Enjoying this Living Death – Nisargadatta Maharaj

Visitor: The will to live is strong. To drop this identification with the body is like dying in a sense. Is it possible to do it voluntarily?

Maharaj: What you call the body is this food, which is the fuel for the sustenance of your Consciousness. The mind is the product of the vital breath; when the vital breath flows the mind flows and creates the world. Language is an external impression that’s made on the child. The child absorbs the vital breath and then talks. Consciousness is the wish to ‘Be’. That Beingness wants to be perpetuated and does not want to be extinguished. Its quality is the will to live. Which is love itself. It loves to live. Because it wants to live and sustain itself, it creates the right conditions and goes into activity in the world.

V: Isn’t this detachment from the body-mind like a form of death?

M: Yes, it is a sort of death. (Maharaj sings a morning prayer.) “The greatest advantage I’ve got is out of the fact that I am enjoying this living death.” Most of the saints talk about this living death.

V: Can we reach a state like you, where we are willing to experience this death?

M: You don’t lose your Self. The whole process is to understand your mis-identification and come out of it. If you accept this then nothing can touch you. Knowing that you are not the body, watch the vital breath as a flow of the mind. You are here in the spark of “I Amness.” When you acknowledge the “I Amness” you become the spark. I am like space and do not have an identity – this is my “I Amness” from which all the talk is being produced.

Now you have heard me talk at length. Do you still feel it necessary to have all this play of dancing and jumping about in Rajneesh’s ashram to achieve Self-realization?

V: No

M: A common man who feels inclined towards spirituality will be full of concepts. Unless he is made to dance and jump about he will not understand the futility of the mind and its concepts. Only then will he come here to listen to these talks.

-Nisargadatta Maharaj

From Beyond Freedom, pp. 59-60

Meditation is the Bridge Between Yoga and Advaita

Hakuin begins his Song of Meditation, “All beings are from the very beginning Buddhas.” Nisargadatta Maharaj tells us to take as a hypothesis that we are the “absolute”, because it is not yet our experience. Osho begins his discourse series on The Heart Sutra with these words, “I salute the Buddha within you. You may not be aware of it, you may not have ever dreamed about it — that you are a Buddha, that nobody can be anything else, that buddhahood is the very essential core of your being, that it is not something to happen in the future, that it has happened already.” But he goes on to say “But you are fast asleep, you don’t know who you are. Not that you have to become a Buddha, but only that you have to recognize it, that you have to return to your own source, that you have to look within yourself.”

This paradox that we are already Buddhas but that we do not recognize it is at the heart of much confusion today. It is here where those who are professing a neo-advaitan philosophy clash with the gradualists, with the yogis. But there should be no conflict. It is just that each side is only seeing half of the situation. We Are already enlightened but it is Not yet our experience. We have not Realized our enlightenment and until we do Realize our natural state then the work continues.

It is important for the neo-advaitans to understand that just intellectually knowing that we are already enlightened does not a Buddha make. And in order to uncover that sleeping Buddha there is a transformation yet to take place. And it is also important for the yogis to understand that we are from the very beginning Buddhas and that our work is not to make us into something that we are not already, but to uncover our already existing true nature. Hence it is not a question of becoming but of uncovering.

So what is the bridge between this gulf of understanding?  What is needed for the transformation from the potential to the realized to take place? When Nisargadatta Maharaj was asked what he did before his enlightenment was realized, he said that he accepted the words of his guru “that he was the absolute” and he meditated on the “I am” for three years.  J. Krishnamurti has said that “seeing is transformation.” He says that it is the observation of the mind itself that is the transformation. And Osho’s entire life work was to illuminate ‘meditation’ as the bridge between our current state of living in the mind and the awakened life of no-mind.

So if my enlightenment is only in words, only in concepts and not in my daily life then perhaps it would be best to continue on the journey back to Self and that journey must pass through no-mind.  On the other hand if I see enlightenment as a goal in the future of becoming then too it would be good to come home to Being and out of the goals in the world of mind.

Meditation is the way in.

-purushottama

More from the collected and uncollected posts of Prem Purushottama.

Investigate “I Am” – Nisargadatta Maharaj

Maharaj: Rajneesh [Osho] is not a small personality or small principal. He is tremendous ‒ he is very big. He is a great sage.

