Raphael Mächler

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Hey everyone,

After reading ATR's guide and quite a few books about self-inquiry, I've started wondering what kind of self-inquiry is more expedient. To further illustrate what I mean:

Imho there are two kind's of self-inquiry. One is more propagated by Adyashanti and Angelo DiLullo (True Meditation and Awake It's your turn). This is a very open and easy self-inquiry. It appeals to the natural curiosity of what is one's self. Adyashanti is here talking of an open awareness that let's go of everything and let everything be as it is. While letting go, one openly asks oneself "what am I?" and sees what's happening. Angelo's method is quite similar in that one watches one's thoughts and then isolates the I in that thought, to see where in the actual experience that I in the thought resides.

On the other side of the spectrum are the more forced methods of self-inquiry:

Ramana Maharshi's method is to isolate the I-thought which resides in the heart and concentrate on it. He goes as far as saying that only thinking "I", "I", "I", can lead one to the pure I-thought and then to dissolve even that. When used like a koan, self-inquiry is also taken to be a very wilful, even forceful inquiry. To never let go the question, to fully imbide one's self in that question is explained by most representatives of koan.

I've been practicing self-inquiry for quite a while now and for 7 month in a structured manner with about 1 hour sittings every day. I tended to use the second method of self-inquiry. This always makes me feel that thoughts become less and less the longer the session goes. But also that concentration builds, self-inquiry feels very one-pointed, very forced. There is a lot of "willing" involved. A willing to find, a willing to get to a pure sense of I. Because I've only recently finished reading Angelo's and Adyashanti's books I changed my meditation approach from the more "forceful" type to an open awareness approach asking openly "what am I" and then see what comes up. 

What is in your experience the "better" way to do self-inquiry? Which kind might hold results "quicker"? The open approach feels better for myself, but I do have a feeling that self-inquiry is not "strong" enough to really purge all the residing identifications in this way...

A funny observation I made: when using the "forceful" type of self-inquiry my heart rate is much higher.


Soh Wei YuAdmin

Self enquiry should not be taken as a technique but an inquiry. You are finding out what you are. You are not repeating a mantra or doing something repetitively, although in a sense you are investigating repeatedly with strong desire and curiosity (beyond intellectual, but an existential curiosity one could say) to find out what your true nature is, what one truly is. It is not something mechanical.

I do not see inconsistencies with adyashanti, angelo, and ramana, or hsu yun when it comes to self enquiry. It is all the same.



Soh Wei YuAdmin

“Something I always say when you are doing self enquiry or any other contemplations and meditations, this is crucial:

"We think it's all about like, again, because of our modern mind, we almost think everything can be solved through some sort of technology. Right, oh, I just need to do it different, there must be some secret trick to inquiry, that's our technological mind-set. Sometimes that's a mindset that is very useful to us. But, we don't want to let that dominate our spirituality. Because as I witnessed, the intensity of the living inquiry that's more important than all the techniques.

When somebody Just Has To Know. Even if that's kind of driving them half crazy for a while. And, that attitude is as important or more important than all the ways we work with that attitude, you know, the spiritual practices, the meditations and various inquiries and various different things, sort of practices. If we engage in the practices because they are practices, you know like, ok I just do these because this is what I'm told to do, and hopefully it will have some good effect. That's different than being engaged, when you're actually being deeply interested in what you're inquiring about, and what you're actually meditating upon. It's that quality of real, actual interest, something even more than interest. It is a kind of compulsion, I know I was saying earlier don't get taken in by compulsion, but there is/can be a kind of compulsion. And that's as valuable as anything else going on in you, actually."

- Adyashanti

This is related to Zen's great doubt, great faith and great perseverance. Especially the aspect of Great Doubt.” – Soh, 2020



Q: Bhagavan wanted to know the answer to the question 'Who am I?' He seemed to find the answer straight away. When I ask the question when I try to find out what the Self is, I can reject thoughts that arise as being 'not me’, but nothing else happens. I don't get the answer that Bhagavan did, so I am beginning to wonder why I am asking the question.

Annamalai Swami: You say that you are not getting the right answer.

--- Who is this 'you'? Who is not getting the right answer? ---

Question: Why should I ask? Asking has not produced the right answer so far.

Annamalai Swami: You should persist and not give up so easily. When you intensely inquire 'Who am I?' the intensity of your inquiry takes you to the real Self. It is not that you are asking the wrong question.

You seem to be lacking intensity in your inquiry. You need a one-pointed determination to complete this inquiry properly. Your real Self is not the body or the mind. You will not reach the Self while thoughts are dwelling on anything that is connected with the body or the mind.

Question: So it is the intensity of the inquiry that determines whether I succeed or not.

