Q: When do I know that I have discovered truth?
M: When the idea “this is true”, “that is true” does not arise. Truth does not assert itself, it is in the seeing of the false as false and rejecting it. It is useless to search for truth, when the mind is blind to the false. It must be purged of the false completely before truth can dawn on it.
Q: But what is false?
M: Surely, what has no being is false.
Q: What do you mean by having no being? The false is there, hard as a nail.
M: What contradicts itself, has no being. Or it has only momentary being, which comes to the same. For, what has a beginning and an end has no middle. It is hollow. It has only the name and shape given to it by the mind, but it has neither substance nor essence.
Q: If all that passes has no being, then the universe has no being either.
M: Who ever denies it? Of course the universe has no being.
Q: What has?
M: That which does not depend for its existence, which does not arise with the universe arising, nor set with the universe setting, which does not need any proof, but imparts reality to all it touches. It is the nature of the false that it appears real for a moment. One could say that the true becomes the father of the false. But the false is limited in time and space and is produced by circumstances.
Q: How am I to get rid of the false and secure the real?
M: To what purpose?
Q: In order to live a better, a more satisfactory life, integrated and happy.
M: Whatever is conceived by the mind must be false, for it is bound to be relative and limited. The real is inconceivable and cannot be harnessed to a purpose. It must be wanted for its own sake.
Q: How can I want the inconceivable?
M: What else is there worth wanting? Granted, the real cannot be wanted, as a thing is wanted. But you can see the unreal as unreal and discard it. It is the discarding the false that opens the way to the true.
Q: I understand, but how does it look in actual daily life?
M: Self-interest and self-concern are the focal points of the false. Your daily life vibrates between desire and fear. Watch it intently and you will see how the mind assumes innumerable names and shapes, like a river foaming between the boulders. Trace every action to its selfish motive and look at the motive intently till it dissolves.
Q: To live, one must look after oneself, one must earn money for oneself.
M: You need not earn for yourself, but you may have to—for a woman and a child. You may have to keep on working for the sake of others. Even just to keep alive can be a sacrifice. There is no need whatsoever to be selfish. Discard every self-seeking motive as soon as it is seen and you need not search for truth; truth will find you.
Q: There is a minimum of needs.
M: Were they not supplied since you were conceived? Give up the bondage of self-concern and be what you are—intelligence and love in action.
Q: But one must survive!
M: You can’t help surviving! The real you is timeless and beyond birth and death. And the body will survive as long as it is needed. It is not important that it should live long. A full life is better than a long life.
Q: Who is to say what is a full life? It depends on my cultural background.
M: If you seek reality you must set yourself free of all backgrounds, of all cultures, of all patterns of thinking and feeling. Even the idea of being man or woman, or even human, should be discarded. The ocean of life contains all, not only humans. So, first of all abandon all self-identification, stop thinking of yourself as such-and-such, so-and-so, this or that. Abandon all self-concern, worry not about your welfare, material or spiritual, abandon every desire, gross or subtle, stop thinking of achievement of any kind. You are complete here and now, you need absolutely nothing.
It does not mean that you must be brainless and foolhardy, improvident or indifferent; only the basic anxiety for oneself must go. You need some food, clothing and shelter for you and yours, but this will not create problems as long as greed is not taken for a need. Live in tune with things as they are and not as they are imagined.
Q: What am I if not human?
M: That which makes you think that you are a human is not human. It is but a dimensionless point of consciousness, a conscious nothing; all you can say about yourself is: ‘I am.’ You are pure being—awareness—bliss. To realize that is the end of all seeking. You come to it when you see all you think yourself to be as mere imagination and stand aloof in pure awareness of the transient as transient, imaginary as imaginary, unreal as unreal. It is not at all difficult, but detachment is needed. It is the clinging to the false that makes the true so difficult to see. Once you understand that the false needs time and what needs time is false, you are nearer the Reality, which is timeless, ever in the now. Eternity in time is mere repetitiveness, like the movement
of a clock. It flows from the past into the future endlessly, an empty perpetuity. Reality is what makes the present so vital, so different from the past and future, which are merely mental. If you need time to achieve something, it must be false. The real is always with you; you need not wait to be what you are. Only you must not allow your mind to go out of yourself in search. When you want something, ask yourself: do I really need it? and if the answer is no, then just drop it.
Q: Must I not be happy? I may not need a thing, yet it can make me happy, should I not grasp it?
M: Nothing can make you happier than you are. All search for happiness is misery and leads to more misery. The only happiness worth the name is the natural happiness of conscious being.
