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Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 79

read by James Traverse





I AM THAT
Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
 
 
 79. Person, Witness and the Supreme

    Questioner:
We have a long history of drug-taking behind us, mostly drugs of the consciousness-
expanding variety. They gave us the experience of other states of consciousness, high and low, and
also the conviction, that drugs are unreliable and, at best, transitory and, at worst, destructive of
organism and personality. We are in search of better means for developing consciousness and
transcendence. We want the fruits of our search to stay with us and enrich our lives, instead of
turning to pale memories and helpless regrets. If by the spiritual we mean self-investigation and
development, our purpose in coming to India is definitely spiritual. The happy hippy stage is behind
us; we are serious now and on the move. We know there is reality to be found, but we do not know
how to find and hold on to it. We need no convincing, only guidance. Can you help us?

Nisargadatta:
You do not need help, only advice. What you seek is already in you. Take my own case. I
did nothing for my realisation. My teacher told me that the reality is within me; I looked within and
found it there, exactly as my teacher told me. To see reality is as simple as to see one's face in a
mirror. Only the mirror must be clear and true. A quiet mind, undistorted by desires and fears, free
from ideas and opinions, clear on all the levels, is needed to reflect the reality. Be clear and quiet --
alert and detached, all else will happen by itself.

Questioner:
You had to make your mind clear and quiet before you could realise the truth. How did you do
it?

Nisargadatta:
I did nothing. It just happened. I lived my life, attending to my family's needs. Nor did my Guru
do it. It just happened, as he said it will.

Questioner:
Things do not just happen. There must be a cause for everything.

Nisargadatta:
All that happens is the cause of all that happens. Causes are numberless; the idea of a sole
cause is an illusion.

Questioner:
You must have been doing something specific -- some meditation or Yoga. How can you say
that realisation will happen on its own?

Nisargadatta:
Nothing specific. I just lived my life.

Questioner:
I am amazed!

Nisargadatta:
So was I. But what was there to be amazed at? My teacher's words came true. So what? He
knew me better than I knew myself, that is all. Why search for causes? In the very beginning I was
giving some attention and time to the sense 'I am', but only in the beginning. Soon after my Guru
died, I lived on. His words proved to be true. That is all. It is all one process. You tend to separate
things in time and then look for causes.

Questioner:
What is your work now? What are you doing?

Nisargadatta:
You imagine being and doing as identical. It is not so. The mind and the body move and change
and cause other minds and bodies to move and change and that is called doing, action. I see that it
is in the nature of action to create further action like fire that continues by burning. I neither act nor
cause others to act; I am timelessly aware of what is going on.

Questioner:
In your mind, or also in other minds?

Nisargadatta:
There is only one mind, which swarms with ideas; 'I am this, I am that, this is mine, that is mine'.
I am not the mind, never was, nor shall be.

Questioner:
How did the mind come into being?

Nisargadatta:
The world consists of matter, energy and intelligence. They manifest themselves in many ways.
Desire and imagination create the world and intelligence reconciles the two and causes a sense of
harmony and peace To me it all happens; I am aware, yet unaffected.

Questioner:
You cannot be aware, yet unaffected. There is a contradiction in terms. Perception is change.
Once you have experienced a sensation, memory will not allow you to return to the former state.

Nisargadatta:
Yes, what is added to memory cannot be erased easily. But it can surely be done and, in fact, I
am doing it all the time. Like a bird on its wings, I leave no footprints.

Questioner:
Has the witness name and form, or is it beyond these?

Nisargadatta:
The witness is merely a point in awareness. It has no name and form. It is like the reflection of
the sun in a drop of dew. The drop of dew has name and form, but the little point of light is caused
by the sun. The clearness and smoothness of the drop is a necessary condition but not sufficient by
itself. Similarly clarity and silence of the mind are necessary for the reflection of reality to appear in
the mind, but by themselves they are not sufficient. There must be reality beyond it. Because reality
is timelessly present, the stress is on the necessary conditions.

Questioner:
Can it happen that the mind is clear and quiet and yet no reflection appears?

Nisargadatta:
There is destiny to consider. The unconscious is in the grip of destiny, it is destiny, in fact. One
may have to wait. But however heavy may be the hand of destiny, it can be lifted by patience and
self-control. Integrity and purity remove the obstacles and the vision of reality appears in the mind.

Questioner:
How does one gain self-control? I am so weak-minded!

Nisargadatta:
Understand first that you are not the person you believe yourself to be. What you think yourself
to be is mere suggestion or imagination. You have no parents, you were not born, nor will you die.
Either trust me when I tell you so, or arrive to it by study and investigation. The way of total faith is
quick, the other is slow but steady. Both must be tested in action. Act on what you think is true --
this is the way to truth.

