Self-Enquiry: The Most Direct Way To Your Spiritual Awakening

In a previous post, we went quite some way down the “rabbit hole“.

You could even say we went all the way to its bottom.

Honestly, this was a radical endeavor.

As I mentioned in that post, it was definitely risky from my side to touch upon what I firmly know to be the fundamental and only true layer of all existence, in the way I did. Risky in the sense that I could have estranged you and made you even question my sanity as a writer and a human being.

However, and thankfully, your response was pretty encouraging. This definitely gives me the strength to continue along this way.

But, before I proceed, please take some time to read or revisit said post. I will need you to have it fresh in your mind, for what follows.


OK, here we go…

Remember? The Only Reality Is Who You Truly Are

It is the One from whom you deliberately choose to stay away, believing instead that you are the illusory mind-body complex going by the name of [insert your name here].

At this stage, it’s enough if you accept to entertain this statement as a working hypothesis. Even if your mind shouts at you, claiming that this is beyond outrageous.

Then, the key question of course is:

What do you need to do to reunite with your True Self?

To put it a bit differently (and perhaps also more accurately):

What do you need to do to dispel the illusion of who you falsely assume you are?

I would not exaggerate if I told you that I’ve spent years – scrap that, decades! – of my life, inadvertently or (more recently) deliberately trying to answer that fundamental question.

My quest has led me to the conclusion that there are only two ways to go about this.

I covered the first way (Prayer To A Supreme Power) in my previous post.

So, in the present post, I will concentrate on the second one.

This arguably constitutes the most direct way to your self-realization.

It is, of course, an ancient technique.

However, nobody I know embodied it and taught it better than the modern times Hindu Guru, Ramana Maharshi.

Ramana Maharshi And The Self-Enquiry Method

Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) was an Indian sage and a Realized Being*, who, for the most part of his life, was revered as a deity by his numerous devotees.

Born Venkataraman Iyer in a well-off family in South India, he left his home at the age of 16, prompted by a kind of a near-death, spiritual awakening experience of an irresistible and life-changing force.

He would never be the same person after this fateful event.

Drawn by the holy mountain, Arunachala, he settled there for the remaining of his life, which, after a certain point, was almost entirely devoted to his disciples. The latter mushroomed over the course of time and flocked to him, mesmerized by his extraordinary aura and infectious stillness.

Ramana Maharshi’s most effective way of “teaching” (this word is unavoidably misleading in this case) others was by means of his silent and immensely powerful presence. The calm and all-pervasive force field that he naturally and generously emanated reportedly led to the spiritual awakening, or self-realization, of hundreds or thousands of people, who happened to be in his vicinity.

Ramana Maharshi was always saying that his silent, Guru-like “initiation” could not even begin to compare with his few oral and even fewer written teachings.

Nevertheless, he has left us a treasure trove of the latter. If you’re interested to delve deeper into them, I would recommend one of the two following books:

Ramana Maharshi’s recommended method for self-realization is the, so-called, self-enquiry.

He persistently indicated this to be the most direct and radical way to dispersing with the illusion of the mind-made notion of oneself and to awakening to one’s true nature.

The latter is what he referred to as the Self.

The Why And How Of Self-Enquiry

According to Ramana Maharshi, the fastest and most effective path to (re)discover who one truly is, is exactly to relentlessly question oneself:

“Who am I?”.

This, says Ramana Maharshi, is the surest method to eventually reveal the fictitious nature of the primordial thought of the mind, which he called “I-thought”.

Namely, “I am”.

This “I” however is in reality non-existent. It represents the wrong identification with what one perceives to be one’s form or mind-body complex. As we saw in the post that kicked off this series of spiritual awakening journeys, the latter is ultimately unreal.

Therefore, continues Ramana Maharshi, the rigorous and unwavering self-enquiry cannot but eventually reveal this fundamental fallacy and make it evaporate.

In other words, you (the true and eternal You: the Self, the Universe, the non-dual Everything That Is) will eventually realize that you are not who you think you are, only so long as you keep questioning yourself about who this “I” is.

This fake layer of the “little me and the world around me, that is not me” will then disappear of its own will. This deck of cards, this proverbial sandcastle will collapse, allowing you to see and be who… you already are.

That is the infinite, unconditional Awareness.

And no more than That.

By the way, this is why Ramana Maharshi never endorsed the term “self-realization”.

“There is nothing to realize”, he was saying. “You are already what you strain to realize“.

Thus, what you just need to do is remove the fantasy of what you are not. The one that artificially and falsely separates you from… You!

The true You

As to the how one should perform self-enquiry (or “vichara”, in Sanskrit), Ramana Maharshi advocated his disciples to do it continuously and not (just) orally, but rather mentally and with a true devotion and burning desire for finding the answer to their question.

An answer that, again, can never be on the intellectual level. One can only experience it.

And this, in particular, is the experience of being the one who experiences everything.

It is very important, stressed Ramana Maharshi, to have one’s mind solely focused on self-enquiry. And do so to the exclusion of any other thoughts. This is key, as it results in preventing one from straying away from oneself.

Like the case is with the Jesus Prayer, Ramana Maharshi said that after a certain, turning point the practitioner does not need to exercise any effort to adhere to their self-enquiry.

As of that point, the self-enquiry becomes involuntary. And it is only a matter of time for the real Self to surface.

“A matter of time”, so to say, of course.

Given that the True Self is by definition timeless.

If Not Self-Enquiry, Then Surrender

Interestingly, Ramana Maharshi was saying that some people are not ready to directly get on with self-enquiry.

For those, he advocated the method of surrendering to a higher power.

Such a method is, of course akin to the one of… the Jesus Prayer!

(See how everything that matters fits, in the end, nicely together)?

According to Ramana Maharshi, applying the surrendering method is a kind of “detour”. Yet, it is an acceptable one, which will, nonetheless and eventually, lead one back to good, old self-enquiry.

And, of course, from there to self-realization.

. . .

In a very basic sense, all of Ramana Maharshi’s wise teachings point to one thing.

And one thing only.

Summarized in the two words that were inscribed in the entrance of the sacred Temple of Apollo in Delphi:


Know that you are not who you think you are.

And know that you are all that exists.

All of it.

Forever and ever, which is now. It can only be Now.

There is only Now. And Now is You.

All the rest is but a Game. Clearly a very interesting and enjoyable one.

Yet, a Game. Of an illusory character and nature.

The paradox is that the more you realize (not just mentally, but with the entire essence of your Being) that your so-called life is but a Game of no real consequence, the more serious and adept you become at playing it.

And the more FUN you have, while at it!

I guess, then, this is another form of surrender.

Surrender to the fact that life is only a Game.

And that in order for it to be a proper one, you need the “good guys” and the “bad ones”.

(Not to mention the ugly)…!

You need the “whites” and the “blacks”.

And you are all of these things. Assuming every possible form. Taking all sides and, at the same time, none.

Plus, you also are the Spectator of the Game that the mere existence of these, superficially different, things generate.

So, yes, by all means, have fun! After all, this is YOUR Game.

But never get so invested in it that you forget who you truly are and what that fantastic Game really is (or isn’t).

Allow me to conclude this post by slightly paraphrasing and reversing the order of the two sentences at the heart of my very first book, “MONO“:

“There are endless shortcuts from dreams to reality;

But there is no shortcut from reality to dreams”

Until next time,

Remain safe and alert; surrender and rejoice!

*In this context, Realized Being (sometimes also referred to as Liberated Being) is a being who has attained self-realization, in the most profound sense of the term. That is: having achieved their irrevocable unity with the whole of Existence (or, if you like, Universe or God).

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