The profound teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi

Nan Yar

Who am i? (Nan Yar) is the title given to a series of questions and answers related to the search for the Self. Questions were posed to Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi by Sri M. Sivaprakasam Pillai in 1902.  


Sri Pillai, a philosophy graduate, worked at the time in the financial section of the South Arcot Collectorate. During an official visit to Tiruvannamalai in 1902, he went up to the Virupaksha cave on Arunachala hill where he met the Maharshi. He begged him to guide him spiritually and asked him questions about seeking the Self. Sri Bhagavan was not speaking at the time - not that he had made a wish, but he did not feel the need for it - replied in writing.

'Only the one who knows me knows me as I really am.'

All living beings desire to be happy always, without misery. In everyone there is observed supreme love for oneself. And happiness alone is the cause of love. In order therefore, to gain that happiness which is one's nature and which is experienced in the state of deep sleep, where there is no mind, one should know oneself. To achieve this, the path of knowledge, the inquiry in the form of 'Who am I?', is the principal means. 

1. Who am I?

I am not this physical body, made up of the seven subtle elements (dhatus), nor the five cognitive sensory organs e.g, the the ear, the eye, the tongue, the nose and the skin, or their corresponding functions: hearing, sight, taste, smell and touch. I am not the five organs of activity, the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion, and procreation, and their respective functions: speaking, moving, grasping, excreting, and enjoying. I am not the five vital forces (prana, vyana, samana, apana, udana), which allow them to perform their corresponding functions. Even the thinking mind, I am not; and not this state of ignorance in which only the impressions of the objects are found, and not the objects themselves and their functions.

2. If I am none of these, who am I then?

After rejecting all that has been mentioned above as being 'neither this nor that', that awareness alone which remains - That I am.

3. What is the nature of pure consciousness?

The nature of pure consciousness is being-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda).

4. The Self, when will it be realized?

When the world, or what is seen, has disappeared, the Self, or the one who sees, will be realized.

5. Can we realize the Self while taking the world for real?

No, that's not possible.

6. Why?

He who sees and what is seen is like the rope and the snake (in this analogy, a man sees a rope at dusk, takes it for a snake and is frightened. The serpent seems perfectly real to him, but his existence is illusory, it is not based on any reality). Just as the reality of the cord, which is the substrate, cannot be perceived without the illusory perception of the serpent vanishing, so the realization of the Self, the substrate, cannot be obtained as long as belief in reality of the world.


7. When will the world, as a visible object, disappear?

The world will disappear when the mind, the cause of all perceptions and actions, is at rest.

8. What is the nature of the mind?

What is called 'mind' is a wonderful force inherent in the Self by which all thoughts are awakened. Apart from thoughts the mind does not exist. Thought therefore constitutes the nature of the mind. apart from thoughts there is no independent entity called 'world'. In deep sleep there is neither thought nor world. In the waking and dreaming states thoughts are present, as well as the world. Just as the spider pulls the thread (from the web) by itself and reabsorbs it, the mind projects the world outside of itself and reabsorbs it into itself. When the mind emerges from the Self, the world manifests. So when the world appears [as real], the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears (or shines), the world does not appear. If one assiduously questions oneself about the nature of the mind, it will eventually disappear, leaving the only Resplendent Self. What is designated as the Self is the Atman. The mind cannot exist independently of the gross world; it cannot stand on its own. It is the mind that

9. What is the way of investigating the nature of the mind?

What rises in this body as 'I' is the mind. If we question where the thought 'I' emerges in the body in the first place, we will discover that it is from the Heart. This is the Source of the mind. Even if we continually think 'I, I', we will be led to this place. The thought 'I' is the first of all the thoughts that appear in the mind. It is only after birth that other thoughts arise. In other words, it is only after the appearance of the first personal pronoun as the second and third pronouns appear; in the absence of the first, the second and the third cannot exist.

10. How can the mind become quiet?

Through the investigation 'Who am I?'. The thought 'Who am I?' will destroy all other thoughts, and, similar to the stick used to stir the pyre, it will ultimately be destroyed. It is then that the realization of the Self will occur.

11. By what means can we always stay in the thought 'Who am I?'

When thoughts arise, instead of following them, one should rather ask oneself: 'Whom did they come to?'. It doesn't matter how many thoughts arise that way. If you ask yourself each time, "Who did this thought come to?", The answer will be: 'To me.' If you then continue the interrogation 'Who am I?', The mind will return to its Source and the thought which had just arisen will vanish. By persevering thus in this practice, the mind will gradually develop the capacity to remain in its Source. When the subtle mind emerges through the brain and the sense organs, names and forms of the gross world are perceived; when it is established in the Heart, the names and the forms disappear. Not to allow the mind to externalize, but to keep it in the Heart is what is called 'internalization' (antar-mukha). If the mind leaves the Heart, it is called 'exteriorization' (bahir-mukha). Thus, when the mind remains in the Heart, the 'I', the origin of all thoughts, vanishes, and the ever-present Self shines. Whatever one does, one must do it without the 'I' of the ego. If one acts in such a way, one will realize that everything is the nature of Shiva (God).

