The Fast Track to Self-Realization - Unveiling the Simple Approaches of Two Enlightened Masters

How to Combine Their Techniques Into a Powerful Practice


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Do you want to learn the simple yet powerful practices of two Indian sages who achieved Self-Realization without complicated yoga or extended meditation techniques? Let’s uncover the remarkable journeys of two Indian sages, Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharshi. Their stories challenge the common misperception that a spiritual path is long and complicated. Sometimes, the most profound truths are found not in complex rituals or rigorous practices but in simple, focused awareness. As we explore their teachings, ask yourself, could a practice so basic yet elusive hold the key to profound inner peace and understanding?

Nisargadatta Maharaj’s Three-Year Journey to Self-Realization

Nisaragadatta was a humble merchant who sold hand-wrapped cigarettes in the bustling streets of Mumbai. In 1933, a pivotal meeting took place. A friend introduced him to his Guru, Siddharameshwar Maharaj. This encounter began an extraordinary journey for Nisargadatta, which would take only three years to culminate in his Self-Realization. But how did he accomplish such a profound change in such a short time? The answer lies in a singular, uncomplicated practice that he adopted.

The relationship between Nisargadatta and his Guru was brief yet impactful. A short three years after Nisargadatta met him, his Guru’s passing could have been seen as a premature end to a promising spiritual journey. However, for Nisargadatta, it was just the beginning. He followed a unique path devoid of complex meditation techniques, ritualistic breathing exercises, or in-depth scriptural studies. His entire practice centered around abiding in the state of ‘I AM,’ which, despite its simple form, held profound implications.

“I simply followed my teacher’s instruction, which was to focus the mind on pure being ‘I AM’ and stay in it…My Guru ordered me to attend to the sense ‘I AM’ and to give attention to nothing else…Watch the sense, ‘I AM,’ find your real Self.” Nisargadatta Maharaj

This relentless focus on the sense of ‘I AM,’ the essence of being, was the cornerstone of Nisargadatta’s journey towards enlightenment. He described it as immersing his mind in the pure sensation of existence, an instruction from his Guru that he followed with unwavering dedication. But was it as simple as it sounds?

The Simplicity and Challenge of Nisargadatta’s Practice

At first glance, Nisargadatta Maharaj’s method for attaining self-realization seems almost deceptively straightforward. Just focus on the sense of ‘I AM,’ he said. No elaborate rituals, rigorous physical practices, or scholarly study of ancient texts. Just a continuous, unwavering attention to the fundamental sense of existence. But the simplicity of this practice is precisely what makes it so challenging.

Most people who try this exercise experience their thoughts taking them away within a few seconds. Our thoughts are like untamed horses, galloping toward the familiar territories of daily concerns, memories, and future plans. To exist in the present moment without the mind’s constant commentary and focus on the sensation of ‘I AM’ is an exercise in discipline and mental control.

“Consistently and with perseverance separate the ‘I AM’ from ‘this’ or ‘that,’ just keep in mind the feeling ‘I AM.’” Nisargadatta Maharaj

Nisargadatta himself acknowledged this challenge. Although the instructions for Self-Realization are simple, the practice requires high self-awareness and perseverance. It involves facing and releasing habitual thoughts and distractions that occupy our minds. This raises a critical question: how does one navigate this path successfully?

For more clues, let’s explore Ramana Maharshi’s teachings on self-inquiry as a path towards enlightenment.

Ramana Maharshi’s Journey to Enlightenment

Like Nisargadatta, Ramana Maharshi quickly realized his true nature, Self the ‘I AM,’ without complicated yogic practices or lengthy meditations. How did he do so?

Ramana Maharishi became enlightened through a sudden and profound self-inquiry at sixteen. He was alone in his uncle’s house when a sudden, intense fear of death came over him. Despite having no physical ailment, he started contemplating death and questioned what exactly was dying. To simulate death, he laid down stiff, held his breath, and turned his attention inward to inquire what the “I” was that was afraid of death.

This realization made him understand that his body was mortal, but his Spirit or Self was immortal. He perceived the Self(I AM) as the only reality, while the body and ego were temporary. From that moment on, Ramana Maharishi experienced a continuous state of absorption in the Self.

Through inquiring what the “I” was that was afraid of death, Ramana found the practice of self-inquiry, which formed the basis of his teachings on Self-Realization. What is self-inquiry?

Ramana Maharshi’s Teachings on Self-Inquiry

The key to profound spiritual understanding is not seeking something new but recognizing what you already are. This is the essence of Ramana Maharshi’s teachings. Ramana Maharshi’s method, centered on self-inquiry, starts with the premise that you already are what you seek. You don’t need to become enlightened. You are already enlightened. Sometimes, our understanding of reality can be clouded by misconceptions, conditioning, beliefs, and false identification with the ego-mind. This begs the question, how can we discover our true Self if it is concealed from us?

“Who am I? The question, ‘Who am I?’ itself will burn the ego and reveal the Self.” Ramana Maharshi

Uncovering who you authentically are, the ‘I AM,’ requires relentlessly questioning your identity. It begins with a seemingly simple question: “Who am I?” This inquiry challenges you to look beyond the surface-level identities tied to the body and mind and delve into the very essence of your being. Who are you? Are you the one observing your thoughts, feelings, and actions, or are you something even deeper?

Through the practice of self-inquiry, you come to know that you are much more than your body, thoughts, and emotions. You realize what Ramana calls the Self, the eternal Atman, the I AM.

Combining the Practices of Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharshi

Nisargadatta and Ramana offer powerful techniques to realize your true nature, the I AM. Combining their techniques leads to even more potent practice. Here’s how.

“The ‘I AM’ came first, it’s ever-present, ever available. Refuse all thoughts except ‘I am,’ stay there.” Nisargadatta Maharaj

Nisargadatta’s method lies in staying aware of the feeling-sense of I AM. One way to do this is to find the feeling-sense of your existence. In every moment you are able, remember to sense that you exist. If you practice meditation, when deep in a meditative state, sense the existence of you, the Self, just before conception. This feeling sense of I AM is also known as Self-Remembering, or Self-Presence.

Ramana’s method is self-inquiry. This can be simply asking, ‘Who am I?’ Ask from the heart, not the head, and do not force an answer. You can also observe your thoughts and feelings. As they come up, ask, ask from the heart, ‘who are you?’ You will find that the thoughts and emotions are unable to answer authentically. Then say, ‘I AM’ and sense the eternal Self. Here’s how you combine Nisargadatta and Ramana’s methods.

“Hold fast to the ‘I’ and do not identify yourself with anything else. This is true Self-inquiry.” — Path of Sri Ramana

Before you begin self-inquiry, get the feeling-sense of I AM. Then continue to be self-present as you ask yourself, ‘Who am I?’ Through consistent practice of self-inquiry and self-presence in the moment, your identity will shift from the transitory body, thoughts, and emotions to the eternal Self that you are.

The ‘Self’ in Self-Realization is the eternal you, beyond the form of the body and the structure of thoughts and emotions. Inherent in the meaning of Self-Realization is the realization that you are the absolute reality of the Self, the I AM. Abiding in your true nature, the ‘I AM’ is a shift of identity from the transient to the eternal.

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Carl Gerber (aka Kristopher Raphael)
New Earth Consciousness

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