Question : What is reality?
Ramana Maharshi : Reality must be always real. It is not with forms and names. That which underlies these is the reality. It underlies limitations, being itself limitless. It is not bound. It underlies unrealities, itself being real. Reality is that which is. It is as it is. It transcends speech. It is beyond the expressions `existence, non-existence', etc.
The reality which is the mere consciousness that remains when ignorance is destroyed along with knowledge of objects, alone is the Self [atma]. In that Brahma-swarupa [real form of Brahman], which is abundant Self-awareness, there is not the least ignorance.
The reality which shines fully, without misery and without a body, not only when the world is known but also when the world is not known, is your real form [nija-swarupa].
The radiance of consciousness-bliss, in the form of one awareness shining equally within and without, is the supreme and blissful primal reality. Its form is silence and it is declared by jnanis to be the final and unobstructable state of true knowledge [jnana]. Know that jnana alone is non-attachment; jnana alone is purity; jnana is the attainment of God; jnana which is devoid of forgetfulness of Self alone is immortality; jnana alone is everything.
Question : What is this awareness and how can one obtain and cultivate it?
Ramana Maharshi : You are awareness. Awareness is another name for you. Since you are awareness there is no need to attain or cultivate it. All that you have to do is to give up being aware of other things, that is of the not-Self. If one gives up being aware of them then pure awareness alone remains, and that is the Self.
Question : If the Self is itself aware, why am I not aware of it even now?
Ramana Maharshi : There is no duality. Your present knowledge is due to the ego and is only relative. Relative knowledge requires a subject and an object, whereas the awareness of the Self is absolute and requires no object.
Remembrance also is similarly relative, requiring an object to be remembered and a subject to remember. When there is no duality, who is to remember whom? The Self is ever-present. Each one wants to know the Self. What kind of help does one require to know oneself ? People want to see the Self as something new. But it is eternal and remains the same all along. They desire to see it as a blazing light etc. How can it be so? It is not light, not darkness. It is only as it is. It cannot be defined.
The best definition is `I am that I am'. The srutis [scriptures] speak of the Self as being the size of one's thumb, the tip of the hair, an electric spark, vast, subtler than the subtlest, etc. They have no foundation in fact. It is only being, but different from the real and the unreal; it is knowledge, but different from knowledge and ignorance. How can it be defined at all? It is simply being.
Source - David Godman book "Be as You Are"