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Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 38

read by James Traverse

Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

 38. Spiritual Practice is Will Asserted and Re-asserted

The Westerners who occasionally come to see you are faced with a peculiar difficulty.
The very notion of a liberated man, a realised man, a self-knower, a God-knower, a man beyond the
world, is unknown to them. All they have in their Christian culture is the idea of a saint: a pious man,
law-abiding, God-fearing, fellow-loving, prayerful, sometimes prone to ecstasies and confirmed by a
few miracles. The very idea of a jnani is foreign to Western culture, something exotic and rather
unbelievable. Even when his existence is accepted, he is looked at with suspicion, as a case of self-
induced euphoria caused by strange physical postures and mental attitudes. The very idea of a new
dimension in consciousness seems to them implausible and improbable.

What will help them is the opportunity of hearing a jnani relate his own experience of realisation, its
causes and beginnings, its progress and attainments and its actual practice in daily life. Much of
what he says may remain strange, even meaningless, yet there will remain a feeling of reality, an
atmosphere of actual experiencing, ineffable, yet very real, a centre from which an exemplary life
can be lived.

The experience may be incommunicable. Can one communicate an experience?

Yes, if one is an artist. The essence of art is communication of feeling, of experience.

To receive communication, you must be receptive.

Of course. There must be a receiver. But if the transmitter does not transmit, of what use is the

The jnani belongs to all. He gives himself tirelessly and completely to whoever comes to him. If
he is not a giver, he is not a jnani. Whatever he has, he shares.
But can he share what he is?

You mean, can he make others into jnanis? Yes and no. No, since jnanis are not made, they
realise themselves as such, when they return to their source, their real nature. I cannot make you
into what you already are. All I can tell you is the way I travelled and invite you to take it.

This does not answer my question. I have in mind the critical and sceptical Westerner who
denies the very possibility of higher states of consciousness. Recently drugs have made a breach in
his disbelief, without affecting his materialistic outlook. Drugs or no drugs, the body remains the
primary fact and the mind is secondary. Beyond the mind, they see nothing. From Buddha onwards
the state of self-realisation was described in negative terms, as 'not this, not that'. Is it inevitable? Is
it not possible to illustrate it, if not describe. I admit, no verbal description will do, when the state
described is beyond words. Yet it is also within words. Poetry is the art of putting into words the

There is no lack of religious poets. Turn to them for what you want. As far as I am concerned,
my teaching is simple: trust me for a while and do what I tell you. If you persevere, you will find that
your trust was justified.

And what to do with people who are interested, but cannot trust?

If they could stay with me, they would come to trust me. Once they trust me, they will follow my
advice and discover for themselves.

It is not for the training that I am asking just now, but for its results. You had both. You are
willing to tell us all about the training, but when it comes to results, you refuse to share. Either you
tell us that your state is beyond words, or that there is no difference; that where we see a difference,
you see none. In both cases we are left without any insight into your state.

How can you have insight into my state when you are without insight into your own? When the
very instrument of insight is lacking, is it not important to find it first? It is like a blind man wanting to
learn painting before he regains his eyesight. You want to know my state -- but do you know the
state of your wife or servant?

I am asking for some hints only.

Well, I gave you a very significant clue -- where you see differences, I don't. To me it is enough.
If you think it is not enough, I can only repeat; it is enough. Think it out deeply and you will come to
see what I see. You seem to want instant insight, forgetting that the instant is always preceded by a
long preparation. The fruit falls suddenly, but the ripening takes time. After all, when I talk of trusting
me, it is only for a short time, just enough time to start you moving. The more earnest you are, the
less belief you need, for soon you will find your faith in me justified. You want me to prove to you
that I am trustworthy! How can I and why should l? After all, what I am offering you is the
operational approach, so current in Western science. When a scientist describes an experiment and
its results, usually you accept his statements on trust and repeat his experiment as he describes it.
Once you get the same or similar results, you need not trust him any more; you trust your own
experience. Encouraged, you proceed and arrive in the end at substantially identical results.

The Indian mind was made ready for metaphysical experiments by culture and nurture. To the
Indian words like 'direct perception of the Supreme Reality' make sense and bring out responses
from the very depths of his being. They mean little to a Westerner; even when brought up in his own
variety of Christianity, he does not think beyond conformity with God's commandments and Christ's
injunctions. First-hand knowledge of reality is not only beyond ambition, but also beyond conceiving.
Some Indians tell me: 'Hopeless. The Westerner will not, for he cannot. Tell him nothing about self-
realisation; let him live a useful life and earn a rebirth in India. Then only will he have a chance'.
Some say: 'Reality is for all equally, but not all are equally endowed with the capacity to grasp it.
The capacity will come with desire, which will grow into devotion and ultimately into total self-
dedication. With integrity and earnestness and iron determination to overcome all obstacles, the
Westerner has the same chance as the Oriental man. All he needs is the rousing of interest'. To
rouse his interest in self-knowledge he needs to be convinced about its advantages.

You believe it is possible to transmit a personal experience?

I do not know. You speak of unity, identity of the seer with the seen. When all is one,
communication should be feasible.

To have the direct experience of a country one must go and live there. Don't ask for the
impossible. A man's spiritual victory no doubt benefits mankind, but to benefit another individual, a
close personal relation is required. Such relation is not accidental and not everybody can claim it.
On the other hand, the scientific approach is for all. 'Trust-test-taste'. What more do you need? Why
push the Truth down unwilling throats? It cannot be done, anyhow. Without a receiver what can the
giver do?

The essence of art is to use the outer form to convey an inner experience. Of course, one must
be sensitive to the inner, before the outer can be meaningful. How does one grow in sensitivity?

