Nan Yar by Sri Ramana Maharshi, is a treatise on self enquiry, through a series of questions. Along with his classic, Vicharasangraham, both these works focus on the art of self discovery, on the question who am I. The “I” who is no more or no less than you. It is not about your identity, as restricted by the labels given to you, but its enquiry is about something deeper.
I am asking the bigger question of “Who am I?”
Who am I really?Oprah Winfrey.
Different people might have different answers to it- answers beyond the labels given to us. The same person might have different answers over time, as he sheds his layers. The self renews like the snake. But the answer to the bigger question Who am I remains the same. It is the static in the dynamic, the certainty in the uncertain and the essence of existence.
According to Sri Ramana Maharshi the self can only be known by silencing the mind. He suggests that the trinity- the world, the individual soul and God are but appearances in the self. Silencing the thoughts in mind reveals a oneness with the deep self, resulting in a dream like reality akin to the Freudian oceanic feeling. In a world which is increasingly becoming a Skinner box, one who knows oneself refuses to be animals that fervently pull levers. This is where we become true to the nature of ourselves by becoming truly happy.
The self is the spectator, not the spectacle. Our job, in our inquiry of who we are, is to align our mind with the spectator self. Consciousness is staged in the global workspace. The components of the mind, from unconscious to conscious, like a conductor guide the concert of thoughts. Quite antithetical to the Genesis story where yeilding to temptation cost us the paradise, Sri Ramana Maharshi suggests that resisting the temptation of thoughts rewards us with the eternal bliss of the self. Resisting it is the state of detachment, that is wisdom and that is the antidote to misery, echoing the Buddha.
Philosophers and seekers, artists and scientists have all pondered upon the self and we realize that the self exists, even though it’s existence in a pale blue dot is seemingly obscure. Yet it is the reality that matters to us. The self is not something to be transcended, it is transcendental in itself. Though on the surface, we might have to be a bat to know what it is like to be a bat, as Thomas Nagel puts it, on a deeper level self is one thing that binds us all together.
The self, as Sri Ramana Maharshi points out, is the Brahman, the divine. Identifying with it is the liberation from the fears that hold us hostage. That’s when we realize how we are the bread and wine, the secured as well as the security. That’s when we realize we belong to the Vasudaiva Kudumbakam. That is when we re-evaluate ourselves and realize that “I am also a we.” Knowing our self truly is when we truly uncondition our conditioned minds and let Amor Vincit Omnia.
Aham Brahma Asmi Tat Tvam Asi(I am the essence of God and that essence is you)
Read Sri Ramana Maharshi’s brief, beautiful treatise on self discovery, Nan Yar here.