from I Am That: Dialogues with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Maharaj: You are all drenched for it is raining hard. In my world it is always fine weather. There is no night or day, no heat or cold. No worries beset me there, nor regrets. My mind is free of thoughts, for there are no desires to slave for.
Questioner: Are there two worlds?
M: Your world is transient, changeful. My world is perfect, changeless. You can tell me what you like about your world — I shall listen carefully, even with interest, yet not for a moment shall I forget that your world is not, that you are dreaming.
Q: What distinguishes your world from mine?
M: My world has no characteristics by which it can be identified. You can say nothing about it. I am my world. My world is myself. It is complete and perfect. Every impression is erased, every experience — rejected. I need nothing, not even myself, for myself I cannot lose.
Q: Not even God?
M: All these ideas and distinctions exist in your world; in mine there is nothing of the kind. My world is single and very simple.
Q: Nothing happens there?
M: Whatever happens in your world, only there it has validity and evokes response. In my world nothing happens.
Q: The very fact of your experiencing your own world implies duality inherent in all experience.
M: Verbally — yes. But your words do not reach me. Mine is a non-verbal world. In your world the unspoken has no existence. In mine — the words and their contents have no being. In your world nothing stays, in mine — nothing changes. My world is real, while yours is made of dreams.
Q: Yet we are talking.
M: The talk is in your world. In mine — there is eternal silence. My silence sings, my emptiness is full, I lack nothing. You cannot know my world until you are there.
Q: It seems as if you alone are in your world.
M: How can you say alone or not alone, when words do not apply? Of course, I am alone for I am all.
Q: Are you ever coming into our world?
M: What is coming and going to me? These again are words. I am. Whence am I to come from and where to go?
Q: Of what use is your world to me?
M: You should consider more closely your own world, examine it critically and, suddenly, one day you will find yourself in mine.
Q: What do we gain by it?
M: You gain nothing. You leave behind what is not your own and find what you have never lost — your own being.
Q: Who is the ruler of your world?
M: There are no ruler and ruled here. There is no duality whatsoever. You are merely projecting your own ideas. Your scriptures and your gods have no meaning here.
Q: Still you have a name and shape, display consciousness and activity.
M: In your world I appear so. In mine I have being only. Nothing else. You people are rich with your ideas of possession, of quantity and quality. I am completely without ideas.
Q: In my world there is disturbance, distress and despair. You seem to be living on some hidden income, while I must slave for a living.
M: Do as you please. You are free to leave your world for mine.
Q: How is the crossing done?
M: See your world as it is, not as you imagine it to be. Discrimination will lead to detachment; detachment will ensure right action; right action will build the inner bridge to your real being. Action is a proof of earnestness. Do what you are told diligently and faithfully and all obstacles will dissolve.
Q: Are you happy?
M: In your world I would be most miserable. To wake up, to eat, to talk, to sleep again — what a bother!
Q: So you do not want to live even?
M: To live, to die — what meaningless words are these! When you see me alive, I am dead. When you think me dead, I am alive. How muddled up you are!
Q: How indifferent you are? All the sorrows of our world are as nothing to you.
M: I am quite conscious of your troubles.
Q: Then what are you doing about them?
M: There is nothing I need doing. They come and go.
Q: Do they go by the very act of your giving them attention?
M: Yes. The difficulty may be physical, emotional or mental; but it is always individual. Large scale calamities are the sum of numberless individual destinies and take time to settle. But death is never a calamity.
Q: Even when a man is killed?
M: The calamity is of the killer.
Q: Still, it seems there are two worlds, mine and yours.
M: Mine is real, yours is of the mind.
Q: Imagine a rock and a hole in the rock and a frog in the hole. The frog may spend its life in perfect bliss, undistracted, undisturbed. Outside the rock the world goes on. If the frog in the hole were told about the outside world, he would say: ‘There is no such thing. My world is of peace and bliss. Your world is a word structure only, it has no existence’. It is the same with you. When you tell us that our world simply does not exist, there is no common ground for discussion. Or, take another example. I go to a doctor and complain of stomach ache. He examines me and says: ‘You are all right’. ‘But it pains’ I say. ‘Your pain is mental’ he asserts. I say ‘It does not help me to know that my pain is mental. You are a doctor, cure me of my pain. If you cannot cure me, you are not my doctor.’
M: Quite right.
Q: You have built the railroad, but for lack of a bridge no train can pass. Build the bridge.
M: There is no need of a bridge.
Q: There must be some link between your world and mine.
M: There is no need of a link between a real world and an imaginary world, for there cannot be any.
Q: So what are we to do?
