Self-inquiry seems to be exactly like inquiry at first. It is a focus and interest directed inward and the reality of your existence. It is a technique for refocusing attention away from external objects, events, and interactions and toward internal experiences, such as subtle experiences within consciousness itself. This internal focus will eventually lead to an experience of your ultimate true nature, as well as a dimension that is devoid of any experience or sense of self.
If we pay attention to the body or some part of the body, we will dive deep within us to discover and find the answers or dissolve the question itself. The persistent quest for “who am I” is one of the ways to do this. In self-inquiry, we simply ask what else is true, what else is here besides what was found first, without being judgmental about the first answer being incorrect or denying its validity.
Regardless of the answer, the question that if I am more than just a body and a mind then who or what am I, should be asked again. Moreover, it is said that when you say “I don’t know,” it invariably means you want to know, and it becomes nature’s responsibility to make you aware of what is important to you but the catch is that your involvement should be total. In other terms, when you are seeking to know who you are, sometimes knowing “who you are not” might do the trick.
The other way to explain it is if you are given the office number or house number as an address, you will find it difficult or rather impossible to reach your destination but if you are given the building name, street name, the town name, the state name, and pin code and a very popular landmark, that will save a lot of your time and effort, and above all, you will have a belief that you will ultimately find it during this process of searching the address.
According to Ramana Maharshi, self-inquiry meaning is the continued focus on the inner consciousness of I or I am, as the best and most effective way to find out the unreality of “I” thought. The self-request is also spelled as self-requirement. Self-Inquiry Ramana explained that the ‘I’ idea would vanish, and only self-knowingness would survive. In a simpler form, asking the deep-rooted fundamental questions to yourself without any expectation is Self-Inquiry Meditation.
Vedanta is the Hindu mystical tradition, and it says that the profound pain and confusion of our life are due to the wrong idea. We believe that we are people who live in a world. Any type of belief is bondage, so all spiritual processes in a way or another have techniques to shatter one’s belief system to allow you to see and experience the things as they are, which is also the basic aim of self-inquiry.
In fact, we are the consciousness in which the ideas appear. If we look deep into our own minds and scrutinize minutely, especially the sense of ‘I,’ that truth can be found for ourselves and that truth extends beyond words. This research will bring freedom that is not supernatural but which is also not ordinary.
This will bring about calmness and stability in your existence and this will work as a stage on which your gigantic project of spirituality will stand or exist. It will give you access to the upgraded version of yourself, as you would have never thought you can possibly be. Isn’t that magical?
Instruction of self-Inquiry Ramana Maharshi
There are no sufficient ways to permanently subside the mind, apart from self-inquiry practice. It will seem controlled but will rise again when the mind is controlled by other means. By regulating the breath, the mind gets calm; only while the breath remains controlled, will it stay calm. The mind becomes active and begins to wander when breathing is no longer regulated.
As with breath control practice, a meditation on God’s forms, repetition of mantras and dietary restrictions are temporary helps to quiet one’s mind. The mind reaches uniqueness by self–inquiry practice meditation on the forms of God and repeating the mantras. It will become easy for such a focused mind. The quality of the mind improves, helping the self-inquiry practice, by observing diet limitations.
Let us look at some of the milestones which are important for self-inquiry practice.
- The mind should not wander to worldly objects and to what other people are concerned.
- Even though other people might be bad, one should not hate them.
- Everything that one gives to others is self-giving. Who will not give others, if this truth is understood?
- If you arise, everything arises; if you calm down, everything becomes calm.
- In this way, goodwill results, as we act with humility.
- You can live anywhere if the mind is still.
In reality, the Self alone exists. The Self is where “I” is not at all thinking. This is known as “silence.” The Self is the world; the Self himself is “I,” the Self is God; everything is Shiva, the Self. The most excelling devotee is the one who gives himself to the Self that is God. To give one’s own self to God is to remember the Self continuously. He bears all of them, regardless of the burden on God. Since all things are moved by God’s supreme power, why should we constantly care about without submitting ourselves to it, what is to be done and how, and how not? We know the train carries all the loads, so why should we put small baggage on our heads instead of putting it on the train and feeling comfortable after it has gone on?
The secondary question that self-inquiry stresses on is “How am I” before attempting to answer the very fundamental question “Who am I?”
