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Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?)

  1. Introduction
  2. Tamil text and translation of Nāṉ Yār?
  3. Notes
  4. Print-friendly PDF copy of an earlier version of this page
  5. Spanish translation of Nāṉ Yār?
  6. Italian translation of Nāṉ Yār?


In 1901, when Bhagavan Sri Ramana was just twenty-one years old and was living in a cave on the holy hill Arunachala, a humble and self-effacing devotee named Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai began to visit him and asked him many questions about spiritual philosophy and practice. Sri Ramana, who seldom spoke in those early times, answered most of his questions by writing either on the sandy ground, or on a slate or slips of paper that Sivaprakasam Pillai gave him.

Sivaprakasam Pillai copied many of these questions and answers in a notebook, but for more than twenty years he did not publish them. However in 1923, at the request of other devotees, he published a compilation of twenty-seven of them under the title நானார்? (Nāṉ-ār?), or perhaps நான் யார்? (Nāṉ Yār?), both of which mean ‘Who am I?’, as an appendix to the first edition of Śrī Ramaṇa Carita Ahaval, a Tamil poem in which he narrated the biography of Sri Ramana.

During the ten years or so that followed this first publication of Nāṉ Yār? various versions of it were published, and various other versions of it exist in manuscript form in the notebooks of Sivaprakasam Pillai. Each of these versions has a different number of questions and answers, with slight variation in their actual wording, and with a varying amount of content in some particular answers. The standard and most authentic version, however, is the essay version that Sri Ramana himself wrote a few years after the first version was published, either in 1927 or earlier.

Sri Ramana formed this essay version, which is called நானார்? (Nāṉ-ār?) and which consists of twenty paragraphs, by rewriting the most complete question-and-answer version (which consisted of thirty questions and answers and eleven miscellaneous paragraphs and which was printed probably three or four times between the years 1924 and 1936), and while doing so he made several improvements, removing all but the first question, rearranging the order in which the ideas in his answers were presented, and making some significant changes to the actual wordings.

Though this essay version is the only one that was actually written by Sri Ramana and is therefore the version that is included in Śrī Ramaṇa Nūṯṟiraṭṭu (his Tamil collected works), there is another version that is sold as a separate booklet which contains twenty-eight questions and answers. This version, which is called நான் யார்? (Nāṉ Yār?), was first published in 1932 as the 4th edition, and was compiled by modifying the earlier thirty question-and-answer version in accordance with many of the changes that Sri Ramana made when he wrote his essay version.

Though the existence of two titles, நானார்? (Nāṉ-ār?) and நான் யார்? (Nāṉ Yār?), for different versions of the same work may seem confusing, they both mean mean ‘Who am I?’, or more precisely ‘I [am] Who?’, because நான் (nāṉ) means ‘I’ and both யார் (yār) and ஆர் (ār) mean ‘who’. யார் (yār) is used most commonly, particularly in spoken Tamil, but though used less frequently ஆர் (ār) is often preferred in literary Tamil. Some of the earlier question-and-answer versions (including one in a manuscript dated 21.2.24) were called நானார்? (Nāṉ-ār?), whereas others were called நான் யார்? (Nāṉ Yār?), so we cannot say that நானார்? (Nāṉ-ār?) is a name that has always been used exclusively for Sri Ramana’s essay version, but since his essay version has always been published under the title நானார்? (Nāṉ-ār?), it is more accurate to call it நானார்? (Nāṉ-ār?) rather than நான் யார்? (Nāṉ Yār?).

Of all the changes that Sri Ramana made in his essay version, the most significant was to add an entirely new paragraph at the beginning of the essay. This opening paragraph serves as a suitable introduction to the subject ‘Who am I?’, because it explains that the reason why we need to know who we are is that happiness is our real nature, and that we can therefore experience true and perfect happiness only by knowing ourself as we really are.

The first question that Sivaprakasam Pillai asked Sri Ramana was ‘Who am I?’, to which he replied simply, ‘Knowledge [or consciousness] alone is I’. The actual Tamil words spoken by Sivaprakasam Pillai were நானார்? (Nāṉ-ār?), or perhaps நான் யார்? (nāṉ yār?), which literally mean ‘I [am] who?’, and the words that Sri Ramana wrote in reply with his finger on the sandy ground were அறிவே நான் (aṟivē nāṉ).

The Tamil word அறிவு (aṟivu) means ‘knowledge’ in the broadest sense, and is therefore used to denote many different forms of knowledge, including awareness, consciousness, wisdom, intelligence, learning, sensory perception, anything that is known or experienced, and even ātman, our real self, which is our fundamental knowledge ‘I am’. In this context, however, it means only our fundamental knowledge or experience ‘I am’ — our essential self-awareness or consciousness of our own being. The suffix ஏ (ē) that he appended toaṟivu is an intensifier that is commonly used in Tamil to add emphasis to a word, conveying the sense ‘itself’, ‘alone’ or ‘indeed’, and the word நான் (nāṉ) means ‘I’.

In these two simple words, aṟivē nāṉ, Sri Ramana summarised the essence of his experience of true self-knowledge, which is the basis of the entire philosophy and science that he taught. What he meant by these simple words is that our true and essential nature is only our fundamental knowledge or consciousness ‘I am’, which is the conclusion that we have to arrive at if we critically analyse our experience of ourself in our three ordinary states of consciousness (as explained in Happiness and the Art of Being, particularly in chapter two, ‘Who am I?’).

The next question that Sivaprakasam Pillai asked him was ‘What is the nature of [such] knowledge?’, to which he replied either ‘The nature of knowledge is sat-cit-ānanda’ or more probably just ‘sat-cit-ānanda’. The compound wordsat-cit-ānanda, which is actually fused into one word, transliterated correctly as saccidānanda, is a well-known philosophical term, which is of Sanskrit origin, but which is widely understood and frequently used in Tamil and all other Indian languages. It is a term used to describe the nature of the absolute reality, and though it is composed of three words, it is not intended to imply that the absolute reality is composed of three distinct elements, but only that the single non-dual nature of the one absolute reality can be described in three different ways.

The word sat basically means ‘being’ or ‘existing’, but by extension also means the ‘existing substance’, ‘that which really is’, ‘reality’, ‘truth’, ‘existence’, ‘essence’, ‘real’, ‘true’, ‘good’, ‘right’, or ‘that which is real, true, good or right’. The word cit means ‘consciousness’ or ‘awareness’, from a verbal root meaning ‘to know’, ‘to be conscious of’, ‘to perceive’, ‘to observe’, ‘to attend to’ or ‘to be attentive’, but rather than meaning just the quality of being conscious or aware (as the English words ‘consciousness’ or ‘awareness’ tend to mean), it means that which is conscious or aware (in other words, it denote a substance — one that is inherently conscious — rather than a mere quality). And the word ānanda means ‘happiness’, ‘joy’ or ‘bliss’. Thus saccidānanda, or as it is more commonly spelt in roman script, sat-cit-ānanda, means ‘being-consciousness-bliss’: that is, being which is both conscious and blissful, or consciousness which is both existent and blissful, or bliss which is both existent and conscious — in other words, a single substance or reality that is existent, conscious and happy.

Thus through these two first answers Sri Ramana revealed three important truths about the nature of our essential self or real ‘I’. Firstly he revealed that our essential self is only consciousness or that-which-is-conscious. Secondly he revealed that this consciousness is not our consciousness of any other thing but only our consciousness of ourself — our consciousness of our own being, that is, our being-consciousness or sat-cit. Thus he implied that since we are in essence only this consciousness of our own being, neither our self-consciousness nor our being are separate from ourself, and hence our essential self-consciousness is our very being, and our being is itself our consciousness of our being. In other words, there is absolutely no distinction between our being and our consciousness. Our being and our consciousness of being are therefore one, and hence our real self is only this essential self-conscious being, which we always experience as ‘I am’. Thirdly he revealed that this essential self-consciousness or being-consciousness is not only our true being and our fundamental consciousness of our being, but is also that which we experience as happiness. In other words, we are being, we are consciousness, and we are happiness, and hence our being, our consciousness and our happiness are not three separate things, but are one indivisible non-dual whole — our single, true and essential self.

When we are seemingly conscious of otherness, as in we are in waking and dream, we experience a mixture of relative happiness and unhappiness, but when we are conscious of nothing other than ourself, as we are in dreamless sleep, we experience absolute, unqualified happiness. Since we experience absolutely no duality or otherness in sleep — that is, since we know nothing other than ‘I am’ in sleep — what we experience in sleep must be our essential self. Since we know that we exist in sleep, our essential self is both our being and our consciousness of our being, and since we know that we are happy in sleep, our essential self is also happiness — the happiness of being conscious of nothing other than our own being, ‘I am’.

When Sri Ramana rewrote the original question and answer version of Nāṉ Yār? as the present essay, he highlighted the first question, நானார்? (nāṉ-ār?), which means ‘I [am] who?’, and his first two answers, அறிவே நான் (aṟivē nāṉ), which means ‘knowledge [or awareness] alone is I’, and அறிவின் சொரூபம் சச்சிதானந்தம் (aṟiviṉ sorūpam sat-cit-ānandam), which means ‘the nature of [this] knowledge is being-consciousness-bliss’, in bold type. The reason he did so is that the rest of the second paragraph, in which this question and two answers are contained, consists of ideas that were not actually a part of the answers that he gave to Sivaprakasam Pillai.

