Q: But what does it mean in actual experience? How do you know that for you time has ceased?
A: It may mean that past and future do not matter anymore. It may also mean that all that has happened and will happen becomes an open book to read at will.
Even before achieving enlightenment you stop to a large degree dwelling on the events that are past and those yet to come. So you stay in the present moment most of the time. This makes you able to be in touch with the energies of the world, and though you cannot read the future, you feel the energy build up for some event, and you can be more silent so that you are guided to take the right action.
After the stage of creation, comes the stage of examination and reflection and, finally, the stage of abandonment and forgetting. The consciousness remains but in a latent, quiet state.
At first we are in the full creation mode, projecting the world and enjoying its fruits. However, after some existences we notice the repetitive nature of this world which is caused by the state of duality. When we are happy, sadness is bound to come, when we achieve something, we get hungry for something new.
Having noticed this repetitive state we start becoming disinterested in this creation and turn within. That’s when liberation can be achieved.
To see reality is as simple as to see one’s face in the mirror. Only the mirror must be clear and untainted. A quiet mind, undistorted by desires and fears, free from ideas and opinions, clear on all the levels, is needed to reflect the reality. Be clear and quiet – alert and detached, all else will happen by itself.
Here Nisargadatta Maharaj explains that it’s not hard to see things as they really are. All is required is a mirror-like mind, clear of all impurities. Daily mindfulness cleanses the mind to make it what it was supposed to be – a reflector and not distorter of reality.
There is destiny to consider. The unconscious is in the grip of destiny; it is destiny, in fact. One may have to wait. But however heavy may be the hand of destiny, it can be lifted by patience and self-control. Integrity and purity remove the obstacles and the vision of reality appears in the mind.
Sometimes liberation needs to be delayed because destiny needs to be worked out. However by leading a pure and wholesome existence you make the destiny dissolve faster.
The universe is full of action, but there is no actor. There are numberless persons small and big and very big, who, through identification, imagine themselves as acting. But it does not change the fact that the world of action (mahadakash) is one single whole in which all depends on, and affects all. (…) Step back from action to consciousness; leave action to the body and the mind; it is their domain. Remain as pure witness, till even witnessing dissolves in the Supreme.
People think themselves to be the bodies, therefore they think themselves to be the doers. But we are the awareness that makes this whole play happen. When we stay quiet and meditate we start noticing that the body will do what it’s supposed to do despite of us. This gives us a glimpse of the truth Nisargadatta Maharaj here shares.
Q: How am I to reach perfection?
A: Keep quiet. Do your work in the world, but inwardly keep quiet. Then all will come to you. Do not rely on your work for realization. It may profit others, but not you. Your hope lies in keeping silent in your mind and quiet in your heart. Realized people are very quiet.
You may notice that if you try to quieten your mind it’s even more unruly. I think that happens because by stopping, we experience a bigger load of mental content so that we can get freed from it quicker. So don’t get discouraged if your meditation time is far from quiet. Those images, thoughts and all the other mental content will have to be witnessed; but witnessing eventually clears the mind of this chaos.
Q: I find that I’m always restless, longing, hoping, seeking, finding, enjoying, abandoning, searching again. What is that keeps me on the boil?
A: You are really in search of yourself, without knowing it. You are love – longing for the love – worthy, the perfectly lovable. Due to ignorance you are looking for it in the world of opposites and contradictions. When you find it within, your search will be over.
This is the disease of the world – the externalized mind. So we think we’re missing something, when in fact what we’re looking for what has always been with us. So when we turn our minds within, we will see that which we were unconsciously searching for in the world.
There are levels in consciousness, but not in awareness. It is of one block, homogeneous. Its reflection in the mind is love and understanding.
The mind reflects the awareness as the witness. When we stay with ourselves and observe our minds, often there’s the feeling of love that is felt. This is the mind touching upon our true nature yet it can only reflect it. Only when we go beyond the mind will we be able to access the totality of us.
Q: You mean to say an experience can be nameless, formless, undefined?
A: In the beginning all experience is such. It is only desire and fear born of memory that give it name and form and separate it from other experiences.
This can be illustrated by the mind getting fixated on some person. That person will always stand out from the crowd. Yet to others he may not stand out at all – he may not even be noticed in the crowd. It’s due to our personal preferences, likes and dislikes, that we separate certain objects and experiences from the rest.
Desire and fear are obscuring and distorting factors. When mind is free of them the unconscious becomes accessible.
Q: Does it mean that the unconscious becomes conscious?
A: It is rather the other way round. The conscious becomes one with the unconscious. The distinction ceases, whichever way you look at it.
I remember reading some gnostic text about the secret teachings of Jesus and he said something very similar. It was about the inner becoming as the outer so that you are totally integrated. That’s the same as merging the conscious with the unconscious. It means you act without any division – your thoughts and actions align, there’s no contradiction in you.
