Self-enquiry – Vichara Sangraham (3)
How is one to enquire: “Who am I?”
Actions such as ‘going’ and ‘coming’ belong only to the body. And so, when one says “I went, I came”, it amounts to saying that the body is “I”. But can the body be said to be the consciousness “I”, since the body was not before it was born, is made up of the five elements, is non-existent in the state of deep sleep, and becomes a corpse when dead?
Can this body which is inert like a log of wood be said to shine as “I” “I”? Therefore, the “I” consciousness which at first arises with respect to the body is referred to variously as self-conceit (tarbodham), egoity (ahankara), ignorance (avidya), illusion (maya), impurity (mahla), and individual soul (jiva). Can we remain without enquiring into this?
Is it not for our redemption through enquiry that all the scriptures declare that the destruction of “self-conceit” is Liberation (mukti)? Therefore, making the corpse-body remain as a corpse, and not even uttering the word “I”, one should enquire keenly thus: “Now, what is it that rises as ‘I’”. Then, there would shine in the Heart a kind of wordless illumination of the form ‘I’ ‘I’. That is, there would shine of its own accord the pure consciousness which is unlimited and one, the limited and the many thoughts having disappeared.
If one remains quiet without abandoning that pure consciousness, the egoity, the individual sense of the form ‘I am the body’, will be totally destroyed. At the end the final thought, namely, the ‘I’- form also will be quenched like the fire that burns camphor (without leaving any sediment). The great sages and scriptures declare that this alone is Liberation.
Self-enquiry (Vichara Sangraham) is the first set of teachings that Ramana Maharshi ever offered. It was offered at about 1901, when he was a young man of about twenty-two. He was already a Jnani (Sage) in perfect Realization of the Self, in the resplendent bliss of Divine Knowledge. At that time he was living in Virupaksha Cave on the hill of Arunachala.
A number of disciples had already gathered round him. Although he had not actually taken a vow of silence, he seldom spoke, and so wrote his replies to certain questions put to him by Sri Gambhiram Seshayya, one of the earliest devotees. Sri Seshayya copied them in his diary. After his passing away, this diary was obtained from his brother. The questions and answers were edited by Sri Natanananda and published with Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi’s approval under the name of Vichara Sangraham, or Self-Enquiry.