12. Are there not other ways to appease the mind?

There is only internal investigation as an adequate means. If one tries to master the mind by other means, it will only be mastered in appearance, for it will rise again. The mind can also be soothed by the control of the breath, but this lasts only the time of the control of the breath; when it resumes, the mind begins to stir and wander by the force of its latent impressions. The mind and the breath have the same Source. The mind is made up of thoughts. The thought 'I' is the first thought of the mind; vs' is the ego. The ego has its origin in the very place from which the respiration rises. So when the mind becomes still, the breathing is controlled; and conversely, when breathing is controlled, the mind becomes quiet. But in deep sleep, although the mind fades, breathing does not stop. This is due to the divine will and is intended to protect the body and prevent it from being taken for dead. In the waking state and in samadhi (total absorption in contemplation), when the mind is quiet, the breathing is also quiet. Breath is the gross form of the mind. Until the moment of death, the mind keeps the breath in the body; and when the body dies, the mind takes the breath with it. Therefore, the practice of breathing control is only an aid to tame the mind (manonigraha); it does not bring about the extinction of the mind (manonasa). the mind takes the breath with it. Therefore, the practice of breathing control is only an aid to tame the mind [manonigraha]; it does not bring about the extinction of the mind (manonasa). the mind takes the breath with it. Therefore, the practice of breathing control is only an aid to tame the mind [manonigraha]; it does not bring about the extinction of the mind (manonasa).

Just like the practice of breathing control, meditation on a form of God, the repetition of mantras, diet etc. are only aids to calm the mind.

By meditating on images of God and by repeating mantras, the mind acquires concentration; for the nature of the mind is precisely to wander. Just as an elephant's trunk ceases to move when it holds a chain, no longer seeking to grasp something else, so does the mind, when it is busy meditating on names and forms, does not interested in nothing else. When the mind unfolds in the form of innumerable thoughts, each of them eventually weakens. When, on the contrary, thoughts vanish, the mind fixes itself on one goal and becomes strong. For such a mind the search for the Self becomes easy.

Of all the rules of conduct, that of a diet restricted to sattvic (pure) food, in moderate quantity, is the best. By observing this rule, the sattvic quality of the mind develops and this promotes the practice of self-seeking.

13. The residual impressions (thoughts) relating to the objects appear, endlessly, like the waves of the ocean. When will they all be destroyed?

Through increasingly intense meditation, thoughts will ultimately be destroyed.

14. Is it possible for these impressions, formed from time immemorial, to subside, so that one remains the pure Self?

It is essential to always persevere in meditation on the Self, without leaving room for doubt: 'Is it possible, or not?'. As fisherman as you can be, there is no point in tormenting and crying: 'Oh, I'm a fisherman, how can I be saved?'. If one gives up the thought 'I am a fisherman' and if we remain deeply centered in meditation on the Self, success is assured. There are not two minds, one that would be good and one that would be bad; there is only one mind. It is only the residual impressions which are of two kinds: favorable and unfavorable. When the mind is under the influence of favorable impressions, it is considered good, under unfavorable impressions, it is said to be bad.

One should not turn to the things of the world and meddle in the affairs of others. As bad as some beings may seem, they should not be hated. Desire must be avoided just like hate. Everything you give to others, you give it to yourself. Knowing that this is the truth, how can we still refuse anything to our neighbor? If the ego manifests, everything manifests; if the ego calms down, everything calms down. As we behave with humility, good is established. Once the mind is appeased,

15. How long should the investigation take?

As long as impressions of objects remain in the mind, it is necessary to continue the investigation 'Who am I?'. As soon as thoughts arise, they must be destroyed in the very place of their origin by investigation. Continuously surrendering to contemplation of the Self, until it is realized, that alone would be enough. But as long as the fortress is occupied by the enemies, they will try to launch out; if, at the moment when they launch out, they are destroyed, the fortress will fall into our hands.

16. What is the nature of the Self?

In truth, only the Self exists. The world, the individual soul and God are only appearances in the Self, comparable to silver in mother-of-pearl. They appear and disappear simultaneously. The Self is where there is not the slightest 'I' thought. This is called 'silence'. The Self itself is the world; the Self is 'I'; the Self is God; everything is Shiva, the Self.

17. Is not everything the work of God?

The sun rises without desire, without intention or effort; and by its mere presence, the stone emits heat, the lotus flowers, the water evaporates and men accomplish their various and varied tasks, then rest. Just as in the presence of the magnet the needle begins to move, so, by the power of the presence of God, souls, governed by the three cosmic functions (creation, preservation, destruction) or the five fold divine activity , perform their actions, and then rest, according to their karma. God has no intention and no karma adheres to Him; just like the sun which remains insensitive to the activities of the world, or the ether which spreads everywhere without being influenced by the positive or negative aspects of the other four elements.

