These are the quotes from the “I Am That” book by Nisargadatta Maharaj together with my commentary. It’s the last part of the whole series.
Q: Can I make myself remember my state of deep sleep?
A: Of course! By eliminating the intervals of inadvertence during your waking hours you will gradually eliminate the long interval of absent-mindedness, which you call sleep. You will be aware that you are asleep.
This whole life is no different than our night dreams, yet it’s longer and collective. Because people are largely unconscious they don’t realize how many mental gaps they experience in their waking state. Through mindfulness they can become aware of them which will make it easier for them to realize that this existence is illusory.
Q: Surely everybody deserves peace.
A: Only those deserve it who don’t disturb it.
Q: In what way do I disturb peace?
A: By being a slave to your desires and fears.
Q: Even when they are justified?
A: Emotional reactions, born of ignorance or inadvertence, are never justified. Seek a clear mind and a clean heart. All you need is to keep quietly alert, inquiring into the real nature of yourself. This is the only way to peace.
Often people would come to Maharaj asking how to help this world to free it from wars and other evils. He would say that the world needs to free itself from themselves, that it’s them who cause all these things.
All of us contribute to the wars of the world through our unconsciousness. When there’s chaos in the mind we cannot be held unaccountable for what’s happening in the world. When the mind frees itself from disturbance in the form of fears and desires, then we can really call ourselves the causes of peace.
Q: Must I not renounce everything first, and live a homeless life? [In order to achieve liberation.]
A: You cannot renounce. You may leave your home and give trouble to your family, but attachments are in the mind and will not leave you until you know your mind in and out. First things first – know yourself, all else will come with it.
No matter whether people renounce everything or not, as long as the mind is full of fears and desires, liberation cannot be achieved. If a person leads a conventional life yet the mind is clear, liberation is possible, like it had happened to Maharaj. So it’s not about external situation but internal, yet it’s wise to avoid making further commitments if one wants to lead a spiritual life.
My destiny was to be born a simple man, a commoner, a humble tradesman, with little formal education. My life was of the common kind, with common desires and fears. When, through my faith in my teacher and obedience to his words, I realized my true being, I left behind my human nature to look after itself, until its destiny in exhausted.
How beautifully put – he left his human nature to look after itself until its destiny is exhausted. How many people work hard to change themselves, to make themselves more spiritual. Yet simple detachment from the body and its doings accomplishes the greatest spiritual goal of all. After all, it’s not the body we need to liberate but ourselves from the bodies.
As long as you cling to the idea that only what has name and shape exists, the Supreme will appear to you nonexisting. When you understand that names and shapes are hollow shells without any content whatsoever, and what is real is nameless and formless, pure energy of life and light of consciousness, you will be at peace immersed in the deep silence of reality.
Yet at first it will be difficult to let go. When everything loses its meaning, you will at first have to go through the period of grievance, which will seem like death. Life will lose its taste and that can be very discouraging for some time. Eventually this will be replaced with the next level of life – the one that’s no longer based on illusion and which is rooted in truth.
Q: We are told to meditate regularly.
A: Deliberate daily exercise in discrimination between the true and the false and renunciation of the false is mediation. There are many kinds of meditation to begin with, but they all merge finally into one.
At first it’s beneficial to engage in spiritual practices because the mind should be made sattvic (clear, pure, positive). Yet eventually there will be no need of any specific practices because the whole life will become one big meditation – it will become usual to always stay mindful and to correctly discriminate between the true and false.
A man who moves with the earth will necessarily experience days and nights. He who stays with the sun will know no darkness. My world is not yours. As I see it, you all are on a stage performing. There is no reality about your comings and goings. And your problems are so unreal!
Maharaj has woken up from the dream so he views in a detached way his body performing. He also sees that other people are not yet awake so they are fully identified with their roles. Therefore he knows that though these people take everything seriously in this life, nothing at all what they do matters as this whole life is a dream.
Why do you worry about the world before taking care of yourself? You want to save the world, don’t you? Can you save the world before saving yourself? And what is the meaning of being saved? Saved from what? From illusion. Salvation is to see things as they are.
Maharaj often would say that there is no need to save the world. Once you awaken yourself, you will understand that you were dreaming a private nightmare. Once you awake, the nightmare is gone.
Being nothing, I am all. Everything is me, everything is mine. Just as my body moves by my mere thinking of the movement, so do things happen as I think of them. Mind you, I do nothing. I just see them happen.
He is one with the world so he knows he’s not the doer. When things will need to be manifested through him, they will. Cause and effect are one, but because of time and space oftentimes the manifestation is delayed.
