Maharshi frequently said that if you practice self-inquiry
successfully, you will feel the "I-I."
does this strange term mean? What does the I-I feel
recently found answers to these questions in a collection
of reminiscences by Ramana's devotees that was published
in 1946 to celebrate his 50th birthday. In the final
chapter of that volume, an anonymous author describes
his first experience of the I-I which occurred during
a six-day visit to Ramana's ashram in 1939.
following excerpt from that chapter begins two days
before the I-I experience. We start there so you can
see that the author was suffering from feelings of despair
and humiliation when the I-I experience occurred. Perhaps
those feelings helped cause the experience by weakening
the author's attachment to his ego, or by reducing his
propensity to act.
the excerpt begins, the author has just handed a written
question to Ramana.
MAHARSHI READ [MY QUESTION] and smiled, and smiling
he turned towards me. I was sitting there with folded
hands and eyes filled with tears. As he looked at me
I was overwhelmed and a violent emotion convulsed my
body which set Maharshi laughing. He laughed merrily
for some time and then silently folded the paper and
left it on a bookshelf which stood nearby. He did not
speak to me nor did he seem to pay any further attention
to me. The mind cannot remain in a tense state for long;
sheer exhaustion calms it down. My mind calmed down
after some time. The bell rang summoning us to dinner
and we followed Maharshi to the dining hall.
had placed my case before Maharshi. He did not even
speak to me; rather he laughed at me! There was nothing
more to be done. I must return home and be a laughing-stock
also to my friends and relatives. What could be done?
He could not be forced to bestow Grace. With these thoughts
the mind became resigned.
the night meal they used to spend half an hour in meditation
in the hall in Maharshi's presence. Mechanically I followed
them and sat with them in the hall. A few minutes passed.
Then suddenly I felt a pleasant coolness inundating
me. It seemed to emanate from the very bones, cooling
the whole being. Is this the spiritual fragrance spoken
of as emanating from Maharshi? Whatever it might be,
I had no doubt that it came from Maharshi and at his
was on the night of the third day of my visit. On the
next day, while sitting before Maharshi, I experienced
a sudden pull in the region of the heart. I was astonished
and, as I sought to observe it, it passed away. Nothing
like the experience of the previous night was repeated.
The remainder of the day passed in keen expectation,
but nothing happened, even during the meditation period
after the night meal. Perhaps expectation obstructed
morning, i.e., on the fifth day of my stay at the ashram,
news came of further heavy bombing of the eastern coastline
by the Japanese, and I naturally became anxious for
my family. Moreover, as I did not experience anything
unusual during the meditation periods of the previous
night and of that morning, I thought that I had obtained
what I deserved and that nothing more would be gained
by a further stay at the ashram. So I decided to return
home. In the afternoon I wrote out my intention to go
home on a piece of paper and placed it before Maharshi.
He read it, silently folded the paper, and left it on
the shelf. He spoke nothing and did not even look at
me. Another rebuff.
made preparations for my departure, packed up my small
belongings, and, after taking my evening meal, requested
an inmate of the Ashram to kindly get a carriage for
me; but I was told that no carriage would be available
at that hour, that I should have informed him earlier
so that one might have been fetched from the town. I
was thus compelled to stay at the Ashram for another
morning I attended the usual prayers. I did not experience
anything abnormal during the meditation period. Discussions
generally take place when they assemble in the hall
after breakfast. Maharshi also answers questions from
earnest seekers. That morning also discussions were
going on. As they were talking mostly in Tamil (a language
not known to me) my attention was not attracted till
I found some people turning their heads and laughing
at me. On enquiry I learnt that they were discussing
the subject-matter of my first letter to Maharshi. Evidently,
he had spoken something to them regarding this letter.
Though made a laughing-stock, I was still glad to find
that he had at last taken notice of me. I took part
in the discussions and, as I was in the back row, some
distance away from them, they asked me to come nearer
so that there might not be any difficulty in following
each other, and I obeyed. I was thus brought very near
Maharshi's seat. Our discussions over, I heard Maharshi
say, "He is concentrating on the reflection and complains
that he cannot see the original." It struck me forcefully.
What did he mean by reflection and what was the original?
I shut my eyes and tried to find out the meaning. Immediately
after, I felt a pull in the region of the heart, similar
to what I felt two days previously but much stronger
in intensity. My mind was completely arrested -- stilled,
but I was wide awake. Suddenly, without any break in
my consciousness, the "I" flashed forth! It was self-awareness,
pure and simple, steady, unbroken and intensely bright,
as much brighter than ordinary consciousness as is sunlight
brighter than the dim light of a lamp. In ordinary consciousness
the "I"-sense dimly remains in the background -- as
a matter of inference or intuition -- the whole of the
consciousness being occupied by the object. Here, "I"
came to the foreground, occupied, or rather became,
the whole consciousness, and intensely existed as pure
consciousness, displacing all objects. I was, but I
was neither the subject nor the object of this consciousness.
I WAS this consciousness, which alone existed. There
were no objects. The world was not, neither the body
nor the mind -- no thought, no motion; time also ceased
to exist. I alone existed and that I was consciousness
itself, self-luminous and alone, without a second...
Suddenly, and again without any break in my consciousness,
I was brought back to my normal, ordinary consciousness.
great miracle had been performed in broad daylight in
the presence of so many people, without their knowing
it. No argument of the greatest philosophers and scientists
of the world will now make me doubt the possibility
of experiencing the "I" in its pure state or pure consciousness,
without any subject-object relationship. Of course,
I myself had not the least inkling of such a state even
a second earlier, and I never expected to get such an
experience. I, an insignificant creature, wallowing
in the mud of mundane existence, and without any sadhana,
being granted this supreme experience! -- an experience
which is rarely obtained even by great yogis after austerest
spiritual practices strenuously performed for ages together.
Such is the wonder of His Grace! -- immeasurable and
from Anonymous, "Sri Ramana's Wondrous Grace"
in Golden Jubilee Souvenir: 1896-1946, 1946,
Tiruvannamalai: Ramanasramam, 3rd ed, 1995, pp. 459-62.
Copyright Sri Ramanasramam.
The sun, courtesy of NASA.