From the starting point of non-acceptance of ideologies, a person on the path of jnana yoga must start to enquire. One of the most well known enquiries is: “Who am I?” This is the method that Ramana Maharshi suggested. If you answer the question with “I am John Smith,” then you have not even started on the path of jnana yoga. You still have not emptied the mind of trivial, insignificant, superficial and logical answers. Your name is only a label to differentiate you socially from your neighbour who is perhaps called Fred Smith. Your name is not you – it is merely a means to an end which allows your mail to reach you and for you to receive the correct pay packet. It is your marker, your label – it is not your identity. Your name is not you.
To make progress in jnana yoga you have to throw out all definitions about your existence. You must be overwhelmed by the feeling that you do not know who you are. If you merely ask the question “Who am I?” from your lips, if you do not ask the question with intensity and the overwhelming need to know, then nothing will happen. If you ask the question like a parrot then the implications of the enquiiy will not penetrate the deeper layers of your being. This is why jnana yoga is difficult for most people; few people can become completely obsessed and filled with enquiry into their own nature.
Ramana Maharshi was a jnana yogi. He asked himself the question “Who am I?” He did not merely ask the question for five minutes every morning before breakfast. His whole being vibrated with the enquiry twenty-four hours a day, whether awake or asleep. The enquiry invaded and permeated his deeper being. The enquiry continued constantly, whether consciously or unconsciously. The question continued whether he was walking, sitting or talking. His whole being tackled the enquiiy. His whole being was poised on the edge of a precipice. And the result? He realized his real nature. He became self-realized. This is the path of jnana yoga. It requires that a person has such a personality that he tenaciously clings to the enquiiy and desperately needs to know the answer .. . as though everything depends on the answer. And in fact it does.