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Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 54

read by James Traverse





I AM THAT
Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj


 
 
 54. Body and Mind are Symptoms of Ignorance

   Questioner:
We were discussing one day the person -- the witness -- the absolute (vyakti-vyakta-avyakta).
As far as I remember, you said that the absolute alone is real and the witness is absolute
only at a given point of space and time. The person is the organism, gross and subtle, illumined by
the presence of the witness. I do not seem to grasp the matter clearly; could we discuss it again?
You also use the terms mahadakash, chidakash and paramakash. How are they related to person,
witness, and the absolute?

Nisargadatta:
Mahadakash is nature, the ocean of existences, the physical space with all that can be
contacted through the senses. Chidakash is the expanse of awareness, the mental space of time,
perception and cognition. Paramakash is the timeless and spaceless reality, mindless,
undifferentiated, the infinite potentiality, the source and origin, the substance and the essence, both
matter and consciousness -- yet beyond both. It cannot be perceived, but can be experienced as
ever witnessing the witness, perceiving the perceiver, the origin and the end of all manifestation, the
root of time and space, the prime cause in every chain of causation.

Questioner:
What is the difference between vyakta  and avyakta?

Nisargadatta:
There is no difference. It is like light and daylight. The universe is full of light which you do not
see; but the same light you see as daylight. And what the daylight reveals is the vyakti, The person
is always the object, the witness is the subject and their relation of mutual dependence is the
reflection of their absolute identity. You imagine that they are distinct and separate states. They are
not. They are the same consciousness at rest and in movement, each state conscious of the other.
In chit man knows God and God knows man. In chit the man shapes the world and the world
shapes man. Chit is the link, the bridge between extremes, the balancing and uniting factor in every
experience. The totality of the perceived is what you call matter. The totality of all perceivers is what
you call the universal mind. The identity of the two, manifesting itself as perceptibility and
perceiving, harmony and intelligence, loveliness and loving, reasserts itself eternally.

Questioner:
The three gunas, sattva--rajas--tamas, are they only in matter, or also in the mind?

Nisargadatta:
In both, of course, because the two are not separate. It is only the absolute that is beyond gunas.
In fact, these are but points of view, ways of looking. They exist only in the mind. Beyond the
mind all distinctions cease.

Questioner:
Is the universe a product of the senses?

Nisargadatta:
Just as you recreate your world on waking up, so is the universe unrolled. The mind with its five
organs of perception, five organs of action, and five vehicles of consciousness appears as memory,
thought, reason and selfhood.

Questioner:
The sciences have made much progress. We know the body and the mind much better than
our ancestors. Your traditional way, describing and analysing mind and matter, is no longer valid.

Nisargadatta:
But where are your scientists with their sciences? Are they not again images in your own mind?

Questioner:
Here lies the basic difference! To me they are not my own projections. They were before I was
born and shall be there when I am dead.

Nisargadatta:
Of course. Once you accept time and space as real, you will consider yourself minute and short-
lived. But are they real? Do they depend on you, or you on them? As body, you are in space. As
mind, you are in time. But are you mere body with a mind in it? Have you ever investigated?

Questioner:
I had neither the motive nor the method.

Nisargadatta:
I am suggesting both. But the actual work of insight and detachment (viveka-vairagya) is yours.

Questioner:
The only motive I can perceive is my own causeless and timeless happiness. And what is the
method?

Nisargadatta:
Happiness is incidental. The true and effective motive is love. You see people suffer and you
seek the best way of helping them. The answer is obvious -- first put yourself beyond the need of
help. Be sure your attitude is of pure goodwill, free of expectation of any kind.

Those who seek mere happiness may end up in sublime indifference, while love will never rest.
As to method, there is only one -- you must come to know yourself -- both what you appear to be
and what you are. Clarity and charity go together -- each needs and strengthens the other.

Questioner:
Compassion implies the existence of an objective world, full of avoidable sorrow.

Nisargadatta:
The world is not objective and the sorrow of it is not avoidable. Compassion is but another word
for the refusal to suffer for imaginary reasons.

Questioner:
If the reasons are imaginary, why should the suffering be inevitable?

Nisargadatta:
It is always the false that makes you suffer, the false desires and fears, the false values and
ideas, the false relationships between people. Abandon the false and you are free of pain; truth
makes happy -- truth liberates.

Questioner:
The truth is that I am a mind imprisoned in a body and this is a very unhappy truth.

Nisargadatta:
You are neither the body nor in the body -- there is no such thing as body. You have grievously
misunderstood yourself; to understand rightly -- investigate.

Questioner:
But I was born as a body, in a body and shall die with the body, as a body.

