Atma-Vichara

understand that it does not literally mean ‘self-questioning’ but only ‘self-investigation’ or ‘self-scrutiny’.

Because some people had misunderstood his teaching that we should investigate ‘who am I?’ or ‘from where do I rise?’, taking it to mean that we should ask ourself such questions, and were accordingly spending their time in meditation repeatedly asking them self these questions, towards the end of his bodily lifetime, when he composed the brief poem Ekatma Panchakam, Sri Ramana wrote in verse 2:

Declare a drunkard who says, ‘Who am I? What place am I?’, as equal to a person who himself asks himself ‘who am I?’ [or] ‘what is the place in which I am?’ even though oneself is [always] as oneself [that is, though we are in fact always nothing other than our own real self or essential being, which clearly knows itself as ‘I am’].

Though Sri Ramana sometimes described the practice of self investigation in terms of questions such as ‘who am I?’ or ‘from what source do I rise?’, he did so only to illustrate how we should divert our attention away from all thoughts towards our own essential self-conscious being, which is what we always truly are, and which is the source from which we seemingly rise as our mind or individual sense of ‘I’. That is, when he said that we should investigate ‘who am I?’, he meant that we should turn our attention towards our basic consciousness ‘I’ in order to scrutinise it and know what it really is. He did not mean that we should allow our mind to dwell upon the actual question ‘who am I?’, because such a question is only a thought that is other than ourself and therefore extraneous to our essential being.

We can know our own real self with perfect clarity only by focusing our entire attention on our own essential self-conscious being to the exclusion of all thoughts. By focusing our attention thus, we will withdraw our mind from all activity, and thus it will sink deep into our clear, thought-free and ever-motionless consciousness of our own mere being.

Instead of penetrating deep within our own essential being in this manner, if we keep our attention dwelling upon thoughts such as

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