In sleep consciousness is dormant, when you get up consciousness says, ‘I had a good sleep’. You can give it any name you like –body, mind but it is an attribute that was dormant in sleep, it is not the senses telling you. The food-body will always have desires; beingness is the fragrance of the same body. Prior to it I did not know myself; it was an experience less state, suddenly the eight clues (five elements and three gunas) of experience and knowingness were fed lots of information – birth, body and so forth, with all this I started suffering. My Guru initiated me into an inquiry about myself. Did I experience my birth and parents? I hadn’t, so I rejected it. In the process I started investigating my own beingness; it was a temporary state, so I have disposed it off. I am free from fear now as I know this state will go. I have no fear of my beingness because I will experience the same (the going of beingness). Because of concepts I considered myself a personality and due to this conceptual state my true state suffered.
Just as I admonish you, I listen to my friends, their thoughts talk to me, even visions appear, I tell them to shut up. I admonish thoughts and visions. Will anybody quarrel with his thoughts? When these foreign or alien thoughts are kept aside, the Self starts sprouting and imparting knowledge. Then it is the realized principle that prevails which was never created, but behaves as though created. Who observes or witnesses then? ‘I the Absolute’ If there are no thoughts then there is no fear, and then the Self sprouts.
In the absence of beingness, what have I been doing? My unborn children, what are they doing? The same that I did prior to the appearance of this beingness. World, mind and all are expansive, how did this calamity occur- with the arrival of beingness? So I must investigate the cause of the trouble that is, beingness. Think how you came into this body complex instead of investigating the world.
The body falls down but what happened to me? For that principle for which you get no reply, is perfect, whatever answer you get is wrong. If I think of this world, why should I not inquire about prior to consciousness? If I tackle this question, I must investigate what is this principle of ‘I am’? I would prefer to play with that child not born because eternal Parabrahman and unborn children are alike.
You want to have knowledge. What do you mean by that? Hold on to that principle which understands, recognizes thoughts, and then be quiet. For your sake, what are you? Investigate that. Forget who is torturing whom; stabilize in your most confidential being as ‘you are’. What are you?
Investigate the problems of manifest world can be solved later. There is no right answer to ‘who are you?’ no answer is the most correct one; any reply you get is not eternal. That eternal, unborn principle is now talking which has been accused of birth. ‘I feel I am guilty’. Whatever guilt you accept you have to suffer. In a country not visited a robbery occurs, the Police arrest you here. If you accept, you suffer, maybe a life term. I don’t accept the charge; I have not visited that place. I am not a robber. I plead that – ‘my only guilt is that I accept that I am born’. Give it up! I was not born on my own with my knowledge; I had no knowledge of my beingness. The Absolute has no scope, it’s unborn. Prior to my appearance ( beingness) it never occurred to me that I was, so where is the scope for feeling guilty either? If you had wisdom, you would reject beingness. No body means no knowingness, no consciousness, in the original state the five elements and the three gunas are not there.
The one, who assimilates what I say now, has no reason to be unhappy. The world is full of emotional unhappiness. A worm spawns out of decomposed food. I am not that worm, although made of food, beingness is a product of food.
In order to realize the Self, catch hold of the knowledge that ‘you are’. Do so at the feet of your Guru- your beingness means ‘Iswara’ that is Guru too, that is the Self. Feet means ‘charan’, char – to move- that gives you movement, that principle [beingness] starts movement. The merging of the individual with the universal comes to be by Sadhana (practice).
The five senses of action and five senses of knowledge do they act on their own? The five elements give rise to the five senses of knowledge. For manifestation, eight of them – the five elements and three gunas produce the essence. The Sattva guna produces the manifest world of forms, the knowledge that ‘I am’ is simultaneously created. What is created is the knowledge of existence; the individual assumes that this knowledge belongs to him. There is individual existence in this room. But the whole manifest world is Ishwara, Ishwara is like a city, He is there. As you believe that you are an individual, you die, the difference is that the individual dies while Ishwara, the entire manifestation, does not die; it has no limitations like those of the individual.
I am experiencing the manifest world but prior to it I experience the ‘Bindu’, the point. When I am that Bindu, everything is, the world also is. The Bindu and the world are not two. ‘Bin’ means without and ‘du’ means two, so, no duality. Bindu – the point of ‘I amness’, I experience that. What is it? It is the very experience of the five elements and the three gunas – the whole universe. That is my intimate relationship with that ‘I am’ only –Bindu only.
You go on pilgrimages so that good should happen to you as an individual. But you are not an individual, you are the manifest world. That ‘you are’ means the entire world, whatever manifestation you enjoy is universal. This knowledge is for the few rare ones, but instead of that manifestation ‘you are’, you hang on to individuality.
Whatever is observed in the manifest world is your own Self, The observer is ‘I am’. It is a receptacle of the five elements and three gunas. The entire universe is in activity because of the three gunas. The play of the entire world is based on the five elements and three gunas. But you cling to your body; the body is also a play of the five elements and three gunas. The whole universe is in full play, it is like urination. You are one drop if you consider yourself to be an individual. A drop of ocean is salty and the salty taste is the knowledge ‘I am’. Suppose that drop dries, the ocean does not care – a drop of ocean drying on the rock. Similarly in the five elemental play you are a drop, either survive or die, the elemental ocean is unconcerned. But how to understand this manifest nature? Be the taste, understand the taste. Millions of drops dry up but the ocean is unconcerned. Millions die but how the five elements are concerned?
Because you limit yourself to the body, you suffer. The realized one can entertain no idea of good to himself, for him even if the entire world is destroyed, nothing happens. The realized one is, of course, no more a person. There is nothing else except the core of your Self –Bindu, nothing else is. Only Krishna said there is nothing else. You meditate incessantly to achieve Samadhi but this knowledge will sprout from you only. Since I am prior to that (consciousness) I talked of Bindu.
Now what happens to consciousness, when you are prior to it? In the waking state, how do you find out as though you are asleep? What do you do in deep sleep?
Visitor: Just be.
M: Do you enjoy that ‘just be’?
M: Your beingness is not enjoying being is deep sleep. Are you aware of being male or female in deep sleep? Find out what you are, you know ‘you are’, find out, then, whatever are its requirements you will know. The subtle food essence is life; Subtler still is the quality of knowingness. The knowledge ‘you are’ is like a particle of the sky, it is more subtle than space, and it can recognize space.
V: What connection has it with life?
