By Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
V: To realize this, should I do meditation?
M: Yes, meditation is very necessary. If you can do it continuously, it is good, but with a daily occupation this is not always possible. Meditation done in the early morning hoursis helpful and effective. But you may do it whenever you have leisure. Seekers with a deep urge can meditate at any time. In the beginning, a seeker should sit alone in a quiet spot with complete leisure at his disposal. When he attains stability in meditation, he can sit anywhere, anytime. Suppose such an advanced seeker sits here in meditation. He will be totally lost within himself. His attention will be focused on attention only, with the result that he will not be aware of what is going on around him. Further, in such a state nothing will occur to him. Meditation should be of this quality. Suppose somebody is deeply worried, would he take note of things going around him?
When you sit in deep meditation, your sense of being is totally infused with the knowledge “I am” only. In such a state it will be revealed to you intuitively as to how and why your sense of “I-am-ness” emerged.
V: By the “I-am-ness”?
M: Consciousness, beingness, sense of being, “I-am-ness,” all are the same in you, prior to emanation of any words.
This is a subtle point, so try to understand it clearly. When I say “I was not” prior to conception, then what I actually mean is that I was not like this present “I am.” But that “I” which could discern this must be there to judge the absence of the present “I am."
Owing to the absence of a body, that “I” prior to conception had no sense of being or sense of “I-am-ness.” With the arrival of a body the sense of “I-am-ness” is imposed on the prior “I."
In meditation, this sense of “I-am-ness” only will indicate how and why it came about. You must be possessed by this idea of finding out what this “I-am-ness” is, just as you would not rest until you found the source of a smell emanating from some place. For example, if a foul smell emanates you will have to go to that source; and when you discover that it is the decomposed body of a rat, you will have to dispose of that body in order to get rid of the stink. Similarly, if a nice fragrance wafts in your direction, you would like to locate the flower. You must go to the source of this “I-am-ness” fragrance, and find out its “how and why."
V: How does one chase that?
M: The principle that gives rise to this “I-am-ness” fragrance is termed Bhagavan-vasudeva — the god who gives fragrance. The one who receives this fragrance wants to retain it at all costs.
V: How can one enter that state?
M: You, from the body-mind level, are incapable of tracking it down. But that principle alone will discover itself. Somebody you may call Bhagavan, or Vittal or God, is so infatuated with this fragrance that he wants to perpetuate it.
V: One day my efforts will bear fruit and I shall find him out automatically.
M: His significance for you will be nullified the moment he is discovered, and you will be liberated from that infatuation with vasudeva.
V: In other words, I think when you always feel it so, you don’t go after it. Once you realize the self then it automatically comes to you, so there is no need for you to track it down. So once we realize it, we can use it the way we want.
M: In that state you will be beyond any needs and wants; you will have no use for anything. No desires will be left, because they are all fulfilled.
V: I did not mean that I should use it for my worldly needs. What I meant was that I would become one with it.
M: In actuality you were never detached from it. So where is the question of being one with it?
V: It is nice that I never got detached from it, but in my present state I consider myself only the body.
M: This is your concept, that you are the body, and it is deluding you.
V: Then I will be free.
M: [Reciting a couplet of Guru Nanak:]
0 mind, what are you searching? Inside and outside it is one only. It is the concept that makes you feel inside and outside. Once the earthen pot bearing the name Nanak is broken, by getting rid of the concept that I am the body, where is inside and outside? It is “I” only prevailing everywhere.
Nanak furthers says:
Like the fragrance in a flower, like an image in a mirror, this sense of “I-am-ness” is felt in the body. Therefore, give up your name Nanak and also your identity with the body.
Abide in the sense of “I-am-ness” and you shall be liberated.
Text copyright © 1987 Jozef Nauwelaerts. Reprinted by permission from The Ultimate Medicine, Chapter 12, ‘Whatever Is Perceived, You Are Not.’
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897‒1981) was an Advaitan guru who received visitors in his Bombay apartment. He became world famous following publication of his second book I Am That in 1973.
Robert Powell (1918‒2013) was the author of many books including Life: The Exquisite Art of Meaningfulness.
By Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Translated by Robert Powell, PhD
This book contains transcripts of 21 talks given by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj in 1980, shortly before his death. The talks include “Prior to Conception, What Was I?’ and “To Know What One Is, One Must Know One's Beginning.” This volume resembles another book by the same editor, The Ultimate Medicine, which was compiled from talks given six months later.
Translated by Maurice Frydman
If any spiritual work of the last century deserves to be called a classic, it’s this one. An American spiritual book dealer has told us that this is his number-one seller. More than five hundred pages of transcribed conversations allow you to eavesdrop on Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, the most famous teacher of Advaita since Ramana Maharshi, as he sits in his living room and answers questions from visitors who have come to ask what they should do to become enlightened. The stupendously forceful language, coupled with Nisargadatta’s profound insight, makes this is a unique and astonishing work.
This page was published on October 18, 2001 and last revised on June 9, 2017.