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Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 88

read by James Traverse

Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

 88. Knowledge by the Mind, is not True Knowledge

Do you experience the three states of waking, dreaming and sleeping just as we do, or

All the three states are sleep to me. My waking state is beyond them. As I look at you, you
all seem asleep, dreaming up words of your own. I am aware, for I imagine nothing. It is not
samadhi which is but a kind of sleep. It is just a state unaffected by the mind, free from the past and
future. In your case it is distorted by desire and fear, by memories and hopes; in mine it is as it is --
normal. To be a person is to be asleep.

Between the body and pure awareness stands the ‘inner organ’, antahkarana, the ‘subtle body’,
the ‘mental body’, whatever the name. Just as a whirling mirror converts sunlight into a manifold
pattern of streaks and colours, so does the subtle body convert the simple light of the shining Self
into a diversified world. Thus I have understood your teaching. What I cannot grasp is how did this
subtle body arise in the first instance?

It is created with the emergence of the ‘I am’ idea. The two are one.

How did the ‘I am’ appear?

In your world everything must have a beginning and an end. If it does not, you call it eternal. In
my view there is no such thing as beginning or end -- these are all related to time. Timeless being is
entirely in the now.

The antahkarana, or the ‘subtle body’, is it real or unreal?

It is momentary. Real when present, unreal when over.

What kind of reality? Is it momentary?

Call it empirical, or actual, or factual. It is the reality of immediate experience, here and now,
which cannot be denied. You can question the description and the meaning, but not the event itself.
Being and non-being alternate and their reality is momentary. The Immutable Reality lies beyond
space and time. Realise the momentariness of being and non-being and be free from both.

Things may be transient, yet they are very much with us, in endless repetition.

Desires are strong. It is desire that causes repetition. There is no recurrence where desire is not.

What about fear?

Desire is of the past, fear is of the future. The memory of past suffering and the fear of its
recurrence make one anxious about the future.

There is also fear of the unknown.

Who has not suffered is not afraid.

We are condemned to fear?

Until we can look at fear and accept it as the shadow of personal existence, as persons we are
bound to be afraid. Abandon all personal equations and you shall be free from fear. It is not difficult.
Desirelessness comes on its own when desire is recognised as false. You need not struggle with
desire. Ultimately, it is an urge to happiness, which is natural as long as there is sorrow. Only see
that there is no happiness in what you desire.

We settle for pleasure.

Each pleasure is wrapped in pain. You soon discover that you cannot have one without the other.

There is the experiencer and there is his experience. What created the link between the two?

Nothing created it. It is. The two are one.

I feel there is a catch somewhere, but I do not know where.

The catch is in your mind, which insists on seeing duality where there is none.

As I listen to you, my mind is all in the now and I am astonished to find myself without questions.

You can know reality only when you are astonished.

I can make out that the cause of anxiety and fear is memory. What are the means for putting an
end to memory?

Don’t talk of means, there are no means. What you see as false, dissolves. It is the very nature
of illusion to dissolve on investigation. Investigate -- that is all. You cannot destroy the false, for you
are creating it all the time. Withdraw from it, ignore it, go beyond, and it will cease to be.

Christ also speaks of ignoring evil and being child-like.

Reality is common to all. Only the false is personal.

As I watch the sadhakas and enquire into the theories by which they live, I find they have
merely replaced material cravings by ‘spiritual’ ambitions. From what you tell us it looks as if the
words: ‘spiritual’ and ‘ambition’ are incompatible. If ‘spirituality’ implies freedom from ambition, what
will urge the seeker on? The Yogis speak of the desire for liberation as essential. Is it not the
highest form of ambition?

Ambition is personal, liberation is from the personal. In liberation both the subject and the object
of ambition are no longer. Earnestness is not a yearning for the fruits of one’s endeavours. It is an
expression of an inner shift of interest away from the false, unessential, the personal.

You told us the other day that we cannot even dream of perfection before realisation, for the
Self is the source of all perfection and not the mind. If it is not excellence in virtue that is essential
for liberation, then what is?

Liberation is not the result of some means skilfully applied, nor of circumstances. It is beyond
the causal process. Nothing can compel it, nothing can prevent it.

Then why are we not free here and now?

