Essence of Enquiry, Vichara Sangraham, was Ramana’s first orginal work. it is in the form of a dialogue between Sadguru Ramanaand an ardent seeker of truth, Gambiram Seshier, between 1900 and 1902. The questions and answers were contemporaneously recorded in a notebook which has providentially been preserved for posterity. The work is therefore an authentic record of Ramana’s teachings.
While clarifying the doubts of Seshier Ramana would always bring him back to the importance of enquiry abut the subject I about non-objective holistic spiritual practice. In no other work do we find such a clear and lucid exposition of the Nature of the Mind.
To write a commentary on the Sacred words of Ramana one has to constantly perceptive of his ever-flowing grace. It is evident that I.M. Nome has this perception and the humility needed for his first commentary on this sacred book.
Ramana has been variously described though he is "The One" beyond description. For all descriptions are, after all, mental and cannot grasp the nature and stature of the infinite Ramana. Some describe him as "Maharshi," an adjective made popular by Paul Brunton in the West. "Rishi" means a seer of truth and "Maharshi" means a preeminent Rishi. What such a one teaches or explains is from a direct perception of truth without the superimposition of mental concepts and ideas. Hence, the teaching has a universal and timeless validity. Ramana was also called "Bhagavan" or "God." The reason for this is not far to see, for Ramana was always steadfast in his state of steady bliss, of natural samadhi. Radiating grace and power, he lived a perfect life unbound by time and space, as an example for all humanity to follow. People who had moved closely with Ramana for many years had asserted that one like him "comes only once in a millennium or two."
"Vichara Sangraham," "Self-Enquiry," was Ramana' s first original work. It is in the form of a dialogue, a question and answer session between Sad guru Ramana and an ardent seeker of truth, Gambriram Seshier (also known as Seshiah). It took place in the beginning of the twentieth century between 1900 and 1902 at Tiruvannamalai, India. At that time, Ramana was observing silence not because of any mental resolve but simply because he did not feel the urge to speak. However, since the purpose of his Advent was to be a universal teacher, no one was denied guidance. Fortunately, the questions and answers were contemporaneously recorded in a book. This has been preserved for posterity. The work is, therefore, an authentic record of Ramana's teachings.
The format-questions and answers-is time honored and makes for easy understanding. Though this is the first original work of Ramana, unfortunately it has taken a back seat because the clarifications sought had a wider ambit. To do so would be to overlook the fact that such ones like Ramana come to "fulfill, not to destroy." Ramana did not condemn any of the extant practices. For each has a role in one's spiritual growth, a role in preparing one for the straight and royal path of self-enquiry taught by Ramana. While clarifying the doubts of Seshier, Ramana would always bring him back to the importance of enquiry about the subject, about the "I," about "non-objective," holistic, spiritual practice. In no other work do we find such a clear and lucid exposition of the "Nature of the Mind."
To write a commentary on the sacred words of Ramana one has to be constantly perceptive of his ever- flowing grace. It is evident Master Nome has this perception. The humility with which he has approached this holy work is found in his beginning each commentary with the all the powerful twelve words mantra on Ramana "Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramayana." He closes each commentary with "Ramanarpanamastu-may this be an offering to Ramana." And what worthy offering it is. With his own experience of the natural state, Nome is able to explain the true import of Ramana's word with utmost clarity and depth. A brief look at some of the commentaries would indicate this.
Question number 2
Disciple: What is meant by saying that one should enquire into one's nature?
Bhagavan: Experience such as "I went," "I came," "I did" comes naturally to everyone. From these experiences does it not appear that the consciousness "I" is the subject of those various acts? Enquiring into the true nature of that consciousness and remaining as oneself is the way to understand, through enquiry, one's true nature."
Commentary: Sri Bhagavan's approach to the revelation of the sublime truth of Advaita is to immediately direct the seeker to know the "I" Because of ignorance regarding the "I" illusion and "samsara" appear. If there be true knowledge of "I," illusion and samsara disappear. Quite obviously, Nome writes not from book knowledge but from experience. This is so from question one to question forty. There is no false note, no wavering of understanding.
