Heart and Enquiry

B-friend's picture

Average: 4.3 (3 votes)

Yeah..there seems to be, or is, a lot of confusion about all this "Heart" talk. Ramana had many different uses for this word depending on the nature and the temperament of the questioner. He says he began using the term after seeing literature on the subject and correlated it to His own experience and would also indicate it as being on the right side of the chest 2 digits from the center line because, "When asked who you are, you place your hand on the right side of the breast and say ‘I am’. There you involuntarily point out the Self." For Ramana, the terms "Heart" and "Self" were synonymous.

The Heart is used in the Vedas and the scriptures to denote the place whence the notion ‘I’ springs. Does it spring only from the fleshy ball? It springs within us somewhere right in the middle of our being. The ‘I’ has no location. Everything is the Self. There is nothing but that. So the Heart must be said to be the entire body of ourselves and of the entire universe, conceived as ‘I’. But to help the practiser (abhyasi) we have to indicate a definite part of the Universe, or of the Body. So this Heart is pointed out as the seat of the Self. But in truth we are everywhere, we are all that is, and there is nothing else.

For the practitioner who needed a practice, Ramana would point them to meditate on the "Heart center";

Of course there is also the practice of meditation on the heart centre. It is only a practice and not investigation. Only the one who meditates on the heart can remain aware when the mind ceases to be active and remains still; whereas those who meditate on other centres cannot be so aware but infer that the mind was still only after it becomes again active."

Meditating on Him or on the seer, the Self, there is a mental vibration ‘I’ to which all are reduced. Tracing the source of ‘I’, the primal ‘I-I’ alone remains over, and it is inexpressible. The seat of Realisation is within and the seeker cannot find it as an object outside him. That seat is bliss and is the core of all beings. Hence it is called the Heart. The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realise it. There is nothing else to do.

M.: The Heart is not physical; it is spiritual. Hridayam = hrit + ayam - This is the centre. It is that from which thoughts arise, on which they subsist and where they are resolved. The thoughts are the content of the mind and, they shape the universe. The Heart is the centre of all. Yatova imani bhutani jayante (that from which these beings come into existence) etc. is said to be Brahman in the Upanishads. That is the Heart. Brahman is the Heart.

D.: How to realise the Heart?

M.: There is no one who even for a trice fails to experience the Self. For no one admits that he ever stands apart from the Self. He is the Self. The Self is the Heart.

Your very sense of "I" is the Self, is God. This is how come it is said we are always realised and never non-realised..And this is how much we are embraced by God. It is no coincidence that the surest of all truths or knowledge is "I exist". The objective is to trace the "I" to its source wherefrom the "I-I" stands revealed and where we will no longer confound our sense of "I" with the body, mind, or form...The place, "where "God is" and "you are" become in your mind indistinguishable".<--not from Ramana)

All is Consciousness. To confuse Self or God with metaphysical/supernatural attributes is the confusion and the error. All is Consciousness.

angel76's picture

Great and important essay

Great stuff that can dispel common misunderstandings regarding Ramana's Self Enquiry.

Two related warnings:

* One should be careful not to confuse issues of absolute reality with those of relative reality. Our starting point is the relative reality, we live and cognize in the relative reality, absolute reality is for us just a hearsay, a theory - therefore we must be careful not to denounce relative reality and try to talk from the absolute reality aspect - therefore there is a body, there is an individual "I", and there is a physical heart from which the sense of "I Am" springs (btw, when practising Self Enquiry, you can clearly notice at some point that the "I Am" indeed springs from the right side of the area of the chest). Saying stuff like "everything is consciousness" is nice and cool but has no value since for the one who says it, it is just a theory and so it is invalid for now.

* One should be careful not to confuse "I" and "I Am". These are totally different notions. Regarding this text - it is the sense of "I Am" and not the sense of "I" which can be attributed to the Self (actually, even the sense of "I Am" is not the Self, it is just the sense of individual consciousness that is activated by awareness, by the Self). "I" is just the feeling of me which maintains the feeling of a person and which can be easily noticed.

angel76 | Tue, 04/19/2011 - 08:28
B-friend's picture

I purity

Hey Angel

Thanks for the comments and the insights but we're dividing ourselves in 2 here with all these differences between "I" and "I am". The concepts that Nisargadatta and Ramana have used are getting mish-mashed which does create confusion to an extent. Again, "are there 2 selves?" as Ramana would say. And using concepts to divide reality with "relative reality" and "absolute reality" also is splitting things in 2. It's like saying, "you are there but you are really here". Well which is the flippin truth? "All is consciousness" may be a theory for you but it is what it is and it will be your experience too and so it does have value for those who are engrained with the knowledge the universe is physical, with physical origins, with metaphysical Gods, heavens, and hells and physical locations where "I am" reigns. "I am" is the truth. It pervades all. It pervades us as the sense of "I". The false never leads to the truth. How could it? Why would the aforementioned sages tell us to focus on our sense of "I" if it were not truth leading us to truth? The only thing that cannot be discarded as one investigates is "I". I am this body, or I am that soul, or I am..whatever one has conceived, these are what corrode and fall away. "I" all alone in its purity is the Self. The Self is "I".

How do you feel the ‘I’ now? Do you hold a mirror before you to know your own being? The awareness is the ‘I’. Realise it and that is the truth.

Soul, mind, or ego are mere words. There are no entities of the kind. Consciousness is the only truth.