18. Who among the devotees is the greatest?

The one who surrenders to the Self, or God, is the most perfect devotee. To surrender to God means to remain firmly in the Self, without giving way to any thought other than that of the Self.

Any burden that we give to God, He will carry. Since the supreme power of God animates everything, why not submit to it, rather than worrying about what has to be accomplished and how it will be accomplished. Knowing that the train carries all heavy loads, why should we continue to carry our luggage on our knees, for our greatest discomfort, instead of putting them on the ground on the train and being comfortable?

19. What is non-attachment?

Non-attachment means the destruction of thoughts at the very place where they are born, without leaving any trace. Just as the pearl fisherman attaches stones to his waist and dives to the bottom of the sea to grab the pearls, so each of us should bring non-attachment, dive in ourselves and obtain the Pearl of the Self .

20. Is it possible for God and the Guru to bring about the liberation of the soul?

God and the Guru only show the way to liberation; they do not of themselves lead the soul to the state of liberation.

In truth, God and the Guru are not separate. Just as the prey fallen between the jaws of the tiger cannot escape, those who have fallen under the graceful gaze of the Guru will be saved by him and will not be lost anymore; However, each must by their own effort follow the path that God or the Guru has indicated to obtain liberation. Knowing yourself is only possible with your own eye of knowledge and not with that of others. Does a man named Rama need a mirror to know that he is Rama?

21. Is it necessary for one who aspires to liberation to explore the nature of the different tattva (fundamental principles of manifestation?)

Just as one does not feel the need to examine the garbage one by one before throwing it away, it is not necessary for those who wish to know the Self to count the number of tattva or to be interested in their characteristics ; rather, he must reject all the tattva that hide the Self from him. The world should be seen as a dream.

22. Is there no difference between the waking state and the dream state?

The waking state is long, the dream state is short; there are no other differences. The events of the dream seem just as real when we dream as those of the waking state seem real when we are awake. In the dream, the mind takes on another body. Thoughts, names and forms appear simultaneously both in the waking state and in the dream state.

23. Are book studies of any use to those who aspire to liberation?

All the Scriptures agree that in order to obtain liberation the mind must be still; once we understand that the essence of their teaching is to make the mind quiet, it becomes futile to do endless studies. To achieve such tranquility it suffices to seek within oneself what the nature of the Self is. How can this research be carried out in books? One can know the Self only through one's own wisdom eye. The Self is inside the five envelopes (five kosha: food, life force, mind, intellect, bliss), but the books are outside of them. Since the Self must be scrutinized by rejecting the five envelopes, it would be futile to look for it in the books. The time will come when we will have to forget everything we have learned.

24. What is happiness?

Happiness is the very nature of the Self; Self and happiness are not separate. Happiness is not found in any object in the world. Because of our ignorance we believe that objects give us happiness. When the mind is exteriorized, it experiences pain. In truth, his desires once satisfied, he returns to his Source and enjoys happiness which is none other than the Self. In the same way, in the states of sleep, samadhi and fainting, and when the desired object is obtained or the undesirable object eliminated, the mind turns to inside and enjoys the pure happiness of the Self. So the mind wanders constantly, sometimes it abandons the Self, sometimes it returns. It is nice to be in the shade of a tree; outside, the heat of the sun is burning. When we walked in the sun, we appreciate the cool shade. Anyone who keeps going from shade to sun and from sun to shade is a fool. The wise man always remains in the shade. Likewise, the mind of the one who knows the truth never leaves the Brahman (absolute impersonal reality). The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, mixes with the things of the world and, feeling miserable, it returns to the Brahman for a short time in order to taste happiness. In fact, what is called the world is nothing but thoughts. When the world disappears, that is to say when there are no thoughts, the mind experiences happiness; conversely, when the world appears it experiences pain and suffering. what is called the world is nothing but thoughts. When the world disappears, that is to say when there are no thoughts, the mind experiences happiness; conversely, when the world appears it experiences pain and suffering. what is called the world is nothing but thoughts. When the world disappears, that is to say when there are no thoughts, the mind experiences happiness; conversely, when the world appears it experiences pain and suffering.

25. What is the vision of wisdom (jnana-drishti)?

To remain still is what is called the vision of wisdom. To remain still is to let the mind subside in the Self. Telepathy, clairvoyance and knowledge of the past, present and future have nothing to do with the vision of wisdom.

26. What and the relationship between the state without desire and wisdom?

The desire-free state is wisdom. The two are not separate; they are one and the same. The absence of desire means the mind is no longer turned towards objects. Wisdom means that no object appears in consciousness. In other words, not seeking anything other than the Self signifies detachment or absence of desire; not to leave the Self is wisdom.

27. What is the difference between investigation and meditation?

Investigation is keeping the mind in the Self. Meditation is thinking that one's self is Brahman, consciousness, bliss.

28. What is liberation?

To scrutinize the nature of one's limited self and to realize one's true nature is liberation.

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