Knowing one’s own self
Knowing one’s own self

Every living being longs to be happy, untainted by sorrow; and everyone has the greatest love for himself, which is solely due to the fact that happiness is his real nature. Hence, in order to realise that inherent and untainted happiness, which indeed he daily experiences when the mind is subdued in deep sleep, it is essential that he should know himself. For obtaining such knowledge the enquiry, ‘Who am I?’ in quest of the Self is the best means. ‘Who Am I?’ I am pure Awareness. This Awareness is by its very nature Being-Consciousness-Bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda).

If the mind, which is the instrument of knowledge and is the basis of all activity, subsides, the perception of the world as an objective reality ceases. Unless the illusory perception of the serpent in the rope ceases, the rope on which the illusion is formed is not perceived as such. (This analogy is based on a traditional story of a man who sees a rope at twilight and mistaking it for a serpent is afraid without cause.) Similarly, unless the illusory nature of the perception of the world as an objective reality ceases, the vision of the true nature of the Self, on which the illusion is formed, is not obtained.

The 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 leaves the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears, the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears (shines) the world does not appear.

The thought ‘who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre, it will itself be burnt up in the end. Then, there will be Self-realization. When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them but should diligently inquire: ‘To whom do they occur?’ It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with alertness, “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 subside.

Ramana Maharshi 


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