Absolute Perfection is Here and Now – Nisargadatta Maharaj

Questioner: The war is on. What is your attitude to it?

Maharaj: In some place or other, in some form or other, the war is always on. Was there a time when there was no war? Some say it is the will of God. Some say it is God’s play. It is another way of saying that wars are inevitable and nobody is responsible.

Q: But what is your own attitude?

M: Why impose attitudes on me? I have no attitude to call my own.

Q: Surely somebody is responsible for this horrible and senseless carnage. Why do people kill each other so readily?

M: Search for the culprit within. The ideas of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ are at the root of all conflict. Be free of them and you will be out of conflict.

Q: What of it that I am out of conflict? It will not affect the war. If I am the cause of war, I am ready to be destroyed. Yet, it stands to reason that the disappearance of a thousand like me will not stop wars. They did not start with my birth nor will end with my death. I am not responsible. Who is?

M: Strife and struggle are a part of existence. Why don’t you enquire who is responsible for existence?

Q: Why do you say that existence and conflict are inseparable? Can there be no existence without strife? I need not fight others to be myself.

M: You fight others all the time for your survival as a separate body-mind, a particular name and form. To live you must destroy. From the moment you were conceived you started a war with your environment—a merciless war of mutual extermination, until death sets you free.

Q: My question remains unanswered. You are merely describing what I know, life and its sorrows. But who is responsible, you do not say. When I press you, you throw the blame on God, or karma, or on my own greed and fear—which merely invites further questions. Give me the final answer.

M: The final answer is this: nothing is. All is a momentary appearance in the field of the universal consciousness; continuity as name and form is a mental formation only, easy to dispel.

Q: I am asking about the immediate, the transitory, the appearance. Here is a picture of a child killed by soldiers. It is a fact—staring at you. You cannot deny it. Now, who is responsible for the death of the child?

M: Nobody and everybody. The world is what it contains and each thing affects all others. We all kill the child and we all die with it. Every event has innumerable causes and produces numberless effects. It is useless to keep accounts, nothing is traceable.

Q: Your people speak of karma and retribution.

M: It is merely a gross approximation: in reality we are all creators and creatures of each other, causing and bearing each other’s burden.

Q: So, the innocent suffers for the guilty?

M: In our ignorance we are innocent; in our actions we are guilty. We sin without knowing and suffer without understanding. Our only hope: to stop, to look, to understand and to get out of the traps of memory. For memory feeds imagination and imagination generates desire and fear.

Q: Why do I imagine at all?

M: The light of consciousness passes through the film of memory and throws pictures on your brain. Because of the deficient and disordered state of your brain, what you perceive is distorted and coloured by feelings of like and dislike. Make your thinking orderly and free from emotional overtones, and you will see people and things as they are, with clarity and charity.

The witness of birth, life and death is one and the same. It is the witness of pain and of love. For while the existence in limitation and separation is sorrowful, we love it. We love it and hate it at the same time. We fight, we kill, we destroy life and property and yet we are affectionate and self-sacrificing. We nurse the child tenderly and orphan it too. Our life is full of contradictions. Yet we cling to it. This clinging is at the root of everything. Still, it is entirely superficial. We hold on to something or somebody, with all our might and next moment we forget it; like a child that shapes its mud-pies and abandons them light-heartedly. Touch them—it will scream with anger, divert the child and he forgets them. For our life is now, and the love of it is now. We love variety, the play of pain and pleasure, we are fascinated by contrasts. For this we need the opposites and their apparent separation. We enjoy them for a time and then get tired and crave for the peace and silence of pure being. The cosmic heart beats ceaselessly. I am the witness and the heart too.

Q: I can see the picture, but who is the painter? Who is responsible for this terrible and yet adorable experience?

M: The painter is in the picture. You separate the painter from the picture and look for him. Don’t separate and don’t put false questions. Things are as they are and nobody in particular is responsible. The idea of personal responsibility comes from the illusion of agency. ‘Somebody must have done it, somebody is responsible’. Society as it is now, with its framework of laws and customs, is based on the idea of a separate and responsible personality, but this is not the only form a society can take. There may be other forms, where the sense of separation is weak and responsibility diffused.

Q: An individual with a weak sense of personality— is he nearer self-realisation?

M: Take the case of a young child. The sense of ‘I-am’ is not yet formed, the personality is rudimentary. The obstacles to self-knowledge are few, but the power and the clarity of awareness, its width and depth are lacking. In the course of years awareness will grow stronger, but also the latent personality will emerge and obscure and complicate. Just as the harder the wood, the hotter the flame, so the stronger the personality, brighter the light generated from its destruction.

Q: Have you no problems?

M: I do have problems. I told you already. To be, to exist with a name and form is painful, yet I love it.

Q: But you love everything!

M: In existence everything is contained. My very nature is to love; even the painful is lovable.

Q: It does not make it less painful. Why not remain in the unlimited?

M: It is the instinct of exploration, the love of the unknown, that brings me into existence. It is in the nature of being to see adventure in becoming, as it is in the very nature of becoming to seek peace in being. This alteration of being and becoming is inevitable; but my home is beyond.

Q: Is your home in God?

M: To love and worship a god is also ignorance. My home is beyond all notions, however sublime.

Q: But God is not a notion! It is the reality beyond existence.

M: You may use any word you like. Whatever you may think of I am beyond it.

