- Happiness is our essential being
- The philosophy, science and art of true self-knowledge
- The practice of ātma-vicāra — ‘self-enquiry’ or self-scrutiny
- The contents of this website
- Transliteration of Tamil and Sanskrit on this website
- Display of Tamil, Sanskrit and diacritic characters on this website
Happiness is our essential being
Happiness lies deep within us, in the very core of our being. Happiness does not exist in any external object, but only in us, who are the consciousness that experiences happiness. Though we seem to derive happiness from external objects or experiences, the happiness that we thus enjoy in fact arises from within us.
Whatever turmoil our mind may be in, in the centre of our being there always exists a state of perfect peace and joy, like the calm in the eye of a storm. Desire and fear agitate our mind, and obscure from its vision the happiness that always exists within it. When a desire is satisfied, or the cause of a fear is removed, the surface agitation of our mind subsides, and in that temporary calm our mind enjoys a taste of its own innate happiness.
Happiness is thus a state of being — a state in which our mind’s habitual agitation is calmed. The activity of our mind disturbs it from its calm state of just being, and causes it to lose sight of its own innermost happiness. To enjoy happiness, therefore, all our mind need do is to cease all activity, returning calmly to its natural state of inactive being, as it does daily in deep sleep.
True happiness is therefore the happiness of just being, which is the perfect and absolute happiness that in mystical literature is known as ‘beatitude’. This true happiness of being is also described as ‘the peace of God, which passeth all understanding’, because it is experienced in full only in the perfectly peaceful state of just being, which is the state in which all mental activity has subsided in the clarity of unobstructed self-consciousness. That is, since it can be experienced perfectly only in the state in which we are conscious merely of our own essential being and not of any thoughts or objects, true happiness or peace is beyond all mental comprehension.
Not only does happiness exist within us — it is in fact our true nature, our essential being. The transient happiness that we seem to derive from external experiences, but which actually arises only from within ourself, is in reality nothing other than our own essential being. The more clearly we are conscious of our own essential being, the more deeply and intensely do we experience happiness.
The degree of happiness that we experience at any moment is directly proportionate to the degree of clarity with which we are then conscious of our true and essential being. Therefore happiness is not only our essential being, but is also our consciousness of our being. In fact, since we are the consciousness that experiences our own being as ‘I am’, we are both being and consciousness. In other words, our essential being is consciousness, or more precisely it is self-consciousness — consciousness that knows itself clearly as ‘I am’. Therefore, since our unobstructed consciousness of our own being is experienced by us as happiness, in our essential nature we are non-dual being, consciousness and happiness.
The rising and subsequent activity of our mind distracts our attention away from our essential being, thereby clouding our natural clarity of self-consciousness and obscuring our awareness of the happiness that we really are. Therefore so long as our mind is extroverted, attending to anything other than our own essential being, we can never experience perfect, permanent and unqualified happiness. To experience true and eternal happiness, we must attain the experience of true self-knowledge, that is, perfectly clear consciousness of our own essential being.
In order to experience such true self-knowledge, we must withdraw our attention from everything other than ourself, and focus it wholly and exclusively upon our own essential being, which we always experience in the form of our fundamental consciousness — our primary knowledge ‘I am’.
Until and unless we attend to our innermost self in this manner, we cannot know who or what we really are, and unless we thereby experience a clear and certain knowledge of what we really are, we cannot be certain about the reality or validity of any knowledge that we may appear to have about other things. All our knowledge about the world and God — about science, religion, philosophy, physics, cosmology, psychology, theology or any other branch of human knowledge — is open to serious doubt so long as our knowledge about ourself — the consciousness by which all those other things are known — is confused and uncertain.
Therefore, if we wish to experience permanent and unqualified happiness, or to attain knowledge about which we can be absolutely certain, we must focus our whole attention keenly upon ourself, our fundamental consciousness of our own essential being, ‘I am’, in order to ascertain who or what we really are.
