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Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 100

read by James Traverse





I AM THAT
Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

 
100. Understanding leads to Freedom

   Questioner:
In many countries of the world investigating officers follow certain practices aimed at
extracting confessions from their victim and also changing his personality, if needed. By a judicious
choice of physical and moral deprivations and by persuasions the old personality is broken down
and a new personality established in its place. The man under investigation hears so many times
repeated that he is an enemy of the State and a traitor to his country, that a day comes when
something breaks down in him and he begins to feel with full conviction that he is a traitor, a rebel,
altogether despicable and deserving the direst punishment. This process is known as brain-washing.
It struck me that the religious and Yogic practices are very similar to 'brain-washing'. The same
physical and mental deprivation, solitary confinement, a powerful sense of sin, despair and a desire
to escape through expiation and conversion, adoption of a new image of oneself and impersonating
that image. The same repetition of set formulas: 'God is good; the Guru (party) knows; faith will
save me.' In the so-called Yogic or religious practices the same mechanism operates. The mind is
made to concentrate on some particular idea to the exclusion of all other ideas and concentration is
powerfully reinforced by rigid discipline and painful austerities. A high price in life and happiness is
paid and what one gets in return appears therefore, to be of great importance. This prearranged
conversion, obvious or hidden, religious or political, ethical or social, may look genuine and lasting,
yet there is a feeling of artificiality about it.

Nisargadatta:
You are quite right. By undergoing so many hardships the mind gets dislocated and
immobilised. Its condition becomes precarious; whatever it undertakes, ends in a deeper bondage.

Questioner:
Then why are sadhanas prescribed?

Nisargadatta:
Unless you make tremendous efforts, you will not be convinced that effort will take you
nowhere. The self is so self confident, that unless it is totally discouraged, it will not give up. Mere
verbal conviction is not enough. Hard facts alone can show the absolute nothingness of the self-
image.

Questioner:
The brain-washer drives me mad, and the Guru drives me sane. The driving is similar. Yet the
motive and the purpose are totally different. The similarities are, perhaps merely verbal.

Nisargadatta:
Inviting, or compelling to suffer contains in it violence and the fruit of violence cannot be sweet.
There are certain life situations, inevitably painful, and you have to take them in your stride. There
are also certain situations which you have created, either deliberately or by neglect. And from these
you have to learn a lesson so that they are not repeated again.

Questioner:
It seems that we must suffer, so that we learn to overcome pain.

Nisargadatta:
Pain has to be endured. There is no such thing as overcoming the pain and no training is
needed. Training for the future, developing attitudes is a sign of fear.

Questioner:
Once I know how to face pain, I am free of it, not afraid of it, and therefore happy. This is what
happens to a prisoner. He accepts his punishment as just and proper and is at peace with the
prison authorities and the State. All religions do nothing else but preach acceptance and surrender.
We are being encouraged to plead guilty, to feel responsible for all the evils in the world and point at
ourselves as their only cause. My problem is: I cannot see much difference between brain-washing
and sadhana, except that in the case of sadhana one is not physically constrained. The element of
compulsive suggestion is present in both.

Nisargadatta:
As you have said, the similarities are superficial. You need not harp on them.

Questioner:
Sir, the similarities are not superficial. Man is a complex being and can be at the same time the
accuser and the accused, the judge, the warden and the executioner. There is not much that is
voluntary in a 'voluntary' sadhana. One is moved by forces beyond one's ken and control. I can
change my mental metabolism as little as the physical, except by painful and protracted efforts --
which is Yoga. All I am asking is: does Maharaj agree with me that Yoga implies violence?

Nisargadatta:
I agree that Yoga, as presented by you, means violence and I never advocate any form of
violence. My path is totally non-violent. I mean exactly what I say: non-violent. Find out for yourself
what it is. I merely say: it is non-violent.

Questioner:
I am not misusing words. When a Guru asks me to meditate sixteen hours a day for the rest of
my life, I cannot do it without extreme violence to myself. Is such a Guru right or wrong?

Nisargadatta:
None compels you to meditate sixteen hours a day, unless you feel like doing so. It is only a
way of telling you: 'remain with yourself, don't get lost among others'. The teacher will wait, but the
mind is impatient.

