The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.
“The mind will merge only by self-inquiry: ‘Who am I?’ The thought ‘Who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts and finally kill itself.”
~Śrī Raman Maharshi
Questioner: In contrast to the above verse, in my daily life, when I feel jealous, it feels more intuitive to ask, “Why am I jealous?” and not, “Who is jealous?” Please, speak on Maharshi’s method of self-inquiry — ‘Who am I?’ because, at one place, he even goes on to say, “There is no such thing as the mind” and what I know of is just the mind.
Acharya Prashant: Self-inquiry is not merely a method. It is the foundation on which the entire edifice of not merely Vedanta but all spirituality stands. ‘Who am I?’ pertains to the infinite possibilities available to the ego, including the possibility for the infinite. When it is queried — ‘Who am I?’
Who am I at this juncture?
Who am I right now?
Not ‘Who am I?’ in general; not ‘Who am I?’ as a fixed concept; not ‘Who am I?’ as a label, name tag, or permanent identity. Who am I right now?
Then a few things should be understood:
Who is the questioner? — The questioner has to be somebody who does not know; otherwise, why would he question at all? So who is the questioner? — The ego is the questioner because the ego is the only one who does not know. Above the ego is the Pure-Self or Truth, the Ultimate state of the ego. And because it is the Ultimate, and the Highest, and Pure, and Eminent; therefore, there is no way it does not know; it knows.
The pure-self is not going to come to inquire ‘Who am I?’ Why? Because it has no such question. It has nobody to ask a question to. The pure-self is also non-dual. If it is non-dual, how is it ever going to ask a question? If it is complete in itself and all-knowing, how is it ever going to feel bothered by a query? So the question ‘Who am I?’ does not really arise from the Truth. It arises from the ego.
The ego wants to know ‘Who am I?’ Who am I right now? About whom is the question ‘Who am I?’ Who is functional right now? Had the…