Self inquiry is one of the most powerful and effective meditation techniques used by thousands of people all over the world. Taught by the enlightened Guru, Ramana Maharshi, this meditation technique alone has helped many people experience profound states of meditation, samadhi and even self realization.
At the most mundane level, self inquiry is asking “Who am I?” In asking this question, your attention reverses back onto itself, the mind becomes still and for however long it lasts, you experience nothing but pure consciousness, pure attention itself. Dualistic subject/object perception is gone and there is only the experience of one infinite consciousness.
The amazing thing about this meditation technique is that it uses the mind to stop the mind. “Who am I” is not an intellectual question, instead it is a question to cut right through the intellectual mind. Because if you really look to find the answer, you will find that your name, body and occupation is not what you are.
Certainly intellectually, these things would be your answer. But if you really inquire into the nature of what you are in this moment, you move past all mental definitions and come to something which cannot be put into words, something that actually silences the words.
So in practicing the self inquiry technique, in asking “Who am I,” your attention moves inward instead of outward, past intellectual knowledge to that which cannot be described or defined. You begin to experience what is here beyond your thinking, beyond all ideas and definitions of what you know intellectually. This experience of pure consciousness, pure attention is often referred to as the Self, Atman, the feeling of ‘I am,’ stillness, silence, the void and the absence of me.
All of these words may point in the direction of what is here, but it is necessary to note that the words themselves are not the answer. The answer is the silence, the mystery that is there every time you ask the question. You use the self inquiry meditation technique to take you to the essence of what is here beyond thought and in that you learn to remain in that essence, to rest in pure consciousness.
When you begin practicing the self inquiry meditation technique, you may ask “who am I?” and the experience of pure consciousness may only last a moment before you are again caught up in thinking. So then you repeat the question to again take you out of thinking and into your natural state of pure consciousness. At first, it may be that you ask “who am I” with every inhale and then on the exhale you experience what is here beyond thinking.
But as you improve, you can remain in your natural state of pure consciousness for longer and longer periods of time. At first, the experience of pure being may last 2 seconds, then 5 seconds, even 30 seconds before you are again get caught up in thinking.
But with practice, you come to a point where the question is no longer needed; you come to a point where the feeling of pure consciousness becomes dominant enough that your attention can remain in that without actually needing to use the question any longer.
It is here the meditation technique no longer becomes an inquiry, but rather you simply relax into pure being, you surrender in pure consciousness. You begin to be able to directly experience this moment beyond mental perception, without having to use your mind. You begin to experience that you are not your thoughts, but the consciousness behind the thinking, the consciousness from where the thoughts arise and disappear on their own.
It is important to note that a large part of Ramana Maharshi’s teaching has been overlooked, and that is the Guru himself. Ramana Maharshi radiated Shaktipat, the energy of enlightenment. Just by sitting in Ramana Maharshi’s presence, people would effortlessly experience deep states of bliss and self realization, without having to practice any meditation technique.
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