DEATH DEATH OF THE MIND IS BIRTH OF WISDOM
Chapter 73 from the book “I AmThat” of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Questioner: Before one can realise one's true nature need not one be a person? Does not the ego have its value?
Maharaj: The person is of little use. It is deeply involved in its own affairs and is completely ignorant of its true being. Unless the witnessing consciousness begins to play on the person and it becomes the object of observation rather than the subject, realisation is not feasible. It is the witness that makes realisation desirable and attainable.
Q: There comes a point in a person's life when it becomes the witness.
M: Oh, no. The person by itself will not become the witness. It is like expecting a cold candle to start burning in the course of time. The person can stay in the darkness of ignorance forever, unless the flame of awareness touches it.
Q: Who lights the candle?
M: The Guru. His words, his presence. In India it is very often the mantra. Once the candle is lighted, the flame will consume the candle.
Q: Why is the mantra so effective?
M: Constant repetition of the mantra is something the person does not do for one's own sake. The beneficiary is not the person. Just like the candle which does not increase by burning.
Q: Can the person become aware of itself by itself?
M: Yes, it happens sometimes as a result of much suffering The Guru wants to save you the endless pain. Such is his grace. Even when there is no discoverable outer Guru, there is always the sadguru, the inner Guru, who directs and helps from within. The words 'outer' and 'inner' are relative to the body only; in reality all is one, the outer being merely a projection of the inner. Awareness comes as if from a higher dimension.
Q: Before the spark is lit and after, what is the difference?
M: Before the spark is lit there is no witness to perceive the difference. The person may be conscious, but is not aware of being conscious. It is completely identified with what it thinks and feels and experiences. The darkness that is in it is of its own creation. When the darkness is questioned, it dissolves. The desire to question is planted by the Guru. In other words, the difference between the person and the witness is as between not knowing and knowing oneself. The world seen in consciousness is to be of the nature of consciousness, when there is harmony (sattva); but when activity and passivity (rajas and tamas) appear, they obscure and distort and you see the false as real.
Q: What can the person do to prepare itself for the coming of the Guru.
M: The very desire to be ready means that the Guru had come and the flame is lighted. It may be a stray word, or a page in a book; the Guru's grace works mysteriously.
Q: Is there no such thing as self-preparation? We hear so much about yoga sadhana?
M: It is not the person that is doing sadhana. The person is in unrest and resistance to the very end. It is the witness that works on the person, on the totality of its illusions, past, present and future.
Q: How can we know that what you say is true? While it is self contained and free from inner contradictions, how can we know that it is not a product of fertile imagination, nurtured and enriched by constant repetition?
M: The proof of the truth lies in its effect on the listener.
Q: Words can have a most powerful effect. By hearing, or repeating words, one can experience various kinds of trances. The listener's experiences may be induced and cannot be considered as a proof.
M: The effect need not necessarily be an experience. It can be a change in character, in motivation, in relationship to people and one's self. Trances and visions induced by words, or drugs, or any other sensory or mental means are temporary and inconclusive. The truth of what is said here is immovable and everlasting. And the proof of it is in the listener, in the deep and permanent changes in his entire being. It is not something he can doubt, unless he doubts his own existence, which is unthinkable. When my experience becomes your own experience also, what better proof do you want?
Q: The experiencer is the proof of his experience.
M: Quite, but the experiencer needs no proof. 'I am, and I know I am'. You cannot ask for further proofs.
Q: Can there be true knowledge of things?
M: Relatively -- yes. Absolutely -- there are no things. To know that nothing is is true knowledge.
Q: What is the link between the relative and the absolute?
M: They are identical.
Q: From which point of view are they identical?
M: When the words are spoken, there is silence. When the relative is over, the absolute remains. The silence before the words were spoken, is it different from the silence that comes after? The silence is one and without it the words could not have been heard. It is always there -- at the back of the words. Shift your attention from words to silence and you will hear it. The mind craves for experience, the memory of which it takes for knowledge. The jnani is beyond all experience and his memory is empty of the past. He is entirely unrelated to anything in particular. But the mind craves for formulations and definitions, always eager to squeeze reality into a verbal shape. Of everything it wants an idea, for without ideas the mind is not. Reality is essentially alone, but the mind will not leave it alone -- and deals instead with the unreal. And yet it is all the mind can do -- discover the unreal as unreal.
Q: And seeing the real as real?
M: There is no such state as seeing the real. Who is to see what? You can only be the real -- which you are, anyhow. The problem is only mental. Abandon false ideas, that is all. There is no need of true ideas. There aren't any.
Q: Why then are we encouraged to seek the real?
M: The mind must have a purpose. To encourage it to free itself from the unreal it is promised something in return. In reality, there is no need of purpose. Being free from the false is good in itself, it wants no reward. It is just like being clean -- which is its own reward.
Q: Is not self-knowledge the reward?
M: The reward of self-knowledge is freedom from the personal self. You cannot know the knower, for you are the knower. The fact of knowing proves the knower. You need no other proof. Theknower of the known is not knowable. Just like the light is known in colours only, so is the knower known in knowledge.
Q: Is the knower an inference only?
M: You know your body, mind and feelings. Are you an inference only?
Q: I am an inference to others. but not to myself.
M: So am I. An inference to you, but not to myself. I know myself by being myself. As you know yourself to be a man by being one. You do not keep on reminding yourself that you are a man. It is only when your humanity is questioned that you assert it. Similarly, I know that I am all. I do not need to keep on repeating: 'I am all, I am all'. Only when you take me to be a particular, a person, I protest. As you are a man all the time, so I am what I am -- all the time. Whatever you are changelessly, that you are beyond all doubt.
