Question : Why do I never
remember that I am the Self ?
Ramana Maharshi : People speak of memory and oblivion of the fullness of the Self. Oblivion and memory are only thought-forms. They will alternate so long as there are thoughts. But reality lies beyond these. Memory or oblivion must be dependent on something.
That something must be foreign to the Self as well, otherwise there would not be oblivion. That upon which memory and oblivion depend is the idea of the individual self. When one looks for it, this individual `I' is not found because it is not real. Hence this `I' is synonymous with illusion or ignorance (maya, avidya or ajnana]. To know that there never was ignorance is the goal of all the spiritual teachings. Ignorance must be of one who is aware. Awareness is jnana. Jnana is eternal and natural, ajnana is unnatural and unreal.
Question : Having heard this truth, why does not one remain content?
Ramana Maharshi : Because samskaras [innate mental tendencies] have not been destroyed. Unless the samskaras cease to exist, there will always be doubt and confusion. All efforts are directed to destroying doubt and confusion. To do so their roots must be cut. Their roots are the samskaras. These are rendered ineffective by practice as prescribed by the Guru.
The Guru leaves it to the seeker to do this much so that he might himself find out that there is no ignorance. Hearing the truth [sravana] is the first stage. If the understanding is not firm one has to practise reflection [manana] and uninterrupted contemplation [nididhyasana] on it. These two processes scorch the seeds of samskaras so that they are rendered ineffective.
Some extraordinary people get unshakable jnana after hearing the truth only once. These are the advanced seekers. Beginners take longer to gain it.
Question : How did ignorance (avidya] arise at all?
Ramana Maharshi : Ignorance never arose. It has no real being. That which is, is only vidya [knowledge].
Question : Why then do I not realize it?
Ramana Maharshi : Because of the samskaras. However, find out who does not realize and what he does not realize. Then it will be clear that there is no avidya.
Related Ramana Maharshi Talks:
Ramana Maharshi Biography
Ramana Maharshi on Meditation Experiences
Ramana Maharshi Self Inquiry Meditation method
Ramana Maharshi "Who am I" Meditation Method
Ramana Maharshi taught through Silence - Mauna
Ramana Maharshi on Searching the Source of 'I' Thought
Ramana Maharshi on Realization while doing Worldly Duties
Is Self-experience possible for mind, whose nature is constant change?