Questioner: My friend is a German and I was born in England from French parents. I am in India since over a year wandering from Ashram to Ashram.
Maharaj: Any spiritual practices (sadhanas)?
Q: Studies and meditation.
M: What did you meditate on?
Q: On what I read.
Q: What are you doing, sir?
Q: And what else?
Q: What are you talking about?
M: Do you want a lecture? Better ask something that really touches you, so that you feel strongly about it. Unless you are emotionally involved, you may argue with me, but there will be no real understanding between us. If you say: ‘nothing worries me, I have no problems’, it is all right with me, we can keep quiet. But if something really touches you, then there is purpose in talking.
Shall I ask you? What is the purpose of your moving from place to place?
Q: To meet people, to try to understand them.
M: What people are you trying to understand? What exactly are you after?
M: If you want integration, you must know whom you want to integrate.
Q: By meeting people and watching them, one comes to know oneself also. It goes together.
M: It does not necessarily go together.
Q: One improves the other.
M: It does not work that way. The mirror reflects the image, but the image does not improve the mirror. You are neither the mirror nor the image in the mirror. Having perfected the mirror so that it reflects correctly, truly, you can turn the mirror round and see in it a true reflection of yourself — true as far as the mirror can reflect. But the reflection is not yourself — you are the seer of the reflection. Do understand it clearly — whatever you may perceive you are not what you perceive.
Q: I am the mirror and the world is the image?
M: You can see both the image and the mirror. You are neither. Who are you? Don’t go by formulas. The answer is not in words. The nearest you can say in words is: I am what makes perception possible, the life beyond the experiencer and his experience.
Now, Can you separate yourself both from the mirror and the image in the mirror and stand completely alone, all by yourself?
Q: No, I cannot.
M: How do you know that you cannot? There are so many things you are doing without knowing how to do it. You digest, you circulate your blood and lymph, you move your muscles — all without knowing how. In the same way, you perceive, you feel, you think without knowing the why and how of it. Similarly you are yourself without knowing it. There is nothing wrong with you as the Self. It is what it is to perfection. It is the mirror that is not clear and true and, therefore, gives you false images. You need not correct yourself — only set right your idea of yourself. Learn to separate yourself from the image and the mirror, keep on remembering: I am neither the mind nor its ideas: do it patiently and with convictions and you will surely come to the direct vision of yourself as the source of being — knowing — loving, eternal, all-embracing all-pervading. You are the infinite focussed in a body. Now you see the body only. Try earnestly and you will come to see the infinite only.
Q: The experience of reality, when it Comes, does it last?
M: All experience is necessarily transient. But the ground of all experience is immovable. Nothing that may be called an event will last. But some events purify the mind and some stain it. Moments of deep insight and all-embracing love purify the mind, while desires and fears, envies and anger, blind beliefs and intellectual arrogance pollute and dull the psyche.
Q: Is self-realisation so important?
M: Without it you will be consumed by desires and fears, repeating themselves meaninglessly in endless suffering. Most of the people do not know that there can be an end to pain. But once they have heard the good news, obviously going beyond all strife and struggle is the most urgent task that can be. You know that you can be free and now it is up to you. Either you remain forever hungry and thirsty, longing, searching, grabbing, holding, ever losing and sorrowing, or go out whole-heartedly in search of the state of timeless perfection to which nothing can be added, from which nothing — taken away. In it all desires and fears are absent, not because they were given up, but because they have lost their meaning.
Q: So far I have been following you. Now, what am I expected to do?
M: There is nothing to do. Just be. Do nothing. Be. No climbing mountains and sitting in caves. I do not even say: ‘be yourself’, since you do not know yourself. Just be. Having seen that you are neither the ‘outer’ world of perceivables, nor the ‘inner’ world of thinkables, that you are neither body nor mind — just be.
Q: Surely, there are degrees of realisation.
M: There are no steps to self-realisation. There is nothing gradual about it. It happens suddenly and is irreversible. You rotate into a new dimension, seen from which the previous ones are mere abstractions. Just like on sunrise you see things as they are, so on self-realisation you see everything as it is. The world of illusions is left behind.
Q: In the state of realisation do things change? They become colourful and full of meaning?
M: The experience is quite right, but it is not the experience of reality (sadanubhav), but of harmony (satvanubhav) of the universe.
Q: Nevertheless, there is progress.
M: There can be progress only in the preparation (sadhana). realisation is sudden. The fruit ripens slowly, but falls suddenly and without return.
Q: I am physically and mentally at peace. What more do I need?
M: Yours may not be the ultimate state. You will recognise that you have returned to your natural state by a complete absence of all desire and fear. After all, at the root of all desire and fear is the feeling of not being what you are. Just as a dislocated joint pains only as long as it is out of shape, and is forgotten as soon as it is set right, so is all self-concern a symptom of mental distortion which disappears as soon as one is in the normal state.