M: The whole life is endured and sustained by the knowledge particle, ‘I am’. Without ‘I am’ there is no life. They are interdependent, not one without the other. I am prior to the ‘I am’, which is true, eternal and immutable. Beingness, world and body are time bound, your life is not forever, it rises and sets like the waking and sleeping states alternate. The totality of manifestation thrives as long as the beingness is there. Rainwater has no taste, but out of it you get so much, you add ingredients to it and drink. I give you pure food but you find it tasteless so you pollute it, you add salt to the food for taste’s sake.
September 1988. Location: the kitchen of his house on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam.
We were busy going over the translation of The Nectar of the Lord’s Feet (Dutch title Self-Realization) by his Spiritual master Nisargadatta Maharaj and he wanted to do an ‘interview’ for a change, as a sort of practice. The interview has survived a computer crash, break-in and theft, because luckily I had typed it out and printed the tape previously. I have preserved this as a treasure for years. Until now.
Alexander met Nisargadatta in September of 1978. In the beginning of September of that year Jacques Lewenstein had been in India and come back with the book I Am That and tapes of Nisargadatta.
Alexander: That book came into the hands of Wolter Keers. He was very happy with it, because after the death of Krishna Menon (Wolter’s spiritual master) he had not heard anything so purely advaita. After Wolter had read the book he decided to translate and publish it ‘because this is so extremely good’. Wolter gave me the book immediately and I was very moved by it. Then there was an article in Panorama or The New Revue: God Has No Teeth. A poorly written story by the young man who did Showroom (TV). There was a life-sized photo of Nisargadatta’s head in it. That was actually my first acquaintance with Nisargadatta. By then Wolter had already told me: ‘I can not do anything more for you. You need someone. But I wouldn’t know who.’ But, when he had read I Am That he said: ‘If I can give you a piece of advice, go there immediately.’ And that I did.
What were you seeking?
I was seeking nothing more. I knew everything. But, if you had asked me what I had learned I would have said; I don’t actually know it. There is something essential that I don’t know. There was a sort of blind spot in me that no one knew what do with. Krishnamurti knew nothing that he could say about it. Bhagwan was for us at that time not someone that you would go to, at least for this sort of thing. Da Free John was also not it. Those were the known people at that time. I had a blind spot. And what typifies a blind spot is that you don’t know what it is. You only knew that if you were really honest with yourself, if you really went to the bottom of yourself, that you had not yet solved the riddle.
For the first time in Bombay?
A little staircase going up to an attic room. First came my head, and the first thing that I saw was Mrs. Satprem and Nisargadatta. There were maybe three or four people there. ‘Here I am’, I said. And he said: ‘So, finally you came.’ Yeah, that is what they all say, that I heard later, but for me it was the first time that I heard it. I did have the feeling when I went in that now it was really serious. Now there is no escape possible, Here something is really going to happen. Naturally I had already met many of these people: Krishnamurti, Jean Klein, Wolter, Swami Ranganathananda, Douglas Harding, and also some less well known Indians. I was naturally too young for Ramana Maharshi and Krishna Menon. They died in the fifties. I was 7 or 8 years old then. That is not the age to be busy with these sorts of things. It held also true for us at that time, ‘wait’ for a living master. And I had a very strong feeling that this was the man that I had been looking for. He asked if I were married, what I did, and why I had come to India.
What precisely did you want from him?
Self-realization. I wanted to know how I was put together. I said: ‘I have heard that your are the greatest ego killer who exists. And that is what I want.’ He said: ‘I am not a killer. I am a diamond cutter. You are also a diamond. But you are a raw diamond and you can only be cut by a pure diamond. And that is very precise work, because if that is not done properly then you fall apart into a hundred pieces, and then there is nothing left for you. Do you have any questions?’ I told him that Maurice Frydman was the decisive reason for my coming. Frydman was a friend of Krishnamurti and Frydman was planning to publish all of the earlier work of Krishnamurti at Chetana Publishers in Bombay, And that he had heard from Mr. Dikshit , the publisher, that there was someone in Bombay who he had to meet. (I Am That was of course not yet published at that time because Frydman had yet to meet Nisargadatta). Frydman went there with his usual skeptical ideas. He came in there, and within two weeks things became clear to him that had never become clear with Krishnamurti. And I thought then: if it all became clear to Frydman within two weeks, how will it go with me? I told all this to Nisargadatta and he said: ‘That says nothing about me, but everything about Frydman.’ And he also said: ‘People who don’t understand Krishnamurti don’t understand themselves.’ I thought that was beautiful, because all the gurus I knew always ran everyone down. It seemed as if he wanted to help me relax. He didn’t launch any provocations. I was able to relax, because as you can understand it was of course a rather tense situation there. He said; ‘Do you have any questions?’
I said; ‘No.’
‘When are you going to come?’
‘Every day if you allow me.’
‘That’s good. Come just two times every day, mornings and afternoons, for the lectures, and we’ll see how it goes.’
I said: ‘Yes, and I am not leaving until it has become clear.’
He said; ‘That’s good.’
Was that true?
Yes, without a doubt. Because what he did — within two minutes he made it clear, whatever you brought up, that the knowledge you presented was not yours. That it was from a book, or that you had borrowed or stolen it, or that it was fantasy, but that you were actually not capable of having a direct observation, a direct perception, seeing directly, immediately, without a mediator, without self consciousness. And that frightened me terribly, because everything you said was cut down in a brutal way.
What happened with you exactly?
The second day he asked if I had any questions. Then I began to ask a question about reincarnation in a more or less romanticized way. I told that I had always had a connection with India, that when I heard the word ‘India’ for the first time it was shock for me, and that the word ‘yoga’ was like being hit by a bomb when I first heard it on TV, and that the word ‘British India’ was like a dog hearing his boss whistle. And I asked, could it mean that I had lived in India in previous lives? And then he began to curse in Marathi, and to get unbelievably agitated, and that lasted for at least ten minutes. I thought, my god, what’s happening here? The translator was apparently used to it, because he just sat calmly by, and when Maharaj was finished he summarized it all together; ‘Maharaj is asking himself if you are really serious. Yesterday you came and you wanted self-realization, but now you begin with questions that belong in kindergarten’… In this way you were forced to be unbelievably alert. Everything counted heavily. It became clear to me within a few days that I knew absolutely nothing, that all that I knew, all the knowledge that I had gathered was book knowledge, second hand, learned, but that out of myself I knew nothing. I can assure you that this put what was needed into motion. And that’s how it went every day! Whatever I came up with, whether I asked an intelligent question or a dumb question, made absolutely no difference. And one day he asserted this, and the following day he asserted precisely the opposite and the following day he twisted it around one more time even though that was not actually possible. And so it went, until by observation I understood why that was, and that was a really wonderful realization. Why do I try all the time to cram everything into concepts, to try to understand everything in terms of thinking or in the feelings sphere? And, he gave me tips about how I could look at things in another way, thus really looking. And then it became clear to me that it just made no sense to regard yourself — whatever you call yourself, or don’t call yourself — in that way. That was an absolute undermining of the self-consciousness, like a termite eating a chair. At a certain moment it becomes sawdust. It still looks like a chair, but it isn’t a chair anymore.
