Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality:

Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 83

read by James Traverse

Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

83. The True Guru
You were saying the other day that at the root of your realisation was the trust in your
Guru. He assured you that you were already the Absolute Reality and there was nothing more to be
done. You trusted him and left it at that, without straining, without striving. Now, my question is:
without trust in your Guru would you have realised? After all, what you are, You are, whether your
mind trusts or not; would doubt obstruct the action of the Guru's words and make them inoperative?

You have said it -- they would have been made inoperative -- for a time.

And what would happen to the energy, or power in the Guru's words?

It would remain latent, unmanifested. But the entire question is based on a misunderstanding.
The master, the disciple, the love and trust between them, these are one fact, not so many
independent facts. Each is a part of the other. Without love and trust there would have been no
Guru nor disciple, and no relationship between them. It is like pressing a switch to light an electric
lamp. It is because the lamp, the wiring, the switch, the transformer, the transmission lines and the
power house form a single whole, that you get the light. Any one factor missing and there would be
no light. You must not separate the inseparable. Words do not create facts; they either describe
them or distort. The fact is always non-verbal.

I still do not understand; can the Guru's word remain unfulfilled or will it invariably prove true?

Words of a realised man never miss their purpose. They wait for the right conditions to arise
which may take some time, and. this is natural, for there is a season for sowing and a season for
harvesting. But the word of a Guru is a seed that cannot perish. Of course, the Guru must be a real
one, who is beyond the body and the mind, beyond consciousness itself, beyond space and time,
beyond duality and unity, beyond understanding and description. The good people who have read a
lot and have a lot to say, may teach you many useful things, but they are not the real Gurus whose
words invariably come true. They also may tell you that you are the ultimate reality itself, but what of

Nevertheless, if for some reason I happen to trust them and obey, shall I be the loser?

If you are able to trust and obey, you will soon find your real Guru, or rather, he will find you.

Does every knower of the Self become a Guru, or can one be a knower of Reality without being
able to take others to it?

If you know what you teach, you can teach what you know, Here seership and teachership are
one. But the Absolute Reality is beyond both. The self-styled Gurus talk of ripeness and effort, of
merits and achievements, of destiny and grace; all these are mere mental formations, projections of
an addicted mind. Instead of helping, they obstruct.

How can I make out whom to follow and whom to mistrust?

Mistrust all, until you are convinced. The true Guru will never humiliate you, nor will he estrange
you from yourself. He will constantly bring you back to the fact of your inherent perfection and
encourage you to seek within. He knows you need nothing, not even him, and is never tired of
reminding you. But the self appointed Guru is more concerned with himself than with his disciples.

You said that reality is beyond the knowledge and the teaching of the real. Is not the knowledge
of reality the supreme itself and teaching the proof of its attainment?

The knowledge of the real, or the self, is a state of mind. Teaching another is a movement in
duality. They concern the mind only; sattva is a Guna all the same.

What is real then?

He who knows the mind as non-realised and realised, who knows ignorance and knowledge as
states of mind, he is the real. When you are given diamonds mixed with gravel, you may either miss
the diamonds or find them. It is the seeing that matters. Where is the greyness of the gravel and the
beauty of the diamond, without the power to see? The known is but a shape and knowledge is but a
name. The knower is but a state of mind. The real is beyond.

Surely, objective knowledge and ideas of things and self knowledge are not one and the same
thing. One needs a brain, the other does not.

For the purpose of discussion you can arrange words and give them meaning, but the fact
remains that all knowledge is a form of ignorance. The most accurate map is yet only paper. All
knowledge is in memory; it is only recognition, while reality is beyond the duality of the knower and
the known.

Then by what is reality known?

How misleading is your language! You assume, unconsciously, that reality also is approachable
through knowledge. And then you will bring in a knower of reality beyond reality! Do understand that
to be, reality need not be known. Ignorance and knowledge are in the mind, not in the real.

If there is no such thing as the knowledge of the real, then how do I reach it?

You need not reach out for what is already with you. Your very reaching out makes you miss it.
Give up the idea that you have not found it and just let it come into the focus of direct perception,
here and now, by removing all that is of the mind.

When all that can go, goes, what remains?

Emptiness remains, awareness remains, pure light of the conscious being remains. It is like
asking what remains of a room when all the furniture is removed? A most serviceable room
remains. And when even the walls are pulled down, space remains. Beyond space and time is the
here and the now of reality.

Does the witness remain?

As long as there is consciousness, its witness is also there. The two appear and disappear

If the witness too is transient, why is he given so much importance?

Just to break the spell of the known, the illusion that only the perceivable is real.

Perception is primary, the witness -- secondary.

This is the heart of the matter. As long as you believe that only the outer world is real, you
remain its slave. To become free, your attention must be drawn to the 'I am', the witness. Of course,
the knower and the known are one not two, but to break the spell of the known the knower must be
brought to the forefront. Neither is primary, both are reflections in memory of the ineffable
experience, ever new and ever now, untranslatable, quicker than the mind.

Sir, I am an humble seeker, wandering from Guru to Guru in search of release. My mind is sick,
burning with desire, frozen with fear. My days flit by, red with pain, grey with boredom. My age is
advancing, my health decaying, my future dark and frightening. At this rate I shall live in sorrow and
die in despair. Is there any hope for me? Or have I come too late?

