The Path of "Who Am I?" Meditation, Part 2

Further Teachings of Nisargadatta

In Part 1 of this post Jerry Katz presented excerpts from the book "I Am That," the modern spiritual classic that consists of talks given by the self-realized Indian sage Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981). Those excerpts contained a very condensed presentation of some of the basic ideas of Nisargadatta, and here Katz presents his second such compilation which he calls "The Song of Beyond I Am." It contains excerpts from both "I Am That" and from another book of Nisargadatta's talks called "The Wisdom of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj," edited by Robert Powell. As I mentioned in Part 1, these words of Nisargadatta should not be read in a rush, but slowly and mulled over, and many times until their meaning begins to become clear. As with all of the talks of this amazing enlightened being the words are not just something to read, but something to DO.
It is interesting to note that to all outward appearances Nisargadatta was a very ordinary seeming man, a simple bidi-shop owner living in the slums of Bombay. (Bidis are tiny cheap Indian "cigarettes" of a type smoked mostly by the poor). But from the time he met his guru and received spiritual instructions from him it was a mere three years until he achieved the sudden and profound state of self-realization, or enlightenment.

Immediately after that something rather amusing happened. In India the "tradition" is that when an aspirant attains the enlightened state he renounces the world and retires to a cave in the Himalayas and lives until he gives up the body. Thinking in this way Nisargadatta left Bombay as a sadhu (holy man) and walked barefoot to the Himalayas, but then had the thought "What am I doing? I am now everfree. There is no reason for me to be one place or another, I am free wherever I am!" So he turned around and returned to his home and reopened his bidi shop, for there was no reason to renounce house and home, his inner renunciation of all illusions had been complete. For the rest of his life he sold bidis, and gave spiritual instruction and talks in a small room above his shop to an ever increasing flow of visitors. Had he stayed in a cave in the Himalayas it is doubtful that his amazing teachings would ever have been recorded for the world.

As one reads Nisargadatta's words sometimes he seems harsh and almost brutal to those who came to sit at his feet. No one's ego could stand before him. If a person came bearing pride in their own knowledge he would ruthlessly tear them down and dismiss such "knowledge" with what almost appears to be scorn. "That is just concepts and ideas," he would say, "that is not it at all," or "for you all that is just hearsay." His teachings go straight to the highest truth, that which alone is real, which he calls "the Absolute," and he is not at all interested in the slightest diversion. His attitude is "This is the truth, take it or leave it," bypassing all religion, dogma, mere ideas and concepts, all posturing and methods and practices. He directs the seeker to stay with the single only thing they actually know first-hand: the inner sense "I am."

His teachings are not for those who want to merely play around with religious ideas. He said: "All those who come here will be anihilated." To really follow his instructions to the core is to merge with the universal consciousness which is at the root of creation, and to then transcend even that into union with the indescribable Absolute. It is only for those intensely and earnestly interested in the final journey. This may sound drastic, but it leads to the ultimate freedom from all bondage and the bliss of liberation. This is the same process which the Buddha described, but in Nisargadatta we are fortunate to have it expounded in very simple and frank, modern, common ordinary language.

Here is Jerry Katz's second compilation, "The Song Beyond I Am," which provides an excellent stepping off point for further exploration of the teachings of this remarkable contemporary sage. Each paragraph is to be savored and pondered. If that is done it will gradually begin to open up its meaning more and more.

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
The Nisargadatta Song of Beyond I Am

(Edited by Jerry Katz)

(other Nisargadatta pages)

INTRODUCTION: One of Nisargadatta's questioners offered the following: "You told me that I can be considered under three aspects: the personal (vyakti), the super-personal (vyakta) and the impersonal (avyakta). The Avyakta is the universal and real pure 'I'; the Vyakta is its reflection in consciousness as 'I am'; the Vyakti is the totality of physical and vital processes. Within the narrow confines of the present moment, the super-personal is aware of the person, both in space and time; not only one person, but the long series of persons strung together on the thread of karma. It is essentially the witness as well as the residue of the accumulated experiences, the seat of memory, the connecting link (sutratma). It is man's character which life builds and shapes from birth to birth. The universal is beyond all name and shape, beyond consciousness and character, pure unselfconscious being." To all this, Nisargadatta agreed it was so on the level of the mind, but that beyond the mental level not a word applies.

As you read the passages that follow, you may be nudged into the avyakta, the universal; you will know you have been so nudged when the words before you disappear.

(Please see The Nisardargadatta Song of I Am for further introductory material)


The Nisargadatta Song of Beyond I Am:
Selections from "I Am That" are not this, there is nothing of yours in this, except the little point of 'I am' ... . 'I am this, I am that' is dream, while pure 'I am' has the stamp of reality on it. You have tasted so many things -- all came to naught. Only the sense 'I am' persisted -- unchanged. Stay with the changeless among the changeful, until you are able to go beyond.

When the 'I am myself' goes, the 'I am all' comes. When the 'I am all' goes, 'I am' comes. When even 'I am' goes, reality alone is...

By knowing what you are not, you come to know your Self. The way back to your Self is through refusal and rejection. One thing is certain: the real is not imaginary, it is not a product of the mind. Even the sense 'I am' is not continuous, though it is a useful pointer; it shows where to seek, but not what to seek. Just have a good look at it. Once you are convinced that you cannot truthfully say anything except 'I am', and that nothing that can be pointed at, can be your Self, the need for the 'I am' is over -- you are no longer intent on verbalizing what you are. All you need is to get rid of the tendency to define yourself. All definitions apply to your body only and to its expressions. Once this obsession with the body goes, you will revert to your natural state, spontaneously and effortlessly. ... . We discover it by being earnest, by searching, enquiring, questioning daily and hourly, by giving one's life to this discovery.

