The primary aim of life is to Know Thyself. This investigation Sri Ramana Maharshi called “Self-inquiry” or atma vichara.
In The Path of Sri Ramana–Part Two, Sri Sadhu Om proposes that very few are engaging in the above inquiry. Why? Because many of us have been fixated on inquiries into the second and third persons.
Second and Third Persons in Tamil
In Tamil, the translator notes, the second person means “‘that which stands in front'” (p. 2) while the third person “denotes those objects which are not not now perceived in front of us but which are thought of by the mind” (p. 2).
World, Mind, and God
From the above, it immediately follows that the world, mind, and God (an important qualifier: when understood conceptually) are only second and third persons.
- 2nd Person: World–object of the senses standing “out in front”
- 3rd Person: Mind–objective aspect of the mind
- 3rd Person: God–object of thought
Sri Sadhu Om is now in a position to argue that the world is only the object of scientific research. Since the latter is nothing but an extension of or elaboration upon the second person (that is, natural science models the behavior of nature “out in front”), science can never tell us who we are. To be sure, it’s not trying to, but then it’s already too far downstream.
For, as Ramana states often, the second person can only arise if the first person has risen. Who is this first person?
A similar analysis applies to dualistic religions. Since God is only an object of thought or feeling, trying to know God only involves the attempt to continue to engage with the third person. “But who is the one so engaged? Who is it that wants to know God?” To answer those questions is to ‘turn around’ and engage in Self-inquiry.
Finally, “All that psychologists have [ever] made research upon is this objective aspect of the mind, and they have never made research upon its subjective aspect, the first person thought ‘I'” (p. 8). As a result, psychology cannot tell us who we are, only what (say) personality types, archetypes, or psychological processes have unfolded in the mode of the third person. In this sense, psychology is thus too far removed from the essential matter at hand.
What remains but to turn around and examine Our Self? To begin this inquiry, which is Self-inquiry, is to commit to knowing Thyself: the highest aspiration there is.