How to practice Vichara or Self Enquiry


Dialogue with Nature

The only way to understand Self Enquiry is to practise it.

You can do Vichara anytime, anywhere. Close your eyes if possible. And talk to your mind. It sounds like a strange idea to talk to oneself, in fact your first reaction might be, "I'm not crazy!" But on second thought you might want to try an exercise that the sages have been talking about for millennia. 

  • 1. Begin by raising fruitful questions:

In the initial stages Vichara or Internal Dialogue helps the practitioner develop a relationship with his own mind. We know so little about ourselves, often not knowing what we want from our life and what makes us happy. So raise fruitful questions like:

"O Mind, What do you want? What is the purpose of life?"

  • 2. Learning to Listen

Generally the mind, that is engaged in a monologue is lost in its own maze of words, thoughts, fantasies, memories and images. Vichara must not become a monologue. It is a dialogue between you and your mind. If you ask a question, just listen. Listening is the key to the exercise. 

"O Mind, I want to be your friend. Will you be honest with me? Will you share all your secrets with me? I am listening."

"O Mind, let all the questions and doubts come forward. Won't you share your secrets with me?"

  • 3. Developing a relationship with your mind

Once we get in touch with our mind, we discover there are so many layers within. The process of self-discovery can in fact lead us astray, for the mind can be your greatest friend or your worst enemy. In this stage we learn to make friends with our mind and establish a relationship. 

Do you speak to your mind as friend, mentor, mother, father, child, teacher? Don't order your mind around. Be a friend and cultivate a relationship as you would with your friend. Observe what kind of mind you have. Be patient, not judgemental. Be gentle and loving. Do not get into conflicts, be constructive. Do not create conflicts with your mind. If you do not want to meditate, do not meditate. Instead have a gentle dialogue.

"O Mind, do not condemn yourself. Be gentle and forgive yourself."

"O Mind, is this thought useful, is this thought healthy?"

"O Mind, all that is pleasant is not good, all that which is good is not pleasant. Are these desires good or pleasant?" 

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  • 4. Inviting the hidden to come forward

It is best to practice Vichara or Self Enquiry daily before you start with your meditaiton. Allow the mind to present you with all its doubts, questions and fears. Invite these to come forward so that the mind does not disturb you with these during your meditation. 

The practice of Vichara or Self Enquiry helps the practitioner take a different stance. In this stance or attitude the practitioner invites the hidden and unrevealed to come forward. In this manner the practitioner or sadhaka begins to be non-attached to the stream of thoughts that comes forward and is better able to maintain a discriminating attitude.

"O Mind, Whatever thoughts and images you present before me, I will not to be disturbed by them. Come thoughts, come."

  • 5. Attaining Wisdom

Once the hidden comes forward, the seeker begins spontaneously to ask questions. It seems one does not have attempt to practice, the practice takes over and has a life of its own.The seeker is flooded by questions such as, "What is the nature of the mind?" or  "What is the nature of the Universe?" One question emerges from the depths of the mind and heart, a question that cuts through the layers of the mind. The question is "Who am I?" Now the seeker is well on his way to a deeper practice of Vichara.

Once a sincere seeker starts the process of self discovery with Vichara, the hidden part of the mind comes forward.  With the preliminary exercises of Vichara, the seeker develops a relationship with the mind. It is similar to pulling apart a pullover. The initial dialogues are akin to pulling on one of the threads. But as the pullover comes apart rapidly, you might ask, where did it start. To find the answer, you might grasp one of the threads and using it trace the route back to the beginning. The artificial structures imposed upon the mind, by ourselves and the society we live in, fall apart. 

The "Who am I?" form of Self Enquiry is a special form of Vichara or Internal Dialogue. To find the answer the seeker uses the ancient Vedantic aphorism "neti, neti" or "not this, not this". Thus by elimination, he arrives at the answer. By nature the mind is contemplative when it is not dragged out by the senses. Deep within it revels in its own nature and contemplates upon and realizes the great truths (Mahavakyas) of the Upanishads. The seeker goes through the process of negation to arrive at the answer. This method is also known as "neti, neti", as expounded in the Upanishads.  

Vichara, in the form of a dialogue, begins with a dualistic aspect until the seeker rests within having realized the epitome of non-dualistic truth. This practice is as ancient as life itself. It is also refered to in ancient texts such as the Tripura Rahasya and the Yoga Vasishtha.

Complementary Yoga Meditation Practices

However, for most of us this short cut, is challenging. Thus it works best if considered a complementary practice. The four complementary practices are:

  • Vichara including Yoga Nidra
  • Mantra
  • Meditation
  • Prayer


Ram Bansal from India:
All Indian scriptures are written in Vedic Sanskrut. All translations are based on patchworks based on modern Sanskrut which has no relationship to Vedic Sanskrut. In many cases, word meanings in the two Sanskruts are just opposite to each other.

Radhika from THATfirst:
I completely agree that academic translations by modern scholars are more often than not, inaccurate and lead to confusion. However all living spiritual traditions in India have handed down intepretations and explanations of these texts. Most of these texts were not intended for the masses but were textbooks for sincere students and must be accompanied by personal instruction from a teacher. Thus the emphasis on having a teacher, guide or mentor from an unbroken lineage is well founded.

Peter from Uganda:
Nice work,very profound.

Jill from United Kingdom:
Very helpful and interesting. Lovely quotes from the Mandukya Upanishad.
I have never heard Ramana Maharshi called Raman Maharishi before though! :-)

Rey Montiel Jr. from Illinois, U.S.A.:
So basicly I can practice Vedanta on my own with no guidance. I feel afraid Ill do it wrong but fear is imagination right? Really like the idea of talking instead of trying to stop my internal dialogue. My mind would just go on its own with me trying to silence it in fearfull social situations.

Radhika from THATfirst:
Rey, Of course you can practice Vedanta on your own. But it is different when you develop a relationship with an authentic teacher from an unbroken Lineage and Tradition. Just like learning how to play the piano from a website or book, is different from learning how to play the piano with a teacher.

Daniela from Budapest:
So glad I came across this article. I think I can put this into practice well. I am thankful.This is the first time I read about Vichara practice. My practice of meditation is using pranayama now I will change system and instead of ignoring the mind I will make friends. Hopefully I will reach the stable balance and equanimity that I have been wanting to achieve for some time now. Thank you again.

Jainam from India:
Thanks, great article!

Amudala from Tirupati, India:
Such nice work. I am grateful for this. This is one of the best sites for the people who are on the journey to Self-Inquiry, to know about eternal Wisdom leading to Liberation and Self Realization.
Let noble thoughts come to us from every side. - Rigveda

Paul from Massachusetts, USA:
Thank you for freely sharing your knowledge and wisdom

Antoine Howard from Atlanta:
I love the description of vichara in this article. It is very liberating and freeing. In the Western Christian world and religion we are taught to suppress the mind and inner self which leads to alot of complications. This practice allows us to invite the hidden aspects of the mind to go forward. Inviting the hidden forward allows us to heal, purify, resolve what needs to be resolved and begin the process of becoming a fully integrated person. I can just imagine how many lives could have been changed by just implementing this simple process.

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