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Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 81

read by James Traverse

Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

81. Root Cause of Fear

Where do you come from?

I am from the United States, but I live mostly in Europe. To India I came recently. I was
in Rishikesh, in two Ashrams. I was taught meditation and breathing.

How long were you there?

Eight days in one, six days in another. I was not happy there and I left. Then for three weeks I
was with the Tibetan Lamas. But they were all wrapped up in formulas and rituals.

And what was the net result of it all?

Definitely there was an increase of energy. But before I left for Rishikesh, I did some fasting
and dieting at a Nature Cure Sanatorium at Pudukkotai in South India. It has done me enormous

Maybe the access of energy was due to better health.

I cannot say. But as a result of all these attempts some fires started burning in various places in
my body and I heard chants and voices where there were none.

And what are you after now?

Well, what are we all after? Some truth, some inner certainty, some real happiness. In the
various schools of self-realisation there is so much talk of awareness, that one ends with the
impression that awareness itself is the supreme reality. Is it so? The body is looked after by the
brain, the brain is illumined by consciousness; awareness watches over consciousness; is there
anything beyond awareness?

How do you know that you are aware?

I feel that I am. I cannot express it otherwise.

When you follow it up carefully from brain through consciousness to awareness, you find that
the sense of duality persists. When you go beyond awareness, there is a state of non-duality, in
which there is no cognition, only pure being, which may be as well called non-being, if by being you
mean being something in particular.

What you call pure being is it universal being, being everything?

Everything implies a collection of particulars. In pure being the very idea of the particular is

Is there any relationship between pure being and particular being?

What relationship can there be between what is and what merely appears to be? Is there any
relationship between the ocean and its waves? The real enables the unreal to appear and causes it
to disappear. the succession of transient moments creates the illusion of time, but the timeless
reality of pure being is not in movement, for all movement requires a motionless background. It is
itself the background. Once you have found it in yourself, you know that you had never lost that
independent being, independent of all divisions and separations. But don't look for it in
consciousness, you will not find it there. Don't look for it anywhere, for nothing contains it. On the
contrary, it contains everything and manifests everything. It is like the daylight that makes
everything visible while itself remaining invisible.

Sir, of what use to me is your telling me that reality cannot be found in consciousness? Where
else am I to look for it? How do you apprehend it?

It is quite simple. If I ask you what is the taste of your mouth all you can do is to say: it is neither
sweet nor bitter, nor sour nor astringent; it is what remains when all these tastes are not. Similarly,
when all distinctions and reactions are no more, what remains is reality, simple and solid.

All that I understand is that I am in the grip of a beginningless illusion. And I do not see how it
can come to an end. If it could, it would -- long ago. I must have had as many opportunities in the
past as I shall have in the future. What could not happen cannot happen. Or, if it did, it could not
last. Our very deplorable state after all these untold millions of years carries, at best, the promise of
ultimate extinction, or, which is worse, the threat of an endless and meaningless repetition.

What proof have you that your present state is beginningless and endless? How were you
before you were born? How will you be after death? And of your present state -- how much do you
know? You do not know even what was your condition before you woke up this morning? You only
know a little of your present state and from it you draw conclusions for all times and places. You
may be just dreaming and imagining your dream to be eternal.

Calling it a dream does not change the situation. I repeat my question: what hope is left which
the eternity behind me could not fulfil? Why should my future be different from my past?

In your fevered state, you project a past and a future and take them to be real. In fact, you know
only your present moment. Why not investigate what is now, instead of questioning the imaginary
past and future? Your present state is neither beginningless nor endless. If is over in a flash. Watch
carefully from where it comes and where it goes. You will soon discover the timeless reality behind

Why have I not done it before?

Just as every wave subsides into the ocean, so does every moment return to its source.
realisation consists in discovering the source and abiding there.

Who discovers?

The mind discovers.

Does it find the answers?

It finds that it is left without questions, that no answers are needed.

Being born is a fact. Dying is another fact. How do they appear to the witness?

A child was born; a man has died -- just events in the course of time.

Is there any progress in the witness? Does awareness evolve?

What is seen may undergo many changes when the light of awareness is focussed on it, but it
is the object that changes, not the light. Plants grow in sunlight, but the sun does not grow. By
themselves both the body and the witness are motionless, but when brought together in the mind,
both appear to move.

Yes, I can see that what moves and changes is the 'I am' only. Is the 'I am' needed at all?