Q: Once you know your home, why not stay in it? What takes you out of it?

M: Out of love for corporate existence one is born and once born, one gets involved in destiny. Destiny is inseparable from becoming. The desire to be the particular makes you into a person with all its personal past and future. Look at some great man, what a wonderful man he was! And yet how troubled was his life and limited its fruits. How utterly dependent is the personality of man and how indifferent is its world. And yet we love it and protect it for its very insignificance.

Q: The war is on and there is chaos and you are being asked to take charge of a feeding centre. You are given what is needed, it is only a question of getting through the job. Will you refuse it?

M: To work, or not to work, is one and the same to me. I may take charge, or may not. There may be others, better endowed for such tasks, than I am —professional caterers for instance. But my attitude is different. I do not look at death as a calamity as I do not rejoice at the birth of a child. The child is out for trouble while the dead is out of it. Attachment to life is attachment to sorrow. We love what gives us pain. Such is our nature.

For me the moment of death will be a moment of jubilation, not of fear. I cried when I was born and I shall die laughing.

Q: What is the change in consciousness at the moment of death?

M: What change do you expect? When the film projection ends all remains the same as when it started. The state before you were born was also the state after death, if you remember.

Q: I remember nothing.

M: Because you never tried. It is only a question of tuning in the mind. It requires training, of course.

Q: Why don’t you take part in social work?

M: But I am doing nothing else all the time! And what is the social work you want me to do? Patchwork is not for me. My stand is clear: produce to distribute, feed before you eat, give before you take, think of others before you think of yourself. Only a selfless society based on sharing can be stable and happy. This is the only practical solution. If you do not want it—fight.

Q: It is all a matter of gunas. Where tamas and rajas predominate, there must be war. Where sattva rules, there will be peace.

M: Put it whichever way you like, it comes to the same. Society is built on motives. Put goodwill into the foundations and you will not need specialised social workers.

Q: The world is getting better.

M: The world had all the time to get better, yet it did not. What hope is there for the future? Of course, there have been and will be periods of harmony and peace, when sattva was in ascendance, but things get destroyed by their own perfection. A perfect society is necessarily static and, therefore, it stagnates and decays. From the summit all roads lead downwards. Societies are like people—they are born, they grow to some point of relative perfection and then decay and die.

Q: Is there not a state of absolute perfection which does not decay?

M: Whatever has a beginning must have an end. In the timeless all is perfect, here and now.

Q: But shall we reach the timeless in due course?

M: In due course we shall come back to the starting point. Time cannot take us out of time, as space cannot take us out of space. All you get by waiting is more waiting. Absolute perfection is here and now, not in some future, near or far. The secret is in action—here and now. It is your behaviour that blinds you to yourself. Disregard whatever you think yourself to be and act as if you were absolutely perfect—whatever your idea of perfection may be. All you need is courage.

Q: Where do I find such courage?

M: In yourself, of course. Look within.

Q: Your grace will help.

M: My grace is telling you now: look within. All you need you have. Use it. Behave as best you know, do what you think you should. Don’t be afraid of mistakes; you can always correct them, only intentions matter. The shape things take is not within your power; the motives of your actions are.

Q: How can action born from imperfection lead to perfection?

M: Action does not lead to perfection; perfection is expressed in action. As long as you judge yourself by your expressions give them utmost attention; when you realise your own being, your behaviour will be perfect—spontaneously.

Q: If I am timelessly perfect, then why was I born at all? What is the purpose of this life?

M: It is like asking: what does it profit gold to be made into an ornament? The ornament gets the colour and the beauty of gold; gold is not enriched. Similarly, reality expressed in action makes the action meaningful and beautiful.

Q: What does the real gain through its expressions?

M: What can it gain? Nothing whatsoever. But it is in the nature of love to express itself, to affirm itself, to overcome difficulties. Once you have understood that the world is love in action, you will look at it quite differently. But first your attitude to suffering must change. Suffering is primarily a call for attention, which itself is a movement of love. More than happiness, love wants growth, the widening and deepening of consciousness and being. Whatever prevents becomes a cause of pain, and love does not shirk from pain. Sattva, the energy that works for righteousness and orderly development, must not be thwarted. When obstructed it turns against itself and becomes destructive. Whenever love is withheld and suffering allowed to spread, war becomes inevitable. Our indifference to our neighbour’s sorrow brings suffering to our door.

-Nisargadatta Maharaj

From I Am That, Chapter 82

Matter is Consciousness Itself – Nisargadatta Maharaj

Questioner: I was lucky to have holy company all my life. Is it enough for self-realisation?

Maharaj: It depends what you make of it.

Q: I was told that the liberating action of satsang is automatic. Just like a river carries one to the estuary, so the subtle and silent influence of good people will take me to reality.

M: It will take you to the river, but the crossing is your own. Freedom cannot be gained nor kept without will-to-freedom. You must strive for liberation; the least you can do is uncover and remove the obstacles diligently. If you want peace you must strive for it. You will not get peace just by keeping quiet.

Q: A child just grows. He does not make plans for growth, nor has he a pattern; nor does he grow by fragments, a hand here a leg there; he grows integrally and unconsciously.

M: Because he is free of imagination. You can also grow like this, but you must not indulge in forecasts and plans, born of memory and anticipation. It is one of the peculiarities of a jnani that he is not concerned with the future. Your concern with future is due to fear of pain and desire for pleasure, to the jnani all is bliss: he is happy with whatever comes.

