What is Pure, Unalloyed, Unattached is Real
Chapter 72 from the book “I AmThat” of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Maharaj: You are back in India! Where have you been, what have you seen?
Questioner: I come from Switzerland. I stayed there with a remarkable man who claims to have realised. He has done many Yogas in his past and had many experiences that passed away. Now he claims no special abilities, nor knowledge; the only unusual thing about him is connected with sensations; he is unable to separate the seer from the seen. For instance, when he sees a car rushing at him, he does not know whether the car is rushing at him, or he at a car. He seems to be both at the same time, the seer and the seen. They become one. Whatever he sees, he sees himself. When I asked him some Vedantic questions he said: 'I really cannot answer. I do not know. All I know is this strange identity with whatever I perceive. You know, I expected anything but this.'
He is on the whole a humble man; he makes no disciples and in no way puts himself on a pedestal. He is willing to talk about his strange condition, but that is all.
M: Now he knows what he knows. All else is over. At least he still talks. Soon he may cease talking.
Q: What will he do then?
M: Immobility and silence are not inactive. The flower fills the space with perfume, the candle -- with light. They do nothing yet they change everything by their mere presence. You can photograph the candle, but not its light. You can know the man, his name and appearance, but not his influence. His very presence is action.
Q: Is it not natural to be active?
M: Everybody wants to be active, but where do his actions originate? There is no central point each action begets another, meaninglessly and painfully, in endless succession. The alternation of work and pause is not there. First find the immutable centre where all movement takes birth. Just like a wheel turns round an axle, so must you be always at the axle in the centre and not whirling at the periphery.
Q: How do I go about it in practice?
M: Whenever a thought or emotion of desire or fear comes to your mind, just turn away from it.
Q: By suppressing my thoughts and feelings I shall provoke a reaction.
M: I am not talking of suppression. Just refuse attention.
Q: Must I not use effort to arrest the movements of the mind?
M: It has nothing to do with effort. Just turn away, look between the thoughts, rather than at the thoughts. When you happen to walk in a crowd, you do not fight every man you meet -- you just find your way between.
Q: If I use my will to control the mind, it only strengthens the ego.
M: Of course. When you fight, you invite a fight. But when you do not resist, you meet with no resistance. When you refuse to play the game, you are out of it.
Q: How long will it take me to get free of the mind?
M: It may take a thousand years, but really no time is required. All you need is to be in dead earnest. Here the will is the deed. If you are sincere, you have it. After all, it is a matter of attitude. Nothing stops you from being a jnani here and now, except fear. You are afraid of being impersonal, of impersonal being. It is all quite simple. Turn away from your desires and fears and from the thoughts they create and you are at once in your natural state.
Q: No question of reconditioning, changing, or eliminating the mind?
M: Absolutely none. Leave your mind alone, that is all. Don't go along with it. After all, there is no such thing as mind apart from thoughts which come and go obeying their own laws, not yours. They dominate you only because you are interested in them. It is exactly as Christ said 'Resist not evil'. By resisting evil you merely strengthen it.
Q: Yes, I see now. All I have to do is to deny existence to evil. Then it fades away. But does it not boil down to some kind of auto-suggestion?
M: The auto-suggestion is in full swing now, when you think yourself to be a person, caught between good and evil. What I am asking you to do is to put an end to it, to wake up and see things as they are.
About your stay in Switzerland with that strange friend of yours: what did you gain in his company?
Q: Nothing absolutely. His experience did not affect me at all. One thing I have understood: there is nothing to search for. Wherever I may go, nothing waits for me at the end of the journey. Discovery is not the result of transportation.
M: Yes, you are quite apart from anything that can be gained or lost.
Q: Do you call it vairagya, relinquishment, renunciation?
M: There is nothing to renounce. Enough if you stop acquiring. To give you must have, and to have you must take. Better don't take. It is simpler than to practice renunciation, which leads to a dangerous form of 'spiritual' pride.
All this weighing, selecting, choosing, exchanging -- it is all shopping in some 'spiritual' market. What is your business there? What deal are you out to strike? When you are not out for business, what is the use of this endless anxiety of choice? Restlessness takes you nowhere. Something prevents you from seeing that there is nothing you need. Find it out and see its falseness. It is like having swallowed some poison and suffering from unquenchable craving for water. Instead of drinking beyond all measure, why not eliminate the poison and be free of this burning thirst?
Q: I shall have to eliminate the ego!
M: The sense 'I am a person in time and space' is the poison. In a way, time itself is the poison. In time all things come to an end and new are born, to be devoured in their turn. Do not identify yourself with time, do not ask anxiously: 'what next, what next?' Step out of time and see it devour the world. Say: 'Well, it is in the nature of time to put an end to everything. Let it be. It does not concern me. I am not combustible, nor do I need to collect fuel'.