Did that lead to self realization?
He kept going on like this, and then there came a moment that I just plain had enough of it. Really just so much … I would not say that I became angry, but a shift took place in me, a shift of the accent on all authorities outside of myself, including Nisargadatta, to an authority inside myself. He was talking, and at a given moment he said ‘nobody’. He said : ‘Naturally there is nobody here who talks.’ That was too much for me. And I said: ‘If you don’t talk then why don’t you shut up then? Why say anything then?’
And it seemed as if that is what had been waiting for. He said: ‘Do you want that I should not talk anymore? That’s good, then I won’t talk anymore and if people want to know something then they can just go to Alexander. From now on there are no more translations, translators don’t have to come anymore, there is no more English spoken. Only Marathi will be spoken, and if people have any problems then they can go to Alexander because he seems to know everything.’ And then began all the trouble with the others, the bootlickers and toadies who insisted that I had to offer my apologies! Not on my life. Yeah, you can’t offer excuses to a nobody, eh?!
And to me he said; ‘And you, you can’t come here anymore.’ And I said: ‘What do you mean I can’t come here anymore. Try and stop me. Have you gone completely crazy? ‘ And the translators were naturally completely upset. They said nothing like this had ever been seen before. And he was angry! Unbelievably angry!. And he threw the presents that I had brought for him at my feet and said: ‘I want nothing from you, Nothing from you I want.’ And that was the breakthrough, because something happened, there was no thinking because I was.. the shift in authority had happened. As I experienced it everything came to me from all sides: logic, understanding, on the one hand the intellect and on the other hand at the same time the heart, feelings and all phenomena, the entire manifest came directly to me from all sides to an absolute center where the whole thing exploded. Bang. After that everything became clear to me.
The next day I went there as usual. There was a lecture, but indeed no English was spoken. I can assure you that the tension could be cut with a knife, because I was the guilty party of course. He wanted to push that down my throat and the translators just went along quietly. There was not even any talking. And the next day, there was not even a lecture. He arrived in a car, and drove away when he saw me and went to a movie… Then I wrote him a letter. Twelve pages. In perfect English. I had someone bring the letter to him. Everything was running over. I wrote everything. And his answer was: let him come tomorrow at 10 o’clock. And he read my letter and said: ´You understood. This confrontation was needed to eliminate that self-consciousness. But you understood completely and I am very happy with your letter and nothing happened.’ Naturally , that cleared the air. He asked if I wanted to stay longer. ‘From this situation that took place on September 21, 1978, I want to be here in love .’ And he said; ‘that is good.’ From that day on I attended all the talks and also translated sometimes, for example when Spaniards, or Frenchmen or Germans came. I was a bit of a helper then.
So actually you apply the same method as he did: the cutting away of the self-consciousness to the bone and letting people see their identities. Was that his method?
Yes. Recognizing the false as false and thereafter letting the truth be born. But the most wonderful thing was, My basis dilemma, and if I say ‘my’ I mean everyone in a certain sense, is that if at a certain moment you ask yourself: what did I come here for, that seems to be something completely different from what you thought. Everyone has ideas about this question, and I had never suspected in the farthest reaches of my mind that the Realization of it would be something like this. That is the first point. The second is, it appears that a certain point you have the choice of maintaining your self-consciousness out of pride, arrogance, intellect. And the function of the Guru, the skill with which he can close the escapes from the real confrontation was in his case uncommonly great, at least in my case. And for me that was the decisive factor. Because if there had been a chance to ‘escape’, I would certainly have taken it. Like a thief who still tries to get away.
Did he ever say anything about it?
He said that unbelievable courage is needed not to flee. And that my being there had almost given him a heart attack, that he no longer had the strength to tackle cases like mine as he became older. So I have the feeling that I got there at just the right moment. Later he became sick. He said: ‘I have no strength anymore to try to convince people. If you like it, continue to come, maybe you can get something out of it, but I have no strength anymore to convince people like him (and then he pointed to me). I am so grateful to him, because it only showed how great my resistance was. There has to be a proportional force that is just a bit stronger than your strangest and strongest resistance. You need that. It showed how great my resistance was. And it showed how great his strength was, and his skill. For me he was the great Satguru. The fact that he was capable of defeating my most cunning resistance — and I can assure you after having gone into these things for 15 years — my resistance was extremely refined and cunning, was difficult for him even though he knew who he was dealing with. That’s why I had to go to such a difficult person of course. It says everything about me. Just as he said in the beginning that it said everything about Frydman. But I have never seen the skill he had in closing the escape routes of the lies and falsehoods so immensely great anywhere else.
Of course I have not been everywhere, but with Ramana Maharshi you just melted. That was another way. With Krishna Menon the intellect could just not keep it together under the gigantic dismantling, but by Nisargadatta, every escape was doomed to failure. People who came to get something, or people who thought they could bring something stood naked outside the door within five minutes. I saw a great many people there walking away in great terror. At a certain moment I was no longer afraid, because I felt that I had nothing more to lose. So I can’t really say that it was very courageous of me. I can only say that in a certain sense with him I went on the attack. And what was nice about it is that he also valued that. Because, he sent many people away, and these really went and mostly didn’t come back. The he would say: ‘They are cowards. I didn’t send them away, I sent away the part of them that was not acceptable here.’ And if they then returned, completely open, then he would say nothing about it. But during those happenings with me, people forgot that. There was also a doctor, a really fine man, who said; ‘don’t think that he is being brutal with you; you don’t have any idea how much love there is in him to do this with you.’ I said: ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that.’ Because I didn’t want any commentary from anyone. After all, this is what I had come for! Only the form in which it happened was totally different from what I had expected in my wildest dreams. But again, that says more about me than about Maharaj, and I still think that.
So, his method was thus to let you recognize the false as false, to see through the lies as lies, and to come to truth in this way?
Yes, and that went deeper than I could have ever suspected. The thinking was absolutely helpless. The intellect had no ghost of chance. The heart was also a trap. And that is exactly what happened there. That is everything. And I know that after that day, September 21, 1978, there has never been even a grain of doubt about this question, and the authority, the command, the authenticity, has never left, has never again shifted. There is no authority, neither in this world or in another world, that can thrust me out of the realization. That’s the way it is.
