In een interview in het in 2008 door Premananda geschreven boek Arunachala Shiva, vertelt David Godman dat Sri Ramana een geliefde vergelijking gebruikte om de essentie van dit zelfonderzoek uit te leggen.
“Imagine that you have a bull, and that you keep it in a stable. If you leave the door open, the bull will wander out, looking for food. It may find food, but a lot of time it will get into trouble by grazing in cultivated fields. The owners of these fields will beat it with sticks and throw stones at it to chase it away, but it will come back again and again, and suffer repeatedly, because it doesn’t understand the notion of field boundaries. It is just programmed to look for food and to eat it wherever it finds something edible.
The bull is the mind, the stable is the Heart (or the Self) where it arises and to where it returns, and the grazing fields represent the mind’s painful addiction to seeking pleasure in outside objects. Sri Ramana Maharshi said that the most mind-control techniques forcibly restrain the bull to stop it moving around, but they don’t do anything about the bull’s fundamental desire to wander and to get itself into trouble.
Sri Ramana Maharshi likened Self-enquiry to holding a bunch of fresh grass under the bull’s nose. As the bull approaches, you move away in the direction of the stable door and the bull follows you. You lead it back into the stable, and it voluntary follows you because it wants the pleasure of eating the grass that you are holding in front of you. Once it is inside the stable, you allow it to eat the abundant grass that is always stored there. The door of the stable is always left open, and the bull is free to leave and to roam about at any time. There is no punishment or restraint. The bull will go out repeatedly because it is the nature of such animals to wander in search of food. And each time it goes out, it will be punished for straying into forbidden areas. Every time you notice that your bull has wandered out, tempt it back into its stable with the same technique.
Sooner or later even the dimmest of bulls will understand that since there is a perpetual supply of tasty food in the stable, there is no point wandering around outside, because that always leads to suffering and punishment. Even though the stable door is always open, the bull will eventually stay inside and enjoy the food that is always there.
This is Self-enquiry. Whenever you find the mind wandering around in external objects and sense perceptions, take it back to its stable, which is the Heart, the source from which it arises and to which it returns. In that place it can enjoy the peace and bliss of the Self. When it wanders outside, looking for pleasure and happiness, it just gets into trouble, but when it stays at home in the Heart, it enjoys peace and silence. Eventually, even though the stable door is always open, the mind will choose to stay at home and not to wander about.”