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Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 97

read by James Traverse

Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
97. Mind and the World are not Separate

I see here pictures of several saints and I am told that they are your spiritual
ancestors. Who are they and how did it all begin?

We are called collectively the 'Nine Masters'. The legend says that our first teacher was
Rishi Dattatreya, the great incarnation of the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Even the 'Nine
Masters' (Navnath) are mythological.

What is the peculiarity of their teaching?

Its simplicity, both in theory and practice.

How does one become a Navnath? By initiation or by succession?

Neither. The ‘Nine Masters' tradition, Navnath Parampara, is like a river -- it flows into the ocean
of reality and whoever enters it is carried along.

Does it imply acceptance by a living master belonging to the same tradition?

Those who practise the sadhana of focussing their minds on ‘I am' may feel related to others
who have followed the same sadhana and succeeded. They may decide to verbalise their sense of
kinship by calling themselves Navnaths. It gives them the pleasure of belonging to an established

Do they in any way benefit by joining?

The circle of satsang, the 'company of saints', expands in numbers as time passes.

Do they get hold thereby of a source of power and grace from which they would have been
barred otherwise?

Power and grace are for all and for the asking. Giving oneself a particular name does not help.
Call yourself by any name -- as long as you are intensely mindful of yourself, the accumulated
obstacles to self-knowledge are bound to be swept away.

If I like your teaching and accept your guidance, can I call myself a Navnath?

Please your word-addicted mind! The name will not change you. At best it may remind you to
behave. There is a succession of Gurus and their disciples, who in turn train more disciples and
thus the line is maintained. But the continuity of tradition is informal and voluntary. It is like a family
name, but here the family is spiritual.

Do you have to realise to join the Sampradaya?

The Navnath Sampradaya is only a tradition, a way of teaching and practice. It does not denote
a level of consciousness. If you accept a Navnath Sampradaya teacher as your Guru, you join his
Sampradaya. Usually you receive a token of his grace -- a look, a touch, or a word, sometimes a
vivid dream or a strong remembrance. Sometimes the only sign of grace is a significant and rapid
change in character and behaviour.

I know you now for some years and I meet you regularly. The thought of you is never far from
my mind. Does it make me belong to your Sampradaya?

Your belonging is a matter of your own feeling and conviction. After all, it is all verbal and
formal. In reality there is neither Guru nor disciple, neither theory nor practice, neither ignorance nor
realisation. It all depends on what you take yourself to be. Know yourself correctly. There is no
substitute to self-knowledge.

What proof will I have that I know myself correctly?

You need no proofs. The experience is unique and unmistakable. It will dawn on you suddenly,
when the obstacles are removed to some extent. It is like a frayed rope snapping. Yours is to work
at the strands. The break is bound to happen. It can be delayed, but not prevented.

I am confused by your denial of causality. Does it mean that none is responsible for the world
as it is?

The idea of responsibility is in your mind. You think there must be something or somebody
solely responsible for all that happens. There is a contradiction between a multiple universe and a
single cause. Either one or the other must be false. Or both. As I see it, it is all day-dreaming. There
is no reality in ideas. The fact is that without you, neither the universe nor its cause could have
come into being.

I cannot make out whether I am the creature or the creator of the universe.

'I am' is an ever-present fact, while 'I am created' is an idea. Neither God nor the universe have
come to tell you that they have created you. The mind obsessed by the idea of causality invents
creation and then wonders 'who is the creator?' The mind itself is the creator. Even this is not quite
true, for the created and its creator are one. The mind and the world are not separate. Do
understand that what you think to be the world is your own mind.

Is there a world beyond, or outside the mind?

All space and time are in the mind. Where will you locate a supramental world? There are many
levels of the mind and each projects its own version, yet all are in the mind and created by the mind.

What is your attitude to sin? How do you look at a sinner, somebody who breaks the law, inner
or outer? Do you want him to change or you just pity him? Or, are you indifferent to him because of
his sins?

I know no sin, nor sinner. Your distinction and valuation do not bind me. Everybody behaves
according to his nature. It cannot be helped, nor need it be regretted.

Others suffer.

Life lives on life. In nature the process is compulsory, in society it should be voluntary. There
can be no life without sacrifice. A sinner refuses to sacrifice and invites death. This is as it is, and
gives no cause for condemnation or pity.

Surely you feel at least compassion when you see a man steeped in sin.

Yes, I feel I am that man and his sins are my sins.

Right, and what next?

By my becoming one with him he becomes one with me. It is not a conscious process, it
happens entirely by itself. None of us can help it. What needs changing shall change anyhow;
enough to know oneself as one is, here and now. Intense and methodical investigation into one's
mind is Yoga.

What about the chains of destiny forged by sin?

When ignorance, the mother of sin, dissolves, destiny, the compulsion to sin again, ceases.

There are retributions to make.

With ignorance coming to an end all comes to an end. Things are then seen as they are and
they are good.

If a sinner, a breaker of the law, comes before you and asks for your grace, what will be your

He will get what he asks for.

In spite of being a very bad man?

I know no bad people, I only know myself. I see no saints nor sinners, only living beings. I do
not hand out grace. There is nothing I can give, or deny, which you do not have already in equal
measure. Just be aware of your riches and make full use of them. As long as you imagine that you
need my grace, you will be at my door begging for it.

My begging for grace from you would make as little sense! We are not separate, the real is common.

A mother comes to you with a tale of woe. Her only son has taken to drugs and sex and is
going from bad to worse. She is asking for your grace. What shall be your response?

Probably I shall hear myself telling her that all will be well.

That's all?

That's all. What more do you expect?

But will the son of the woman change?

He may or he may not.

