Nisargadatta's "I Am That" - chapter 31
Do not Undervalue Attention.
Questioner: As I look at you, you seem to be a poor man with very limited means, facing all the problems of poverty and old age, like everybody else.
Maharaj: Were I very rich, what difference would it make?
I am what I am.
What else can I be?
I am neither rich nor poor, I am myself.
Q: Yet, you are experiencing pleasure and pain.
M: I am experiencing these in consciousness, but I am neither consciousness, nor its content.
Q: You say that in our real being we are all equal.
How is it that your experience is so different from ours.
M: My actual experience is not different.
It is my evaluation and attitude that differ.
I see the same world as you do, but not the same way.
There is nothing mysterious about it.
Everybody sees the world through the idea he has of himself.
As you think yourself to be, so you think the world to be.
If you imagine yourself as separate from the world, the world will appear as separate from you and you will experience desire and fear.
I do not see the world as separate from me and so there is nothing for me to desire, or fear.
Q: You are a point of light in the world.
Not everybody is.
M: There is absolutely no difference between me and others, except in my knowing myself as I am.
I am all.
I know it for certain and you do not.
Q: So we differ all the same.
M: No, we do not.
The difference is only in the mind and temporary.
I was like you, you will be like me.
Q: God made a most diversified world.
M: The diversity is in you only.
See yourself as you are and you will see the world as it is -- a single block of reality, indivisible, indescribable.
Your own creative power projects upon it a picture and all your questions refer to the picture.
Q: A Tibetan Yogi wrote that God creates the world for a purpose and runs it according to a plan.
The purpose is good and the plan is most wise.
M: All this is temporary, while I am dealing with the eternal.
Gods and their universes come and go, avatars follow each other in endless succession, and in the end we are back at the source.
I talk only of the timeless source of all the gods with all their universes, past, present and future.
Q: Do you know them all?
Do you remember them?
M: When a few boys stage a play for fun, what is there to see and to remember?
Q: Why is half humanity male and half female?
M: For their happiness.
The impersonal (avyakta) becomes the personal (vyakta) for the sake of happiness in relationship.
By the grace of my Guru I can look with equal eye on the impersonal as well as the personal.
Both are one to me.
In life the personal merges in the impersonal.
Q: How does the personal emerge from the impersonal?
M: The two are but aspects of one Reality.
It is not correct to talk of one preceding the other.
All these ideas belong to the waking state.
Q: What brings in the waking state?
M: At the root of all creation lies desire.
Desire and imagination foster and reinforce each other.
The fourth state (turiya) is a state of pure witnessing, detached awareness, passionless and wordless.
It is like space, unaffected by whatever it contains.
Bodily and mental troubles do not reach it -- they are outside, 'there', while the witness is always 'here'.
Q: What is real, the subjective or the objective?
I am inclined to believe that the objective universe is the real one and my subjective psyche is changeful and transient.
You seem to claim reality for your inner, subjective states and deny all reality to the concrete, external world.
M: Both the subjective and the objective are changeful and transient.
There is nothing real about them.
Find the permanent in the fleeting, the one constant factor in every experience.
Q: What is this constant factor?
M: My giving it various names and pointing it out in many ways will not help you much, unless you have the capacity to see.
A dim-sighted man will not see the parrot on the branch of a tree, however much you may prompt him to look.
At best he will see your pointed finger.
First purify your vision, learn to see instead of staring, and you will perceive the parrot.
Also you must be eager to see.
You need both clarity and earnestness for self-knowledge.
You need maturity of heart and mind, which comes through earnest application in daily life of whatever little you have understood.
There is no such thing as compromise in Yoga.
If you want to sin, sin wholeheartedly and openly.
Sins too have their lessons to teach the earnest sinner, as virtues -- the earnest saint.
It is the mixing up the two that is so disastrous.
Nothing can block you so effectively as compromise, for it shows lack of earnestness, without which nothing can be done.
Q: I approve of austerity, but in practice I am all for luxury.
The habit of chasing pleasure and shunning pain is so ingrained in me, that all my good intentions, quite alive on the level of theory, find no roots in my day-to-day life.
To tell me that I am not honest does not help me, for I just do not know how to make myself honest.
M: You are neither honest nor dishonest -- giving names to mental states is good only for expressing your approval or disapproval.
The problem is not yours -- it is your mind's only.
Begin by disassociating yourself from your mind.
Resolutely remind yourself that you are not the mind and that its problems are not yours.
Q: I may go on telling myself: 'I am not the mind, I am not concerned with its problems,' but the mind remains and its problems remain just as they were.
Now, please do not tell me that it is because I am not earnest enough and I should be more earnest!
I know it and admit it and only ask you -- how is it done?
M: At least you are asking!
Good enough, for a start.
Go on pondering, wondering, being anxious to find a way.
Be conscious of yourself, watch your mind, give it your full attention.
Don't look for quick results; there may be none within your noticing.
Unknown to you, your psyche will undergo a change, there will be more clarity in your thinking, charity in your feeling, purity in your behaviour.
You need not aim at these -- you will witness the change all the same.
For, what you are now is the result of inattention and what you become will be the fruit of attention.
Q: Why should mere attention make all the difference?
M: So far your life was dark and restless (tamas and rajas).
Attention, alertness, awareness, clarity, liveliness, vitality, are all manifestations of integrity, oneness with your true nature (sattva).
It is in the nature of sattva to reconcile and neutralise tamas and rajas and rebuild the personality in accordance with the true nature of the self.
Sattva is the faithful servant of the self; ever attentive and obedient.
Q: And I shall come to it through mere attention?
M: Do not undervalue attention.
It means interest and also love.
To know, to do, to discover, or to create you must give your heart to it -- which means attention.
All the blessings flow from it.
Q: You advise us to concentrate on 'I am'.
Is this too a form of attention?
M: What else?
Give your undivided attention to the most important in your life -- yourself.
Of your personal universe you are the centre -- without knowing the centre what else can you know?
Q: But how can I know myself?
To know myself I must be away from myself.
But what is away from myself cannot be myself.
So, it looks that I cannot know myself, only what I take to be myself.
M: Quite right.
As you cannot see your face, but only its reflection in the mirror, so you can know only your image reflected in the stainless mirror of pure awareness.
Q: How am I to get such stainless mirror?
M: Obviously, by removing stains.
See the stains and remove them.
The ancient teaching is fully valid.
Q: What is seeing and what is removing?
M: The nature of the perfect mirror is such that you cannot see it.
Whatever you can see is bound to be a stain.
Turn away from it, give it up, know it as unwanted.
Q: All perceivables, are they stains?
M: All are stains.
Q: The entire world is a stain.
M: Yes, it is.
Q: How awful!
So, the universe is of no value?
M: It is of tremendous value.
By going beyond it you realise yourself.
Q: But why did it come into being in the first instance?
M: You will know it when it ends.
Q: Will it ever end?
M: Yes, for you.
Q: When did it begin?
Q: When will it end?
Q: It does not end now?
M: You don't let it.
Q: I want to let it.
M: You don't.
All your life is connected with it.
Your past and future, your desires and fears, all have their roots in the world.
Without the world where are you, who are you?
Q: But that is exactly what I came to find out.
And I am telling you exactly this: find a foothold beyond and all will be clear and easy.