At the age of 16, Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), named Venkataraman at birth, had an intense spiritual experience involving a sudden and overwhelming fear of death. He went into the experience and it became the death of his ego, which invoked a flood of Self-awareness. Soon after, he left home for Arunachala – a South Indian mountain whose very name had mysteriously called to him as a holy place worth seeking – to pursue a purely spiritual life. He spent his time in deep meditation, often entering high states of consciousness and samadhi. Eventually he settled on the slopes of Arunachala and his followers built an ashram around him. He answered their questions and commented on the spiritual works they presented him, but always with the same simple issue, pointing to the source of our thoughts summed up in the question: “Who am I?.” Ramana Maharshi’s teachings are fundamental in Hridaya Yoga. Spiritual Heart, as it is called in many traditions.
About the Question “Who Am I?” in Hridaya Meditation
Ramana Maharshi terms Self-Enquiry as “the most sacred of sacred.” Indeed, it is a revolutionary method in spirituality. Ramana explains the reason this practice is unique: “What is essential in any sadhana [spiritual practice] is to try to bring back the running mind and fix it on one thing only. Why then should it not be brought back and fixed in Self-attention (To this feeling of ‘I’)? That alone is Self-Enquiry (atma vichara). That is all that is to be done!”
Self-Enquiry is the awareness of Awareness itself. It leads us beyond duality because the object of meditation (the “I”) is ultimately revealed as the Subject itself (transpersonal Consciousness). However, in order to let the question “Who am I?” bring us closer to our Real Nature, or to truly ask “Who am I?” in an efficient way, a certain understanding and spiritual maturity is necessary.
“The Self itself is God.”