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' Conversations with Annamalai Swami '

Saint Tayumanuvar once said, 'Why all these maha yogas [great yogas]? All these yogas are maya!'

If you try to meditate without understanding that your real nature is Self, and Self alone, your meditation practice will only
lead you to more mental bondage.

Bhagavan once said: 'To keep the mind in the Self all you have to do is remain still'.

To realize the Self you don't actually have to do anything except be still. Just give up identifying with the mind and hold onto the Self. That is enough. Be still and cultivate the awareness of ‘I am the Self; the Self is all'. What difficulties can arise from doing a simple practice like this?

Q: The mind doesn't want to be ignored. It wants to spin round and round for ever. I came to you because I thought that you might be able to help me to gain some control over my wayward thoughts.

AS: 'Who came here for help?' Find out who that person is. Don't automatically assume that he exists and that he needs help with his problems. If you think like this your problems will increase, not decrease.

Identifying oneself with the body and the mind results in
ignorance of the Self. This is how the ego takes birth. Detaching ourselves and disengaging from the body and the mind results in the death of the ego. Bhagavan once said to me: 'The one who limits the Self by believing himself to be the body and the mind has ‘killed’ his own Self. For killing the Self he has to be punished. The punishment is birth and death and continuous misery.'

' Living by the Words of Bhagavan '

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Q: When I keep the mind on this feeling of ‘I am', must I be relaxed and quiet? Should I see what is happening, without interfering, or should I be observing, scrutinizing, comparing, etc.?
AS: It is enough if you can simply relax in this 'I am’. Whatever happens in this 'I am’, this consciousness, just be indifferent to it.
You are the consciousness itself, not the thoughts and ideas that appear in it. Many things both good and bad are going on in this world. We don't bother about most of them because we think, ‘These things are happening to somebody else and not to me.’
In the same way, be the consciousness 'I am' and be indifferent to the various things that come and go in your mind. If you identify with thoughts judge them, compare them, worry about them, try to suppress them, or get involved with them in any way, they will cause you trouble. Instead, be utterly indifferent to them.
If you don't pay them any attention, they can never adversely affect you.
The personal 'I' makes judgments about good and bad, right and wrong. It is perpetually enmeshed in dualities. The jivanmukta, who is only ever aware of himself as ‘l am’ has transcended all duality. He sees no right and wrong. He remains as the witness of all happenings without judging them and without -identifying with them in any way.

' Living by the Words of Bhagavan '

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Q: Is it desirable to want to see God?

Annamalai Swami: Manikkavachagar said in one of his songs: 'God is not a person, nor is He any particular thing. Yet without God there is nothing because He alone is everything.'
To see one's Self and to see this same Self as all that is, that is seeing God.

Q: So is it better to want only the formless Self?

AS: I once heard Bhagavan say to Paul Brunton: 'If you do upasana [meditation] on the all-pervading Self, you will get infinite energy.' All beings, all things, all people in the world are your own Self. They are all indivisibly part of you. If you can see all as your Self, how can you do harm to anyone else? When you have that clear vision, whatever you do to others, you know that it is done to your Self only.
To like one thing instead of another is samsara: to like and love all things is wisdom. If one sees from this realisation that all are one's own Self, one enjoys the same peace that one enjoys in the deep-sleep state. The difference is, one enjoys it here and now while one is awake.

