In what follows, I’d like to bring out what I think is most salient about Sri Sadhu Om’s defense of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s approach to Self-inquiry. In doing so, I’ll set aside his fervor and bombast and come straightaway to the pith. And the pith is not only that (1) Self-inquiry gets you a two in one but also that (2) Self-inquiry goes directly to the heart of the matter.
Two in One
In The Path of Sri Ramana Maharshi: Part 1, Sri Sadhu Om’s argument in favor of Self-inquiry (atma vichara) is compelling. He states that many meditations can bring one from scattered, dispersed, wandering mind to one-pointedness, yet (only?) Self-inquiry, in addition to bringing one to one-pointedness, enables one to take the backward step.
Consider following the breath. After a while, the body relaxes and the mind quiets. Quieting, the mind rests its attention on the sensations arising in the nostrils. Perhaps it comes to stabilize there as well.
Sri Sadhu Om would say, “Fine, but this is still on the third person. What of the first person?” We’ll come, below, to his other major point, but for now it’s enough to say, with Sri Sadhu Om, that ultimately one must “turn around” and ask about the asker. For the questioner, it becomes clear, really is the question, must be the point at hand.
For Sri Sadhu Om, the beauty of Self-inquiry is that it is two in one: it can give rise to one-pointedness and it necessarily facilitates one’s taking the backward step.
The First Person Comes First
Sri Sadhu Om hammers away at Ramana’s suggestion that “I” rising is the condition for “it,” “you,” and “we” to rise. Without “I” rising, could there be an “it” or a “you”? No. Then, Ramana often tells us, find out what the source of this “I” is.
For Sri Sadhu Om, this point about the metaphysical priority of the “I” becomes what he wants us to stick with. Why focus on pranayama when doing so means focusing on an “it”? Why focus on a mantra when that too is an “it”? And why focus on any thought when that thought may be about an “I” addressing itself to a “you”?
If any “it” or “you” has risen, trace it back to this “I.” And then trace the “I” back to its source. When the “I” is completely absorbed in the Heart/Source, then the inquiry is complete.