The people who collect round you, and who know you for many years, maintain that when you
say 'it will be all right' it invariably happens as you say.

You may as well say that it is the mother's heart that saved the child. For everything there are
innumerable causes.

I am told that the man who wants nothing for himself is all-powerful. The entire universe is at
his disposal.

If you believe so, act on it. Abandon every personal desire and use the power thus saved for
changing the world!

All the Buddhas and Rishis have not succeeded in changing the world.

The world does not yield to changing. By its very nature it is painful and transient. See it as it is
and divest yourself of all desire and fear. When the world does not hold and bind you, it becomes
an abode of joy and beauty. You can be happy in the world only when you are free of it.

What is right and what is wrong?

Generally, what causes suffering is wrong and what removes it, is right. The body and the mind
are limited and therefore vulnerable; they need protection which gives rise to fear. As long as you
identify yourself with them you are bound to suffer; realise your independence and remain happy. I
tell you, this is the secret of happiness. To believe that you depend on things and people for
happiness is due to ignorance of your true nature; to know that you need nothing to be happy,
except self-knowledge, is wisdom.

What comes first, being or desire?

With being arising in consciousness, the ideas of what you are arise in your mind as well as
what you should be. This brings forth desire and action and the process of becoming begins.
Becoming has, apparently, no beginning and no end, for it restarts every moment. With the
cessation of imagination and desire, becoming ceases and the being this or that merges into pure
being, which is not describable, only experienceable.
The world appears to you so overwhelmingly real, because you think of it all the time; cease
thinking of it and it will dissolve into thin mist. You need not forget; when desire and fear end,
bondage also ends. It is the emotional involvement, the pattern of likes and dislikes which we call
character and temperament, that create the bondage.

Without desire and fear what motive is there for action?

None, unless you consider love of life, of righteousness, of beauty, motive enough. Do not be
afraid of freedom from desire and fear. It enables you to live a life so different from all you know, so
much more intense and interesting, that, truly, by losing all you gain all.

Since you count your spiritual ancestry from Rishi Dattatreya, are we right in believing that you
and all your predecessors are reincarnations of the Rishi?

You may believe in whatever you like and if you act on your belief, you will get the fruits of it; but
to me it has no importance. I am what I am and this is enough for me. I have no desire to identify
myself with anybody, however illustrious. Nor do I feel the need to take myths for reality. I am only
interested in ignorance and the freedom from ignorance. The proper role of a Guru is to dispel
ignorance in the hearts and minds of his disciples. Once the disciple has understood, the confirming
action is up to him. Nobody can act for another. And if he does not act rightly, it only means that he
has not understood and that the Guru's work is not over.

There must be some hopeless cases too?

None is hopeless. Obstacles can be overcome. What life cannot mend, death will end, but the
Guru cannot fail.

What gives you the assurance?

The Guru and man's inner reality are really one and work together towards the same goal -- the
redemption and salvation of the mind They cannot fail. Out of the very boulders that obstruct them
they build their bridges. Consciousness is not the whole of being -- there are other levels on which
man is much more co-operative. The Guru is at home on all levels and his energy and patience are

You keep on telling me that I am dreaming and that it is high time I should wake up. How does
it happen that the Maharaj, who has come to me in my dreams, has not succeeded in waking me
up? He keeps on urging and reminding, but the dream continues.

It is because you have not really understood that you are dreaming. This is the essence of
bondage -- the mixing of the real with unreal. In your present state only the sense 'I am' refers to
reality; the 'what' and the 'how I am' are illusions imposed by destiny, or accident.

When did the dream begin?

It appears to be beginningless, but in fact it is only now. From moment to moment you are
renewing it. Once you have seen that you are dreaming, you shall wake up. But you do not see,
because you want the dream to continue. A day will come when you will long for the ending of the
dream, with all your heart and mind, and be willing to pay any price; the price will be dispassion and
detachment, the loss of interest in the dream itself.

How helpless I am. As long as the dream of existence lasts, I want it to continue. As long as I
want it to continue, it will last.

Wanting it to continue is not inevitable. See clearly your condition, your very clarity will release

As long as I am with you, all you say seems pretty obvious; but as soon as I am away from you
I run about restless and anxious.

You need not keep away from me, in your mind at least. But your mind is after the world's

The world is full of troubles, no wonder my mind too is full of them.

Was there ever a world without troubles? Your being as a person depends on violence to
others. Your very body is a battlefield, full of the dead and dying. Existence implies violence.

As a body -- yes. As a human being -- definitely no. For humanity non-violence is the law of life
and violence of death.

There is little of non-violence in nature.

God and nature are not human and need not be humane. I am concerned with man alone. To
be human I must be compassionate absolutely.

Do you realise that as long as you have a self to defend, you must be violent?

I do. To be truly human I must be self-less. As long as I am selfish, I am sub-human, a
humanoid only.

So, we are all sub-human and only a few are human. Few or many, it is again 'clarity and
charity' that make us human. The sub-human -- the 'humanoids' -- are dominated by tamas
and rajas and the humans by sattva. Clarity and charity is sattva as it affects mind and action.
But the real is beyond sattva. Since I have known you, you seem to be always after helping
the world. How much did you help?

Not a bit. Neither the world has changed, nor have I. But the world suffers and I suffer along
with it. To struggle against suffering is a natural reaction. And what is civilization and culture,
philosophy and religion, but a revolt against suffering. Evil and the ending of evil -- is it not your own
main preoccupation? You may call it ignorance -- it comes to the same.

Well, words do not matter, nor does it matter in what shape you are just now. Names and
shapes change incessantly. Know yourself to be the changeless witness of the changeful mind.
That is enough.