Whichever way you put it, it comes to the same. Givers there are many; where are the takers?

Can you not share your own sensitivity?

Yes, I can, but sharing is a two-way street. Two are needed in sharing. Who is willing to take
what I am willing to give?

You say we are one. Is this not enough?

I am one with you. Are you one with me? If you are, you will not ask questions. If you are not, if
you do not see what I see, what can I do beyond showing you the way to improve your vision?

What you cannot give is not your own.

I claim nothing as my own. When the 'I' is not, where is the 'mine'?. Two people look at a tree.
One sees the fruit hidden among the leaves and the other does not. Otherwise there is no
difference between the two. The one that sees knows that with a little attention the other will also
see, but the question of sharing does not arise. Believe me, I am not close-fisted, holding back your
share of reality. On the contrary, I am all yours, eat me and drink me. But while you repeat verbally:
'give, give', you do nothing to take what is offered. I am showing you a short and easy way to being
able to see what I see, but you cling to your old habits of thought, feeling and action and put all the
blame on me. I have nothing which you do not have. Self-knowledge is not a piece of property to be
offered and accepted. It is a new dimension altogether, where there is nothing to give or take.

Give us at least some insight into the content of your mind while you live your daily life. To eat,
to drink, to talk, to sleep -- how does it feel at your end?

The common things of life: I experience them just as you do. The difference lies in what I do not
experience. I do not experience fear or greed, hate or anger. I ask nothing, refuse nothing, keep
nothing. In these matters I do not compromise. Maybe this is the outstanding difference between us.
I will not compromise, I am true to myself, while you are afraid of reality.

From the Westerner's point of view there is something disturbing in your ways. To sit in a
corner all by oneself and keep on repeating: 'I am God, God I am', appears to be plain madness.
How to convince a Westerner that such practices lead to supreme sanity?

The man who claims to be God and the man who doubts it -- both are deluded. They talk in their

If all is dreaming, what is waking?

How to describe the waking state in dreamland language? Words do not describe, they are only

Again the same excuse that words cannot convey reality.

If you want words, I shall give you some of the ancient words of power. Repeat any of them
ceaselessly; they can work wonders.

Are you serious? Would you tell a Westerner to repeat 'Om' or 'Ram' or 'Hare Krishna'
ceaselessly, though he lacks completely the faith and conviction born of the right cultural and
religious background. Without confidence and fervour, repeating mechanically the same sounds,
will he ever achieve anything?

Why not? It is the urge, the hidden motive that matters, not the shape it takes. Whatever he
does, if he does it for the sake of finding his own real self, will surely bring him to himself.
No need of faith in the efficacy of the means?

No need of faith which is but expectation of results. Here the action only counts. Whatever you
do for the sake of truth, will take you to truth. Only be earnest and honest. The shape it takes hardly

Then where is the need of giving expression to one's longing?

No need. Doing nothing is as good. Mere longing, undiluted by thought and action, pure,
concentrated longing, will take you speedily to your goal. It is the true motive that matters, not the

Unbelievable! How can dull repetition in boredom verging on despair, be effective?

The very facts of repetition, of struggling on and on and of endurance and perseverance, in
spite of boredom and despair and complete lack of conviction are really crucial. They are not
important by themselves, but the sincerity behind them is all-important. There must be a push from
within and pull from without.

My questions are typical of the West. There people think in terms of cause and effect, means
and goals. They do not see what causal connection can there be between a particular word and the
 Absolute Reality.

None whatsoever. But there is a connection between the word and its meaning, between the
action and its motive. Spiritual practice is will asserted and re-asserted. Who has not the daring will
not accept the real even when offered. Unwillingness born out of fear is the only obstacle.

What is there to be afraid of?

The unknown. The not-being, not-knowing, not-doing. The beyond.

You mean to say that while you can share the manner of your achievement, you cannot share
the fruits?

Of course I can share the fruits and I am doing so all the time. But mine is a silent language.
Learn to listen and understand.

I do not see how one can begin without conviction.

Stay with me for some time, or give your mind to what I say and do and conviction will dawn.

Not everybody has the chance of meeting you.

Meet your own self. Be with your own self, listen to it, obey it, cherish it, keep it in mind
ceaselessly. You need no other guide. As long as your urge for truth affects your daily life, all is well
with you. Live your life without hurting anybody. Harmlessness is a most powerful form of Yoga and
it will take you speedily to your goal. This is what I call nisarga yoga , the Natural yoga . It is the art of
living in peace and harmony, in friendliness and love. The fruit of it is happiness, uncaused and

Still, all this presupposes some faith.

Turn within and you will come to trust yourself. In everything else confidence comes with

When a man tells me that he knows something I do not know, I have the right to ask: 'what is it
that you know, that I do not know?'

And if he tells you that it cannot be conveyed in words?

Then I watch him closely and try to make out.

And this is exactly what I want you to do! Be interested, give attention, until a current of mutual
understanding is established. Then the sharing will be easy. As a matter of fact, all realisation is
only sharing. You enter a wider consciousness and share in it. Unwillingness to enter and to share
is the only hindrance. I never talk of differences, for to me there are none. You do, so it is up to you
to show them to me. By all means, show me the differences. For this you will have to understand
me, but then you will no longer talk of differences. Understand one thing well, and you have arrived.
What prevents you from knowing is not the lack of opportunity, but the lack of ability to focus in your
mind what you want to understand. If you could but keep in mind what you do not know, it would
reveal to you its secrets. But if you are shallow and impatient, not earnest enough to look and wait,
you are like a child crying for the moon.