"Who am I?" Vedantic Practice of Self Enquiry

Raman Maharshi, Sage of Arunachala

"Who am I?" is a special form of Self Enquiry or Vichara.

This practice has often been attributed to the great sage of Arunachala, Raman Maharshi. In fact this practice is as ancient as life itself. It is also refered to in ancient texts such as the Tripura Rahasya, a text the great sage Raman regarded highly. 

"Who am I?" the short cut to Self Realization

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 begins by explaining to the mind that it is too worldly and 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. 

As the artificial structures imposed upon the mind, by ourselves and the society we live in, fall apart, the question, "Who am I?" emerges from the depths of the mind and heart. This question cuts through the layers of the mind like the thread that leads you to the centre. 

Now the seeker is well on his way to a deeper practice of Vichara, one that has been recommended by the Raman Maharshi great sage of Arunachala as the one practice that cuts through the maze of the mind. 

Neti, Neti  - Not this, Not this

The "Who am I?" form of Self Enquiry is a special form of Vichara. 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. 

Raman Maharshi elaborates in the first question posed by a dedicated seeker and published in the booklet Nan Yar: Who am I? Often the Maharshi said that this one booklet was all that sincere seekers were required to read. Below the answer from Raman Maharshi:

"The gross body, composed of the seven humours (dhatus) I am not. 

The five cognitive sense organs; the sense of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell, which apprehend their respective objects, sound, touch, colour, taste and odour, I am not.

The five active sense organs i.e. the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion and procreation, which have as their respective functions speaking, moving, grasping, excreting and enjoying, I am not.

The five vital pranas or energies, I am not.

Even the mind which thinks, I am not. 

The nescience too, which is endowed only with the samskaras or impressions and in which there are no objects and no functioning, I am not."

The Tattvas or Elements

Thus 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. 

What the seeker essentially does is goes through what is known as the "Tattvas" or the Elements.

The Tattvas are none other than the components of  our universe. Surely repeating the above answer as expounded by Raman Maharshi is merely an intellectual exercise. It is essential to gain the insights and meditative experiences. Certainly a degree of maturity and sincerity are necessary, but also necessary is the daily experimenting with the Elements and "seeing" them in our daily life. 

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

Book Recommendation

Tripura Rahasya: Mystery beyond the Trinity


Vedantic Meditation: Lighting the flame of Awareness


Vipan from Ludhiana Punjab:

Please put me on your mailing list for Newsletter, which I found very informative. We here in ludhiana has also recently started a Newsletter, it will help in complementing that also.
Thank you Radhika ji

Shrinivas.hukeri from Bangalore:
All powerful Brahman residing in the body called Radhikaji thank you for spreading awareness of Truth.

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