Before its publication, a draft of the original question and answer version was shown to Sri Ramana for his approval, and when he read it he noticed that Sivaprakasam Pillai had expanded his original answer to the first question, adding a detailed list of things that we mistake ourself to be, but that in fact we are not. On seeing this, he remarked that he had not answered in such a detailed manner, but then explained that, because Sivaprakasam Pillai was familiar with nēti nēti, he had added such detail thinking that it would help him to understand his answer more clearly.

By the term nēti nēti, Sri Ramana meant the rational process of self-analysis described in the ancient texts of vēdānta, a process that involves the analytical elimination or denial of everything that is not ‘I’. The word nēti is a compound of two Sanskrit words, na, which means ‘not’, and iti, which means ‘thus’ or ‘like this’, and hence nēti nēti literally means ‘not thus, not thus’. The ancient texts of vēdānta use these words nēti nēti when explaining the rational basis for the theory that our body, our senses, our life-force, our mind and even the ignorance that we seemingly experience in sleep are all not ‘I’.

The rational and analytical process which is thus described in the ancient texts of vēdānta as nēti nēti or ‘not thus, not thus’ is essentially the same as the logical analysis of our experience of ourself that Sri Bhagavan taught us (which is described in chapter two of Happiness and the Art of Being). If we did not first critically analyse our experience of ourself in this manner, we would not be able to understand either the reason why we should seek true self-knowledge, or what exactly we should scrutinise in order to know our real self.

So long as we imagine that we are really our physical body, our thinking mind or any other object, we will imagine that we can know ourself by attending to such things, and hence we will not be able to understand what is really meant by the terms ātma-vicāra, self-investigation, self-examination, self-scrutiny, self-enquiry, self-attention, self-attentiveness or self-remembrance. Only when we understand the essential theory that we are nothing other than our fundamental non-dual self-consciousness — our adjunct-free consciousness of our own mere being, which we experience just as ‘I am’ and not as ‘I am this’ — will we be able to understand what actually is the ‘self’ or ‘I’ that we should investigate, scrutinise or attend to.

Once we have understood that we are truly not our physical body, our thinking mind or any other object known by us, we should not continue thinking, ‘this body is not I’, ‘this mind is not I’, and so on, but should withdraw our attention from all such things, and focus it wholly and exclusively upon our real and essential being, ‘I am’. We cannot know our real self by thinking of anything that is not ‘I’, but only by investigating, scrutinising or attending keenly to that which is really ‘I’ — to that which we actually are, that is, to our essential self-conscious being. Unless we withdraw our attention entirely from all other things, we will not be able to focus it wholly and exclusively upon our essential self-conscious being, which we always experience as ‘I am’, and unless we focus it thus upon our essential being, we will not be able to attain the non-dual experience of true self-knowledge.

However, though Sri Ramana taught us how we should critically analyse our experience of ourself in our three ordinary states of consciousness in order to understand that we are nothing other than our essential non-dual self-conscious being, ‘I am’, which is the only thing that we experience in all these three states, and though this process of self-analysis is essentially the same as the process that is described in the ancient texts of vēdānta as nēti nēti, he would not himself have said, “Having done nēti [negation, elimination or denial of whatever is not ourself by thinking] thus, all the abovesaid things are not ‘I’, not ‘I’, the knowledge that [then] stands solitarily alone is ‘I’”, as Sivaprakasam Pillai wrote when he expanded his first answer aṟivē nāṉ (knowledge alone is I) for his own clarification.

The qualification of the word ‘knowledge’ by the addition of the relative clause ‘that stands detached [separated or alone] having done nēti thus, all the abovesaid things are not I, not I’ is potentially misleading, because it could create the impression that simply by thinking nēti nēti, ‘not thus, not thus’ or ‘this is not I, this is not I’, we can detach our essential consciousness or knowledge ‘I am’ from everything with which we now confuse it. In fact, many scholars who attempt to explain the ancient texts of vēdānta, which often describe this process of nēti nēti or negation of all that is not our real self, interpret it to be the actual means by which we can attain self-knowledge. However, the sages who first taught the rational process of self-analysis called nēti nēti did not intend it to be understood as the actual technique of practical or empirical research, but only as the theoretical basis upon which the empirical practice of ātma-vicāra or self-investigation should be based.

The reason why we confuse ourself — our essential consciousness ‘I am’ — with our body, mind and other such adjuncts is that we do not clearly know what we are. If we knew ourself as we really are, we could not imagine ourself to be anything that we are not. Therefore the only practical means by which we can separate our essential self-consciousness ‘I am’ from everything that we now mistake it to be, is to know ourself as we really are.

In order to know ourself clearly as we really are, “jñana-vicāra [scrutinising our consciousness to know] ‘who am I’ alone is the principal means”, as Sri Ramana says in the final clause of the first paragraph, which he highlighted in bold type. The term jñana-vicāra literally means ‘knowledge-investigation’, and is the process (or rather the state) of investigating our essential self-consciousness ‘I am’, which is our primary knowledge and the base of all our other knowledge, in order to attain true knowledge of our own real self. This practice of jñana-vicāra is described by Sri Ramana in verse 19 of Upadēśa Undiyār:

When [we] scrutinise within [ourself] ‘what is the place in which it [our mind] rises as I?’ [this false] ‘I’ will die. This [alone] is jñana-vicāra.

What Sri Ramana describes in this verse as our eṙum iḍam, the ‘rising place’ or source of our mind or finite sense of ‘I’, is our own essential self, our adjunct-free self-consciousness ‘I am’. When we scrutinise our essential self-conscious being, ‘I am’, which is the source from which our limited adjunct-bound ‘I’ rises, this ‘I will die’, that is, it will cease to exist as such, because we will discover that it is truly nothing other than our adjunct-free self-consciousness.

When we look carefully at a snake that we imagine we see lying on the ground in the dim light of night, we will discover that it is not really a snake but is only a rope. Similarly, when we carefully scrutinise our basic self-consciousness ‘I am’, which we now experience as our mind, our limited consciousness that imagines itself to be a body, we will discover that we are not really this finite mind or body, but are only the one infinite non-dual self-consciousness — our essential adjunct-free consciousness of our own being.

Therefore what Sri Ramana means in this first paragraph by the term நானார் என்னும் ஞான விசாரம் (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum jñana-vicāra, which literally means ‘knowledge-investigation called who am I’) is not a mere intellectual analysis of our knowledge ‘I am’, but is an actual investigation or deep scrutiny of our fundamental knowledge ‘I am’ (our awareness of our own being) in order to know through direct experience what it really is. Such an investigation or scrutiny cannot be done by thinking, but only by turning our attention back on ourself to know the reality of that which now seems to be aware of thinking. When our attention or power of knowing is turned outwards to know things other than ourself, it becomes our thinking mind, but when it turns back inwards to know our essential self, it remains in its natural state as our essential self — that is, as our true non-dual self-conscious being.

The same truth that Sri Ramana expresses in this final clause of the first paragraph, ‘jñana-vicāra who am I alone is the principal means’ for us to know ourself, is reiterated by him in many of the other paragraphs. For example, he begins the sixth paragraph by saying, ‘Only by [means of] the investigation who am I will the mind subside [shrink, settle down, become still, disappear or cease to be]’; he begins the eighth paragraph by saying, ‘To make the mind subside [permanently], there are no adequate means other than vicāra [investigation, that is, self-investigation: the practice of vigilant self-scrutiny or self-attentiveness]. If restrained by other means, the mind will remain as if subsided, [but] will emerge again’; and he begins the eleventh paragraph by saying, ‘As long as viṣaya-vāsanās [propensities or desires to experience things other than oneself] exist in [our] mind, so long the investigation who am I is necessary’.

Besides using this Sanskrit term vicāra, which means ‘investigation’, ‘examination’ or ‘scrutiny’, Sri Ramana used many other Tamil and Sanskrit words to describe the practice of self-investigation. For example, in the sixth paragraph he describes it not only as நானார் என்னும் விசாரணை (nāṉar eṉṉum vicāranai), which means the ‘investigation called who am I’, but also as அகமுகம் (ahamukham), which means ‘I-facing’ or ‘self-attentiveness’, அந்தர்முகம் (antarmukham), which means ‘inward-facing’, ‘introspection’ or ‘introversion’, and சும்மா விருப்பது (summā-v-iruppadu), which means ‘just being’, ‘silently being’, ‘peacefully being’, ‘motionlessly being’ or ‘being without doing anything’; in the tenth paragraph he describes it as சொரூபத்யானம் (sorūpa-dhyāna, a Tamil adaptation of the Sanskrit term svarūpa-dhyāna), which means ‘self-contemplation’ or ‘self-attentiveness’; in the eleventh paragraph he describes it as சொரூப ஸ்மரணை (svarūpa-smaraṇa), which means ‘self-remembrance’; and in the thirteenth paragraph he describes it as ஆத்மநிஷ்டை (ātma-niṣṭhā), which means ‘self-abidance’, and ஆன்மசிந்தனை (ātma-cintana), which means ‘self-contemplation’ or the ‘thought of self’.