There is no superior or inferior state. In sleep, in dream and in the wakeful state you are just the same. Sleep is a state of happiness; there is no misery. The sense of want, of pain, etc., arises only in the wakeful state. What is the change that has taken place? You are the same in both, but there is difference in happiness. Why? Because the mind has risen now. This mind rises after the ‘I-thought’. The thought arises from consciousness. If one abides in it, one is always happy.

The sense of body is a thought; the thought is of the mind, the mind rises after the ‘I-thought’, the ‘I-thought’ is the root thought. If that is held, the other thoughts will disappear. There will then be no body, no mind, not even the ego.

D.: What will remain then?

M.: The Self in its purity.

~Ramana Maharshi

B-friend | Tue, 04/19/2011 - 12:30
solomon's picture

What's the meaning of "I-I"

What exactly Ramana means by "I-I"? I haven't encountered this term anywhere else, not in other advaitan's words nor scriptures and Ramana uses this term a lot.

solomon | Fri, 04/22/2011 - 20:02
B-friend's picture


Hi Solomon,

"I-I" is a term Ramana used for Self. Used because when the false "I", i.e., what one has thought or thinks themselves to be such as a body, mind, or soul, stops or vanishes, your real nature stands ever present and presents itself as "I".

The ‘I-I’ is always there. There is no knowing it. It is not a new knowledge acquired. What is new and not here and now will be evanescent only. The ‘I’ is always there. There is obstruction to its knowledge and it is called ignorance. Remove the ignorance and knowledge shines forth. In fact this ignorance or even knowledge is not for Atman. They are only overgrowths to be cleared off. That is why Atman is said to be beyond knowledge and ignorance. It remains as it naturally is - that is all.

Unbroken ‘I-I’ is the ocean infinite, the ego, ‘I’ thought, remains only a bubble on it and is called jiva, i.e., individual soul. The bubble too is water; when it bursts it only mixes in the ocean. When it remains a bubble it is still a part of the ocean. Ignorant of this simple truth, innumerable methods under different denominations, such as yoga, bhakti, karma....... each again with many modifications, are being taught with great skill and in intricate detail only to entice the seekers and confuse their minds. So also are the religions and sects and dogmas. What are they all for? Only for knowing the Self. They are aids and practices required for knowing the Self.

Objects perceived by the senses are spoken of as immediate knowledge. Can anything be as direct as the Self - always experienced without the aid of the senses? Sense-perceptions can only be indirect knowledge, and not direct knowledge. Only one’s own awareness is direct knowledge, as is the common experience of one and all. No aids are needed to know one’s own Self, i.e., to be aware.

The one Infinite Unbroken Whole becomes aware of itself as ‘I’. This is its original name. All other names, e.g., OM, are later growths. Liberation is only to remain aware of the Self. The great saying, “I am Brahman” is its authority. Though the ‘I’ is always experienced, yet one’s attention has to be drawn to it. Only then does knowledge dawn. Thus the need for the instruction of the Upanishads and of wise sages.

Just get over the false conception of the ‘I’ being the body. Discover to whom the thoughts arise. If the present ‘I’-ness vanishes, the discovery is complete. What remains over is the pure Self.

The perception of ‘I’ is associated with a form, maybe the body. There should be nothing associated with the pure Self. The Self is the unassociated, pure Reality, in whose light, the body, the ego, etc. shine. On stilling all thoughts the pure consciousness remains over.

B-friend | Sat, 04/23/2011 - 12:10
solomon's picture

Awareness or consciousness?

Thanks BF. I'm familiar with these texts. I don't see in them how "I-I" necessarily denotes the Self.

The first quote and the first paragraph of the second indeed discuss directly the "I-I" (while the others just speak about the I-thought, the phantom "I", the body) but according to these two, you can derive other conclusions as well. It seems more that it stands for something that still has traces of a center, a subject, still some kind of relaxed individuality; in other words; Consciousness and not Awareness / Self (if you are acquainted with the Advaitan terminology), which is a synonym for the notion of the "I Am".

Further more, it states further in the first quote that the "I" is always there which always confused me - "I", is the false phantom, the individual I, how can it be always there? I always felt that there is some error in the transcript or translation. Same thing with "Unbroken ‘I-I’ is the ocean infinite, the ego, ‘I’ thought, remains only a bubble on it and is called jiva" - either there should be ";" after "ocean infinite" or that the transcript has flaws.

Anyway, I still don't see the symbolism behind the specific notion with the two "I"s. The only thing it reminds me is "awareness being aware of awareness" (which is actually awareness being aware of consciousness which is conscious of what is".

I'm sure I'm missing something...

solomon | Sat, 04/23/2011 - 16:18
B-friend's picture

knowledge and concepts

Yeah..You can draw any conclusions you want..and concepts and words mean different things to different people. The limitation is the mind and that's why Ramana's highest teaching was Silence. The rest were considered the secondary teachings and digressed according to the limit of the questioner. Everything, though, pointed the questioner back to his self. Nisargadatta adhered to his guru's words that "you alone are". That's all he needed to stay with his sense of self while he remained puzzled at what his teacher meant. Anyone can proceed on the path of contemplation but the tool for that path is the mind and many lessons (in my experience, very harsh depending on the stubbornness) are required for it to even be a useful tool.

The greatest seers, saints, and yogis agree on little. Seeing this, who could not be indifferent to knowledge and become still?

~Ashtavakra Gita 9.5

B-friend | Sat, 04/23/2011 - 17:24