Annamalai Swami: Yes. If the inquiry into the Self is not taking place thoughts will be on the body and the mind. And while those thoughts are habitually there, there will be an underlying identification: ‘I am the body; I am the mind.' This identification is something that happened at a particular point in time. It is not something that has always been there. And what comes in time also goes eventually, for nothing that exists in time is permanent.

The Self, on the other hand, has always been there. It existed before the ideas about the body and the mind arose, and it will be there when they finally vanish. The Self always remains as it is: as peace, without birth, without death.

Through the intensity of your inquiry, you can claim that state as your own.

Inquire into the nature of the mind by asking, with one-pointed determination, 'Who am I?' Mind is illusory and non-existent, just as the snake that appears on the rope is illusory and non-existent.

Dispel the illusion of the mind by intense inquiry and merge in the peace of the Self. That is what you are, and that is what you always have been.

LWB, p. 41”



Soh Wei YuAdmin

quote from

5. Nāṉ Ār? paragraph 6: if or as soon as anything other than ourself appears in our awareness, we should simply turn our attention back towards ourself, the one to whom all other things (all thoughts, forms or phenomena) appear

Regarding your statement, ‘I keep doing the enquiry “to whom these thoughts arise?”, “to me”, “who am I?” but I don’t know what I should do more’, these words, ‘to whom does this appear?’, ‘to me’, ‘who am I?’, are a very useful pointer given by Bhagavan, but we should understand clearly what he meant by this pointer. He did not mean that we should repeat these words to ourself whenever anything appears, but that we should simply turn our attention back to ourself, the one to whom all other things (all thoughts, forms or phenomena) appear. That is, he did not say ‘ask to whom’ or ‘ask who am I’ but ‘investigate to whom’ and ‘investigate who am I’, as he wrote in the following portion of the sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?:

பிற வெண்ணங்க ளெழுந்தா லவற்றைப் பூர்த்தி பண்ணுவதற்கு எத்தனியாமல் அவை யாருக் குண்டாயின என்று விசாரிக்க வேண்டும். எத்தனை எண்ணங்க ளெழினு மென்ன? ஜாக்கிரதையாய் ஒவ்வோ ரெண்ணமும் கிளம்பும்போதே இது யாருக்குண்டாயிற்று என்று விசாரித்தால் எனக்கென்று தோன்றும். நானார் என்று விசாரித்தால் மனம் தன் பிறப்பிடத்திற்குத் திரும்பிவிடும்; எழுந்த வெண்ணமு மடங்கிவிடும். இப்படிப் பழகப் பழக மனத்திற்குத் தன் பிறப்பிடத்திற் றங்கி நிற்கும் சக்தி யதிகரிக்கின்றது.

piṟa v-eṇṇaṅgaḷ eṙundāl avaṯṟai-p pūrtti paṇṇuvadaṟku ettaṉiyāmal avai yārukku uṇḍāyiṉa eṉḏṟu vicārikka vēṇḍum. ettaṉai eṇṇaṅgaḷ eṙiṉum eṉṉa? jāggirataiyāy ovvōr eṇṇamum kiḷambum-pōdē idu yārukku uṇḍāyiṯṟu eṉḏṟu vicārittāl eṉakkeṉḏṟu tōṉḏṟum. nāṉ-ār eṉḏṟu vicārittāl maṉam taṉ piṟappiḍattiṟku-t tirumbi-viḍum; eṙunda v-eṇṇamum aḍaṅgi-viḍum. ippaḍi-p paṙaga-p paṙaga maṉattiṟku-t taṉ piṟappiḍattil taṅgi niṟgum śakti y-adhikarikkiṉḏṟadu.

If other thoughts rise, without trying to complete them it is necessary to investigate to whom they have occurred. However many thoughts rise, what [does it matter]? Vigilantly, as soon as each thought appears, if one investigates to whom it has occurred, it will be clear: to me. If one investigates who am I [by vigilantly attending to oneself, the ‘me’ to whom everything else appears], the mind will return to its birthplace [namely oneself, the source from which it arose]; [and since one thereby refrains from attending to it] the thought that had risen will also cease. When one practises and practises in this manner, for the mind the power to stand firmly established in its birthplace increases.

The verb he used here that I have translated as ‘investigate’ is விசாரி (vicāri), which in some contexts can mean enquire in the sense of ask, but in this context means enquire only in the sense of investigate. Asking questions is a mental activity, because it entails directing our attention away from ourself towards a question, which is a thought and hence other than ourself, so as long as we are asking questions we are still floating on the surface of the mind by attending to things other than ourself, whereas investigating ourself means being keenly self-attentive, which causes the mind to sink deep within and thereby return to its ‘birthplace’, the source from which it had risen, namely our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), which is our fundamental and ever-shining awareness of our own existence, ‘I am’.