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Q: No matter how quiet I get or how still my mind is, I never get to see the world as an indivisible whole. Even when my mind is completely still, if I open my eyes I still see a world of separate objects.
AS: When the one who sees vanishes, the world of multiplicity goes with it.
… You don’t see the unity and indivisibility, you are it. You can never see the Self or Brahman, you can only be it. …
The Guru may tell his disciples a thousand times, ‘You are the Self, you are not what you imagine yourself to be’, but none of them ever believes him. They all keep asking the Guru for methods and routes to reach the place where they already are.
Q: Why don’t we give up our false ideas as soon as we are told that they are false?
AS: We have identified with our false ideas for many previous lifetimes. The habit is very strong. But not so strong that it cannot be dissolved through constant meditation.
Q: The seeker has many ideas: ‘I am a jiva (personality), I am bound and have to do sadhana to attain liberation’. Should we forget all these ideas? …
AS: Yes, forget them all! ‘I am the Self, I am all’. Hold onto this awareness. All other paths are roundabouts.
Q: Bhagavan said that repeating, ‘I am the Self’ or ‘I am not this body’ is an aid to enquiry but does not constitute the enquiry itself.
AS: The meditation, ‘I am not the body or the mind, I am the immanent Self’ is a great aid for as long as one is not able to do self-enquiry properly or constantly.
Bhagavan said, ‘Keeping the mind in the Heart is self-enquiry’. If you cannot do this by asking ‘Who am I?’ or by taking the I-thought back to its source, then meditation on the awareness ‘I am the all-pervasive Self’ is a great aid.
Bhagavan often said that we should read and study the Ribhu Gita regularly.
In the Ribhu Gita it is said: ‘That bhavana (mental attitude) ‘I am not the body, I am not the mind, I am Brahman, I am everything,’ is to be repeated again and again until this becomes the natural state.’
Bhagavan sat with us every day while we chanted extracts from the Ribhu Gita which affirm the reality of the Self. It is true that he said that these repetitions are only an aid to self-enquiry, but they are a very powerful aid.
By practicing this way the mind becomes more and more attuned with the reality. When the mind has become purified by this practice, it is easier to take it back to its source and keep it there. When one is able to abide in the Self directly, one doesn’t need aids like this. But if this is not possible these practices can definitely help one.
- Living by the Words of Bhagavan, pp. 293, 294

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Annamalai Swami: You only have one real choice (Final Talks, page 38):Question:Ramana Maharshi once remarked that free will is non-existent, that all our activities are predetermined and that our only real choice is either to identify with the body that is performing the actions or with the underlying Self in which the body appears.Someone once said to him: ‘If I drop this fan, will that be an act that has always been destined to happen in this moment?’And Bhagavan replied, ‘It will be a predestined act’.I assume that these predestined acts are all ordained by God, and that as a consequence, nothing happens that is not God’s will, because we, as individuals, have no power to deviate from God’s ordained script.A question arises out of this.If I remember the Self, is this God’s will?And if I forget to remember at a certain moment, is this also God’s will?Or, taking my own case, if I make an effort to listen to the sound ‘I-I, is this God’s will, or is it individual effort?Annamalai Swami:Forgetfulness of the Self happens because of non-enquiry.So I say, ‘Remove the forgetfulness through enquiry’.Forgetfulness or non-forgetfulness is not a part of your destiny.It is something you can choose from moment to moment.That is what Bhagavan said.He said that you have the freedom either to identify with the body and its activities, and in doing so forget the Self, or you can identify with the Self and have the understanding that the body is performing its predestined activities, animated and sustained by the power of the Self.If you have an oil lamp and you forget to put oil in it, the light goes out.It was your forgetfulness and your lack of vigilance that caused the light to go out. Your thoughts were elsewhere. They were not on tending the lamp.In every moment you only have one real choice:to be aware of the Self or to identify with the body and the mind.If you choose the latter course, don’t blame God or God’s will, or predestination. God did not make you forget the Self.You yourself are making that choice every second of your life.
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Annamalai Swami: You only have one real choice (Final Talks, page 38):

Question:
Ramana Maharshi once remarked that free will is non-existent, that all our activities are predetermined and that our only real choice is either to identify with the body that is performing the actions or with the underlying Self in which the body appears.

Someone once said to him: ‘If I drop this fan, will that be an act that has always been destined to happen in this moment?’
And Bhagavan replied, ‘It will be a predestined act’.

I assume that these predestined acts are all ordained by God, and that as a consequence, nothing happens that is not God’s will, because we, as individuals, have no power to deviate from God’s ordained script.
A question arises out of this.
If I remember the Self, is this God’s will?
And if I forget to remember at a certain moment, is this also God’s will?
Or, taking my own case, if I make an effort to listen to the sound ‘I-I, is this God’s will, or is it individual effort?

Annamalai Swami:
Forgetfulness of the Self happens because of non-enquiry.
So I say, ‘Remove the forgetfulness through enquiry’.
Forgetfulness or non-forgetfulness is not a part of your destiny.
It is something you can choose from moment to moment.