M: Investigate your world, apply your mind to it, examine it critically, scrutinise every idea about it; that will do.
Q: The world is too big for investigation. All I know is that I am the world is, the world troubles me and I trouble the world.
M: My experience is that everything is bliss. But the desire for bliss creates pain. Thus bliss becomes the seed of pain. The entire universe of pain is born of desire. Give up the desire for pleasure and you will not even know what is pain.
Q: Why should pleasure be the seed of pain?
M: Because for the sake of pleasure you are committing many sins. And the fruits of sin are suffering and death.
Q: You say the world is of no use to us — only a tribulation. I feel it cannot be so. God is not such a fool. The world seems to me a big enterprise for bringing the potential into actual, matter into life, the unconscious into full awareness. To realise the supreme we need the experience of the opposites. Just as for building a temple we need stone and mortar, wood and iron, glass and tiles, so for making a man into a divine sage, a master of life and death, one needs the material of every experience. As a woman goes to the market, buys provisions of every sort, comes home, cooks, bakes and feeds her lord, so we bake ourselves nicely in the fire of life and feed our God.
M: Well, if you think so, act on it. Feed your God, by all means.
Q: A child goes to school and learns many things, which will be of no use to it later. But in the course of learning it grows. So do we pass through experiences without number and forget them all, but in the meantime we grow all the time. And what is a jnani but a man with a genius for reality! This world of mine cannot be an accident. It makes sense, there must be a plan behind it. My God has a plan.
M: If the world is false, then the plan and its creator are also false.
Q: Again, you deny the world. There is no bridge between us.
M: There is no need of a bridge. Your mistake lies in your belief that you are born. You were never born nor will you ever die, but you believe that you were born at a certain date and place and that a particular body is your own.
Q: The world is, I am. These are facts.
M: Why do you worry about the world before taking care of yourself? You want to save the world, don’t you? Can you save the world before saving yourself? And what means being saved? Saved from what? From illusion. Salvation is to see things as they are. I really do not see myself related to anybody and anything. Not even to a self, whatever that self may be. I remain forever — undefined. I am — within and beyond — intimate and unapproachable.
Q: How did you come to it?
M: By my trust in my Guru. He told me ‘You alone are’ and I did not doubt him. I was merely puzzling over it, until I realised that it is absolutely true.
Q: Conviction by repetition?
M: By self-realisation. I found that I am conscious and happy absolutely and only by mistake I thought I owed being-consciousness-bliss to the body and the world of bodies.
Q: You are not a learned man. You have not read much and what you read, or heard did perhaps not contradict itself. I am fairly well educated and have read a lot and I found that books and teachers contradict each other hopelessly. Hence whatever I read or hear, I take it in a state of doubt. ‘It may be so, it may not be so’ is my first reaction. And as my mind is unable to decide what is true and what is not, I am left high and dry with my doubts. In Yoga a doubting mind is at a tremendous disadvantage.
M: I am glad to hear it; but my Guru too taught me to doubt — everything and absolutely. He said: ‘deny existence to everything except your self.’ Through desire you have created the world with its pains and pleasures.
Q: Must it be also painful?
M: What else? By its very nature pleasure is limited and transitory. Out of pain desire is born, in pain it seeks fulfilment, and it ends in the pain of frustration and despair. Pain is the background of pleasure, all seeking of pleasure is born in pain and ends in pain.
Q: All you say is clear to me. But when some physical or mental trouble comes, my mind goes dull and grey, or seeks frantically for relief.
M: What does it matter? It is the mind that is dull or restless, not you. Look, all kinds of things happen in this room. Do I cause them to happen? They just happen. So it is with you — the roll of destiny unfolds itself and actualises the inevitable. You cannot change the course of events, but you can change your attitude and what really matters is the attitude and not the bare event. The world is the abode of desires and fears. You cannot find peace in it. For peace you must go beyond the world. The root cause of the world is self-love. Because of it we seek pleasure and avoid pain. Replace self-love by love of the Self and the picture changes. Brahma the Creator is the sum total of all desires. The world is the instrument for their fulfilment. Souls take whatever pleasure they desire and pay for them in tears. Time squares all accounts. The law of balance reigns supreme.
Q: To be a superman one must be a man first. Manhood is the fruit of innumerable experiences: Desire drives to experience. Hence at its own time and level desire is right.
M: All this is true in a way. But a day comes when you have amassed enough and must begin to build. Then sorting out and discarding (viveka-vairagya) are absolutely necessary. Everything must be scrutinised and the unnecessary ruthlessly destroyed. Believe me, there cannot be too much destruction. For in reality nothing is of value. Be passionately dispassionate — that is all.