Spiritual realization is the aim that exists in each one of us to seek our divine core. That core, though never absent from anyone, remains latent within us. It is not an outward quest for a Holy Grail that lies beyond, but an Inward Journey to allow the inner core to reveal itself.
In order to find out how to reveal our innermost Being, the sages explored the various sheaths of existence, starting from body and progressing through mind and intelligence, and ultimately to soul. The yogic journey guides us from our periphery, the body, to the center of our being, the soul. The aim is to integrate the various layers so that the inner divinity shines out as through clear glass. (from “The Inward Journey” by B. K. S. Iyengar)
The following text by Ramana Maharshi is an excellent help for the yogic journey. Here are the first 4 sections of this teaching:
Self-Enquiry – Ramana: Introduction
“Self-enquiry is the first work the Maharshi ever wrote. It was written about 1901, that is, when he was a young man of about twenty-two. He was already a Jnani (Sage) in perfect realization of the Self, in the resplendent bliss of Divine Knowledge. At that time he was living in Virupaksha Cave on the hill of Arunachala. A number of disciples had already gathered round him. Although he had not actually taken a vow of silence, he seldom spoke, and so wrote his replies to certain questions put to him by Gambhiram Seshayya, one of the earliest devotees. The latter copied them in his diary. After his death this diary was obtained from his brother. The questions and answers were edited by Natanananda and published with Bhagavan’s approval under the name of Vichara Sangraham, or Self-Enquiry. Subsequently they were changed into the form of an essay. The original form has been adopted in the present work. There is no youthfulness or immaturity in the work. The Master wrote with the authority of full spiritual knowledge, just as in his later years. Like all his expositions, verbal as well as written, this is concerned with practical questions of the path to realization of the Self, never with barren theory.
Is there any way of adoring the Supreme which is all, except by abiding firmly as That!
Disciple: Master! what is the means to gain the state of eternal bliss, ever devoid of misery?
Master: Apart from the statement in the Vedas that wherever there is a body there is misery, this is also the direct experience of all people; therefore, one should enquire into one’s true nature which is ever bodiless, and one should remain as such.
This is the means to gaining that state.
D: What is meant by saying that one should enquire into one’s true nature and understand it?
M: Experiences such as, ‘I went; I came; I was; I did’ come naturally to everyone. From these experiences, does it not appear that the consciousness ‘I’ is the subject of those various acts? Enquiry into the true nature of that consciousness, and remaining as oneself is the way to understand, through enquiry, one’s true nature.
D: How is one to enquire ‘Who am I?’
M: Actions such as ‘going’ and ‘coming’ belong only to the body. And so, when one says, ‘I went, I came’, it amounts to saying that the body is ‘I’. But, can the body be said to be the consciousness ‘I’, since the body was not before it was born, is made up of the five elements, is nonexistent in the state of deep sleep, and becomes a corpse when dead? Can this body which is inert like a log of wood be said to shine as ‘I-I’? Therefore, the ‘I-consciousness’ which at first arises in respect of the body is referred to variously as self-conceit (tarbodham), egoity (ahankara), nescience (avidya), maya, impurity (mala), and individual soul (jiva). Can we remain without enquiring into this? Is it not for our redemption through enquiry that all the scriptures declare that the destruction of ‘self-conceit’ is release (mukti)? Therefore, making the corpse-body remain as a corpse, and not even uttering the word ‘I’, one should enquire keenly thus: “Now, what is it that rises as ‘I’?” Then, there would shine in the Heart a kind of wordless illumination of the form ‘I-I’. That is, there would shine of its own accord the pure consciousness which is unlimited and one, the limited and the many thoughts having disappeared. If one remains quiescent without abandoning that (experience), the egoity, the individual sense, of the form ‘I am the body’ will be totally destroyed, and at the end the final thought, viz., the ‘I-form’ also will be quenched like the fire that burns camphor.1) The great sages and scriptures declare that this alone is release.
1) That is, without leaving any sediment
D: When one enquires into the root of ‘self-conceit’ which is of the form ‘I’, all sorts of different thoughts without number seem to rise; and not any separate ‘I’ thought.
M: Whether the nominative case, which is the first case, appears or not, the sentences in which the other cases appear have as their basis the first case; similarly, all the thoughts that appear in the Heart have as their basis the egoity which is the first mental mode ‘I’, the cognition of the form ‘I am the body’; thus, it is the rise of egoity that is the cause and source of the rise of all other thoughts; therefore, if the self-conceit of the form of egoity which is the root of the illusory tree of samsara (bondage consisting of transmigration) is destroyed,all other thoughts will perish completely like an uprooted tree. Whatever thoughts arise as obstacles to one’s sadhana (spiritual discipline), the mind should not be allowed to go in their direction, but should be made to rest in one’s Self which is the Atman; one should remain as witness to whatever happens, adopting the attitude ‘Let whatever strange things happen, happen; let us see!’ This should be one’s practice. In other words, one should not identify oneself with appearances; one should never relinquish one’s Self. This is the proper means for destruction of the mind (manonasa) which is of the nature of seeing the body as Self, and which is the cause of all the aforesaid obstacles. This method which easily destroys egoity deserves to be called devotion (bhakti), meditation (dhyana), concentration (yoga), and knowledge (jnana). Because God remains of the nature of the Self, shining as ‘I’ in the Heart, because the scriptures declare that thought itself is bondage, the best discipline is to stay quiescent without ever forgetting Him (God, the Self), after resolving in Him the mind which is of the form of the ‘I thought’, no matter by what means. This is the conclusive teaching of the scriptures.”