Did Maharaj say that you had to do something after this realization?
I asked: ‘It is all very beautiful, but what now? What do I do with my life? Then he said: ‘You just talk and people will take care of you.’ And that’s the way it has gone.
Did you go visit him often?
Various times. As often as I could I was there every year for two or three months. Until the last time. And when I knew that I would never see him again there was entirely no sadness or anything like that. It was just the way it was. It was fine that way,
Did he do the same with others as he had with you?
Not as intensely and not so persistently.
You get what you give?
Yes, that is so. In a certain sense he did that with everyone, but if someone was very sensitive he approached it in a different way. Naturally it makes difference if an old nun is sitting in front of you, or a rebel like myself, who also looks as if he can take quite a bit. The last time he said; ‘He will be powerful in Europe. He has the knowledge. He will be the source of what I am teaching.’ And then he directed those headlight eyes of his towards me. That is still so wonderful… It is ten years ago now, and it seems like a week. I have learned to value his words in the passage of time. The things I questioned in the past I see becoming manifest now. At first I thought; the way he has put this into words is typical Indian conditioning after all, but the wonder is that all the advice that he gave taught me to hang on to them. I didn’t follow them a few times and that always lead to catastrophes.
For example he said to me: ‘Don’t challenge the Great Ones. Let them enjoy.’ And I have to admit that I had trouble with that. But knowing my rebellious character — and naturally he saw that immediately — he still had to give me that. And every time that I see that, that aspect of my character wants to express itself, I hear his voice: ‘Don’t challenge the Great Ones.’ He anticipated that. I know that for sure. And in that way he also said a number of things that suddenly made sense. Then I hear him. And Wolter always said: ‘After the realization, the only words that remain with you are the words of your Guru. All your knowledge disappears, but the words of the Guru remain.’ And I can now confirm that that is true, that it is like that.
Was Wolter also a disciple of Nisargadatta?
No, but he was there often.
I have understood that you find the Living Teaching very important. Is that especially true for Advaita?
The objection to books about Advaita, including the translations of Nisargadatta’s words is that too much knowledge is given in them. That is an objection. People can use this knowledge, and especially the knowledge at the highest level to defend and maintain their self-consciousness. That makes my work more difficult. Knowledge, spiritual knowledge, can, when there is no living master be used again to maintain the ‘I’, the self-consciousness. The mind is tricky, cunning. And I speak out of my own experience! Because Advaita Vedanta, without a good living spiritual master, I repeat, a good one, can become a perfect self contained defense mechanism. It can be a plastic sack that leaks on all sides, but you can’t find the leak. You know that it doesn’t tally, but it looks as if it does tally. That is the danger in Vedanta. Provided there is a good living master available, it can do no harm. But stay away from it if there is no master available! Provided it is well guided Advaita can be brilliant.
Do you mean that people could act from their so called ‘knowing’ as if they are more than the content of their consciousness? That they therefore assume that the content is worthless?
Yes. That is why up to now, I have never wanted to write a book. But, as long as I am alive there are Living Teachings. When I die they can do whatever they want to with it, but as long as I am alive I am there.
To take corrective action?
Do people have a built in defense mechanism?
At the level of the psyche there is a defense mechanism that prevents you from taking in more than you can cope with, but at a higher level sooner or later you have an irrevocable need for a spiritual master who can tell you certain things, who has to explain things because other wise you get stuck. Whoever doesn’t want a living master gets stuck.
Books could lead to people becoming interested and going on a search.
To a good spiritual master of flesh and blood. Living!
Did Nisargadatta foresee that you would manifest as a guru?
I think guru is a rotten word, but he did say: ‘Many people will seek your blessings.’
So you couldn’t do anything else. It happened by itself.
He said; ‘The seed is sown, the seasons do the rest.’
Isn’t that true for everyone?
Yes, but some seeds fall on good soil and something grows, but other seeds don’t grow. Out of million sperms only one reaches the egg.
At Nisargadatta’s bhajans were also sung and certain rituals done, especially for the Indians. Did you also participate in that?
I participated two times. The bhajans I thought, were really special…
What is their goal?
Singing bhajans has a purifying effect on the body, thinking, and feeling, so that the Knowledge can become manifest and finds its place there. I don’t have any need of it, but I see that the singing offers social and emotional solace and thus I am not against it. In addition prasad was distributed and arati done.
What is arati?
A form of ritual in which fire is swung around and camphor is burned. Camphor is the symbol of the ego. That burns and nothing remains of it. Just as in self-realization nothing of the self-consciousness remains. It is a beautiful ritual. It makes you attentive to all kinds of things. The fire is swung at your eye level so what you see may be beautiful, at your ears so that what you hear may be pure, and at your mouth so that what you eat may be pure. It is Hindu symbolism that has become so common in India that it has mostly become flattened out and routine. It has something, as a symbol , but Westerners shouldn’t try it unless they understand the symbolism completely. I find the singing of OM good, that works, that is a law. It works to purify the body, thinking and feeling, so that the Knowing that it is can be manifest and find a place in your life.
Did Nisargadatta follow a certain tradition?
But of course. The Navdath Sampradaya. The tradition of the Nine Gurus. The first was Jnaneshwar (Jnanadeva) from the 13th century, who became realized when he was twenty and also died at that age. Nisargadatta was the ninth.
Are you the tenth?
No. I always call Maharaj ‘the last of the Mohicans’.
Still you always talk about the tradition.
I work following a traditional background, because there lies the experience of a thousand years of instruction. Instruction that works! I have learned to value the Tradition. I am totally non traditional, but in my heart I am a traditionalist. When I talk about ‘the tradition’ I mean the tradition of Advaita so as that became manifest in the Navdath Sampradaya.
What is the importance of tradition?
The importance of a tradition is just as with violin playing, that you have had predecessors who have done it in a certain way which you know works. But many traditions have become dead end traditions because they don’t work anymore. That is why you always see renovators like a Buddha, a Krishna, Krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi in a certain sense, and Bhagwan (Osho) and Nisargadatta. The way Nisargadatta said it is after all quite different from the way his Guru said it, and the way it is here made manifest, is after all also very different then at Nisargadatta’s. It is about the ‘essence’. Just as consciousness is transmitted by means of sex, enlightenment is transmitted by the Guru.
Did Nisargadatta teach you the tradition?
You can’t learn a tradition; you can only become self-realized. And that is what happened. I know what I know. Done.
And then a tradition is born?
Yes, precisely, you say it very well.
We are now busy with book ‘Self-realization. What do you think about that book?
It is no easy book. It is no easy bedside companion.