The source is neither right nor wrong. Nor is desire by itself right or wrong. It is nothing but striving for happiness. Having identified yourself with a speck of a body you feel lost and search desperately for the sense of fullness and completeness, you call happiness.
This is such a perfect way of putting the situation of humanity. As long as the unlimited is identified with the limited it will always search for perfection and love. Yet the search needs to be internalized as the world of illusions cannot lead one to one’s own self.
In your fevered state, you project a past and a future and take them to be real. In fact, you know only your present moment. Why not investigate what is now, instead of questioning the imaginary past and future? Your present state is neither beginningless nor endless. It is over in a flash. Watch carefully from where it comes and where it goes. You will soon discover the timeless reality behind it.
Things emerge from nothingness and disintegrate into nothingness. That nothingness is pregnant with possibilities but it’s a void. That void has no attributes yet it’s the mother of all being.
Q: Is there any progress in witness? Does awareness evolve?
A: What is seen may undergo many changes when the light of awareness is focused on it, but it is the object that changes, not the light.
Awareness makes this projection to be seen, yet no matter what we witness, the awareness doesn’t change. Often this is compared with the projection screen and the movie. The movie may change a great deal, yet the projection screen never changes.
Karma is only a store of unspent energies and unfulfilled desires and fears not understood. The store is being constantly replenished by new desires and fears. It need not be so for ever. Understand the root cause of your fears – estrangement from yourself; and of desires – the longing for the self, and your karma will dissolve like a dream. Between earth and heaven life goes on. Nothing is affected, only bodies grow and decay.
Once the mind becomes internalized desires and fears are no more as we dwell with that which people frantically yet unconsciously search for – our real selves.
Q: I can see that the basic biological anxiety, the flight instinct, takes many shapes and distorts my thoughts and feelings. But how did this anxiety come into being?
A: It is a mental state caused by the “I-am-the-body” idea. It can be removed by the contrary idea: “I-am-not-the-body”. Both ideas are false, but one removes the other. Realize that no ideas are your own, they all come to you from outside. You must think it all out for yourself, become yourself the object of your meditation. The effort to understand yourself is Yoga. Be a Yogi, give your life to it, brood, wonder, search, till you come to the root of error and to the truth beyond the error.
As Nisargadatta Maharaj explains in other words, as long as something is not okay with us we will feel anxiety, like we would feel pain if the shoulder were dislocated. As soon as we understand that we are not the bodies, that anxiety will be no more as we will be in our natural state.
Meditation is a deliberate attempt to pierce into the higher states of consciousness and finally go beyond it. The art of meditation is the art of shifting the focus of attention to ever subtler levels, without losing one’s grip on the levels left behind. In a way it is like having death under control. One begins with the lowest levels: social circumstances, customs and habits, physical surroundings; the posture and the breathing of the body; the senses, their sensations and perceptions; the mind, its thoughts and feelings, until the entire personality is grasped and firmly held. The final stage of meditation is reached when the sense of identity goes beyond the “I-am-so-and-so”, beyond “So-I-am”, beyond “I-am-the-witness-only”, beyond “there-is”, beyond all ideas into the impersonally personal pure being. But you must be energetic when you take to meditation. It’s definitely not a part-time occupation. Limit your interests and activities to what is needed for you and your dependents’ barest needs. Save all your energies and time for breaking the wall your mind has build around you. Believe me, you will not regret it.
Both Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharshi say that meditation is a very difficult work. Real meditation is continuous awareness of one’s self, yet many people fall into the trap of blissful states, becoming ecstasy junkies, or plunging into unconsciousness and emerging after hours or days, thinking themselves highly accomplished.
The good news is that there’s an easier way to reach liberation, and that’s through a total belief in what the enlightened ones say. That’s how Nisargadatta Maharaj achieved liberation – he totally believed in his guru’s words that he’s not the body and continued dwelling on this idea until he understood it to be correct.
Q: Surely somebody is responsible for this horrible and senseless carnage. Why do people kill each other so readily?
A: 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.
Selfishness creates wars, and as long as there’s body identification, there will be selfishness. So to really help the world we need to start with ourselves first – we need to dwell in mindfulness so that we understand our true unlimited being.
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.
A: 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.
Thus the hypocrisy of people like vegans, who claim that they are anti-violence. Living is violence. We kill millions of bacteria just by breathing. There’s no way to avoid violence in this world.
(…) memory feeds imagination and imagination generates desire and fear.
Q: Why do I imagine at all?
A: The light of consciousness passes through the film of memory and throws pictures of your brain. Because of the deficient and disordered state of your brain, what you perceive is distorted and colored 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.
As long as the mind is distorted because of impurities and clinging to the past and future, it’s not possible to see things as they really are.