Friday 23 November 2007

The Path of Sri Ramana - Part One e-book copy now available

Yesterday I posted an e-book copy of Part One of The Path of Sri Ramana on my main website, Happiness of Being, and in the near future I hope to add an e-book copy of Part Two.

As a prelude to this e-book copy of Part One I have written an introductory page, in which I give a detailed overview of both Part One and Part Two. The following is a copy of the introduction and the overview of Part One that I give in this introductory page:

The Path of Sri Ramana is an English translation of ஸ்ரீ ரமண வழி (Sri Ramana Vazhi), a Tamil book written by Sri Sadhu Om, in which he explains in great depth and detail the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana.

Sri Ramana taught us that the only means by which we can attain the supreme happiness of true self-knowledge is atma-vichara — self-investigation or self-enquiry — which is the simple practice of keenly scrutinising or attending to our essential self-conscious being, which we always experience as 'I am', in order to know 'who am I?'

However, he also described this practice of atma-vichara or self-investigation as the path of atma-samarpana or self-surrender, because unless we give up our false self we cannot truly know or be clearly conscious of our real self.

Our false finite self or mind rises by imagining itself to be a physical body, and it sustains its imaginary existence by constantly attending to thoughts or objects, which it experiences as other than itself. Without attending to otherness, we cannot continue imagining ourself to be this mind. Therefore when we turn our attention away from all otherness towards our own essential self, our mind will subside and lose its existence as a seemingly separate entity.

Since our true nature is not thinking, doing or knowing anything other than ourself, but is just self-conscious being, we will become clearly conscious of our true nature only to the extent to which we willingly surrender our constantly thinking, doing and object-knowing mind. The reason why we think and know objects other than ourself is that we love to do so, and we love to do so because we wrongly imagine that we can obtain happiness thereby. Therefore we will surrender our thinking mind and remain as our true self-conscious being only when we understand that happiness does not exist in anything other than our own real self, and when our love just to be our real self thereby becomes greater than our love to think or know any other thing.

In other words, in order to succeed in our efforts to know our real infinite self and thereby to surrender our false finite self, we must be consumed by overwhelming love for our own true self-conscious being, 'I am'. True bhakti or devotion, therefore, is the perfectly non-dual love that we should each have for our own real self or essential being.

Therefore, though Sri Ramana taught us that in order to experience the infinite happiness of true self-knowledge we must attempt either to know our real self by investigating 'who am I?' or to separate ourself from our false self by surrendering it to God, he also repeatedly emphasised the truth that in essence these two paths are one, because we cannot know our real self without surrendering our false self — our illusory sense of being this body-bound mind — and we cannot relinquish our false self without knowing who or what we really are.

Thus self-enquiry and self-surrender — the path of jnana or true knowledge and the path of bhakti or true love — are not two different paths, but are just two inseparable aspects of the same single path — the one and only path by which we can experience the infinite happiness of true self-knowledge.

In Part One of The Path of Sri Ramana Sri Sadhu Om explains the first of these two aspects of this one path, namely the practice of self-enquiry, while in Part Two he explains various other closely related aspects of Sri Ramana's teachings, including the practice of self-surrender.

Sri Sadhu Om begins Part One by explaining in the first three chapters the real nature of happiness and the reason why we can attain the eternal experience of infinite happiness only by practising atma-vichara — self-enquiry or self-investigation. In the fourth chapter he completes laying the theoretical foundation of self-enquiry by explaining what we are and what we are not, and in the next four chapters he clarifies what true atma-vichara is and what it is not, explaining in great detail why we can know ourself only by attending to ourself — our own essential self-conscious being, 'I am' — and not by attending to any other thing. Thus he leaves us in no doubt that the correct technique of atma-vichara taught by Sri Ramana is only keen and vigilant self-attention or self-scrutiny.

Thus Part One of The Path of Sri Ramana contains the following eight chapters:

  1. Eternal Happiness is the Goal
  2. What is Happiness?
  3. Self-enquiry is the Only Way to Happiness
  4. Who Am I?
  5. The Enquiry 'Who Am I?' and the Four Yogas
  6. 'Who Am I?' is not Soham Bhavana
  7. Self-Enquiry
  8. The Technique of Self-Enquiry
In the first chapter, 'Eternal Happiness is the Goal', Sri Sadhu Om explains that happiness is the natural and legitimate goal of all sentient beings, but that the means by which we all seek to obtain happiness are wrong.

