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To enquire `Who am I ?' really means finding source of `I'-thought

Question : I begin to ask myself `Who am I?', eliminate the body as not `I', the breath as not `I', and I am not able to proceed further.
Ramana Maharshi: Well, that is as far as the intellect can go. Your process is only intellectual. Indeed, all the scriptures mention the process only to guide the seeker to know the truth. The truth cannot be directly pointed out. Hence this intellectual process.

You see, the one who eliminates all the `not I' cannot eliminate the `I'. To say `I am not this' or `I am that' there must be the `I'. This `I' is only the ego or the `I'-thought. After the rising up of this `I'-thought, all other thoughts arise. The `I'-thought is therefore the root-thought. If the root is pulled out all others are at the same time uprooted. Therefore seek the root `I', question yourself `Who am I?'. Find out its source, and then all these other ideas will vanish and the pure Self will remain.

Question : How to do it?
Ramana Maharshi: The `I' is always there - in deep sleep, in dream and in wakefulness. The one in sleep is the same as that who now speaks.
There is always the feeling of `I'. Otherwise do you deny your existence? You do not. You say `I am'. Find out who is.'

Question : I meditate neti-neti [not this - not this].
Ramana Maharshi: No - that is not meditation. Find the source. You must reach the source without fail. The false `I' will disappear and the real `I' will be realized. The former cannot exist apart from the latter. There is now wrong identification of the Self with the body, senses, etc. You proceed to discard these, and this is neti. This can be done only by holding to the one which cannot be discarded. That is iti [that which is].

Question : When I think `Who am I?', the answer comes `I am not this mortal body but I am chaitanya, atma (consciousness, the Self ).' And suddenly another question arises, `Why has atma come into maya [illusion]?' or in other words, `Why has God created this world?'
Ramana Maharshi: To enquire `Who am I ?' really means trying to find out the source of the ego or the `I'-thought. You are not to think of other thoughts, such as `I am not this body'. Seeking the source of `I' serves as a means of getting rid of all other thoughts. We should not give scope to other thoughts, such as you mention, but must keep the attention fixed on finding out the source of the `I' - thought by asking, as each thought arises, to whom the thought arises. If the answer is `I get the thought' continue the enquiry by asking `Who is this "I" and what is its source?`

Question : Am I to keep on repeating `Who am I?' so as to make a mantra of it?
Ramana Maharshi: No. `Who am I ?' is not a mantra. It means that you must find out where in you arises the `I'-thought which is the source of all other thoughts.

Source: from David Godman Excellent Book "Be As You are"

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Who am I Technique is direct but Difficult
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Why is self-enquiry more direct than other methods
Ramana Maharshi Self Inquiry Meditation Instructions
Is soham (the affirmation `I am he') same as `Who am I
Ramana Maharshi - Only the quest `Who am I?' is necessary

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