The ‘I’ thought
is said to be the sum total of all thoughts
The source of the ‘I’ thought
has to be enquired into.
– Ramana Maharshi

The ‘I’- Thought also known by the names of me, ego-personality, or the old man is none other than a unique attribute or characteristic of God or Brahman (the Supreme Being, the Absolute). We can define God by the characteristics of being spaceless and timeless or that which is the manifest and the unmanifest. Now nothing can find expression or manifest itself in the state of timelessness and spacelessness. Hence, the creation of this world of time and space and everything seen in this manifest world other than Awareness, are the unique attributes or characteristics of God. The inherent attributes or unique characteristics of God can only find expression in the manifest world of time and space which are the two prime requisites for these unique characteristics of God to express themselves.

Looking into the mechanism of operation of the ‘I’- Thought, Sri Sadhu Om in his book ‘The Path of Sri Ramana Part One’ explains that the feeling ‘I am’ is the experience common to one and all. In this, ‘am’ is Awareness. This Awareness is not of anything external, it is the Awareness of oneself. This is Awareness. This Awareness is ‘we’. ‘We are verily Awareness’, says Sage Ramana in ‘UpadesaUndhiyar (The Essence of Instruction)’ verse 23. This is our ‘being’ (that is, our true existence). This is called ‘that which is’. Thus in ‘I am’, ‘I’ is existence and ‘am’ is Awareness. When Self, our nature of existence-consciousness, instead of shining only as the pure Awareness ‘I am’, shines mixed with an adjunct as ‘I am a man, I am Rama, I am so-and-so, I am this or that’, then this mixed awareness is the personality. This mixed awareness or consciousness can rise only by catching hold of a name and form. When we feel ‘I am a man, I am Rama, I am sitting, I am lying’, is it not clear that we have mistaken the body for ‘we’, and that we have thus assumed its name and postures as ‘I am this and I am thus’? The feeling ‘this and thus’ which has now risen mixed with the pure Awareness ‘I am’ is what is called body awareness or body consciousness. The feeling ‘I am a man, I am so-and-so’ is only body consciousness. But the Awareness, ‘I am’ is not body awareness; it is the very nature of our ‘being’.

The consciousness ‘I am this or that’ is body consciousness that rises from our ‘being’. It is only after the rising of this body consciousness, the mixed awareness (the first person), that all Thoughts, which are the knowledge of second and third persons, rise into existence.

‘Only if the first person exists, will the second and third person exist…’

{UlladuNarpadu (Forty verses on Reality), verse 14 by Sage Ramana}

This body consciousness, the first person is called our ‘rising’ or the rising of the personality. This is the primal mentation! Hence –

‘Thinking is a mentation; being is not a mentation!…’

{AtmaVicharaPatikam (Eleven verses on Self-enquiry), verse 1 by Sri Sadhu Om}

The pure existence-Awareness, ‘I am’ is not body consciousness; this Awareness is our nature. ‘I am a man’ is not our pure Awareness; it is only consciousness of our body.

Sage Ramana has given answers to questions of spiritual aspirants and devotees related to the entire spectrum of how the ‘I’- Thought projects itself and functions in relation to the human body. If one were to understand and absorb the very core meaning of the answers given by the Sage, reflect upon the meaning and knowledge, consciously put it into practice in one’s life, this in itself is alone sufficient for a devotee to reach the state of abidance in one’s true nature of Self-Awareness.

Download the following PDF document which is a store house of spiritual wisdom related to the ‘I’- Thought given by Sage Ramana