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Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 85

read by James Traverse





I AM THAT
Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
 
 
 85. ‘I am’: The Foundation of all Experience

   Questioner:
I hear you making statements about yourself like: ‘I am timeless, immutable beyond
attributes’, etc. How do you know these things? And what makes you say them?

Nisargadatta:
I am only trying to describe the state before the ‘I am’ arose, but the state itself, being
beyond the mind and language, is indescribable.

Questioner:
The ‘I am’ is the foundation of all experience. What you are trying to describe must also be an
experience, limited and transitory. You speak of yourself as immutable. I hear the sound of the
word, I remember its dictionary meaning, but the experience of being immutable I do not have. How
can I break through the barrier and know personally, intimately, what it means to be immutable?

Nisargadatta:
The word itself is the bridge. Remember it, think of it, explore it, go round it, look at it from all
directions, dive into it with earnest perseverance: endure all delays and disappointments till
suddenly the mind turns round, away from the word, towards the reality beyond the word. It is like
trying to find a person knowing his name only. A day comes when your enquiries bring you to him
and the name becomes reality. Words are valuable, for between the word and its meaning there is a
link and if one investigates the word assiduously, one crosses beyond the concept into the
experience at the root of it. As a matter of fact, such repeated attempts to go beyond the words is
called meditation.

Sadhana is but a persistent attempt to cross over from the verbal to the non-
verbal. The task seems hopeless until suddenly all becomes clear and simple and so wonderfully
easy. But, as long as you are interested in your present way of living, you will shirk from the final
leap into the unknown.

Questioner:
Why should the unknown interest me? Of what use is the unknown?

Nisargadatta:
Of no use whatsoever. But it is worthwhile to know what keeps you within the narrow confines of
the known. It is the full and correct knowledge of the known that takes you to the unknown. You
cannot think of it in terms of uses and advantages; to be quite detached, beyond the reach of all self-
concern, all selfish consideration, is an inescapable condition of liberation. You may call it death; to
me it is living at its most meaningful and intense, for I am one with life in its totality and fullness --
intensity, meaningfulness, harmony; what more do you want?

Questioner:
Nothing more is needed, of course. But you are talking of the knowable.

Nisargadatta:
Of the unknowable only silence talks. The mind can talk only of what it knows. If you diligently
investigate the knowable, it dissolves and only the unknowable remains. But with the first flicker of
imagination and interest the unknowable is obscured and the known comes to the fore-front. The
known, the changeable, is what you live with -- the unchangeable is of no use to you. It is only when
you are satiated with the changeable and long for the unchangeable, that you are ready for the
turning round and stepping into what can be described, when seen from the level of the mind, as
emptiness and darkness. For the mind craves for content and variety, while reality is, to the mind,
contentless and invariable.

Questioner:
It looks like death to me.

Nisargadatta:
It is. It is also all-pervading, all-conquering, intense beyond words. No ordinary brain can stand
it without being shattered; hence the absolute need for sadhana. Purity of body and clarity of mind,
non-violence and selflessness in life are essential for survival as an intelligent and spiritual entity.

Questioner:
Are there entities in reality?

Nisargadatta:
Identity is Reality, Reality is identity. Reality is not shapeless mass, a wordless chaos. It is
powerful, aware, blissful; compared to it your life is like a candle to the sun.

Questioner:
By the grace of God and your teacher’s you lost all desire and fear and reached the immovable
state. My question is simple -- how do you know that your state is immovable?

Nisargadatta:
Only the changeable can be thought of and talked about. The unchangeable can only be
realised in silence. Once realised, it will deeply affect the changeable, itself remaining unaffected.

Questioner:
How do you know that you are the witness?

Nisargadatta:
I do not know, I am. I am, because to be everything must be witnessed.

Questioner:
Existence can also be accepted on hearsay.

Nisargadatta:
Still, finally you come to the need of a direct witness. Witnessing, if not personal and actual,
must at least be possible and feasible. Direct experience is the final proof.

Questioner:
Experience may be faulty and misleading.

Nisargadatta:
Quite, but not the fact of an experience. Whatever may be the experience, true or false, the fact
of an experience taking place cannot be denied. It is its own proof. Watch yourself closely and you
will see that whatever be the content of consciousness, the witnessing of it does not depend on the
content. Awareness is itself and does not change with the event. The event may be pleasant or
unpleasant, minor or important, awareness is the same. Take note of the peculiar nature of pure
awareness, its natural self-identity, without the least trace of self-consciousness, and go to the root
of it and you will soon realise that awareness is your true nature and nothing you may be aware of,
you can call your own.

Questioner:
Is not consciousness and its content one and the same?

Nisargadatta:
Consciousness is like a cloud in the sky and the water drops are the content. The cloud needs
the sun to become visible, and consciousness needs being focussed in awareness.

