Who Am I? by Ramana Maharshi

Who am I by Ramana Maharshi
photo of Ramana Maharshi at young age

The Sage of Arunachala
1879 Tiruchuzli – Tiruvannamalai 1950
Who am I, written by Ramana Maharshi;
one of only two writings given by Ramana Maharshi
– who principally taught by silence.

Who Am I?

The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi

Translated by Dr. T. M. P. Mahadevan ~ 1995 Edition


Who am I? is the title given to a set of questions and
answers bearing on Self-enquiry. The questions were put to
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by Sri. M. Sivaprakasam
Pillai, about the year 1902. As recollected and recorded by
Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai, there were thirteen questions and
answers to them given by Bhagavan. We find thirteen
questions and answers in some editions and twenty-eight in
others. The present rendering is of the text in the form of
twenty-eight questions and answers. Along with
Vicharasangraham (Self-Enquiry), Nan Yar (Who am I?)
constitutes the first set of instructions in the Master’s
own words. These two are the only prose pieces among
Bhagavan’ works. They clearly set forth the central
teaching that the direct path to liberation is

1. Who am I?

The gross body which is composed of the seven humours
(dhatus), I am not; the five cognitive sense-organs, viz,
the senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell, which
apprehend their respective objects, viz sound, touch,
colour, taste, and odour, I am not; the five cognitive
sense-organs, viz the organs of speech, locomotion,
grasping, excretion, and procreation, which have their
respective functions speaking, moving, grasping, excreting
and enjoying, I am not; the five vital airs, prana, etc.,
which perform respectively the five functions of
in-breathing, etc., I am not; even the mind which thinks, I
am not; the nescience too, which is endowed only with the
residual impressions of objects, and in which there are no
objects and no functioning, I am not.

2. If I am none of these, then who am I?

After negating all of the above-mentioned as “not this”,
“not this”, that Awareness which alone remains – that I

3. What is the nature of this Awareness?

The nature of Awareness is existence-consciousness-bliss.

4. When will the realization of the Self be gained?

When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed,
there will be realization of the Self which is the seer.

5. Will there not be realization of the Self even while the
world is there (taken as real)?

There will not be.

6. Why?

The seer and the object seen are like the rope and the
snake. Just as the knowledge of the rope which is the
substrate will not arise unless the false knowledge of the
illusory serpent goes, so the realization of the Self which
is the substrate will not be gained unless the belief that
the world is real is removed.

7. When will the world which is the object seen, be

When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition and all
actions becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.

8. What is the nature of the mind?

What is called “mind” is a wondrous power residing in the
Self. It causes all thoughts to arise. Apart from thoughts,
there is no such thing as mind. Therefore, thought is the
nature of mind. Apart from thoughts, there is no
independent entity called the world. In deep sleep there
are no thoughts, and there is no world. In the states of
waking and dream, there are thoughts, and there is a world
also. Just as the spider emits the thread (of the web) out
of itself and again withdraws it into itself, likewise the
mind projects the world out of itself and again resolves it
into itself. When the mind comes out of the Self, the world
appears. Therefore, when the world appears (to be real),
the Self does not appear, and when the Self appears
(shines) the world does not appear. When one persistently
inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end
leaving the Self (as the residue). What is referred to as
the Self is the Atman. The mind always exists only in
dependence on something gross, it cannot stay alone. It is
the mind that is called the subtle body or the soul (jiva).

9. What is the path of inquiry for understanding the nature
of the mind?

That which rises as “I” in this body is the mind. If one
inquires as to where in the body the thought “I” rises
first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. That
is the place of the mind’s origin. Even if one thinks
constantly “I-I”, one will be led to that place. Of all
the thoughts that arise in the mind, the “I” thought is
the first. It is only after the rise of this that the other
thoughts arise. It is after the appearance of the first
personal pronoun that the second and third personal
pronouns appear; without the first personal pronoun there
will not be the second and the third.

10. How will the mind become quiescent?

By the enquiry “Who am I?”. The thought “Who am I?” will
destroy all other thoughts, and, like the stick used for
stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get
destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization .

13.The residual impressions (thoughts) of objects appear
unending like the waves of an ocean. When will all of them
get destroyed?

As the meditation on the Self rises higher and higher, the
thoughts will get destroyed.

20. Is it not possible for God and the Guru to effect the
release of a soul?

God and the Guru will only show the way to release; they
will not by themselves take the soul to the state of
release. In truth, God and the Guru are not different. Just
as the prey which has fallen into the jaws of the tiger has
no escape, so those who have come within the gambit of the
Guru’s gracious look will be saved by the Guru and will not
get lost; yet each one should by his own effort pursue the
path shown by God or Guru and gain release. One can know
oneself only with one’s own eye of knowledge, and not with
somebody else’s. Does he who is Rama require the help of a
mirror to know that he is Rama?