Therefore what Bhagavan is pointing out in this passage is the direction in which we should send our attention. Instead of allowing our attention to go out following whatever thoughts may arise, we should turn it back towards ourself, the one to whom all thoughts appear. ‘To whom?’ is not intended to be a question that we should ask ourself but is a very powerful pointer indicating where we should direct our attention. Asking the question ‘to whom?’ may sometimes be an aid if it helps to remind us to turn our attention back towards ourself, but self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is not merely asking such questions but only fixing our attention on ourself alone.

Can self-investigation boost the mind or kuṇḍalinī or cause sleeplessness and other health issues?


Can self-investigation boost the mind or kuṇḍalinī or cause sleeplessness and other health issues?

Can self-investigation boost the mind or kuṇḍalinī or cause sleeplessness and other health issues?


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Soh Wei YuAdmin

Another point worth noting here is that what Bhagavan means by ‘thought’ is anything other than our fundamental awareness ‘I am’, so it includes all perceptions, memories, feelings, ideas and other mental impressions of any kind whatsoever. As he says in the fourth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, ‘நினைவுகளைத் தவிர்த்து ஜகமென்றோர் பொருள் அன்னியமா யில்லை’ (niṉaivugaḷai-t tavirttu jagam eṉḏṟu ōr poruḷ aṉṉiyam-āy illai), ‘Excluding thoughts, there is not separately any such thing as world’, and in the fourteenth paragraph, ‘ஜக மென்பது நினைவே’ (jagam eṉbadu niṉaivē), ‘What is called the world is only thought’, so when he says here ‘பிற வெண்ணங்க ளெழுந்தால்’ (piṟa v-eṇṇaṅgaḷ eṙundāl), ‘If other thoughts rise’, or ‘ஒவ்வோ ரெண்ணமும் கிளம்பும்போதே’ (ovvōr eṇṇamum kiḷambum-pōdē), ‘As soon as each thought appears’, he means that if or as soon as anything other than ourself appears in our awareness, we should turn our attention back towards ourself, the one to whom all such things appear.

6. If we are vigilantly self-attentive, as we should try to be, we will thereby ward off both thoughts and sleep, but when we are tired we are naturally less vigilant, so we may then fall asleep as a result of our trying to be self-attentive

You ask, ‘Should I keep doing Self-Enquiry all day for hours in seated position? Should I continue the enquiry in bed as well before sleep? Or should I stop the enquiry from time to time to give some rest to the body?’ Firstly, self-investigation has nothing to do with the body, so we can practise it whether the body is lying, sitting, standing, walking or doing anything else. For the same reason, we do not have to stop being self-attentive in order to give some rest to the body, because being self-attentive cannot strain the body in any way. In fact, when the body and mind are resting is a very favourable condition for us to be self-attentive.

Regarding your question about continuing the practice in bed before sleep, that is also good, but since we are generally very tired at that time, we usually subside into sleep soon after trying to be self-attentive. There is no harm in that, because when we need to sleep we should sleep. There is no time and no circumstance that is not suitable for us to be self-attentive, so we should try to be self-attentive as much as possible whatever the time or circumstances may be, but we should not try to deprive ourself of however much sleep we may need.

If we are vigilantly self-attentive, as we should try to be, we will thereby ward off both thoughts and sleep, but when we are tired we are naturally less vigilant, so we may then fall asleep as a result of our trying to be self-attentive. As Sadhu Om often used to say, when we are sleepy we should sleep, because when we wake up again we will be fresh, and we should then make use of that freshness by trying to be vigilantly self-attentive.

I do not know whether anything I have written here is of any use to you, but I hope some of it at least may help to point you in the right direction.

7. What the word ‘I’ essentially refers to is only what is aware, so if we are just being aware of what is aware, we are thereby meditating on ‘I’

In reply to my first reply (which I adapted as the previous six sections) my friend wrote again about how he was trying to practise self-enquiry and the problems he was facing, in reply to which I wrote:

When you say ‘The practice of Self-Enquiry, especially in seated position (just being aware of awareness itself, not meditating in any object or form etc, simply just being, not even “I” in the “I am”) boosted my kundalini’, it is not clear to me what you are actually practising, because you say you are ‘just being aware of awareness itself’ but then seem to say that you are not meditating even on ‘I’. Meditating on ‘I’ means attending only to yourself, or in other words, just being self-attentive, so if you are not meditating on ‘I’, what do you mean by saying that you are ‘just being aware of awareness itself’?

In this context ‘awareness’ means what is aware, and what is aware is always aware of itself as ‘I’, so what the word ‘I’ essentially refers to is only what is aware. Therefore if you are not meditating on ‘I’, what is the ‘awareness’ that you are being aware of? Unfortunately ‘awareness’ is a potentially ambiguous term, because it could be taken to mean awareness in the sense of awareness of objects or phenomena, so when you are ‘just being aware of awareness itself’, are you just being aware of what is aware, namely yourself, or are you being aware of your awareness of objects or phenomena?

