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 Way of Nisargadatta Maharaj – Jean Dunn

An Interview with Jean Dunn first posted on September 13, 2010 on the Inner Directions Journal website.

Jean Dunn had the rare opportunity of being close to the contemporary sage, Nisargadatta Maharaj.  With unquestioning faith, she wholeheartedly absorbed the teachings and presence of Maharaj, opening herself up like a reed to the flow of consciousness that Nisargadatta Maharaj was and is.

Jean Dunn

Over the years Jean published three books that contain transcripts of Nisargadatta’s talks, recorded during the years she spent with him.  This is an interview between Jean Dunn and The Inner Directions Journal, followed by a few selections from the personal diary she kept from 1977-1981.

 

IDJ:  Was your introduction to spiritual life through Ramana Maharshi or were there other influences before Ramana?
Jean Dunn:  Well, yes.  That’s a long story.  I was interested in Joel Goldsmith.  All my life, it seems I have been searching for something.  We all are searching but usually in the wrong places; it does lead us on.
IDJ:  Did Joel mention Ramana Maharshi’s name to you?
Jean:   No.  I was told that he was preparing to visit India when he died.

IDJ:  When did you first hear about Nisargadatta Maharaj?
Jean:  About one year before I first saw him.  I was staying in Sri Ramanasramam (the Ashram of Ramana Maharshi), and friends were regularly going to see him (Maharaj) in Bombay.  I felt there was no need to see anyone else since the Maharshi was my teacher.  I put off the trip twice.  The third time friends came and asked me to go, I agreed.  So I did, and that was it.
IDJ:  After seeing Maharaj did you return to Ramanasramam?
Jean:  Yes, I continued to stay at the Ashram.  When Maharaj got very sick, during the last couple of years of his life, I moved to Bombay.

IDJ:  Can you give me a brief description of what took place daily in Maharaj’s flat?  Did he have a special routine?
Jean:  Early in the morning, about 6:00 a.m., there was arati (offering of lights) with a group of us.  I would arrive before it started and help clean up the room from the day before.  After arati I went out for coffee and returned to help Maharaj hang the garlands and put kumkum (vermilion) on the pictures of different saints hanging in the room.  There was a meditation for an hour, then bhajans (devotional singing).  From 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon Maharaj answered questions from visitors.  When the visitors left, we usually went out for tea or buttermilk.  Maharaj would usually buy something for his granddaughter; he was crazy about her.  When Maharaj rested in the afternoon, I would often go and just sit with him.  There wasn’t another meeting until 5:00 p.m. and this lasted until 7:00 p.m. Following the evening session there were bhajans, then Maharaj read from various Hindu scriptures, explaining the meaning in Marathi, the local language.
IDJ:  Was there a particular reading that Maharaj liked best?
Jean:  Not that I know of, though I never asked.  I sat through them because it didn’t matter to me what he was reading from.
IDJ:  Maharaj did not use traditional Vedantic terminology to describe the approach to Truth and the removal of ignorance.  Would you say that was one of the unique aspects of his teachings?
Jean:  To me it was.  He was so natural, and yet you knew that he knew he was not that body.  He let that body do whatever it was doing, whatever its nature was.  I don’t know how to explain it.

IDJ:  Did Maharaj provide any type of initiation to those who accepted him as a teacher?
Jean:  Yes.  He gave me a mantra.
IDJ:  Did Maharaj recognize a formal Guru-disciple relationship?
Jean:  Well you see we’re not separate.  There’s no separation; we are one.  For the sake of conversation he may have said so, but he told me and the others there, “Don’t imagine any separation; we are one.”

IDJ:  I believe Maharaj’s own spiritual practice was complete in about three years, so he must have been a ripe soul.  Did he ever admit to that?  Did he ever talk about that?
Jean:  No.  He’d often talk before visitors came.  There was a group of us that would come early, and he’d tell us stories.

Maharaj left everything after his Guru died; he was going to the Himalayas and decided to stay there until he got Realization.  Along the way he was walking barefoot in an area where there were no houses to be seen.  As soon as he felt hungry, he noticed smoke coming from a house on his left, so he approached it to ask the residents for food.  The residents fed him and he drank water from their well.  When he went back to the road and turned to look behind, from where he had just come, there was no house there at all.

Later, in the Himalayas he met a fellow disciple who persuaded him that it was more fruitful spiritually, to go back into the world.  So he did and he returned to Bombay.

IDJ:  At the time Maharaj returned to Bombay, was that what we would call a period of sadhana or spiritual practice?
Jean:  Yes.  That’s when he built the room upstairs where we all met.  He only had one business left out of eight, so he took care of that business while all of his spare time was spent upstairs in meditation.  It took him three years, after his teacher died, to realize his true nature.

IDJ:  Is there anything Maharaj specifically said or did that helped to transform your own life spiritually?
Jean:  It was simply what he was.  I probably needed all the teachings; just being in his presence was the key.

IDJ:  Is it correct to say that Maharaj didn’t stress any preconditions for serious seekers?
Jean:  He said you must do your homework.
IDJ:  What do you think he meant by homework?
Jean:  I think he meant one must have been on a spiritual path and have studied the various teachings.
IDJ:  Were there any other restrictions such as diet, etc.?
Jean:  No, Maharaj was not a vegetarian.
IDJ:  What about traditional practices?
Jean:  No, though he did them at one time when he was young.  The only thing he continued to carry on, in a traditional sense, were bhajans.

