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  • Writer's pictureKrishna Bhatt

Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi are often cited as replies to the questions which were initially asked to him. He also wrote texts which were compilations of his teachings about the self and the path of self-realization. He taught the practicality of the Upanishads. He provided Upadesa or spiritual instruction by providing darshan and sitting silently with his devotees.

He used the techniques prescribed in the Upanishads and has created a guide with the teachings of his life. Understanding oneself is one’s greatest task, the true self lies within and should be explored initially through introspection and then through the process of self-realization leading to liberation.

Maharishi Raman
Maharishi Raman


He believed one’s true self is free from all kinds of thoughts and worries. Ramana Maharshi would present many questions about jnanis ("liberated beings") from devotees, but even the terms jnani and ajnani (non-liberated being) are incorrect, since it leads one to the idea of there being a knower and a known, a subject and an object. The truth of it according to Ramana Maharshi is that there are neither jnanis nor ajnanis, there is simply jnana, which is Self:

The jnani sees no one as an ajnani. All are only jnanis in his sight. In the ignorant state one superimposes one's ignorance on a jnani and mistakes him for a doer. In the state of jnana, the jnani sees nothing separate from the Self.

The Self is all shining and only pure jnana. According to him Ignorance to one’s true self caused one to be unhappy. As the search for happiness, he believed was man’s search for one’s true self and when one comes across it, he is encompassed with true liberating happiness. This happiness is a never ending one. He had talked about various paths and practices, but the central theme of his teachings was self-inquiry. According to him consciousness is the only reality.


Self-inquiry propounded by him talks about the mind being a powerful inherent force in the self. This thought had occurred to him in his death experience.

“When the subtle mind emerges through the brain and the senses, the gross names and forms are cognized. When it remains in the Heart names and forms disappear… If the mind remains in the Heart, the ‘I’ or the ego which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self, the Real, Eternal ‘I’ alone will shine. Where there is not the slightest trace of the ego, there is the Self.”

The word he used to denote self frequently was sat-chit-ananda, the translation of which meant "truth-consciousness-bliss".

According to David Godman, the essence of Ramana Maharshi's teachings is that the "Self" or real "I" is a "non-personal, all-inclusive awareness"

The real Self or real 'I' is, contrary to perceptible experience, not an experience of individuality but a non-personal, all-inclusive awareness. It is not to be confused with the individual self which (Ramana Maharshi) said was essentially non-existent, being a fabrication of the mind, which obscures the true experience of the real Self. He maintained that the real Self is always present and always experienced but he emphasized that one is only consciously aware of it as it really is when the self-limiting tendencies of the mind have ceased. Permanent and continuous Self-awareness is known as Self-realization.”

The path to self-realization according to Ramana Maharshi is guided by the teachings of Yoga and Vedanta. The destruction of the Ego is the way to move forward in the path of liberation. This destruction can be encouraged by shedding all vasanas or desires, which would lead to rise in the ‘I’ thought. When the vasanas disappear the mind vritti comes to rest, which then leads to liberation.

Ramana Maharshi made a distinction between samadhi and sahaja samadhi. Samadhi is a contemplative state, which is temporary, while in sahaja samadhi a "silent state" is maintained while engaged in daily activities.[102] Ramana Maharshi himself stated repeatedly that samadhi only suppresses the vāsanās, the karmic impressions, but does not destroy them. Only by abiding in Self-awareness will the vāsanās, which create the sense of a separate self, be destroyed, and sahaja samadhi be attained.” as noted by Robert Foreman.


Surrender he believed must be desireless, devoid of any expectations. In this state one accepts whatever might happen, this however is not the growing awareness of self but coming to realization there is not self to surrender.

There are two ways of attaining surrender:

  • One is to integrate oneself with the ‘I’

  • Another way is believing that God is all powerful and ‘I am helpless and throwing myself towards God’. Which leads into believing God only counts and the ego does not exist.

Both lead to the same goal. Complete liberation another name for jnana or liberation.


He did not totally disregard the idea of reincarnation, he believed that reincarnation is possible only when one identifies themselves with the body, which leads to idea of birth, death and rebirth. This cycle, however, does not exist when one becomes aware of the true self which is not the body, and the soul or spirit is an energy which can't be destroyed.

Hence the idea of reincarnation becomes false as one acquires self-realization.

Reincarnation exists only so long as there is ignorance. There is really no reincarnation at all, either now or before. Nor will there be any hereafter. This is the truth.”


He believed that it is not necessary for one seeking self-realization to leave his home behind. As taught that ego is the source of all thought, and it resides in the mind. Unless one gets rid of his Ego he can never let go of his worldly thoughts and will never achieve renunciation. The obstacle lies in the mind and not surroundings and it can be achieved without leaving one’s house.

‘If you can do it in the forest, why not at home? Therefore, why change your environment? Your efforts can be made even now – in whatever environment you are in now. The environment will never change according to your desire’.

Destiny according to him was nothing but the result of past actions. Freewill and destiny are concerned with the body. Any being which has gained self-realization or sentience is not supposed to be attached to its body. The self transcends both, and to conquer destiny is to discover that it is bound to the ego and not destiny.

The ways he prescribes to be able to follow this path towards self-realization is – Practice, dedication and devotion

Quite the picture is painted the devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi even today in Arunachala Ashram by their Sadhna or spiritual practice. The devotees who turn to him for guidance feel his Divine guidance is with them to this day.

Literary Works

His writings are a great source of knowledge and wisdom which is now referred to by people worldwide. These provide clear guidance to people who are on the path or want to achieve self-realization. It also is helpful to people trying to answer spiritual questions and facing various conundrums in life. Some of these sources are:

  • 1901 Gambhiram Sheshayya, Vichāra Sangraham, "Self-Enquiry". Answers to questions, compiled, published in dialogue-form, republished as essay in 1939 as A Catechism of Enquiry.

  • Sivaprakasam Pillai, Nān Yār?, "Who am I?".

  • Answers to questions, compiled in 1902, first published in 1923.

  • Five Hymns to Arunachala

  • Akshara Mana Malai, "The Marital Garland of Letters". In 1914, at the request of a devotee, Ramana Maharshi wrote Akshara Mana Malai for his devotees to sing while on their rounds for alms. It's a hymn in praise of Shiva, manifest as the mountain Arunachala. The hymn consists of 108 stanzas composed in poetic Tamil.

  • Sri Muruganar and Sri Ramana Maharshi, Upadesha Sāra (Upadesha Undiyar), "The Essence of Instruction". In 1927 Muruganar started a poem on the Gods, but asked Ramana Maharshi to write thirty verses on upadesha, "teaching" or "instruction".

  • Ramana Maharshi, Ulladu narpadu, "Forty Verses on Reality".

  • Ullada Nārpadu Anubandham, "Reality in Forty Verses: Supplement". Forty stanzas, fifteen of which were written by Ramana Maharshi. The other twenty-five are translations of various Sanskrit-texts.

These are the few texts mentioned above which are source of teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. These provide valuable guide to the path of self-inquiry. These work as a mirror, which helps one recognize their true self away from the worldly entangles. Final Thoughts

Sri Ramana Maharshi was a source of great wisdom and knowledge for his devotees as well as people trying to seek spiritual guidance from all over the globe. His life serves as a quintessential example of Upanishads in practicality. This real-life example of Sri Ramana Maharshi provides guidance and knowledge to all those searching for answers to their spiritual dilemmas and problems of even mundane life.

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