It's called Who am I? but it covers all kinds of things: the nature of happiness, what the world is, how it apparently comes into existence, how it disappears. There is also a detailed portion that explains how to do Self-enquiry.
You could say something on that. I've personally been reading about Self-enquiry for many years but it's never quite clear exactly what it is. Is it something you do in the morning as a practice? Is it something you do once or regularly? Is it like a breathing technique or a type of meditation?
Papaji always used to say "Do it once and do it properly". That's the ideal way, but I only know of two or three people who have done it once and got the right answer: a direct experience of the Self. These people were ready for a direct experience, so when they asked the question, the Self responded with the right answer, the right experience.
Like Papaji himself?
Papaji never did Self-enquiry, although he did advocate it vigorously once he started teaching.
I'm thinking of two remarkable people who both came to Bhagavan in the late 1940s. One was a woman who had had many visions of Murugan, her chosen deity. She was a devotee who had never heard of Self-enquiry. She didn't even know much about Bhagavan when she stood in front of him in April 1950. She was one of the people who had walking darshan in Bhagavan's final days. As she stood in front of Bhagavan, the question "Who am I?" spontaneously appeared inside her, and as an answer she immediately had a direct experience of the Self. She said later that this was the first time in her life that she had experienced Brahman.
The second person I am thinking of is Lakshmana Swami. He, too, had not done any Self-enquiry before. He had been a devotee for only a few months and during that time he had been repeating Bhagavan's name as a spiritual practice. In October 1949 he sat in Bhagavan's presence and closed his eyes. The question "Who am I?" spontaneously appeared inside him, and as an answer his mind went back to its source, the Heart, and never appeared again. In his case it was a permanent experience, a true Self-realisation.
In both cases there had been no prior practice of Self-enquiry, and in both cases the question "Who am I?" appeared spontaneously within them. It wasn't asked with volition. These people were ready for an experience of the Self. In Bhagavan's presence the question appeared within them, and in his presence their sense of individuality vanished. In my opinion being in the physical presence was just as important as the asking of the question. Many other people have asked the question endlessly without getting the result that these people got from having the question appear in them once.
also like to point out that both these people had their experiences in
the last few months of Bhagavan's life. Though his body was disintegrating,
physically enfeebling him, his spiritual power, his physical presence,
remained just as strong as ever.
Are you saying that Self-enquiry is not a practice, that it is not something that we should do laboriously, hour after hour, day after day?
It is a practice for the vast majority of people, and Bhagavan did encourage people to do it as often as they could. He said that the practice should be persisted with, right up to the moment of realisation.
It wasn't his only teaching, and he didn't tell everyone who came to him to do it. Generally, when people approached him and asked for spiritual advice, he would ask them what practice they were doing. They would tell him, and his usual response would be, "Very good, carry on with that". He didn't have a strong missionary zeal for Self-enquiry, but he did say that sooner or later everyone has to come to Self-enquiry because this is the only effective way of eliminating the individual "I". He knew that most people who approached him preferred to repeat the name of God or worship a particular form of Him. So, he let them carry on with whatever practice they felt an affinity with. However, if you came to him and asked, "I'm not doing any practice at the moment, but I want to get enlightened. What is the quickest and most direct way to accomplish this?" He would almost invariably reply, "Do Self-enquiry".
Is he on the record as saying that it is the quickest and most direct way?
Yes. He mentioned this on many occasions, but it was not his style to force it on people. He wanted devotees to come to it when they were ready for it.
So even though he accepted whatever practices people were involved in, he was quite clear the quickest and most direct tool would be Self-enquiry?
Yes, and he also said that you had to stick with it right up to the moment of realisation.
For Bhagavan, it wasn't a technique that you practised for an hour a day, sitting cross-legged on the floor. It is something you should do every waking moment, in combination with whatever actions the body is doing.
He said that beginners could start by doing it sitting, with closed eyes, but for everyone else, he expected it to be done during ordinary daily activities.
With regard to the actual technique, would you say that it is to be aware, from moment to moment, what is going on in the mind?
