Sri Ramana Center of Houston is a non-profit spiritual organization dedicated to spreading the teachings of Bhagavan Ramana, the greatest sage of modern times.

We have regular satsangs where we have in depth discussions on the life and path of Bhagavan Ramana.

Ever yours in Bhagavan

Kumar Saran



The Goal

Bhagavan Ramana has shown that the goal of all humanity is only to obtain perfect happiness (paripūrṇa sukham). No one does not desire happiness. Are not all living beings (jīvas) seeking only happiness through their efforts? Therefore, no one will not desire the goal shown by Bhagavan. For this very reason, the teachings of Sri Ramana do not belong to any religion but instead shine as a common and open path that gives refuge to all living beings. That is why people of every country and every religion in the world accept the teachings of Sri Ramana and follow them with great love.

What is happiness? People do not know the correct answer to this question, so they put forth their efforts in many different directions to obtain happiness. Happiness is truly nothing but oneself (ātman or one’s true nature). The very nature of oneself is happiness. In truth, we are indeed ātman. Hence our nature is happiness itself. However, since people do not know that they are truly ātman and think of themself as the body, they suffer unnecessarily, as if they had lost happiness. Knowing our real nature, which we have forgotten, is sufficient to regain our seemingly lost happiness.

Some people ask, ‘Is it not selfishness if we try to obtain happiness for ourself?’ This question arises even in the minds of good people because they do not know the correct meaning of the word ‘oneself’. The word ‘oneself’ (swayam) means only ātman. It is only because we do not know ourself to be the unlimited and undivided ātman and because we view ourself through the limited outlook ‘This body alone is I’, that we understand the word ‘selfishness’ to denote a base quality. But in the experience of an ātma-jñāni, one who knows ‘I am truly ātman, who shines equally in all living beings’, does not the word ‘selfishness’ or ‘self-interest’ (swaya-nalam, literally ‘self-benefit’) denote the interest or benefit of all living beings? Only when self-knowledge (jñāna) dawns will the truth be known that oneself alone is the reality of all living beings.

Moreover only when we thus know ourself to be ātman can we do real good to all the living beings in all the worlds. We cannot experience true love towards all beings in the world merely by vocally preaching, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’. Only when we experience through self-knowledge that all beings are ‘I’, the first person singular, will we attain the otherless love (ananya priyam) towards all beings. Such self-attainment (ātma-siddhi) alone is the main root that enables peace, love and happiness to thrive in the world. Therefore, self-investigation, the medicine which destroys the evil of ego, is the immediate and principal need of the world. Only the true ātma-jñāni can do real good to the world! The mere existence of a jñāni , one who knows ātman (the real nature of himself or herself), is sufficient to ensure the welfare of the whole world. Thus is it not clear that if the world is to obtain happiness, the correct goal of all people should only be to know their real nature?

Only through self-knowledge can people attain true and perfect happiness. It is not correct to ignore this fact and try to achieve happiness by enjoying worldly objects through the five senses because happiness does not come from those objects. Even when one experiences some iotas of pleasure from such objects, it is only because the mind is dipping in itself, having momentarily lulled its activities (vṛttis). When anything liked is obtained, and when destruction [damage, elimination or removal] occurs to anything disliked, the mind facing inwards and drowning in oneself (ātman), experiences only the happiness of oneself (ātma-sukha). Because people do not know this truth, they incorrectly think they obtain happiness from worldly objects, and hence they toil day and night seeking those objects, taking that to be the sole goal of their life. This indeed is ignorance, otherwise called māyā.

The happiness acquired by seeking and amassing worldly objects and enjoying them through the five senses is very trivial and transient. Hence the goal shown to us by Sri Ramana Bhagavan is to avoid being one who thus enjoys only such trivial happiness and instead to become one who relishes in perfect happiness.

