Why most people get nowhere with Ramana’s method They look for an object

A friend wrote to me yesterday:

More and more Ramana’s words come to mind, and I say, “Okay, but who or what is having those experiences?” As I go into that, nothing is there, and I find experience just is. How about that?

My friend is finding nothing because he’s looking for an object (mental activity) and the experiencer isn’t an object.

Consider this sentence that he wrote:

Nothing is there, and I find experience just is.

Most certainly something is there! He says so himself in the second half of the sentence! He writes, “I find…” That I is there, the I that is finding.

He himself is there.

When he says the I isn’t there, he means he can’t observe himself in the way that he observes objects.

Well, of course not, because he’s not an object.

But he can observe himself. He can put his attention on himself. I know this is possible because I learned to do it and everyone else can too.

Maybe it’s accurate to say that Ramana’s great discovery was that we can’t get rid of the ego unless we first put our attention on it. It’s the light that kills it. If you think you’ve killed it by falsely convincing yourself it was never there, it will be there forever.

Maybe we can help people avoid this misunderstanding if we describe Ramana’s method like this:

Put your attention on yourself.

Instead of like this:

Find out what you really are.

The first instruction is the practice. The second is the aim and motivation.

I wrote back to my friend:

An awful lot of people say exactly what you just said. I probably used to say the same thing, years ago. Then one day I realized, “Holy shit, it really really really is possible to put my attention on the experiencer, on myself.” It took quite a while to get to that point. That’s when everything Ramana says started to make sense to me.

The reason it seems like there isn’t any experiencer to be found is because people are looking for an object, for something that they are going to know. The experiencer isn’t that sort of thing. The experiencer is found by placing attention on yourself, on that which is looking for the experiencer, and yes, you really can put your attention on it. It’s that which is trying to find out. It’s that which would get the answer if you found one. (Ultimately some of what I wrote in this paragraph may not be exactly true but nonetheless it’s what you have to do to make this work.)

When you look for an answer, you’re looking for an object, for mental activity. You are not an object.

“Looking” at the experiencer (at yourself) is different from looking at anything else. People need to play around with their minds and attention to stumble across how this can be done. If you play around with this enough, I’m sure you’ll find it. A lot of people give up too easily. There are a lot of folks on the Internet saying it’s impossible, and that encourages people to give up.

13 thoughts to “Why most people get nowhere with Ramana’s method They look for an object

  1. Hey Freddie
    Riccardo here

    I used to do this you describe, when I try and focus on myself I jump from object to object. It’s like I feel some me then I exhaust it and need a new one

    It’s how you did it?

    1. Hey Riccardo. The first few years I did this, from 1999 to 2001, yeah, I did it like you say, jumping from one object to another.

      We are not an object. We’re that which is looking for an object. We are that which expects to find the “real” object. (I’m describing what Ramana calls “ego”, and we’re not really ego, but still, the ego is the gateway to true recognition of ourselves.)

    2. P.S. “It’s like I feel some me then I exhaust it and need a new one…”

      You’re the feeler. Nothing you feel, exhaust, or need can be you.

      You don’t need to find yourself. You need to learn how to put your attention on yourself.

  2. Music to my ears, this subject of who am I. by asking it and looking for it (and stilling the eye), I finds, time and time again, that it’s the one who is looking. In bold letters. Looking a.k.a presence, being, stillness, knowing, awareness, reality, consciousness, sat chit, oneness, isness, suchness, void, the experiencer in your language.
    It is ofcourse reachable to anyone who wants it bad enough, in order to finally figure out what is this weird thing called life all about (((-;

    1. Pages 92-95 in the book ‘Ramana Maharshi and the path of self knowledge’ by the great Arthur Osborne have a brilliant documented inquiry with Ramana and one of his devotees.
      It depicts and paints it beautifully spot on.

      When i gets it, when i sees it, it’s so familiar & so not a big deal. It’s just there looking at you, stairing at you straight in the eye, so to speak.
      The most simplest of all things got tangled up in blues….

      1. The reason why most fail this simplest way of inquiry/looking is because it is done intellectually and not experientialy, as cliche as it may sound..
        Plus maybe it is not done with the most sincerely of motives, without a strong burning desire
        Or maybe they prefer something less forward and direct

      2. Laura, could you do me a favor and quote the first sentence of that section so I can find it in an ebook? I don’t have a paper copy, only a digital version, and it doesn’t have page numbers. Thanks.

