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Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 29

read by James Traverse

Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

  29. Living is Life’s only Purpose

What does it mean to fail in Yoga? Who is a failure in Yoga (yoga bhrashta)?

It is only a question of incompletion. He who could not complete his Yoga for some reason
is called failed in Yoga. Such failure is only temporary, for there can be no defeat in Yoga.
This battle is always won, for it is a battle between the true and the false. The false has
no chance.

Who fails? The person (vyakti) or the self (vyakta)?

The question is wrongly put. There is no question of failure, neither in the short run nor in the
long. It is like travelling a long and arduous road in an unknown country. Of all the innumerable
steps there is only the last which brings you to your destination. Yet you will not consider all
previous steps as failures. Each brought you nearer to your goal, even when you had to turn
back to by-pass an obstacle. In reality each step brings you to your goal, because to be
always on the move, learning, discovering, unfolding, is your eternal destiny. Living is life's
only purpose. The self does not identify itself with success or failure -- the very idea
of becoming this or that is unthinkable. The self understands that success and failure are
relative and related, that they are the very warp and weft of life. Learn from both and go
beyond. If you have not learnt, repeat.

What am I to learn?

To live without self-concern. For this you must know your own true being (swarupa) as
indomitable, fearless, ever victorious. Once you know with absolute certainty that nothing can
trouble you but your own imagination, you come to disregard your desires and fears,
concepts and ideas and live by truth alone.

What may be the reason that some people succeed and others fail in Yoga? Is it destiny or
character, or just accident?

Nobody ever fails in Yoga. It is all a matter of the rate of progress. It is slow in the beginning
and rapid in the end. When one is fully matured, realisation is explosive. It takes place
spontaneously, or at the slightest hint. The quick is not better than the slow. Slow ripening
and rapid flowering alternate. Both are natural and right.

Yet, all this is so in the mind only. As I see it, there is really nothing of the kind. In the great
mirror of consciousness images arise and disappear and only memory gives them continuity.
And memory is material -- destructible, perishable, transient. On such flimsy foundations
we build a sense of personal existence -- vague, intermittent, dreamlike. This vague
persuasion: 'I-am-so-and-so' obscures the changeless state of pure awareness and makes
us believe that we are born to suffer and to die.

Just as a child cannot help growing, so does a man, compelled by nature, make progress. Why
exert oneself? Where is the need of Yoga?

There is progress all the time. Everything contributes to progress. But this is the progress of
ignorance. The circles of ignorance may be ever widening, yet it remains a bondage all the
same. In due course a Guru appears to teach and inspire us to practise Yoga and a ripening
takes place as a result of which the immemorial night of ignorance dissolves before the rising
sun of wisdom. But in reality nothing happened. The sun is always there, there is no night to it;
the mind blinded by the 'I am the body' idea spins out endlessly its thread of illusion.

If all is a part of a natural process, where is the need of effort?

Even effort is a part of it. When ignorance becomes obstinate and hard and the character gets
perverted, effort and the pain of it become inevitable. In complete obedience to nature there is
no effort. The seed of spiritual life grows in silence and in darkness until its appointed hour.

We come across some great people, who, in their old age, become childish, petty, quarrelsome
and spiteful. How could they deteriorate so much?

They were not perfect Yogis, having their bodies under complete control. Or, they might not
have cared to protect their bodies from the natural decay. One must not draw conclusions without
understanding all the factors. Above all, one must not make judgements of inferiority or superiority.
Youthfulness is more a matter of vitality (prana) than of wisdom (jnana) .

One may get old, but why should one lose all alertness and discrimination?

Consciousness and unconsciousness, while in the body depend on the condition of the brain.
But the self is beyond both, beyond the brain, beyond the mind. The fault of the instrument is no
reflection on its user.

I was told that a realised man will never do anything unseemly. He will always behave in an
exemplary way.

Who sets the example? Why should a liberated man necessarily follow conventions? The
moment he becomes predictable, he cannot be free. His freedom lies in his being free to fulfil the
need of the moment, to obey the necessity of the situation. Freedom to do what one likes is really
bondage, while being free to do what one must, what is right, is real freedom.

Still there must be some way of making out who has realised and who has not. If one is
indistinguishable from the other, of what use is he?

He who knows himself has no doubts about it. Nor does he care whether others recognise his
state or not. Rare is the realised man who discloses his realisation and fortunate are those who
have met him, for he does it for their abiding welfare.

When one looks round, one is appalled by the volume of unnecessary suffering that is going
on. People who should be helped are not getting help. Imagine a big hospital ward full of incurables,
tossing and moaning. Were you given the authority to kill them all and end their torture, would you
not do so?

I would leave it to them to decide.

But if their destiny is to suffer? How can you interfere with destiny?

Their destiny is what happens. There is no thwarting of destiny. You mean to say everybody's
life is totally determined at his birth? What a strange idea! Were it so, the power that determines
would see to it that nobody should suffer.


What about cause and effect?
Each moment contains the whole of the past and creates the whole of the future.

But past and future exist?

In the mind only. Time is in the mind, space is in the mind. The law of cause and effect is also a
way of thinking. In reality all is here and now and all is one. Multiplicity and diversity are in the mind

Still, you are in favour of relieving suffering, even through destruction of the incurably diseased

Again, you look from outside while I look from within. I do not see a sufferer, I am the sufferer. I
know him from within and do what is right spontaneously and effortlessly. I follow no rules nor lay
down rules. I flow with life -- faithfully and irresistibly.

Still you seem to be a very practical man in full control of your immediate surroundings.

What else do you expect me to be? A misfit?

Yet you cannot help another much.

Surely, I can help. You too can help. Everybody can help. But the suffering is all the time
recreated. Man alone can destroy in himself the roots of pain. Others can only help with the pain,
but not with its cause, which is the abysmal stupidity of mankind.

Will this stupidity ever come to an end?

In man -- of course. Any moment. In humanity -- as we know it -- after very many years. In
creation -- never, for creation itself is rooted in ignorance; matter itself is ignorance. Not to know,
and not to know that one does not know, is the cause of endless suffering.

We are told of the great avatars, the saviours of the world.

Did they save? They have come and gone -- and the world plods on. Of course, they did a lot
and opened new dimensions in the human mind. But to talk of saving the world is an exaggeration.

Is there no salvation for the world?

Which world do you want to save? The world of your own projection? Save it yourself. My
world? Show me my world and I shall deal with it. I am not aware of any world separate from
myself, which I am free to save or not to save. What business have you with saving the world,
when all the world needs is to be saved from you? Get out of the picture and see whether
there is anything left to save.

You seem to stress the point that without you your world would not have existed and therefore
the only thing you can do for it is to wind up the show. This is not a way out. Even if the world were
of my own creation, this knowledge does not save it. It only explains it. The question remains: why
did I create such a wretched world and what can I do to change it? You seem to say: forget it all and
admire your own glory. Surely, you don't mean it. The description of a disease and its causes does
not cure it. What we need is the right medicine.

The description and causation are the remedy for a disease caused by obtuseness and
stupidity. Just like a deficiency disease is cured through the supply of the missing factor, so are the
diseases of living cured by a good dose of intelligent detachment. (viveka-vairagya).

You cannot save the world by preaching counsels of perfection. People are as they are. Must
they suffer?

As long as they are as they are, there is no escape from suffering. Remove the sense of
separateness and there will be no conflict.

A message in print may be paper and ink only. It is the text that matters. By analysing the world
into elements and qualities we miss the most important -- its meaning. Your reduction of everything
to dream disregards the difference between the dream of an insect and the dream of a poet. All is
dream, granted. But not all are equal.

The dreams are not equal, but the dreamer is one. I am the insect. I am the poet -- in dream.
But in reality I am neither. I am beyond all dreams. I am the light in which all dreams appear and
disappear. I am both inside and outside the dream. Just as a man having headache knows the ache
and also knows that he is not the ache, so do I know the dream, myself dreaming and myself not
dreaming -- all at the same time. I am what I am before, during and after the dream. But what I see
in dream, l am not.

It is all a matter of imagination. One imagines that one is dreaming, another imagines one is not
dreaming. Are not both the same?

The same and not the same. Not dreaming, as an interval between two dreams, is of course, a
Part of dreaming. Not dreaming as a steady hold on, and timeless abidance in reality has nothing to
do with dreaming. In that sense I never dream, nor ever shall.

If both dream and escape from dream are imaginings, what is the way out?

There is no need of a way out! Don't you see that a way out is also a part of the dream? All you
have to do is to see the dream as dream.

If I start the practice of dismissing everything as a dream where will it lead me?

Wherever it leads you, it will be a dream. The very idea of going beyond the dream is illusory.
Why go anywhere? Just realise that you are dreaming a dream you call the world, and stop looking
for ways out. The dream is not your problem. Your problem is that you like one part of your dream
and not another. Love all, or none of it, and stop complaining. When you have seen the dream as a
dream, you have done all that needs be done.

Is dreaming caused by thinking?

Everything is a play of ideas. In the state free from ideation (nirvikalpa samadhi) nothing is
perceived. The root idea is: 'I am'. It shatters the state of pure consciousness and is followed by the
innumerable sensations and perceptions, feeling and ideas which in their totality constitute God and
His world. The 'I am' remains as the witness, but it is by the will of God that everything happens.

Why not by my will?

Again you have split yourself -- into God and witness. Both are one.