If you are being aware only of what is aware, namely yourself, then you are meditating on ‘I’. That is, what you are meditating on is not the word ‘I’, but what the word ‘I’ refers to, namely yourself, who are what is aware. If you are not meditating on what the word ‘I’ refers to, then whatever ‘awareness’ you are being aware of is something other than what is aware.

This is why Bhagavan gave us the powerful pointer ‘to whom’, about which I wrote in my previous reply. If we understand this pointer correctly, it is directing our attention back towards ourself, the one to whom all other things appear. In other words, it is pointing our attention back to what is aware, away from whatever we were hitherto aware of.

If you are aware of any phenomenon, such as the boosting of your kuṇḍalinī, your attention has been diverted away from yourself, so you need to turn it back to yourself, the one to whom all phenomena appear. If you turn your attention back to yourself and hold firmly to yourself (that is, if you just remain firmly self-attentive), whatever phenomena may have appeared will thereby disappear, because no phenomenon can appear or remain in your awareness unless you attend to it at least to a certain extent.



Soh Wei YuAdmin

8. No matter what may distract us or seem a problem to us, let us not be concerned about them but just patiently and persistently continue trying to be self-attentive, unmindful of everything else

Regarding the boosting of your kuṇḍalinī you say, ‘By boosting I mean that I feel an energy in the spine passing through the chakras’, but the energy, the spine, the cakras and the energy’s movement are all objects or phenomena, so you should ignore all such things by trying to be keenly self-attentive. However much such things appear, they need not concern you. To whom do they appear? Only to you, so you should just persevere in trying to attend only to yourself.

Whatever may appear or disappear is other than ourself, so it should not interest or concern us. Such things distract us and become a problem for us only to the extent that we take interest in them or are concerned about them. Why should we be concerned about them? Our only concern should be to investigate and know what we ourself are. If we are not interested in or concerned about anything else, we will not attend to them, and hence they will not be a problem.

If we find ourself being concerned about such things and therefore distracted by them, that is due to the strength of our viṣaya-vāsanās, and the most effective means to weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās and thereby wean our mind off its interest in all other things is just to persevere in this simple practice of being self-attentive. Therefore, no matter what may distract us or seem a problem to us, let us not be concerned about them but just patiently and persistently continue trying to be self-attentive, unmindful of everything else.


Can self-investigation boost the mind or kuṇḍalinī or cause sleeplessness and other health issues?

Can self-investigation boost the mind or kuṇḍalinī or cause sleeplessness and other health issues?


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William Albert

Also the theme of balancing effort and effortlessness seems very central to this path. Find the right balance of intention and surrender. Trust your intuition, don't be afraid to make mistakes, proceed playfully and with love.



Soh Wei YuAdmin

Another point is this: adyashanti teaches two different methods in “true meditation”.

This is the same style as john tan. He told me to practice self enquiry morning and day and dropping at night.

They are two distinct methods. The dropping can counteract some of the side effects from self enquiry supposedly but i didnt have problems with self enquiry and post i amness (insomnia for example was minimal for me, i didnt face energy imbalances during i amness either due to correct guidance)

However i focused more on self enquiry in the two years before my i amness realization

Adyashanti’s two methods, self enquiry is no different from my self enquiry. His surrendering method is roughly similar to john tan’s “dropping” practice



Soh Wei YuAdmin

Ramana’s method is likewise to inquire into the source. The main method is not holding onto a thought or a mantra or a breath unless for those still incapable or not ready to practice pure inquiry.


The thought ‘who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre, it will itself be burnt up in the end. Then, there will be Self-realization. When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them but should diligently inquire: ‘To whom do they occur?’ It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with alertness, “To whom has this thought arisen?” The answer that would emerge would be “to me”. Thereupon if one inquires “Who am I?” the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will subside.



Soh Wei YuAdmin

The main point is not the I thought, in fact it is not even to hold onto the thought “Who am I?” But to raise that question in a form of existential investigation into the Source, so that one direct one’s light of awareness around from objects unto yourSelf/itSelf, then all thoughts and questions will dissolve into the Source and one merely abides as the Source.


“Thereupon if one inquires “Who am I?” the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will subside.

With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the power to stay in its source. When the mind that is subtle goes out through the brain and the sense organs, the gross names and forms appear; when it stays in the heart, the names and forms disappear. Not letting the mind go out, but retaining it in the Heart is what is called “inwardness”. Letting the mind go out of the Heart is known as “externalisation”. Thus, when the mind stays in the Heart, the ‘I’ which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self which ever exists will shine.

Other than inquiry, there are no adequate means to make the mind permanently subside. If the mind is controlled through other means, it will appear to be controlled, but will rise again. Through regulation of breath, the mind will become calm; but it will remain calm only as long as the breath remains controlled. When the breath is no longer regulated, the mind will become active and start wandering.”



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