Om Namo Bhagavathe Sri Ramanaya

Who Am I?

(Nan Yar?)


The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi



As all living beings desire to be happy always, without misery, as in the case of everyone there

is observed supreme love for one’s self, and as happiness alone is the cause for love, in order 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 one’s self. For that, the path of knowledge, the inquiry

of the form “Who am I?”, is the principal means.









1. Who am I ?

The gross body which is composed of the seven humours (dhatus), I am not; the five cognitive

sense organs, viz. the senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell, which apprehend their

respective objects, viz. sound, touch, colour, taste, and odour, I am not; the five cognitive sense-

organs, viz. the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion, and procreation, which have as

their respective functions speaking, moving, grasping, excreting, and enjoying, I am not; the five

vital airs, prana, etc., which perform respectively the five functions of in-breathing, etc., I am not;

even the mind which thinks, I am not; the nescience too, which is endowed only with the residual

impressions of objects, and in which there are no objects and no functioning’s, I am not.

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

After negating all of the above-mentioned as ‘not this’, ‘not this’, that Awareness which alone

remains - that I am.

3. What is the nature of Awareness?

The nature of Awareness is existence-consciousness-bliss

4. When will the realization of the Self be gained?

When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self

which is the seer.

5. Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there (taken as real)?

There will not be.

6. Why?

The seer and the object seen are like the rope and the snake. Just as the knowledge of the rope

which is the substrate will not arise unless the false knowledge of the illusory serpent goes, so the

realization of the Self which is the substrate will not be gained unless the belief that the world is

real is removed.


7. When will the world which is the object seen be removed?

When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition’s and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the

world will disappear.

8. What is the nature of the mind?

What is called ‘mind’ is a wondrous power residing in the Self. It causes all thoughts to arise.

Apart from thoughts, there is no such thing as mind. Therefore, thought is the nature of mind. Apart

from thoughts, there is no independent entity called the world. In deep sleep there are no thoughts,

and there is no world. In the states of waking and dream, there are thoughts, and there is a world

also. Just as the spider emits the thread (of the web) out of itself and again withdraws it into itself,

likewise the mind projects the world out of itself and again resolves it into itself. When the mind

comes out of the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears (to be real), the Self

does not appear; and when the Self appears (shines) the world does not appear. When one

persistently inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self (as the residue).

What is referred to as the Self is the Atman. The mind always exists only in dependence on

something gross; it cannot stay alone. It is the mind that is called the subtle body or the soul (jiva).

9. What is the path of inquiry for understanding the nature of the mind?

That which rises as ‘I’ in this body is the mind. If one inquires as to where in the body the thought

‘I’ rises first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. That is the place of the mind’s origin.

Even if one thinks constantly ‘I’ ‘I’, one will be led to that place. Of all the thoughts that arise in

the mind, the ‘I’ thought is the first. It is only after the rise of this that the other thoughts arise. It is

after the appearance of the first personal pronoun that the second and third personal pronouns

appear; without the first personal pronoun there will not be the second and third.

10. How will the mind become quiescent?

By the inquiry ‘Who am I?’. The thought ‘who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the

stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise


11. What is the means for constantly holding on to the thought ‘Who am I?’

When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: ‘To whom do they

arise?’ It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire

with diligence, “To whom has this thought arisen?”. The answer that would emerge would be “To

me”. Thereupon if one inquires “Who am I?”, the mind will go back to its source; and the thought

that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the

skill to stay in its source. When the mind that is subtle goes out through the brain and the sense-

organs, the gross names and forms appear; when it stays in the heart, the names and forms disappear.

Not letting the mind go out, but retaining it in the Heart is what is called “inwardness” (antar-

mukha). Letting the mind go out of the Heart is known as “externalisation” (bahir-mukha). Thus,

when the mind stays in the Heart, the ‘I’ which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self


which ever exists will shine. Whatever one does, one should do without the egoity “I”. If one acts

in that way, all will appear as of the nature of Siva (God).