Q: Can the witness be without the things to witness?
M: There is always something to witness. If not a thing, then its absence. Witnessing is natural and no problem. The problem is excessive interest, leading to self-identification. Whatever you are engrossed in you take to be real.
Q: Is the 'I am' real or unreal? Is the 'I am' the witness? Is the witness real or unreal?
M: What is pure, unalloyed, unattached, is real. What is tainted, mixed up, dependent and transient is unreal. Do not be misled by words -- one word may convey several and even contradictory meanings. The 'I am’ that pursues the pleasant and shuns the unpleasant is false; the 'I am' that sees pleasure and pain as inseparable sees rightly. The witness that is enmeshed in what he perceives is the person; the witness who stands aloof, unmoved and untouched, is the watch-tower of the real, the point at which awareness, inherent in the unmanifested, contacts the manifested. There can be no universe without the witness, there can be no witness without the universe.
Q: Time consumes the world. Who is the witness of time?
M: He who is beyond time -- the Un-nameable. A glowing ember, moved round and round quickly enough, appears as a glowing circle. When the movement ceases, the ember remains. Similarly, the 'I am' in movement creates the world. The 'I am' at peace becomes the Absolute. You are like a man with an electric torch walking through a gallery. You can see only what is within the beam. The rest is in darkness.
Q: If I project the world, I should be able to change it.
M: Of course, you can. But you must cease identifying yourself with it and go beyond. Then you have the power to destroy and re-create.
Q: All I want is to be free.
M: You must know two things: What are you to be free from and what keeps you bound.
Q: Why do you want to annihilate the universe?
M: I am not concerned with the universe. Let it be or not be. It is enough if I know myself.
Q: If you are beyond the world, then you are of no use to the world.
M: Pity the self that is, not the world that is not! Engrossed in a dream you have forgotten your true self.
Q: Without the world there is no place for love.
M: Quite so. All these attributes; being, consciousness, love and beauty are reflections of the real in the world. No real -- no reflection.
Q: The world is full of desirable things and people. How can I imagine it non-existent?
M: Leave the desirable to those who desire. Change the current of your desire from taking to giving. The passion for giving, for sharing, will naturally wash the idea of an external world out of your mind, and of giving as well. Only the pure radiance of love will remain, beyond giving and receiving.
Q: In love there must be duality, the lover and the beloved.
M: In love there is not the one even, how can there be two? Love is the refusal to separate, to make distinctions. Before you can think of unity, you must first create duality. When you truly love, you do not say: 'I love you'; where there is mentation, there is duality.
Q: What is it that brings me again and again to India? It cannot be only the comparative cheapness of life here? Nor the colourfulness and variety of impressions. There must be some more important factor.
M: There is also the spiritual aspect. The division between the outer and the inner is less in India. It is easier here to express the inner in the outer. Integration is easier. Society is not so oppressive.
Q: Yes, in the West it is all tamas and rajas. In India there is more of sattva, of harmony and balance.
M: Can't you go beyond the gunas? Why choose the sattva? Be what you are, wherever you are and worry not about gunas.
Q: I have not the strength.
M: It merely shows that you have gained little in India. What you truly have you cannot lose. Were you well-grounded in your self, change of place would not affect it.
Q: In India spiritual life is easy. It is not so in the West. One has to conform to environment to a much greater extent.
M: Why don't you create your own environment? The world has only as much power over you as you give it. Rebel. Go beyond duality, make no difference between east and west.
Q: What can one do when one finds oneself in a very unspiritual environment?
M: Do nothing. Be yourself. Stay out. Look beyond.
Q: There may be clashes at home. Parents rarely understand.
M: When you know your true being, you have no problems. You may please your parents or not, marry or not, make a lot of money or not; it is all the same to you. Just act according to circumstances, yet in close touch with the facts, with the reality in every situation.
Q: Is it not a very high state?
M: Oh no, it is the normal state. You call it high because you are afraid of it. First be free from fear. See that there is nothing to be afraid of. Fearlessness is the door to the Supreme.
Q: No amount of effort can make me fearless.
M: Fearlessness comes by itself, when you see that there is nothing to be afraid of. When you walk in a crowded street, you just bypass people. Some you see, some you just glance at, but you do not stop. It is the stopping that creates the bottleneck. Keep moving! Disregard names and shapes, don't be attached to them; your attachment is your bondage.
Q: What should I do when a man slaps me on my face?
M: You will react according to your character, inborn or acquired.