IDJ:  Maurice Frydman said that “simplicity and humility are keynotes of his life and teachings.”  How would you summarize his message to someone who is reading this for the first time?
Jean:  If you’re seeking the Truth, this is it.  But it’s not something everyone wants.  Most people want something to make their life better:  money, a better house, and so forth.  This has nothing to do with the world.  That’s why loving a Guru is so helpful.  That love is your own Self.
IDJ:  We don’t often find, in reading Maharaj’s teachings, the integration of Love and Wisdom that were manifest in him.  Do you find that this understanding may be missing on the part of the reader?
Jean:  Yes, particularly in European or Western countries.  Until you meet your Guru or become one with the Guru within, the understanding is mostly intellectual.  Maharaj said that this generation is ready for this teaching.  There was a time when devotion to a God was prevalent; now people want Truth and the search is with the intellect.
IDJ:  Could you expand on this further?
Jean:  When you become one with your Self, it’s pure love.  You can’t help but feel love and that love flows out.  This love combines with knowledge, and you yourself are that knowledge.  We have been seeking knowledge outside, but it’s right here where we are.
IDJ:  Maharaj often uses the words I Am or I Amness to describe the gateway to the Absolute.  What is the I Am he refers to?
Jean:  That’s what you are at the present time, Universal Consciousness.  That I Amness is the same as Consciousness, that which lets you know you exist.

IDJ:   Did Maharaj encourage you to record his conversations, or did he have any direct participation in their subsequent publication?
Jean:  No. I had been home to visit my family, and when I came back, there was no recording taking place.  The talks were so deep that Suresh Mehta and I got a tape recorder and asked Vanaja, who attended daily, to record the talks for us.  When she sent me the completed tapes, I just started transcribing them.  It was continuing without anyone mentioning it until Maharaj discovered what I was doing.  He then gave me his blessings, and it just developed into the books.
IDJ:  Did you feel any difference when you returned to the states and practiced Maharaj’s teachings, as compared to being in his presence in India?
Jean:  No, no difference.

IDJ:  Are there certain aspects of Maharaj’s teachings that you would hold forth for those here in the West?
Jean:  He stressed meditation and being your true Self.
IDJ:  While Maharaj often didn’t talk about effort in the conventional way, since no effort is needed to attain one’s own Self, did he encourage effort, understanding that Realization is an effortless state?
Jean:  There is no need for effort, only understanding.  What effort can give you that which you already are?  Simply observe that which you have been identifying with, with detachment, make no judgments; do not try to change anything.  What is this thing which you have identified with?  You will find that it is just like a robot or computer, which has been programmed by others.  A child lives in pure Consciousness at a very young age.  The mother tells it:  “You are a boy (or girl), your name is ——, I am your mother, this is your father.”  The programming starts.  Others, such as teachers, friends, etc. also program the child.  The actions and reactions of that “person” are based on this programming.

From Jean’s Journal

November 18, 1980
Maharaj:
  (to me) Whatever projects you have started, complete them to the best of your ability.  It doesn’t matter if the projects are a success or failure.  Complete what you start to the best of your ability.

Do not talk about the experiences you have with the blooming of the Consciousness; keep it to yourself.  Stabilize in the Consciousness.  Stabilize the Consciousness.  Self must be determined to do this.  You must make a decision.
Questioner:  Is there anything which can be considered sacred?
M:  Yes.  That which does not get polluted with the experiences of the objective world is sacred.


December, 1980

Maharaj:  Perhaps you might be getting some blessings, some benefits from listening to my talks, I don’t know.  A person who is already dead is not worried about anything.  Whether the people like it or not, I don’t care.  All my actions are not through my body and mind but always Universal Consciousness, appearing to work through this body.  So, I don’t remember anything of the past and act.  It is action in the now.
Questioner:  Where does Consciousness come from?
M:  It never comes and goes; it only appears to have come.  It is a feeling that it comes and goes.
Q:  Why does Maharaj know this and we do not?
M:  It is not difficult for you to know also, but what is the identity with which you are asking?
Q:  Can karma be changed? Is it karmic?
M:  It is all Consciousness working, not this one is working and that one; it is all Consciousness working.
Q:  Maharaj said he is not going to die?
M:  No one was born and no one dies.  When people first learned about this illness, those who have affection for me come and talk to me and write to me.  They give so many medicines and advice.  Why should I do that?  Whatever has to happen will happen.  I have no interest.  Why should I run from doctor to doctor?  I don’t have fear, so I don’t have to do anything.  Those who have fear run from doctor to doctor, from medicine to medicine.
Q:  What is Sat-Chit-Ananda (the literal translation is Being-Consciousness-Bliss)?
M:  It is words, language. In the Absolute there is no emotion. You can take it that Sat-Chit-Ananda is the limit which your mind can describe of that state which cannot be described.  The one who experiences Sat-Chit-Ananda is there before the experience.

You see me as tangible you think I am, but actually I am not.  In my true state, I am not.


April 22, 1981

Questioner:  Is stabilizing in Consciousness meditation?
Maharaj:  Who stabilizes?  It is Consciousness that stabilizes in Itself.  (Looking at me) This one has understood her nature.  It is all due to her faith in the Guru.  Unless you have such faith in the Guru, you do not establish in your Self.  These people go from this swami to that swami.  What for?  To gather knowledge from scriptures.  Stick to your Consciousness; remain in that, and all the burden of your concepts will drop off.  Do not take the help of your Consciousness to build up new concepts.
Q:  Habit is a great force which makes one stray off.
M:  The habit of considering Self as the body has influenced everyone so much.  The knowledge “I AM” is your Guru.

Be in the One who continually remains a witness to this “I AM.”  That is Avalia (Avalia is an Urdu word meaning one who is Original).

Who is the one who sings bhajans?  It is the intellect of that Guru; who are you, an intruder?

The actions of the whole world depend on this intellect, but when this intellect reaches its apex, it gets merged into Parabrahman (the Absolute).

This article and many more can be seen at:  http://www.innerdirections.org/journal/dialogues/the-way-of-nisargadatta-maharaj/