That is what Bhagavan said.
He said that you have the freedom either to identify with the body and its activities, and in doing so forget the Self, or you can identify with the Self and have the understanding that the body is performing its predestined activities, animated and sustained by the power of the Self.

If you have an oil lamp and you forget to put oil in it, the light goes out.
It was your forgetfulness and your lack of vigilance that caused the light to go out. Your thoughts were elsewhere. They were not on tending the lamp.

In every moment you only have one real choice:
to be aware of the Self or to identify with the body and the mind.
If you choose the latter course, don’t blame God or God’s will, or predestination. God did not make you forget the Self.
You yourself are making that choice every second of your life.

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What ever kind of thought arises,
have the same reaction: 'Not me, not my business'.
It can be a good thought or a bad thought.
Treat them the same way.
To whom are these thoughts arising ?
To You.
That means you are not the thought.
You are the Self.
Remain as the Self, and don't latch onto anything that is not the Self.

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Meditation is not something that should be done in a particular position at a particular time. It is an awareness and an attitude that must persist throughout the day.

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When the mind appears every morning don’t jump to the usual conclusion, “This is me; these thoughts are mine.” Instead, watch these thoughts come and go without identifying with them in any way. If you can resist the impulse to claim each and every thought as your own, you will come to a startling conclusion: you will discover that you are the consciousness in which the thoughts appear and disappear. You are allowed to run free. Like the snake which appears in the rope, you will discover that the mind is only an illusion which appears through ignorance or misperception.

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The thought ‘I am meditating’ is an ego thought. If real meditation is taking place, this thought cannot arise.

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SATSANG WITH ANNAMALAI SWAMI

REALIZATION OF THE SELF COMES THROUGH BOTH EFFORT AND GRACE

Q: You talk a lot about effort but rarely speak about grace. Don’t you attach much importance to grace?

AS: Grace is important. In fact it is essential. It is even more important than effort. Realization of the Self comes through both effort and grace. When one makes a steady effort to abide in the Self one receives the guru’s grace in abundance. The grace comes not only through the form of one’s guru. When you meditate earnestly all the Jivanmuktas of the past and the present respond to your efforts by sending you blessings of light.

Q: Should one have a strong desire for realization? Is such a desire necessary if we want to do earnest sadhana? Or should we surrender even this desire and just get on with our meditation?

AS: Once, as Narada was going to Vaikunta, he met two sadhus who were doing tapas. They asked him where he was going and he replied, ‘Vaikunta’. They both wanted to know how their tapas was progressing so they asked Narada to ask Vishnu when they would attain liberation. Narada went to Vaikunta and returned with the information.
To the first sadhu he said, ‘You are very close. After four or five more births you will get liberation.’
The sadhu was rather annoyed by his prediction because he felt that he was almost enlightened.
‘I have been doing tapas since my birth,’ he said, ‘and I know that I have done tapas in previous births. Why do I have to wait for four or five births? This prediction cannot be correct.’

Narada said to the second sadhu: ‘You have been doing tapas under a tamarind tree. For you too liberation will eventually come, but first you will have to take as many more births as there are leaves on this tree.’

The second sadhu was very happy to hear this. ‘Moksha is certain for me!’ he exclaimed. ‘It will come one day. Vishnu Himself has guaranteed it!’
At that moment a big wind came and blew all the leaves off the tree. As the last leaf touched the ground he realized the Self.

The sadhu who was patient and contented showed that he had truly surrendered. The other sadhu showed his immaturity through his frustration and his impatience. If you have truly surrendered, you don’t demand realization from God. You are content with whatever He gives you.

Q: It seems that so much time is needed to realize the Self; many lifetimes in fact. For me, realization always seems to be an event in the distant future.

AS: You don’t need hundreds of lives to realize the Self. In fact you don’t need any time at all. Your idea of time is one of the things that is holding you in bondage. Time is one of the properties of the mind. Liberation does not come after a period of time because there is no time in the Self.

Liberation comes when you fully understand and experience there is no one who needs liberation. That understanding and that experience only arise when the mind and its inbuilt ideas of time cease to function. If you think about time and start to worry about how much longer it will be before you realize the Self, your attention will be on the mind and not on the Self. You can only make progress while the mind is on the Self.

