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Ramana Maharshi: Attention to the "I"

Recently, both from following this “attention to the ‘I’ process,” and from reading the Q&A between Ramana and his followers, I gained a new insight. Here is a passage that had a profound impact on me:

Q: When I do this and cling to my self, that is, the “I” thought, other thoughts come and go, but I say to myself “Who am I?” and there is no answer forthcoming. To be in this condition is the practice. Is it so?

RM: This is a mistake that people often make. What happens when you make a serious quest for the Self is that the “I”-thought disappears and something else from the depths takes hold of you and that is not the “I” which commenced the quest.

Q: What is this something else?

RM: That is the real Self, the import of “I”. It is not the ego. It is the supreme being itself.

I read this many times over several days. It seems almost too simple. But it was so revealing, and it has enabled me, at times, to settle into “I amness” and let go of the mind. The way I interpret it is this: The mind often reacts and gets in the way, looking for answers, blocks the immediate recognition.

The way I integrate that into my practice is this: So often, when I look for (or try to settle into) Awareness, or the “I,” if I ask “Who am I?” or “Am I aware?” I expect “something” like an answer, a response, a feeling. I’m looking for something. And if nothing happens, if I seem to “draw a blank,” then the mind starts searching, questioning: “Am I doing this the right way? Do I need to do more neti neti work, let go of thoughts and feelings? Why can’t I ‘get there’?” But my interpretation of RM is: That is the “mistake people often make.” The emptiness is the answer; don’t look beyond that. Just remain in the moment of “no answer” and let the mind be still. The “I” (or Awareness) will find you. It’s silently there.

Full disclosure: I have many hours, and some days, when I’m unable to “get there,” though I know “there is only here” and all that. I guess I’m unable to “get here.” The ego seems to become strongest when it’s threatened, and I guess mine is pretty fragile. Many events or feelings cause it to armor itself. Maybe something will shatter or dissolve it. Meantime, I find hope in Nisargadatta’s statement that “the very longing and search for reality is the movement, operation, action of reality.” I take that to mean that my search for It is also its search for me.

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