All these words describe the same state of practice, namely the thought-free state of just being self-conscious, self-aware or self-attentive. This simple practice of keeping our mind or attention fixed firmly in our own essential self — that is, in our thought-free self-conscious being — is clearly described by him in the sixteenth paragraph, in which he says:

[...] சதாகாலமும் மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பதற்குத் தான் ‘ஆத்மவிசார’ மென்று பெயர்; [...]

[...] The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to [the practice of] always being [abiding or remaining] keeping [fixing or establishing] the mind in [or on] ātmā [self]; [...]

In both Sanskrit and Tamil the word ātmā, which literally means ‘self’, is a philosophical term that in contexts such as this denotes what we actually are: our own true, essential and perfectly non-dual self-conscious being, ‘I am’. Hence the state that Sri Ramana describes in this sentence as சதாகாலமும் மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பது (sadākālamum maṉattai ātmāvil vaittiruppadu, which means ‘being keeping the mind in [or on] self’) is the state of just ‘being’, in which we keep our mind firmly fixed on and thus established in and as ātmā, our own essential non-dual self-conscious being.

The compound word சதாகாலமும் (sadākālamum) means ‘always’ or ‘at all times’, மனத்தை (maṉattai) is the accusative form of manam, which means ‘mind’, ஆத்மாவில் (ātmāvil) is the locative form of ātmā and therefore means ‘in [or on] self’, and வைத்திருப்பது (vaittiruppadu) is a compound of two words, vaittu, which is a participle meaning ‘putting’, ‘placing’, ‘keeping’, ‘seating’, ‘fixing’ or ‘establishing’, and iruppadu, which is a gerund formed from the verbal root iru, which means ‘be’. When it is used alone, this gerund iruppadu means ‘being’, but when it is appended to a verbal participle to form a compound gerund, it serves as an auxiliary verbal noun denoting a continuity of whatever action or state is indicated by the participle. Therefore the compound word vaittiruppadu can be interpreted as meaning either ‘being keeping’ or ‘continuously keeping’ (or more freely as ‘keeping fixed’). However there is actually no essential difference between these interpretations, because the state in which we keep our mind continuously in or fixed on ātmā or self is not a state of activity or doing, but is only the state of just being as we really are.

Thus in this sentence Sri Ramana clearly defines the exact meaning of the term ātma-vicāra, saying that it denotes only the state of just being — the spiritual practice of keeping our mind (our power of attention) firmly fixed on and thus established in and as ātmā, our own real ‘self’ or essential self-conscious being, ‘I am’. In other words, ātma-vicāra or the investigation ‘who am I?’ is only the practice of just being as we really are — that is, just being in our true and natural state, in which our mind has subsided peacefully in and as our own essential self, our thought-free and therefore absolutely actionless self-conscious being.

This simple practice of ātma-vicāra, self-investigation, self-scrutiny, self-attentiveness or self-conscious being, is the only means by which we can experience ourself as we really are, and hence it is the central theme running throughout this profound but clear treatise on the philosophy, science and art of true self-knowledge.

The translation that I give below is similar to the translation I gave Happiness and the Art of Being, in which I have in various contexts quoted and discussed the meaning of each paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?. Though this translation is basically one that I made on my own, it is to a large extent based upon the meanings that Sri Sadhu Om explained to me, and hence it is quite similar to an earlier translation that he and I made together, which is included in appendix one of Part One of The Path of Sri Ramana.

No translation can be perfect, but in this translation, as in all my translations, I have attempted to express in English as clearly and as accurately as possible both the vācyārtha and the lakṣyārtha — the literal meaning and the intended meaning — of Sri Ramana’s words. Therefore I have often given alternative meanings for certain words in square brackets. Moreover, because Tamil grammar is very different to English grammar, and because the structure of a Tamil sentence is therefore very different to the structure of an English sentence, and ideas are expressed in Tamil in a manner that is quite unlike the way we express them in English, I have often had to add words in square brackets that are not explicitly present in the Tamil original, but whose sense is implied in the idiomatic manner in which Sri Bhagavan expressed himself in Tamil. Therefore I hope that this translation manages at least to some extent to convey the true depth of meaning that Sri Ramana expresses in this profound and important text.

In the original Tamil, the paragraphs are not numbered, but for ease of reference I have added the number of each paragraph as a sub-heading.


Nāṉ-ār? or Nāṉ Yār?

(Who am I?)

Original Tamil prose by
Bhagavan Sri Ramana
with English translation by Michael James

Paragraph One

சகல ஜீவர்களும் துக்கமென்ப தின்றி எப்போதும் சுகமாயிருக்க விரும்புவதாலும், யாவருக்கும் தன்னிடத்திலேயே பரம பிரிய மிருப்பதாலும், பிரியத்திற்கு சுகமே காரண மாதலாலும், மனமற்ற நித்திரையில் தின மனுபவிக்கும் தன் சுபாவமான அச் சுகத்தை யடையத் தன்னைத் தானறிதல் வேண்டும். அதற்கு நானார் என்னும் ஞான விசாரமே முக்கிய சாதனம்.

Since all living beings desire to be always happy without what is called misery, since for everyone the greatest love is only for oneself, and since happiness alone is the cause of love, [in order] to attain that happiness, which is one’s own [true] nature that is experienced daily in [dreamless] sleep, which is devoid of the mind, oneself knowing oneself is necessary. For that, jñāna-vicāra [knowledge-investigation] ‘who am I’ alone is the principal means.1

Paragraph Two

நானார்? ஸப்த தாதுக்களா லாகிய ஸ்தூல தேகம் நானன்று. சப்த, ஸ்பரிச, ரூப, ரஸ, கந்த மென்னும் பஞ்ச விஷயங்களையும் தனித்தனியே அறிகின்ற சுரோத்திரம், துவக்கு, சக்ஷுஸ், ஜிஹ்வை, கிராண மென்கிற ஞானேந்திரியங்க ளைந்தும் நானன்று. வசனம், கமனம், தானம், மல விசர்ஜனம், ஆனந்தித்தல் என்னும் ஐந்து தொழில்களையும் செய்கின்ற வாக்கு, பாதம், பாணி, பாயு,உபஸ்தம் என்னும் கன்மேந்திரியங்க ளைந்தும் நானன்று. சுவாஸாதி ஐந்தொழில்களையும் செய்கின்ற பிராணாதி பஞ்ச வாயுக்களும் நானன்று. நினைக்கின்ற மனமும் நானன்று. சர்வ விஷயங்களும் சர்வ தொழில்களு மற்று, விஷய வாசனைகளுடன் மாத்திரம் பொருந்தியிருக்கும் அஞ்ஞானமும் நானன்று. மேற்சொல்லிய யாவும் நானல்ல, நானல்ல வென்று நேதிசெய்து தனித்து நிற்கும் அறிவே நான். அறிவின் சொரூபம் சச்சிதானந்தம்.

Who am I? The sthūla dēha [the ‘gross’ or physical body], which is [composed] of sapta dhātus [the seven constituents, namely chyle, blood, flesh, fat, marrow, bone and semen], is not ‘I’. The five jñānēndriyas [sense organs], namely the ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose, which individually [and respectively] know the five viṣayas [sense ‘domains’ or types of sense perception], namely sound, touch [texture and other qualities perceived by touch], form [shape, colour and other qualities perceived by sight], taste and smell, are also not ‘I’. The five karmēndriyas [organs of action], namely the voice, feet [or legs], hands [or arms], anus and genitals, which [respectively] do the five actions, namely speaking, walking, giving, defecation and [sexual] enjoyment, are also not ‘I’. The pañca vāyus [the five ‘winds’, ‘vital airs’ or metabolic forces], beginning with prāṇa [breath], which perform the five [metabolic] functions, beginning with respiration, are also not ‘I’. The mind, which thinks, is also not ‘I’. The ignorance [the absence of all dualistic knowledge] that is combined with only viṣaya-vāsanās [dispositions, propensities, tendencies, inclinations, impulses, desires, taste or liking to experience the objects of sensory perception] when all viṣayas [sensory perceptions] and all actions have ceased [as in sleep], is also not ‘I’. Having eliminated everything mentioned above as not ‘I’, not ‘I’, the aṟivu [knowledge, awareness or consciousness] that stands isolated alone is ‘I’. The nature of [this] knowledge [‘I am’] is sat-cit-ānanda [being-consciousness-bliss].2

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சர்வ அறிவிற்கும் சர்வ தொழிற்குங் காரண மாகிய மன மடங்கினால் ஜகதிருஷ்டி நீங்கும். கற்பித ஸர்ப்ப ஞானம் போனா லொழிய அதிஷ்டான ரஜ்ஜு ஞானம் உண்டாகாதது போல, கற்பிதமான ஜகதிருஷ்டி நீங்கினா லொழிய அதிஷ்டான சொரூப தர்சன முண்டாகாது.