In one way or another, translating the book has done much for me.
You have been busy with these things for a long time, thus the reading of a relatively direct form of Nisargadatta’s words must have an effect, But even you found it to be a difficult book. The theme of the book — who were you before the conception, before body/thinking/feeling appeared and before the forming of words in the mind — is not simple to say, but by repeated readings, and talking with each other and all kind of other things, a few things have become clear.
It has to be digested?
Yes, especially digesting it is important. You can eat a lot, but it has to be digested.
Did you just see him sometimes in the daytime, like here in the kitchen?
He lived in that house and everyone went to their hotel or family, or to friends, or had lodgings with the translators. Someone always stayed to care for him a bit, but everyone simply went their own way. There was nothing like an ashram in the usual sense, a care institution, a salvation army for seekers. Absolutely not.
How was he between the acts?
Changeable, from extremely friendly to grumbling.
Did you find him to be a nice man?
Never thought about it for a second.
Would you like to be his friend?
No, Odd question.
I don’t agree, you could at least say ‘he is my Guru, but as a human, as a person’… if you at least could still see him as a person.
Just a whopper of a person, but yeah, there are no meaningful words that can be said about it.
I don’t believe that.
Did you ever eat with him?
Did you ever listen to music with him?
Did you ever just chat with him about little things?
How was that?
Normal, just like with you.
Did you find that scary?
Never? Also not in the beginning?
Did he have a normal householder’s life?
Was he married?
Yes, he had children.
What kind of a father was he?
What kind of husband was he?
I don’t know because his wife was dead.
Did he have girl friends?
Did he sometimes speak about sex?
What did he do in his spare time?
He had no spare time. All his time was spent on the ‘talks’. Or he slept or took walks, or he looked outside, and he smoked a little beedee.
How did he experience being sick?
He didn’t think about it. It’s just something of the body, a little something.
What was his attitude towards women ‘seekers’?
The rule for Indian women was keep your mouth shut and listen. Ask no questions. Unless they were very brave, then he allowed it from time to time and answered them, just as with them men. Western women he just answered, just like with the men. But with Indian women he was very traditional: ‘just keep quiet.’
What did he think about Bhagwan (Osho)?
It varied. It depended who was asking the question.
Every perception, thought or feeling is known by you. You are the knower of the world through the sense organs; of the sense organs through the generic mind; and of the mind – with its activity or passivity – by your self alone.
In all these different activities, you stand out as the one knower. Actions, perceptions, thoughts and feelings all come and go. But knowingness does not part with you, even for a moment. You are therefore always the knower. How then can you ever be the doer or the enjoyer?
After understanding the ‘I’-principle as pure Consciousness and happiness, always use the word ‘I’ or ‘knower’ to denote the goal of your retreat. The ‘I’ always brings subjectivity with it. It is this ultimate, subjective principle ‘I’ – divested of even that subjectivity – that is the goal.
Consciousness and happiness may possibly have a taint of objectivity in their conception, since they always express themselves in the realm of the mind. When one is deeply convinced that one’s self is consciousness and happiness, one finds it as the nameless. Whereupon, even this namelessness seems a limitation. Giving up that as well, one remains as the ‘I’-principle, the ‘Absolute’.
When you try to visualize the Absolute in you, nothing can possibly disturb you, because every thought or perception points to yourself and only helps you to stand established as the Absolute.
To become a Jynyanin [Sage] means to become aware of what you are already. In this connection, it has to be proved that ‘knowing’ is not a function. In all your life, you feel you have not changed; and of all your manifold activities, from your birth onwards, the only activity that has never changed is ‘knowing’. So both these must necessarily be one and the same; and therefore knowingness is your real nature.
Thus, knowing is never an activity in the worldly sense, since this knowing has neither a beginning nor an end. And because it is never separated from you, it is your svarupa (real nature) – just as ‘shining’ is the svarupa of the sun and not its function. Understanding it in this way, and realizing it as one’s svarupa, brings about liberation from all bondage.
When you reach consciousness or happiness, you lose all sense of objectivity or duality and stand identified with the ultimate, subjective ‘I’-principle, or the Absolute. Then the subjectivity also vanishes. When the word ‘pure’ is added on to consciousness, happiness or ‘I’, even the least taint of relativity is removed. There, all opposites are reconciled, all paradoxes stand self-explained; and everything, or nothing, can be said about it.
-Shri Atmananda (Krishna Menon)
From Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda, taken by Nitya Tripta
Questioner: We were talking the other day about the ways of the modern Western mind and the difficulty it finds in submitting to the moral and intellectual discipline of the Vedanta. One of the obstacles lies in the young European’s or American’s preoccupation with the disastrous condition of the world and the urgent need of setting it right.
They have no patience with people like you who preach personal improvement as a pre-condition for the betterment of the world. They say it is neither possible nor necessary. Humanity is ready for a change of systems — social, economic, political. A world-government, world-police, world-planning and the abolition of all physical and ideological barriers: this is enough, no personal transformation is needed. No doubt, people shape society, but society shapes people too. In a humane society people will be humane; besides, science provides the answer to many questions which formerly were in the domain of religion.
Maharaj: No doubt, striving for the improvement of the world is a most praiseworthy occupation. Done selflessly, it clarifies the mind and purifies the heart. But soon man will realise that he pursues a mirage. Local and temporary improvement is always possible and was achieved again and again under the influence of a great king or teacher; but it would soon come to an end, leaving humanity in a new cycle of misery. It is in the nature of all manifestation that the good and the bad follow each other and in equal measure. The true refuge is only in the unmanifested.
Q: Are you not advising escape?
M: On the contrary. The only way to renewal lies through destruction. You must melt down the old jewellery into formless gold before you can mould a new one. Only the people who have gone beyond the world can change the world. It never happened otherwise. The few whose impact was long lasting were all knowers of reality. Reach their level and then only talk of helping the world.
Q: It is not the rivers and mountains that we want to help, but the people
M: There is nothing wrong with the world, but for the people who make it bad. Go and ask them to behave.
Q: Desire and fear make them behave as they do.
M: Exactly. As long as human behaviour is dominated by desire and fear, there is not much hope.
And to know how to approach the people effectively, you must yourself be free of all desire and fear.
Q: Certain basic desires and fears are inevitable, such as are connected with food, sex and death.
M: These are needs and, as needs, they are easy to meet.
Q: Even death is a need?
M: Having lived a long and fruitful life you feel the need to die. Only when wrongly applied, desire and fear are destructive. By all means desire the right and fear the wrong. But when people desire what is wrong and fear what is right, they create chaos and despair.
Q: What is right and what is wrong?
