Michael James On Sri Ramana’s Injunction To Constantly Remember Our Self

The following (below the “*”) is an excerpt from Michael James’ marvelous Happiness and the Art of Being: An Introduction to the Philosophy and Practice of the Spiritual Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana (2012; second edition)


Though we are infinite and absolute being, we do not know ourself as such because we ignore our essential being and imagine ourself to be a finite body. So habituated have we become to ignoring our own being that even in sleep, when we cease imagining ourself to be a body, and therefore cease knowing any other thing, we appear to be ignorant of the real nature of our essential being, ‘I am’.

However, though we appear to be ignorant of our real nature in all our three states of consciousness, in truth our essential being always knows itself clearly as the infinite, absolute and non-dual consciousness ‘I am’. Our essential being never ignores or is ignorant of our real nature. That which is ignorant of our real nature is only our mind, and therefore we appear to be ignorant of our real nature only because we imagine ourself to be our mind.

Since our self-ignorance is therefore not real but only imaginary, in order to put an end to it all we need do is cultivate the habit of remembering or being attentive to our own essential being, ‘I am’. As Sri Ramana says in the eleventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:

[…] If one clings firmly to uninterrupted svarūpa-smaraṇa [remembrance of one’s own essential nature or real self, ‘I am’] until one attains svarūpa [that is, until one attains true knowledge of one’s own essential nature], that alone [will be] sufficient. […]

In this one sentence, Sri Ramana encapsulates the empirical method of ātma-vicāra or self-investigation, which is the only means by which we can attain true self-knowledge – true experiential knowledge of our own real nature. Since we appear not to know the true nature of our essential being, our own real self, only because of our long-established habit of ignoring it, we can know it only by cultivating the opposite habit of constantly remembering or being attentive to it.

In practice we may initially be unable to remember our being-consciousness ‘I am’ uninterruptedly, but by remembering it repeatedly and frequently, we can gradually cultivate the habit of remembering it even while we are engaged in other activities. Whatever we may be doing or thinking, we are, and therefore we can remember our ‘being’ even while we seem to be ‘doing’. As we become more accustomed to remembering our being, we will find that we remember it more frequently and easily, in spite of any amount of distracting external influences.

As our self-remembrance thus becomes more firmly established, our clarity of self-consciousness will gradually increase, until finally we are able to experience and know our essential being with full and perfect clarity. When we once experience ourself as we really are, our delusion of self-ignorance will be destroyed, and thus we will discover that we are nothing but our own real and essential being, which always knows itself with perfect and ever-unfading clarity.