Q: Surely, there are many things that would make even a jnani miserable.

M: A jnani may meet with difficulties, but they do not make him suffer. Bringing up a child from birth to maturity may seem a hard task, but to a mother the memories of hardships are a joy. There is nothing wrong with the world. What is wrong is in the way you look at it. It is your own imagination that misleads you. Without imagination there is no world. Your conviction that you are conscious of a world is the world. The world you perceive is made of consciousness; what you call matter is consciousness Itself. You are the space (akash) in which it moves, the time in which it lasts, the love that gives it life. Cut off imagination and attachment and what remains?

Q: The world remains. I remain.

M: Yes. But how different it is when you can see it as it is, not through the screen of desire and fear.

Q: What for are all these distinctions—reality and illusion, wisdom and ignorance, saint and sinner? Everyone is in search of happiness, everyone strives desperately; everyone is a Yogi and his life a school of wisdom. Each learns his own way the lessons he needs. Society approves of some, disapproves of others; there are no rules that apply everywhere and for all time.

M: In my world love is the only law. I do not ask for love, I give it. Such is my nature.

Q: I see you living your life according to a pattern. You run a meditation class in the morning, lecture and have discussions regularly; twice daily there is worship (puja) and religious singing (bhajan) in the evening. You seem to adhere to the routine scrupulously.

M: The worship and the singing are as I found them and I saw no reason to interfere. The general routine is according to the wishes of the people with whom I happen to live or who come to listen. They are working people, with many obligations and the timings are for their convenience. Some repetitive routine is inevitable. Even animals and plants have their time-tables.

Q: Yes, we see a regular sequence in all life. Who maintains the order? Is there an inner ruler, who lays down laws and enforces order?

M: Everything moves according to its nature. Where is the need of a policeman? Every action creates a reaction, which balances and neutralises the action. Everything happens, but there is a continuous cancelling out, and in the end it is as if nothing happened.

Q: Do not console me with final harmonies. The accounts tally, but the loss is mine.

M: Wait and see. You may end up with a profit good enough to justify the outlays.

Q: There is a long life behind me and I often wonder whether its many events took place by accident, or there was a plan. Was there a pattern laid down before I was born by which I had to live my life? If yes, who made the plans and who enforced them? Could there be deviations and mistakes? Some say destiny is immutable and every second of life is predetermined; others say that pure accident decides everything.

M: You can have it as you like. You can distinguish in your life a pattern or see merely a chain of accidents. Explanations are meant to please the mind. They need not be true. Reality is indefinable and indescribable.

Q: Sir, you are escaping my question! I want to know how you look at it. Wherever we look we find structure of unbelievable intelligence and beauty. How can I believe that the universe is formless and chaotic? Your world, the world in which you live, may be formless, but it need not be chaotic.

M: The objective universe has structure, is orderly and beautiful. Nobody can deny it. But structure and pattern, imply constraint and compulsion. My world is absolutely free; everything in it is self-determined. Therefore I keep on saying that all happens by itself. There is order in my world too, but it is not imposed from outside. It comes spontaneously and immediately, because of its timelessness. Perfection is not in the future. It is now.

Q: Does your world affect mine?

M: At one point only—at the point of the now. It gives it momentary being, a fleeting sense of reality. In full awareness the contact is established. It needs effortless, un-self-conscious attention.

Q: Is not attention an attitude of mind?

M: Yes, when the mind is eager for reality, it gives attention. There is nothing wrong with your world, it is your thinking yourself to be separate from it that creates disorder. Selfishness is the source of all evil.

Q: I am coming back to my question. Before I was born, did my inner self decide the details of my life, or was it entirely accidental and at the mercy of heredity and circumstances?

M: Those who claim to have selected their father and mother and decided how they are going to live their next life may know for themselves. I know for myself. I was never born.

Q: I see you sitting in front of me and replying my questions.

M: You see the body only which, of course, was born and will die.

Q: It is the life-story of thus body-mind that I am interested in. Was it laid down by you or somebody else, or did it happen accidentally?

M: There is a catch in your very question. I make no distinction between the body and the universe. Each is the cause of the other; each is the other, in truth. But I am out of it all. When I am telling you that I was never born, why go on asking me what were my preparations for the next birth? The moment you allow your imagination to spin, it at once spins out a universe. It is not at all as you imagine and I am not bound by your imaginings.

Q: It requires intelligence and energy to build and maintain a living body. Where do they come from?

M: There is only imagination. The intelligence and power are all used up in your imagination. It has absorbed you so completely that you just cannot grasp how far from reality you have wandered. No doubt imagination is richly creative. Universe within universe are built on it. Yet they are all in space and time, past and future, which just do not exist.

Q: I have read recently a report about a little girl who was very cruelly handled in her early childhood. She was badly mutilated and disfigured and grew up in an orphanage, completely estranged from its surroundings. This little girl was quiet and obedient, but completely indifferent. One of the nuns who were looking after the children, was convinced that the girl was not mentally retarded, but merely withdrawn, irresponsive. A psychoanalyst was asked to take up the case and for full two years he would see the child once a week and try to break the wall of isolation. She was docile and well-behaved, but would give no attention to her doctor. He brought her a toy house, with rooms and movable furniture and dolls representing father, mother and their children. It brought out a response, the girl got interested. One day the old hurts revived and came to the surface. Gradually she recovered, a number of operations brought back her face and body to normal and she grew into an efficient and attractive young woman. It took the doctor more than five years, but the work was done. He was a real Guru! He did not put down conditions nor talk about readiness and eligibility. Without faith, without hope, out of love only he tried and tried again.

