This profound text is an invitation and support to reflect on the most important question of the inner path: “Who am I?”
That which is waiting for you, is the great Self-inquiry. It starts with the question: “Who”? and ends with the question: “Who”?
Self-inquiry helps you recognise what is real and helps you to distinguish it from what is not real. Self-inquiry first explores thoughts, and then the origin of thoughts. Your “I” is made out of thoughts, it just consists of thoughts. Subsequently, you live, everybody lives in this world of thoughts without knowing the source of these thoughts, without having explored the source of these thoughts. The source of the thought “I”, is the same source that brings forth the whole of life. And this source is accessible, is available, is simple. So, direct the attention towards the origin of a thought.
The “I” is like a soap bubble, a personal world, in which you believe to live and which keeps you from seeing reality. This soap bubble is like a wafer-thin veil drawn over reality, so thin that you cannot tell the difference any more between the preconceptions of the “I”-thought and reality itself. You need a penetrating sharpness of inner seeing to see this “I”-thought, in all its facets. In reality, the thought “I” is always the same. And then the question follows: “Who am I”?
Just imagine you have been short-sighted your whole life and you have perceived the world, the faces of the people, the whole world in a blurred way. And suddenly, somebody gives you a pair of glasses and your first reaction is a fright: “Oh my God!” This happens in Self-inquiry. There is a shock in suddenly seeing everything in the sharp contours of the inner and outer boundaries. The fuzziness that also corresponds to an emotional state, a dull feeling of well-being gives way to a sudden disillusionment. It is as if you wake out of a state of intoxication, out of a dream, and suddenly face yourself in the soberness of reality.
The path of Self-inquiry doesn’t bother about spiritual concepts, it is the direct, the naked exploration of reality, in this moment. For this to happen, the pride of false knowledge has to first break down. This is particularly difficult for those who have acquired so much. Nothing can be explored, nothing can be seen, nothing can be fulfilled when you allow that which your mind has acquired to step between you and what you want to explore in this moment. When there is no longer anything between you and that, true knowing is revealed.
Life remains untouched by this thinking mind and at any rate, it happens exactly as it is destined to happen, whether you suffer from it or not. Life is totally untouched by this world of thoughts. The soap bubble bursts in the realisation of Self-inquiry. And what remains is nothing, nothing at all.
This tradition of inquiring into the thought “I”, as taught by Ramana Maharshi is also called the Silent Tradition. It is the tradition of the transmission of no-mind. Every mind that has become still, is in peace. And this stillness is no numbing stillness, no stillness that excludes any troubles. No, it is a stillness that is behind everything and in everything. Remember this stillness again. You have lived long enough with the noise of the world, inside as well as outside. Stillness is always there and it is total inner peace.