Ramana Maharshi Spiritual instructions for Seekers
Question : How should a beginner start this practice?
Ramana Maharshi : The mind will subside only by means of the enquiry `Who am I?' The thought 'Who am I?', destroying all other thoughts, will itself finally be destroyed like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre. If other thoughts rise one should, without attempting to complete them, enquire `To whom did they rise?'
What does it matter however many thoughts rise? At the very moment that each thought rises, if one vigilantly enquires `To whom did this rise?', it will be known `To me'. If one then enquires `Who am I?', the mind will turn back to its source [the Self] and the thought which had risen will also subside. By repeatedly practising thus, the power of the mind to abide in its source increases.
Although tendencies towards sense-objects [vishaya vasanas], which have been recurring down the ages, rise in countless numbers like the waves of the ocean, they will all perish as meditation on one's nature becomes more and more intense. Without giving room even to the doubting thought, `Is it possible to destroy all these tendencies [vasanas] and to remain as Self alone?', one should persistently cling fast to self-attention.
As long as there are tendencies towards sense-objects in the mind, the enquiry `Who am I ?' is necessary. As and when thoughts rise, one should annihilate all of them through enquiry then and there in their very place of origin. Not attending to what-is-other [anya] is non-attachment [vairagya] or desirelessness [nirasa].
Not leaving Self is knowledge [jnana]. In truth, these two [desirelessness and knowledge] are one and the same. Just as a pearl-diver, tying a stone to his waist, dives into the sea and takes the pearl lying at the bottom, so everyone, diving deep within himself with non-attachment, can attain the pearl of Self. If one resorts uninterruptedly to remembrance of one's real nature [swarupasmarana] until one attains Self, that alone will be sufficient.
Enquiring `Who am I that is in bondage?' and knowing one's real nature [swarupa] alone is liberation. Always keeping the mind fixed in Self alone is called 'self-enquiry', whereas meditation [dhyana] is thinking oneself to be the absolute [Brahman], which is existence-consciousness-bliss [sat-chit-ananda].
Question : The yogis say that one must renounce this world and go off into secluded jungles if one wishes to find the truth.
Ramana Maharshi : The life of action need not be renounced. If you meditate for an hour or two every day you can then carry on with your duties. If you meditate in the right manner then the current of mind induced will continue to flow even in the midst of your work. It is as though there were two ways of expressing the same idea; the same line which you take in meditation will be expressed in your activities.
Source : from the book "Be As You Are"David Godman