M: Yes, that is the nature of a Guru. He will never give up. But, to succeed, he must not be met with too much resistance. Doubt and disobedience necessarily delay. Given confidence and pliability, he can bring about a radical change in the disciple speedily. Deep insight in the Guru and earnestness in the disciple, both are needed. Whatever was her condition, the girl in your story suffered for lack of earnestness in people. The most difficult are the intellectuals. They talk a lot, but are not serious.

What you call realisation is a natural thing. When you are ready, your Guru will be waiting. Sadhana is effortless. When the relationship with your teacher is right you grow. Above all, trust him. He cannot mislead you.

Q: Even when he asks me to do something patently wrong?

M: Do it. A Sanyassi had been asked by his Guru to marry. He obeyed and suffered bitterly. But his four children were all saints and seers, the greatest in Maharashtra. Be happy with whatever comes from your Guru and you will grow to perfection without striving.

Q: Sir, have you any wants or wishes. Can I do anything for you?

M: What can you give me that I do not have? Material things are needed for contentment. But I am contented with myself. What else do I need?

Q: Surely, when you are hungry you need food and when sick you need medicine.

M: Hunger brings the food and illness brings the medicine. It is all nature’s work.

Q: lf I bring something I believe you need, will you accept it?

M: The love that made you offer will make me accept.

Q: If somebody offers to build you a beautiful Ashram?

M: Let him, by all means. Let him spend a fortune, employ hundreds, feed thousands.

Q: Is it not a desire?

M: Not at all. I am only asking him to do it properly, not stingily, half-heartedly. He is fulfilling his own desire, not mine. Let him do it well and be famous among men and gods.

Q: But do you want it?

M: I do not want it.

Q: Will you accept it?

M: I don’t need it.

Q: Will you stay in it?

M: If I am compelled.

Q: What can compel you?

M: Love of those who are in search of light.

Q: Yes, I see your point. Now, how am I to go into samadhi?

M: If you are in the right state, whatever you see will put you into samadhi. After all, samadhi is nothing unusual. When the mind is intensely interested, it becomes one with the object of interest — the seer and the seen become one in seeing, the hearer and the heard become one in hearing, the lover and the loved become one in loving. Every experience can be the ground for samadhi.

Q: Are you always in a state of samadhi?

M: Of course not Samadhi is a state of mind, after all. I am beyond all experience, even of samadhi. I am the great devourer and destroyer: whatever I touch dissolves into void (akash).

Q: I need samadhis for self-realisation.

M: You have all the self-realisation you need, but you do not trust it. Have courage, trust yourself, go, talk, act; give it a chance to prove itself. With some, realisation comes imperceptibly, but somehow they need convincing. They have changed, but they do not notice it. Such non-spectacular cases are often the most reliable.

Q: Can one believe himself to be realised and be mistaken?

M: Of course. The very idea ‘I am self-realised’ is a mistake. There is no ‘I am this’. ‘I am that’ in the Natural State.

-Nisargadatta Maharaj

From I Am That, Chapter 61

Find Out Who You Are – Jean Dunn

Jean Dunn speaks about life with Nisargadatta Maharaj. This interview was recorded by Malcolm Tillis in 1981, while Jean was living in Bombay, India.

Jean Dunn: I am just a normal person of fifty-nine who has been searching all her life until, ten years ago, she heard of Ramana Maharshi. She visited his ashram, went back to the States, then returned to India, where she has been living for the past four years. Two years ago she met Nisargadatta Maharaj, and he became her guru.

Did he give you some form of initiation?
He gave me a mantra and initiation.

How did you first hear about him?
At Ramana Maharshi’s ashram. Many people come to see him; ­there seems to be a tie.

Is it because of the similarity of Self-Inquiry?
It’s no longer that. Maharaj has had cancer of the throat for the past year, so his teachings have been polished; he is saying he’s no longer the consciousness, he observes the consciousness—he’s the Absolute. His teachings are now on that line.

Can you tell me something about his book, I Am That?
It’s in the form of questions and answers. The fifth edition is just coming out. It came out in two volumes in 1973, having been collected and edited by Maurice Frydman, who in late life became a disciple of Maharaj. There has been no further book published. Last year I asked Maharaj—I had been recording all his question and answer periods—if he wanted me to put them together for a book. He said yes. So Seeds of Consciousness will come out this year. Another volume will appear later: Beyond Consciousness.

In spite of his illness he gives darshan every day?
He is in much pain at times but manages to talk twice a day. He is one of the hidden saints, so he only draws a few people at a time. His teachings aren’t for the general public—we are blessed to listen to him.

How does he usually teach?
Up until his illness, it was by questions and answers. Now he will no longer teach the ABCs—he doesn’t have the physical strength; ­ he tells us the position, then it’s up to us.

He seemed to insist that I ask questions.
He wants questions to come out; then there will be silence so that remaining questions will be answered within yourself.

His following is mainly Western, by what I saw.
Westerners are in predominance; thousands have seen him—some for a few days, some stay for months. Some he makes leave at once. He says he doesn’t know why he sends people away, although they want to stay.