Who needs it? It is there -- now. It had a beginning it will have an end.

What remains when the I am goes?

What does not come and go -- remains. It is the ever greedy mind that creates ideas of
progress and evolution towards perfection. It disturbs and talks of order, destroys and seeks

Is there progress in destiny, in karma?

Karma is only a store of unspent energies, of unfulfilled desires and fears not understood. The
store is being constantly replenished by new desires and fears. It need not be so for ever.
Understand the root cause of your fears -- estrangement from yourself: and of desires -- the longing
for the self, and your karma will dissolve like a dream. Between earth and heaven life goes on.
Nothing is affected, only bodies grow and decay.

Between the person and the witness, what is the relation?

There can be no relation between them because they are one. Don't separate and don't look for

If the seer and the seen are one, how did the separation occur?

Fascinated by names and forms, which are by their very nature distinct and diverse, you
distinguish what is natural and separate what is one. The world is rich in diversity, but your feeling
strange and frightened is due to misapprehension. It is the body that is in danger, not you.

I can see that the basic biological anxiety, the flight instinct, takes many shapes and distorts my
thoughts and feelings. But how did this anxiety come into being?

It is a mental state caused by the 'I-am-the-body' idea. It can be removed by the contrary idea: 'I-
am-not-the-body'. Both the ideas are false, but one removes the other. realise that no ideas are
your own, they all come to you from outside. You must think it all out for yourself, become yourself
the object of your meditation. The effort to understand yourself is Yoga. Be a Yogi, give your life to
it, brood, wonder, search, till you come to the root of error and to the truth beyond the error.

In meditation, who meditates, the person or the witness?

Meditation is a deliberate attempt to pierce into the higher states of consciousness and finally
go beyond it. The art of meditation is the art of shifting the focus of attention to ever subtler levels,
without losing one's grip on the levels left behind. In a way it is like having death under control. One
begins with the lowest levels: social circumstances, customs and habits; physical surroundings, the
posture and the breathing of the body, the senses, their sensations and perceptions; the mind, its
thoughts and feelings; until the entire mechanism of personality is grasped and firmly held. The final
stage of meditation is reached when the sense of identity goes beyond the 'I-am-so-and-so', beyond
'so-l-am', beyond 'I-am-the-witness-only', beyond 'there-is', beyond all ideas into the impersonally
personal pure being. But you must be energetic when you take to meditation. It is definitely not a
part-time occupation. Limit your interests and activities to what is needed for you and your
dependents' barest needs. Save all your energies and time for breaking the wall your mind had built
around you. Believe me, you will not regret.

How do I come to know that my experience is universal?

At the end of your meditation all is known directly, no proofs whatsoever are required. Just as
every drop of the ocean carries the taste of the ocean, so does every moment carry the taste of
eternity. Definitions and descriptions have their place as useful incentives for further search, but you
must go beyond them into what is undefinable and indescribable, except in negative terms.
After all, even universality and eternity are mere concepts, the opposites of being place and time-
bound. Reality is not a concept, nor the manifestation of a concept. It has nothing to do with
concepts. Concern yourself with your mind, remove its distortions and impurities. Once you had the
taste of your own self, you will find it everywhere and at all times. Therefore, it is so important that
you should come to it. Once you know it, you will never lose it.
But you must give yourself the opportunity through intensive, even arduous meditation.

What exactly do you want me to do?

Give your heart and mind to brooding over the 'I am', what is it, how is it, what is its source, its
life, its meaning. It is very much like digging a well. You reject all that is not water, till you reach the
life-giving spring.

How shall I know that I am moving in the right direction?

By your progress in intentness, in clarity and devotion to the task.

We, Europeans, find it very difficult to keep quiet. The world is too much with us.

Oh, no, you are dreamers too. We differ only in the contents of our dreams. You are after
perfection -- in the future. We are intent on finding it -- in the now. The limited only is perfectible.
The unlimited is already perfect. You are perfect, only you don't know it. Learn to know yourself and
you will discover wonders.

All you need is already within you, only you must approach your self with reverence and love. Self-
condemnation and self-distrust are grievous errors. Your constant flight from pain and search for
pleasure is a sign of love you bear for your self, all I plead with you is this: make love of your self
perfect. Deny yourself nothing -- give your self infinity and eternity and discover that you do not
need them; you are beyond.