12. Are there no other means for making the mind quiescent?

Other than inquiry, there are no adequate means. If through other means it is sought to control the

mind, the mind will appear to be controlled, but will again go forth. Through the control of breath

also, the mind will become quiescent; but it will be quiescent only so long as the breath remains

controlled, and when the breath resumes the mind also will again start moving and will wander as

impelled by residual impressions. The source is the same for both mind and breath. Thought, indeed,

is the nature of the mind. The thought “I” is the first thought of the mind; and that is egoity. It is from

that whence egoity originates that breath also originates. Therefore, when the mind becomes quiescent,

the breath is controlled, and when the breath is controlled the mind becomes quiescent. But in deep

sleep, although the mind becomes quiescent, the breath does not stop. This is because of the will of

God, so that the body may be preserved and other people may not be under the impression that it is

dead. In the state of waking and in samadhi, when the mind becomes quiescent the breath is controlled.

Breath is the gross form of mind. Till the time of death, the mind keeps breath in the body; and when

the body dies the mind takes the breath along with it. Therefore, the exercise of breath-control is only

an aid for rendering the mind quiescent (manonigraha); it will not destroy the mind (manonasa).

Like the practice of breath-control. meditation on the forms of God, repetition of mantras, restriction

on food, etc., are but aids for rendering the mind quiescent.

Through meditation on the forms of God and through repetition of mantras, the mind becomes one-

pointed. The mind will always be wandering. Just as when a chain is given to an elephant to hold

in its trunk it will go along grasping the chain and nothing else, so also when the mind is occupied

with a name or form it will grasp that alone. When the mind expands in the form of countless

thoughts, each thought becomes weak; but as thoughts get resolved the mind becomes one-pointed

and strong; for such a mind Self-inquiry will become easy. Of all the restrictive rules, that relating

to the taking of sattvic food in moderate quantities is the best; by observing this rule, the sattvic

quality of mind will increase, and that will be helpful to Self-inquiry.

13. The residual impressions (thoughts) of objects appear wending like the waves of an ocean.

When will all of them get destroyed?

As the meditation on the Self rises higher and higher, the thoughts will get destroyed.

14. Is it possible for the residual impressions of objects that come from beginningless time, as

it were, to be resolved, and for one to remain as the pure Self?

Without yielding to the doubt “Is it possible, or not?”, one should persistently hold on to the meditation

on the Self. Even if one be a great sinner, one should not worry and weep “O! I am a sinner, how can

I be saved?”; one should completely renounce the thought “I am a sinner”; and concentrate keenly on

meditation on the Self; then, one would surely succeed. There are not two minds - one good and the

other evil; the mind is only one. It is the residual impressions that are of two kinds - auspicious and


inauspicious. When the mind is under the influence of auspicious impressions it is called good; and

when it is under the influence of inauspicious impressions it is regarded as evil.

The mind should not be allowed to wander towards worldly objects and what concerns other

people. However bad other people may be, one should bear no hatred for them. Both desire and

hatred should be eschewed. All that one gives to others one gives to one’s self. If this truth is

understood who will not give to others? When one’s self arises all arises; when one’s self becomes

quiescent all becomes quiescent. To the extent we behave with humility, to that extent there will

result good. If the mind is rendered quiescent, one may live anywhere.

15. How long should inquiry be practised?

As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the inquiry “Who am I?” is

required. As thoughts arise they should be destroyed then and there in the very place of their

origin, through inquiry. If one resorts to contemplation of the Self unintermittently, until the Self is

gained, that alone would do. As long as there are enemies within the fortress, they will continue to

sally forth; if they are destroyed as they emerge, the fortress will fall into our hands.

16. What is the nature of the Self?

What exists in truth is the Self alone. The world, the individual soul, and God are appearances in

it. like silver in mother-of-pearl, these three appear at the same time, and disappear at the same

time. The Self is that where there is absolutely no “I” thought. That is called “Silence”. The Self

itself is the world; the Self itself is “I”; the Self itself is God; all is Siva, the Self.