Are you living in India on a permanent basis?
Yes, I have a residency permit. I have finished work on the second book; the work is complete. Everything he has to say has been said.

Do you ever miss Western society, your home life?
Never.

Can you say something about your personal relationship to your guru?
There are no words to describe that . . .

Do you have an aim in life? For instance, to become one with him?
My aim in life is to lose an aim in life—that’s his teaching. There’s no purpose to this life; it’s just entertainment. That’s all.

That sounds rather Krishnamurthi-esque.
Many of Krishnamurthi’s followers come here—ten came recently.

How did Maharaj attain enlightenment?
You will find that in the first part of I Am That. I can tell you this: the first time he met his guru— his friend insisted on taking him; he even had to buy the garland to present to the guru—he never wanted to go.

Was he very young then?
He was in his thirties. The bidi (Indian cigarette) shop at the corner belongs to him; his son runs it. He had eight shops, but when his guru died, he left everything—his family and business. He wandered for months all over India, until he met a fellow disciple who convinced him it was better to live in the world. He returned to Bombay, but all the shops had gone except this one. He didn’t want anything; all worldly ambition had gone. When people started coming to him, he built that upstairs room.

It’s minute. What are the dimensions?
Oh, about nine by twelve. I’ve seen that room crowded, mostly by Westerners. He says Indians are not ready for his teachings.

Do you think it was because he didn’t want personal publicity that he appeared to be annoyed with me?
That’s correct. I feel sure that was the idea. He doesn’t want disciples—if they come, it’s fine; if not, that’s also fine. He gains nothing. He has reached the peak because he isn’t enamored of any­thing the world can offer.

Does he ever talk about other gurus and their methods?
He talks about the self-styled gurus who propagate their own con­cepts; but there’s nothing wrong with that at that level.

Does he admire any living teachers?
As far as I know, J. Krishnamurti. In the past, Ramana Maharshi. The other day he said, “Krishnamurti, Ramana and myself are one.”

Does he advocate a vegetarian diet?
That pertains to the body; he doesn’t teach anything to do with that. All he wants you to do is find out who you are.

His followers can drink and indulge in free relationships?
Whatever comes naturally to each person, he should do.

He gives no ethical guidance?
No. As long as you think you are a person and this world is real, then you live by certain rules. Once you understand the complete thing, your life lives itself … There are no rules, no good, no bad—I should do this, I shouldn’t do that. If you think about it, all this is taking place in this life span, in this span of consciousness, and when this consciousness goes, what difference does it make?

Does he not advise detachment from worldly activities?
This comes naturally. The main and only thing he teaches is to find out who you are. The closer you come to this, the more detached you become from the world; that will happen naturally. You can’t do anything to make that happen. This idea of doing something is an ego idea “I” can accomplish. Maharaj says the consciousness drags you there by the ear because it wants to know about itself, your true nature.

What has he said about leaving the body at physical death?
For him, it will be a great festival— he’s looking forward to it. For those thinking they are the body, it will be a traumatic experience. For an enlightened person, it’s a joyous time.

When he gives you meditation, does he ask what you see inside?
There has to be somebody to see something! (laughter) . . . No, he doesn’t. Visions and experiences take place in consciousness; they have no meaning whatsoever. Before you were born, did you know anything about this world? When you die—will you know anything about this world? You didn’t know you existed—you exist as the Absolute, but you aren’t aware of your existence. When this con­sciousness comes, spontaneously, you know “I am.” You grab a body and become identified with that. He wants you to go back, back, away from this into your true nature. Right now it’s consciousness; the longer we abide in that consciousness only and observe it, we see that everything we see is not ours—there’s a “you” seeing this.

But what does he teach about God?
Without me, there’s no God.

Really?
Yes.

And he’s teaching that?
Yes. Was there a God before you were? Without you, is there a God?

What brought me back into this body?
Do you remember a previous body?

Many people have that recollection. Are you saying we have never taken birth before?
There’s no “we”; there’s no entity; there is universal consciousness, which is continually expressing itself through these bodies.

Maharaj doesn’t believe in karma and reincarnation?
Correct.

Ramana Maharshi taught that, surely?
They will talk to you on this level if this is your level. But if you un­derstand what I’m saying—there’s only universal consciousness ex­pressing itself; there’s no individual—then he will bring you there. He will no longer speak of this. If you die with concepts, these concepts take another form, but they will not be you— you don’t know what that form will be. Concepts will come again until they are all gone.

What does Maharaj teach about selfless service, helping others?
On their level, it’s good. But his teaching is that there are no others, no individual entities; everything happens spontaneously; there’s no doer. He teaches: Let this life live itself and understand you are not this.

We are not “this” then we are “that.” What is “that”?
“That” is consciousness right now.

Right now? What will it be when we leave the body?
The Absolute.

Then what comes back?
Consciousness is continually renewing itself. You throw a piece of food into a corner; within a few days, worms will come—life, con­sciousness. The same consciousness in that worm is in you. It’s not “my” consciousness, “your” consciousness; it’s one universal con­sciousness, and that universal consciousness is you.