We acquire spiritual knowledge through meditation, which is eternal and unchanging, as opposed to intellectual knowledge. Spiritual insight can only be learned by personal experience; it cannot be taught. It manifests in the heart through realization, as one observes the Cosmic Laws, practices Mantra, meditates, and receives the Master’s blessing. The aim of “Self-Inquiry Meditation” is to achieve total physical and mental relaxation.
The next step is to improve concentration by using visualization and imagination techniques. The mind is then guided to investigate the contents of our own consciousness, specifically our personal qualities, perceptions, and thought patterns. At the same time, it is important to separate oneself from preconceived notions and viewpoints.
In order to gain full insight and understanding, one must maintain an impartial perspective throughout this activity. As a result, avoid clinging to well-worn songs, repeating “well-known lessons,” and being lost in emotions. Explore the depths of consciousness by going beyond the limits of the mind.
We think we know ourselves pretty well, but a closer examination reveals that there are many things we do not know. Perhaps we are shocked that lovely, meaningful qualities like compassion, understanding, affection, modesty, patience, discipline, honesty, determination, contentment, joy, and deep, inner bliss exist.
As we become more conscious of these qualities, we discover that they are a great aid to ourselves, spiritual growth, and interpersonal relationships. However, we are always surprised by the negative aspects. These things might throw hurdles in our spiritual growth and create havoc in our lives and in the world around us. Take a good look at yourself.
Are you worried, selfish, ambitious, envious, jealous, intolerant, unforgiving, violent, vain, or plagued by complexes? We are always unaware of certain traits and believe that we have already conquered them. They do, however, resurface from time to time. These seeds are dormant in the subconscious, waiting for the right conditions to sprout.
Our life is divided into four layers of consciousness: Conscious, unconscious, subconsciousness, and superconscious.
In the unconscious layer, there are the karmic traces of our previous incarnations. All the experiences and impressions of our current lives are recorded and stored in the subconscious. The subconscious also contains all our experiences, all sensory impressions, both conscious and unconscious. You can compare this to a tape recorder that captures all the sounds that the microphone captures.
The subconscious records all good and pleasant problems, mixture and aggression, fears, grief, hopes and wishes, and suppresses them. When we dive deep into meditation, we can become aware in the subconscious of the sleeping seeds. By acknowledging and analyzing their causes and links, we can release and get rid of them using our consciousness.
Steps of Self-Inquiry Meditation
You can sit in a comfortable meditative posture breathing normally. You can start with 10-20 minutes and can maximize the duration as per your comfort.
- Step-1. Come into a sitting position where you can stay comfortable, relaxed, and immobile throughout the practice
- Step-2. The top body is upright. A straight line is a head, neck, and back
- Step-3. A meditation shawl can be placed around your shoulders
- Step-4. The hands should be placed on knees or thighs
- Step-5. Close your eyes
- Step-6. Relax your face, particularly your eyelids and front
- Step-7. Relaxation deepens as the abdomen, elbows, lower jaw, and forehead are consciously relaxed. The entire sitting position is relieved when these “key points” are relaxed
- Step-8. Remain about 5 minutes in this position. Calm your minds and feelings
- Step-9. Chant OM and practice meditation according to the appropriate level of practice
To finish the Self-Inquiry Meditation, listen to the OM Song. Rub palms firmly together, put them on the face, warm the muscles of your face. Bend the upper body until the front touches the floor. Rest your arms on the floor next to your head. Feel the blood flow into the muscles of your face. Holding this posture for a while would be recommended as this stimulates the circulation and gives the head a good supply of blood after sitting immobile. Resume the original position and open your eyes slowly.
You should practice this continuously so long as you have a sense of “I” and “other” i.e. object and subject. Continue searching for the “I” source because this method is sufficient to achieve self-realization and freedom. In other words, ‘I’ is meditated and you will bear witness to desires, ego, emotional conditions, and even spiritual statements.
You will realize what you are unbelievable, unbounded, and eternal, and realize that you are your True Self. Moreover, remain with “I am” or “I exist” as you can rest assured that everything else is unstable. You will notice that you perceive this sense of being when you can stay with it. This is simple, but due to the tendency to identify with the ego and the body, it requires diligence and continuity. Actually, you will let go of what you are not and learn who you are, if you practice self-inquiry.