Without the “I”, there is no “you” nor “he”, nor “she”, nor “it”. When the “I” enquires into its
source, the “I” itself subsides, and the second and third person also disappears. Reality, our
own natural state, shines forth.
– Ramana Maharshi

Sage Ramana has given the following precise and clear answer to a query about Self-enquiry by K.Vydianandiyar, a devotee, in the year 1917.

K.V.: Revered Sir, may I know (1) what Atma Vichara is, (2) what benefit one derives from it, and (3) whether the same benefit may not be obtained otherwise, i.e., without such Vichara?

Maharshi: What are you doing now? You are asking questions. That is, you are entering on a Vichara, or enquiry. So Vichara is clear enough to you. But your question is, and you wish to know, about Atma Vichara, i.e., the enquiry about Atma, the Self. The term ‘enquiry’ being clear to you from your own questioning, you wish to know then what Atma, or the Self, is. You are yourself enquiring about the Self, in you, or putting the same idea in the first person, you are asking “What is myself? What is the enquiry about my self?” This is that enquiry, the enquiry now being made. This is just what happens.

Sri Muruganar having composed over 20,000 verses on Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi and his teachings in his masterwork Guru Vachaka Kovai in relation to Self-enquiry states –

In Sri Ramana Gita, the Sage gives the instruction about Self-enquiry.

Karshni, a devotee, enquires:

Q. What is the nature of Self-enquiry?  What is its purpose?  Is there any greater good obtainable by other means?

Sage Ramana instructs:

In the book, Day by Day with Bhagavan, recorded by Devaraja Mudaliar, Sage Ramana communicates –

‘If we talk of knowing the Self, there must be two selves, one a knowing self, another the self which is known and the process of knowing. The state we call realisation is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realised, one is that which alone has always been. One cannot describe that state. One can only be that. Of course we loosely talk of Self-realisation for want of a better term. How to real-ise or make real that which alone is real?’

The state we call realisation is simply being one-self, not knowing anything or becoming anything.’

Primarily, the Sage rejects the notion of two separate selves, one trying to become something, and another something to attain. In this first statement in the phrase ‘simply being one – self ‘ we have the strong implication that the state we call Realisation is in fact already there; our unborn natural state. From our own experience at this very moment now, we have a strong feeling of existence, being here and now. From the place through which we are looking out, we know we are conscious, and that this consciousness is streaming from our inner depths making our senses function; and as natural awareness, this consciousness is striking the whole panorama of objects, hearing all the sounds which are happening, including my own voice. This is simple when we are focused in the ‘I Am-ness’ of the here and now because it is not confused by any intellectual conceptualism trying to work it all out; for we are always living from Consciousness at any moment. If we let go of the thinking associative mind, then we are in the immediacy of pure Consciousness.

This recognition of simple ‘being here now’, existing, confirmed by a sensation of ‘I Am-ness’ is the natural state, that which alone is pure, without the intrusion of conceptual thought which clouds this direct perception of what is.

If this is our natural state, which we never completely lose even in our worst moments of identification of thoughts and their consequent feelings, then in this state we are as the Sage says, simply being one – self. We do not know anything at that moment, because conceptual thought has not taken us away, and we do not have to become anything because that is where we have always been, are now, and always will be naturally, until we spoil it. Our problem is that we lose this recognition very easily because of numerous identifications with thoughts, feelings, the sense of the body and I am the doer; and a major erroneous conclusion we have reached is a grossly mistaken concept – the idea that we are yet to realise the Self and haven’t reached that state.

If one rests in the state of – consciousness, awareness, being here now, ‘I Am-ness’, existence – one sees and feels that one is free. Everything like body, thoughts, feelings, objects become external to this awareness. Everything is happening in me, to witness impartially. I am free if I remember to return to this recognition. I have Self-enquiry to help me return at any moment. I am merely lost in the illusion of identification. So, we say, that the root of the problem is a series of self-supporting false beliefs which the practice of Self-enquiry progressively weakens.

Concluding this discussion on Self-enquiry with the following verses from the book Guru VachakaKovai