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Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 62

read by James Traverse

Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

 62. In the Supreme the Witness Appears

Some forty years ago J. Krishnamurti said that there is life only and all talk of
personalities and individualities has no foundation in reality. He did not attempt to describe life -- he
merely said that while life need not and cannot be described, it can be fully experienced, if the
obstacles to its being experienced are removed. The main hindrance lies in our idea of, and
addiction to, time, in our habit of anticipating a future in the light of the past. The sum total of the
past becomes the 'I was', the hoped for future becomes the 'I shall be' and life is a constant effort of
crossing over from what 'I was' to what ‘I shall be'. The present moment, the. 'now' is lost sight of.
Maharaj speaks of 'I am'. Is it an illusion, like 'I was' and 'I shall be', or is there something real about
it? And if the ‘I am' too is an illusion, how does one free oneself from it? The very notion of I am free
of 'I am' is an absurdity. Is there something real, something lasting about the 'I am' in distinction
from the 'I was', or ‘I shall be', which change with time, as added memories create new

Nisargadatta Maharaj:
The present 'I am' is as false as the 'I was' and 'I shall be'. It is merely an idea in the mind,
an impression left by memory, and the separate identity it creates is false. this habit of referring to a
false centre must be done away with, the notion 'I see', 'I feel', 'I think', 'I do', must disappear from
the field of consciousness; what remains when the false is no more, is real.

What is this big talk about elimination of the self? How can the self eliminate itself? What kind
of metaphysical acrobatics can lead to the disappearance of the acrobat? In the end he will
reappear, mightily proud of his disappearing.

You need not chase the 'I am' to kill it. You cannot. All you need is a sincere longing for reality.
We call it atma-bhakti, the love of the Supreme: or moksha-sankalpa, the determination to be free
from the false. Without love, and will inspired by love, nothing can be done. Merely talking about
Reality without doing anything about it is self-defeating. There must be love in the relation between
the person who says 'I am' and the observer of that 'I am'. As long as the observer, the inner self,
the 'higher' self, considers himself apart from the observed, the 'lower' self, despises it and
condemns it, the situation is hopeless. It is only when the observer (vyakta) accepts the person
(vyakti) as a projection or manifestation of himself, and, so to say, takes the self into the Self, the
duality of 'I' and 'this' goes and in the identity of the outer and the inner the Supreme Reality
manifests itself.

This union of the seer and the seen happens when the seer becomes conscious of himself as the
seer, he is not merely interested in the seen, which he is anyhow, but also interested in being
interested, giving attention to attention, aware of being aware. Affectionate awareness is the crucial
factor that brings Reality into focus.

According to the Theosophists and allied occultists, man consists of three aspects: personality,
individuality and spirituality. Beyond spirituality lies divinity. The personality is strictly temporary and
valid for one birth only. It begins with the birth of the body and ends with the birth of the next body.
Once over, it is over for good; nothing remains of it except a few sweet or bitter lessons.
The individuality begins with the animal-man and ends with the fully human. The split between the
personality and individuality is characteristic of our present-day humanity. On one side the
individuality with its longing for the true, the good and the beautiful; on the other side an ugly
struggle between habit and ambition, fear and greed, passivity and violence.

The spirituality aspect is still in abeyance. It cannot manifest itself in an atmosphere of duality. Only
when the personality is reunited with the individuality and becomes a limited, perhaps, but true
expression of it, that the light and love and beauty of the spiritual come into their own.

You teach of the vyakti, vyakta, avyakta (observer, observed and ground of observation). Does it
tally with the other view?

Yes, when the vyakti realises its non-existence in separation from the vyakta, and the vyakta
sees the vyakti as his own expression, then the peace and silence of the avyakta state come
into being. In reality, the three are one: the vyakta and the avyakta are inseparable, while the
vyakti is the sensing-feeling-thinking process, based on the body made of and fed by the
five elements.

What is the relation between the vyakta and the avyakta?
How can there be relation when they are one? All talk of separation and relation is due to the
distorting and corrupting influence of 'I-am-the-body' idea. The outer self (vyakti) is merely a
projection on the body-mind of the inner self (vyakta), which again is only an expression of the
Supreme Self (avyakta) which is all and none.

There are teachers who will not talk of the higher self and lower self. They address the man as
if only the lower self existed. Neither Buddha nor Christ ever mentioned a higher self. J.
Krishnamurti too fights shy of any mention of the higher self. Why is it so?