In the second chapter, 'What is Happiness?', he explains that happiness is our real nature, and that the transient happiness that we seem to derive from external experiences actually arises only from within ourself, and is experienced by us due to the temporary calming of our mind that occurs whenever any of our desires are fulfilled.

In the third chapter, 'Self-enquiry is the Only Way to Happiness', he explains why we can attain true and infinite happiness only by practising atma-vichara or self-enquiry. That is, happiness is experienced by us only to the extent to which our mind subsides, because the activity of our mind disturbs us from our natural state of peaceful happiness, distracting our attention away from our mere being. Therefore when our mind subsides partially or temporarily, we experience partial or temporary happiness, and if it subsides completely and permanently — that is, if it is destroyed or annihilated — we will experience complete and permanent happiness.

Our mind is a thought, the primal thought 'I', and it rises or becomes active only by attending to other thoughts. Without attending thus to thoughts other than itself, it cannot stand. Therefore when it turns its attention away from all other thoughts towards itself, it subsides and disappears. Thus we can destroy our mind only by keenly vigilant self-attention. Therefore self-enquiry or self-scrutiny is the only means by which we can attain the experience of infinite and eternal happiness.

In the fourth chapter, 'Who am I?', after clarifying why we are neither this body nor this mind, nor any other such transitory adjunct, Sri Sadhu Om explains that our real nature is only our fundamental consciousness of our own essential being — the one true adjunctless being-consciousness or sat-chit — and that this non-dual being-consciousness is itself true happiness or ananda.

In the fifth chapter, 'The Enquiry 'Who Am I?' and the Four Yogas', he explains why this simple practice of self-enquiry — investigating 'who am I?' by keenly scrutinising our own essential being-consciousness, 'I am' — is itself the essence of all the four yogas, the four traditional types of spiritual practice, namely karma yoga (the path of nishkamya karma or 'desireless action', that is, the practice of doing action without desire for any sort of personal benefit but only out of love for God), bhakti yoga (the path of love or devotion to God), raja yoga (the practice of a system of techniques that include specific forms of internal and external self-restraint, pranayama or breath-restraint, and various methods of meditation, the ultimate aim of which is to attain yoga or 'union' with God), and jnana yoga (the path of knowledge, the aim of which is to know God as he really is).

The practice of investigating 'who am I?' is not only the essence of all these four yogas, but is also the only effective means by which we can achieve the goal that each of them aims to attain. Though the traditional practices of these four yogas will gradually purify our mind and thereby ultimately lead us to the practice of self-enquiry, it is in fact not necessary for us to do any such traditional practices, because the simple practice of self-enquiry is itself the most effective means by which we can achieve the purity and strength of mind that we require in order to practise it perfectly.

Therefore if we practise self-enquiry from the outset, we will never need to practise any other form of yoga, as Sri Ramana makes very clear in verse 14 of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham and verse 10 of Upadesa Undiyar, in which he says:
Scrutinising 'To whom are these [four defects], karma [action], vibhakti [non-devotion], viyoga [separation] and ajnana [ignorance]?' is itself karma, bhakti, yoga and jnana, [because] when [we] scrutinise [ourself thus], [our ego or individual 'I' will be found to be non-existent, and] without [this finite] 'I' these [four defects] do not ever exist. Abiding [or being fixed permanently] as self is alone unmai [the truth, which is sat-bhava, our real state of being or 'am'-ness].

Being [firmly established as our real self] having subsided in [our] rising-place [our 'heart' or the core of our being, which is the source from which we had risen as our mind], that is karma [desireless action] and bhakti [devotion], that is yoga [union with God] and jnana [true knowledge].
In the sixth chapter, 'Who Am I? is not Soham Bhavana', Sri Sadhu Om explains the difference between this practice of investigating 'who am I?' and soham bhavana, the practice of meditating 'I am he' (that is, 'I am God' or 'I am brahman'), which is an incorrect practice of jnana yoga, but which has traditionally been mistaken to be the correct practice.