If the mind, which is the cause of all [objective] knowledge and of all activity, subsides, jagad-dṛṣṭi [perception of the world] will cease. Just as knowledge of the rope, which is the base [that underlies and supports the imaginary appearance of a snake], will not arise unless knowledge of the imaginary snake ceases, svarūpa-darśana [true experiential knowledge of our own actual nature or real self], which is the base [that underlies and supports the imaginary appearance of this world], will not arise unless perception of the world, which is an imagination [or fabrication], ceases.3

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மன மென்பது ஆத்ம சொரூபத்தி லுள்ள ஓர் அதிசய சக்தி. அது சகல நினைவுகளையும் தோற்றுவிக்கின்றது. நினைவுகளை யெல்லாம் நீக்கிப் பார்க்கின்றபோது, தனியாய் மனமென் றோர் பொருளில்லை; ஆகையால் நினைவே மனதின் சொரூபம். நினைவுகளைத் தவிர்த்து ஜகமென்றோர் பொருள் அன்னியமா யில்லை. தூக்கத்தில் நினைவுகளில்லை, ஜகமுமில்லை; ஜாக்ர சொப்பனங்களில் நினைவுகளுள, ஜகமும் உண்டு. சிலந்திப்பூச்சி எப்படித் தன்னிடமிருந்து வெளியில் நூலை நூற்று மறுபடியும் தன்னுள் இழுத்துக் கொள்ளுகிறதோ, அப்படியே மனமும் தன்னிடத்திலிருந்து ஜகத்தைத் தோற்றுவித்து மறுபடியும் தன்னிடமே ஒடுக்கிக்கொள்ளுகிறது. மனம் ஆத்ம சொரூபத்தினின்று வெளிப்படும்போது ஜகம் தோன்றும். ஆகையால், ஜகம் தோன்றும்போது சொரூபம் தோன்றாது; சொரூபம் தோன்றும் (பிரகாசிக்கும்) போது ஜகம் தோன்றாது. மனதின் சொரூபத்தை விசாரித்துக்கொண்டே போனால் தானே மனமாய் முடியும். ‘தான்’ என்பது ஆத்மசொரூபமே. மனம் எப்போதும் ஒரு ஸ்தூலத்தை யனுசரித்தே நிற்கும்; தனியாய் நில்லாது. மனமே சூக்ஷ்மசரீர மென்றும் ஜீவ னென்றும் சொல்லப்படுகிறது.

What is called ‘mind’ is an atiśaya śakti [an extraordinary or wonderful power] that exists in ātma-svarūpa [our actual self]. It projects [or causes the appearance of] all thoughts. When one sets aside all thoughts and sees, solitarily there is no such thing as ‘mind’; therefore thought alone is the svarūpa [the ‘own form’ or fundamental nature] of the mind. Excluding thoughts [or ideas], there is not separately any such thing as ‘world’. In sleep there are no thoughts, and [consequently] there is also no world; in waking and dream there are thoughts, and [consequently] there is also a world. Just as a spider spins out thread from within itself and again draws it back into itself, so the mind projects the world from within itself and again dissolves it back into itself. When the mind comes out from ātma-svarūpa, the world appears. Therefore when the world appears, svarūpa [our ‘own form’ or actual self] does not appear [as it really is]; when svarūpa appears (shines) [as it really is], the world does not appear. If one goes on investigating the nature of the mind, oneself alone will turn out to be [what now seems to be] the mind. What is [here] called ‘oneself’ (tāṉ) is only ātma-svarūpa. The mind stands only by always going after [attaching itself to] a gross object [a physical body]; solitarily it does not stand. The mind alone is described as sūkṣma śarīra [the ‘subtle body’] and as jīva [the ‘soul’ or personal self].4

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இந்தத் தேகத்தில் நான் என்று கிளம்புவது எதுவோ அஃதே மனமாம். நானென்கிற நினைவு தேகத்தில் முதலில் எந்தவிடத்திற் றோன்றுகின்ற தென்று விசாரித்தால், ஹ்ருதயத்தி லென்று தெரிய வரும். அதுவே மனதின் பிறப்பிடம். நான், நான் என்று கருதிக்கொண்டிருந்தாலுங்கூட அவ்விடத்திற் கொண்டுபோய் விட்டுவிடும். மனதில் தோன்றும் நினைவுக ளெல்லாவற்றிற்கும் நானென்னும் நினைவே முதல் நினைவு. இது எழுந்த பிறகே ஏனைய நினைவுகள் எழுகின்றன. தன்மை தோன்றிய பிறகே முன்னிலை படர்க்கைகள் தோன்றுகின்றன; தன்மை யின்றி முன்னிலை படர்க்கைக ளிரா.

What rises in this body as ‘I’, that alone is the mind. If [one] investigates in what place the thought called ‘I’ rises at first in the body, [one] will come to know that [it rises] in the heart [the innermost core of oneself, which is what one essentially is]. That alone is the birthplace of the mind. Even if [one] remains thinking ‘I, I’, it will take and leave [one] in that place. Of all the thoughts that appear [or arise] in the mind, the thought called ‘I’ alone is the first [primal, basic, original or causal] thought. Only after this rises do other thoughts rise. Only after the first person appears do the second and third persons appear; without the first person the second and third persons do not exist.5

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நானார் என்னும் விசாரணையினாலேயே மன மடங்கும். நானார் என்னும் நினைவு மற்ற நினைவுகளை யெல்லா மழித்துப் பிணஞ்சுடு தடிபோல் முடிவில் தானு மழியும். பிற வெண்ணங்க ளெழுந்தா லவற்றைப் பூர்த்தி பண்ணுவதற்கு எத்தனியாமல் அவை யாருக் குண்டாயின என்று விசாரிக்க வேண்டும். எத்தனை எண்ணங்க ளெழினு மென்ன? ஜாக்கிரதையாய் ஒவ்வோ ரெண்ணமும் கிளம்பும்போதே இது யாருக்குண்டாயிற்று என்று விசாரித்தால் எனக்கென்று தோன்றும். நானார் என்று விசாரித்தால் மனம் தன் பிறப்பிடத்திற்குத் திரும்பிவிடும்; எழுந்த வெண்ணமு மடங்கிவிடும். இப்படிப் பழகப் பழக மனத்திற்குத் தன் பிறப்பிடத்திற் றங்கி நிற்கும் சக்தி யதிகரிக்கின்றது. சூக்ஷ்மமான மனம், மூளை இந்திரியங்கள் வாயிலாய் வெளிப்படும் போது ஸ்தூலமான நாமரூபங்கள் தோன்றுகின்றன; ஹிருதயத்தில் தங்கும்போது நாமரூபங்கள் மறைகின்றன. மனத்தை வெளிவிடாமல் ஹிருதயத்தில் வைத்துக்கொண்டிருப்பதற்குத்தான் ‘அகமுகம்’ அல்லது ‘அந்தர்முகம்’ என்று பெயர். ஹ்ருதயத்திலிருந்து வெளிவிடுவதற்குத்தான் ‘பகிர்முக’ மென்று பெயர். இவ்விதமாக மனம் ஹ்ருதயத்திற் றங்கவே, எல்லா நினைவுகளுக்கும் மூலமான நான் என்பது போய் எப்பொழுது முள்ள தான் மாத்திரம் விளங்கும். நான் என்னும் நினைவு கிஞ்சித்து மில்லா விடமே சொரூபமாகும். அதுவே ‘மௌன’ மெனப்படும். இவ்வாறு சும்மா விருப்பதற்குத்தான் ‘ஞான திருஷ்டி’ என்று பெயர். சும்மா விருப்பதாவது மனத்தை ஆன்மசொரூபத்தில் லயிக்கச் செய்வதே. அன்றி, பிறர் கருத்தறிதல், முக்கால முணர்தல், தூர தேசத்தில் நடப்பன வறிதல் ஆகிய இவை ஞான திருஷ்டி யாகமாட்டா.

