The Essence of Instruction by Ramana Maharshi

Book Review by: Barbara Eastham


In 30 beautiful verses, Ramana Maharshi offers his Essence of Instruction for awakening to our True Nature.  For Ramana it’s not a complicated road map.  The direct path is simply ‘Return to the Self…Abide as Being’.  He assures us for everyone this path direct is open.

This short text is a valuable resource for exploring “Being” as a portal to our essential nature.  It also supports iRest’s inquiry into the Asmitamaya Kosha and the discernment between the I-though and Pure I-ness.

Ramana understands that it is ‘thought’ that takes us into separation and away from the Self and the purity of Being.  For Ramana, the ‘I’ thought is the root of all thoughts. 

His instruction is always the same.  Turn the mind within and seek the source of thought.  As we do this with the ‘I’ thought, it dissolves in its home ground of Pure Being revealing a different sense of ‘I’; what Ramana calls the ‘I…I’ of the non-separative One, the Self, the Infinite, the Heart of Being.  In the final verse he writes,  “Fictitious ego-I dissolved… Being beyond separation… this is the greatest realization of all.”

Ramana’s description of the importance of discriminating between these two perceptions makes me appreciate even more Richard Miller’s addition of the Sheath of I-ness (Asmitamaya) to the traditional Yoga Nidra practice.

The awesome clincher of Ramana’s Essence of Instruction is that as we Abide as Being, as separation drops away, spontaneous qualities of Heart arise. To look at a picture of Ramana is to see the love and light that is embodied through his recognition.

After reading previous books on neuroscience, it has been fascinating to read this simple and direct text.  Learning about the functions of the Focusing and Defocusing Networks of the brain sheds light on the efficacy of Ramana’s instruction to move from the thinking mind to the felt recognition of Being.  And, I can’t help but consider the awesome potential of the basic principle of neuroplasticity: whatever we put our attention on, and repeat over time, builds neural structure and predisposes us to that. 

Reading this manuscript has deepened my inquiry into the functions of thinking and feeling.  It has also supported my deepening inquiry unto the feeling of Being that dissolves separation and reveals the awareness of Beingness everywhere.  Ramana’s insight has been a beautiful reminder to me, to grow more attentive to the separative ‘I’ thought as an identification that takes me away from living fully as the Great Healing of the ‘I…I’.

Writing this reflection has been a very provocative play between thinking and Being.  I have found myself getting caught up in the thinking mind … over and over again, while Ramana’s essence of instruction had continually offered me the invitation to return to Being…over and over again.  So enough of this thinking for now!  Let’s just Abide as Being!

…Love to All, Peace to All!

P.S. Kirtana’s album “Falling Awake” has an exquisite piece called “Ramana’s Song”. I think you will like it.


The Essence of Instruction

Upadesa Saram

Ramana Maharshi

"As long as there is the impression of separate objects, so long the inquiry "Who am I?" is required."

  1. Action yields its fruit,
    for this its purpose is.
    Yet action cannot bring liberation
    for its fruit unpredictable are.
  2. The fruit of actions pass,
    but leave behind seeds
    for further actions,
    which lead not to liberation.
  3. Action engaged without
    attachment to its fruit
    purifies the mind and points
    the way to liberation.
  4. This is certain: worship,
    praise and meditation,
    expressions of body, speech and mind,
    are steps for orderly ascent.
  5. Space, fire, air, water, earth,
    sun, moon and all living beings—
    worship of these as forms of One,
    is perfect worship of the One.
  6. Better than hymns of praise
    is repetition of mantra,
    better low-voiced than loud,
    but best of all is meditation.
  7. Better than spells of meditation
    is one continuous current,
    steady as a stream
    of downward flowing oil.
  8. Better than viewing the One as other,
    indeed the noblest attitude of all,
    is to hold the One as the ‘I’ within,
    the very ‘I…I’.
  9. Abidance in pure Being,
    transcending thought
    through love intense is the
    very essence of supreme devotion.
  10. Absorption in the heart of Being,
    whence the I-thought springs,
    is the path of action, of devotion,
    of union and of knowledge.
  11. Holding the breath controls the mind,
    a bird caught in a net.
    Breath regulation aids
    absorption in the heart of Being.
  12. Mind and breath,
    as thought and action,
    fork out as two branches,
    springing both from a single root.
  13. Absorption is of two kinds:
    submergence and destruction.
    Mind submerged rises again;
    dead, it revives no more.
  14. Breath controlled
    and thought restrained,
    the mind turned inward
    fades and dies.
  15. Mind extinct,
    the mighty seer returns
    to its natural state of Being,
    having no further action to perform.
  16. It is true wisdom
    for the mind to turn away
    from outer objects and behold
    its own effulgent form.
  17. When unceasingly the mind
    scans its own form,
    nothing objective is found.
    For every one, this path direct is open.
  18. Thoughts alone make up the mind;
    and of all thoughts the ‘I’ thought
    is the root. What is called mind
    is but the notion ‘I’.
  19. When one turns within and searches
    whence the ‘I’ thought comes,
    in this seeing the ‘I’ thought vanishes
    and wisdom’s quest begins.
  20. Where this ‘I’ notion dissolves
    there arises pure Being, ‘I…I’, as
    the One, the very self,
    the Infinite.
  21. ‘I…I’ points to what we
    truly are, just as in deep sleep
    with no sense of ‘I’
    pure Being is revealed.
  22. Body, senses, mind and breath,
    all insentient and unreal
    cannot be ‘I’, pure Being,
    ’I…I’ who am the Real.
  23. Knowing That which is,
    there is no other knower.
    Hence pure Being is
    what we truly are.
  24. Creature and creator,
    all are in substance one.
    They differ only in appearance
    as mirages in pure Being.
  25. Knowing oneself free
    of all attributes
    is to know the One,
    shining ever as the true Self.
  26. To know the Self is to be
     non-dual Being.
    In such knowledge
    one abides as That.
  27. This is true knowledge and transcends
    both knowledge and ignorance,
    for in pure Being there is
    no object to be known.
  28. Upon awakening,
    one abides, without
    beginning or end, in
    unbroken Being and equanimity
    1. Abiding as Being,
      equanimity, beyond bondage
      and release, is steadfastness
      in service of the One.
    2. Fictitious ego-I dissolved,
      Being beyond separation;
      this is the greatest realization of all,
      sings Ramana, the Self.