While explaining the crucial difference between these two practices, and the reason why soham bhavana cannot enable us to know ourself as we really are, he enables us to understand that the teachings of Sri Ramana have breathed a fresh life into the ancient texts of advaita vedanta, restoring to them their true and original spirit and import, by clarifying the essential practice that they intended to teach us, namely atma-vichara — the thought-free practice of non-objective self-investigation or self-scrutiny.

In the seventh chapter, 'Self-Enquiry', Sri Sadhu Om explains in great detail the correct meaning of the term atma-vichara — self-enquiry or self-investigation. That is, in essence he explains that atma-vichara is the simple practice of self-attention or self-scrutiny — focusing our attention keenly and exclusively upon our own essential self-conscious being, 'I am'.

This practice of atma-vichara or self-attention is not an action or a state of thinking, but is our natural thought-free state of just being. Thinking is an action, because it is an active process of paying attention to things other than ourself, but self-attention is not an action, because it is a passive state of perfectly peaceful being in which our attention rests naturally in its source, which is our own essential being — our fundamental self-consciousness, 'I am'.

Finally in the eighth chapter, 'The Technique of Self-Enquiry', Sri Sadhu Om discusses the practice of atma-vichara in greater depth and detail, disclosing many subtle clues to help, guide and encourage us in our practice.

In addition to these eight chapters, which form the main body of the book, Part One also contains 'A Brief Life History of Sri Ramana' as an introduction, and three appendices.

Appendix One contains an English translation of Nan Yar? (Who am I?), the most important prose work of Sri Ramana, which explains in detail the philosophy and practice of atma-vichara or self-enquiry.

Appendix Two contains an English translation of four poems from Sadhanai Saram (The Essence of Spiritual Practice), a compilation of Tamil verses by Sri Sadhu Om giving clear guidance and many valuable clues regarding the practice of self-enquiry and self-surrender. These four selected poems are Atma-Vichara Patikam (Eleven Verses on Self-Enquiry), Yar Jnani? (Who is Jnani [a sage who knows self]?), Sandehi Yarendru Sandehi (Doubt the Doubter) and Japa (repetition or remembrance of a name of God).

Appendix Three is an essay entitled 'Sadhana and Work', which was adapted from a letter that Sri Sadhu Om wrote in reply to a friend who had written asking, 'How is it possible in practice to maintain unceasing self-attention when, in the course of a day, various activities demand some or all of one's attention?'


robbie1687 said...

At last, after so many years, the best instruction manual that has ever been written for practicing Self-enquiry is freely available on the web.

Thanks for doing this!

summa said...

Enormous gratitude from here.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Appreciate it!!:)

Hans said...

I got the book, however it will be helpful to access the electronic text for sharing citations.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

In 'Sadhana and work', Sri Sadhu Om says "The mind, speech and body should work only for that amount of time and with that amount of effort which is required for paying the rent – for providing the food, clothing and shelter necessary for the
body." Does that mean if one has enough money to pay the rent, one should attempt full-time to earn the profit of Self-Realization? As long as we are deep in identification with the body and mind, aren't all the actions we do only attending to second and third persons?

Michael James said...

In reply to the questions asked by Anonymous in his above comment:

Yes, if we have enough money to pay the rent, we should attempt full-time to earn the profit of true self-knowledge. However, in practice this does not mean that we should spend all our time trying to practise self-attention, because as Sri Sadhu Om says on page 209 of The Path of Sri Ramana - Part One:

"... If one struggles for a long time to maintain self-attention, the intensity and clarity of one’s attention will gradually slacken and decrease. But if instead one relaxes as soon as one finds that one’s self-attention is slackening, and if after a brief rest one makes a fresh attempt to fix one’s attention on self, that fresh attempt will have a greater intensity and clarity. Therefore, what is important is not so much the length of time one spends trying to attend to self, but the earnestness and intensity with which one makes each fresh attempt."

Between our intermittent attempts to practise keenly focused self-attention, we should keep our mind dwelling as much as possible on the teachings of Sri Ramana, because they constantly remind us and encourage us to turn selfwards. Therefore, as Sri Sadhu Om indicates on page 210, whenever we are not engaged in the actual practice (nididhyasana) of self-attention, we should as far as possible be engaged only in study (sravana) of and reflection (manana) upon Sri Ramana's teachings.