When you already have a guru [Rajneesh], why do you visit other sages? Since you already have a great sage as your guru, you should not sit here or come here. I do not like those shiftings from gurus to gurus. I do not like wanderers. What is the difference between Maharaj and Rajneesh [Osho]? Once you remove the letters (that is, the names) what is the difference? You investigate that wanderer’s “I”, before you investigate others. What is the product after you remove its name? What are you without the name or the label?

You investigate the investigator—investigate “I Am”.

Before you take up the assignment of inquiring about others, inquire about yourself first and see if you are real or unreal. The letters “I Am” are written spontaneously with a certain ink. What is that ink which was used to write that which you are? In that ink with which the letters “I Am” were written, in that ink the title of Tej Sesh Bhagavan is confirmed by the Vedas. Sesh means the leftover, the remains. What is the leftover that means what you are? [Maharaj then asked someone to leave and not to listen to these talks.] One who has understood one’s mystery as to what is, that one will not discuss or argue the largeness or smallness of anybody.

You have become a slave to a concept, and having become a slave to one concept you are fully involved and are immersed in more concepts. You are drowning in concepts. Having got caught up with the concept that you are, the first concept, you started giving names and titles and ideas to others and you became enmeshed therein. Although one may call oneself a jnani, one enjoys entertaining himself with a number of concepts. That Taj Sesh Bhagavan has spontaneously come and will spontaneously go. What are you going to get for yourself as “I Am”? In what position or concept did you stabilize yourself as “I Am”? The firm conviction that I am this, the three states—waking state, deep sleep and the knowledge “I Am”—are the aspects of that Tej Sesh Bhagavan. You are not that.

Question: Then who am I?

Maharaj: The prominent and firm reply is only you are. You throw the hooks with bait into the water to catch fish. In that way you, with the concept that you are, throw in the bait and haul in lots of concepts for yourself. So when the question followed by the answer is there, then anything which is refused (what remains) is that rejection.

Prior to any other recognition, you already are. If you are not, other people are not. You are supporting yourself on the intellect of the body and having stabilized in the body or the intellect, you are creating or inviting a lot of concepts, and in the concepts you are bogged down. You are talking about others, let me know what you are. I am asking about you. What are you? You are the observer.

-Nisargadatta Maharaj

From Consciousness and the Absolute, June 9, 1981.

You can read more from Nisargadatta Maharaj here.

Remembering Nisargadatta Maharaj- David Godman

The following is from an interview with David Godman.

Harriet: You say that Maharaj never visited other teachers because he no longer had any doubts. Did he ever talk about other teachers and say what he thought of them? 

David: He seemed to like J. Krishnamurti. He had apparently seen him walking on the streets of Bombay many years before. I don’t think that Krishnamurti noticed him. Afterwards, Maharaj always spoke well of Krishnamurti and he even encouraged people to go and see him. One day Maharaj took a holiday and told everyone to go and listen to Krishnamurti instead. That, I think, shows a high level of approval.

The most infamous teacher of the late 1970s was Osho, or Rajneesh as he was in those days. I once heard Maharaj say that he respected the state that Rajneesh was in, but he couldn’t understand all the instructions he was giving to all the thousands of foreigners who were then coming to India to see him. Although the subject only came up a couple of times while I was there, I got the feeling he liked the teacher but not the teachings. When Rajneesh’s foreign ‘sannyasins‘ showed up in their robes, he generally gave them a really hard time. I watched him throw quite a few of them out, and I saw him shout at some of them before they had even managed to get into his room.

I heard a story that he also encountered U. G. Krishnamurti in Bombay. I will tell you the version I heard and you can make up your own mind about it. It was told to me by someone who spent a lot of time with U. G. in the 1970s.

It seems that Maurice Frydman knew U. G. and also knew that he and Maharaj had never met, and probably didn’t know about each other. He wanted to test the theory that one jnani can spot another jnani by putting them both in the same room, with a few other people around as camouflage. He organised a function and invited both of them to attend. U. G. spent quite some time there, but Maharaj only came for a few minutes and then left.

After Maharaj had left Maurice went up to U. G. and said, ‘Did you see that old man who came in for a few minutes. Did you notice anything special? What did you see?’

U. G. replied, ‘I saw a man, Maurice, but the important thing is, what did you see?’

The next day Maurice went to see Maharaj and asked, ‘Did you see that man I invited yesterday?’ A brief description of what he looked like and where he was standing followed.

Then Maurice asked, ‘What did you see?’

