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

Q: Yoga speaks of the desire for liberation as essential. Is it not the highest form of ambition?

A: Ambition is personal, liberation is from the personal. In liberation both the subject and the object of ambition are no longer. Earnestness is not a yearning for the fruits of one’s endeavors. It is an expression of the inner shift of interest away from the false, the unessential, the personal.

Even spiritual ambitions are of the mind and they don’t lead to liberation. When all ambitions are given up and the person loses interest in the world, then liberation becomes possible.

Q: (…) why are we not free here and now?

A: But we are free “here and now”. It is only the mind that imagines bondage.

It’s because we are identified with the mind that we think ourselves to be not free. Once we no longer pay attention to its contents, the world will no longer seem so prison-like.

Q: What will put an end to imagination?

A: Why should you want to put an end to it? Once you know your mind and its miraculous powers, and remove what poisoned it – the idea of a separate and isolated person – you just leave it alone to do its work among things for which it is well suited. To keep the mind in its own place and on its own work is the liberation of the mind.

The mind is bound to create illusions but once we are no longer identified with it nor the body, this kind of function no longer creates any problems and it can do what it’s good at; it’s when we are identified with its creations that we suffer.

Q: I have not yet understood why, if nothing stands in the way of liberation, it does not happen here and now.

A: Nothing stands in the way of your liberation and it can happen here and now, but for your being more interested in other things. And you cannot fight with your interests. You must go with them, see through them and watch them reveal themselves as mere errors of judgment and appreciation.

I love this approach to liberation. No need to forcefully end passions and desires. Simply watch them so that they reveal their true nature – that of illusion. Then interest will naturally be not there and once the focus shifts, liberation is possible.

To lose entirely all interest in knowledge results in omniscience. It is but the gift of knowing what needs to be known, at the right moment, for error-free action. After all, knowledge is needed for action and if you act rightly, spontaneously, without bringing in the conscious, so much the better.

This is very important to understand because often minds project their own version of liberation – that once you’re enlightened, you know absolutely everything. Yet Maharaj also says that even if you think that your body is yours, you don’t know all the processes taking place in it. The same once you are enlightened – though you yourself created the world, you don’t need to know all the details that are happening at each moment.

Omniscience is defined in a different way by Maharaj. It’s knowing when you need to know and what you need to know. And he also says that if you don’t allow your preconceived notions or the mind to interfere, but act from the present moment according to circumstances, your action will be right.

The idea that you know what is true is dangerous, for it keeps you imprisoned in the mind. It is when you do not know that you are free to investigate. And there can be no salvation without investigation, because non-investigation is the main cause of bondage.

Those people who know the least think that they know the most; there is a stage in spiritual progress you arrive at where you understand that you know nothing. This, as Maharj explains, is beneficial, for it can free you from the mind. Most people, however, are so deeply stuck in their beliefs that they can even get violent if you challenge their worldview.

Q: What are the signs of progress in spiritual life?

A: Freedom from all anxiety; a sense of ease and joy, deep peace within and abundant energy without.

People often mistake gathering knowledge for spiritual progress. Yet it’s leaving knowledge behind and just being that’s important. If you are no longer attached to knowledge and the happenings in the world, and don’t have strong likes and dislikes, the mind will be at peace and that’s one of the signs of spiritual progress.

Q: What is the course of training in self-awareness?

A: There is no need of training. Awareness is always with you. The same attention that you give to the outer, you turn to the inner. No new or special kind of awareness is needed.

This is a confused mind asking the question. Awareness is the same, it just depends where you direct it. If you direct it within, self-awareness is the fruit whilst if you keep it externalized, you may gather much knowledge but that doesn’t help in freeing yourself from the illusion.

It is very often to do with Americans and Europeans. After a stretch of sadhana [spiritual practice] they become charged with energy and frantically seek an outlet. They organize communities, become teachers of Yoga, marry, write books – anything except keeping quiet and turning their energies within, to find the source of the inexhaustible power and learn the art of keeping it under control.

Westerners are very externally-oriented so when they gain energy through spiritual practice they naturally spend it externally. Yet much can be accomplished if that energy is not wasted but kept within. This will result in much more self-awareness, very realistic dreams and intentions start manifesting fast, for example.

You can do what you like, as long as you do not take yourself to be the body and the mind. It is not so much a question of actual giving up the body and all that goes with it, as a clear understanding that you are not the body; a sense of aloofness, of emotional non-involvement.

There’s no need to destroy the body to get liberated; all is required is no longer being interested in it.

Disease and suffering are not natural. There is noble virtue in unshakable endurance of whatever comes, but there is also dignity in the refusal of meaningless torture and humiliation.

Interestingly here Maharaj discloses that he approves of suicide when suffering becomes meaningless.

The right state and use of the body and the mind are intensely pleasant. It is the search for pleasure that is wrong. Do not try to make yourself happy; rather question your very search for happiness. It is because you are not happy that you want to be happy. Find out why you are unhappy. Because you are not happy you seek happiness in pleasure; pleasure brings in pain and therefore you call it worldly; you then long for some other pleasure, without pain, which you call divine. In reality, pleasure is but a respite from pain. Happiness is both worldly and unworldly, within and beyond all that happens. Make no distinction, don’t separate the inseparable and do not alienate yourself from life.