Nisargadatta:
This is your misconception. Enquire, investigate, doubt yourself and others. To find truth, you
must not cling to your convictions; if you are sure of the immediate, you will never reach the
ultimate. Your idea that you were born and that you will die is absurd: both logic and experience
contradict it.

Questioner:
All right, I shall not insist that I am the body. You have a point here. But here and now, as I talk
to you, I am in my body -- obviously. The body may not be me, but it is mine.

Nisargadatta:
The entire universe contributes incessantly to your existence. Hence the entire universe is your
body. In that sense -- I agree.

Questioner:
My body influences me deeply. In more than one way my body is my destiny. My character, my
moods, the nature of my reactions, my desires and fears -- inborn or acquired -- they are all based
on the body. A little alcohol, some drug or other and all changes. Until the drug wears off I become
another man.

Nisargadatta:
All this happens because you think yourself to be the body. realise your real self and even drugs
will have no power over you.

Questioner:
You smoke?

Nisargadatta:
My body kept a few habits which may as well continue till it dies. There is no harm in them.

Questioner:
You eat meat?

Nisargadatta:
I was born among meat-eating people and my children are eating meat. I eat very little -- and
make no fuss.

Questioner:
Meat-eating implies killing.

Nisargadatta:
Obviously. I make no claims of consistency. You think absolute consistency is possible; prove it
by example. Don't preach what you do not practise.

Coming back to the idea of having been born. You are stuck with what your parents told you: all
about conception, pregnancy and birth, infant, child, youngster, teenager, and so on. Now, divest
yourself of the idea that you are the body with the help of the contrary idea that you are not the
body. It is also an idea, no doubt; treat it like something to be abandoned when its work is done.
The idea that I am not the body gives reality to the body, when in fact, there is no such thing as
body, it is but a state of mind. You can have as many bodies and as diverse as you like; just
remember steadily what you want and reject the incompatibles.

Questioner:
I am like a box within box, within box, the outer box acting as the body and the one next to it --
as the indwelling soul. Abstract the outer box and the next becomes the body and the one next to it
the soul. It is an infinite series, an endless opening of boxes, is the last one the ultimate soul?

Nisargadatta:
If you have a body, you must have a soul; here your simile of a nest of boxes applies. But here
and now, through all your bodies and souls shines awareness, the pure light of chit. Hold on to it
unswervingly. Without awareness, the body would not last a second. There is in the body a current
of energy, affection and intelligence, which guides, maintains and energises the body. Discover that
current and stay with it.

Of course, all these are manners of speaking. Words are as much a barrier, as a bridge. Find the
spark of life that weaves the tissues of your body and be with it. It is the only reality the body has.

Questioner:
What happens to that spark of life after death?

Nisargadatta:
It is beyond time. Birth and death are but points in time. Life weaves eternally its many webs.
The weaving is in time, but life itself is timeless. Whatever name and shape you give to its
expressions, it is like the ocean -- never changing, ever changing.

Questioner:
All you say sounds beautifully convincing. yet my feeling of being just a person in a world
strange and alien, often inimical and dangerous, does not cease. Being a person, limited in space
and time, how can I possibly realise myself as the opposite; a de-personalised, universalised
awareness of nothing in particular?

Nisargadatta:
You assert yourself to be what you are not and deny yourself to be what you are. You omit the
element of pure cognition, of awareness free from all personal distortions. Unless you admit the
reality of chit, you will never know yourself.

Questioner:
What am I to do? I do not see myself as you see me. Maybe you are right and I am wrong, but
how can I cease to be what I feel I am?

Nisargadatta:
A prince who believes himself to be a beggar can be convinced conclusively in one way only: he
must behave as a prince and see what happens. Behave as if what I say is true and judge by what
actually happens. All I ask is the little faith needed for making the first step. With experience will
come confidence and you will not need me any more. I know what you are and I am telling you.
Trust me for a while.

Questioner:
To be here and now, I need my body and its senses. To understand, I need a mind.

Nisargadatta:
The body and the mind are only symptoms of ignorance, of misapprehension. Behave as if you
were pure awareness, bodiless and mindless, spaceless and timeless, beyond 'where' and 'when'
and 'how'. Dwell on it, think of it, learn to accept its reality. Don't oppose it and deny it all the time.
Keep an open mind at least. Yoga is bending the outer to the inner. Make your mind and body
express the real which is all and beyond all. By doing you succeed, not by arguing.

Questioner:
Kindly allow me to come back to my first question. How does the error of being a person
originate?

Nisargadatta:
The absolute precedes time. Awareness comes first. A bundle of memories and mental habits
attracts attention, awareness gets focalised and a person suddenly appears. Remove the light of
awareness, go to sleep or swoon away -- and the person disappears. The person (vyakti) flickers,
awareness (vyakta) contains all space and time, the absolute (avyakta) is.