Only by [means of] the investigation who am I will the mind subside [or cease to exist]. The thought who am I [that is, the urge to investigate oneself], having destroyed all other thoughts, will itself in the end be destroyed like a corpse-burning stick [a stick that is used to stir a funeral pyre to ensure that the corpse is burnt entirely]. If other thoughts rise, without trying to complete them it is necessary to investigate to whom they have occurred. However many thoughts rise, what [does it matter]? As soon as each thought appears, if [one] vigilantly investigates to whom it has occurred, it will be clear that [it is] to me. If [one thus] investigates who am I, the mind will return to its birthplace [the innermost core of one’s being, which is the source from which it arose]; [and since one thereby refrains from attending to it] the thought which had risen will also subside. When [one] practises and practises in this manner, to the mind the power to stand firmly established in its birthplace will increase [that is, by repeatedly practising turning our attention towards our mere being, which is the birthplace of our mind, our mind’s ability to remain as mere being will increase]. When the subtle mind goes out through the portal of the brain and sense organs, gross names and forms [the thoughts that constitute the mind and the objects that constitute this world] appear; when it remains in the heart [the core of our being], names and forms disappear. Only to [this state of] retaining the mind in the heart without letting it go outwards [does] the name ‘ahamukham’ [‘I-facing’ or self-attentiveness] or ‘antarmukham’ [‘inward-facing’, introspection or introversion] [refer]. Only to [the state of] letting it go outwards [does] the name ‘bahirmukham’ [‘outward-facing’ or extroversion] [refer]. Only when the mind remains firmly established in the heart in this manner will what is called ‘I’ [the ego], which is the root [base, foundation or origin] of all thoughts, depart [disappear or cease] and will the ever-existing self alone shine. The place [space or state] devoid of even the slightest thought called ‘I’ is svarūpa [our ‘own form’ or actual self]. That alone is called ‘mauna’ [silence]. Only to [the state of] thus just being [does] the name ‘jñāna-dṛṣṭi’ [‘knowledge-seeing’, the experience of true knowledge] [refer]. What ‘just being’ (summā-v-iruppadu) is is only making the mind dissolve in ātma-svarūpa [our own actual self]. Besides [this state of just being], knowing the thoughts of others, knowing the three times [past, present and future], and knowing what is happening in distant places cannot be jñāna-dṛṣṭi.6

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யதார்த்தமா யுள்ளது ஆத்மசொரூப மொன்றே. ஜக ஜீவ ஈச்வரர்கள், சிப்பியில் வெள்ளிபோல் அதிற் கற்பனைகள். இவை மூன்றும் ஏககாலத்தில் தோன்றி ஏககாலத்தில் மறைகின்றன. சொரூபமே ஜகம்; சொரூபமே நான்; சொரூபமே ஈச்வரன்; எல்லாம் சிவ சொரூபமாம்.

What actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [our own essential self]. The world, soul and God are kalpanaigaḷ [imaginations, fabrications, mental creations or illusory superimpositions] in it, like [the imaginary] silver [seen] in a shell. These three appear simultaneously and disappear simultaneously. Svarūpa [our ‘own form’ or actual self] alone is the world; svarūpa alone is ‘I’ [our ego, soul or individual self]; svarūpa alone is God; everything is śiva-svarūpa [our actual self, which is śiva, the absolute and only truly existing reality].7

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மனம் அடங்குவதற்கு விசாரணையைத் தவிர வேறு தகுந்த உபாயங்களில்லை. மற்ற உபாயங்களினால் அடக்கினால் மனம் அடங்கினாற்போ லிருந்து, மறுபடியும் கிளம்பிவிடும். பிராணாயாமத்தாலும் மன மடங்கும்; ஆனால் பிராண னடங்கியிருக்கும் வரையில் மனமு மடங்கியிருந்து, பிராணன் வெளிப்படும்போது தானும் வெளிப்பட்டு வாசனை வயத்தா யலையும். மனத்திற்கும் பிராணனுக்கும் பிறப்பிட மொன்றே. நினைவே மனத்தின் சொரூபம். நானென்னும் நினைவே மனத்தின் முதல் நினைவு; அதுவே யகங்காரம். அகங்கார மெங்கிருந்து உற்பத்தியோ, அங்கிருந்துதான் மூச்சும் கிளம்புகின்றது. ஆகையால் மன மடங்கும்போது பிராணனும், பிராண னடங்கும்போது மனமு மடங்கும். ஆனால் சுழுத்தியில் மன மடங்கி யிருந்தபோதிலும் பிராண னடங்கவில்லை. தேகத்தின் பாதுகாப்பின் நிமித்தமும் தேகமானது மரித்து விட்டதோ வென்று பிறர் ஐயுறாவண்ணமும் இவ்வாறு ஈச்வர நியதியால் ஏற்பட்டிருக்கிறது. ஜாக்கிரத்திலும் சமாதியிலும் மன மடங்குகிறபோது பிராண னடங்குகிறது. பிராணன் மனத்தின் ஸ்தூல ரூபமெனப்படும். மரணகாலம் வரையில் மனம் பிராணனை உடலில் வைத்துக்கொண்டிருந்து, உடல் மரிக்குங் காலத்தில் அதனைக் கவர்ந்துகொண்டு போகின்றது. ஆகையால் பிராணாயாமம் மனத்தை யடக்க சகாயமாகுமே யன்றி மனோநாசஞ் செய்யாது.

For the mind to subside [permanently], except vicāraṇā [self-investigation] there are no other adequate means. If made to subside by other means, the mind will remain as if subsided, [but] will emerge again. Even by prāṇāyāma [breath-restraint], the mind will subside; however, [though] the mind remains subsided so long as the breath remains subsided, when the breath emerges [or becomes manifest] it will also emerge and wander under the sway of [its] vāsanās [propensities, inclinations, impulses or desires]. The birthplace both of the mind and of the prāṇa [the breath and other life-processes] is one. Thought alone is the svarūpa [the ‘own form’] of the mind. The thought called ‘I’ alone is the first thought of the mind; it alone is the ego. From where the ego arises, from there alone the breath also starts. Therefore when the mind subsides the prāṇa also [subsides], [and] when the prāṇa subsides the mind also subsides. However in sleep, even though the mind has subsided, the breath does not subside. It is arranged thus by the ordinance of God for the purpose of protecting the body, and so that other people do not wonder whether that body has died. When the mind subsides in waking and in samādhi [any of the various types of mental absorption that result from yōgic or other forms of spiritual practice], the prāṇa subsides. The prāṇa is said to be the gross form of the mind. Until the time of death the mind keeps the prāṇa in the body, and at the moment the body dies it [the mind] grabs and takes it [the prāṇa] away. Therefore prāṇāyāma is just an aid to restrain the mind [or to make it subside temporarily], but will not bring about manō-nāśa [the annihilation of the mind].8

Translator’s note: The three sentences that I have highlighted in red in this paragraph were not in the original essay version written by Sri Ramana, but were interpolated afterwards, either in the mid-1930s or later. They were not in the manuscript of this essay handwritten by Sri Ramana, which was reproduced in The Mountain Path, June 1993, pp. 44-47, nor were they included either in the essay version in the first edition (1931) of ஸ்ரீ ரமண நூற்றிரட்டு (Śrī Ramaṇa Nūṯṟiraṭṭu, his Tamil collected works) or in the 1932 editions of either the thirty or the twenty-eight question-and-answer versions. I also could not find them in any of the versions published prior to that that I have seen, or in any of Sivaprakasam Pillai’s notebooks. The earliest edition in which I have seen them included was the 1936 editon of the twenty-eight question-and-answer, so it was probably added first in that version and later in this essay version.

According to the central teachings of Sri Ramana, the body and world are both mental creations, so they seem to exist only so long as we experience them, and hence they do not exist when our mind is subsided in sleep. For those who are willing to accept this teaching, the idea that ‘in sleep, even though the mind has subsided, the breath does not subside’ is not an issue, because if the existence of the body (and hence of its breathing) is dependent upon the activity of the mind, it is clear that in sleep ‘when the mind subsides the prāṇa also [...] subsides’, as Sri Ramana stated explicitly in the previous sentence. Therefore, if these three interpolated sentences were something that Sri Ramana actually said, he presumably said so as a concession in reply to someone who was unable or unwilling to accept (even tentatively as a possibility) his teaching that the body, prāṇa, world and everything else seem to exist only in the self-deluded view of the mind, and hence cease to exist whenever the mind has subsided, as in dreamless sleep.

Paragraph Nine

பிரணாயாமம் போலவே மூர்த்தித்தியானம், மந்திரஜபம், ஆகார நியம மென்பவைகளும் மனத்தை அடக்கும் சகாயங்களே. மூர்த்தித்தியானத்தாலும், மந்திரஜபத்தாலும் மனம் ஏகாக்கிரத்தை யடைகிறது. சதாசலித்துக் கொண்டிருக்கும் யானையின் துதிக்கையில் ஒரு சங்கிலியைக் கொடுத்தால் அவ்யானை எப்படி வேறொன்றையும் பற்றாம லதையே பற்றிக் கொண்டு செல்லுமோ, அப்படியே சதாசலித்துக் கொண்டிருக்கும் மனமும், அதனை ஏதோ ஒரு நாமம் அல்லது ரூபத்திற் பழக்கினால் அதையே பற்றிக் கொண்டிருக்கும். மனம் அளவிறந்த நினைவுகளாய் விரிகின்றபடியால் ஒவ்வொரு நினைவும் அதிபலவீனமாகப் போகின்றது. நினைவுக ளடங்க வடங்க ஏகாககிரத்தன்மை யடைந்து, அதனாற் பலத்தை யடைந்த மனத்திற்கு ஆத்மவிசாரம் சுலபமாய் சித்திக்கும். எல்லா நியமங்களிலுஞ் சிறந்த மித ஸாத்விக ஆகார நியமத்தால் மனத்தின் சத்வ குணம் விருத்தியாகி, ஆத்மவிசாரத்திற்கு சகாய முண்டாகிறது.

