An English lady visited Ramana Maharshi in 1933. Here is her report of her exchange with him:
I again asked about the relation of the body to the ‘I’. He gave his smile, and said, “You came up from the bungalow this morning in a cart, yet you do not say, “The cart came.” You say, “I came up.” You did not make the mistake of identifying yourself with the cart.
In the same way, look upon your body as you do the cart. Treat it well, and it will be a good servant and instrument. But do not be deceived into thinking it is ‘I’. At the end of our talk, he quoted that wonderful saying from the Upanishad, “When, to the man who understands, the Self has become all things, what sorrow, what trouble can there be, to him who has once beheld this unity?”
I had been in despair of ever getting the Maharshi alone. It is hard to unburden the soul before a crowd. One morning, I went into the hall early and found him there unattended, emanating a wonderful stillness and peace. I asked quietly if I might talk with him. He nodded and smilingly sent for someone to translate.
My first question was, “What are the hindrances to the realization of the true Self?”
He said, “Memory, chiefly habits of thoughts, accumulated tendencies.”
When I inquired, “How does one get rid of these hindrances,” his answer was:
“Seek for the Self through meditation by tracing every thought back to its origin, which is only the mind. Never allow thought to run on. If you do, it will be unending. Take it back to the starting place – the mind – again and again, and the thought and the mind will both die of inaction.
The mind only exsits by reason of thought. Stop that and there is no mind. As each doubt and depression arises, ask yourself, “Who is it that doubts? What is it that is depressed?” Go back constantly to the question, “Who is the ‘I’? Where is it? Tear everything away until there is nothing, but the source of all remains. Live always in the present; there is no past or future, except in the mind.”
SOURCE: p.220, M.A. Piggot, “Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi”