Nisargadatta's "I Am That" - chapter 76
To Know that You do not Know, is True Knowledge.
Maharaj: There is the body.
Inside the body appears to be an observer and outside -- a world under observation.
The observer and his observation as well as the world observed all appear and disappear together.
Beyond it all, there is void.
This void is one for all.
Questioner: What you say appears simple, but not everyone would say it.
It is you, and you alone, who talks of the three and the void beyond.
I see the world only, which includes all.
M: Even the 'I am'?
Q: Even the 'I am'.
The 'I am' is there because the world is there.
M: And the world is there because the 'I am' is there.
Q: Yes, it goes both ways.
I cannot separate the two, nor go beyond, I cannot say something is, unless I experience it, as I cannot say something is not, because I do not experience it.
What is it that you experience that makes you speak with such assurance?
M: I know myself as I am -- timeless, spaceless, causeless.
You happen not to know, being engrossed as you are in other things.
Q: Why am I so engrossed?
M: Because you are interested.
Q: What makes me interested?
M: Fear of pain, desire for pleasure.
Pleasant is the ending of pain and painful the end of pleasure.
They just rotate in endless succession.
Investigate the vicious circle till you find yourself beyond it.
Q: Don't I need your grace to take me beyond?
M: The grace of your Inner Reality is timelessly with you.
Your very asking for grace is a sign of it.
Do not worry about my grace, but do what you are told.
The doing is the proof of earnestness, not the expecting of grace.
Q: What am I to be earnest about?
M: Assiduously investigate everything that crosses your field of attention.
With practice the field will broaden and investigation deepen, until they become spontaneous and limitless.
Q: Are you not making realisation the result of practice?
Practice operates within the limitations of physical existence.
How can it give birth to the unlimited?
M: Of course, there can be no causal connection between practice and wisdom.
But the obstacles to wisdom are deeply affected by practice.
Q: What are the obstacles?
M: Wrong ideas and desires leading to wrong actions, causing dissipation and weakness of mind and body.
The discovery and abandonment of the false remove what prevents the real entering the mind.
Q: I can distinguish two states of mind: 'I am' and 'the world is'; they arise and subside together.
People say: 'I am, because the world is'.
You seem to say: 'The world is, because I am'.
Which is true?
The two are one and the same state, in space and time.
Beyond, there is the timeless.
Q: What is the connection between time and the timeless?
M: The timeless knows the time, the time does not know the timeless.
All consciousness is in time and to it the timeless appears unconscious.
Yet, it is what makes consciousness possible.
Light shines in darkness.
In light darkness is not visible.
Or, you can put it the other way -- in the endless ocean of light, clouds of consciousness appear -- dark and limited, perceivable by contrast.
These are mere attempts to express in words something very simple, yet altogether inexpressible.
Q: Words should serve as a bridge to cross over.
M: Word refers to a state of mind, not to reality.
The river, the two banks, the bridge across -- these are all in the mind.
Words alone cannot take you beyond the mind.
There must be the immense longing for truth, or absolute faith in the Guru.
Believe me, there is no goal, nor a way to reach it.
You are the way and the goal, there is nothing else to reach except yourself.
All you need is to understand and understanding is the flowering of the mind.
The tree is perennial, but the flowering and the fruit bearing come in season.
The seasons change, but not the tree.
You are the tree.
You have grown numberless branches and leaves in the past and you may grow them also in the future -- yet you remain.
Not what was, or shall be, must you know, but what is.
Yours is the desire that creates the universe.
Know the world as your own creation and be free.
Q: You say the world is the child of love.
When I know the horrors the world is full of, the wars, the concentration camps, the inhuman exploitations, how can I own it as my own creation?
However limited I am, I could not have created so cruel a world.
M: Find to whom this cruel world appears and you will know why it appears so cruel.
Your questions are perfectly legitimate, but just cannot be answered unless you know whose is the world.
To find out the meaning of a thing you must ask its maker.
I am telling you: You are the maker of the world in which you live -- you alone can change it, or unmake it.
Q: How can you say I have made the world?
I hardly know it.
M: There is nothing in the world that you cannot know, when you know yourself.
Thinking yourself to be the body you know the world as a collection of material things.
When you know yourself as a centre of consciousness, the world appears as the ocean of the mind.
When you know yourself as you are in reality, you know the world as yourself.
Q: It all sounds very beautiful, but does not answer my question.
Why is there so much suffering in the world?
M: If you stand aloof as observer only, you will not suffer.
You will see the world as a show.
a most entertaining show indeed.
Q: Oh, no!
This lila theory I shall not have.
The suffering is too acute and all-pervading.
What a perversion to be entertained by a spectacle of suffering!
What a cruel God are you offering me!
M: The cause of suffering is in the identification of the perceiver with the perceived.
Out of it desire is born and with desire blind action, unmindful of results.
Look round and you will see -- suffering is a man-made thing.
Q: Were a man to create his own sorrow only, I would agree with you.
But in his folly he makes others suffer.
A dreamer has his own private nightmare and none suffers but himself.
But what kind of dream is it that plays havoc in the lives of others?
M: Descriptions are many and contradictory.
Reality is simple -- all is one, harmony is the eternal law, none compels to suffer.
It is only when you try to describe and explain, that the words fail you.
Q: I remember Gandhiji telling me once that the Self is not bound by the law of non-violence (ahimsa).
The Self has the freedom to impose suffering on its expressions in order to set them right.
M: On the level of duality it may be so, but in reality there is only the source, dark in itself, making everything shine.
Unperceived, it causes perception.
Unfelt, it causes feeling.
Unthinkable, it causes thought.
Non-being, it gives birth to being.
It is the immovable background of motion.
Once you are there you are at home everywhere.
Q: If I am that, then what causes me to be born?
M: The memory of the past unfulfilled desires traps energy, which manifests itself as a person.
When its charge gets exhausted, the person dies.
Unfulfilled desires are carried over into the next birth.
Self-identification with the body creates ever fresh desires and there is no end to them, unless this mechanism of bondage is clearly seen.
It is clarity that is liberating, for you cannot abandon desire, unless its causes and effects are clearly seen.
I do not say that the same person is reborn.
It dies and dies for good.
But its memories remain and their desires and fears.
They supply the energy for a new person.
The real takes no part in it, but makes it possible by giving it, the light.
Q: My difficulty is this.
As I can see, every experience is its own reality.
It is there -- experienced.
The moment I question it and ask to whom it happens, who is the observer and so on, the experience is over and all I can investigate is only the memory of it.
I just cannot investigate the living moment -- the now.
My awareness is of the past, not of the present.
When I am aware, I do not really live in the now, but only in the past.
Can there really be an awareness of the present?
M: What you are describing is not awareness at all, but only thinking about the experience.
True awareness (samvid) is a state of pure witnessing, without the least attempt to do anything about the event witnessed.
Your thoughts and feelings, words and actions may also be a part of the event; you watch all unconcerned in the full light of clarity and understanding.
You understand precisely what is going on, because it does not affect you.
It may seem to be an attitude of cold aloofness, but it is not really so.
Once you are in it, you will find that you love what you see, whatever may be its nature.
This choiceless love is the touchstone of awareness.
If it is not there, you are merely interested -- for some personal reasons.
Q: As long as there are pain and pleasure, one is bound to be interested.
M: And as long as one is conscious, there will be pain and pleasure.
You cannot fight pain and pleasure on the level of consciousness.
To go beyond them you must go beyond consciousness, which is possible only when you look at consciousness as something that happens to you and not in you, as something external, alien, superimposed.
Then, suddenly you are free of consciousness, really alone, with nothing to intrude.
And that is your true state.
Consciousness is an itching rash that makes you scratch.
Of course, you cannot step out of consciousness for the very idea of stepping out is in consciousness.
But if you learn to look at your consciousness as a sort of fever, personal and private, in which you are enclosed like a chick in its shell, out of this very attitude will come the crisis which will break the shell.
Q: Buddha said that life is suffering.
M: He must have meant that all consciousness is painful, which is obvious.
Q: And does death offer delivery?
M: One who believes himself as having been born is very much afraid of death.
On the other hand, to him who knows himself truly, death is a happy event.
Q: The Hindu tradition says that suffering is brought by destiny and destiny is merited.
Look at the immense calamities, natural or man-made, floods and earthquakes, wars and revolutions.
Can we dare to think that each suffers for his own sins, of which he can have no idea?
The billions who suffer, are they all criminals justly punished?
M: Must one suffer only for one's own sins?
Are we really separate?
In this vast ocean of life we suffer for the sins of others, and make others suffer for our sins.
Of course, the law of balance rules Supreme and accounts are squared in the end.
But while life lasts, we affect each other deeply.
Q: Yes, as the poet says: 'No man is an island'.
M: At the back of every experience is the Self and its interest in the experience.
Call it desire, call it love -- words do not matter.
Q: Can I desire suffering?
Can I deliberately ask for pain?
Am I not like a man who made for himself a downy bed hoping for a good night of sleep and then he is visited by a nightmare and he tosses and screams in his dream?
Surely, it is not the love that produces nightmares.
M: All suffering is caused by selfish isolation, by insularity and greed.
When the cause of suffering is seen and removed, suffering ceases.
Q: I may remove my causes of sorrow, but others will be left to suffer.
M: To understand suffering, you must go beyond pain and pleasure.
Your own desires and fears prevent you from understanding and thereby helping others.
In reality there are no others, and by helping yourself you help everybody else.
If you are serious about the sufferings of mankind, you must perfect the only means of help you have -- Yourself.
Q: You keep on saying that I am the creator, preserver and destroyer of this world, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent.
When I ponder over what you say, I ask myself: 'How is it that there is so much evil in my world'.
M: There is no evil, there is no suffering; the joy of living is paramount.
Look, how everything clings to life, how dear the existence is.
Q: On the screen of my mind images follow each other in endless succession.
There is nothing permanent about me.
M: Have a better look at yourself.
The screen is there -- it does not change.
The light shines steadily.
Only the film in between keeps moving and causes pictures to appear.
You may call the film -- destiny (prarabdha).
Q: What creates destiny?
M: Ignorance is the cause of inevitability.
Q: Ignorance of what?
M: Ignorance of yourself primarily.
Also, ignorance of the true nature of things, of their causes and effects.
You look round without understanding and take appearances for reality.
You believe you know the world and yourself -- but it is only your ignorance that makes you say: I know.
Begin with the admission that you do not know and start from there.
There is nothing that can help the world more than your putting an end to ignorance.
Then, you need not do anything in particular to help the world.
Your very being is a help, action or no action.
Q: How can ignorance be known?
To know ignorance presupposes knowledge.
M: Quite right.
The very admission: 'I am ignorant' is the dawn of knowledge.
An ignorant man is ignorant of his ignorance.
You can say that ignorance does not exist, for the moment it is seen it is no more.
Therefore, you may call it unconsciousness or blindness.
All you see around and within you is what you do not know and do not understand, without even knowing that you do not know and do not understand.
To know that you do not know and do not understand is true knowledge, the knowledge of an humble heart.
You know that you do not know.
Q: Will ignorance ever end?
M: What is wrong with not knowing?
You need not know all.
Enough to know what you need to know.
The rest can look after itself, without your knowing how it does it.
What is important is that your unconscious does not work against the conscious, that there is integration on all levels.
To know is not so very important.
Q: What you say is correct psychologically.
But when it comes to knowing others, knowing the world, my knowing that I do not know does not help much.
M: Once you are inwardly integrated, outer knowledge comes to you spontaneously.
At every moment of your life you know what you need to know.
In the ocean of the universal mind all knowledge is contained; it is yours on demand.
Most of it you may never need to know -- but it is yours all the same.
As with knowledge, so it is with power.
Whatever you feel needs be done happens unfailingly.
No doubt, God attends to this business of managing the universe; but He is glad to have some help.
When the helper is selfless and intelligent, all the powers of the universe are for him to command.
Q: Even the blind powers of nature?
M: There are no blind powers.
Consciousness is power.
Be aware of what needs be done and it will be done.
Only keep alert -- and quiet.
Once you reach your destination and Know your real nature, your existence becomes a blessing to all.
You may not know, nor will the world know, yet the help radiates.
There are people in the world who do more good than all the statesmen and philanthropists put together.
They radiate light and peace with no intention or knowledge.
When others tell them about the miracles they worked, they also are wonder struck.
Yet, taking nothing as their own, they are neither proud, nor do they crave for reputation.
They are just unable to desire anything for themselves, not even the joy of helping others knowing that God is good they are at peace.