Just like prāṇāyāma, mūrti-dhyāna [meditation upon a form of God], mantra-japa [repetition of sacred words such as a name of God] and āhāra-niyama [restriction of diet, particularly the restriction of consuming only vegetarian food] are only aids that restrain the mind [but will not bring about its annihilation]. By both mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa the mind gains one-pointedness [or concentration]. Just as, if [someone] gives a chain in the trunk of an elephant, which is always moving [swinging about trying to catch hold of something or other], that elephant will proceed grasping it without grasping anything else, so indeed the mind, which is always moving [wandering about thinking of something or other], will, if trained in [the practice of thinking of] any one name or form, remain grasping it [without thinking unnecessary thoughts about anything else]. Because the mind spreads out as innumerable thoughts [thereby scattering its energy], each thought becomes extremely weak. For the mind which has gained one-pointedness when thoughts shrink and shrink [that is, which has gained one-pointedness due to the progressive reduction of its thoughts] and which has thereby gained strength, ātma-vicāra [self-investigation, which is the state of self-attentive being] will be easily accomplished. By mita sāttvika āhāra-niyama [the restraint of consuming only a moderate quantity of sattva-conducive food], which is the best among all restrictions, the sattva-guṇa [the quality of ‘being-ness’, calmness and clarity] of the mind will increase and [thereby] help will arise for self-investigation.9

Paragraph Ten

தொன்றுதொட்டு வருகின்ற விஷயவாசனைகள் அளவற்றனவாய்க் கடலலைகள் போற் றோன்றினும் அவையாவும் சொரூபத்யானம் கிளம்பக் கிளம்ப அழிந்துவிடும். அத்தனை வாசனைகளு மொடுங்கி, சொரூபமாத்திரமா யிருக்க முடியுமா வென்னும் சந்தேக நினைவுக்கு மிடங்கொடாமல், சொரூபத்யானத்தை விடாப்பிடியாய்ப் பிடிக்க வேண்டும். ஒருவன் எவ்வளவு பாபியாயிருந்தாலும், ‘நான் பாபியா யிருக்கிறேனே! எப்படிக் கடைத்தேறப் போகிறே’ னென்றேங்கி யழுதுகொண்டிராமல், தான் பாபி என்னு மெண்ணத்தையு மறவே யொழித்து சொரூபத்யானத்தி லூக்க முள்ளவனாக விருந்தால் அவன் நிச்சயமா யுருப்படுவான்.

Even though viṣaya-vāsanās [inclinations or desires to experience things other than oneself], which come from time immemorial, rise [as thoughts] in countless numbers like ocean-waves, they will all be destroyed when svarūpa-dhyāna [self-attentiveness] increases and increases. Without giving room even to the doubting thought ‘Is it possible to dissolve so many vāsanās and be [or remain] only as svarūpa [my own actual self]?’ it is necessary to cling tenaciously to self-attentiveness. However great a sinner a person may be, if instead of lamenting and weeping ‘I am a sinner! How am I going to be saved?’ he completely rejects the thought that he is a sinner and is zealous [or steadfast] in self-attentiveness, he will certainly be reformed [transformed into the true ‘form’ of thought-free self-conscious being].10

Paragraph Eleven

மனத்தின்கண் எதுவரையில் விஷயவாசனைக ளிருக்கின்றனவோ, அதுவரையில் நானா ரென்னும் விசாரணையும் வேண்டும். நினைவுகள் தோன்றத் தோன்ற அப்போதைக்கப்போதே அவைகளையெல்லாம் உற்பத்திஸ்தானத்திலேயே விசாரணையால் நசிப்பிக்க வேண்டும். அன்னியத்தை நாடாதிருத்தல் வைராக்கியம் அல்லது நிராசை; தன்னை விடாதிருத்தல் ஞானம். உண்மையி லிரண்டு மொன்றே. முத்துக்குளிப்போர் தம்மிடையிற் கல்லைக் கட்டிக்கொண்டு மூழ்கிக் கடலடியிற் கிடைக்கும் முத்தை எப்படி எடுக்கிறார்களோ, அப்படியே ஒவ்வொருவனும் வைராக்கியத்துடன் தன்னுள் ளாழ்ந்து மூழ்கி ஆத்மமுத்தை யடையலாம். ஒருவன் தான் சொரூபத்தை யடையும் வரையில் நிரந்தர சொரூப ஸ்மரணையைக் கைப்பற்றுவானாயின் அதுவொன்றே போதும். கோட்டைக்குள் எதிரிக ளுள்ளவரையில் அதிலிருந்து வெளியே வந்துகொண்டே யிருப்பார்கள். வர வர அவர்களையெல்லாம் வெட்டிக்கொண்டே யிருந்தால் கோட்டை கைவசப்படும்.

As long as viṣaya-vāsanās exist in the mind, so long the investigation who am I is necessary. As and when thoughts arise, then and there it is necessary to annihilate them all by vicāraṇā [investigation or vigilant self-attentiveness] in the very place from which they arise. Being without attending to [anything] other [than oneself] is vairāgya [dispassion] or nirāśā [desirelessness]; being without leaving [separating from or letting go of] self is jñāna [true knowledge]. In truth [these] two [desirelessness and true knowledge] are only one. Just as a pearl-diver, tying a stone to his waist and submerging, picks up a pearl which lies in the bottom of the ocean, so each person, submerging [beneath the surface activity of their mind] and sinking [deep] within themself with vairāgya [freedom from desire to experience anything other than self], can attain the pearl of self. If one clings fast to uninterrupted svarūpa-smaraṇa [self-remembrance] until one attains svarūpa [one’s own actual self], that alone [will be] sufficient. So long as enemies are within the fort, they will continue coming out from it. If [one] continues cutting down [or destroying] all of them as and when they come, the fort will [eventually] come into [one’s] possession.11

Paragraph Twelve

கடவுளும் குருவும் உண்மையில் வேறல்லர். புலிவாயிற் பட்டது எவ்வாறு திரும்பாதோ, அவ்வாறே குருவினருட்பார்வையிற் பட்டவர்கள் அவரால் ரக்ஷிக்கப்படுவரே யன்றி யொருக்காலும் கைவிடப்படார்; எனினும், குரு காட்டிய வழிப்படி தவறாது நடக்க வேண்டும்.

God and guru are in truth not different. Just as what has been caught in the jaws of a tiger will not return, so those who have been caught in the glance of guru’s grace will surely be saved by him and will never instead be forsaken; nevertheless, it is necessary to walk unfailingly along the path that guru has shown.12

Paragraph Thirteen

ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம். ஈசன்பேரில் எவ்வளவு பாரத்தைப் போட்டாலும், அவ்வளவையும் அவர் வகித்துக்கொள்ளுகிறார். சகல காரியங்களையும் ஒரு பரமேச்வர சக்தி நடத்திக்கொண்டிருகிறபடியால், நாமு மதற் கடங்கியிராமல், ‘இப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டும்; அப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டு’ மென்று ஸதா சிந்திப்பதேன்? புகை வண்டி சகல பாரங்களையும் தாங்கிக்கொண்டு போவது தெரிந்திருந்தும், அதி லேறிக்கொண்டு போகும் நாம் நம்முடைய சிறிய மூட்டையையு மதிற் போட்டுவிட்டு சுகமா யிராமல், அதை நமது தலையிற் றாங்கிக்கொண்டு ஏன் கஷ்டப்படவேண்டும்?

Being completely absorbed in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintanā [thought of oneself or self-attentiveness], alone is giving oneself to God. Even though we place whatever amount of burden upon God, that entire amount he will bear. Since one paramēśvara śakti [supreme ruling power or power of God] is driving all activities [everything that happens in this world], instead of yielding to it why should we always think, ‘it is necessary to act in this way; it is necessary to act in that way’? Though we know that the train is going bearing all the burdens, why should we who go travelling in it suffer bearing our small luggage on our head instead of remaining happily leaving it placed on that [train]?13

