Self Inquiry Is the Path to Enlightenment

Ramana Maharshi was a Hindu spiritual leader who was widely followed when he was alive and his teachings have remained popular many years after his death.

He taught the path to enlightenment is through self-inquiry. His work heavily influenced many present day spiritual leaders and self help authors. Some have taken upon themselves to carry on the teachings of Ramana Maharshi, so his message can be heard by new generations of spiritual seekers.

The Early Life of Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi was born on January 9,1879 in Tiruchuzhi, Tamil Nadu. He had a fairly normal childhood and was an active, popular child.

When he was 16, he had a life changing awakening experience. He suddenly experienced a short period of self inquiry that opened his eyes and left him in a state of enlightenment. After that, he lost interest in his friends, school, and other activities. He preferred to be alone so he could better come to understand himself and his connection to the divine.

Shortly after, he left his home for Tiruvannamalai and the temple of Arunachaleswara where he worked on his spiritual development. Ramana Maharshi spent so much time in deep meditation that he was unaware of his surroundings or the fact that pests and vermin were biting him as he sat in the temple. Others placed food in his mouth so he wouldn't starve while in his oblivious state. Ramana Maharshi spent the next several years living in various caves while he spent his time in deep meditation.

Although silent and rarely moving, Ramana Maharshi began to attract followers. Finally, in 1902, an official with the government paid a visit to Ramana Maharshi and asked him a set of questions related to learning one's true identity. The answers Ramana Maharshi gave became his first published lesson on self-inquiry and was titled, "Who Am I?" By 1940, the popularity of Ramana Maharshi had extended to the western world and he was visited by such notables of the era as Paul Brunton and Somerset Maugham.

Although he achieved a status of worldwide fame, Ramana Maharshi chose to continue living an austere life with little contact with the outside world.

Ramana Maharshi and Self Inquiry

Ramana Maharshi achieved a state of enlightenment through the practice of self inquiry and he recommended the technique to others. Self inquiry is known to bring on self awareness, spiritual liberation, self realization, and enlightenment much more quickly than other spiritual methods.

The practice of self inquiry begins with asking the question, "Who am I?" Ramana Maharshi instructed his students to hold onto the feeling of who "I" is for as long as they could. If their minds drifted, they could get back on course by asking more "I" centered questions so the focus remained on the "I" inside. At some point, the "I" feeling simply evaporates and the mind expands its awareness. The enlightenment could be permanent or it may only last a short while.

Ramana Maharshi suggested to all who came to learn from him that they begin with self-inquiry since he felt it was the quickest and surest way to self realization. Ramana Maharshi became a highly sought teacher and he remained in the same location for over 50 years so he could help those who came to him seeking guidance. He offered his self help advice on self inquiry freely and never charged money for his services.

Books By and About Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi died on April 14, 1950 when he was 70 years old. After his death, his letters and teachings were compiled into various works.

• "A practical guide to know yourself: Conversations with Sri Ramana Maharshi" was published in 1992. This work is a compilation of the teachings of Ramana Maharshi as they relate to becoming an awakened human and creating a life that is filled with love, joy, and happiness.

• "Talks With Ramana Maharshi: On Realizing Abiding Peace and Happiness" was published in 2000. It contains conversations between Ramana Maharshi and his followers. In this book, Ramana Maharshi imparts words of wisdom that gently guides inquirers towards the path to enlightenment by discussing topics such as the nature of the true self, reality, reclaiming freedom, and the process of self-inquiry.

• "The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi" is a compilation of the teachings of Ramana Maharshi and was published in 2006. This book contains an extensive collection of the writings of Ramana Maharshi that includes his original compositions, poems, and letters. It is filled with teachings and devotions to the divine and is a comprehensive work suited for anyone who wants to learn more about Ramana Maharshi and his beliefs.

• "Who Am I?: The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi" is one of the earliest works of Ramana Maharshi. It was republished in 2008 and provides the reader with the groundwork for self inquiry and understanding the nature of the self.

The Legacy of Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi has been called the silent teacher. He never sought fame and fortune yet he became widely known and he still has devotees today all around the world. He was a wise and gentle soul who continues to inspire the lives of new generations of spiritual seekers.

Other self help authors such as Byron Katie further the popularity of self inquiry as a tool for enlightenment. Today there are centers located in major cities all around the world that are dedicated to the timeless message of Ramana Maharshi. Devotees can obtain support and deepen their awareness of the self help advice of Ramana Maharshi through these centers or the website devoted to his teachings.

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