Even before liberation it’s possible to get detached from the body to a degree to understand this. For example, when some thought starts getting established in the mind and it keeps reappearing, I know the idea will manifest. It just doesn’t leave the mind and with its attention it grows, and then it manifests. It’s not that I think of the idea; yet people totally identified with their bodies would think that they are the initiators of that idea.
There are no others to help. A rich man, when he hands over his entire fortune to his family, has not a coin left to give a beggar. So is the wise man (gnani) stripped of all his powers and possessions. Nothing, literally nothing, can be said about him. He cannot help anybody, for he is everybody. (…) Who thinks of himself as separate from the world, let him help the world.
Some people want to achieve liberation not because they are tired of the world and they want the game to stop, but because they are deceived by their power-thirsty egos. They want liberation because they think this will grant them much power. Yet here Maharaj says that people who are liberated have no power at all as they are the reality itself in which everything happens.
Q: We are told of great avatars, the saviours of the world.
A: Did they save? They have come and gone – and the world plods on. Of course, they did a lot and opened new dimensions in the human mind. But to talk of saving the world is an exaggeration.
Q: Is there no salvation for the world?
A: Which world do you want to save? The world of your own projection? Save yourself. My world? Show me my world and I shall deal with it. I am not aware of any world separate from myself. (…) What business have you with saving the world when all the world needs is to be saved from you? Get out of the picture and see whether there is anything left to save.
The world in actuality doesn’t need saving; it’s the minds that need correcting. And when we correct our minds, the world no longer looks so bad. By liberating ourselves we help to liberate others; the more there is peaceful energy in the world, the more other minds will be able to heal. That’s why it’s told that liberated people help the world without doing anything, just by their being.
Weak-mindedness is due to lack of intelligence, of understanding, which again is the result of non-awareness. By striving for awareness you bring your mind together and strengthen it.
Here Maharaj says that ignorance is the result of non-attention. This is great news – by daily mindfulness every person is able to gain wisdom and intelligence, and the mind becomes strong through such practice. So there’s no need of any mental exercises – mere attention will keep the mind young and strong.
Q: I may be fully aware of what is going on, and yet quite unable to influence it in any way.
A: you are mistaken. What is going on is a projection of your mind. A weak mind cannot control its own projections. Be aware, therefore, of your mind and its projections. You cannot control what you do not know. On the other hand, knowledge gives power. In practice it is very simple. To control yourself – know yourself.
This is an invaluable piece of knowledge. People who are not familiar with their mental contents will feel at the mercy of circumstances, weak and fearful in the unknown world. Yet those who know their mental contents and control what they think, will feel in control of their lives.
If you’re not aware of what’s in your mind, you will project things that will seem foreign. Yet if you know what’s in your mind and it’s good content, there will be no nasty surprises in your world.
Also, astrologer Robert Hand says that if we have some desire but it’s against social conventions or against something we believe in, it’s going to be projected into the external world for us to deal with. For example, a need of freedom may be projected as divorce. So it’s very important not to lie to ourselves and to acknowledge even the most secret desires that we have rather than suppress them for them to manifest as some external event that seems to be out of control.
Q: Maybe I can come to control myself, but shall I be able to deal with the chaos in the world?
A: There is no chaos in the world, except the chaos which your mind creates. It is self-created in the sense that at its very centre is the false idea of oneself as a thing different and separate from other things. In reality you are not a thing, nor separate. You are the infinite potentiality, the inexhaustible possibility.
If the mind thinks itself to be separate from the world, all kinds of fears and desires will be born. Yet if through liberation we let go of all such notions, there is nothing left to fear or desire, as everything is us. This results in inner peace, and external chaos is no more.
It is not the worship of a person that is crucial, but the steadiness and depth of your devotion to the task. Life itself is the Supreme Guru: be attentive to its lessons and obedient to its commands. When you personalize their source, you have an outer Guru; when you take them from life directly, the Guru is within. Remember, wonder, ponder, live with it, love it, grow into it, grow with it, make it your own – the world of your Guru, outer or inner. Put in all and you will get all.
Very often in Asia people seek a guru to devote their lives to. Yet it’s not the devotion to the guru that gains liberation but the devotion to the task of getting liberated. The external guru is only required for externally-minded people, those who miss daily lessons that life provides. Life itself is the most perfect guru anyone could have – it’s always there and it teaches you every minute.
Q: Why must he come here to get advice? Can’t he get it from within?
A: He will not listen. His mind is turned outward. But in fact, all experience is in the mind, and even his coming to be and getting help is all within himself. Instead of finding an answer within himself, he imagines an answer from without. To me there is no me, no man and no giving. All this is merely a flicker in the mind. I am infinite peace and silence in which nothing appears, for all that appears – disappears.
