Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi stoked the fire of self enquiry in his disciples, in order to keep them on the track of practice.
A small anecdote involving Ramana Maharshi and Annamalai Swami conveys the importance of pursuing self enquiry. Ramana Maharshi gives a new colouring to the term 'atheist', thereby bringing in a new definition of atheist, amongst his devotees.
Annamalai Swami moved to Palakottu from Ramanashram in order to pursue the spiritual practice of Ramana Maharshi's self enquiry, after years of physical labour in the ashram.
Away from the ashram, the fact that he had to fend for himself did not deter Annamalai Swami. However the lack of being in the physical presence of the master troubled him.
One day he happened to meet Ramana and expressed his feelings regarding, missing the presence of Bhagavan.
Ramana asked him, “Are you an atheist?"
Bhagavan thus turned the forlorn mind of Annamalai Swami to self enquiry again, with his question.
To Ramana enquiring into one's nature and abiding in the self is truly realising His presence. Bhagavan revealed that a person who is away from his real self owing to the association of himself with the body, mind complex is in truth an atheist.
Thus, a broader perception regarding the definition of an atheist was rendered by Bhagavan. Furthermore his words simply revealed the truth of union amongst the manifested. So the question of disparities that cause such emotions akin to Annamalai Swami's forlorn feelings do not rise at all. Hence all is one. Can there be any better way of loving, other than seeing all as one's own self?
Such was the Master's way in order push the disciple into continuous practics, until his separate identity was dissolved.