One cannot but be grateful to Nome for opening our eyes to many rare gems embedded in this work of Ramana, which is somewhat neglected. I am thankful to Nome for giving me an opportunity of writing a Foreword to this spiritual treasure.
Obeisance to the perfect Guru, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, who has revealed the Truth of the Self in flawless instruction and eloquent Silence, and who abides as That- Brahman. He is doubtlessly Siva, destroying the illusion of bondage. He reveals Self-Knowledge, perfect and true. To absorb His teaching, practice it, and realize it is to abide in eternal peace and illimitable bliss.
Abiding as the Self, he reveals the Self to the Self within the disciple. He eliminates the delusion of dualism and reveals the Self as the sole-existent Reality. It is indivisible Being-Consciousness. It is of the nature of infinite Wisdom and Bliss. For His Grace and precious upadesa (spiritual instruction), we can never be too thankful.
What follows herein is a sacred scripture, for a scripture represents a direct revelation of the Truth free of mental conceptions. Bhagavan's teaching, when placed in printed words, is certainly scripture, for its significance is Truth transcending the words or thoughts utilized for its expression. This scripture is entitled Vicharasangraham, The Compendium of Inquiry, or, as it is generally known in English, Self-Inquiry. It has its origins in slips of paper upon which the Maharshi wrote answers to questions put to Him by Gambhiram Seshayya (Gambhiram Seshiar) during 1900 through 1902, when Sri Ramana was dwelling in Virupaksa Cave on holy Arunachala. Gambhiram Seshayya collected these slips and copied their contents into a notebook. It appears that he recorded both his questions and the answers, but as the original slips of paper and the notebook are lost, it is not now possible to verify this with any certitude. It was many years later that these recordings were edited into a book by Sadhu Natanananda, and it was this that formed the published edition of the book, Self-Inquiry. In the course of time, different versions of this work in different languages, some in the original question-and- answer format and some in an essay form created by Sadhu Natanananda in the late 1930's, appeared. For this present publication, the original version translated into English, in question-and-answer format, which appears in the 1968 Indian edition of The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, edited by Author Osborne, has been selected. The English translation of the text is by the venerable T.M.P. Mahadevan. The well-researched articles regarding the various editions of Self-Inquiry that appeared in The Mountain Path, the journal of Sri Ramanasramam, Vol. 19, No.'s 1 and 2, January and April 1982 have also been consulted.
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Day by Day with Bhagavan, and many other works express the same supreme Truth and the same revelation of the inquiry that reveals it.
The commentary included herein is intended as auxiliary only for those who might find such of spiritual benefit. It is not intended to be representative of any scholarly erudition or to be exhaustive in its research of the scriptural references that abound in Self-inquiry. One copy of the commentary was preserved in America by Sasvati, and another copy was also with Sri A. R. Natarajan in Bangalore at the Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning, for about ten years. After that time, Sri Natarajan, who readily comprehended how such a book may serve a spiritual purpose, took it upon himself to publish what has now become the present book. The word of the Maharshi is the essence, and that, too, is rooted in His absolute Silence.
Words and phrases appearing within parenthesis in the parenthesis in the actual text are those of the text itself as translated by T.M.P. Mahadevan and do not represent insertions by the commentator. Words appearing in brackets in other cited work that mentioned in the commentary are insertions for the purpose of rendering the translation more readable. Except when otherwise indicated translations within the commentary are from Sri A. R. Natarajan in publication of the Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning from publication of Sri Ramanasramam from publication of the Society of Abidance in Truth or by the author of the commentary.
One who approaches this sacred scripture with deep devotion and a sincere desire to realize the self and who blessed by His Grace practices in accordance with the wisdom herein elucidated will doubtlessly realize the sole-existent self the nondual Brahman and abide as that of the nature of undifferentiated being consciousness bliss.
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