Q: Yes, but what is the sadhana for achieving the natural state?
M: Hold on to the sense ‘I am’ to the exclusion of everything else. When thus the mind becomes completely silent, it shines with a new light and vibrates with new knowledge. It all comes spontaneously, you need only hold on to the ‘I am’. Just like emerging from sleep or a state of rapture you feel rested and yet you cannot explain why and how you come to feel so well, in the same way on realisation you feel complete, fulfilled, free from the pleasure-pain complex, and yet not always able to explain what happened, why and how. You can put it only in negative terms: ‘Nothing is wrong with me any longer.’ It is only by comparison with the past that you know that you are out of it. Otherwise — you are just yourself. Don’t try to convey it to others. If you can, it is not the real thing. Be silent and watch it expressing itself in action.
Q: If you could tell me what I shall become, it may help me to watch over my development.
M: How can anybody tell you what you shall become when there is no becoming? You merely discover what you are. All moulding oneself to a pattern is a grievous waste of time. Think neither of the past nor of the future, just be.
Q: How can I just be? Changes are inevitable.
M: Changes are inevitable in the changeful, but you are not subject to them. You are the changeless background, against which changes are perceived.
Q: Everything changes, the background also changes. There is no need of a changeless background to notice changes. The self is momentary — it is merely the point where the past meets the future.
M: Of course the self based on memory is momentary. But such self demands unbroken continuity behind it. You know from experience that there are gaps when your self is forgotten. What brings it back to life? What wakes you up in the morning? There must be some constant factor bridging the gaps in consciousness. If you watch carefully you will find that even your daily consciousness is in flashes, with gaps intervening all the time. What is in the gaps? What can there be but your real being, that is timeless; mind and mindlessness are one to it.
Q: Is there any particular place you would advise me to go to for spiritual attainment?
M: The only proper place is within. The outer world neither can help nor hinder. No system, no pattern of action will take you to your goal. Give up all working for a future, concentrate totally on the now, be concerned only with your response to every movement of life as it happens.
Q: What is the cause of the urge to roam about?
M: There is no cause. You merely dream that you roam about. In a few years your stay in India will appear as a dream to you. You will dream some other dream at that time. Do realise that it is not you who moves from dream to dream, but the dreams flow before you and you are the immutable witness. No happening affects your real being — this is the absolute truth.
Q: Cannot I move about physically and keep steady inwardly?
M: You can, but what purpose does it serve? If you are earnest, you will find that in the end you will get fed up with roaming and regret the waste of energy and time. To find your self you need not take a single step.
Q: Is there any difference between the experience of the Self (atman) and of the Absolute (brahman)?
M: There can be no experience of the Absolute as it is beyond all experience. On the other hand, the self is the experiencing factor in every experience and thus, in a way, validates the multiplicity of experiences. The world may be full of things of great value, but if there is nobody to buy them, they have no price. The Absolute contains everything experienceable, but without the experience they are as nothing. That which makes the experience possible is the Absolute. That which makes it actual is the Self.
Q: Don’t we reach the Absolute through a gradation of experiences? Beginning with the grossest, we end with the most sublime.
M: There can be no experience without desire for it. There can be gradation between desires, but between the most sublime desire and the freedom from all desire there is an abyss which must be crossed. The unreal may look real, but it is transient. The real is not afraid of time.
Q: Is not the unreal the expression of the real?
M: How can it be? It is like saying that truth expresses itself in dreams. To the real the unreal is not. It appears to be real only because you believe in it. Doubt it, and it ceases. When you are in love with somebody, you give it reality — you imagine your love to be all-powerful and everlasting. When it comes to an end, you say: ‘I thought it was real, but it wasn’t’. Transiency is the best proof of unreality. What is limited in time and space, and applicable to one person only, is not real. The real is for all and forever.
Above everything else you cherish yourself. You would accept nothing in exchange for your existence. The desire to be is the strongest of all desires and will go only on the realisation of your true nature.
Q: Even in the unreal there is a touch of reality.
M: Yes, the reality you impart to it by taking it to be real. Having convinced yourself, you are bound by your conviction. When the sun shines, colours appear. When it sets, they disappear. Where are the colours without the light?
Q: This is thinking in terms of duality.
M: All thinking is in duality. In identity no thought survives.
– Nisargadatta Maharaj
I Am That, chapter 69.
For more posts on Nisargadatta Maharaj see: https://o-meditation.com/category/nisargadatta-maharaj/
To read more from Nisargadatta Maharaj see: https://o-meditation.com/jai-guru-deva/some-good-books/downloadable-books/nisargadatta-maharaj/