if, before the ‘I’ ramifies into many forms, we put our attention via this method on the parent-form of the ‘I’, this makes for the direct dissolution of the ‘I’ in its source.

Otherwise, if you begin the enquiry when the ‘I’ has already taken many forms, you will be swept away by its illusive power and never reach its source.

Question: The Self is nameless and formless. How then can we find it by the questioning of this ‘I’ that has a name and a form?

Bhagavan: The false ‘I’ or ego stands between the soul and the body, and connects them. Now, soul is conscious while the body is inert. The false ‘I’ binds them together. So, it is also called the knot between matter and spirit [chit-jada-granthi].

From this we see that it has its feet in the Self and its head in the body. Therefore, by enquiring into the origin of the ego, we can easily proceed and reach the formless Self.

11 comments:

Murali said...

Excellent. Whatelse is needed for us in the form of instruction.

Anonymous said...

Tks David.
Insightful and inspiring indeed.

N.Balasubramanian
N.Delhi

mathooban said...

Very inspiring,

Great help to a beginer like me.

Thiru.S

Toronto, Canada

Krishnanand said...

A wonderful account by Bhagawan Ramana himself on the method of Self Enquiry .

VS said...

A lovely post on the technique of self enquiry

krishna said...

Thanks David

michael said...

David,

throughout this blog, various readers have described their approaches to enquiry, several of which, though somewhat different, seem to have been met with your approval. i also recall you saying, in effect, that the intention behind one's efforts is as important as the form of the enquiry itself.

i think of this as a sort of contingency approach in that different moments seem to inspire different flavors of enquiry, and i've noticed that the ability to switch to a slightly different angle makes it easier for me to sustain the process.

would you please comment on this as an overall strategy?

David Godman said...

michael said...

David,

throughout this blog, various readers have described their approaches to enquiry, several of which, though somewhat different, seem to have been met with your approval. i also recall you saying, in effect, that the intention behind one's efforts is as important as the form of the enquiry itself.

i think of this as a sort of contingency approach in that different moments seem to inspire different flavors of enquiry, and i've noticed that the ability to switch to a slightly different angle makes it easier for me to sustain the process.

would you please comment on this as an overall strategy?


When I introduced the open thread on vichara so that people could discuss their own approaches to enquiry, I was surprised by how many different ways there were to tackle this practice. The goal is continuous attention to the feeling of 'I'. If a method or an approach makes that happen, then it is useful.

Someone once told Bhagavan the English saying 'All roads lead to Rome' and then used it to justify his contention that all spiritual paths led to the Self. Bhagavan replied, 'But once one has reached Rome, one has to enter the citadel, and that is done by enquiry.'

I can't remember the exact wording, but that was the gist of it.

Bhagavan's point, I believe, was that all techniques can take you in the right direction, but only self-enquiry, done by holding on to the 'I'-thought, enables one to take the final step into the Heart where 'I' itself disappears.

Anonymous said...

Tks David.
Insightful and inspiring indeed.

N.Balasubramanian
N.Delhi

Murali said...

Excellent. Whatelse is needed for us in the form of instruction.

Arunachala Rama said...

Dear David,

Revisited and came to your 2008 posting on " Dialogues on self-enquiry". Leaving the page refreshed.

Thanks a ton again for your postings.

Regards
Rama