Paragraph Fourteen

சுகமென்பது ஆத்மாவின் சொரூபமே; சுகமும் ஆத்மசொரூபமும் வேறன்று. ஆத்மசுகம் ஒன்றே யுள்ளது; அதுவே ஸத்யம். பிரபஞ்சப்பொருள் ஒன்றிலாவது சுகமென்பது கிடையாது. அவைகளிலிருந்து சுகம் கிடைப்பதாக நாம் நமது அவிவேகத்தால் நினைக்கின்றோம். மனம் வெளியில் வரும்போது துக்கத்தை யனுபவிக்கிறது. உண்மையில் நமது எண்ணங்கள் பூர்த்தியாகும்போதெல்லாம் அது தன்னுடைய யதாஸ்தானத்திற்குத் திரும்பி ஆத்மசுகத்தையே யனுபவிக்கிறது. அப்படியே தூக்கம், சமாதி, மூர்ச்சை காலங்களிலும், இச்சித்த பொருள் கிடைக்கிறபோதும், வெறுத்த பொருளுக்கு கேடுண்டாகும் போதும், மனம் அந்தர்முகமாகி ஆத்மசுகத்தையே யனுபவிக்கிறது. இப்படி மனம் ஆத்மாவை விட்டு வெளியே போவதும், உள்ளே திரும்புவதுமாக ஓய்வின்றி யலைகிறது. மரத்தடியில் நிழல் சுகமா யிருக்கிறது. வெளியில் சூரியவெப்பம் கொடுமையா யிருக்கிறது. வெளியி லலையு மொருவன் நிழலிற் சென்று குளிர்ச்சி யடைகிறான். சிறிது நேரத்திற்குப் பின் வெளிக்கிளம்பி வெப்பத்தின் கொடுமைக் காற்றாது, மறுபடியும் மரத்தடிக்கு வருகின்றான். இவ்வாறு நிழலினின்று வெயிலிற் போவதும், வெயிலினின்று நிழலிற் செல்வதுமாயிருக்கிறான். இப்படிச் செய்கிறவன் அவிவேகி. ஆனால் விவேகியோ நிழலைவிட்டு நீங்கான். அப்படியே ஞானியின் மனமும் பிரம்மத்தை விட்டு நீங்குவ தில்லை. ஆனால் அஞ்ஞானியின் மனமோ பிரபஞ்சத்தி லுழன்று துக்கப்படுவதும், சிறிது நேரம் பிரம்மத்திற்குத் திரும்பி சுக மடைவதுமா யிருக்கிறது. ஜக மென்பது நினைவே. ஜகம் மறையும்போது அதாவது நினைவற்ற போது மனம் ஆனந்தத்தை யனுபவிக்கின்றது; ஜகம் தோன்றும் போது அது துக்கத்தை யனுபவிக்கின்றது.

What is called happiness is only svarūpa [the ‘own form’ or actual nature] of ātmā [self]; happiness and ātma-svarūpa [our own actual self] are not different. Ātma-sukha [the happiness of self] alone exists; that alone is real. Happiness is not obtained from any of the objects of the world. We think that happiness is obtained from them because of our lack of discrimination. When [our] mind comes out, it experiences unhappiness. In truth, whenever our thoughts [or wishes] are fulfilled, it [our mind] turns back to its proper place [the core of our being, our real self, which is the source from which it arose] and experiences only the happiness of self. In the same way, at times of sleep, samādhi [a state of intense contemplation or absorption of mind] and fainting, and when a desired thing is obtained, and when termination occurs to a disliked thing [that is, when our mind avoids or is relieved from some experience that it dislikes], [our] mind becomes introverted and experiences only the happiness of self. In this way [our] mind wavers about without rest, going outwards leaving self, and [then] turning [back] inwards. At the foot of a tree the shade is delightful. Outside the heat of the sun is severe. A person who is wandering outside is cooled by going into the shade. Emerging outside after a short while, he is unable to bear the heat, so he again comes to the foot of the tree. In this way he continues, going from the shade into the sunshine, and going [back] from the sunshine into the shade. A person who acts in this manner is someone lacking in discrimination. But a person of discrimination will not leave the shade. Similarly, the mind of a jñāni [a person of true self-knowledge] does not leave brahman [the fundamental and absolute reality, which is our own actual self and the sole substance of everything]. But the mind of an ajñāni [a person lacking true self-knowledge] continues to undergo misery by roaming about in the world, and to obtain happiness by returning to brahman for a short while. What is called the world is only thought [because like the ‘world’ that we experience in a dream, all that we experience as the ‘world’ in this waking state is nothing but a series of mental images, ideas or thoughts that we have formed in our mind by our power of imagination]. When the world disappears, that is, when thought ceases, [our] mind experiences happiness; when the world appears, it experiences unhappiness.14

Paragraph Fifteen

இச்சா ஸங்கல்ப யத்நமின்றி யெழுந்த ஆதித்தன் சன்னிதி மாத்திரத்தில் காந்தக்கல் அக்கினியைக் கக்குவதும், தாமரை மலர்வதும், நீர் வற்றுவதும், உலகோர் தத்தங் காரியங்களிற் பிரவிருத்தித்து இயற்றி யடங்குவதும், காந்தத்தின் முன் ஊசி சேஷ்டிப்பதும் போல ஸங்கல்ப ரகிதராயிருக்கும் ஈசன் சன்னிதான விசேஷ மாத்திரத்தால் நடக்கும் முத்தொழில் அல்லது பஞ்சகிருத்தியங்கட் குட்பட்ட ஜீவர்கள் தத்தம் கர்மானுசாரம் சேஷ்டித் தடங்குகின்றனர். அன்றி, அவர் ஸங்கல்ப ஸஹித ரல்லர்; ஒரு கருமமு மவரை யொட்டாது. அது லோககருமங்கள் சூரியனை யொட்டாததும், ஏனைய சதுர்பூதங்களின் குணாகுணங்கள் வியாபகமான ஆகாயத்தை யொட்டாததும் போலும்.

Just as in the mere presence of the sun, which rose without icchā [wish, desire or liking], saṁkalpa [volition or intention] or yatna [effort or exertion], a crystal stone [or magnifying lens] will emit fire, a lotus will blossom, water will evaporate, and people of the world will engage in [or begin] their respective activities, do [those activities] and subside [or cease being active], and [just as] in front of a magnet a needle will move, [so] jīvas [living beings], who are caught in [the finite state governed by] muttoṙil [the threefold function commonly attributed to God, namely the creation, sustenance and dissolution of the world] or pañcakṛtyas [the five functions commonly attributed to God, namely creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and grace], which happen due to nothing but the special nature of the presence of God, who is saṁkalpa rahitar [one who is devoid of any volition or intention], move [busy themselves, perform activities, make effort or strive] and subside [cease being active, become still or sleep] in accordance with their respective karmas [that is, in accordance not only with their prārabdha karma or destiny, which impels them to do whatever actions are necessary in order for them to experience all the pleasant and unpleasant things that they are destined to experience, but also with their karma-vāsanās, their inclinations or impulses to desire, think, speak and act in particular ways, which impel them to make effort to experience pleasant things and to avoid experiencing unpleasant things]. Nevertheless, he [God] is not saṁkalpa sahitar [one who is connected with or possesses any volition or intention]; even one karma does not adhere to him [that is, he is not bound or affected by any karma or action whatsoever]. That is like world-actions [the actions happening here on earth] not adhering to [or affecting] the sun, and [like] the qualities and defects of the other four elements [earth, water, air and fire] not adhering to the all-pervading space.15

Paragraph Sixteen

எந்நூலிலும் முக்தி யடைவதற்கு மனத்தை யடக்க வேண்டுமென்று சொல்லப்பட் டுள்ளபடியால், மனோநிக்ரகமே நூல்களின் முடிவான கருத்து என் றறிந்துகொண்ட பின்பு நூல்களை யளவின்றிப் படிப்பதாற் பயனில்லை. மனத்தை யடக்குவதற்குத் தன்னை யாரென்று விசாரிக்க வேண்டுமே யல்லாமல் எப்படி நூல்களில் விசாரிப்பது? தன்னைத் தன்னுடைய ஞானக்கண்ணாற்றானே யறிய வேண்டும். ராமன் தன்னை ராமனென்றறியக் கண்ணாடி வேண்டுமா? ‘தான்’ பஞ்ச கோசங்களுக்குள் ளிருப்பது; நூல்களோ அவற்றிற்கு வெளியி லிருப்பவை. ஆகையால், பஞ்ச கோசங்களையும் நீக்கி விசாரிக்க வேண்டிய தன்னை நூல்களில் விசாரிப்பது வீணே. பந்தத்தி லிருக்கும் தான் யாரென்று விசாரித்து தன் யதார்த்த சொரூபத்தைத் தெரிந்துகொள்வதே முக்தி. சதாகாலமும் மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பதற்குத் தான் ‘ஆத்மவிசார’ மென்று பெயர்; தியானமோ தன்னை ஸச்சிதானந்த பிரம்மமாக பாவிப்பது. கற்றவை யனைத்தையும் ஒருகாலத்தில் மறக்க வேண்டிவரும்.

Since in every [spiritual] text it is said that for attaining mukti [liberation] it is necessary to make the mind subside, after knowing that manō-nigraha [restraint, subjugation or destruction of the mind] is the ultimate intention [or purpose] of [such] texts, there is no benefit [to be gained] by studying texts without limit. For making the mind subside it is necessary to investigate oneself [in order to experience] who [one really is], [but] instead [of doing so] how [can one experience oneself by] investigating in texts? It is necessary to know oneself only by one’s own eye of jñāna [true knowledge, that is, by one’s own selfward-turned awareness]. Does [a person called] Raman need a mirror to know himself as Raman? ‘Self’ is within the pañca-kōśas [the ‘five sheaths’ that seem to cover and obscure what we really are, namely our physical body, our prāṇa or life-processes, our mind, our intellect and the seeming darkness or ignorance of sleep]; conversely, texts are outside them. Therefore investigating in texts [hoping to be able thereby to experience] oneself, whom it is necessary to investigate [with an inward-turned attention] having removed [set aside, abandoned or detached] all the pañca-kōśas, is useless [or unprofitable]. [By] investigating who is oneself who is in bondage, knowing one’s yathārtha svarūpa [own actual self] alone is mukti [emancipation]. The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to [the practice of] always keeping the mind in [or on] ātmā [oneself]; conversely, dhyāna [meditation] is imagining oneself to be sat-cit-ānanda brahman [the absolute reality, which is being-consciousness-bliss]. At one time it will become necessary to forget all that has been learnt.16

Paragraph Seventeen

குப்பையைக் கூட்டித் தள்ளவேண்டிய ஒருவன் அதை யாராய்வதா லெப்படிப் பயனில்லையோ அப்படியே தன்னை யறியவேண்டிய ஒருவன் தன்னை மறைத்துகொண்டிருக்கும் தத்துவங்க ளனைத்தையும் சேர்த்துத் தள்ளிவிடாமல் அவை இத்தனையென்று கணக்கிடுவதாலும், அவற்றின் குணங்களை ஆராய்வதாலும் பயனில்லை. பிரபஞ்சத்தை ஒரு சொப்பனத்தைப்போ லெண்ணிக்கொள்ள வேண்டும்.

