Ramana Maharshi, Self-Inquiry and Who Am I

Published | Updated March 26, 2020

Ramana Maharshi and Self-Inquiry | Who Am I?

Ramana Maharshi (1879–1950) was an Indian spiritual master, sage, and enlightened-one who spent the biggest part of his life teaching by the holy mountain Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai (Tamil Nadu, India).

His teachings were characterized by silence, stillness, and so-called Satsangs, sitting at the Master’s feet, answering spiritual questions of those who visited. He became a well-known teacher to the West, first popularized through the works of Paul Brunton (British author of spiritual books), Somerset Maugham (British novelist), Arthur Osborne (English writer), and Maurice Frydman (originally an Engineer who also published the work I Am That from Nisargadatta Maharaj).

Ramana Maharshi recommended so-called Self-Enquiry (Nan Yar or Who Am I) as the most important way to remove ignorance, to achieve firmly abiding in Self-Awareness and attaining Enlightenment or Liberation.

Self-Enquiry to Ramana meant the constant attention to the inner awareness of the “I” or the “I am,” and trying to see where it comes from. Doing so, the I-thought will finally disappear completely by seeing it as “unreal.” Subsequently, full and absolute Self-Awareness will establish itself, which is Self-Realization.

He’s considered an exponent of the Sudden Awakening tradition and Advaita Vedanta, although he also endorsed Bhakti Yoga (the Yoga of complete surrender and devotion). By many, he’s also seen as the inspiration for the more Western based Neo-Advaita movement, although Ramana himself never made any claims in this direction.

Ramana Maharshi described the Self as the force and source from which all appearances manifest. The essence of his teachings is that the Self or the real “I” is a non-personal, all-inclusive awareness, being present always, and only completely prominent when the self-limiting inclinations of the mind have ceased. When this absolute awareness has become permanent, Self-Realization has been “achieved.”

Ramana also considered the Self to be surviving physical death, although not in the sense of reincarnation. Man’s true nature is simple being, liberated from thoughts. With respect to enlightened beings (Jnanis) or non-enlightened beings, Ramana claimed that thinking like that is incorrect and initiates dualism where there is none. To him there are no Jnanis or non-Jnanis, but only the Self, complete knowledge and absolute Self-Awareness (Jnana).


Disclaimer: All information, content, and material in this article is for informational purposes only and not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or other professional healthcare provider. Article Categories: Mindfulness, Non-Duality & Advaita Vedanta, Spirituality, Enlightenment, and Self-Realization
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