Yet another set of quotes from the “I Am That” book by Nisargadatta Maharaj together with my commentary. Read part onetwothree, four and five.

Q: How am I to practice desirelessness?

A: No need to practice. No need of any act 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.

If you forcefully try to stop the mind from desiring, you will channel more energy into those desires. So it’s best to just lose interest by not paying attention to that fixation of the mind. Then, not getting energy to feed on, the desire will evaporate.

Be entirely self-determined and ruled from within, not without.

That’s how you can understand who you really are. Most people are totally lost, not knowing their real selves, because their influences are external, and usually very negative at that.

[Desires and fears] 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. Realize 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.

When you get into the habit of turning away from your desires and fears they will lose their reality and this is how you can understand that you are bigger than them and that you don’t need paying attention to such things. When you turn away from all visible phenomena you find your self because you no longer identify with that which is not real.

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.

Liberated people live in the present moment and they don’t get random thoughts. They take action only when it’s necessary – when circumstances change or problems arise and they need to do something about it.

Whilst those who are still not free are prisoners of their own minds, fearing when fearful thoughts come and jumping to action when desires arise. It’s painful existence yet they continue acting this way.

[About knowledge.]

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.

Eventually even knowledge needs to be left behind because it becomes a burden and an obstacle. In the Western world this is especially seen, where knowledge-gathering is no longer help but addiction. Only when there’s no interest in the world whatsoever that liberation can be achieved.

Liberation is never of the person, it is always from the person.

So many imagine themselves liberated as bodies when true liberation is the change of perspective; when you no longer operate as a body but you see a body operating.

Break the bonds of memory and self-identification, and the shell will break by itself. There is a centre that imparts reality to whatever it perceives. All you need is to understand that you are the source of reality, that you give reality instead of getting it, that you need no support and no confirmation. Things are as they are, because you accept them as they are. Stop accepting them and they will dissolve. Whatever you think about with desire or fear appears before you as real. Look at it without desire or fear and it does lose substance. Pleasure and pain are momentary. It is simpler and easier to disregard them than to act on them.

The first sentence is so powerful. When you continue progressing spiritually, there comes a stage where memory becomes not so important. You start acting from the present moment and there’s the feeling that everything is happening much faster, that there’s more aliveness. This is scary for many because abandoning memories and future planning is not how the humanity functions. Yet it also feels so freeing to just be, without the prison of what happened in the past and what the mind thinks will happen in the future.

Here also another important fact is mentioned – things look real when we give them attention. Therefore, turning away from fears will make them lose their reality; and not giving our attention to desires will make the energy charge evaporate from them and then we will realize that this was just a fancy of the mind because in truth we need nothing.

Q: While we are conscious of appearances, how is it that we are not conscious that these are mere appearances?

A: The mind covers up reality, without knowing it. To know the nature of the mind, you need intelligence, the capacity to look at the mind in silent and dispassionate awareness.

I very often wonder why this illusion appears so real. Here Maharaj explains that it’s the nature of the mind to obstruct reality with that which is not real, and that we can break this matrix by stopping to take interest in the world and by simply observing it.

Most of people’s activities are valueless, if not outright destructive. Dominated by desires and fears, they can do nothing good. Ceasing to do evil precedes beginning to do good. Hence the need for stopping all activities for a time, to investigate one’s urges and their motives, see all that is false in one’s life, purge the mind of all evil and then only restart work, beginning with one’s obvious duties.

People are out of balance because they act on the agitations of the mind, be that fearful or exciting content. Therefore they cannot really change anything about this world. Yet once you stay with yourself for some days, in quietude and meditation, the mind becomes calmer, and your priorities become obvious. Also, attention purifies the mind and makes it more sattvic, which is important because sattva (goodness, purity) is the last worldly state to be achieved before liberation can take place.

(…) each action begets another, meaninglessly and painfully, in endless succession. The alternation of work and pause is not there. First find the immutable centre where all movement takes birth. Just like a wheel turns round an axle in the centre and not whirling at the periphery.

Most people live “at the periphery” of the wheel, continuously doing. Here Maharaj asks you to go to the center of action, from which all action springs.

Q: How do I go about it in practice? [In response to the previous paragraph.]

