Ramana Maharshi on the “I Am”

Everyone knows ‘I am.’ There is the confusion that the ‘I’ is the body. Because the ‘I’ arises from the Absolute and gives rise to buddhi (Intellect). In buddhi the ‘I’ looks the size and shape of the body, na medhaya means that Brahman cannot be apprehended by buddhi.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 54)

The Master, while referring to the Bible for “Be still and know that I am God”, Psalm 46, found in the Ecclesiastes.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 77)

Consciousness is indeed always with us. Everyone knows ‘I am!’ No one can deny his own being. The man in deep slumber is not aware; while awake he seems to be aware. But it is the same person. There is no change in the one who slept and the one who is now awake. In deep sleep he was not aware of his body; there was no body-consciousness. In the wakeful state he is aware of his body; there is body-consciousness. Therefore the difference lies in the emergence of body-consciousness and not in any change in the Real Consciousness. The body and body-consciousness arise together and sink together. All this amounts to saying that there are no limitations in deep sleep, whereas there are limitations in the waking state. These limitations are the bondage; the feeling ‘The body is I’ is the error. This false sense of ‘I’ must go. The real ‘I’ is always there. It is here and now. It never appears anew and disappears again. That which is must also persist for ever. That which appears anew will also be lost. Compare deep sleep and waking. The body appears in one state but not in the other. Therefore the body will be lost. The consciousness was pre-existent and will survive the body. In fact, there is no one who does not say ‘I am’. The wrong knowledge of ‘I am the body’ is the cause of all the mischief. This wrong knowledge must go. That is Realisation. Realisation is not acquisition of anything new nor it is a new faculty. It is only removal of all camouflage.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 96)

The Self is known to everyone but not clearly. You always exist. The Be-ing is the Self. ‘I am’ is the name of God. Of all the definitions of God, none is indeed so well put as the Biblical statement “I AM THAT I AM” in EXODUS (Chap. 3). There are other statements, such as Brahmaivaham, Aham Brahmasmi and Soham. But none is so direct as the name JEHOVAH = I AM. The Absolute Being is what is – It is the Self. It is God. Knowing the Self, God is known. In fact God is none other than the Self.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 106)

The Self is ever-present (nityasiddha). Each one wants to know the Self. What kind of help does one require to know oneself? People want to see the Self as something new. But it is eternal and remains the same all along. They desire to see it as a blazing light, etc. How can it be so? It is not light, not darkness (na tejo, na tamah). It is only as it is. It cannot be defined. The best definition is ‘I am that I AM.’ The Srutis speak of the Self as being the size of one’s thumb, the tip of the hair, an electric spark, vast, subtler than the subtlest, etc. They have no foundation in fact. It is only Being, but different from the real and the unreal; it is Knowledge, but different from knowledge and ignorance. How can it be defined at all? It is simply Being.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 122)

Be still and know that I am God.” To be still is not to think. Know, and not think, is the word.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 131)

The ‘I-thought’ is the ego and that is lost. The real ‘I’ is “I am That I Am.”

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 164)

The essence of mind is only awareness or consciousness. When the ego, however, dominates it, it functions as the reasoning, thinking or sensing faculty. The cosmic mind being not limited by the ego, has nothing separate from itself and is therefore only aware. This is what the Bible means by “I am that I AM”.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 188)

The egoless ‘I am’ is not thought. It is realisation. The meaning or significance of ‘I’ is God. The experience of ‘I am’ is to Be Still.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 226)

One should not think ‘I am this – I am not that’. To say ‘this or that’ is wrong. They are also limitations. Only ‘I am’ is the truth. Silence is ‘I’. If one thinks ‘I am this’, another thinks ‘I am this’ and so on, there is a clash of thoughts and so many religions are the result. The truth remains as it is, not affected by any statements, conflicting or otherwise.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 248)

Everyone knows ‘I am’. Who is the ‘I’? It will be neither within nor without, neither on the right nor on the left. ‘I am’ – that is all.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 273)

You admit “I am”. You admit “I was” in sleep. The state of being is your self.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 280)

The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God”. Stillness is the sole requisite for the realisation of the Self as God. … The whole Vedanta is contained in the two Biblical statements: “I am that I AM” and “Be still and know that I am God.”