Q: When I ask how do you know that you are a jnani, you answer: 'I find no desire in me. Is this not a proof?'
M: Were I full of desires, I would have still been what I am.
Q: Myself, full of desires and you, full of desires; what difference would there be?
M: You identify yourself with your desires and become their slave. To me desires are things among other things, mere clouds in the mental sky, and I do not feel compelled to act on them.
Q: The knower and his knowledge, are they one or two?
M: They are both. The knower is the unmanifested, the known is the manifested. The known is always on the move, it changes, it has no shape of its own, no dwelling place. The knower is the immutable support of all knowledge; Each needs the other, but reality lies beyond. The jnani cannot be known, because there is nobody to be known. When there is a person, you can tell something about it, but when there is no self-identification with the particular, what can be said? You may tell a jnani anything; his question will always be: 'about whom are you talking? There is no such person'. Just as you cannot say anything about the universe because it includes everything, so nothing can be said about a jnani, for he is all and yet nothing in particular. You need a hook to hang your picture on; when there is no hook, on what will the picture hang? To locate a thing you need space, to place an event you need time; but the timeless and spaceless defies all handling. It makes everything perceivable, yet itself it is beyond perception. The mind cannot know what is beyond the mind, but the mind is known by what is beyond it. The jnani knows neither birth nor death; existence and non-existence are the same to him.
Q: When your body dies, you remain.
M: Nothing dies. The body is just imagined. There is no such thing.
Q: Before another century will pass, you will be dead to all around you. Your body will be covered with flowers, then burnt and the ashes scattered. That will be our experience. What will be yours?
M: Time will come to an end. This is called the Great Death (mahamrityu), the death of time.
Q: Does it mean that the universe and its contents will come to an end?
M: The universe is your personal experience. How can it be affected? You might have been delivering a lecture for two hours; where has it gone when it is over? It has merged into silence in which the beginning, middle and end of the lecture are all together. Time has come to a stop, it was, but is no more. The silence after a life of talking and the silence after a life of silence is the same silence. Immortality is freedom from the feeling: 'I am'. Yet it is not extinction. On the contrary, it is a state infinitely more real, aware and happy than you can possibly think of. Only self-consciousness is no more.
Q: Why does the Great Death of the mind coincide with the 'small death' of the body?
M: It does not! You may die a hundred deaths without a break in the mental turmoil. Or, you may keep your body and die only in the mind. The death of the mind is the birth of wisdom.
Q: The person goes and only the witness remains.
M: Who remains to say: 'I am the witness'. When there is no 'I am', where is the witness? In the timeless state there is no self to take refuge in.
The man who carries a parcel is anxious not to lose it -- he is parcel-conscious. The man who cherishes the feeling 'I am' is self-conscious. The jnani holds on to nothing and cannot be said to be conscious. And yet he is not unconscious. He is the very heart of awareness. We call him digambara clothed in space, the Naked One, beyond all appearance. There is no name and shape under which he may be said to exist, yet he is the only one that truly is.
Q: I cannot grasp it.
M: Who can? The mind has its limits. It is enough to bring you to the very frontiers of knowledge and make you face the immensity of the unknown. To dive in it is up to you.
Q: What about the witness? Is it real or unreal?
M: It is both. The last remnant of illusion, the first touch of the real. To say: I am only the witness is both false and true: false because of the 'I am', true because of the witness. It is better to say: 'there is witnessing'. The moment you say: 'I am', the entire universe comes into being along with its creator.
Q: Another question: can we visualise the person and the self as two brothers small and big? The little brother is mischievous and selfish, rude and restless, while the big brother is intelligent and kind, reasonable and considerate, free from body consciousness with its desires and fears. The big brother knows the little one. but the small one is ignorant of the big one and thinks itself to be entirely on its own. The Guru comes and tells the smaller one: 'You are not alone, you come from a very good family, your brother is a very remarkable man, wise and kind, and he loves you very much. Remember him, think of him, find him, serve him, and you will become one with him'. Now, the question is are there two in us, the personal and the individual, the false self and the true self, or is it only a simile?
M: It is both. They appear to be two, but on investigation they are found to be one. Duality lasts only as long as it is not questioned. The trinity: mind, self and spirit (vyakti, vyakta, avyakta), when looked into, becomes unity. These are only modes of experiencing: of attachment, of detachment, of transcendence.
Q: Your assumption that we are in a dream state makes your position unassailable. Whatever objection we raise, you just deny its validity. One cannot discuss with you!
M: The desire to discuss is also mere desire. The desire to know, to have the power, even the desire to exist are desires only. Everybody desires to be, to survive, to continue, for no one is sure of himself. But everybody is immortal. You make yourself mortal by taking yourself to be the body.
Q: Since you have found your freedom, will you not give me a little of it?
M: Why little? Take the whole. Take it, it is there for the taking. But you are afraid of freedom!
Q: Swami Ramdas had to deal with a similar request. Some devotees collected round him one day and began to ask for liberation. Ramdas listened smilingly and then suddenly he became serious and said: You can have it, here and now, freedom absolute and permanent. Who wants it, come forward. Nobody moved. Thrice he repeated the offer. None accepted. Then he said: 'The offer is withdrawn'.
M: Attachment destroys courage. The giver is always ready to give. The taker is absent. Freedom means letting go. People just do not care to let go everything. They do not know that the finite is the price of the infinite, as death is the price of immortality. Spiritual maturity lies in the readiness to let go everything. The giving up is the first step. But the real giving up is in realising that there is nothing to give up, for nothing is your own. It is like deep sleep -- you do not give up your bed when you fall sleep -- you just forget it.
Om Tat Sat