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How to Practice Self-Enquiry (as taught by Ramana Maharshi) (from

Courtesy of Dr. D. Samarender Reddy



Pay attention to the inner feeling of ‘I’ and hold on to it as long as possible. Whenever other thoughts distract one, pull one’s attention back to the ‘I’-thought again. This is repeated ad nauseam. One of the ways to aid this process is to question oneself: ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Where does this ‘I’ come from?’ Ultimately it is to be continuously aware of the ‘I’-thought, which is responsible for all the activities of the mind and body.


In the early stages this feeling of ‘I’ is only a mental activity or a thought. Later on it becomes a subjective experience of ‘I’. When this subjective feeling does not connect with thoughts and objects the ‘I’ feeling completely vanishes. What remains is the sense of Being, in which the individual has temporarily ceased to exist. At the beginning this experience is intermittent, but with repeated practice it becomes easier and easier to maintain. When self-enquiry reaches this level there is an effortless awareness of being in which individual effort is no longer possible since the ‘I’ has temporarily ceased to exist. This is not Self-realization yet as the ‘I’-thought still can reassert itself. Continuous practice and experience of this state of being will destroy the mental tendencies (vasanas). This weakening of the vasanas will eventually be completely destroyed by the power of the Self that the ‘I’-thought will never rise again. This is the final state of Self-realization.


This self-attention to the ‘I’-thought is not a concentration meditation or a controlling of the mind. It merely gently invokes the awareness of the source of the mind. Once the source of the mind is found by not identifying the self with what one is not, abide there at the Heart. At the beginning effort is required by transferring attention from the thoughts to the thinker. Once awareness of the ‘I’-feeling has been established, no more effort is required. From now onwards, it is a matter of Being rather than doing, of effortless being rather than an effort to be.


Since Beingness is always present, it is effortless to be what one already is. On the other hand trying to be what one is not (the body and mind) requires constant mental effort. So one can see that the Self is discovered only by being. Self-enquiry should be carried out throughout one’s waking hours, as it is not a meditative practice. There is no conflict between working and self-enquiry, although at the beginning regular periods of formal practice is good.

Do not meditate ---be!

Do not think that you are – be!

Don’t think about being – you are!

Behind the mind or thoughts, there is the ‘I’-thought. Hang on to this ‘I’-thought to find out what is it. With only the ‘I’-thought in mind no other thoughts can come in. At this early stage, one has to reject other thoughts, but as one goes deeper and deeper there will come a time when the real Self comes out from the depths. In the first few times one may not recognize it as the Self! From here onwards there is no necessity to use effort to reject thoughts. In fact one cannot make any effort at all. Introverting the mind in this enquiry, the vasanas (mental tendencies) become extinct by the light of the Self. So when the vasanas are eradicated, so is the mind. It is being absorbed into the light of the Self, the Heart. It is the earnest enquiry into the aham-vritti, the ‘I’-thought. This practice is simply asking the question: ‘Who am I?’ This will turn the mind back to the source (the Self), and the original thought will subside. Continuing with this practice, the mind will stay and abide at its source more and more. In this fashion, the number of thoughts will get less and less until all vasanas are destroyed. One really need not renounce oneself as a householder practicing self-enquiry. Giving up the false self is the true renunciation.


The ego [arises upon waking] to link the inert body with the pure consciousness (Self). This ego is an intangible link, which disappears as soon as it is sought for. This ego is also the mind, which is truly non-existent, as it is composed mainly of thoughts---ephemeral. When thoughts are depleted, peace and bliss reign supreme. There is a condition call manolaya, which is a temporary cessation of thoughts. This condition is due to concentration and is a temporary lulling of the mind, which can last for days or months. It is not a true destruction of thoughts. Once this condition ends, thoughts will rush in as before.


In self-enquiry, we are not really using the mind to kill the mind. We are seeking the source of the mind and in this process we find that the mind does not exist at all. When the mind turns outwards it brings in many thoughts and objects. When it turns inwards we find the Self.