Nothing is wrong with you, but the ideas you have of yourself are altogether wrong. It is not you
who desires, fears and suffers, it is the person built on the foundation of your body by
circumstances and influences. You are not that person. This must be clearly established in your
mind and never lost sight of. Normally, it needs a prolonged sadhana, years of austerities and

My mind is weak and vacillating. I have neither the strength nor the tenacity for sadhana. My
case, is hopeless.


In a way yours is a most hopeful case. There is an alternative to sadhana, which is trust. If you
cannot have the conviction born from fruitful search, then take advantage of my discovery, which I
am so eager to share with you. I can see with the utmost clarity that you have never been, nor are,
nor will be estranged from realty, that you are the fullness of perfection here and now and that
nothing can deprive you of your heritage, of what you are. You are in no way different from me, only
you do not know it. You do not know what you are and therefore you imagine your self to be what
you are not. Hence desires and fear and overwhelming despair. And meaningless activity in order to

Just trust me and live by trusting me. I shall not mislead you. You are the Supreme Reality beyond
the world and its creator, beyond consciousness and its witness, beyond all assertions and denials.
Remember it, think of it, act on it. Abandon all sense of separation, see yourself in all and act
accordingly. With action bliss will come and, with bliss, conviction. After all, you doubt yourself
because you are in sorrow. Happiness, natural, spontaneous and lasting cannot be imagined. Either
it is there, or it is not. Once you begin to experience the peace, love and happiness which need no
outer causes, all your doubts will dissolve. Just catch hold of what I told you and live by it.

You are telling me to live by memory?

You are living by memory anyhow. I am merely asking you to replace the old memories by the
memory of what I told you. As you were acting on your old memories, act on the new one. Don't be
afraid. For some time there is bound to be a conflict between the old and the new, but if you put
yourself resolutely on the side of the new, the strife will soon come to an end and you will realise the
effortless state of being oneself, of not being deceived by desires and fears born of illusion.

Many Gurus have the habit of giving tokens of their grace -- their head cloth, or their sticks, or
begging bowl, or robe, thus transmitting or confirming the self-realisation of their disciples. I can see
no value in such practices. It is not self-realisation that is transmitted, but self-importance. Of what
earthly use is being told something very flattering, but not true? On one hand you are warning me
against the many self-styled Gurus, on the other you want me to trust you. Why do you claim to be
an exception?

I do not ask you to trust me. Trust my words and remember them, I want your happiness, not
mine. Distrust those who put a distance between you and your true being and offer themselves as a
go-between. I do nothing of the kind. I do not even make any promises. I merely say: if you trust my
words and put them to test, you will for yourself discover how absolutely true they are. If you ask for
a proof before you venture, I can only say: I am the proof. I did trust my teacher's words and kept
them in my mind and I did find that he was right, that I was, am and shall be the Infinite Reality,
embracing all, transcending all.

As you say, you have neither the time nor the energy for lengthy practices. I offer you an alternative.
Accept my words on trust and live anew, or live and die in sorrow.

It seems too good to be true.

Don't be misled by the simplicity of the advice. '\very few are those who have the courage to
trust the innocent and the simple. To know that you are a prisoner of your mind, that you live in an
imaginary world of your own creation is the dawn of wisdom. To want nothing of it, to be ready to
abandon it entirely, is earnestness. Only such earnestness, born of true despair, will make you trust

Have l not suffered enough?

Suffering has made you dull, unable to see its enormity. Your first task is to see the sorrow in
you and around you; your next to long intensely for liberation. The very intensity of longing will guide
you; you need no other guide.

Suffering has made me dull, indifferent even to itself.

Maybe it is not sorrow but pleasure that made you dull. Investigate.

Whatever may be the cause; I am dull. I have neither the will nor the energy.

Oh, no. You have enough for the first step. And each step will generate enough energy for the
next. Energy comes with confidence and confidence comes with experience.

Is it right to change Gurus?

Why not change? Gurus are like milestones? It is natural to move on from one to another. Each
tells you the direction and the distance, while the sadguru, the eternal Guru, is the road itself. Once
you realise that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to
enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself
an ecstasy.

So, there is no need to worship, to pray, to practice Yoga?

A little of daily sweeping, washing and bathing can do no harm. Self-awareness tells you at
every step what needs be done. When all is done, the mind remains quiet.
Now you are in the waking state, a person with name and shape, joys and sorrows. The person was
not there before you were born, nor will be there after you die. Instead of struggling with the person
to make it become what it is not, why not go beyond the waking state and leave the personal life
altogether? It does not mean the extinction of the person; it means only seeing it in right perspective.

One more question. You said that before I was born I was one with the pure being of reality; if
so, who decided that I should be born?

In reality you were never born and never shall die. But now you imagine that you are, or have a
body and you ask what has brought about this state. Within the limits of illusion the answer is:
desire born from memory attracts you to a body and makes you think as one with it. But this is true
only from the relative point of view. In fact, there is no body, nor a world to contain it; there is only a
mental condition, a dream-like state, easy to dispel by questioning its reality.

After you die, will you come again? If I live long enough, will I meet you again.

To you the body is real, to me there is none. I, as you see me, exist in your imagination only.
Surely, you will see me again, if and when you need me. It does not affect me, as the Sun is not
affected by sunrises and sunsets. Because it is not affected, it is certain to be there when needed.
You are bent on knowledge, I am not. I do not have that sense of insecurity that makes you crave to
know. I am curious, like a child is curious. But there is no anxiety to make me seek refuge in
knowledge. Therefore, I am not concerned whether I shall be reborn, or how long will the world last.
These are questions born of fear.