Self-enquiry is the simulation of sahaja samadhi

If there’s one quote from Ramana that every serious seeker should know, it’s this one:

Inquiry consists in retaining the mind in the Self.

That’s from Who Am I? Here’s the same sentence in another translation:

The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to [the practice of] always keeping the mind in [or on] ātmā [oneself].

That’s what Self-enquiry really is: we keep the mind in the Self.

We hold it there.

This may come as a surprise to people who think Self-enquiry is mainly about investigating or asking questions. For these people, Ramana says in Talks:

But really vichara [enquiry] begins when you cling to your Self and are already off the mental movement, the thought waves.

He says cling.

Okay then: self-enquiry means that we keep our mind in the Heart, in the Self.

But what does that mean experientially? How do we do that? What does it feel like?

Part of the answer is here in this passage from Crumbs From His Table:

Question: What are kevala nirvikalpa samadhi and sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi?

Ramana Maharshi: The involution of the mind in the Self, but without its destruction, is kevala nirvikalpa samadhi… [In this state] one is not free from vasanas and so one does not therefore attain mukti. Only after the samskaras have been destroyed can one attain liberation.

Question: When can one practice sahaja samadhi?

Ramana Maharshi: Even from the beginning. Even though one practices kevala nirvikalpa samadhi for years together, if one has not rooted out the vasanas one will not attain liberation.

He says that we can practice sahaja samadhi “even from the beginning.”

Huh? Sahaja samadhi is effortless, and it can be effortless only after Self-realization.

But he says that we can practice it from the beginning, before Self-realization.

Therefore when he says “practice it” he means to bring it about with effort.

Because it’s done with effort, it’s not really sahaja samadhi. It’s a simulation of sahaja samadhi.

Self-enquiry is the simulation of sahaja samadhi.

17 thoughts to “Self-enquiry is the simulation of sahaja samadhi”

  1. Hello Freddie
    I don’t understand the point of this blog post of yours.
    You are basically saying that beginners shouldnt expect effortlessness straight away, am I right?

    in my practice, I do feel effort. My question is: doesnt effort presuppose duality? How can I realize what I already am if by trying to be it, I “fall out” of it? Will sustained effort transform into effortlessness or is effort the very veil separating me from my Self? And in this second case, how can the mind make no effort, at all?


    1. Hi Riccardo,

      I don’t understand the point of this blog post of yours.

      Uh-oh! I guess this was one of my less successful efforts. 🙂

      I was trying to explain my understanding of Ramana’s instructions for Self-enquiry. He says, “Keep the mind in the Self.” I was trying to explain what that means.

      When we keep our mind in the Self, we are in a state. It is the state of holding the mind in the Self.

      We “do” Self-enquiry by being in that state.

      So the question is, what is that state? My answer was that the state is like sahaja samadhi except that it happens as a result of effort.

      Sahaja samadhi happens effortlessly; indeed, there cannot be effort in sahaja samadhi because the thing that makes efforts, the ego, is gone. So this state cannot really be sahaja samadhi. But it can be like sahaja samadhi.

      To make this point, using anachronistic language for a little humor, I said the state is a “simulation” of sahaja samadhi.

      You are basically saying that beginners shouldn’t expect effortlessness straight away, am I right?

      I apologize because I did not say that. I should have said it, because it’s true, but I assumed that everyone here would know it so I didn’t bother saying it. I shouldn’t have made that assumption.

      Yes, most people have to make efforts for a long time. Real effortlessness becomes possible only at a late stage.

      Sometimes you can meditate or do Self-enquiry intensely for an hour or so; this creates a sort of momentum; then you can relax your efforts and coast for the rest of the day, and the state will continue pretty much on its own.

      My question is: doesn’t effort presuppose duality?

      Effort presupposes the ego, because the ego is the “thing” that makes efforts. Effort is one of the activities that constitute the ego. The ego sees everything in terms of “I” and “everything else.” That’s what people usually mean when they say “dualistic.” So yes, in that sense, everything about the ego, including effort, is inherently dualistic.

      Self-realization is the permanent loss of the ego. Sahaja samadhi is the state of Self-realization.

      How can I realize what I already am if by trying to be it, I “fall out” of it?

      You’re not trying to be it. You already are it. It seems like you aren’t it because your attention is protruding out of it (out of you) and grasping objects, and the objects are occupying your attention.

      Your attention is on objects including your thoughts. The attention is like a mouse cursor. Whatever it points to, that is what gets seen.

      You can’t put the attention on yourself in the normal way that we usually use the attention, because it only is capable of pointing to mental representations (to vrittis in the mind). The mouse cursor is similar; you can slide it all over the screen, but you can’t make it leave the screen and touch your nose.

      But what you can do is stop paying attention to objects. I’ll switch metaphors now and compare the attention to a pair of hands that grasp mental phenomena. You have to relax your grip and let go. You do this by ceasing to look at thoughts. You relax the attention, and it retracts into yourself. Please notice that I’m not saying, “Stop thinking thoughts.” I’m saying, “Stop paying attention to thoughts.” I’m saying, “Stop looking at them.”

      When the attention retracts fully into yourself, it disappears, and there is a feeling sort of like an annoying double image has finally coalesced properly in focus; a feeling that finally “you,” the you that you always are, is somehow lit up (that’s a metaphor, nothing visual happens). Your built-in knowledge “me” is at rest and not distracted; it’s more evident, it’s more intensely apparent and more vividly known. This is a feeling; it has nothing to do with duality. If my words sound dualistic that’s an artifact of language, not an aspect of the experience.

      You can make this happen by effort, and this effort will not pull you out of the desired state. Yes, if you make an effort to think, or if you make an effort to pay attention to objects, those efforts will pull you out of the desired state. But the first kind of effort, which includes ceasing to pay attention to objects, will not pull you out.

      Will sustained effort transform into effortlessness or is effort the very veil separating me from my Self? And in this second case, how can the mind make no effort, at all?

      I’ll let Ramana answer that. He said:

      Question: I want to be further enlightened. Should I try to make no effort at all?

      Ramana Maharshi: Here it is impossible for you to be without effort. When you go deeper, it is impossible for you to make any effort. If the mind becomes introverted through enquiry into the source of aham-vritti, the vasanas become extinct. The light of the Self falls on the vasanas and produces the phenomenon of reflection we call the mind. Thus, when the vasanas become extinct the mind also disappears, being absorbed into the light of the one reality, the Heart. This is the sum and substance of all that an aspirant needs to know. What is imperatively required of him is an earnest and one pointed enquiry into the source of the aham-vritti.

    2. I happened to run across the following quote which addresses one of your questions.

      Initially in your practice you abide in your sense of beingness and remain there.
      Later, something else abides in you, holds you and possesses you.
      The first is full of effort, while the latter is effortless.

      I found that on Rajiv Kapur’s website.

  2. Thank you very much Freddie. This is very critical information and resolves the confusion and misunderstanding that accompanies the awakening efforts of many like myself.
    Just one question, what is kevala nirvikalpa samadhi? Is it simulation of sahaja samadhi, i.e. self-inquiry?

    1. For Ramana, there are two kinds of nirvikalpa samadhi. Neither is a simulation of the other. Their complete names are:

      kevala nirvikalpa samadhi
      sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi

      What they have in common is that the person cannot find anything different from him or herself.

      Ramana says somewhere that kevala is nirvikalpa with eyes closed and sahaja is nirvikalpa with eyes open. It’s a useful image for remembering the difference.

      In kevala, all input to consciousness has stopped. It’s like being in the ultimate sensory-deprivation tank that cuts off not only sensations but also thoughts and every other source of information.

      In sahaja, the senses and other sources of information operate normally.

      In kevala, the person can’t function in the world. He or she is physically immobilized.

      In sahaja, the person’s body can move around and function normally.

    2. On the topic of nirvikalpa, this article just went up on The author experienced nirvikalpa “thousands of times” without Self-realization — exactly as Ramana says.

      Edit: On second thought, the author (Ed Muzika) doesn’t seem to be talking about kevala nirvikalpa as defined by Ramana. Here’s how he describes his samadhis:

      After just a few days of intense sitting, I would go into Samadhi. First, my brain would become hard like a rock and no thinking could penetrate my brain. Then it felt as if my mind were sinking into my chest, and I was going unconscious. Briefly for a moment I would feel as if I lost consciousness, then all of a sudden the mind would drop like a rock and dissipate entirely, revealing an entirely new world of oneness, intense clarity, with no thought, and no separation between me and any objects. I had literally become everything in my consciousness: the sound of an airplane passing in the sky, the call of a crow, the sound of the wind; my body had disappeared, and there was absolutely stillness everywhere. Every perception was intense and vivid. I had become the entire universe of my perception. My entire manifest world was now me, and I no longer had a body or mind. I had become everything.

      This is Nirvakalpa Samadhi, a temporary unicity state of mind where the thinking mind does not function, and no longer imposes an artificial order on the perceived universe. Instead, I became one with consciousness. In a sense, this is an awakening experience, this shows you what life is like without the mind, without the network of thought that shapes your perception. Nirvakalpa Samadhi is the world as perceived by an infant, filled with awe and beauty, and newness.

