“Who am I?” – Shri Ramana Maharshi’s 42 Shlokas from the Srimad Bhagavad Gita

‘Your own Self-Realisation is the greatest service that you can render the world.’ – Shri Ramana Maharshi


Sanskrit with English Translations

It was in the month of July 1896. Shri Ramana Maharshi, né Venkataraman, was suddenly overcome by the fear of death. However, instead of panicking as people would usually do, he decided to study the subject of death. He tried to figure out what it was that died when a person died. He realised that death happened merely to the physical body but the actual being or Self in a person never dies. That day of realisation changed his whole life. He completely lost all interest in outward life. He would go to the temple and stand there for hours before the deities as tears would roll down his cheeks. He would meditate for long durations of time.

All the spiritual knowledge he possessed was experiential in nature that originated from his repeatedly asking himself, “Naan yaar?” in Tamil which means “Who am I?” They were purely from his own experience and not from others or from books. He was a neo-Vedantist who did not propagate rituals, rites and other such religious practices. He taught that  the only reality is the Self or the true ‘I’, which is nothing but an all-inclusive awareness.

Shri Ramana Maharshi principally taught Self-inquiry and encouraged people to do sincerely. There is a well-known anecdote about him that when he was once asked by someone how to treat others, he replied by saying, “There are no others.” He said that the “Who am I?” question is not meant to find an answer to it but to in fact ‘dissolve’ the seeker who asks the question. His method of Self-inquiry is known as as ‘Hridaya Yoga’.

The selection and rearrangement of 42 Shlokas from the Srimad Bhagavad Gita is indeed a great boon to any seeker. The rearrangement form a smooth flow Divine teachings that help a person understand the core philosophy taught in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

Although I have given the respective Shloka numbers after each of them for easy reference, the correct way to read the selected Shlokas would be to follow the order given by Shri Ramana Maharshi ignoring the actual Chapter and Shloka numbers. The order of the Shlokas given by Shri Ramana Maharshi too, just as it is in the original order, removes the fear of death, right at the very beginning.

Identification with the body, mistaking the mind for the Self, the fear of death, attachment to impermanent objects, a confused and egotistical ‘I’ concept, a wrong ‘God concept’, and the lack of focus, are some of the key factors that cause sadness, pain, misery, hate and all things negative in the world. The Self is Divine, permanent and Divine. Learn to the revel in the Self. Everything else will leave you some day or the other.

In order to make it easy to understand the philosophy that Shri Ramana Maharshi, taught through his rearrangement of the 42 Shlokas, the Sanskrit Shlokas have been avoided so that one can read through the English translations uninterrupted.

I have grouped the 42 Shlokas in 10 groups, which should make understanding the Shlokas even easier. Set your mind, focus and read the following Shlokas with all humility and devotion.

I     The body, the Self and existence

1.  Sanjaya said: To Arjuna, who was overcome with compassion, pity and sadness and whose eyes were filled with tears, Madhusudana (Bhagavan Krishna) said as follows. (SBG 2:01)

2.  Shri Bhagavaan said: O Arjuna, the wise sages call this body the Kshetra or the Field and he who knows it, the Kshetrajna or the Knower of the Field. (SBG 13:01)

3.  You should know that the Kshetrajna or the embodied Self in all bodies or Kshetras is Me, O Arjuna. Knowing about the Kshetra and the Kshetrajnas is called knowledge. (SBG 13:02)

4.  I am the Self, O Gudakesha (Arjuna), situated within all living entities. I am the origin, the middle and also the end of all beings. (SBG 10:20)

5.  For one who is born, death is certain; and for one who dies, rebirth is certain. Hence you should not grieve for this inevitable truth. (SBG 2:27)

6.  The Self is never born, nor does it die at any time. It does not come into existence by being born. The Self is constant. It is not killed when the body dies. (SBG 2:20)

7.  The soul or the Self is indeed incombustible. It cannot be cut, nor moistened nor dried. It is eternal and it has been there forever. (SBG 2:24)

8.  You must know that that which pervades the body can never be destroyed. The soul is indestructible and imperishable. (SBG 2:17)

9.   Seers who have studied both, the material body and the eternal soul, have concluded that the unreal does not endure and the real never ceases to be. (SBG 2:16)

10. Like the sun that illuminates the whole world, the Self or the Soul, which is the Lord of the Kshetram or the body, illuminates the whole field, O Arjuna. (SBG 13:33)

11. Neither does the sun, the moon nor fire illumine the supreme abode of Mine. The one who goes there never returns to material life. That is My highest abode. (SBG 15:06)

II    The Highest Goal is understanding the Ultimate Truth of the Omnipresent Divinity

12. What is called the Unmanifest and the Imperishable, is said to be the highest goal. Those who reach it do not return to this cycle of births and deaths. That is My highest abode. (SBG 8:21)

13. Those who are free from vanity and delusion, are victorious over the evil of attachment, dwell constantly in the Self, have their desires completely turned away, and are freed from the pairs of opposites known as pleasure and pain, will certainly reach the eternal goal. (SBG 15:05)

