Self-Inquiry

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Ramana Maharshi -- Abide as the Self (Video)
Ramana Maharshi - The Sage of Arunachala (Video)

Sri Ramana Maharshi wrote his famous booklet Self-Enquiry when he was in his early twenties. Self-Inquiry is a meditation technique for attaining enlightenment which is associated with Sri Ramana Maharshi.

The Sanskrit name for it, atma-vicara, really means self-investigation, self-examination, self-reflection, or looking within, but self-inquiry has become the standard translation. As we'll show below, this can be misleading. Self-enquiry is the British spelling; self-inquiry is American.

History of Self-Inquiry

Self-inquiry is an ancient technique that dates back at least to the Upanisads. For example, the Katha Upanisad says:

The primeval one who is hard to perceive,
    wrapped in mystery, hidden in the cave,
    residing within the impenetrable depth—
Regarding him as god, an insight
    gained by inner contemplation,
    both sorrow and joy the wise abandon.[1]


This is a pretty good summary of Ramana Maharshi's method, although it's written in veiled language. The "primeval one" in this verse is Brahman (the Self) and the "cave" is the heart center, so the meaning is: concentrate inwardly (on the feeling of me) until the innermost self is discerned in the heart and recognized as God. A similar reference occurs in the Maitri Upanisad 6.34.


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