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Our email address is editor @realization.org.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org.

 

 
 
  CLASSICS
 

Self-Enquiry
By Ramana Maharshi

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Editor's Introduction


DURING HIS LIFETIME, which ended in 1950, Ramana Maharshi was probably the most famous sage in India.

He was one of the few persons about whom everyone could agree, "This man is truly realized; he is a living saint." Small children who lived near his ashram used to stare silently at him for hours; kings and queens came to him for darshan; the Shankaracharya of South India (one of the four primates of Hinduism) once told a visitor that he knew of only two yogis in India with the highest attainments, and Ramana was one of them.

Ramana taught a form of jñana yoga called self-enquiry. He called it the "direct path" because its practitioner attempts from the beginning to experience the final stage common to all other paths.

The English term "self-enquiry" is the traditional translation of the Sanskrit word vicara. Unfortunately, it doesn't convey the meaning of the original word very well. Vicara actually means examination, reflection, or looking within.

Vicara had been a main component of jñana yoga for many centuries. However, Ramana's version of it is distinctive. In traditional vicara, practitioners develop an intellectual understanding of Advaita Vedanta and then remind themselves constantly that their thoughts, feelings, impulses, etc., are different from their true selves. This constant reminder of difference is formulated as neti neti, "not this, not this."

In Ramana's version of vicara, the practitioner maintains constant attention on the feeling of "I." This gradually pulls the practioner into the true Self. No intellectual understanding is required.

Thus traditional vichara is negative; Ramana's method is positive. Traditional vichara has an intellectual component; Ramana's method does not.

In his first written work, presented here under the English title Self-Enquiry, Ramana gave instructions for practicing his version of vicara. He wrote it in Tamil between 1900 and 1902, when he was between 21 and 23 years old.

Further details about the history of this work are contained in the Translator's Introduction on the next page.


The Text

Notes marked by asterisks (*) below the text are by the translator; notes without asterisks to the right of the text are by me.

This is a reprint of T.M.P. Mahadevan's translation which appears in The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, Sixth Revised Edition, published in 1996 by V.S. Ramanan, President, Board of Trustees, Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, India.

Ramanasramam also published this translation by itself as a booklet called Self-Enquiry: Vicharasangraham of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. We have taken the Translator's Introduction from the tenth edition (1994 reprint) of that booklet.

Sri Ramanasramam holds the copyrights on these publications, and has generously given us permission to reprint this material.

The terms self-inquiry and self-enquiry mean the same thing. Both spellings are acceptable.

-- Editor, Realization.org
June 9, 2000

 

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This page was published on June 9, 2000 and
last revised on July 11, 2001.


Copyright 2001 Realization.org. All rights reserved.