Q: You often say that satsang is important. Can I have satsang of Bhagavan even though he is now dead? I am asking this because I once had a powerful experience of his presence while I was in Switzerland. At that time Bhagavan had been dead for many years.

AS: Bhagavan is at all times and in all places. Since he is the Self and not any particular physical form, it is of little importance that the body that we took to be Bhagavan is now dead. Radio waves can be received anywhere. If you tune yourself to Bhagavan’s wave length, which means abiding in the Self, you can be aware of him broadcasting his grace wherever you are.

There is never any separation from Bhagavan. Every atom in the material universe is Bhagavan. Every act which happens in the world is done by Bhagavan alone. Every being, every form is Bhagavan’s form. When you are clearly attuned to Bhagavan you will experience clarity and peace. You will receive guidance wherever you are.

Living by the Words of Bhagavan, p. 288

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Question: What is the easiest way to be free of the 'little self?

Annamalai Swami: Stop identifying with it. If you can convince yourself ‘This "little self” is not really me,’ it will just disappear.

Q: But how to do this?

AS: The 'little self’ is something which only appears to be real. If you understand that it has no real existence it will disappear, leaving behind it the experience of the real and only Self.
Understand that it has no real existence and it will stop troubling you.

Consciousness is universal. There is no limitation or little self in it. It is only when we identify with and limit ourselves to the body and the mind that this false self is born. If, through enquiry, you go to the source of this 'little self’, you find that it dissolves into nothingness.

Q: But I am very accustomed to feel I am this "little self". I cannot break this habit merely by thinking I am not this "little self."

AS: This 'little self’ will only give way to the real Self if you meditate constantly. You cannot wish it away with a few stray thoughts.

Try to remember the analogy of the rope which looks like a snake in the twilight. If you see the rope as a snake, the real nature of the rope is hidden from you. If you only see the rope, the snake is not there. Not only that, you know that there never was snake there. When you have that clear and correct perception that the snake never at any time existed, the question of how to kill the snake disappears. Apply this analogy to the 'little self’ that you are worrying about. If you can understand that this little self never at any time had any existence outside your imagination you will not be concerned about ways and means of getting rid of it.

Q: It tis all very clear but I feel that I need some help.
I am not sure that I can generate this understanding by myself.

AS: The desire for assistance is part of your problem. Don't make the mistake of imagining that there is some goal to be reached or attained. If you think like this you will start looking for methods to practice and people to help you. This just perpetuates the problem you are trying to end. Instead, cultivate the strong awareness, ‘l am the Self. I am That. I am Brahman. I am everything.' You don't need any methods to get rid of the wrong ideas you have about yourself. All you have to do is stop believing them. The best way to do this is to replace them with ideas which more accurately reflect the real state of affairs. If you think and meditate ‘I am the Self’ it will do you a lot more good than thinking, ‘I am the "little self". How can I get rid of this "little self”.

The Self is always attained, it is always realized; it is not something that you have to seek, reach or discover. Your vasanas [mental habits and tendencies] and all the wrong ideas you have about yourself are blocking and hiding the experience of the real Self. If you don't identify with the wrong ideas, your Self-nature will not be hidden from you.

You said that you needed help. If your desire to gain a proper understanding of your real nature is intense enough, help will automatically come. If you want to generate an awareness of your real nature you will be immeasurably helped by having contact with a jnani. The power and grace which a jnani radiates quieten the mind and automatically eliminate the wrong ideas you have about yourself. You can make progress by having satsang of a realized Guru and by constant spiritual practice. The Guru cannot do everything for you. If you want to give up the limiting habits of many lifetimes, you must practice constantly.

Living by the Words of Bhagavan, pp 258-60

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Here and now you are already the Self.
You don't need time to realize it, all you need is correct understanding. Each moment you identify yourself with the body and the mind, you are going in the direction of ego and misery.
The moment you give up that identification, you are moving towards your real Self, towards happiness.

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Remember that nothing that happens in the mind is 'you', and none of it is your business. You don't have to worry about the thoughts that rise up inside you. It is enough that you remember that the thoughts are not you.

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Watch the thoughts come and go without identifying with them in any way. If you can resist the impulse to claim each and every thought as your own, you will come to a startling conclusion: you will discover that you are the consciousness in which the thoughts appear and disappear. You will discover that this thing called mind only exists when thoughts are allowed to run free.