At our level of understanding, aren’t all these concepts? Didn’t you find these theories confusing at first?
The first day I came to Maharaj, he said, “My beingness is a product of food . . .  and the same consciousness in the donkey was in Sri Krishna.” I went to get a reservation back home; none was available, so as something inside knew this was true, I went back. He had jerked the rug from under my feet, and he kept on doing this until I lost any place to put my feet. He forces you to let go of all concepts.

Does he often send people away who come to see him?
Often. He never knows why, though. Every moment watching him is like a spectacular movie; every person’s need is taken care of­. I’ve watched that happen. You can sit quietly, but questions you have inside will be answered. Everything happens according to your need. There’s no him; he has no purpose of his own: that’s why this can happen. There’s no ego there to bump against.

Living so close to an enlightened being can’t be easy.
It’s not easy if you have any ego left.

Can you say something about the positive side?
There are no words for it; everything is taken care of automatically. There’s no “you” to thank God for anything anymore. You let go of everything. There’s no you, no separate entity; everything is hap­pening spontaneously. It’s like there’s a quiet space where you are, yet everything is happening around you.

What work did you do in America?
I worked on newspapers.

Is there a reason why people get involved with imperfect teachers?
We as human beings think there’s a reason for everything; there are no reasons, no causes—it’s a causeless happening. As long as we are on this human level and think there’s a cause, we will be able to come up with one. If some people are taken for a ride by false gurus, you can say this is happening to them to get rid of something­—whatever happens is perfect. We are just to understand there’s no personal consciousness; everything is impersonal, you see.

But when we meet a perfect teacher, it’s our consciousness which recognizes that, surely?
Yes.

Then our lives change.
Yes.

That’s the new life?
Correct.

That’s part of the divine plan requiring no effort?
No effort.

To round off, could you say what are the benefits gained from coming into contact with your guru.
I’ve gotten rid of the idea there’s somebody going to benefit from something . . . (much laughter)

The Royal Process for Spirituality – Nisargadatta Maharaj

Nisargadatta MaharajQuestioner:  May I ask: so consciousness comes into awareness.

Maharaj: Of course, everything is in awareness.

Q. Yeah, okay. First there was awareness, then consciousness.

Translator: He wants you to talk. At the same time he wants you to talk at a very high level.

Q. I do not know if that question is low level or high level.

M. Either way you have to face the music.

Knowingness is consciousness, that I amness. That I amness is a product of or objective to the body.

This is the instrument that says I am, an instrument of awareness. This is like an announcer and for an announcer you have to have this instrument, a psycho-somatic instrument. Awareness is the energy or that which provides the energy.

You see now presently you are starting from the body-mind level. You are a person deeply entrenched in body-mind. You think that you are a human being. Your identity is limited to the body and whatever concepts you are continuously collecting up to now. That is your present identity.

Now when you start the spiritual course, you reject, I am the body, you reject, I am the concepts and you come to this “I am” only. When you think that “I am” only without words also, just the feeling of I am. You have discarded the body and conscious. At that level you are everything. You are not confined into this body also. Because of that feeling “I am”, the moment that feeling “I am” is there, everything is. The world is. If the “I am” is not, the world is not. I am and the world, simultaneously they appear. Therefore your “I am” is totally that world. That is that unity or unicity. When you discard your identity that you are the body and mind but you are only being that is that unity consciousness.

Understand it thoroughly.

Now would you like to feel that unicity consciousness without the body and mind or would you like to get yourself entrenched in the body and mind and become burdened?

This is the basic principle. So I am telling you again and again, understand only this. Don’t try and collect more concepts. Understand this, assimilate this and be this. Be that total unicity consciousness. Then all further things will spontaneously happen.

Give up your idea, that identity that you are the body and mind. Try to stabilize in a situation from where you can observe your body and mind.

Listen to this only, understand this. This is the basic of philosophy of spirituality. Master it, be that. Then you need not come again.

Normally nobody is open to this aspect of spirituality. This is the most important aspect.

Whatever I am giving you hold on to that, be that and the rest will be taken care of spontaneously.

Does this talk make an impact, impression on you?

Q. Yes, I think it over and then I see immediately the difficulties that arise. I try to meditate this week and soon as you meditate it is more difficult than it used to be. It is very difficult to stay in “I am” only and disregard all the concepts.

M. Don’t try to struggle and try to be that. It is as simple as looking at the flowers and to say “I am not the flowers.” I see the flowers. I am not the flowers. I am here the flowers are there. Like that, be yourself and don’t be the body and mind. You are not the body and mind. I am not the body and mind.

Having received this knowledge, important knowledge, I will not allow you to sit or hang on for longer periods because this will be obliterated.

Having got this, either accept this as the truth, the royal process for spirituality, or throw it out and go to somebody else and collect further ideas and concepts about spirituality.

Enjoy the logic and tricks of this spiritual course. Here he said, “you know you’re not the flowers.” It is as simple as that. Later on, since you are involved with the body mind, apply the same logic. Try to observe the body and mind and understand that you are not the body and mind.

Next question is: identifying body and mind, you are not trying to push it out but by understanding you stabilize in a position prior to body. Physically you are not doing anything, just to understand and be at the higher position.

Now next, by doing this step you are the consciousness. Having rejected body and mind you are the consciousness, that total consciousness.

Now the next stage is, you have to understand that this consciousness is due to body. Because of this instrument of body that feeling of consciousness is there and “I” as absolute cannot be that consciousness.