Just as one who needs to sweep up and throw away rubbish [would derive] no benefit by analysing it, so one who needs to know oneself [will derive] no benefit by calculating that the tattvas, which are concealing oneself, are this many, and analysing their qualities, instead of collectively rejecting all of them. It is necessary to consider the world [which is believed to be an expansion or manifestation of such tattvas] like a dream.17

Paragraph Eighteen

ஜாக்ரம் தீர்க்கம், சொப்பனம் க்ஷணிக மென்பது தவிர வேறு பேதமில்லை. ஜாக்ரத்தில் நடக்கும் விவகாரங்க ளெல்லாம் எவ்வளவு உண்மையாகத் தோன்றுகின்றனவோ அவ்வளவு உண்மையாகவே சொப்பனத்தில் நடக்கும் விவகாரங்களும் அக்காலத்திற் றோன்றுகின்றன. சொப்பனத்தில் மனம் வேறொரு தேகத்தை யெடுத்துக்கொள்ளுகிறது. ஜாக்ரம் சொப்பன மிரண்டிலும் நினைவுகளும் நாமரூபங்களும் ஏககாலத்தில் நிகழ்கின்றன.

Except that waking is dīrgha [long lasting] and dream is kṣaṇika [momentary or lasting for only a short while], there is no other difference [between these two mind-created states]. To the extent to which all the vyavahāras [doings, activities, affairs or occurrences] that happen in waking seem [at this present moment] to be real, to that [same] extent even the vyavahāras that happen in dream seem at that time to be real. In dream the mind takes another body [to be itself]. In both waking and dream thoughts and names-and-forms [the objects of the seemingly external world] occur in one time [that is, simultaneously].18

Paragraph Nineteen

நல்ல மன மென்றும் கெட்ட மன மென்று மிரண்டு மனங்களில்லை. மன மொன்றே. வாசனைகளே சுப மென்றும் அசுப மென்று மிரண்டுவிதம். மனம் சுபவாசனை வயத்தாய் நிற்கும்போது நல்ல மன மென்றும், அசுபவாசனை வயத்தாய் நிற்கும்போது கெட்டமன மென்றும் சொல்லப்படும். பிறர் எவ்வளவு கெட்டவர்களாய்த் தோன்றினும் அவர்களை வெறுத்தலாகாது. விருப்பு வெறுப்புக ளிரண்டும் வெறுக்கத் தக்கன. பிரபஞ்ச விஷயங்களி லதிகமாய் மனத்தை விடக் கூடாது. சாத்தியமானவரையில், அன்னியர் காரியத்திற் பிரவேசிக்கக் கூடாது. பிறருக் கொருவன் கொடுப்ப தெல்லாம் தனக்கே கொடுத்துக்கொள்ளுகிறான். இவ் வுண்மையை யறிந்தால் எவன்தான் கொடா தொழிவான்?

There are not two [classes of] minds, namely a good [class of] mind and a bad [class of] mind. The mind is only one. Only vāsanās [dispositions, propensities or impulses] are of two kinds, namely śubha [good or agreeable] and aśubha [bad or disagreeable]. When [a person’s] mind is under the sway of śubha-vāsanās [agreeable propensities] it is said to be a good mind, and when it is under the sway of aśubha-vāsanās [disagreeable propensities] a bad mind. However bad other people may appear to be, disliking them is not proper [or appropriate]. Likes and dislikes are both fit [for one] to dislike [or renounce]. It is not appropriate to let [one’s] mind [dwell] excessively on worldly matters. To the extent possible, it is not appropriate to intrude in other’s affairs. All that one gives to others one is giving only to oneself. If [everyone] knew this truth, who indeed would refrain from giving?19

Paragraph Twenty

தானெழுந்தால் சகலமு மெழும்; தானடங்கினால் சகலமு மடங்கும். எவ்வளவுக்கெவ்வளவு தாழ்ந்து நடக்கிறோமோ அவ்வளவுக்கவ்வளவு நன்மையுண்டு. மனத்தை யடக்கிக்கொண் டிருந்தால், எங்கே யிருந்தாலு மிருக்கலாம்.

If oneself [the ego or mind] rises, everything rises; if oneself subsides [or ceases], everything subsides [or ceases]. To whatever extent being subsided [or humble] we behave, to that extent there is goodness [or virtue]. If [we] are restraining [curbing, subduing, condensing, contracting or reducing] mind, wherever [we] may be [we] can be [or wherever we may be let us be].20


  1. The meaning of paragraph one is discussed in chapter 1 and chapter 2 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 91 and 157-58; 2nd edition pp. 68-9 and 120).
  2. The meaning of paragraph two is discussed in chapter 2 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 156-60; 2nd edition pp. 119-22).
  3. The meaning of paragraph three is discussed in chapter 3 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 200-2; 2nd edition pp. 152-3).
  4. The meaning of paragraph four is discussed in chapter 3 and chapter 6 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 202-5 and 371; 2nd edition pp. 153-6 and 282).
  5. The meaning of paragraph five is discussed in chapter 2 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 213-26; 2nd edition pp. 161-71).
  6. The meaning of paragraph six is discussed in chapter 3, chapter 9 and chapter 10 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 182-200, 216, 218, 444-5, 451-3, 505, 506-8 and 512; 2nd edition pp. 138-52, 164, 165, 337-8, 343-4, 385, 386-7 and 390).
  7. The meaning of paragraph seven is discussed in chapter 3 and chapter 4 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 201-2 and 274; 2nd edition pp. 152-3 and 208-9).
  8. The meaning of paragraph eight is discussed in chapter 10 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 491-4 and 496-8; 2nd edition pp. 374-7 and 379).
  9. The meaning of paragraph nine is discussed in chapter 10 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 493-502; 2nd edition pp. 376-82).
  10. The meaning of paragraph ten is discussed in chapter 10 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 510-5, 526 and 554-5; 2nd edition pp. 389-92, 401 and 422).
  11. The meaning of paragraph eleven is discussed in chapter 2, chapter 3 and chapter 10 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 155-6, 222, 510 and 514-30; 2nd edition pp. 118-9, 168, 389 and 391-404).
  12. The meaning of paragraph twelve is discussed in chapter 9 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 473-7; 2nd edition pp. 359-62).
  13. The meaning of paragraph thirteen is discussed in the introduction, chapter 3, chapter 9 and chapter 10 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 24-6, 223-4, 460-1, 465-8, 471-2, 512-3 and 526; 2nd edition pp. 18-20, 169-70, 350, 354-6, 358-9, 390-1 and 401).
  14. The meaning of paragraph fourteen is discussed in chapter 1 and chapter 3 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 92-4 and 203; 2nd edition pp. 69-71 and 154).
  15. The meaning of paragraph fifteen is discussed in chapter 4 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 281-4; 2nd edition pp. 214-6).
  16. The meaning of paragraph sixteen is discussed in chapter 9 and chapter 10 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 439-40, 526-7 and 533-54; 2nd edition pp. 334-5, 401 and 406-22).
  17. The meaning of paragraph seventeen is discussed chapter 2 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 160-3; 2nd edition pp. 122-3).
  18. The meaning of paragraph eighteen is discussed in chapter 2 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 129-36; 2nd edition pp. 99-104).
  19. The meaning of paragraph nineteen is discussed in chapter 10 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 588-609; 2nd edition pp. 448-63).
  20. The meaning of paragraph twenty is discussed in chapter 10 of Happiness and the Art of Being (1st edition pp. 588 and 609-10; 2nd edition pp. 448 and 463-4).

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Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?) – introduction and translation by Michael James

Spanish translation of Nāṉ Yār?

This English translation of Nāṉ Yār? has been translated into Spanish by Pedro Rodea, and a PDF copy of his translation is available here: Nāṉ Yār? (¿Quién soy yo?) – Spanish PDF. It is also included in his Spanish version of Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai, which is available both as a printed book from Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai in Spanish and as a PDF here: Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai – Spanish PDF.

Italian translation of Nāṉ Yār?

This English translation of Nāṉ Yār? has been translated into Italian by Carlo Barbera, and a PDF copy of his translation is available here: Nāṉ Yār? (Chi sono io?) – Italian PDF. It is also available on Carlo’s blog: Nāṉ Yār? – Chi sono io?.