Atma Vichara is the practice I have been engaged in for the last three years. I have found it simultaneously the most profound of practices and the most deceptively simple. I feel that my experience with this simple method has given me something worth speaking about, worth sharing. I would like to share it with any and all who are interested.
The Wikipedia entry on Atma Vichara begins as follows:
Self-enquiry (also spelled self-inquiry) (Sanskrit ātma-vicāra) is a practice designed to rapidly bring about Self-realization, Self awareness, spiritual liberation or enlightenment, and is most commonly associated with its most famous modern advocate, Sri Ramana Maharshi. While Sri Ramana said that Self-realisation could be brought about — as it was for him — merely by giving up the idea that there is an individual self which functions through the body and the mind, few could readily do so. When asked for the most effective practice to facilitate Self-awareness, he commonly recommended forms of self-enquiry, along with recommending Satsang, (literally association with Sat or Being), in the form of mental contact with a realized Guru, or more properly the One Guru “within”.
In my personal experience that definition is fine as far as it goes, but it also make a fundamental error. The translation of Atma Vichara as “self inquiry” is not quite correct and not adequate to communicating the heart of the practice, IMHO.
Atma is part of the sanskrit word Atman and refers to the sense of “I”, self, or raw being.
Vichara is a sanskrit word that can be translated as, “to regard.”
So, Atma Vichara could be taken as, regarding (in the sense of actively observing) the raw sense of being.
To me this is a better description of the practice than self inquiry which carries the connotation to question, or figure out, or come to understand. All of those miss the point of Atma Vichara since what is being sought is not something to layer upon the self such as a new definition or conceptual framework, but rather what the sense of being is regardless of definition or framework. This is the you that is you regardless of context, circumstance, or condition.
What you are, you already are. There is no questioning that. Looking for a brief moment there is the practice in a nutshell. Repeatedly doing this over time unwinds and dissolves the assumptions and conceptual understandings we normally take ourselves to be. What is also quickly seen by engaging in this practice, is that the sense of being, the youness of you, never actually changes. Once the practice of Atma Vichara becomes a habitual one you can see this in action moment-to-moment, and day to day, as you look and see that the you that you feel as you is now, and has always been, the same.
So, this is the practice of Atma Vichara. Look at what you are. Not what you are doing, what you remember, what you think or feel. Just that simple, ever-present feeling of you. That is the target. Taste that every time you think to do so, again and again, until that becomes a habit, and even until it is eventually forgotten. This labor will bear fruit. It will, with time, dissolve any false ideas about what you truly are that you may be carrying at this time. All the concepts you have been given by all the well meaning people you have met in this life will be seen clearly as just that, concepts, and not you.
Please feel free to leave comments here with questions, or email me at travis(dot)eneix(at)gmail(dot)com. You can also find me on twitter, and facebook. I am available to help as a coach in this practice, and would enjoy doing so since in my experience the best way to reinforce our own understanding of a practice is to spread it.
Deep bows to you as you walk your unique path.