So again try to observe the consciousness as you observe the flowers, in that state, still you have to feel as in the first lesson. Having become the total consciousness or having realized that I am the total consciousness, the next step is to observe the consciousness and all the play happening in the consciousness. Just to understand, it is a critical stage because at the advent of the body and to the consciousness the outcome to the body it is very strong. So to get rid of that or to understand that you are not the consciousness, the product of the body. But that is the next step.

Is it clear?

Q. Yes I understand it.

M. Have you thoroughly understood enough?

Q. Yes I understand and at times when I am living quietly it is relatively easy to witness what is happening in the mind and happening….

M. Have you understood it thoroughly? Just say yes or no.

Q. Yes. It is a difficult stage. It is difficult to remain a witness to everything that is happening in the mind, in the heart, in the memory, all those things. We know quite well we are not those things. Our identity isn’t with those formations.

M. What is more important is the witness not whatever is witnessed. You need not keep an inventory of all that you have witnessed. There is no question of noting down in your memory because that is a wrong step again. You employ the memory belonging to the mind to note down everything. That is not important. The focus of the attention must be on the witness that you are.

Q. The difficulty is keeping the attention on witnessing because involvement in other things is very strong like Maharaj just said.

M. The moment you are caught up in the current of mind, be again back into the witnessing, back into the witnessing.

Q. There are many times when it is difficult to return to the witness.

M. Yes it is not easy that is why there are very few self-realized persons. Had it been easy there would be any number of self-realized persons. It is difficult.

Q. I’m not complaining that it is difficult. I’m saying that even though we know….

M. The difficulty, he is not going to solve. Everybody knows.

Only this much and no further will be given or elucidated by Maharaj. That’s all. It is the limit of communication. Further, you have to fend for yourself.

I have no form. I have no identity and exactly I also see you as my self. You are my self only, without form and without identity.

So wrongly you strayed into this place by mistake, you stumbled into this place. Now you are compelled to listen to this talk. So collect all the talk and use it and don’t come again. If you think it is good, use it. Otherwise throw it out.

-From a talk given on January 11, 1981

The Touchstone of Awareness – Nisargadatta Maharaj

Questioner: My difficulty is this. As I can see, every experience is its own reality. It is there — experienced. The moment I question it and ask to whom it happens, who is the observer and so on, the experience is over and all I can investigate is only the memory of it. I just cannot investigate the living moment — the now. My awareness is of the past, not of the present. When I am aware, I do not really live in the now, but only in the past. Can there really be an awareness of the present?

Maharaj: What you are describing is not awareness at all, but only thinking about the experience. True awareness (samvid) is a state of pure witnessing, without the least attempt to do anything about the event witnessed. Your thoughts and feelings, words and actions may also be a part of the event; you watch all unconcerned in the full light of clarity and understanding. You understand precisely what is going on, because it does not affect you. It may seem to be an attitude of cold aloofness, but it is not really so. Once you are in it, you will find that you love what you see, whatever may be its nature. This choiceless love is the touchstone of awareness. If it is not there, you are merely interested — for some personal reasons.

Q: As long as there are pain and pleasure, one is bound to be interested.

M: And as long as one is conscious, there will be pain and pleasure. You cannot fight pain and pleasure on the level of consciousness. To go beyond them you must go beyond consciousness, which is possible only when you look at consciousness as something that happens to you and not in you, as something external, alien, superimposed. Then, suddenly you are free of consciousness, really alone, with nothing to intrude. And that is your true state. Consciousness is an itching rash that makes you scratch. Of course, you cannot step out of consciousness for the very idea of stepping out is in consciousness. But if you learn to look at your consciousness as a sort of fever, personal and private, in which you are enclosed like a chick in its shell, out of this very attitude will come the crisis which will break the shell.

—Nisargadatta Maharaj

From I Am That, Chapter 76

I Am That

Until All Obstacles are Conquered – Nisargadatta Maharaj

Questioner: How does one attend to the unconscious?

Maharaj: Keep the ‘I am’ in the focus of awareness, remember that you are, watch yourself ceaselessly and the unconscious will flow into the conscious without any special effort on your part. Wrong desires and fears, false ideas, social inhibitions are blocking and preventing its free interplay with the conscious. Once free to mingle, the two become one and the one becomes all. The person merges into the witness, the witness into awareness, awareness into pure being, yet identity is not lost, only its limitations are lost. It is transfigured, and becomes the real Self, the sadguru, the eternal friend and guide. You cannot approach it in worship. No external activity can reach the inner self; worship and prayers remain on the surface only; to go deeper meditation is essential, the striving to go beyond the states of sleep, dream and waking. In the beginning the attempts are irregular, then they recur more often, become regular, then continuous and intense, until all obstacles are conquered.

Q: Obstacles to what?

M: To self-forgetting.

Q: If worship and prayers are ineffectual why do you worship daily, with songs and music, the image of your Guru!

M: Those who want it, do it. I see no purpose in interfering.

Q: But you take part in it.

M: Yes, it appears so. But why be so concerned with me? Give all your attention to the question: ‘What is it that makes me conscious?’, until your mind becomes the question itself and cannot think of anything else.

Q: All and sundry are urging me to meditate. I find no zest in meditation, but I am interested in many other things; some I want very much and my mind goes to them; my attempts at meditation are so half-hearted. What am I to do?

