I provide a brief summary of what I take to be the main line of argument from Paragraphs 1-10 of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Nan Yar (“Who am I?”).
The following points, it should be understood, do not directly map onto the paragraphs from the main text.
For an excellent translation of Nan Yar, go here.
1. Everybody longs for abiding happiness: this is the ultimate aspiration of human life.
2. Abiding happiness is not to be achieved through action, ritual observations, or works. Instead, abiding happiness is identical with self-knowledge.
3. So, one must come to know, first and foremost, who or what one truly is. As Ramana says, “[T]he knowledge… alone is ‘I.’ The nature of [this] knowledge [‘I am’] is sat-chit-ananda.”
4. One will not come to self-knowledge just so long as one takes the world to be real. For this reason, one must understand that when the mind rises, the world also rises. Therefore, one must get to the bottom of the mind and thus see the world as unreal.
5. One can only get to the bottom of the mind–that is to say, one discovers the svarupa or essence of the mind–through self-inquiry. The latter essentially shows one how to “tack back” from perceptions (world) to thoughts (mind) to the I-thought or I-notion (ego) to the Self.
6. Practices other than self-inquiry prove not only to be insufficient but, at the worst, to be a waste of precious time. Pranayama, for instance, is insufficient since it does not shine a light on the nature of the “I.” It may, however, be a helpful preliminary, Ramana happily concedes, inasmuch as by softening the breath one is relaxing the mind. But at this point, one must turn to self-inquiry. Ripe souls might just as well turn to self-inquiry at the outset.
7. Self-inquiry is essential in that (a) it shows that the ego is non-existent while concomitantly (b) revealing the source of the rising I-thought. That source is none other than the Self.