The question and answer are one. If you have a question, the answer must come in some form, sooner or later. There’s no need to go in search of people who can answer your questions. If you are attentive, life itself will answer your question without you putting any effort in gaining it. You just need to wait. Yet some people tend to externalize everything as they are not aware of the inner life.
Q: We can observe what may be called spiritual progress. A selfish man turns religious, controls himself, refines his thoughts and feelings, takes to spiritual practice, realizes his true being. Is such progress ruled by causality, or is it accidental?
A: From my point of view everything happens by itself, quiet spontaneously. But man imagines that he works for an incentive, toward a goal. He has always a reward in mind and strives for it.
Q: A crude, unevolved man will not work without a reward. Is it not right to offer him incentives?
A: He will create for himself incentives anyhow. He does not know that to grow is in the nature of consciousness. He will progress from motive to motive and will chase Gurus for the fulfillment of his desires. When by the laws of his being he finds the way to return (nivritti) he abandons all motives, for his interest in the world is over. He wants nothing neither from others nor from himself. He dies to all and becomes the All. To want nothing and do nothing – that is true creation! To watch the universe emerging and subsiding in one’s heart is a wonder.
As long as one is identified with the body, she will think herself to be the doer, thinking of what to achieve and going for it. Yet all happens by itself. Once this is understood, detachment naturally starts happening, and then it’s possible to watch the world in wonder without being involved in it at all.
Q: The great obstacle to inner effort is boredom. The disciple gets bored.
A: Inertia and restlessness (tamas and rajas) work together and keep clarity and harmony (sattva) down. Tamas and Rajas must be conquered before Sattva can appear. It will come in due course; quite spontaneously.
Q: Is there no need of effort then?
A: When effort is needed, effort will appear. When effortlessness becomes essential, it will assert itself. You need not push life about. Just flow with it and give yourself completely to the task of the present moment, which is the dying now to the now. For living is dying. Without death life cannot be.
Get hold of the main thing that the world and the self are one and perfect. Only your attitude is faulty and needs readjustment. This process of readjustment is what you call sadhana. You come to it by putting an end to indolence and using all your energy to clear the way for clarity and charity. But in realty these all are signs of inevitable growth. Don’t be afraid, don’t resist, don’t delay. Be what you are. There is nothing to be afraid of. Trust and try. Experiment honestly. Give your real being a chance to shape your life. You will not regret it.
It’s so joyful to know that when time comes, everyone will make spiritual progress. All progress at different speeds and this is in their destiny. So there’s no need to make any particular effort. It will come when it’s necessary. Just tune into your being as then the Self can lead you. That’s all that’s required.
Q: I have understood very well that social service is an endless task, because improvement and decay, progress and regress, go side by side. We can see it on all sides and on every level. What remains?
A: Whatever work you have undertaken – complete it. Do not take up new tasks, unless it is called for by a concrete situation of suffering and relief from suffering. Find yourself first, and endless blessings will follow. Nothing profits the world as much as the abandoning of profits. A man who no longer thinks in terms of loss and gain is truly a non-violent man, for he is beyond all conflict.
Jesus also said that firstly you should find the Kingdom of God and then all else will follow. Here the same advice is given – firstly find yourself. Do not take up new things to do, new responsibilities to fulfill. Try to get liberated from the body and the world as then life becomes not only easy but full of beauty and blessings.
Yet like we read in previous quotes, we cannot control spiritual progress – when the energy is there for this purpose, we will naturally make effort to get liberated.
Q: Yes, I was always attracted by the idea of ahimsa (non-violence).
A: Primarily, ahimsa means what it says: “don’t hurt”. It is not doing good that comes first, but ceasing to hurt, not adding to suffering. Pleasing others is not ahimsa.
There are many people in the world who pride themselves in doing much good, like donating or helping the poor. Yet they fail to get rid of evil character traits that hurt others on a daily basis. It’s very usual to come across persons who have wonderful public personalities yet their family members suffer because of their presence. So her Maharaj says that firstly you should stop hurting others in all ways, and then it’s right to think about doing good as well.
There are no conditions to fulfill. There is nothing to be done, nothing to be given up. Just look and remember. Whatever you perceive is not you, nor yours. It is there in the field of consciousness, but you are not the field and its contents, nor even the knower of the field. It is your idea that you have to do things that entangle you in the results of your efforts – the motive, the desires, the failure to achieve, the sense of frustration – all this holds you back. Simply look at whatever happens and know that you are beyond it.
That’s the reason in Bhagavat Gita we are advised not to look at the results of our actions but dedicate all to God. Do what you are supposed to do, without any attachment to results, without any expectation, without any thought of personal gain. This is the kind of action that is not binding and it helps you to get liberated.