It is not the teacher, it is the mind that is violent and also afraid of its own violence. What is of the
mind is relative, it is a mistake to make it into an absolute.

Questioner:
If I remain passive, nothing will change. If I am active, I must be violent. What is it I can do
which is neither sterile nor violent?

Nisargadatta:
Of course, there is a way which is neither violent nor sterile and yet supremely effective. Just
look at yourself as you are, see yourself as you are, accept yourself as you are and go ever deeper
into what you are. Violence and non-violence describe your attitude to others; the self in relation to
itself is neither violent nor non-violent, it is either aware or unaware of itself. If it knows itself, all it
does will be right; if it does not, all it does will be wrong.

Questioner:
What do you mean by saying: I know myself as I am?

Nisargadatta:
Before the mind -- I am. 'I am' is not a thought in the mind; the mind happens to me, I do not
happen to the mind. And since time and space are in the mind, I am beyond time and space, eternal
and omnipresent.

Questioner:
Are you serious? Do you really mean that you exist everywhere and at all times?

Nisargadatta:
Yes, I do. To me it is as obvious, as the freedom of movement is to you. Imagine a tree asking a
monkey: 'Do you seriously mean that you can move from place to place?' And the monkey saying:
  'Yes. I do.'

Questioner:
Are you also free from causality? Can you produce miracles?

Nisargadatta:
The world itself is a miracle. I am beyond miracles -- I am absolutely normal. With me
everything happens as it must. I do not interfere with creation. Of what use are small miracles to me
when the greatest of miracles is happening all the time? Whatever you see it is always your own
being that you see. Go ever deeper into yourself, seek within, there is neither violence nor non-
violence in self-discovery. The destruction of the false is not violence.

Questioner:
When I practice self-enquiry, or go within with the idea that it will profit me in some way or
other, I am still escaping from what I am.

Nisargadatta:
Quite right. True enquiry is always into something, not out of something. When I enquire how to
get, or avoid something, I am not really inquiring. To know anything I must accept it -- totally.

Questioner:
Yes, to know God I must accept God -- how frightening!

Nisargadatta:
Before you can accept God, you must accept yourself, which is even more frightening. The first
steps in self acceptance are not at all pleasant, for what one sees is not a happy sight. One needs
all the courage to go further. What helps is silence. Look at yourself in total silence, do not describe
yourself. Look at the being you believe you are and remember -- you are not what you see. 'This I
am not -- what am l?' is the movement of self-enquiry. There are no other means to liberation, all
means delay. Resolutely reject what you are not, till the real Self emerges in its glorious
nothingness, its 'not-a-thingness.'

Questioner:
The world is passing through rapid and critical changes. We can see them with great clarity in
the United States, though they happen in other countries. There is an increase in crime on one
hand and more genuine holiness on the other. Communities are being formed and some of them
are on a very high level of integrity and austerity. It looks as if evil is destroying itself by its own
successes, like a fire which consumes its fuel, while the good, like life, perpetuates itself.

Nisargadatta:
As long as you divide events into good and evil, you may be right. In fact, good becomes evil
and evil becomes good by their own fulfilment.

Questioner:
What about love?

Nisargadatta:
When it turns to lust, it becomes destructive.

Questioner:
What is lust?

Nisargadatta:
Remembering -- imagining -- anticipating. It is sensory and verbal. A form of addiction.

Questioner:
Is brahmacharya, continence, imperative in Yoga?

Nisargadatta:
A life of constraint and suppression is not Yoga. Mind must be free of desires and relaxed. It
comes with understanding, not with determination, which is but another form of memory. An
understanding mind is free of desires and fears.

Questioner:
How can I make myself understand?

Nisargadatta:
By meditating which means giving attention. Become fully aware of your problem, look at it from
all sides, watch how it affects your life. Then leave it alone. You can't do more than that.

Questioner:
Will it set me free?

Nisargadatta:
You are free from what you have understood. The outer expressions of freedom may take time
to appear, but they are already there. Do not expect perfection. There is no perfection in
manifestation. Details must clash. No problem is solved completely, but you can withdraw from it to
a level on which it does not operate.