Who am I

Ramana Maharishi’s Upadesa Saram 

We are not mere robots, pre-programmed to act in a certain manner. We have been given the tools for action, the knowledge to choose and execute actions and the mind to assess the value and utilize the result of our actions properly according to Dharma.

The theory of actions and their results is that whereas we have some choice in actions, the results arise in accordance with Universal Laws. We have some control (adhikara) only over action (karmayevaadhikaraste). But He is the karma-phala-daataa, giver of the fruit of action. Ramana Maharishi emphasises this axiomatic truth in Sloka 1 to help us realize that we should not appropriate to ourselves, as a matter of right, credit for the results of the actions performed to fulfill our desires. Taking such credit inflates the ego to the level of the Master or the CEO of our lives, with corresponding negative consequences that we see in the lives of many public personalities. Taking such credit also involves the burden of failures leading to depression and/or efforts to escape such responsibility by blaming others - including God. Another unintended consequence of this ego-centric attitude of the mind is described in Sloka 2:

A desire first arises in the Ego for our enrichment in three main spheres of power / pelf / pleasure. The necessary action for getting these is devised by the mind, which has become subordinated to the dominant desire-tainted ego which drives us to perform the actions devised by it to yield the result. The ego-driven mind compels us on occasions, even to sacrifice the interest of family friend and society (samudaayam). When the accrued result is assessed, the ego may determine it to be insufficient or not at all realized and force us to repeat the action in many other ways to realize the result and fulfill its desires. The ego acts like the Egyptian Kings who whipped the slaves to move large blocks of stone to build the pyramids to house the kings in great glory after their death. The comparison is perhaps apt to describe also the compulsion of super-rich persons to acquire greater wealth to bequeath their progeny/heirs, even at the cost of stress and health.

It is foolish for an intelligent mind to agree to be such a willing slave even at an advanced age and stray away from the spiritual path leading to freedom. By identifying ourselves with this type of Ego, we repeatedly fall into what Ramana calls kruti-mahodadhow - the ocean of actions or Samsara Sagaram, and ultimately get drowned. We lose sight of the major objective of human life viz., realization of our true self and liberation = mukti

It should be noted that what is suggested as a remedy is not the giving up of actions. For it is in the nature of human beings to act; they cannot but act. The human equipment has been created to act constantly, in accordance with the global design of the creator of the Universe. Each one of us has been provided with the power of the mind to choose actions and execute them for that purpose. The friction occurs when the ego-centric mind strays from this higher purpose and commences to behave with a mental attitude tuned to creating contrary desires and satisfy itself, fulfilling its own narrow purpose instead of acting in harmony with the Universe. The result is frustration and unhappiness in the individual’s.

Hence in sloka-3, Ramana urges upon us to dedicate our actions to the Lord, so as to serve His global purpose, so that actions do not arise to fulfill our selfish desires but are initiated in our minds by a sense of the Lord’s Mission. Once the ego accepts its role as the servant of the Lord and acts according to His intentions, our Chittha (consciousness) polluted by selfish desires gets cleaned and directs us to the true goal of Mukti or Liberation. This tuning of the mind is Karma Yoga, the Yoga of action.

Yoga means yoking; connecting the ego to the Lord. After birth as innocent children, our ego has grown in the wrong direction, away from the Source. Developing mental attitudes to correct this error is action known as Yoga. Yuj is to unite. The word Religion also has the similar meaning: re-logos = re-unite. (The word ligature is derived from logos ;in surgery, ligature is the thread used as suture to stitch and close the gap caused by the incision made during the procedure).

Religion is the general all-inclusive word. Yoga is a part of it and depending on the method, is called variously as Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Gnyana Yoga -- each one of which helps us to bridge and close the gap between us and the goal of liberation so that we are reunited with the Lord. Ramana Maharishi explains in Upadesa Saram these yogas in serial order and proceeds to the final stage of how liberation is attained through meditation, self-analysis (who am I?) leading to self-realisation.

Slokas 1-5 of Upadesa Saram

1. Pride of Actions


karturAjnayA prApyate phalam
karma kim param karma tat jadam

Action yields fruit,
For so the Lord ordains it.
How then can action be supreme?
It is insentient.

2. Attachment to results


kruti mahidadhau patana kAraNam
phalamashasvatam gati-nirodhakam

The fruit of action passes.
But action leaves behind
Seed of further action
Leading to an endless ocean of action;
Not at all to moksha

3. Dedicate all to Lord


IshvarArpitam necchayAkrutam
cittashodhakam mukti-sAdhakam

Disinterested action
Surrendered to the Lord
Purifies the mind and points
The way to moksha

4. Meditate and realise


kAyavAngmanah kArya-muttamam
pUjanam japascintanam kramAt

This is certain:
Worship, praise and meditation,
Being work of body, speech and mind,
Are steps for orderly ascent.

5. Service to others is worship of God


jagata IshadhIh yuktasevanam
ashtamUrti bhrud deva-pUjanam

Ether, fire, air, water, earth,
Sun, moon and living beings
Worship of these,
Regarded all as forms of His,
Is perfect worship of the Lord.

