An excerpt from

Happiness and the Art of Being



Michael James


Sri Ramana often said that there are only two means by which we can attain the experience of true self-knowledge, namely self investigation and self-surrender. However, he also said that these two means or ‘spiritual paths’ are truly one in essence. That is, though they are described in different words, in their actual practice they are identical. What exactly are these two means or paths, how are they one in essence, what is their one essence, and why did he describe that one essence in these two different ways?

According to the ancient philosophy of vedanta, there are four paths that lead to spiritual emancipation, namely the ‘path of [desireless] action’ or karma marga, the ‘path of devotion’ or bhakti marga, the ‘path of union’ or yoga marga, and the ‘path of knowing’ or jñana marga. Of these four paths, the second and the fourth are the principal means, while the first and the third are merely subsidiary aspects of these two principal means. In other words, all the various types of spiritual practice or ‘paths’ can in essence be reduced to these two principal paths, the ‘path of knowing’ and the ‘path of devotion’. If any practice does not contain an element of either or both of these two paths, it cannot lead us to the state of spiritual emancipation, the state in which we are freed from the bondage of finite existence.

The two means to attain true self-knowledge taught by Sri Ramana correspond to these twin paths of ‘knowing’ and ‘devotion’.

The practice of self-investigation is the true ‘path of knowing’, and