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B.V.Narasimha Swami

Self Realization - 1931

Below are the original fourteen questions put by Sivaprakasam Pillai and the answers given by Bhagavan.

1. Sivaprakasam Pillai:   Swami, Who am I? How is salvation attained?

Bhagavan:   By incessantly pursuing within yourself the inquiry 'Who am I,' you will know your true self and thereby attain salvation.

2. SP:   Who am I?

Bhagavan:   The real 'I' or true Self is not any of the five sense, nor the sense objects, nor the organs of action, nor the prana (breath or vital force), nor the mind, nor even the deep sleep state when there is no cognizance of any of these.

3. SP:   If I am not any of these, what else am I?

Bhagavan:   After excluding each of the above, saying 'This is not I.' that which remains alone is 'I'; and that is consciousness.

4. SP:   What is nature of that consciousness?

Bhagavan:   It is 'Sat Chit Ananda' (i.e. reality, consciousness, bliss), where there is not even the slightest trace of the thought 'I' at all. This is also called mouna (silence), atman (Self). The only thing that exists is That. The three (Word, ego, and personal God, Iswara) if considered as separate entities, are mere illusions, like the appearance of silver in the mother-of-pearl. But God, jivas (egos) and the world are one, Sivaswarupa or the atmaswarupa is Real.

5. SP:   How are we to realise that Real (or Sivaswarupa)?

Bhagavan:   When the external objects (drishya) vanish, then the true nature of the seer or subject is realised (to be the Real, the Absolute) 6. SP: Can we not realise that (Sivaswarupa) while we see objects also?

Bhagavan:   No. Because, the seen (phenomena) and the seer (the noumenon) are like the rope and the appearance of a serpent therein. Unless you get rid of the superimposed illusion of a serpent, you cannot believe that what exists is only the rope.

7. SP:   When will the external objects vanish?

Bhagavan:   If the mind which is the cause of all thoughts and all activity vanishes, the external objects will vanish.

8. SP:   What is the nature of the mind?

Bhagavan:   Mind is merely thoughts. It is a form of energy. It manifests itself as all the objects (i.e. the world). When the mind sinks within the Self i.e., the Sivaswarupa, the Self is realised. When the mind issues out, the world appears, and the Self is not realised.

9. SP:   How will the mind vanish?

Bhagavan:   Only by pursuing the enquiry "Who am I?" Though this enquiry is a mental operation, it destroys all other mental operations, and finally itself vanishes, just as the stick with which the funeral pyre is kindled, is reduced to ashes after the pyre and corpses are burnt. Then we attain knowledge or realization of the Self. Then the thought 'I' (personality) is dissolved; breathing and other activities of prana (vitality) are subdued. Both personality and breathing (i.e. prana) have a common source. Whatever you do, do without egoism, without the feeling "I am doing this." When one reaches that state, even one's wife will be seen by him as Mother of the universe. True bhakti (devotion) is the surrender of one's ego into the Self.

10. SP:   Are there not other methods to make the mind disappear?

Bhagavan:   Except enquiry, there is no other adequate method. If the mind is lulled by other means, it keeps quiet for a while, and again jumps up and leaps back to its former activity.

11. SP:   But these instincts and innumerable self-preserving and other latent tendencies (vasanas) in us, when will they be subdued? Bhagavan: The more often you withdraw into the Self, the more these tendencies wither; and finally they leave you.

12. SP:   Is it indeed possible to root out all these tendencies, which have soaked into our minds, generation after generation?

Bhagavan:   Never yield room for doubts of that sort in your mind, but firmly resolve and dive into the Self. The mind constantly directed by the above enquiry into Self becomes dissolved, and transformed in the end into the Self. Whenever you feel any doubt, do not try to clear the doubt; but try to know him who feels the doubt.

13. SP:   How long should one go on with this enquiry?

Bhagavan:   It is needed so long as there is the least trace of tendencies in the mind to create thoughts. So long as your enemies occupy a citadel, they will be issuing out. If you kill each, as he issues out, the citadel will be captured by you in the end. Similarly each time thoughts rear their heads and issue out, crush them by the above inquiry. This process of crushing out all thoughts at their source or place of origin is termed vairagya (dispassion). Hence inquiry is needed right up to the time of Self-Realization. What is required is continuous and interrupted "thought" of the real Self.

14. SP:   Is not all this, the universe and all that takes place therein, the result of Iswara's (God's) will; and if so why should God will thus?

Bhagavan:   God has no purpose. He is not fettered by any action. The world's activities cannot affect him. Let us take the analogies of the sun and space to make this clear. The sun rises without any desire, purpose, or effort. But directly the sun rises, numerous activities take place on this earth. The lens placed in its rays produces fire in its focus; the lotus bud blossoms, water evaporates, and every living object on earth enters upon, maintains, and finally drops its activity. But, the sun is not affected by all such activity, as it merely maintains its nature, acts by fixed laws, has no purpose, and is merely a witness. So it is with God. Again take the case of space or ether. Earth, water, fire and air are all in it, and have their motions and modifications therein. Yet none of these affects ether or space. The same is the case with God. God has no desire or purpose in his acts of creation, maintenance, destruction, withdrawl and salvation, to which beings (jivas) are subjected. As beings (jivas) reap the fruit of their acts in accordance with His laws (the laws of karma, etc.) the responsibility for such fruit is theirs, not God's. God is not affected or bound by any acts.


"After I had been here a day or two, Bhagavan asked somebody to give me a copy of Who am I? and told me to read it. Here is contained the essence of his teaching, though given by him as a youth of only 21 it never needed to be changed. Bhagavan might talk all sorts of philosophy and explain systems in answer to questions, but his teaching and instruction for Sadhana was all contained in Who am I?. Everything else, as far as he was concerned, was padding or expansion for those who were not satisfied with the simplicity and straightforward explanation of this little book. He had always insisted that the book should be sold so cheaply that it was available to the poorest and originally it cost no more than half an anna. "This wonderful little book comprises one of the first set of instructions given by Bhagavan in about 1902 in writing as he was not speaking at the time. They are direct from his own experience and in no way influenced by his reading of various Upanishads and other sacred writings which were afterwards brought to him to explain. Later reading these books, he realized the philosophic import of what had happened to him and so was able to co-ordinate his experiences and fit them into the Hindu tradition. But in this book we have his teachings at first hand and uncoloured. Here we find their very essence and by the help of this single brochure can learn all that is necessary. No more is needed."
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