How can there be two selves in one body? The 'I am' is one. There is no ‘higher I-am' and ‘lower
I-am'. All kinds of states of mind are presented to awareness and there is self-identification with
them. The objects of observation are not what they appear to be and the attitudes they are met with
are not what they need be. If you think that Buddha, Christ or Krishnamurti speak to the person, you
are mistaken. They know well that the vyakti, the outer self, is but a shadow of the vyakta, the inner
self, and they address and admonish the vyakta only. They tell him to give attention to the outer
self, to guide and help it, to feel responsible for it; in short, to be fully aware of it. Awareness comes
from the Supreme and pervades the inner self; the so-called outer self is only that part of one's
being of which one is not aware. One may be conscious, for every being is conscious, but one is not
aware. What is included in awareness becomes the inner and partakes of the inner. You may put it
differently: the body defines the outer self, consciousness the inner, and in pure awareness the
Supreme is contacted.

You said the body defines the outer self. Since you have a body, do you have also an outer

I would, were I attached to the body and take it to be myself.

But you are aware of it and attend to its needs.

The contrary is nearer to truth -- the body knows me and is aware of my needs. But neither is
really so. This body appears in your mind; in my mind nothing is.

Do you mean to say you are quite unconscious of having a body?

On the contrary, I am conscious of not having a body.

I see you smoking!

Exactly so. You see me smoking. Find out for yourself how did you come to see me Smoking,
and you will easily realise that it is your 'I-am-the-body' state of mind that is responsible for this 'I-
see-you-smoking' idea.

There is the body and there is myself. I know the body. Apart from it, what am l?

There is no 'I' apart from the body, nor the world. The three appear and disappear together. At
the root is the sense 'I am'. Go beyond it. The idea: 'I-am-not-the-body' is merely an antidote to the
idea 'I-am-the-body' which is false. What is that 'I am’? Unless you know yourself, what else can you

From what you say I conclude that without the body there can be no liberation. If the idea: 'I-am-
not-the-body' leads to liberation, the presence of the body is essential.

Quite right. Without the body, how can the idea: ‘I-am-not-the-body' come into being? The idea
‘I-am-free' is as false as the idea 'I-am-in-bondage'. Find out the ‘I am' common to both and go

All is a dream only.

All are mere words, of what use are they to you? You are entangled in the web of verbal
definitions and formulations. Go beyond your concepts and ideas; in the silence of desire and
thought the truth is found.

One has to remember not to remember. What a task!

It cannot be done, of course. It must happen. But it does happen when you truly see the need of
it. Again, earnestness is the golden key.

At the back of my mind there is a hum going on all the time. Numerous weak thoughts swarm
and buzz and this shapeless cloud is always with me. Is it the same with you? What is at the back
of your mind?

Where there is no mind, there is no back to it. I am all front, no back! The void speaks, the void

Is there no memory left?

No memory of past pleasure or pain is left. Each moment is newly born.

Without memory you cannot be conscious.

Of course I am conscious, and fully aware of it. I am not a block of wood! Compare
consciousness and its content to a cloud. You are inside the cloud, while I look at. You are lost in it,
hardly able to see the tips of your fingers, while I see the cloud and many other clouds and the blue
sky too and the sun, the moon, the stars. Reality is one for both of us, but for you it is a prison and
for me it is a home.

You spoke of the person (vyakti), the witness (vyakta) and the Supreme (avyakta). Which
comes first?

In the Supreme the witness appears. The witness creates the person and thinks itself as
separate from it. The witness sees that the person appears in consciousness which again appears
in the witness. This realisation of the basic unity is the working of the Supreme. It is the power
behind the witness, the source from which all flows. It cannot be contacted, unless there is unity and
love and mutual help between the person and the witness, unless the doing is in harmony with the
being and the knowing. The Supreme is both the source and the fruit of such harmony. As I talk to
you, I am in the state of detached but affectionate awareness (turiya). When this awareness turns
upon itself, you may call it the Supreme State, (turiyatita). But the fundamental reality is beyond
awareness, beyond the three states of becoming, being and not-being.

How is it that here my mind is engaged in high topics and finds dwelling on them easy and
pleasant. When I return home I find myself forgetting all l have learnt here, worrying and fretting,
unable to remember my real nature even for a moment. What may be the cause?

It is your childishness you are returning to. You are not fully grown up; there are levels left
undeveloped because unattended. Just give full attention to what in you is crude and primitive,
unreasonable and unkind, altogether childish, and you will ripen. It is the maturity of heart and mind
that is essential. It comes effortlessly when the main obstacle is removed -- inattention,
unawareness. In awareness you grow.