Sri, Ramana Maharshi’s teachings are very valuable for seeking world. But serious seekers have to move much deeper and beyond Who am ‘I’? , to realize the ‘I’ itself is illusion.
Pursuit of truth starts from inquiring “Who am ‘I’? but wisdom dawns only by knowing the mind, which is in the form of universe and the self ,which is in the form of consciousness. Who am ‘I’ inquiry helps to unfold half-truth. To leave out one of these parts is to prevent attainment of nondual wisdom.
"Who am I” is useful no doubt, it has certainly a value in its place, and gives some knowledge of self as the Witness, but what about the witnessed? The universe still faces us. It must also be looked at. If the universe is ignored, then "Who am I” cannot give the full truth. It is the yogic enquiry; not the spiritualistic; the latter deals with the whole of life whereas the former deals with a part only.
"Who am I" is dualistic, because there, is no person in the realm of truth but only in the illusion the ‘I’ exists. . It should be "What is “I”?" To meditate on the formula “What am I?" can only yield the thought 'I'. I never cease even after long years of practice of “Who am I?” inquiry. The question "Who am I” is an egocentric, not a soul-centric question. It is a based on the physical self. It is on a par with "What shall I be after death?" and "What shall I get if I do good deed in this life?" It is purely ego-cantered: it is an appeal to the interest in egoistic only. Only the soul-centric -minded can lift their thoughts above ego and inquire;-What is this mind? "What is the universe?" “What is the substance of the mind?
All the experiences of the three states put together make the Atman[self], not merely the ego questioning itself ''Who am I.”
Meditation on the whole is the best meditation: meditation on the parts is only steps towards that. The first thing that one sees is the world. The yogis and religionist disregard this in order to think of self because they are unaware of the fact that self is not the ‘I’. They think ‘I’ is the true self and they continue their spiritual pursuit without verifying what ‘I’ is?. The deeper inquiry analysis reveals the fact that, ‘I’ is not the self, but ‘I’ is mind and mind is the universe, which appears as whole waking experience of dream. Thus, people who limit the ‘I’ to the physical entity or ego will never be able to reach their nondual destination.
Those who jump at once to Atman disregarding the world are yogis or religionists, not seekers of truth. If one don’t see the world, it does not mean he have wisdom. One who looks at objects alone, at the external world, he is wholly ignorant. But he who is able to witness his body and the world together without the physical apparatus is a Gnani.
We have to analyse both mind and its source to get at truth. Two things are necessary in pursuit of truth:-
(1) Knowledge of the object [mind or universe]
(2) Knowledge of the subject [true self].
When one begins inquiry he does it to please himself, not for truth; hence he asks "Who am I?" It is an elementary stage of discipline because ego-bound but aiming at loosening ego. But one has to become aware of the fact that, the body, ego and universe appear together and they disappear together. Therefore just trying to get rid of the ego alone is impossibility.
Those seekers who inquire “Who am I?" may succeed in finding the common factor in all ‘I’s, the I-ness but they have to come back afterwards to the world or duality. Their task is incomplete. They do not know the world also is consciousness.
"What is ‘I’? is " a spiritualistic interrogation. What is the universe? What is mind? What is the whole? One becomes aware of the fact that ‘I’ is the mind and mind is the universe. After having examined deeply; one becomes aware of the fact that the universe is noting to with self that is the experience of birth, life and death has nothing to do with the self, which is in the form of consciousness. The self is the formless and witness of the universe, which is in the form of ‘I’, which comes and goes as waking or dream. The self is the one witness in all and are really ever free. Therefore there is a need to become aware of the fact that ‘I’ is not the self but the formless substance and witness of the ‘I’ is the true self.