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Be aware of the 'I' so intensely that no other thought can arise.

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If you are having trouble with your enthusiasm for sadhana, just tell yourself:
"I may be dead in seven days".
Let go of all the things that you pretend are important in your daily life and instead focus on the Self for twenty-four hours a day. Do it and see what happens.

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I once went for a walk near the housing board buildings. There was a sewage trench on one side of the building. I could smell the stench of sewage even though I was a long way away. I stayed away from it because I didn't want to be nauseated by the bad smell.

In circumstances such as these you don't say "All is one. Everything is the Self." and paddle through the sewage. The knowledge 'everything is the Self' may be there, but that doesn't mean that you have to put yourself in dangerous or health-threatening places.

When you become one with the Self, a great power takes over you and runs your life for you. It looks after your body; it puts you in the right place at the right time; it makes you say right things to people you meet. This power takes you over so completely, you no longer have any ability to decide or discriminate. The ego that thinks, 'I must do this,' or ' I should not do that' is no longer there. The Self simply animates you and makes you do all the things that need to be done.
If you are not in this state, then use your discrimination wisely. You can choose to sit in a flower garden and enjoy the scent of blooms, or you can go down to that trench I told you about and make yourself sick by inhaling the fumes there.

So, while you still have an ego, and the power of discrimination that goes with it, use it to inhale the fragrance that you find in the presence of an enlightened being, If you spend time and proximity of a jnani, his peace will sink into you to such an extent that you will find yourself in a state of peace. If, instead you choose to spend all you time with people whose minds are always full of bad thoughts, their mental energy and vibrations will start to seep into you.

I tell you regularly, 'You are the Self. Everything is the Self.' If this is not your experience, pretending that 'all is one' this may get you into trouble. Advaita may be the ultimate experience, but it is not something that a mind that still sees distinctions can practice.
Electricity is a useful form of energy, but it is also potentially harmful. Use it wisely. Don't put your finger in the socket, thinking 'all is one.' You need a body that is in good working order in order to realise the Self. Realising the Self is the only useful and worthy activity in this life, so keep the body in good repair till that goal is achieved. Afterwards, the Self will take care of everything and you won't have to worry about anything any more. In fact, you won't be able to because the mind that previously did the worrying, the choosing and discriminating will no longer be there. In that state you won't need it and you won't miss it.

~ Annamalai Swami, Final Talks

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To have love towards another human being is a blessing and to have anger towards him is a curse

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Bhagavan once said to me :’The one who limits the Self by believing himself to be the body and the mind has ‘killed’ his own Self. For killing the Self he has to be punished. The punishment is birth and death and continuous misery.

Q.: Is the ending of misery determined by prarabdha karma, or can we bring it nearer by personal effort?

Annamalai Swami: The misery comes to an end only by realizing the Self, not by any other means.

Q: Can this happen at any time?

AS: Here and now you are already the Self. You don’t need time to realize it, all you need is correct understanding. Each moment you identify yourself with the body and the mind, you are going in the direction of ego and misery. The moment you give up that identification, you are moving towards your real Self, towards happiness.

Q: … If I try to generate this feeling ‘I am the Self’’ it will not be the real thing. It will be just another idea in the mind. Can thinking about this idea really help me?

AS: When I say, ‘Meditate on the Self’ I am asking you to be the Self, not think about it. Be aware of what remains when thoughts stop. Be aware of the consciousness that is the origin of all your thoughts. Be that consciousness. Feel that this is what you really are. If you do this you are meditating on the Self. But if you cannot stabilize in that consciousness because your vasanas are too strong and too active, it is beneficial to hold onto the thought, ‘I am the Self; I am everything.’ If you meditate in this way you will not be cooperating with the vasanas that are blocking your Self-awareness. If you don’t cooperate with them, sooner or later they are bound to leave you.
If this method doesn’t appeal to you, then just watch the mind with full attention. Whenever the mind wanders, become aware of it. See how thoughts connect with each other and watch how this ghost called mind catches hold of all your thoughts, saying,’ This is my thought. ‘ Watch the ways of the mind without identifying with them in any way. If you give your mind your full, detached attention, you begin to understand the futility of all mental activities. Watch the mind wandering here and there, seeking out useless and unnecessary things or ideas, which will ultimately only create misery for itself. Watching the mind gives us a knowledge of its inner processes. It gives us an incentive to stay detached from all our thoughts. Ultimately, if we try hard enough, it gives us the ability to remain as consciousness, unaffected by transient thoughts.
– ‘Living by the Words of Bhagavan’, p. 283

