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.