A: Whenever a thought or emotion of desire or fear comes to your mind, just turn away from it.

That’s the secret of staying in the center of the wheel – by not paying attention to the agitations of the mind, whatever content it presents before you.

A: Must I not use effort to arrest the movements of the mind?

A: It has nothing to do with effort. Just turn away, look between the thoughts, rather than at the thoughts. When you happen to walk in a crowd, you do not fight every man you meet – you just find your way between.

This is such a masterful comparison. No need to push thoughts away; just focus on the gaps.

Turn away from your desires and fears, and from the thoughts they create and you are at once in your natural state.

If you detach from the mind and just be, you will understand your true state which cannot be described as it has no qualities.

Q: No question of reconditioning, changing, or eliminating the mind?

QA: Absolutely none. Leave your mind alone, that is all. Don’t go along with it. After all, there is no such thing as mind apart from thoughts which come and go obeying their own laws, not yours. They dominate you only because you are interested in them. It is exactly as Christ said: “Resist not evil”. By resisting evil you merely strengthen it.

Another masterful advice and so empowering. No need to get in control of the restless and insane mind. Just stop paying attention to its quirks and antics.

There is nothing to renounce. Enough if you stop acquiring. To give up you must have, and to have you must take. Better don’t take. It is simpler than to practice renunciation, which leads to a dangerous form of “spiritual” pride.

Taking up a formal route of renunciation is adding yet another label to yourself. So to avoid mind tightening its grip it’s better not to invent new ways of being but to simply reduce what you’re already doing.

Something prevents you from seeing that there is nothing you need. Find it out and see its falseness. It is like having swallowed some poison and suffering from unquenchable craving for water. Instead of drinking beyond all measure, why not eliminate the poison and be free of this burning thirst?

The poison, of course, is identification with the body; the body is limited whilst we are unlimited. The body knows it will die; it wants to preserve its existence through avoiding danger, through acquisition, through giving birth to yet another body. When we understand we are not these limited bodies, we will know that we need nothing from this world at all.

(…) The sense of “I am a person in time and space” is the poison. In a way, time itself is the poison. In time all things come to an end, and new are born, to be devoured in their turn. Do not identify yourself with time, do not ask anxiously: “what’s ext, what’s next?” Step out of time and see it devour the world.

So not only body identification but the belief in time is what obscures our true nature. How not to be identified with time? By ignoring its urges to do things faster, by stopping worrying about the future, and by not basing our actions on the memories of what we were.

There is always something to witness. If not a thing, then its absence. Witnessing is natural and no problem. The problem is excessive interest, leading to self-identification. Whatever you are engrossed in you take to be real.

That’s how we lose our true identifies – by getting involved in this illusory existence. Here Maharaj says that it’s perfectly fine to witness external or internal phenomena, as long as we don’t take interest in something in particular. Because when we do, we lose our true identity as we identify with that which is not real.

Q: I am the only reality I know. The sadguru is there as long as I think of him. What do I gain by shifting reality to him?

A: Your loss is your gain. When the shadow is seen to be a shadow only, you stop following it. You turn round and discover the sun which was there all the time – behind your back!

Here the talk is about the inner guru and not the fake one who stole this great title (sadguru). Maharaj explains that when you understand the illusory nature of this world and shift attention from it to what gives it life, that’s when you find your Inner Guru, Higher Self, Reality.

Q: what makes us progress?

A: Silence is the main factor. In peace and silence you grow.

It seems that nothing really happens in silence but a lot is taking place behind the curtains. When we sit in silence, our quiet awareness heals our minds and slowly breaks the wall separating us from our true nature.

Q: If I project the world, I should be able to change it.

A: Of course, you can. But you must cease identifying yourself with it and go beyond. Then you have the power to destroy and re-create.

Very often Maharaj was asked in disbelief how come we are the creators of this reality. People think they are not intelligent or powerful enough to do this. Many also asked him why the horrors of wars happen.

He replied to such people that it’s all because of us. We all create those wars but we don’t know it because we don’t examine ourselves. When we go beyond the dysfunctional mind and beyond this world, into the source of who we are, then we will have enough power to make true change in the world.