But we are free ‘here and now’. It is only the mind that imagines bondage.

What will put an end to imagination?

Why should you want to put an end to it? Once you know your mind and its miraculous powers,
and remove what poisoned it -- the idea of a separate and isolated person -- you just leave it alone
to do its work among things to which it is well suited. To keep the mind in its own place and on its
own work is the liberation of the mind.

What is the work of the mind?

The mind is the wife of the heart and the world their home -- to be kept bright and happy.

I have not yet understood why, if nothing stands in the way of liberation, it does not happen
here and now.

Nothing stands in the way of your liberation and it can happen here and now, but for your being
more interested in other things. And you cannot fight with your interests. You must go with them,
see through them and watch them reveal themselves as mere errors of judgement and appreciation.

Will it not help me if I go and stay with some great and holy man?

Great and holy people are always within your reach, but you do not recognise them. How will
you know who is great and holy? By hearsay? Can you trust others in these matters, or even
yourself? To convince you beyond the shadow of doubt you need more than a commendation, more
even than a momentary rapture. You may come across a great and holy man or women and not
even know for a long time your good fortune. The infant son of a great man for many years will not
know the greatness of his father. You must mature to recognise greatness and purify your heart for
holiness. Or you will spend your time and money in vain and also miss what life offers you. There
are good people among your friends -- you can learn much from them. Running after saints is
merely another game to play. Remember yourself instead and watch your daily life relentlessly. Be
earnest, and you shall not fail to break the bonds of inattention and imagination.

Do you want me to struggle all alone?

You are never alone. There are powers and presences who serve you all the time most
faithfully. You may or may not perceive them, nevertheless they are real and active. When you
realise that all is in your mind and that you are beyond the mind, that you are truly alone; then all is

What is omniscience? Is God omniscient? Are you omniscient? We hear the expression --
universal witness. What does it mean? Does self-realisation imply omniscience? Or is it a matter of
specialised training?

To lose entirely all interest in knowledge results in omniscience. It is but the gift of knowing what
needs to be known, at the right moment, for error-free action. After all, knowledge is needed for
action and if you act rightly, spontaneously, without bringing in the conscious, so much the better.

Can one know the mind of another person?

Know you own mind first. It contains the entire universe and with space to spare!

Your working theory seems to be that the waking state is not basically different from dream and
the dreamless sleep. The three states are essentially a case of mistaken self-identification with the
body. Maybe it is true, but, I feel, it is not the whole truth.

Do not try to know the truth, for knowledge by the mind is not true knowledge. But you can know
what is not true -- which is enough to liberate you from the false. The idea that you know what is
true is dangerous, for it keeps you imprisoned in the mind. It is when you do not know, that you are
free to investigate. And there can be no salvation, without investigation, because non-investigation
is the main cause of bondage.

You say that the illusion of the world begins with the sense ‘I am’, but when I ask about the
origin of the sense ‘I am’, you answer that it has no origin, for on investigation it dissolves. What is
solid enough to build the world on cannot be mere illusion. The ‘I am’ is the only changeless factor I
am conscious of; how can it be false?

It is not the ‘I am’ that is false, but what you take yourself to be. I can see, beyond the least
shadow of doubt, that you are not what you believe yourself to be. Logic or no logic, you cannot
deny the obvious. You are nothing that you are conscious of. Apply yourself diligently to pulling
apart the structure you have built in your mind. What the mind has done the mind must undo.

You cannot deny the present moment, mind or no mind. What is now, is. You may question the
appearance, but not the fact. What is at the root of the fact?

The ‘I am’ is at the root of all appearance and the permanent link in the succession of events
that we call life; but I am beyond the ‘I am’.

I have found that the realised people usually describe their state in terms borrowed from their
religion. You happen to be a Hindu, so you talk of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and use Hindu
approaches and imagery. Kindly tell us, what is the experience behind your words? What reality do
they refer to?

It is my way of talking, a language I was taught to use.

But what is behind the language?

How can I put it into words, except in negating them? Therefore, I use words like timeless,
spaceless, causeless. These too are words, but as they are empty of meaning, they suit my

If they are meaningless, why use them?

Because you want words where no words apply.

I can see your point. Again, you have robbed me of my question!