We have been in this work for ten years now, and over that time much has changed in the way in which I speak about what I see. From the beginning, when we started, I could see very clearly what I wanted to say, but I had no vocabulary apart from ideas from philosophy and mystical spirituality to use in communicating this that I see so clearly, and this vocabulary turns out to be too limited for the task of speaking of so simple a thing — strangely enough, I think this may actually be because of its obsession with limitlessness. But over time, much of the spiritual and metaphysical idiom has fallen away from me, and I have come to see that there is no better way to speak of these matters than in plain English (or plain whatever language is your own). Because of this, much of what I said in the past now seems obsolete and inadequate to me as an expression of what I actually see and wish to convey. We have made no effort to remove this outdated material from the web, because we think it might be useful for some to see the process of evolution that has gradually shaped the way we speak about our work.
In the end, anything I might have to say about my views and understandings on timelessness, eternity, consciousness in evolution, or consciousness as eternal, unchanging, unarising, unconditioned reality, or any other ideas I might hold concerning ultimate reality and our relationship to it — or anything else, really — are entirely beside the point. All must see for themselves the reality that they are; all must be willing to speak from their own authority, based on their own direct realization of these matters, if they speak at all. And in the absence of the whips of misery, and fear of life, and the deep confusion inherent in seeking liberation from life itself, I think that most people will find little interest in these matters since the truth is self-evident and completely and directly accessible to all.
I do not teach Ramana Maharshi's methods or philosophy; nor do I teach atma vichara or self-inquiry.
From the beginning, my interest in Ramana has been purely practical. I came to Ramana not in order to enhance my metaphysical understanding and spiritual insight, or in search of boons and blessings from the worshipful consideration of his life and demeanor. I came to Ramana because I found myself in a self-generated spiritual hell and he looked like my last resort. I came to Ramana because I sensed that he might actually be suggesting something practical that we could do that might actually settle the matter of the cause and cure of our abiding misery once and for all, and I wanted to see for myself exactly what he was talking about. I came to Ramana because I didn't even know really what I wanted, except that I certainly wanted to bring an end to the wanting of it. And I was willing to try pretty much anything.
I didn't — and still don't — know much in detail about Ramana's life — about his vision, his understanding and his work in this world. But I could see from the beginning that he was on to something different; something other than the 5,000 years of effort we have put into trying to understand, transform, transcend or destroy the human mind and human self-consciousness in the name of liberation. Somehow I knew that he had something concrete to suggest to us, and all I wanted was to see what it was and figure out how to do it.
Now, I have had my share of exhilarating and shattering spiritual states arising in me and departing from me. But I have never had any mystical experiences connected with my interest in Ramana, and I do not see Ramana to be a supernatural being of any kind. To me, Ramana was as human as you and I. He was a human being who, as a teenager, pretended to be dead in an attempt to stifle the fear of death, and stumbled upon reality. To me, Ramana is no sadguru, no bhagavan. To me, he is simply a hero, not beholden to the thousands of years of spiritual understanding, spiritual insight, spiritual states, spiritual aspiration, and spiritual attainment that have so enthralled us all until now.
I am a disciple or a devotee of no one. I am a human being from whom the fear and hatred of life has departed, and I think I know why and how that has come to pass. And I'm certain that what has worked for me will work for you, if only you will try it.
First, last and always, my advice is only to look at the feeling of being you, without the mediation of understanding, without the need to resolve any paradox, and without the requirement that this looking lead to any conclusion.
I call this work "the vichara" because Ramana called it that from time to time. And because that term is non-specific enough that it seems sufficiently inclusive to resist hardening into a concept.
The conscious entry into the vichara consists of nothing other than this looking at yourself directly, briefly, and repeatedly. To be effective, the vichara requires no understanding or even knowledge of its provenance, no belief in Ramana's understandings and insights about it, or even knowledge of Ramana's existence, or of the existence of any other champion of self-inquiry. It requires no belief even that it will actually work. To those who are interested, I can offer an explanation — a theory that seems to account for why and how that should be so — but that explanation is entirely provisional, and totally unnecessary. I won't burden you with it here.
Simply do this: make every effort just to look at the you-ness of you and persist in that effort as long as you can. Remember: in this work, understanding is irrelevant, belief is irrelevant, even duration is irrelevant. The briefest look, repeated over time does all the work. For me, the looking is the vichara. And the vichara is human life, plain and simple.
I do know this one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt: if you will, whoever you are or would like to be, just look at the ever present, unmistakable reality of your actual nature from time to time, whenever it occurs to you to do so, all will come out right in the end, and the deep interest you may now have in matters such as eternity, timelessness, awakening, realization, enlightenment and ignorance and the like will fade like a light fog in the morning sun.