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Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 89

read by James Traverse

Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

  89. Progress in Spiritual Life

We are two girls from England, visiting India. We know little about Yoga and we are
here because we were told that spiritual teachers play an important role in Indian life.

You are welcome. There is nothing new you will find here. The work we are doing is
timeless. It was the same ten thousand years ago. Centuries roll on, but the human problem does
not change -- the problem of suffering and the ending of suffering.

The other day seven young foreigners have turned up asking for a place to sleep for a few
nights. They came to see their Guru who was lecturing in Bombay. I met him -- a very pleasant
looking young man is he -- apparently very matter-of-fact and efficient, but with an atmosphere of
peace and silence about him. His teaching is traditional with stress on karma Yoga, selfless work,
service of the Guru etc. Like the Gita, he says that selfless work will result in salvation. He is full of
ambitious plans: training workers who will start spiritual centres in many countries. It seems he
gives them not only the authority, but also the power to do the work in his name.

Yes, there is such a thing as transmission of power.

When I was with them I had a strange feeling of becoming invisible. The devotees, in their
surrender to their Guru surrendered me also! Whatever I did for them was their Guruís doing and I
was not considered, except as a mere instrument. I was merely a tap to turn left or right. There was
no personal relationship whatsoever. They tried a little to convert me to their faith; as soon as they
felt resistance, they just dropped me from the field of their attention. Even between themselves they
did not appear very much related; it is their common interest in their Guru that kept them together. I
found it rather cold, almost inhuman. To consider oneself an instrument in Godís hands is one thing;
to be denied all attention and consideration because Ďall is Godí may lead to indifference verging on
cruelty. After all, all wars are made Ďin the name of Godí. The entire history of mankind is a
succession of Ďholy warsí. One is never so impersonal as in war!

To insist, to resist, are contained in the will to be. Remove the will to beand what remains?

Existence and non-existence relate to something in space and time; here and now, there and then,
which again are in the mind. The mind plays a guessing game; it is ever uncertain; anxiety-ridden
and restless. You resent being treated as a mere instrument of some god, or Guru, and insist on
being treated as a person, because you are not sure of your own existence and do not want to give
up the comfort and assurance of a personality. You may not be what you believe yourself to be, but
it gives you continuity, your future flows into the present and becomes the past without jolts. To be
denied personal existence is frightening, but you must face it and find your identity with the totality
of life. Then the problem of who is used by whom is no more.

All the attention I got was an attempt to convert me to their faith. When I resisted they lost all
interest in me.

One does not become a disciple by conversion, or by accident. There is usually an ancient link,
maintained through many lives and flowering as love and trust, without which there is no

What made you decide to become a teacher?

I was made into one by being called so. Who am I to teach and whom? What I am, you are, and
what you are -- I am. The ĎI amí is common to us all; beyond the ĎI amí there is the immensity of light
and love. We do not see it because we look elsewhere; I can only point at the sky; seeing of the star
is your own work. Some take more time before they see the star, some take less; it depends on the
clarity of their vision and their earnestness in search. These two must be their own -- I can only

What am I expected to do when I become a disciple?

Each teacher has his own method, usually patterned on his Guruís teachings and on the way he
himself has realised, and his own terminology as well. Within that framework adjustments to the
personality of the disciple are made. The disciple is given full freedom of thought and enquiry and
encouraged to question to his heartís content. He must be absolutely certain of the standing and
competence of his Guru, otherwise his faith will not be absolute nor his action complete. It is the
absolute in you that takes you to the absolute beyond you -- absolute truth, love selflessness are
the decisive factors in self-realisation. With earnestness these can be reached.

I understand one must give up oneís family and possessions to become a disciple.

It varies with the Guru. Some expect their mature disciples to become ascetics and recluses;
some encourage family life and duties. Most of them consider a model family life more difficult than
renunciation, suitable for a personality more mature and better balanced. At the early stages the
discipline of monastic life may be advisable. Therefore, in the Hindu culture students up to the age
of 25 are expected to live like monks -- in poverty, chastity and obedience -- to give them a chance
to build a character able to meet the hardships and temptations of married life.

Who are the people in this room? Are they your disciples?

Ask them. It is not on the verbal level that one becomes a disciple, but in the silent depths of
oneís being. You do not become a disciple by choice; it is more a matter of destiny than self-will. It
does not matter much who is the teacher -- they all wish you well. It is the disciple that matters -- his
honesty and earnestness. The right disciple will always find the right teacher.

I can see the beauty and feel the blessedness of a life devoted to search for truth under a
competent and loving teacher. Unfortunately, we have to return to England.

Distance does not matter. If your desires are strong and true, they will mould your life for their
fulfilment. Sow you seed and leave it to the seasons.

What are the signs of progress in spiritual life?

Freedom from anxiety; a sense of ease and joy; deep peace within and abundant energy

How did you get it?

I found it all in the holy presence of my Guru -- I did nothing on my own. He told me to be quiet
-- and I did it -- as much as I could.

Is your presence as powerful as his?

How am I to know? For me -- his is the only presence. If you are with me, you are with him.

Each Guru will refer me to his own Guru. Where is the starting point?

There is a power in the universe working for enlightenment -- and liberation. We call it
Sadashiva, who is ever present in the hearts of men. It is the unifying factor. Unity -- liberates.
Freedom -- unites. Ultimately nothing is mine or yours -- everything is ours. Just be one with
yourself and you will be one with all, at home in the entire universe.

You mean to say that all these glories will come with the mere dwelling on the feeling ĎI amí?

It is the simple that is certain, not the complicated. Somehow, people do not trust the simple, the
easy, the always available. Why not give an honest trial to what I say? It may look very small and
insignificant, but it is like a seed that grows into a mighty tree. Give yourself a chance!

I see so many people sitting here -- quietly. What for have they come?

To meet themselves. At home the world is too much with them. Here nothing disturbs them;
they have a chance to take leave of their daily worries and contact the essential in themselves.

What is the course of training in self-awareness?

There is no need of training. Awareness is always with you. The same attention that you give to
the outer, you turn to the inner. No new, or special kind of awareness is needed.

Do you help people personally?

People come to discuss their problems. Apparently they derive some help, or they would not

Are the talks with people always in public, or will you talk to them privately also?

It is according to their wish. Personally, I make no distinction between public and private.

Are you always available, or have you other work to do?

I am always available, but the hours in the morning and late afternoon are the most convenient.

I understand that no work ranks higher than the work of a spiritual teacher.

The motive matters supremely.