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 338)

“I am that I am.” “I am” is God – not thinking, “I am God”. Realise “I am” and do not think I am. “Know I am God” – it is said, and not “Think I am God.”

It is said “I AM that I AM”. That means a person must abide as the ‘I’. He is always the ‘I’ alone. He is nothing else. Yet he asks “Who am I?” A victim of illusion would ask “Who am I?” and not a man fully aware of himself. The wrong identity of the Self with the non-self makes you ask, “Who am I?”

There are different routes to Tiruvannamalai, but Tiruvannamalai is the same by whichever route it is gained. Similarly the approach to the subject varies according to the personality. Yet the Self is the same. But still, being in Tiruvannamalai, if one asks for the route it is ridiculous. So also, being the Self, if one asks how to realise the Self it looks absurd. You are the Self. Remain as the Self. That is all. The questions arise because of the present wrong identification of the Self with the body. That is ignorance. This must go. On its removal the Self alone is.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 354)

Your duty is to be: and not to be this or that. “I AM that I AM” sums up the whole truth. The method is summed up in “BE STILL”. What does “stillness” mean? It means “destroy yourself”. Because any form or shape is the cause of trouble. Give up the notion that “I am so and so”. Our sastras say: ahamiti sphurati (it shines as ‘I’).

(Aham, aham) ‘I-I’ is the Self; (Aham idam) “I am this” or “I and that” is the ego. Shining is there always. The ego is transitory; When the ‘I’ is kept up as ‘I’ alone it is the Self; when it flies at a tangent and says “this” it is the ego.

The Self is God. “I AM” is God. “I am the Self, O Gudakesa!” (Ahamatma Gudakesa).

 (Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 363)

Vichara is the process and the goal also. ‘I AM’ is the goal and the final Reality. To hold to it with effort is vichara. When spontaneous and natural it is Realisation.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 390)

Nirvana is Perfection. In the Perfect State there is neither subject nor object; there is nothing to see, nothing to feel, nothing to know. Seeing and knowing are the functions of the mind. In nirvana there is nothing but the blissful pure consciousness “I am.”

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 406)

Dvaita and advaita are relative terms. They are based on the sense of duality. The Self is as it is. There is neither dvaita nor advaita. I AM THAT I AM. Simple Being is the Self.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 433)

In the Bible God says “I AM before Abraham.” He does not say “I was” but “I AM.”

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 436)

This Consciousness is the eternal Being and the only Being. The seer cannot see himself. Does he deny his existence because he cannot see himself with the eyes as pratyaksha (in vision)? No! So, pratyaksha does not mean seeing, but BE-ing. “To BE” is to realise – Hence I AM THAT I AM. I AM is Siva. Nothing else can be without Him. Everything has its being in Siva and because of Siva.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 450)

You say ‘I AM’. That is it. What else can say I AM? One’s own being is His Power. The trouble arises only when one says, “I am this or that, such and such.” Do not do it – Be yourself. That is all.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 478)

Be still and know that I AM GOD. “Stillness” here means “Being free from thoughts”.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 480)

Reality is only one and that is the self. All the rest are mere Phenomena in it, of it and by it. The seer, the objects and the sight, all are the self only. … The only permanent thing is Reality; and that is the Self. You say “I am”, “I am going”, “I am speaking”, “I am working”, etc. Hyphenate “I am” in all of them. Thus I – AM. That is the abiding and fundamental Reality. This truth was taught by God to Moses: “I AM that I-AM”. “Be still and know that I-AM God.” so “I-AM” is God.