14. A person who disregards the teachings of the scriptures and acts under the influence of desire, attains neither perfection, happiness nor the Supreme goal. (16:23)

15. The person who truly sees is the one who sees the Supreme Soul or the Supreme Bhagavan, existing equally in all beings – the unperishing within the perishing. (SBG 13:27)

16. By single-minded devotion and dedication, I can be seen and known like this and in fact, one can even become one with Me, O mighty-armed Arjuna. (SBG 11:54)

III   Faith, the kinds of faith and devotion

17. The faith of everyone is as per their nature, O Arjuna. People are what the nature of their faith is. (SBG 17:03)

18. The person of faith and devotion, who has control over the senses, attains knowledge. He immediately attains Supreme Peace. (SBG 4:39)

IV  The mind, the intelligence, the intellect and spiritual strength

19. To them who are ever steadfast in worshipping Me with love, I give the Yoga of discrimination by which they come to Me. (10:10)

20. Out of mere compassion for them, I reside in their intellect and destroy the darkness born of ignorance by the bright lamp of knowledge. (SBG 10:11)

21. But, to those whose ignorance is destroyed by the knowledge of the Self, their knowledge like the sun, manifests that highest Being. (SBG 5:16)

22. The senses are superior to the sense objects; the mind is superior to the senses, but the intellect is superior to the mind, and the Self or the soul is superior to the intellect. (SBG 3:42)

23. Therefore, knowing oneself to be higher than the material senses, the mind and the intelligence, one must conquer the enemy which is in the form of lust and desire. This enemy is difficult to conquer and only spiritual strength can conquer it. (SBG 3:43)

V    The fire of knowledge that burns Karma

24. Just as a blazing fire burns wood used as fuel into ashes, O Arjuna, knowledge burns all actions and reactions due to material activities, into ashes. (SBG 4:37)

25. A person whose every action is devoid of selfish desires and whose actions are burned by the fire of knowledge is known to be a wise and highly learned person. (SBG 4:19)

VI  The way to liberation

26. Sages who are free from passion and anger, who have their mind under control, who have realised the Self and are constantly aiming for perfection, are assured of liberation in the Supreme, here and hereafter. (SBG 5:26)

27. One should withdraw little by little, establishing the mind in the Self through the intellect regulated by concentration. He should not think of anything else. (SBG 6:25)

VII   Learning to control one’s own mind

28. Wherever and whenever the mind wanders restlessly because of its unsteady quality, it should be restrained and brought back under the control of the Self. (SBG 6:26)

29. With the senses, the mind and the intellect always controlled, with liberation as his supreme goal, free from desire, fear and anger—the wise person is truly liberated forever. (SBG 5:28)

30. A yogi whose Self is united with Divine Consciousness, sees the Self abiding in all beings and all beings in the Self. Such a person sees the same everywhere. (SBG 6:29)

VIII  Exclusive devotion to Krishna, being a ‘Stithapragnya’ or a person of stable and steady consciousness, and the way to becoming dear to Krishna

31. To those people who worship Me alone, thinking of no other, I give My assurance that they get what they want and preserve what they have. (SBG 9:22)

32. Of those, the one of wisdom who is engaged in devotional service is the best. I am dear to such a knower and he or she, in turn, is dear to Me. (SBG 7:17)

33. Therefore, after innumerable births, the one who has perfected his or her wisdom, understanding fully My universal reality, surrenders to Me and such a soul is very rare. (SBG 7:19)

34. Shri Bhagavan Krishna said: One who gives up all desires of the mind, O Partha (Arjuna), has a purified mind and is in a pure state of the soul, is called a ‘Stithapragnya’ or a man of steady consciousness. (SBG 2:55)

35. The person who has renounced attachment to all sense objects lives with no sense of ownership and is free from false pride, thus attaining peace. (SBG 2:71)

36. The one who neither troubles others nor is agitated by the world; and is free from joy, envy, fear and anxiety; is dear to Me. (SBG 12:15)

37. He who remains unmoved in honour and dishonour; is the same to friend and foe, and has renounced all actions by giving up claims of being the ‘Doer’, is said to have transcended the three Gunas. (SBG 14:25)

38. But for the one who delights in the Self, remains Self-illuminated, fully satisfied with the Self, duties don’t exist. (SBG 3:17)

39. Such a person has no purpose whatsoever and is not interested in whatever is done or not done. He also does not depend on other living beings. (SBG 3:18)

IX Being Self-content, free of envy, and balanced both in success as well as in failure

40. A person who is satisfied with gains that come to him on their own, is steady, has surpassed duality and is free from envy. Such a person is even-minded both in success as well as in failure. He is never bound even while performing actions. (SBG 4:22)

41. The Supreme Bhagavan dwells in the hearts of all beings, O Arjuna, and in accordance to their respective Karma, He directs the wanderings of all beings by His Maya or illusive power, as if they were mounted on a machine. (SBG 18:61)

X   Seeking total refuge in Divinity

42. O Arjuna! Seek refuge in Him and surrender your body, mind and soul unto Him. By His Grace, you shall attain Supreme Peace and the Eternal Abode. (SBG 18:62)