Regarding the second question ask by Anonymous, "As long as we are deep in identification with the body and mind, aren't all the actions we do only attending to second and third persons?" we imagine ourself to be doing action only because we imagine ourself to be this mind and body. Therefore if we attend only to the first person, 'I', and thereby withdraw our attention from this mind and body, we will not be aware of their actions and therefore will not feel that we are doing anything.

So long as we are attending to any second or third person — anything other than 'I' — that attention is an action or 'doing'. But if we attend only to 'I', that attention is not a 'doing' but is only our natural state of self-conscious being.

The body and mind are destined to do certain activities, so such activities will go on even when our attention is focused on 'I'. However, because we are not then attending either to the instruments of action (the body and mind) or to the actions these instruments are doing, we will not feel that we are doing anything.

In practice we may not be able to keep our attention focused exclusively on 'I' in the midst of our day to day activities, but to the extent that we maintain a firm hold on at least a tenuous current of self-remembrance, we will be separated from whatever activities of our body and mind may be engaged in.

Even in the midst of our physical and mental activities — that is, in the midst of our attention to second and third persons — we exist, and we know that we exist. Therefore no activity can ever wholly conceal our essential self-consciousness, 'I am'. All the our physical and mental activity can do is to obscure our self-consciousness, making us feel 'I am doing', 'I am thinking' or 'I am knowing otherness'.

Therefore whatever action our body and mind may be engaged in, we are always free to divert our attention away from such actions towards our essential self-conscious being, 'I am', which is the sole reality underlying our mistaken knowledge 'I am doing', 'I am thinking' or 'I am attending to second and third persons'.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that unambiguous, clear answer!

ramanamayi said...

Wonderful answer to that last question!

Michael, I wonder if you would consider doing some posts about Sadhu Om ... his life, his love for Bhagavan, his sadhana that led to his realization ... any details you think might inspire those of us who did not have the great fortune to spend time with him. I know that it is not really your style to draw any attention to yourself, and that Sadhu Om was the same way, but even so, I for one would love to hear more about his years with Bhagavan and more details about his realization, as well as what it was like for you to work with him. To have spent those years in the company of someone who had such one-pointed love and devotion for Bhagavan must have been wonderful.

Congratulations on your book coming out, and best wishes.

Michael James said...

In reply to the above comment of Ramanamayi:

Yes, you are right, Sri Sadhu Om did not like to draw attention to himself, and nor do I. As he always said, Bhagavan is the guru of all of us, so we should give importance only to him and to the teachings that he has graciously given to us. Therefore I like to write mostly about his teachings, and about how we can derive real benefit from them by practising them wholeheartedly, thereby erasing our own ego and ceasing to exist as the finite person that we now mistake ourself to be.

However, when the occasion arises, I also like to write about his outward life and about his devotees, especially those devotees like Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om who have most truly and completely surrendered themself to him, because their devotion as expressed both in their life and in the rich outpouring of their poetry and songs are a great inspiration to us to follow the path of absolute self-effacement that they followed. Therefore as and when the inspiration comes to me, I will certainly write about them.

ramanamayi said...

Thank you Michael. I will trust Bhagavan to inspire you :-).

J.R.Julius said...

Where could I get the tamil copy ரமண வழி (Ramana Vazhi) pdf?

Michael James said...

Julius, I am sorry, no PDF copy of ரமண வழி is available at present, but I do hope to be able later to post an HTML copy of it on my website and/or on the website of Sri Arunachalaramana Book Trust.

Bob - P said...

Michael thank you for your answer in your first comment it was extremely helpful to me.

My own practice has never gone deep enough where no 2nd and 3rd persons are experienced. They are still there but are imposed on me so divert my attention back to myself on what they are imposed.

But they are still there so to speak. Your answer and explanation makes me realize my self abidance / practice is still very weak indeed ... But it is very encouraging too .. so thank you very much.


. said...


If I may ask, why does D.G. says that Sadhu Om wasn´t "in the good books of the ashram"?