You know that you are. You cannot deny your existence at any moment of time. For you must be there in order to deny it. This (Pure Existence) is understood by stilling your mind. The mind is the outgoing faculty of the individual. If that is turned within, it becomes still in course of time and that “I-AM” alone prevails. “I-AM” is the whole Truth.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 503)

Everyone is aware, ‘I am’. Leaving aside that awareness one goes about in search of God.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 557)

You are neither That nor This. The truth is ‘I am’. “I AM that I AM” according to the Bible also. Mere Being is alone natural. To limit it to ‘being a man’ is uncalled for.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 601)

“Be still and know that I AM God”. So stillness is the aim of the seeker. Even a single effort to still at least a single thought even for a trice goes a long way to reach the state of quiescence. Effort is required and it is possible in the waking state only.

(Source: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 609)

That which is, always is. If the ahankar dies, It, the Reality, exists as It has always existed. You may speak of It as having aham vritti or simply aham. It is all the same. That which exists is ‘I am’ or ‘aham’.

(Source: Day by Day with Bhagavan, 12-11-45 Morning)

‘I exist’ is the only permanent, self-evident experience of everyone. Nothing else is so self-evident (pratyaksha) as ‘I am’. What people call ‘self-evident’ viz., the experience they get through the senses, is far from selfevident. The Self alone is that. Pratyaksha is another name for the Self. So, to do Self-analysis and be ‘I am’ is the only thing to do. ‘I am’ is reality. I am this or that is unreal. ‘I am’ is truth, another name for Self. ‘I am God’ is not true.

The Swami thereupon said, “The Upanishads themselves have said ‘I am Brahman’.” Bhagavan replied, “That is not how the text is to be understood. It simply means, “Brahman exists as ‘I’ and not ‘I am Brahman’. It is not to be supposed that a man is advised to contemplate ‘I am Brahman’, ‘I am Brahman’. Does a man keep on thinking ‘I am a man’ ‘I am a man’? He is that, and except when a doubt arises as to whether he is an animal or a tree, there is no need for him to assert, ‘I am a man.’ Similarly the Self is Self, Brahman exists as ‘I am’, in every thing and every being.”

(Source: Day by Day with Bhagavan, 22-3-46 Afternoon)

We do not know anything about Siva or the Paramatman. We know the jiva. Or, rather, we know we exist. ‘I am’ is the only thing that always abides, even when the body does not exist for us, as for instance, when we are asleep. Let us take hold of this, and see wherefrom the ‘I’ sense or ahamkara, as you put it, arises.

(Source: Day by Day with Bhagavan, 27-12-46)

When I say you are present at all times and at all places and you ask where is that ‘I’, it is something like asking, when you are in Tiruvannamalai, ‘Where is Tiruvannamalai?’ When you are everywhere, where are you to search? The real delusion is the feeling that you are the body. When you get rid of that delusion, what remains is your Self. You should search for a thing which is not with you but where is the need to search for a thing which is always with you? All sadhanas are for getting rid of the delusion that you are the body. The knowledge that ‘I am’ is always there: call it Atma, or Paramatma or whatever you like. One should get rid of the idea that ‘I am the body’. There is no need to search for that ‘I’ that is the self. That Self is all pervading.

(Source: Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, [73] The “I” is the Mind Itself)

Samadhi alone can reveal the Truth. Thoughts cast a veil over Reality, and so It is not realised as such in states other than samadhi. In samadhi there is only the feeling ‘I AM’ and no thoughts. The experience ‘I AM’ is being still.

(Source: Maharshi’s Gospel, VI. Self-Realisation)

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says ‘Aham’ is the first name of God. The first letter in Sanskrit is ‘A’ and the last letter ‘Ha’ and ‘Aha’ thus includes everything from the beginning to the end. The word Ayam means That which exists, self-shining and self-evident. Ayam, Atma, Aham all refer to the same thing. In the Bible also, ‘I AM’ is given as the first name of God.

(Source: Gems from Bhagavan, XIII. Miscellaneous)

Not even an iota of prarabdha exists for those who uninterruptedly attend to the space of consciousness, which always shines as `I am’, which is not confined in the vast physical space, and which pervades everywhere without limitations.

(Source: Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, Ch. 21 Karma, Destiny and Free Will)

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