17. Is not everything the work of God?

Without desire, resolve, or effort, the sun rises; and in its mere presence, the sun-stone emits fire,

the lotus blooms, water evaporates; people perform their various functions and then rest. Just as in

the presence of the magnet the needle moves, it is by virtue of the mere presence of God that the

souls governed by the three (cosmic) functions or the fivefold divine activity perform their actions

and then rest, in accordance with their respective karmas. God has no resolve; no karma attaches

itself to Him. That is like worldly actions not affecting the sun, or like the merits and demerits of

the other four elements not affecting all pervading space.

18. Of the devotees, who is the greatest?

He who gives himself up to the Self that is God is the most excellent devotee. Giving one’s self up to

God means remaining constantly in the Self without giving room for the rise of any thoughts other

than that of the Self. Whatever burdens are thrown on God, He bears them. Since the supreme power

of God makes all things move, why should we, without submitting ourselves to it, constantly worry

ourselves with thoughts as to what should be done and how, and what should not be done and how

not? We know that the train carries all loads, so after getting on it why should we carry our small

luggage on our head to our discomfort, instead of putting it down in the train and feeling at ease?


19. What is non-attachment?

As thoughts arise, destroying them utterly without any residue in the very place of their origin is

non-attachment. Just as the pearl-diver ties a stone to his waist, sinks to the bottom of the sea and

there takes the pearls, so each one of us should be endowed with non-attachment, dive within

oneself and obtain the Self-Pearl.

20. Is it not possible for God and the Guru to effect the release of a soul?

God and the Guru will only show the way to release; they will not by themselves take the soul to

the state of release. In truth, God and the Guru are not different. Just as the prey which has fallen

into the jaws of a tiger has no escape, so those who have come within the ambit of the Guru’s

gracious look will be saved by the Guru and will not get lost; yet, each one should by his own

effort pursue the path shown by God or Guru and gain release. One can know oneself only with

one’s own eye of knowledge, and not with somebody else’s. Does he who is Rama require the

help of a mirror to know that he is Rama?

21. Is it necessary for one who longs for release to inquire into the nature of categories (tattvas)?

Just as one who wants to throw away garbage has no need to analyse it and see what it is, so one

who wants to know the Self has no need to count the number of categories or inquire into their

characteristics; what he has to do is to reject altogether the categories that hide the Self. The

world should be considered like a dream.

22. Is there no difference between waking and dream?

Waking is long and a dream short; other than this there is no difference. Just as waking happenings

seem real while awake. so do those in a dream while dreaming. In dream the mind takes on

another body. In both waking and dream states thoughts. names and forms occur simultaneously.

23. Is it any use reading books for those who long for release?

All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore their

conclusive teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent; once this has been understood

there is no need for endless reading. In order to quieten the mind one has only to inquire within

oneself what one’s Self is; how could this search be done in books? One should know one’s Self

with one’s own eye of wisdom. The Self is within the five sheaths; but books are outside them.

Since the Self has to be inquired into by discarding the five sheaths, it is futile to search for it in

books. There will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned.

24. What is happiness?

Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no

happiness in any object of the world. We imagine through our ignorance that we derive happiness

from objects. When the mind goes out, it experiences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled,

it returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the states of sleep,


samadhi and fainting, and when the object desired is obtained or the object disliked is removed,

the mind becomes inward-turned, and enjoys pure Self-Happiness. Thus the mind moves without

rest alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in

the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he

reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the

shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who

knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, revolves in the

world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact,

what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e. when there is no thought,

the mind experiences happiness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.

25. What is wisdom-insight (jnana-drsti)?

Remaining quiet is what is called wisdom-insight. To remain quiet is to resolve the mind in the

Self. Telepathy, knowing past, present and future happenings and clairvoyance do not constitute


26. What is the relation between desirelessness and wisdom?

Desirelessness is wisdom. The two are not different; they are the same. Desirelessness is refraining

from turning the mind towards any object. Wisdom means the appearance of no object. In other

words, not seeking what is other than the Self is detachment or desirelessness; not leaving the Self

is wisdom.

27. What is the difference between inquiry and meditation?

Inquiry consists in retaining the mind in the Self. Meditation consists in thinking that one’s self is

Brahman, existence-consciousness-bliss.

28. What is release?

Inquiring into the nature of one’s self that is in bondage, and realising one’s true nature is release.