The Path

To attain this goal, Bhagavan has charted out two paths, namely (1) self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), that is, knowing oneself (one’s real nature) through the investigation who am I, and (2) self-surrender (ātma-samarpanam), that is, surrendering ego entirely to God. The former is the path of knowledge (jñāna-mārga), and the latter is the path of love or devotion (bhakti-mārga).


When we want to know a thing, we attend to that thing. So, accordingly, if we want to know ourself, we should only attend to ourself.

However, is not all the research we see in the world concerned only with knowing the world and God, which are second and third person objects, instead of knowing oneself, the first person or subject? Man, the knowing entity trying to know the world and God, does not yet correctly know who he truly is. We say, ‘I am a man’. This knowledge of ourself is not correct, but only ignorance. How is it so? We feel ‘I am a man’ only because we incorrectly think we are the body, our possession. Knowing oneself through the investigation who am I, the possessor, and thereby distinguishing oneself from the body is the actual discriminative knowledge. The awareness ‘I am this body’, ahaṅkāra or ego, is a false knowledge of oneself. To know oneself as unlimited and undivided (akhaṇḍa ātman ) alone is ātma-jñāna or true self-knowledge.

When awareness arises from [deep, dreamless] sleep, we know ourself in the form ‘I am this body’. Nevertheless, there is no knowledge of the body and the world in sleep. The pure awareness ‘I am’ alone exists in sleep. In the waking state, this self-awareness rises mixed with an adjunct (upādhi) as, ‘I am this body, I am a man, I am so-and-so’. This is ego (ahaṅkāra), the sense of individuality (jīva-bōdha); this is bondage; this is the first thought. Only to this first thought do other thoughts – the knowledge of second and third persons – rise. The more one attends to second and third persons, the more the thoughts will increase. Instead, one should attend to the form of ego, the first person awareness ‘I am so-and-so’, to know ‘who am I?’ or ‘what is the nature of my existence?’

Bhagavan says:

If other thoughts rise, without trying to complete them it is necessary to investigate to whom they have occurred. However many thoughts rise, what [does it matter]? Vigilantly, as soon as each thought appears, if one investigates to whom it has occurred, it will be clear: to me. If one investigates who am I [by vigilantly attending to oneself, the ‘me’ to whom everything else appears], the mind will return to its birthplace [namely oneself, the source from which it arose]; [and since one thereby refrains from attending to it] the thought that had risen will also cease. When one practises and practises in this manner, for the mind the power to stand firmly established in its birthplace increases. Only by the investigation who am I will the mind cease [subside or disappear forever]. For the mind to cease [settle, subside, yield, be subdued, be still or disappear], except vicāraṇā [self-investigation] there are no other adequate means. If made to subside by other means such as breath-control (prāṇāyāma), meditation upon a form of God (mūrti-dhyāna) or repetition of sacred words (mantra-japa), the mind remaining [for a while] as if it had ceased, will again rise up [sprout, emerge or start]. As long as viṣaya-vāsanās [inclinations to experience things other than oneself] exist within the mind, so long is the investigation who am I necessary. Even though viṣaya-vāsanās rise [as thoughts or phenomena], they will all be destroyed when svarūpa-dhyāna [self-attentiveness, contemplation on one’s own real nature] increases and increases [in depth and intensity]. If one clings fast to uninterrupted svarūpa-smaraṇa [self-remembrance] until one obtains svarūpa [one’s own real nature], that alone is sufficient. Even if one continues thinking ‘I, I’, it will take and leave [one] in that place. The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to [the practice of] always keeping the mind in [or on] ātmā [oneself]. [By] investigating who is oneself who is in bondage, knowing one’s yathārtha svarūpa [actual own nature] alone is mukti [liberation]. 1

The ‘I-thought’ (aham-vṛtti) which started to scrutinise ‘What is this first person awareness I?’ will destroy all other thoughts and, like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre, will itself finally be destroyed. That is, from the mixed awareness ‘I am so-and-so’, which is the root of all thoughts, only the adjunct-awareness ‘so-and-so’ will slip away (since its existence is false), and oneself, the awareness ‘I am’, which is the real awareness of one’s existence, alone will remain shining.