Minds in pain seek pleasure; when they understand that pleasure brings pain in the world, they look for pleasure in things spiritual. Yet it’s the same old running after pleasure. Once you stop seeking happiness outside of you but stay centered, happiness will naturally come and it will be permanent. Then the body will accomplish its natural functions and the mind will not thirst after the next pleasurable moment. This will bring peace and harmony.

Q: I may not want to change. My life is good enough as it is.

A: You say so because you have not seen how painful is the life you live. You are like a child sleeping with a lollipop in its mouth. You may feel happy for a moment by being totally self-centered, but it is enough to have a good look at human faces to perceive the universality of suffering. Even your own happiness is so vulnerable and short-lived, at the mercy of a bank-crash or a stomach ulcer. It is just a moment of respite, a mere gap between two sorrows. Real happiness is not vulnerable because it does not depend on circumstances.

This person was probably in a good mood when he came to see Maharaj. But that good mood can be ruined very fast – all it takes is something going wrong. Only liberation can permanently put an end to such uncertainty of existence.

Sooner or later your physical and mental resources will come to an end. What will you do then? Despair? All right, despair. You will get tired of despairing and begin to question. At that moment you will be fit for conscious Yoga.

Older people are more ready for liberation because their bodies are decaying. It’s easier to get detached from such bodies than when they are young and full of life. The same applies to one’s mind; you can be in its full grip when it’s vigorous but when it becomes sluggish and forgetful, it is easier to detach.

It is only with separateness and self-seeking that suffering appears in the world.

Suffering is created because of the lack of love. People often love themselves and their own families yet think of others as strangers, as someone to care less about. That’s how all the miseries of the world are created.

It’s ignorance that drives people to mistreat those not belonging to their family. They think they are separate from others so they believe that their actions directed at others end there. They don’t realize that their intention and action will determine how they feel and what they experience.

Action taken without love is an incorrect action because it produces personal misery and the misery for others. The lack of love is the only thing to blame for the evils of the world.

What prevents you from knowing yourself as all and beyond all, is the mind based on memory. It has power over you as long as you trust it; don’t struggle with it, just disregard it. Deprived of attention, it will slow down and reveal the mechanism of its working. Once you know its nature and purpose, you will not allow it to create imaginary problems.

What a priceless piece of advice. No need to try to tame the mind – simply stop paying so much attention to it and don’t give it much importance. That’s how you will be able to understand its real nature and purpose. No longer seeing it as generating content based on reality, you will no longer fall for its fearful images.

Q: Surely, not all problems are imaginary. There are real problems.

A: What problems can there be which the mind did not create? Life and death do not create problems; pains and pleasures come and go, experienced and forgotten. It is memory and anticipation that create problems of attainment or avoidance, colored by likes and dislikes.

It’s the mind that gets attached to things it likes and which wants to push away the things that it doesn’t like that creates all the problems in the world. All experiences are the same – illusory; yet the mind likes some things and dislikes others and because of such attachments personal miseries come. Buddha also told that likes and dislikes create world’s miseries and their ending liberates.

Q: What is the realization which is beyond understanding?

A: Imagine a dense forest full of tigers and you in a strong steel cage. Knowing that you are well-protected, you watch the tigers fearlessly. Next you find the tigers in the cage and yourself roaming about in the jungle. Last – the cage disappears and you ride the tigers!

In my opinion here he describes the stages of liberation. At first you understand that the world is illusory so you lose fear. Then you understand that you created the world which gives total courage and relief; lastly, you get established in your liberated state and you are then able to mold the world.

Q: I attended one of the group meditation sessions held recently in Bombay, and witnessed the frenzy and self-abandon of the participants. Why do people go for such things?

A: These are all inventions of a restless mind pampering to people in search of sensations. Some of them help the unconscious to disgorge suppressed memories and longings and to that extent they provide relief. But ultimately they leave the practitioner where he was – or worse.

Osho used to organize such events and I believe his ideas were born out of the general sexual suppression culture he witnessed when growing up. Therefore he went to another extreme and gave his followers total freedom to do as they pleased. Minds left unguarded behave in capricious and childish ways, and it’s not a good idea to become a slave of the mind when you are supposed to be its master.

Each seeker accepts, or invents, a method which suits him, applies it to himself with some earnestness and effort, obtains results according to his temperament and expectations, casts them into the mold of words, builds them into a system, establishes a tradition and begins to admit others into his “school of yoga”. It is all built on memory and imagination.

No such school is valueless, nor indispensable; in each one can progress up to the point when all desire for progress must be abandoned to make further progress possible. Then all schools are given up, all effort ceases; in solitude and darkness the last step is made which ends ignorance and fear forever.

Yet again such an invaluable piece of information. We can learn from everything – we can learn from each event in this life. Yet learning never stops and the more we seek the more there is to be found. Once we see this nature of the world we understand that there’s no point in seeking. Then all effort ceases and liberation is not far away.

Q: I cannot destroy the world.

A: There is no need. Just understand that what you see is not what is. Appearances will dissolve on investigation and the underlying reality will come to the surface. You need not burn the house to get out of it. You just walk out. It is only when you cannot come and go freely that the house becomes a jail. I move in and out of consciousness easily and naturally and therefore to me the world is a home, not a prison.

No matter what’s happening in the world it doesn’t have to stop you from being free. All that’s required is the loss of interest in the events of this reality. Once that happens you naturally place your attention within and find your true being. Then the world is no longer an obstacle but a form of entertainment.