 Ramana Maharishi emphasises that self-inquiry is the only method. 
An extract from his teaching:

All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; 
therefore their conclusive teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent; 
once this has been understood there is no need for endless reading. In order to quieten the mind 
one has only to inquire within oneself what one's Self is; how could this search be done in books? 
One should know one's Self with one's own eye of wisdom. The Self is within the five sheaths; 
but books are outside them. Since the Self has to be inquired into by discarding the five sheaths, 
it is futile to search for it in books. 
There will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned.

Hanuman's reply to Sri Rama

After Pattabishekam, Sri Rama posed this question to Hanuman:

"How do you perceive me?"  Hanuman replied:.

At the physical level... as Master and servant

At the mental level...... as a spark of thy Divine Self

At the aathmic level... you and I are one

Who am I ? by OSHO (Rajneesh)

Questioner:   In the question "Who am I?" what does "I" mean? Does it mean the essence of life?

Osho’s reply:

"Who am I?" is not really a question because it has no answer to it; it is unanswerable. It is a device, not a question. It is used as a mantra. When you constantly inquire inside: "Who am I? Who am I?" you are not waiting for an answer. Your mind will supply many answers; all those answers have to be rejected. Your mind will say: "You are the essence of life. You are the eternal soul. You are divine," and so on and so forth. All those answers have to be rejected: neti neti-- one has to go on saying: "neither this nor that."

When you have denied all the possible answers that the mind can supply and devise, when the question remains absolutely unanswerable, a miracle happens: suddenly the question also disappears. When all the answers have been rejected, the question has no props, no supports inside to stand on any more. It simply flops, it collapses, it disappears.

When the question also has disappeared, then you know. But that knowing is not an answer: it is an existential experience. Nothing can be said about it, or whatever will be said will be wrong. To say anything about it is to falsify it. It is the ultimate mystery, inexpressible, indefinable. No word is adequate enough to describe it. Even the phrase "essence of life" is not adequate; even "God" is not adequate. Nothing is adequate to express it; its very nature is inexpressible.

But you know. You know exactly the way the seed knows how to grow -- not like the professor who knows about chemistry or physics or geography or history, but like the bud which knows how to open in the early morning sun. Not like the priest who knows about God; about and about he goes, around and around he goes.

Knowledge is beating around the bush: knowing is a direct penetration.

But the moment you directly penetrate into existence, you disappear as a separate entity. You are no more. When the knower is no more then the knowing is. And the knowing is not about something -- you are that knowing itself.

So I cannot say what "I" means in the question "Who am I?"  It means nothing! It is just a device to lead you into the unknown, to lead you into the uncharted, to lead you into that which is not available to the mind. It is a sword to cut the very roots of the mind, so only the silence of no-mind is left. In that silence there is no question, no answer, no knower, no known, but only knowing, only experiencing.

That's why the mystics appear to be in such difficulty to express it. Many of them have remained silent out of the awareness that whatsoever you say goes wrong; the moment you say it, it goes wrong. Those who have spoken, they have spoken with the condition: "Don't cling to our words."

Lao Tzu says: "Tao, once described, is no more the real Tao." The moment you say something about it you have already falsified it, you have betrayed it. It is such an intimate knowing, incommunicable.

"Who am I?" functions like a sword to cut all the answers that the mind can manage. Zen people will say it is a koan, just like other koans. There are many koans, famous koans. One is: "Find out your original face." And the disciple asks the master: "What is the original face?" And the Master says: "The face that you had before your parents were born."

And you start meditating on that: "What is your original face?" Naturally, you have to deny all your faces. Many faces will start surfacing: childhood faces, when you were young, when you became middle-aged, when you became old, when you were healthy, when you were ill.... All kinds of faces will stand in a queue. They will pass before your eyes claiming: "I am the original face." And you have to go on rejecting.

When all the faces have been rejected and emptiness is left, you have found the original face.

Emptiness is the original face. Zero is the ultimate experience. Nothingness -- or more accurately no-thingness -- is your original face.

Or another famous koan is: "The sound of one hand clapping." The Master says to the disciple: "Go and listen to the sound of one hand clapping." Now this is patent absurdity: one hand cannot clap and without clapping there can be no sound. The Master knows it, the disciple knows it. But when the Master says: "Go and meditate on it," the disciple has to follow.

He starts making efforts to listen to the sound of one hand clapping. Many sounds come to his mind: the birds singing, the sound of running water.... He rushes immediately to the Master; he says: "I have heard it! The sound of running water -- isn't that the sound of one hand clapping?" And the Master hits him hard on the head and he says: "You fool! Go back, meditate more!"

And he goes on meditating, and the mind goes on providing new answers: "The sound of wind passing through the pine trees -- certainly this is the answer." He is in such a hurry! Everybody is in such a hurry. Impatiently he rushes to the door of the Master, a little bit apprehensive, afraid too, but maybe this is the answer....