Q: Don’t I need a lot of experience before I can reach such high level of awareness?
M: Experience leaves only memories behind and adds to the burden which is heavy enough. You need no more experiences. The past ones are sufficient. And if you feel you need more, look into the hearts of people around you. You will find a variety of experiences which you would not be able to go through in a thousand years. Learn from the sorrows of others and save yourself your own. It is not experience that you need, but the freedom from all experience. Don’t be greedy for experience; you need none.
Q: Don’t you pass through experiences yourself?
M: Things happen round me, but I take no part in them. An event becomes an experience only when I am emotionally involved. I am in a state which is complete, which seeks not to improve on itself. Of what use is experience to me?
Q: One needs knowledge, education.
M: To deal with things knowledge of things is needed. To deal with people, you need insight, sympathy. To deal with yourself you need nothing. Be what you are: conscious being and don’t stray away from yourself.
Q: University education is most useful.
M: No doubt, it helps you to earn a living. But it does not teach you how to live. You are a student of psychology. It may help you in certain situations. But can you live by psychology? Life is worthy of the name only when it reflects Reality in action. No university will teach you how to live so that when the time of dying comes, you can say: I lived well, I do not need to live again. Most of us die wishing we could live again. So many mistakes committed, so much left undone. Most of the people vegetate, but do not live. They merely gather experience and enrich their memory. But experience is the denial of Reality, which is neither sensory nor conceptual, neither of the body, nor of the mind, though it includes and transcends both.
Q: But experience is most useful. By experience you learn not to touch aflame.
M: I have told you already that knowledge is most useful in dealing with things. But it does not tell you how to deal with people and yourself, how to live a life. We are not talking of driving a car, or earning money. For this you need experience. But for being a light unto yourself material knowledge will not help you. You need something much more intimate and deeper than mediate knowledge, to be your self in the true sense of the word. Your outer life is unimportant. You can become a night watchman and live happily. It is what you are inwardly that matters. Your inner peace and joy you have to earn. It is much more difficult than earning money. No university can teach you to be yourself. The only way to learn is by practice. Right away begin to be yourself. Discard all you are not and go ever deeper. Just as a man digging a well discards what is not water, until he reaches the water-bearing strata, so must you discard what is not your own, till nothing is left which you can disown. You will find that what is left is nothing which the mind can hook on to. You are not even a human being. You just are—a point of awareness, co-extensive with time and space and beyond both, the ultimate cause, itself uncaused. If you ask me: “Who are you?” My answer would be: “Nothing in particular. Yet, I am.”
Q: If you are nothing in particular, then you must be the universal.
M: What is to be universal—not as a concept, but as a way of life? Not to separate, not to oppose, but to understand and love whatever contacts you, is living universally. To be able to say truly: I am the world., the world is me, I am at home in the world, the world is my own. Every existence is my existence, every consciousness is my consciousness, every sorrow is my sorrow and every joy is my joy—this is universal life. Yet, my real being, and yours too, is beyond the universe and, therefore, beyond the categories of the particular and the universal. It is what it is, totally self-contained and independent.
Q: I find it hard to understand.
M: You must give yourself time to brood over these things. The old grooves must be erased in your brain, without forming new ones. You must realize yourself as the immoveable, behind and beyond the movable, the silent witness of all that happens.
Q: Does it mean that I must give up all idea of an active life?
M: Not at all. There will be marriage, there will be children, there will be earning money to maintain a family; all this will happen in the natural course of events, for destiny must fulfill itself.; you will go through it without resistance, facing tasks as they come, attentive and thorough, both in small things and big. But the general attitude will be of affectionate detachment, enormous goodwill, without expectation of return, constant giving without asking. In marriage you are neither the husband nor the wife; you are the love between the two. You are the clarity and kindness that makes everything orderly and happy. It may seem vague to you, but if you think a little, you will find that the mystical is most practical, for it makes your life creatively happy. Your consciousness is raised to a higher dimension, from which you see everything much clearer and with greater intensity. You realize that the person you became at birth and will cease to be at death is temporary and false. You are not the sensual, emotional and intellectual person, gripped by desires and fears. Find out your real being. What am I? is the fundamental question of all philosophy and psychology. Go into it deeply.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj was a contemporary sage who did not propound any ideology or religion but clearly, directly, and sublimely pointed out the errors in perception that prevent us from realizing the mystery of our true nature.
From I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, edited by Maurice Frydman. Copyright © 2012 by The Acorn Press, Durham, North Carolina. www. acornpressonline.com