Q: Is it inevitable? Am I, is the world, condemned to remain as we are?
M: A jeweller who wants to refashion an ornament, first melts it town to shapeless gold. Similarly, one must return to one's original state before a new name and form can emerge. Death is essential for renewal.
Q: You are always stressing the need of going beyond, of aloofness, of solitude. You hardly ever use the words 'right' and 'wrong'. Why is it so?
M: It is right to be oneself, it is wrong not to be. All else is conditional. You are eager to separate right from wrong, because you need some basis for action. You are always after doing something or other. But, personally motivated action, based on some scale of values, aiming at some result is worse than inaction, for its fruits are always bitter.
Q: Are awareness and love one and the same?
M: Of course. Awareness is dynamic, love is being. Awareness is love in action. By itself the mind can actualise any number of possibilities, but unless they are prompted by love, they are valueless. Love precedes creation. Without it there is only chaos.
Q: Where is the action in awareness?
M: You are so incurably operational! Unless there is movement, restlessness, turmoil, you do not call it action. Chaos is movement for movement's sake. True action does not displace; it transforms. A change of place is mere transportation; a change of heart is action. Just remember, nothing perceivable is real. Activity is not action. Action is hidden, unknown, unknowable. You can only know the fruit.
Q: Is not God the all-doer?
M: Why do you bring in an outer doer? The world recreates itself out of itself. It is an endless process, the transitory begetting the transitory. It is your ego that makes you think that there must be a doer. You create a God to your own Image, however dismal the image. Through the film of your mind you project a world and also a God to give it cause and purpose. It is all imagination -- step out of it.
Q: How difficult it is to see the world as purely mental! The tangible reality of it seems so very convincing.
M: This is the mystery of imagination, that it seems to be so real. You may be celibate or married, a monk or a family man; that is not the point. Are you a slave of your imagination, or are you not? Whatever decision you take, whatever work you do, it will be invariably based on imagination, on assumptions parading as facts.
Q: Here I am sitting in front of you. What part of it is imagination?
M: The whole of it. Even space and time are imagined.
Q: Does it mean that I don't exist?
M: I too do not exist. All existence is imaginary.
Q: Is being too imaginary?
M: Pure being, filling all and beyond all, is not existence which is limited. All limitation is imaginary, only the unlimited is real.
Q: When you look at me, what do you see?
M: I see you imagining yourself to be.
Q: There are many like me. Yet each is different.
M: The totality of all projections is what is called maha-maya, the Great Illusion.
Q: But when you look at yourself, what do you see?
M: It depends how I look. When I look through the mind, I see numberless people. When I look beyond the mind, I see the witness. Beyond the witness there is the infinite intensity of emptiness and silence.
Q: How to deal with people?
M: Why make plans and what for? Such questions show anxiety. Relationship is a living thing. Be at peace with your inner self and you will be at peace with everybody.
realise that you are not the master of what happens, you cannot control the future except in purely technical matters. Human relationship cannot be planned, it is too rich and varied. Just be understanding and compassionate, free of all self seeking.
Q: Surely, I am not the master of what happens. Its slave rather.
M: Be neither master, nor slave. Stand aloof.
Q: Does it imply avoidance of action?
M: You cannot avoid action. It happens, like everything else.
Q: My actions, surely, I can control.
M: Try. You will soon see that you do what you must.
Q: I can act according to my will.
M: You know your will only after you have acted.
Q: I remember my desires, the choices made, the decisions taken and act accordingly.
M: Then your memory decides, not you.
Q: Where do I come in?
M: You make it possible by giving it attention.
Q: Is there no such thing as free will? Am I not free to desire?
M: Oh no, you are compelled to desire. In Hinduism the very idea of free will is non-existent, so there is no word for it. Will is commitment, fixation, bondage.
Q: I am free to choose my limitations.
M: You must be free first. To be free in the world you must be free of the world. Otherwise your past decides for you and your future. Between what had happened and what must happen you are caught. Call it destiny or karma, but never -- freedom. First return to your true being and then act from the heart of love.
Q: Within the manifested what is the stamp of the unmanifested?
M: There is none. The moment you begin to look for the stamp of the unmanifested, the manifested dissolves. If you try to understand the unmanifested with the mind, you at once go beyond the mind, like when you stir the fire with a wooden stick, you burn the stick. Use the mind to investigate the manifested. Be like the chick that pecks at the shell. Speculating about life outside the shell would have been of little use to it, but pecking at the shell breaks the shell from within and liberates the chick. Similarly, break the mind from within by investigation and exposure of its contradictions and absurdities.
Q: The longing to break the shell, where does it come from?
M: From the unmanifested.