Questioner:
Are deserving the truth and destiny one and the same?

Nisargadatta:
Yes, both are in the unconscious. Conscious merit is mere vanity. Consciousness is always of
obstacles; when there are no obstacles, one goes beyond it.

Questioner:
Will the understanding that I am not the body give me the strength of character needed for self-
control?

Nisargadatta:
When you know that you are neither body nor mind, you will not be swayed by them. You will
follow truth, wherever it takes you, and do what needs be done, whatever the price to pay.

Questioner:
Is action essential for self-realisation?

Nisargadatta:
For realisation, understanding is essential. Action is only incidental. A man of steady
understanding will not refrain from action. Action is the test of truth.

Questioner:
Are tests needed?

Nisargadatta:
If you do not test yourself all the time, you will not be able to distinguish between reality and
fancy. Observation and close reasoning help to some extent, but reality is paradoxical. How do you
know that you have realised unless you watch your thoughts and feelings, words and actions and
wonder at the changes occurring in you without your knowing why and how? It is exactly because
they are so surprising that you know that they are real. The foreseen and expected is rarely true.

Questioner:
How does the person come into being?

Nisargadatta:
Exactly as a shadow appears when light is intercepted by the body, so does the person arise
when pure self-awareness is obstructed by the 'I-am-the-body' idea. And as the shadow changes
shape and position according to the lay of the land, so does the person appear to rejoice and suffer,
rest and toil, find and lose according to the pattern of destiny. When the body is no more, the
person disappears completely without return, only the witness remains and the Great Unknown.
The witness is that which says 'I know'. The person says 'I do'. Now, to say 'I know' is not untrue -- it
is merely limited. But to say 'I do' is altogether false, because there is nobody who does; all
happens by itself, including the idea of being a doer.

Questioner:
Then what is action?

Nisargadatta:
The universe is full of action, but there is no actor. There are numberless persons small and big
and very big, who, through identification, imagine themselves as acting, but it does not change the
fact that the world of action (mahadakash) is one single whole in which all depends on, and affects
all. The stars affect us deeply and we affect the stars. Step back from action to consciousness,
leave action to the body and the mind; it is their domain. Remain as pure witness, till even
witnessing dissolves in the Supreme.

Imagine a thick jungle full of heavy timber. A plank is shaped out of the timber and a small pencil to
write on it. The witness reads the writing and knows that while the pencil and the plank are distantly
related to the jungle, the writing has nothing to do with it. It is totally super-imposed and its
disappearance just does not matter. The dissolution of personality is followed always by a sense of
great relief, as if a heavy burden has fallen off.

Questioner:
When you say, I am in the state beyond the witness, what is the experience that makes you say
so? In what way does it differ from the stage of being a witness only?

Nisargadatta:
It is like washing printed cloth. First the design fades, then the background and in the end the
cloth is plain white. The personality gives place to the witness, then the witness goes and pure
awareness remains. The cloth was white in the beginning and is white in the end; the patterns and
colours just happened -- for a time.

Questioner:
Can there be awareness without an object of awareness?

Nisargadatta:
Awareness with an object we called witnessing. When there is also self-identification with the
object, caused by desire or fear, such a state is called a person. In reality there is only one state;
when distorted by self-identification it is called a person, when coloured with the sense of being, it is
the witness; when colourless and limitless, it is called the Supreme.

Questioner:
I find that I am always restless, longing, hoping, seeking, finding, enjoying, abandoning,
searching again. What is it that keeps me on the boil?

Nisargadatta:
You are really in search of yourself, without knowing it. You are love-longing for the love-worthy,
the perfectly lovable. Due to ignorance you are looking for it in the world of opposites and
contradictions. When you find it within, your search will be over.

Questioner:
There will be always this sorrowful world to contend with.

Nisargadatta:
Don't anticipate. You do not know. It is true that all manifestation is in the opposites. Pleasure
and pain, good and bad, high and low, progress and regress, rest and strife they all come and go
together -- and as long as there is a world, its contradictions will be there. There may also be
periods of perfect harmony, of bliss and beauty, but only for a time. What is perfect, returns to the
source of all perfection and the opposites play on.

Questioner:
How am I to reach perfection?

Nisargadatta:
Keep quiet. Do your work in the world, but inwardly keep quiet. Then all will come to you. Do not
rely on your work for realisation. It may profit others, but not you. Your hope lies in keeping silent in
your mind and quiet in your heart. realised people are very quiet.