      That’s Ed Muzika writing in the article I linked above.

  3. This is a well made post explaining simply the technique of self inquiry.

    It is actually funny that you named it simulation.. But it is actually true!

    1. Thanks Gustan. I’m glad you thought it’s funny. I was trying to be funny but I didn’t know if anybody would realize it. 🙂

      I’m also glad you think it’s true. I was a little afraid a bunch of people would write and say, “What are you smoking? This post is nonsense.” 🙂

      I got the idea for this post because a couple of years ago I started to have experiences during normal waking activities where consciousness was more stable and whole and effortless than ever before… the state is more clear and less liable to be perturbed by the contents of consciousness than what I had experienced previously. This new state was a sort of quantum leap over what was available before. I didn’t know a name for this state but the word that popped into my mind was sahaja (natural) even though I knew it wasn’t sahaja samadhi because I wasn’t Self-realized so it couldn’t be sahaja samadhi. At first the experiences came and went of their own accord but a year later two elements of the conscious field merged to some extent (a sense of individual me and the impersonal conscious field) and with that merger, I became able to go into that state voluntarily. When I realized that this had happened, I was walking down a street at night, and I began to cry tears of joy because after so many years of practice, this point had been reached. There was nothing dramatic or flashy about the state and it’s difficult or impossible to describe it. It was just a more stable unified awareness of consciousness. But I knew it was a major milestone. Probably the biggest milestone since I began doing Self-enquiry seriously nearly 20 years earlier.

      When a name for this state comes into my mind, the name is always “sahaja” (“natural”) because it feels so natural. It feels like, “Ah yes, this is how the mind is supposed to be.”

  4. Dear Freddie,
    I found your site as I was looking for the difference between Nirvikarpa and sahaja samadhi using internt. (My guruji told me that I have moved from Nirvikarupa to sahaja samadhi). Funny it just so happne that you are quoting him, Rajiv Kapur.
    The difference for me is ease with which vasanas are removed now as I stay more
    in the heart rather than in Sahasrara. Before, self-enquiry did not help me in removing vasana(samskara), but now vasana get burnt in the heart and understanding comes at the same time. No effort: grace does the work now.
    Thank you for sharing your experience!!
    Much love,

  5. This is such a helpful pointer to how to practice self-enquiry – the mind introverted resting in the Self. This has been my direct experience, but I have never called it self-enquiry. Perhaps because Ramana and Nisargadatta often were teaching people at different levels, so there is a lot of info from their talks on resting in the sense “I Am” or “tracing the I-thought back from where it came”, that I missed this deeper explanation. Profound thanks for the blog and the always insightful commentaries. (I often return to your “How to stop thoughts” post – which always reminds me of the path inwards.

    1. Hi Louise. I’m really delighted to read your comment because the reason I’ve made this website was the hope that it would provide exactly the assistance that you describe here.

      I think Self-enquiry is oddly named. I don’t mean only the English translation, which is extra bad, but also vichara, the Sanskrit name. Literally it means “investigation” but that sounds like a mental activity. Maybe the name got attached to Ramana’s method because it had been in common use for centuries as the name of something related but not quite the same.

      In general I don”t think people realize how original Ramana’s teachings were. Right from the start there was an impulse in India to label him as a traditional Advaitin but he isn’t. Advaita is about understanding. Ramana couldn’t care less what anybody understands. He’s about holding the mind in the Self till it disappears forever. In a way his method is more like Yoga than like Advaita, but that isn’t right either becuase Yoga does strenuous feats with the mind and Ramana says emphatically, “Don’t do anything strenuous. Relax.” I think of Yoga as unnatural and Enquiry as natural, although I don’t think he said that.

      For years there were a few books — really, a few paragraphs in a few books — that I read over and over for inspiration and motivation. If that old article of mine is able to provide that service a little bit, that makes me happy.

      Your name is familiar to me but I can’t remember why. Have we talked before? I looked at your website to see if it would ring a bell but I don’t recognize it. It’s a nice site. 🙂

      1. I have a blog – Perhaps from there? I have visited your blog for years now so perhaps that is the familiarity.

        Ramana’s teachings are unique – I come back to them again and again as as the thought stream clears I find I “hear” with clearer insight.

        For me – your blog is one clear voice in a very cluttered spiritual internet. xxx

  6. I have a blog – Perhaps from there? I have visited your blog for years now so perhaps that is the familiarity.

    Ramana’s teachings are unique – I come back to them again and again as as the thought stream clears I find I “hear” with clearer insight.

    For me – your blog is one clear voice in a very cluttered spiritual internet. xxx

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