Lucy CornelssenAre you happy?

When you reply with the counter question “What is happiness?” that means that you have already observed how brittle, how transient and short-lived your so-called happiness is.

But maybe what you have in mind is not happiness at all, but only pleasure?

“Pleasure” means the fulfillment of some desire or the removal of something unpleasant. But experience teaches us that after one desire has been fulfilled, two other ones will emerge, and after something unpleasant has been removed, something else of a similar kind will present itself and obstruct our intention to enjoy ourselves. We try and try again to change circumstances and conditions to possess happiness; but is it not our birthright to be happy?

It is.

Then why do we to struggle and fight and still miss it? Because of a single error of ours: That we do not know ourselves properly, and with this error everything is seen; so we really don’t know what happiness is.

Real happiness needs no struggle nor endeavor, no reason or cause; it is inherent in the real “I.” However, you and I experience an illusionary “I,” as it were. That is the mistake which has to be seen before we can claim our birthright, our innate happiness.

Ramana Maharshi advises us to dive deep into ourselves with the question: “Who am l?” Don’t expect an answer to this question; there is none, because every possible answer which might come into our mind is wrong. However, provided we have perseverance and patience to continue investigating, there will appear to emerge a real “I” (paradoxically, one which has always been with us) and true happiness, which is Sat-chid-ananda, the Bliss of Conscious Be-ing.


Somebody asked Maharshi: “When we start this inquiry, who is doing it?” Sri Ramana’s answer:

 “The Self does no vichara (inquiry). That which makes the inquiry is the ego. The ‘I’ about which the inquiry is made is also the ego. As the result of the inquiry the ego ceases to exist and only the Self is found to exist.”
Day by Day with Bhagavan


There are people who feel unable to inquire into the illusionary idea of themselves immediately. They first want to be shown an intellectual approach. There may also be some who do not even know how to proceed in this inquiry. To those I recommend that they first take a closer look at that which they take as their personal “I.”

When your attention is keen, you will then discover simultaneously that there is not now and never has been a wrong “I.” It is always the same “I,” only your mind has covered it up with the idea that it is about your physical body.

There are other opportunities to experience this pure “I” consciously. One opportunity is during the tiny gap between two thoughts, when attention has given up its hold on one thought and not yet caught the next one. But since we hardly ever consciously do this, our attention is not naturally focused in this way, so we often do not succeed in the attempt.

There is a better chance to catch the “I” between sleeping and waking. It is important to try this experiment if you are serious in “Hunting the ‘I’.” There are a few conditions: Just before you fall asleep, try to keep the last thought in your mind of your intention to catch hold of the true “I” the first moment upon waking in the morning.

Another condition: Take care not to awaken too abruptly (by an alarm clock) and also not to jump headlong into your daily morning routine. The moment you awaken, don’t stir, but remember your intention from last night.

You may notice something after a few attempts-and what is possible once, even for a moment, can be extended with practice. This experiment helps you in your further exploration, like the leavening in dough.


Ramana Maharshi named it the transitional “I” and stressed the importance of this experience again and again:

“The ‘I’-thought is only limited ‘I.’ The real ‘I’ is unlimited, universal, beyond time and space. It is absent in sleep. Just on rising up from sleep and before seeing the objective world, there is a state of awareness which is your pure Self. That must be known.

“The Self is pure consciousness in sleep; it evolves as ‘I’ without the ‘this’ in the transition stage; and manifests as ‘I and this’ in the waking state. The individual’s experience is by means of ‘I’ only. So he must aim at realization in the way indicated (i.e., by means of the transitional ‘I’). Otherwise, the sleep experience does not matter to him. If the transitional ‘I’ be realized, the stratum is found and that leads to the goal.

“Why is not that pure ‘I’ realized now or even remembered by us? Because of want of acquaintance with it. It can be recognized only if it is consciously attained. Therefore, make the effort and gain it consciously.”
Talks with Ramana Maharshi


By using our control of the biologically acting mechanism we call the brain, we can do this more or less automatically during the waking state . . . think of your own room or office. While moving around you see the furniture, because you have to avoid stumbling over it, but you do not see it consciously; the act of perceiving is cut short after the initial stage.

There is music coming out of a radio or transistor. Usually it is similar to the aforesaid while you have to do some work: you hear it, but not consciously; you cut short the act of listening after awhile.

Somebody might tell you something. You not only hear it but you are listening attentively to grasp the meaning. You register the news in memory-or not-and go on with your task. You have perceived the event, but it has not been made into an impression, it has not altered your quiet state of consciousness. You don’t attach yourself to it; you don’t react to it. Try keeping the attitude of aloofness, of detachment throughout the day.

The moment you perceive something and react to it, whether you are interested or emotionally involved, positively or negatively, you cover up the silent, neutral, pure, witnessing “I” by the reactive aggressive, personal “I.”

Hunting the “I” includes practicing attention to what we perceive, with the purpose of cutting it short just before reaction sets in. With this kind of detachment, the seeker soon remains in one’s natural state of pure awareness, no longer “perceiving” in the customary way. In fact, “perceiving” is a term which often relates to “grasping,” and, “reacting”; it has an object and is an act within time and space. But pure awareness has no object and is beyond time and space. It is the highest wakefulness without all the other characteristics of the waking state. This is one means to experience the absolute Silence of deep sleep; the pure awareness of the waking state. Sri Ramana Maharshi has called it the sleepless sleep-wakeful sleep.

 Adapted from Hunting the “I”, by Lucy Cornelssen. Copyright © 1979, 2003 by Sri Ramanasramam. All rights reserved. Reprinted by arrangement with Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, South India.


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