        1. I also have a digital copy and it does have page numbers.
          Anyway, here is the first quote of that section:

          “SP: Swami, who am I? And how is salvation to be attained?
          B: By incessant inward enquiry ‘Who am I?’ you will know
          yourself and thereby attain salvation.”

          1. Thanks, Laura. Yes, wonderful, You have perfect taste in Ramana literature! That section of Osborne’s book is one of the many versions of Ramana’s most famous and most important written work, “Who Am I?”. It looks like Osborne quoted it without mentioning the name of it (maybe he does mention it, I didn’t read the surrounding text carefully).

            You might enjoy reading what Alan Chadwick (one of Ramana’s best-known direct disciples) said about those pages you singled out.

            Like Osborne says, and like you said, “Who Am I?” originated as questions and answers between a devotee and Ramana. Osborne was the first person to translate it into English. There are many versions because the devotee kept revising it. In the 1920s Ramana rewrote it himself as an essay without questions, and that essay version is usually regarded as the most authoritative, since Ramana wrote it himself. That’s the only version that I currently publish on Realization.org in Michael James’s super-literal translation. But like you say, this earlier version translated by Osborne is wonderful too.

            1. P.S. There used to be many articles about “Who Am I?” on realization.org before I shut the site down temporarily last summer. Here’s a page I wrote about “Who Am I?” that expresses my opinions about it:

              Who Am I?

            2. Thank you, Freddie.

              I’ve read Nan Yar several times over a period of more than 20 years. The more I’ve practiced being still or being aware or being the Self, the more i understood his essay.

              Thanks for the link to major Chadwick, I’m familiar with him and his story. He is one of the British trio who introduced the teachings of Ramana Maharshi to the west, along with Arthur Osborne and Paul Brunton (and later Michael James).

              Btw, what is your opinion of Robert Adams?
              I know he visited Ramana too and was very much influenced by him, at least in his talks to his American disciples.

            3. Hi Laura. Robert Adams — I’ve always liked his talks. He seems pretty deep to me. I don’t know if he was in Ramana’s state but if not he was close. When he talked about Ramana’s method, he seemed to be describing it not only based on Ramana’s words, but also on Robert’s own experience of having followed it successfully all the way to the end. Very few people give me that impression.

              This impression is confirmed for me by what Ed Muzika has said about Robert over the years. I put a lot of weight on what Ed says.

              However — for many people this is a big however — a few years ago Arthur Osborne’s daughter Katya “Kitty” Douglas, who grew up at the ashram during the years when Robert claimed to be there, published some emails stating that Robert was never there. Other people who had known Robert published additional information about him and when the new picture settled and came into focus, most people who followed this tempest in a teapot (including me) were convinced that Robert was a chronic liar or confabulist, and that he had invented his autobiography about having known Ramana and having lived in India. None of it was true.

              I still think Robert was in a very deep state, maybe the same as Ramana, but I also think he was a chronic liar or confabulist. Ramana is quoted somewhere, maybe in Talks (the accuracy of Talks is always questionable), as saying that for all we know Hitler was a jnani. If a warmonger and murderer can be a jnani, maybe a chronic liar can be too. 🙂

              By the way, Kitty has made wonderful videos about her life at the ashram. I’m too lazy to dig up the links but you can find them easily on YouTube.

              Ed wrote or recorded some wonderful stuff about Robert after Kitty’s revelations came to light. (Robert was Ed’s main guru.) Maybe I’ll try to find it and link it here.

              What do you think about Robert?

  3. I’ve read somewhere that RA was a “fraud” and I couldn’t believe it. I’ve read most of his LA talks and really liked it/him. He used to explain Ramana’s self inquiry a lot and I found it quite helpful. Thank you for the information but I guess it won’t my change my positive view of him (:

    Here’s one of his quotes from my journals: “You’re not trying to be self-realized. You simply want to get rid of the stuff that tells you you’re not.”

    Another favorite quote of RA which is relevant to your post:
    “Ramana simply taught that you are not the body-mind principle. He simply taught that if you have a problem, do not feel sorry for yourself, do not go to psychiatrists, do not condemn yourself. Simply ask yourself, ‘To whom does this problem come?’ And of course the answer will be, ‘The problem comes to me’. Hold onto the ‘me’. Follow the ‘me’ to the source, the substratum of all existence. If you’re not making any headway, it’s because you’re not putting anything into it.”

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