M: Relatively, what causes suffering is wrong, what alleviates it is right. Absolutely, what brings you back to reality is right and what dims reality is wrong.
Q: When we talk of helping humanity, we mean a struggle against disorder and suffering.
M: You merely talk of helping. Have you ever helped, really helped, a single man? Have you ever put one soul beyond the need of further help? Can you give a man character, based on full realisation of his duties and opportunities at least, if not on the insight into his true being? When you do not know what is good for yourself, how can you know what is good for others?
Q: The adequate supply of means of livelihood is good for all. You may be God himself, but you need a well-fed body to talk to us.
M: It is you that need my body to talk to you. I am not my body, nor do I need it. I am the witness only. I have no shape of my own. You are so accustomed to think of yourselves as bodies having consciousness that you just cannot imagine consciousness as having bodies. Once you realise that bodily existence is but a state of mind, a movement in consciousness, that the ocean of consciousness is infinite and eternal, and that, when in touch with consciousness, you are the witness only, you will be able to withdraw beyond consciousness altogether.
Q: We are told there are many levels of existences. Do you exit and function on all the levels? While you are on earth, are you also in heaven (swarga)?
M: I am nowhere to be found! I am not a thing to be given a place among other things. All things are in me, but I am not among things. You are telling me about the superstructure while I am concerned with the foundations. The superstructures rise and fall, but the foundations last. I am not interested in the transient, while you talk of nothing else.
Q: Forgive me a strange question. If somebody with a razor sharp sword would suddenly severe your head, what difference would it make to you?
M: None whatsoever. The body will lose its head, certain lines of communication will be cut, that is all. Two people talk to each other on the phone and the wire is cut. Nothing happens to the people, only they must look for some other means of communication. The Bhagavad Gita says: “the sword does not cut it”. It is literally so. It is in the nature of consciousness to survive its vehicles. It is like fire. It burns up the fuel, but not itself. Just like a fire can outlast a mountain of fuel, so does consciousness survive innumerable bodies.
Q: The fuel affects the flame.
M: As long as it lasts. Change the nature of the fuel and the colour and appearance of the flame will change.
Now we are talking to each other. For this presence is needed; unless we are present, we cannot talk. But presence by itself is not enough. There must also the the desire to talk.
Above all, we want to remain conscious. We shall bear every suffering and humiliation, but we shall rather remain conscious. Unless we revolt against this craving for experience and let go the manifested altogether, there can be no relief. We shall remain trapped.
Q: You say you are the silent witness and also you are beyond consciousness. Is there no contradiction in it? If you are beyond consciousness, what are you witnessing?
M: I am conscious and unconscious, both conscious and unconscious, neither conscious nor unconscious — to all this I am witness — but really there is no witness, because there is nothing to be a witness to. I am perfectly empty of all mental formations, void of mind — yet fully aware. This I try to express by my saying that I am beyond the mind.
Q: How can I reach you then?
M: Be aware of being conscious and seek the source of consciousness. That is all. Very little can be conveyed in words. It is the doing as I tell you that will bring light, not my telling you. The means do not matter much; it is the desire, the urge, the earnestness that count.
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.
Maharaj: Where are you coming from? What have you come for?
Questioner: I come from America and my friend is from the Republic of Ireland. I came about six months ago and I was travelling from Ashram to Ashram. My friend came on his own.
M: What have you seen?
Q: I have been at Sri Ramanashram and also I have visited Rishikesh. Can I ask you what is your opinion of Sri Ramana Maharshi?
M: We are both in the same ancient state. But what do you know of Maharshi? You take yourself to be a name and a body, so all you perceive are names and bodies.
Q: Were you to meet the Maharshi, what would happen?
M: Probably we would feel quite happy. We may even exchange a few words.
Q: But would he recognise you as a liberated man?
M: Of course. As a man recognises a man, so a jnani recognises a jnani. You cannot appreciate what you have not experienced. You are what you think yourself to be, but you cannot think yourself to be what you have not experienced.
Q: To become an engineer I must learn engineering. To become God, what must I learn?
M: You must unlearn everything. God is the end of all desire and knowledge.
Q: You mean to say that I become God merely by giving up the desire to become God?
M: All desires must be given up, because by desiring you take the shape of your desires. When no desires remain, you revert to your natural state.
Q: How do I come to know that I have achieved perfection?
M: You can not know perfection, you can know only imperfection. For knowledge to be, there must be separation and disharmony. You can know what you are not, but you can not know your real being. You can be only what you are. The entire approach is through understanding, which is in the seeing of the false as false. But to understand, you must observe from outside.
Q: The Vedantic concept of Maya, illusion, applies to the manifested. Therefore our knowledge of the manifested is unreliable. But we should be able to trust our knowledge of the unmanifested.
M: There can be no knowledge of the unmanifested. The potential is unknowable. Only the actual can be known.
Q: Why should the knower remain unknown?
M: The knower knows the known. Do you know the knower? Who is the knower of the knower? You want to know the unmanifested. Can you say you know the manifested?
Q: I know things and ideas and their relations. It is the sum total of all my experiences.
Q: Well, all actual experiences. I admit I cannot know what did not happen.
M: If the manifested is the sum total of all actual experiences, including their experiencers, how much of the total do you know? A very small part indeed. And what is the little you know?
Q: Some sensory experiences as related to myself.
M: Not even that. You only know that you react. Who reacts and to what, you do not know. You know on contact that you exist — ‘I am’. The ‘I am this’, ‘I am that’ are imaginary.
Q: I know the manifested because I participate in it. I admit, my part in it is very small, yet it is as real as the totality of it. And what is more important, I give it meaning. Without me the world is dark and silent.
M: A firefly illumining the world! You don’t give meaning to the world, you find it. Dive deep into yourself and find the source from where all meaning flows. Surely it is not the superficial mind that can give meaning.
Q: What makes me limited and superficial?
M: The total is open and available, but you will not take it. You are attached to the little person you think yourself to be. Your desires are narrow, your ambitions — petty. After all, without a centre of perception where would be the manifested? Unperceived, the manifested is as good as the unmanifested. And you are the perceiving point, the non-dimensional source of all dimensions. Know yourself as the total.
Q: How can a point contain a universe?
M: There is enough space in a point for an infinity of universes. There is no lack of capacity. Self-limitation is the only problem. But you cannot run away from yourself. However far you go, you come back to yourself and to the need of understanding this point, which is as nothing and yet the source of everything.
Q: I came to India in search of a Yoga teacher. I am still in search.
M: What kind of Yoga do you want to practice, the Yoga of getting, or the Yoga of giving up?