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Go deeply into this feeling of 'I'. Be aware of it so strongly and so intensely that no other thoughts have the energy to arise and distract you. If you hold this feeling of 'I' long enough and strongly enough, the false 'I' will vanish leaving only the unbroken awareness of the real, immanent 'I', consciousness itself.

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Self-inquiry must be done continuously. It doesn't work if you regard it as a part-time activity.

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My life with Bhagavan taught me the value of faith, obedience and surrender. When I obeyed Bhagavan’s words, or had complete faith that he would look after all my spiritual and physical needs, everything went well. When I tried to mould my own destiny (such as the time I went to live in the cave and the time I ran away to Polur) things went badly. Life’s lessons have thus taught me the value and the necessity of complete surrender. If one surrenders completely to Bhagavan; if one lives by his words, ignoring all others; if one has enough faith in Bhagavan to stop making plans about the future; if one can banish all doubts and worries by having faith in Bhagavan’s omnipotence – then, and only then, Bhagavan will bend and mould one’s circumstances, transforming them in such a way that one’s spiritual and physical needs are always satisfied.

Annamalai Swami in 'Living by the Words of Bhagavan'

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Bhagavan once said to me: The one who limits the Self by believing himself to be the body and the mind has ‘killed’ his own Self. For killing the Self he has to be punished. The punishment is birth and death and continuous misery.

Q.: Is the ending of misery determined by prarabdha karma, or can we bring it nearer by personal effort?

Annamalai Swami: The misery comes to an end only by realizing the Self, not by any other means.

Q: Can this happen at any time?

AS: Here and now you are already the Self. You don’t need time to realize it, all you need is correct understanding. Each moment you identify yourself with the body and the mind, you are going in the direction of ego and misery. The moment you give up that identification, you are moving towards your real Self, towards happiness.

Q: … If I try to generate this feeling ‘I am the Self’’ it will not be the real thing. It will be just another idea in the mind. Can thinking about this idea really help me?

AS: When I say, ‘Meditate on the Self’ I am asking you to be the Self, not think about it. Be aware of what remains when thoughts stop. Be aware of the consciousness that is the origin of all your thoughts. Be that consciousness. Feel that this is what you really are. If you do this you are meditating on the Self. But if you cannot stabilize in that consciousness because your vasanas are too strong and too active, it is beneficial to hold onto the thought, ‘I am the Self; I am everything.’ If you meditate in this way you will not be cooperating with the vasanas that are blocking your Self-awareness. If you don’t cooperate with them, sooner or later they are bound to leave you.
If this method doesn’t appeal to you, then just watch the mind with full attention. Whenever the mind wanders, become aware of it. See how thoughts connect with each other and watch how this ghost called mind catches hold of all your thoughts, saying, ‘This is my thought.‘ Watch the ways of the mind without identifying with them in any way. If you give your mind your full, detached attention, you begin to understand the futility of all mental activities. Watch the mind wandering here and there, seeking out useless and unnecessary things or ideas, which will ultimately only create misery for itself. Watching the mind gives us a knowledge of its inner processes. It gives us an incentive to stay detached from all our thoughts. Ultimately, if we try hard enough, it gives us the ability to remain as consciousness, unaffected by transient thoughts.

– ‘Living by the Words of Bhagavan’, p. 283

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Once you establish a connection with Arunachala, it will keep on pulling you towards it. You cannot resist.

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Annamalai Swami

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You have to keep up the enquiry, ‘To whom is this happening?’ all the time. If you are having trouble remind yourself, ‘This is just happening on the surface of my mind. I am not this mind or the wandering thoughts’. Then go back into enquiry ‘Who am I?’. By doing this you will penetrate deeper and deeper and become detached from the mind. This will only come about after you have made an intense effort.

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