This state in which we thus shine by our own light, freed from the adjunct of individuality (jīvōpādhi), is extolled in different religions by various names such as jīvanmukti, mōkṣa, parinirvāṇa , the supreme abode (paramapadam), or the kingdom of God. This state in which ego, the form of the individual awareness (jīva-bōdha-rūpa), has been destroyed is itself the state of immortality. Let us now see how this rooting out of ego also takes place through self-surrender – the path of devotion (bhakti-mārga).


Self-surrender should be understood to mean surrendering (or, more accurately, restoring) ego to God. In truth, self-investigation and self-surrender are not different paths but the same, both in the result – the annihilation of ego – and in practice! The path of self-surrender or devotion is meant for those who believe in God. When this ‘I’ or individual soul and the world are genuinely God’s possessions, claiming the body as ‘I’ and ‘mine’ is the great sin of stealing what belongs to God. If one surrenders to God this attachment to the body (dēhābhimana), he will attain the state of egolessness. This state devoid of ‘I’-ness (ahaṅkāra) and ‘mine’-ness (mamakāra) is the real state of oneself.

Though on superficial observation, it may appear as if there is a difference between the practice of self-investigation and that of self-surrender, namely that an aspirant practising self-investigation attends to himself while a devotee practising self-surrender attends to God, it will be apparent to one who truly engages in practice (sādhana) that both are the same, not only in their result – namely to be established in oneself through the destruction of ego – but also in practice. How? A devotee who has begun the sādhana of surrendering himself to God should after that refrain from again seizing the body either as ‘I’ or as ‘mine’. If he again takes the body as ‘I’ or ‘mine’, he is committing the sin of dattapaharam , taking back what has already been offered to God. Therefore, avoiding taking back what has been offered is the correct method of practising self-surrender. Now how does he do this? To prevent the false first person – the awareness ‘I am this body’ – from rising again, does he not try to remain with very vigilant attention fixed on the rising of that first person? Thus the same self-attention which is going on in an investigator (ātma-vicāri) is also going on in a true devotee (bhakta)!

Moreover, if one wants to surrender oneself to God, it is first necessary to know the ‘I’ to be surrendered. Unless one knows who this ‘I’ is, how is one to surrender it? If a soldier does not know what the word ‘gun’ means, when he is asked to surrender his gun, he will surrender only his pen. This is precisely what happens in the case of many aspirants on the path of devotion. Though they know that they should surrender to God, they do not know how to do so because they have no precise knowledge of who they are and what exactly they are to surrender. Since they do not know what ‘I’ is, which is to be surrendered, they can only surrender whatever they take as ‘mine’. Since they do not know the nature of themself, the possessor, they can do nothing more than surrender their possessions. Therefore, if their surrender is to become complete, they must try at least little by little to investigate and find out who they are, for then only will they be able to surrender themself entirely.

Since the nature of ego – the individual ‘self’ which is to be surrendered – is such that it will subside and disappear when it is attended to (being found to be truly non-existent), the self-investigation done by an earnest devotee will automatically result in self-surrender. 2

Thus self-investigation – in which the mind gives up attending to second and third persons and instead attends to its source – is the correct self-surrender!

Being ātma-niṣṭhāparaṉ [one who is firmly fixed as oneself], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any cintana [thought] except ātma-cintana [thought of oneself: self-contemplation or self-attentiveness], alone is giving oneself to God.

– says Bhagavan in Nāṉ Ār?. Even a devotee’s seeking God outside himself is only second person attention. Since God shines as the reality of the first person, attending to the first person alone is the correct God-attention and the right path of devotion!

1 Refer to the treatise Nāṉ Ār? (Who am I?).

2 Refer to Maharshi’s Gospel , first part, fourth chapter, last paragraph (12 th edition, 2008, page 26).

by Sri Sadhu Om