Such in brief is the simple but profound truth revealed by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
The philosophy, science and art of true self-knowledge
The philosophy of Sri Ramana derives solely from his experience of true, absolute and non-dual self-knowledge, an experience that transcends all thought, both rational and irrational. However, since we imagine the existence of duality, multiplicity and relativity, we seem to lack the non-dual and absolute knowledge of our own essential self-conscious being that Sri Ramana experienced as his natural state. Therefore he presented his philosophy to us in terms of a rational and logical analysis of our present experience of ourself as a finite individual consciousness, in order to enable us to be firmly convinced of the absolute reality that underlies this finite consciousness that we now mistake to be ourself.
However, the spiritual teachings of Sri Ramana are not only a rational philosophy, but are also a precise science and art. He intended his philosophy to serve only as the theoretical foundation upon which we should practice the empirical science of self-investigation, which is the art of abiding firmly and steadily in our natural state of keenly self-attentive and therefore perfectly thought-free being.
The practice of ātma-vicāra — ‘self-enquiry’ or self-scrutiny
A Sanskrit term that was often used, both by Sri Ramana and by other more ancient sages such as Sri Adi Sankara, to describe this empirical practice of self-investigation or self-attentiveness is ātma-vicāra (or ‘atma-vichara’, as it is often less precisely transcribed), which is generally translated in English as ‘self-enquiry’ or ‘self-inquiry’. However, rather than ‘enquiry’, the word vicāra can be more accurately translated as ‘investigation’, ‘examination’ or ‘scrutiny’. Therefore the term ātma-vicāra really means ‘self-investigation’, ‘self-examination’ or ‘self-scrutiny’, and denotes the simple practice of closely examining, inspecting or scrutinising our fundamental and essential consciousness of our own being, ‘I am’, with a keen and concentrated power of attention.
Sri Ramana also referred to this empirical practice of self-investigation, self-examination, self-inspection, self-scrutiny, self-attention or self-attentiveness as the vicāra ‘who am I?’ However, when he described it thus, he did not mean that it is a process of questioning ourself ‘who am I?’ either verbally or mentally. What he intended us to understand by this term is that this practice is a keenly attentive examination or scrutiny of our basic consciousness of our own being, which we always experience as ‘I am’, in order to discover the true nature of this ‘I’, our essential being or ‘am’-ness.
That is, though (among its range of meanings) vicāra does mean ‘enquiry’, in the context of Sri Ramana’s teachings it means enquiry in the sense of empirical (experiential) investigation rather than in the sense of mere verbal questioning. It is not just mentally asking oneself the question ‘who (or what) am I?’ but is actually investigating what ‘I’ am — scrutinising oneself in order to experience oneself as one actually is. In other words, it is not literally questioning oneself ‘who am I?’ but is figuratively doing so: investigating experientially what this ‘I’ actually is.
The contents of this website
This website is dedicated to exploring in depth the philosophy, science and art of true self-knowledge, particularly as taught by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
At present the principal contents of this website are:
- The original Tamil text of நானார்? (Nāṉ-ār), also known as நான் யார்? (Nāṉ Yār?), ‘Who am I?’, the most important prose work written by Sri Ramana, which explains in detail the philosophy and practice of ātma-vicāra or self-investigation, with an introduction and English translation by Michael James (along with a PDF copy of his translation and a section about the Spanish translation of it, which includes a link to a PDF copy of this Spanish translation).
- A PDF copy of the word-for-word meaning and English translation by Sri Sadhu Om and Michael James of ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல ஸ்துதி பஞ்சகம் (Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam), the ‘Five Hymns to Sri Arunachala’, which is a collection of the devotional songs composed by Sri Ramana (along with a link to a PDF copy of Sri Sadhu Om’s commentary on Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam, and a PDF copy of the Spanish translation of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam, and a separate PDF copy of the Spanish translation of the commentary on Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam).