Maharaj replied, ‘I saw a man Maurice, but the important thing is, what did you see?’

It’s an amusing story and I pass it on as I heard it, but I should say that U. G.’s accounts of his meetings with famous teachers sometimes don’t ring true to me. I have heard and read his accounts of his meetings with both Ramana Maharshi and Papaji, and in both accounts Bhagavan and Papaji are made to do and say things that to me are completely out of character.

When Maharaj told Rudi that he had no interest in visiting other teachers, it was a very true statement. He refused all invitations to go and check out other Gurus. Mullarpattan, one of the translators, was a bit of a Guru-hopper in the 1970s, and he was always bringing reports of new teachers to Maharaj, but he could never persuade him to go and look at them. So, reports of meetings between Maharaj and other teachers are not common. Papaji ended up visiting Maharaj and had a very good meeting with him. In his biography he gives the impression that he only went there once, but I heard from people in Bombay that Papaji would often take his devotees there. He visited quite a few teachers in the 1970s, often when he was accompanying foreigners who had come to India for the first time. It was his version of showing them the sights. They would never ask questions; they would just sit quietly and watch what was going on.

Harriet: What was Maharaj’s attitude to Ramana Maharshi and his teachings? Did you ever discuss Bhagavan’s teachings with him? 

David: He had enormous respect for both his attainment and his teachings. He once told me that one of the few regrets of his life was that he never met him in person. He did come to the ashram in the early 1960s with a group of his Marathi devotees. They were all on a South Indian pilgrimage tour and Ramanasramam was one of the places he visited.

With regard to the teachings he once told me, ‘I agree with everything that Ramana Maharshi said, with the exception of this business of the heart-centre being on the right side of the chest. I have never had that experience myself.’

I discussed various aspects of Bhagavan’s teachings with him and always found his answers to be very illuminating.

He asked me once, ‘Have you understood Ramana Maharshi’s teachings?’

Since I knew he meant ‘Had I actually experienced the truth of them?’, I replied, ‘The more I listen to Maharaj, the more I understand what Bhagavan is trying to tell me’.

I felt that this was true at both the theoretical and experiential levels. His explanations broadened and deepened my intellectual understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings and his presence also gave me experiential glimpses of the truth that they were all pointing towards.

I have to mention Ganesan’s visit here. V. Ganesan is the grandnephew of Ramana Maharshi and in the 1970s he was the de facto manager of Ramanasramam. Nowadays, his elder brother Sundaram is in charge. Ganesan came to visit Maharaj for the first time in the late 1970s. As soon as he arrived Maharaj stood up and began to collect cushions. He made a big pile of them and made Ganesan sit on top of the heap. Then, much to everyone’s amazement, Maharaj cleared a space on the floor and did a full-length prostration to him.

When he stood up, he told Ganesan, ‘I never had a chance to prostrate to your great-uncle Ramana Maharshi, so I am prostrating to you instead. This is my prostration to him.’

From Remembering Nisargadatta Maharaj: Harriet interviews David Godman, page two.

You can read more from Nisargadatta Maharaj here.

Absolute Perfection is Here and Now – Nisargadatta Maharaj

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

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

Q: But what is your own attitude?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Your people speak of karma and retribution.

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

Q: So, the innocent suffers for the guilty?

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

Q: Why do I imagine at all?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Have you no problems?

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

Q: But you love everything!

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

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

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

Q: Is your home in God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: I remember nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

Q: The world is getting better.

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Where do I find such courage?

M: In yourself, of course. Look within.

Q: Your grace will help.

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What does the real gain through its expressions?

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

-Nisargadatta Maharaj

From I Am That, Chapter 82

Matter is Consciousness Itself – Nisargadatta Maharaj

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

Maharaj: It depends what you make of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: The world remains. I remain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Does your world affect mine?

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

Q: Is not attention an attitude of mind?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Is it not a desire?

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

Q: But do you want it?

M: I do not want it.

Q: Will you accept it?

M: I don’t need it.

Q: Will you stay in it?

M: If I am compelled.

Q: What can compel you?

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

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

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

Q: Are you always in a state of samadhi?

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

Q: I need samadhis for self-realisation.

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

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

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

-Nisargadatta Maharaj

From I Am That, Chapter 61

Find Out Who You Are – Jean Dunn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really?
Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then our lives change.
Yes.

That’s the new life?
Correct.

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

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