M: Ask yourself: ‘To whom it all happens?’ Use everything as an opportunity to go within. Light your way by burning up obstacles in the intensity of awareness. When you happen to desire or fear, it is not the desire or fear that are wrong and must go, but the person who desires and fears. There is no point in fighting desires and fears which may be perfectly natural and justified; It is the person, who is swayed by them, that is the cause of mistakes, past and future. The person should be carefully examined and its falseness seen; then its power over you will end. After all, it subsides each time you go to sleep. In deep sleep you are not a self-conscious person, yet you are alive. When you are alive and conscious, but no longer self-conscious, you are not a person anymore. During the waking hours you are, as if, on the stage, playing a role, but what are you when the play is over? You are what you are; what you were before the play began you remain when it is over. Look at yourself as performing on the stage of life. The performance may be splendid or clumsy, but you are not in it, you merely watch it; with interest and sympathy, of course, but keeping in mind all the time that you are only watching while the play — life — is going on.

Q: You are always stressing the cognition aspect of reality. You hardly ever mention affection, and will — never?

M: Will, affection, bliss, striving and enjoying are so deeply tainted with the personal, that they cannot be trusted. The clarification and purification needed at the very start of the journey, only awareness can give. Love and will shall have their turn, but the ground must be prepared. The sun of awareness must rise first — all else will follow.

-Nisargadatta Maharaj

From I Am That, p. 329

Witnessing – Nisargadatta Maharaj

Questioner: I am full of desires and want them fulfilled. How am I to get what I want?

Maharaj: Do you deserve what you desire? In some way or other you have to work for the fulfillment of your desires. Put in energy and wait for the results.

Q: Where am I to get the energy?

M: Desire itself is energy.

Q: Then why does not every desire get fulfilled?

M: Maybe it was not strong enough and lasting.

Q: Yes, that is my problem. I want things, but I am lazy when it comes to action.

M: When your desire is not clear nor strong, it cannot take shape. Besides, if your desires are personal, for your own enjoyment, the energy you give them is necessarily limited; it cannot be more than what you have.

Q: Yet, often ordinary persons do attain what they desire.

M: After desiring it very much and for a long time. Even then, their achievements are limited.

Q: And what about unselfish desires?

M: When you desire the common good, the whole world desires with you. Make humanity’s desire your own and work for it. There you cannot fail,

Q: Humanity is God’s work, not mine. I am concerned with myself. Have I not the right to see my legitimate desires fulfilled? They will hurt no one. My desires are legitimate. They are right desires, why don’t they come true?

M: Desires are right or wrong according to circumstances; it depends on how you look at them. It is only for the individual that a distinction between right and wrong is valid.

Q: What are the guide-lines for such distinction? How am I to know which of my desires are right and which are wrong?

M: In your case desires that lead to sorrow are wrong and those which lead to happiness are right. But you must not forget others. Their sorrow and happiness also count.

Q: Results are in the future. How can I know what they will be?

M: Use your mind. Remember. Observe. You are not different from others. Most of their experiences are valid for you too. Think clearly and deeply, go into the entire structure of your desires and their ramifications. They are a most important part of your mental and emotional make-up and powerfully affect your actions. Remember, you cannot abandon what you do not know. To go beyond yourself, you must know yourself.

Q: What does it mean to know myself? By knowing myself what exactly do I come to know?

M: All that you are not.

Q: And not what I am?

M: What you are, you already are. By knowing what you are not, you are free of it and remain in your own natural state. It all happens quite spontaneously and effortlessly.

Q: And what do I discover?

M: You discover that there is nothing to discover. You are what you are and that is all.

Q: I do not understand!

M: It is your fixed idea that you must be something or other, that blinds you.

Q: How can I get rid of this idea?

M: If you trust me, believe when I tell you that you are the pure awareness that illuminates consciousness and its infinite content. Realise this and live accordingly. If you do not believe me, then go within, enquiring ‘What am I’? or focus your mind on ‘I am’, which is pure and simple being.

Q: On what my faith in you depends?

M: On your insight into other people’s hearts. If you cannot look into my heart, look into your own.

Q: I can do neither.

M: Purify yourself by a well-ordered and useful life. Watch over your thoughts, feelings, words and actions. This will clear your vision.

Q: Must I not renounce everything first, and live a homeless life?

M: You cannot renounce. You may leave your home and give trouble to your family, but attachments are in the mind and will not leave you until you know your mind in and out. First thing first — know yourself, all else will come with it.

Q: But you already told me that I am the Supreme Reality. Is it not self-knowledge?

M: Of course you are the Supreme Reality! But what of it? Every grain of sand is God; to know it is important, but that is only the beginning.

Q: Well, you told me that I am the Supreme Reality. I believe you. What next is there for me to do?

M: I told you already. Discover all you are not. Body, feelings, thoughts, ideas, time, space, being and not-being, this or that — nothing concrete or abstract you can point out to is you. A mere verbal statement will not do — you may repeat a formula endlessly without any result whatsoever. You must watch yourself continuously — particularly your mind — moment by moment, missing nothing. This witnessing is essential for the separation of the self from the not-self.

Q: The witnessing — is it not my real nature?

M: For witnessing, there must be something else to witness. We are still in duality!

Q: What about witnessing the witness? Awareness of awareness?

M: Putting words together will not take you far. Go within and discover what you are not. Nothing else matters.

-Nisargadatta Maharaj

From I Am That, Chapter Ten

I Am That