And even before he has said a single thing the Master hits him! He is very much puzzled and he says: "This is too much! I have not even uttered a single word, so how can I be wrong? And why are you hitting me?"

The Master says: "It is not a question of whether you have uttered something or not. You have come with an answer -- that is enough proof that you must be wrong. When you have really found it you won't come; there will be no need. I will come to you."

Sometimes years pass, and then one day it has happened, there is no answer. First the disciple knew that there was no answer to it, but it was only an intellectual knowing. Now he knows from his very core: "There is no answer!" All answers have evaporated.

And the sure sign that all answers have evaporated is only one: when the question also evaporates. Now he is sitting silently doing nothing, not even meditating. He has forgotten the question: "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" It is no more there. It is pure silence.

And there are ways...there are inner paths which exist between a Master and a disciple. And now the Master rushes towards the disciple. He knocks on his door. He hugs the disciple and says: "So it has happened? This is it! No answer, no question: this is it. Ah, this!"

Who Am I? When did life begin for me?

 I asked my parents: "Who Am I? When did life begin for me?" and they replied:

"Your date of birth from the hospital's records is mm-dd-yy. We named you XYZ."

I asked the doctor:

"My date of birth is only the moment when my body was delivered by my mother unto mother-earth; please tell me when my life really began." 
He was surprised at the unusual query and frowned a little, engaged in deep thought and said:

"It's a strange question that few ask. Of course, there is an answer in medical science. The date of birth is a conventional and convenient mark on our human time-scale to define the birth of an individual. But your life began long before that event -- in fact, about forty weeks prior to that. That was when conception of the first cell of your body took place in your mother's womb. There is no record of the precise moment of that birth. We can know only approximately."

He added: "The process of life is truly mysterious. It should come as no surprise to you that the first moment of your life is indeed shrouded in great mystery!"

On further reading I learned that a one-half of my first cell started its life as a female germ cell when my mother herself was born; this germ cell was in the embryonic tissue that later developed into her ovary. (See note at end). It lived for a long time in her, until the day it was launched as an Ovum and proceeded in its search for its other half which existed with a million other sperms in my father's body. Among those million specks that raced to meet my other half, an unique one succeeded in beating competition and united with its prized-half. It is this historic event that truly marked the beginning of my life.

In that first moment of life, my entire body existed in a potential state in a single-cell microscopic dot. It knew nature's "Law of the reversed effort":- it divided, so it can multiply! The process continued in the womb until the space inside became insufficient and my body was forcibly ejected to continue its growth in the free space outside. To the world, that was the moment when I was born, but I know now that life began for me much earlier. Later, when I read other books and listened to other scholars, I learned about an even earlier origin to my life. This is what I learned:

"Your body is just the house in which you live now. But you have lived in other such houses before and each such life is known as a previous birth. Very few can recall the memory of their earlier births; but rest assured that your life goes a very long way back in time. Your present body was chosen for you to fit your mission in life with reference to your deeds in your past lives. Your life will not end when your body dies; for Life is immortal. The process of re-births will end when you realize this great Truth about the true nature of your Self."

The realized ones -- the Seers, the saints, have encouraged us to inquire constantly: "Who am I?" . Ramana Maharishi, the great saint of Tiruvannamalai, India has said:

"As all living beings desire to be happy always, without misery, as in the case of everyone there is observed supreme love for one's self, and as happiness alone is the cause for love, in order to gain that happiness which is one's nature and which is experienced in the state of deep sleep where there is no mind, one should know one's self. For that, the path of knowledge, the inquiry of the form ‘Who am I?’, is the principal means."

This inquiry has to commence with the process of negation:

I am not my name; 
I am not this physical body; 
I am not the mind which is another name for the constant flux of my thoughts;
I am not the ego which seems to direct me but holds me in its tight grip and pushes me to engage myself in the pursuit of power, pelf and pleasure. 

Rejecting the untenable answers repeatedly (not this, not this -  ), the Seers have assured us, will lead us to an awareness of the universal Life-principle that does exist common to all of us and which is our true nature.

I have understood that my long search over several births will end only when this questioning "I" realizes the truth contained in the statement: ‘That Thou Art’ and the question itself vanishes. I must start on this quest for, its realization is the true purpose of my life for which I was born.  I need divine Grace and the help and blessings of a guide - a Guru. 

Late in my life have I understood that every other inquiry merely prolongs the agony of this search.

@From Microsoft Encarta:
"The female germ cells originate as single cells in the embryonic tissue that later develops into an ovary. At maturity, after the production of ova from the female germ cells, groups of ovary cells surrounding each ovum develop into "follicle cells" that secrete nutriment for the contained egg. As the ovum is prepared for release during the breeding season, the tissue surrounding the ovum hollows out and becomes filled with fluid and at the same time moves to the surface of the ovary; this mass of tissue, fluid, and ovum is known as a Graafian follicle. The ovary of the adult is merely a mass of glandular and connective tissue containing numerous Graafian follicles at various stages of maturity. When the Graafian follicle is completely mature, it bursts through the surface of the ovary, releasing the ovum, which is then ready for fertilization."