- A PDF copy of the word-for-word meaning and English translation by Sri Sadhu Om and Michael James of ஸ்ரீ ரமணோபதேச நூன்மாலை (Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai), the ‘Garland of Sri Ramana’s Texts of Spiritual Teachings (upadēśa)’, which is a collection of the principal philosophical poems composed by Sri Ramana (along with a link to a PDF copy of the separate translation of Upadēśa Undiyār, and also a PDF copy of the Spanish translation of Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai and a separate PDF copy of the Spanish translation of Upadēśa Undiyār).
- A PDF copy of the English translation by Sri Sadhu Om and Michael James of குரு வாசகக் கோவை (Guru Vācaka Kōvai), the ‘Series of Guru’s Sayings’, which is the most comprehensive and reliable collection of the sayings of Sri Ramana, recorded in 1255 Tamil verses composed by Sri Muruganar, with an additional 42 verses composed by Sri Ramana (along with a PDF copy of the Spanish translation of it).
- A PDF copy of சாதனை சாரம் (Sādhanai Sāram), the ‘Essence of Spiritual Practice’, an English translation of a collection of Tamil verses composed by Sri Sadhu Om, in which he gives many valuable clues to help and guide us in the practice of self-investigation and self-surrender.
- A PDF copy of Part One of The Path of Sri Ramana, which is an English translation of ஸ்ரீ ரமண வழி (Śrī Ramaṇa Vaṙi), a Tamil book written by Sri Sadhu Om, in which he explains in great depth and detail the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Sri Ramana, with emphasis in this first part on the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra).
- A PDF copy of Part Two of The Path of Sri Ramana, in which Sri Sadhu Om explains the teachings of Sri Ramana on various related subjects such as the reality of the world and God, the path of bhakti or devotion, and the true nature of karma or action.
- A PDF copy of Happiness and the Art of Being, which is an in-depth introduction by Michael James to the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Sri Ramana (along with Spanish, Czech and French translations of it).
- An organised list of links to articles contained in the blog Happiness of Being — Teachings of Sri Ramana, which is a growing archive of articles on the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Sri Ramana.
- All the available videos of Michael James discussing the teachings of Sri Ramana.
- Several other pages that can be accessed from the Site Map.
I hope to continue gradually adding more content to this website, including translations of all the other original writings of Sri Ramana, PDF and/or HTML copies of all the Tamil and English books of Sri Sadhu Om, and other writings about philosophy and practice of the simple yet very profound teachings of Sri Ramana.
Transliteration of Tamil and Sanskrit on this website
To transliterate Tamil and Sanskrit words in Latin script, in all the HTML pages on this website and in the PDF copy of the latest edition of Happiness and the Art of Being I have used an accurate system of transliteration, which I have described and explained in:
As I explain there, the transliteration scheme that I use is based upon several closely related schemes, including the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST), the scheme used in the Tamil Lexicon and the more recent international standard known as ‘ISO 15919 Transliteration of Devanagari and related Indic scripts into Latin characters’.
However, in most of the older books in this website, the transliteration of Tamil and Sanskrit words is not so accurate. For example, in the early editions of Happiness and the Art of Being I used a simple system of transliteration without diacritics, because at that time I did not have any suitable font with all the diacritics required for precise transliteration.
In many other books such as Guru Vācaka Kōvai and The Path of Sri Ramana a similar system of transliteration without diacritics was used, and though diacritics have been used in Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam and Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai, the transliteration in these books contains many inconsistencies and inaccuracies. However, now that I have suitable fonts, in all future books and future editions of the existing books on this website I intend to use the accurate system of transliteration that I describe on the aforesaid Transliteration, Transcription and Pronunciation page.
Display of Tamil, Sanskrit and diacritic characters on this website
If any of the Tamil, Sanskrit or diacritic Latin characters used on this website do not display correctly on your PC or any other device, it may be necessary for you to adjust the settings in your browser so that the encoding system that it displays is set to Unicode (UTF-8).