No, it's nothing to do with being aware of the contents of the mind. It's a very specific method that aims to find out where the individual sense of "I" arises. Self-enquiry is an active investigation, not a passive witnessing.
For example, you may be thinking about what you had for breakfast, or you may be looking at a tree in the garden. In Self-enquiry, you don't simply maintain an awareness of these thoughts, you put your attention on the thinker who has the thought, the perceiver who has the perception. There is an "I" who thinks, an "I" who perceives, and this "I" is also a thought. Bhagavan's advice was to focus on this inner sense of "I" in order to find out what it really is. In Self-enquiry you are trying to find out where this "I" feeling arises, to go back to that place and stay there. It is not simply watching, it's a kind of active scrutiny in which one is trying to find out how the sense of being an individual person comes into being.
You can investigate the nature of this "I" by formally asking yourself, "Who am I?" or "Where does this "I" come from?" Alternatively, you can try to maintain a continuous awareness of this inner feeling of "I". Either approach would count as Self-enquiry. You should not suggest answers to the question, such as "I am consciousness" because any answer you give yourself is conceptual rather than experiential. The only correct answer is a direct experience of the Self.
It's very clear what you just said, but almost impossible to accomplish. It sounds simple, but I know from my own experience that it's very hard.
It needs practice and commitment. You have to keep at it and not give up. The practice slowly changes the habits of the mind. By doing this practice regularly and continuously, you remove your focus from superficial streams of thoughts and relocate it at the place where thought itself begins to manifest. In that latter place you begin to experience the peace and stillness of the Self, and that gives you the incentive to continue.
Bhagavan had a very appropriate analogy for this process. Imagine that you have a bull, and that you keep it in a stable. If you leave the door open, the bull will wander out, looking for food. It may find food, but a lot of the time it will get into trouble by grazing in cultivated fields. The owners of these fields will beat it with sticks and throw stones at it to chase it away, but it will come back again and again, and suffer repeatedly, because it doesn't understand the notion of field boundaries. It is just programmed to look for food and to eat it wherever it finds something edible.
The bull is the mind, the stable is the Heart where it arises and to where it returns, and the grazing in the fields represents the mind's painful addiction to seeking pleasure in outside objects.
Bhagavan said that most mind-control techniques forcibly restrain the bull to stop it moving around, but they don't do anything about the bull's fundamental desire to wander and get itself into trouble.
You can tie up the mind temporarily with japa or breath control, but when these restraints are loosened, the mind just wanders off again, gets involved in more mischief and suffers again. You can tie up a bull, but it won't like it. You will just end up with an angry, cantankerous bull that will probably be looking for a chance to commit some act of violence on you.
Bhagavan likened Self-enquiry to holding a bunch of fresh grass under the bull's nose. As the bull approaches it, you move away in the direction of the stable door and the bull follows you. You lead it back into the stable, and it voluntarily follows you because it wants the pleasure of eating the grass that you are holding in front of it. Once it is inside the stable, you allow it to eat the abundant grass that is always stored there. The door of the stable is always left open, and the bull is free to leave and roam about at any time. There is no punishment or restraint. The bull will go out repeatedly, because it is the nature of such animals to wander in search of food. And each time they go out, they will be punished for straying into forbidden areas.
Every time you notice that your bull has wandered out, tempt it back into its stable with the same technique. Don't try to beat it into submission, or you may be attacked yourself, and don't try to solve the problem forcibly by locking it up.
Sooner or later even the dimmest of bulls will understand that, since there is a perpetual supply of tasty food in the stable, there is no point wandering around outside, because that always leads to sufferings and punishments. Even though the stable door is always open, the bull will eventually stay inside and enjoy the food that is always there.
is Self-enquiry. Whenever you find the mind wandering around in external
objects and sense perceptions, take it back to its stable, which is the
Heart, the source from which it rises and to which it returns. In that
place it can enjoy the peace and bliss of the Self. When it wanders around
outside, looking for pleasure and happiness, it just gets into trouble,
but when it stays at home in the Heart, it enjoys peace and silence. Eventually,
even though the stable door is always open, the mind will choose to stay
at home and not wander about.