Q: Don’t they come to the same in the end?
M: How can they? One enslaves, the other liberates. The motive matters supremely. Freedom comes through renunciation. All possession is bondage.
Q: What I have the strength and the courage to hold on to, why should I give up? And if I have not the strength, how can I give up? I do not understand this need of giving up. When I want something, why should I not pursue it? Renunciation is for the weak.
M: If you do not have the wisdom and the strength to give up, just look at your possessions. Your mere looking will burn them up. If you can stand outside your mind, you will soon find that total renunciation of possessions and desires is the most obviously reasonable thing to do. You create the world and then worry about it. Becoming selfish makes you weak. If you think you have the strength and courage to desire, it is because you are young and inexperienced. Invariably the object of desire destroys the means of acquiring it and then itself withers away. It is all for the best, because it teaches you to shun desire like poison.
Q: How am I to practice desirelessness?
M: No need of practice. No need of any acts of renunciation. Just turn your mind away, that is all. Desire is merely the fixation of the mind on an idea. Get it out of its groove by denying it attention.
Q: That is all?
M: Yes, that is all. Whatever may be the desire or fear, don’t dwell upon it. Try and see for yourself. Here and there you may forget, it does not matter. Go back to your attempts till the brushing away of every desire and fear, of every reaction becomes automatic.
Q: How can one live without emotions?
M: You can have all the emotions you want, but beware of reactions, of induced emotions. Be entirely self-determined and ruled from within, not from without. Merely giving up a thing to secure a better one is not true relinquishment. Give it up because you see its valuelessness. As you keep on giving up, you will find that you grow spontaneously in intelligence and power and inexhaustible love and joy.
Q: Why so much insistence on relinquishing all desires and fears? Are they not natural?
M: They are not. They are entirely mind-made. You have to give up everything to know that you need nothing, not even your body. Your needs are unreal and your efforts are meaningless. You imagine that your possessions protect you. In reality they make you vulnerable. realise yourself as away from all that can be pointed at as ‘this’ or ‘that’. You are unreachable by any sensory experience or verbal construction. Turn away from them. Refuse to impersonate.
Q: After I have heard you, what am I to do?
M: Only hearing will not help you much. You must keep it in mind and ponder over it and try to understand the state of mind which makes me say what I say. I speak from truth; stretch your hand and take it. You are not what you think yourself to be, I assure you. The image you have of yourself is made up from memories and is purely accidental.
Q: What I am is the result of my karma.
M: What you appear to be, you are not. Karma is only a word you have learnt to repeat. You have never been, nor shall ever be a person. Refuse to consider yourself as one. But as long as you do not even doubt yourself to be a Mr. S0-and-so, there is little hope. When you refuse to open your eyes, what can you be shown?
Q: I imagine karma to be a mysterious power that urges me towards perfection.
M: That’s what people told you. You are already perfect, here and now. The perfectible is not you. You imagine yourself to be what you are not — stop it. It is the cessation that is important, not what you are going to stop.
Q: Did not karma compel me to become what I am?
M: Nothing compels. You are as you believe yourself to be. Stop believing.
Q: Here you are sitting on your seat and talking to me. What compels you is your karma.
M: Nothing compels me. I do what needs doing. But you do so many unnecessary things. It is your refusal to examine that creates karma. It is the indifference to your own suffering that perpetuates it.
Q: Yes, it is true. What can put an end to this indifference?
M: The urge must come from within as a wave of detachment, or compassion.
Q: Could I meet this urge half way?
M: Of course. See your own condition, see the condition of the world.
Q: We were told about karma and reincarnation, evolution and Yoga, masters and disciples. What are we to do with all this knowledge?
M: Leave it all behind you. Forget it. Go forth, unburdened with ideas and beliefs. Abandon all verbal structures, all relative truth, all tangible objectives. The Absolute can be reached by absolute devotion only. Don’t be half-hearted.
Q: I must begin with some absolute truth. Is there any?
M: Yes, there is, the feeling: ‘I am’. Begin with that.
Q: Nothing else is true?
M: All else is neither true nor false. It seems real when it appears, it disappears when it is denied. A transient thing is a mystery.
Q: I thought the real is the mystery.
M: How can it be? The real is simple, open, clear and kind, beautiful and joyous. It is completely free of contradictions. It is ever new, ever fresh, endlessly creative. Being and non-being, life and death, all distinctions merge in it.
Q: I can admit that all is false. But, does it make my mind nonexistent?
M: The mind is what it thinks. To make it true, think true.
Q: If the shape of things is mere appearance, what are they in reality?
M: In reality there is only perception. The perceiver and the perceived are conceptual, the fact of perceiving is actual.
Q: Where does the Absolute come in?
M: The Absolute is the birthplace of Perceiving. It makes perception possible.
But too much analysis leads you nowhere. There is in you the core of being which is beyond analysis, beyond the mind. You can know it in action only. Express it in daily life and its light will grow ever brighter. The legitimate function of the mind is to tell you what is not. But if you want positive knowledge, you must go beyond the mind.
Q: In all the universe is there one single thing of value?
If one obtains and relishes the nectar of the Lord’s feet, the charan-amrita, the mind can be conquered. This means that the mind will no longer hold sway over us; its mastery imposed from childhood will no longer oppress us. This is called manojaya—victory over the mind. But this is made possible only with His Grace. Without Grace, we cannot relish the nectar.
However, only a true devotee, a bhakta, a god, can obtain the charan-amrita. But who and what is this devotee? It is nothing else but the consciousness, the sense of being, the knowledge that “we are,” which has appeared unknowingly and spontaneously in us. The consciousness is the charan-amrita, the nectar of the Lord’s feet.
The entire cosmos in its vibrant, stirring movement is represented by the consciousness, the feet of the Lord, and the whole universe is the body of the consciousness. But what is its relationship with all beings? It dwells in the core of all beings as the knowledge “I am,” the love “to be,” the charan-amrita.
One who drinks the nectar of the Lord’s feet is a true devotee. He abides in the knowledge “I am.” He is godly. Thus, when one sips continuously this nectar by witnessing the consciousness or the sense of being, one’s mind, which assesses and differentiates persons observed as males and females, gradually removes itself from the focus of attention, leaving the consciousness in its innate glory.
But how can such a state be attained? Only if one totally accepts the knowledge “I am” as oneself with full conviction and faith and firmly believes in the dictum “I am that by which I know ‘I am’.” This knowledge “I am” is the charan-amrita. Why is it called amrita--the nectar? Because, it is said, by drinking nectar one becomes immortal. Thus, a true devotee, by abiding in the knowledge “I am” transcends the experience of death and attains immortality. But so long as the mind remains unconquered, the experience of death is inevitable.