Questioner:
Is not awareness a form of consciousness?

Nisargadatta:
When the content is viewed without likes and dislikes, the consciousness of it is awareness. But
still there is a difference between awareness as reflected in consciousness and pure awareness
beyond consciousness. Reflected awareness, the sense ‘I am aware’ is the witness, while pure
awareness is the essence of reality. Reflection of the sun in a drop of water is the reflection of the
sun, no doubt, but not the sun itself. Between awareness reflected in consciousness as the witness
and pure awareness there is a gap, which the mind cannot cross.

Questioner:
Does it not depend on the way you look at it? The mind says there is a difference. The heart
says there is none.

Nisargadatta:
Of course there is no difference. The real sees the real in the unreal. It is the mind that creates
the unreal and it is the mind that sees the false as false.

Questioner:
I understood that the experience of the real follows seeing the false as false.

Nisargadatta:
There is no such thing as the experience of the real. The real is beyond experience. All
experience is in the mind. You know the real by being real.

Questioner:
If the real is beyond words and mind, why do we talk so much about it?

Nisargadatta:
For the joy of it, of course. The real is bliss supreme. Even to talk of it is happiness.

Questioner:
I hear you talking of the unshakable and blissful. What is in your mind when you use these
words?

Nisargadatta:
There is nothing in my mind. As you hear the words, so do I hear them. The power that makes
everything happen makes them also happen.

Questioner:
But you are speaking, not me.

Nisargadatta:
That is how it appears to you. As I see it, two body-minds exchange symbolic noises. In reality
nothing happens.

Questioner:
Listen Sir. I am coming to you because I am in trouble. I am a poor soul lost in a world I do not
understand. I am afraid of Mother Nature who wants me to grow, procreate and die. When I ask for
the meaning and purpose of all this, she does not answer. I have come to you because I was told
that you are kind and wise. You talk about the changeable as false and transient and this I can
understand. But when you talk of the immutable, I feel lost. ‘Not this, not that, beyond knowledge, of
no use’ -- why talk of it all? Does it exist, or is it a concept only, a verbal opposite to the changeable?

Nisargadatta:
It is, it alone is. But in your present state it is of no use to you. Just like the glass of water near
your bed if of no use to you, when you dream that you are dying of thirst in a desert. I am trying to
wake you up, whatever your dream.

Questioner:
Please don’t tell me that I am dreaming and that I will soon wake up. I wish it were so. But I am
awake and in pain. You talk of a painless state, but you add that I cannot have it in my present
condition. I feel lost.

Nisargadatta:
Don’t feel lost. I only say that to find the immutable and blissful you must give up your hold on
the mutable and painful. You are concerned with your own happiness and I am telling you that there
is no such thing. Happiness is never your own, it is where the ‘I’ is not. I do not say it is beyond your
reach; you have only to reach out beyond yourself, and you will find it.

Questioner:
If I have to go beyond myself, why did I get the ‘I am’ idea in the first instance?


Nisargadatta:
The mind needs a centre to draw a circle. The circle may grow bigger and with every increase
there will be a change in the sense ‘I am’. A man who took himself in hand, a Yogi, will draw a
spiral, yet the centre will remain, however vast the spiral. A day comes when the entire enterprise is
seen as false and given up. The central point is no more and the universe becomes the centre.

Questioner:
Yes, maybe. But what am I to do now?

Nisargadatta:
Assiduously watch your ever-changing life, probe deeply into the motives beyond your actions
and you will soon prick the bubble in which you are enclosed. A chic needs the shell to grow, but a
day comes when the shell must be broken. If it is not, there will be suffering and death.

Questioner:
Do you mean to say that if I do not take to Yoga, I am doomed to extinction?

Nisargadatta:
There is the Guru who will come to your rescue. In the meantime be satisfied with watching the
flow of your life; if your watchfulness is deep and steady, ever turned towards the source, it will
gradually move upstream till suddenly it becomes the source. Put your awareness to work, not your
mind. The mind is not the right instrument for this task. The timeless can be reached only by the
timeless. Your body and your mind are both subject to time; Only awareness is timeless, even in the
now. In awareness you are facing facts and reality is fond of facts.

Questioner:
You rely entirely on my awareness to take me over and not on the Guru and God.

Nisargadatta:
God gives the body and the mind and the Guru shows the way to use them. But returning to the
source is your own task.

Questioner:
God has created me, he will look after me.

Nisargadatta:
There are innumerable gods, each in his own universe. They create and re-create eternally. Are
you going to wait for them to save you? What you need for salvation is already within your reach.
Use it. Investigate what you know to its very end and you will reach the unknown layers of your
being. Go further and the unexpected will explode in you and shatter all.

Questioner:
Does it mean death?

Nisargadatta:
It means life -- at last.