Maharshi knew about the Way of following God, but he believed that this was the way of the bhakti, that is, the way of love. He relegated his teaching to vichara – the way of questioning, the way of knowledge. The only method which Maharshi offered to people was to ask the question “Who am I?” and to invest themselves into this questioning as fully as possible. By itself, the method of questioning is supposed to turn a person’s attention inside himself, simultaneously preoccupying the mind with a question to which there is no adequate answer. What results is a combination of a Zen koan (the unsolvable question “Who am I?”) with a deep immersion internally, if, of course, this can be achieved. Questioning should stop the mind, and attention directed into oneself enables a person to prepare himself for reception of the impulse of Grace, without which no deep change in perception is possible. It must be understood that the Maharshi, although he possessed knowledge and a vision of the Truth, himself passed through a unique Way which no one else could repeat in any way. Upon whom else has the impulse of Grace descended at the age of 16? And who else went deeper and deeper inside, attaining what is not expressible by words? When the opportunity came to teach people, Maharshi chose an ancient technique which could work with a person who could enter into it wholly, without reservation. He didn’t see the sense of inventing anything else, since he didn’t have such a task; after all, Maharshi, as we recall, was a living incarnation of the practice of non-doing. But to enter within by means of questioning without preliminary preparation of attention and cultivation of the power of awareness is very difficult.
And the question “Who am I?” without the ability to concentrate and hold attention to it, not becoming distracted by anything, simply dangles in the mind, ceasing to having even the slightest influence on it after some time. Therefore, we do not know any stories about how this practice helped someone come to awareness of the higher “I”. At least, I am not aware of any such cases. There are far more stories related to how a conversation with Maharshi changed a person and he began to see the world differently and sense himself in a new way. There were also people who meditated in the presence of Ramana and moved inward. Since they grew and obtained internal experience, they had a deeper understanding of both the teachings of Bhagavan and themselves. Hence there were conversations about how Maharshi, you see, teaches silence, since he is silent while they meditate, and that is all there is to it. In fact, Maharshi taught people, just like anyone, in words, parables and his own example. His presence produced an effect on people, enabling them to more rapidly move inside themselves and cultivate awareness. But effect and teaching are different things.
Ramana Maharshi was a mystic who succeeded without any schools, and I would even say without any Ways. His teacher was Arunachala – as he himself said. And if we take into account that Arunachala, according to Indian beliefs, is the incarnation of Lord Shiva, then the Lord himself taught him. Although the first impulse of Grace was received by him outside of Arunachala, that does not change anything. While spending years in seclusion and silence, later Maharshi encountered the necessity to clothe his experience in words and began to read the sacred books of the Hindus. There he found the necessary terminology and even description of experience like his own. His experience was closest of all to the teaching of Advaita, and Maharshi quite often spoke in its language. Essentially, Maharshi did not have any special message; after all, he was practically forced to began to teach. And there he had already to choose his words to express his experience and become involved in making sense of it. Thus he became an Advaita guru, although in fact Maharshi was a far more multifaceted mystic.