Although my talks go on and on with many visitors, my standpoint remains unchanged. Why? Because my standpoint is stabilized at the charan-amrita. It stays put in the consciousness, the source of concepts and language. Out of it emanates the language from its subtlest formation to the grossest vocal expression, as para, pashyanti, madhyama, and vaikhari.
If you could just give up all other spiritual efforts and disciplines and absorb yourself in relishing the charan-amrita, by abidance in the consciousness, the mind will release you from its clutches. At present, you meekly accept whatever the mind dictates as your own. If the mind goes into silence, where and what are you?
Once you subside into the consciousness, the factual state of Reality shall be revealed to you with the knowledge that will emanate out of you intuitively. like spring water. This will enable you to discern not what is real and unreal, but most importantly, to realize what “I am.”
What am I for myself alone? What is this life? Once these questions are resolved intuitively and the Reality emerges, the mind cannot predominate any longer. However, functioning of the mind will go on, but the quality of its functioning will be totally different. One who has attained such a state of the mind remains unaffected by any happenings, since the blabberings of the mind can have no effect. And who could be that one? Surely not an individual who is trapped in the mind-shell. But that one is the knowledge “I am”–the consciousness.
It is said that we should break off the shackles that attach us to the body and the world. What does that mean? Whatever is seen and perceived is at the bodily or worldly level. An attachment is developed with objects perceived, and then we identify with a body as ourselves and claim the objects as our own. Attachment is the nature of the mind, and it obstinately persists in these attachments. But if you drink the charan-amrita by stabilizing in the consciousness, everything will be resolved and you will be enlightened. You need not go to anybody to clear your doubts.
While doing my normal chores and singing bhajans in praise of God and so on, to you I appear to be deeply involved in these activities. But actually I remain apart from myself, bereft of the body and mind sense, and then witnessing of the activities happens to Me. I wonder if you have marked this! Many persons are related to me in some way or another. Although seemingly I hobnob with them, I am apart from them. For myself, I have fully realized what “I am,” and right now it is absolutely clear to me what and how ‘I am.” But what these persons think “they are,” only they know. They presume to have acquired knowledge, to have reached a spiritual status higher than others…and so forth. This is bound to be, because they are still slaves to their mind. In my case, it cannot happen. I have totally imbibed the nectar of the Lord’s feet–the consciousness.
At present, all communications and functionings happen through the medium of the nectar–the consciousness. And what is this medium? It is the knowledge “I am.” It is represented by Lord Vishnu, the highest god who reclines blissfully on the coils of the serpent, sheshashayi, and hence is known as sheshashayi-Bhagavan.
Well it is nice to have such talks, but to imbibe and realize their essence is very difficult indeed. Why? Because you firmly believe that you are the body and live accordingly, while entertaining fond wishes that you will achieve something good in the world, and later still better. These expectations are primarily based on the misconceived notion that you are the body. This wrong identification, however, dissolves in the nectar of the Lord’s feet, when you totally subside in the consciousness and lose your individuality.
Dissolution of individuality is not possible without devotion to the Master–guru-bhakti–which in other words is again the consciousness, the guru-charan-amrita. Abidance in the consciousness removes all past and future problems, and stabilizes one in the present–Here and Now.
Consciousness is the sense of knowingness “I am” without words, and it appeared unknowingly and unsolicited. It is the manifest universal life force and, therefore, cannot be individualistic. It extends inside and outside, like the brilliance of a diamond. You see a dream-world inside you and a perceptible world outside you, provided the consciousness prevails. From the body level, you may say inside and outside the body, but from the standpoint of consciousness, where and what is inside and outside? Only in the realm of knowingness “I am”–the consciousness–can a world be, and so also an experience.
Hold on to this knowingness “I am,” and the fount of knowledge will well up within you, revealing the mystery of the Universe; of your body and psyche; of the play of the five elements, the three gunas and prakriti–purush; and of everything else. In the process of this revelation, your individualistic personality confined to the body shall expand into the manifested universe, and it will be realized that you permeate and embrace the entire cosmos as your “body” only. This is known as the “Pure Superknowledge”–shuddhavijnana.
Nevertheless, even in the sublime shuddhavijnana state, the mind refuses to believe that it is a non-entity. But as one subsides in the consciousness, one develops a firm conviction that the knowledge “you are”–the sense of your being–is the very source of your world. This knowledge alone makes you feel “you are” and the world is. Actually, this manifest knowledge, having occupied and permeated the cosmos, dwells in you as the knowledge “you are.” Hold on to this knowledge. Do not try to give it a name or a title.
Now coming to a very subtle situation, what is it in you that understands this knowledge “you are”–or from your standpoint “I am,” without a name, title or word? Subside in that innermost centre and witness the knowledge ” I am” and just be. This is the “bliss of being”–the svarupananda.
You derive pleasure and happiness through various external aids and processes. Some like to enjoy good food, some like to see a picture, some get absorbed in music…and so on. For all these enjoyments some outside factors are essential. But to abide in the “bliss of being” no external aids are required at all. To understand this, take the example of deep sleep. Once you are in deep sleep, no aids or treatments are called for and you enjoy a quiet happiness. Why? Because in that state identity with a body as male or female is totally forgotten.
Some visitors ask me, “Please show us a path that will lead to Reality.” How can I? All paths lead to unreality. Paths are creations within the scope of knowledge. Therefore, paths and movements cannot transport you into Reality, because their function is to enmesh you within the dimension of knowledge, while the Reality prevails prior to it. To apprehend this, you must stay put at the source of your creation, at the beginning of the knowledge “I am.” So long as you do not achieve this, you will be entangled in the chains forged by your mind and get enmeshed in those of others.
Therefore, I repeat, you stabilize at the source of your being and then all the chains will snap asunder and you will be liberated. You will transcend time, with the result that you will be beyond the reach of its tentacles and you shall prevail in Eternity. And this sublime state can be attained only by drinking ceaselessly the nectar of the guru’s sacred feet–the guru-charan-amrita. It is a state of ecstatic beatitude–the self subsiding blissfully in the Self. This ecstasy is beyond words; it is also awareness in total quietude.
The quintessence of the talk is clear. Your most important asset is the “knowledge” that “you are” prior to emanation of mind. Hold on to this “knowledge” and meditate. Nothing is superior to this, not even devotion to a guru–guru-bhakti–or devotion to God-Ishwara-bhakti.
-Nisargadatta Maharaj – January 25, 1980
From The Nectar of Immortality. 1987 Joseph Nauwelaerts
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