This part is written by Swami Pragnananda

The cardinal principles of Bhagavan’s gospel centres around the enquiry of the real Self and for every question, problem that confront man in his struggle for existence in this mundane plane, a ready answer and solution could be found by knowing the real ‘I’. The simple way in which Bhagavan was able to solve the riddles of human life was so miraculous in its effect that in his very presence many doubts which otherwise lingered in the minds of the questioner were cleared automatically. To quote a concrete instance, once when a devotee went to Tiruvannamalai to have darshan of Bhagavan, he had many doubts in his mind about God and things pertaining thereto. The first question the devotee put before Bhagavan was: “Some people say that God is with form and others say that He is without form. May I know your considered view over this issue?” Immediately Bhagavan asked the questioner, “Please tell me first whether you have got any form or not.” The devotee replied, “Certainly I have got a form. See my body – it is five feet eight inches tall and 38 inches in chest measurement.” Then Bhagavan said:

“So your ‘I’ refers to your body, is it so?”

The devotee: Yes, what doubt is there?

Bhagavan: In that case when you are dead why does not your body, the real ‘I’ of your conception, tell the carriers of the coffin to leave you on earth for some more years to enjoy the material pleasures of the world?

Devotee: How can the dead body speak?

Bhagavan: You told me that your ‘I’ is the body and if that were to be correct it must speak.

Devotee: Bhagavan, I made a mistake. I do not know the real ‘I’ in me.

Bhagavan: When you do not know about yourself why do you try to know about God? First try to know yourself then you will be able to know everything about God.

The devotee prostrated before Bhagavan, begged for his grace and returned more enlightened. Thus Bhagavan was able to throw light on every aspirant on matters pertaining to God and Self to the entire satisfaction of the seeker.

The teachings of Bhagavan fall within two categories, i.e., Self-surrender and Self-enquiry. The former comes under the bhakti cult where the aspirant believes in the existence of a Supreme power which is the repository of anything and everything in this world and every being must subordinate itself to this Supreme Power. In other words the devotee believes in a higher power other than himself and owes allegiance to that power in the name of God. This leads the aspirant to Self-enquiry by asking questions, is this body the ‘I’? Do these sense organs form the ‘I’? Is the mind the ‘I’ or is this intellect the ‘I’ and for every query, you get a reply ‘No, it is not’. This process is called the ‘neti, neti‘ process and ultimately the questioner merges himself in his Self by transcending limitations of the body, the senses, the mind and intellect.

Bhagavan Sri Ramana has made it quite clear that people who have had no literary education could also attain the highest knowledge through both the ways enumerated above, but people of an emotional nature will benefit themselves more by bhakti and people of a reflective mood will have better appeal to jnana. In the case of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, in spite of his not having seen even the portals of a school, he was able to attain the highest knowledge through bhakti. And in the case of Sri Ramana we have an example of a Self-realised soul through jnana, though Ramana had only very little school education. Sankara and Ramana come under the latter category of sages and hence it was possible for them to attain the highest knowledge while yet very young.