That in which consciousness happens, the universal consciousness or mind, we call the ether of consciousness. All the objects of consciousness form the universe. What is beyond both, supporting both, is the supreme state, a state of utter stillness and silence. Whoever goes there, disappears. It is unreachable by words, or mind. You may call it God, or Parabrahman, or Supreme Reality, but these are names given by the mind. It is the nameless, contentless, effortless and spontaneous state, beyond being and non-being.

Perfection is a state of the mind, when it is pure. I am beyond the mind, whatever its state, pure or impure. Awareness is my nature; ultimately I am beyond being and non-being.

The idea -- 'I am the witness only' will purify the body and the mind and open the eye of wisdom. Then man goes beyond illusion and his heart is free of all desires. Just like ice turns to water, and water to vapour, and vapour dissolves in air and disappears in space, so does the body dissolve into pure awareness (chidakash), then into pure being (paramakash), which is beyond all existence and non-existence.

One thing is quite clear to me: all that is, lives and moves and has its being in consciousness; and I am in and beyond that consciousness. I am in it as the witness. I am beyond it as Being.

To be a living being is not the ultimate state; there is something beyond, much more wonderful, which is neither being nor non-being, neither living nor non-living. It is a state of pure awareness, beyond the limitations of space and time. Once the illusion that the body-mind is oneself is abandoned, death loses its terror, it becomes a part of living.

The witness only registers events. In the abeyance of the mind even the sense 'I am' dissolves. There is no 'I am' without the mind.

You live, you feel, you think. By giving attention to your living, feeling and thinking, you free yourself from them and go beyond them. Your personality dissolves and only the witness remains. Then you go beyond the witness. Do not ask how it happens. Just search within yourself.

All I can say truly is: 'I am', all else is inference. But the inference has become a habit. Destroy all habits of thinking and seeing. The sense 'I am' is the manifestation of a deeper cause, which you may call Self, God, Reality or by any other name. The 'I am' is in the world; but it is the key which can open the door out of the world. The moon dancing on the water is seen in the water, but it is caused by the moon in the sky and not by the water.

As long as we imagine ourselves to be separate personalities, one quite apart from another, we cannot grasp reality which is essentially impersonal. First we must know ourselves as witnesses only, dimensionless and timeless centres of observation, and then realize that immense ocean of pure awareness, which is both mind and matter and beyond both.

Have you felt the all-embracing emptiness in which the universe swims like a cloud in the blue sky?

This 'I am' is an announcement: it is not the real. It has come out of something else. What the real is, I am not telling you, because words negate that. Whatever I am telling you is not the truth, because it has come out of that 'I am'. The fact is, I cannot describe reality to you, I cannot explain it, because it is beyond expression.

When you pursue the spiritual path, the path of self-knowing, all your desires, all your attachments, will just drop away, provided you investigate and hold on to that with which you are trying to understand the self. Then what happens? Your 'I-am-ness' is the state 'to be'. You are 'to be' and attached to that state. You love to be. Now, as I said, ... your desires drop off. And what is the primary desire? To be. When you stay put in that beingness for some time, that desire also will drop off. This is very important. When this is dropped off, you are in the Absolute -- a most essential state.

When you are in consciousness, you understand the nature of consciousness and you recede. Your progress continues. This consciousness is slowly extinguishing itself; knowingly it is disappearing. But nothing affects You, because that is the Absolute. Just like when the flame is gone, the smoke is gone, the sky remains.

Take one sentence of what has been said here, and stay with it. That is enough; that will lead you to your source.

The Nisargadatta Song of Beyond I Am: Selections from "The Wisdom of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj", by Robert Powell

Spiritual maturity is being ready to let go everything. Giving up is a first step, but real giving-up is the insight that there's nothing to be given up, since nothing is your property.

When you know thoughts and their wonderful powers, and liberate them from what has poisoned them - the idea of an own, separate person -, you just let them alone, such that they can perform their appropriate work. Letting the thoughts do their own work at their own place is freedom.

When you don't require anything from the world and nothing from God, when you don't desire anything, when you don't strive for anything, don't expect anything, the divine will enter you, unasked and unex-pected.

The wish for truth is the best of all wishes, but it's still a wish. All wishes must be given up, that the truth can enter your life.

When you encounter sorrow and suffering, remain with it and don't try to escape from it. Don't throw yourself into blind activity. Neither learning nor acting can really help. Be with the presence of sorrow and uncover their roots - help with insight is real help.

Understanding confusion means becoming free of it.

The world and the thinking are states of being. The divine is not a state, it penetrates all states, but is no state of anything else.

Nothing extraordinary can happen to a consciousness knowing exactly what it wants.

Delayed reaction is wrong reaction. Thinking, feeling and action must be a unity and happen together with the situation requiring them.

What is the worth of a hapiness for which you must strive and work? Real happiness is spontaneous and effortless.

In my view, everything happens by itself, quite spontaneously. But humans think they would work for a win, towards a purpose.

There's nothing from which the world could profit more than from giving up profit. A man who's no longer thinking in terms of winning and loosing is truly non-violent man, since he's above all conflicts.

It's the nature of thinking to differentiate things and specialize itself. There's no harm to that, but it isn't true when one thinks of oneself as separate from things. Things and humans are different, but not separate. Nature is one, reality is one. There are opposites, but no contradictions.

You will receive everything you need when you stop asking for what you do not need.

There's no state in which one is seeing reality. WHO is seeing WHAT? You can only BE real. (And that you are always.) The problem exists only in thinking. Let all false ideas go, that's all. There's no need for true ideas. (Since there are none.)

Suffering is exclusively the result of attachment or resistance, it is a sign of lacking readiness to go on, to flow with life.