By Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
V: When I try to track down the self it seems to me that it creates more selves.
M: But who is that sees so many selves? One thought produces further thoughts. Who observes the first thought?
V: This is what I want to know.
M: Only you are the observer of the first thought. If the knower of the very first thought is not there, who will observe the other thoughts?
V: If the knower is not, there will also be no thoughts.
M: If you understand this, everything is over — you can go. To expound and propagate concepts is simple. But to drop all concepts is difficult and rare.
V: How do I remove thoughts and new concepts? If all concepts and thoughts are removed, will I become one with that?
M: Do not try to become anything. Do nothing! Without thinking on any of your words, remain quiet. Once a word sprouts it creates a meaning and then you ride on it. You follow the meanings of your words and claim that you are in search of your self. So be wakeful to that state which is prior to the sprouting of words. Did you associate with any sages?
V: This is the first time.
M: Have you been reading any books?
V: I have been reading Paul Brunton’s work on Ramana Maharshi.
M: Your spiritual background is ready, that is why you listen to the talks and try to understand them. Other people quarrel with me with their concepts. They are brimming over with concepts, with the result that they are unable to listen to what I say. Many people come here, presuming themselves to be very knowledgeable but I know that they are ignorant only. However, I consider them as consciousness alone.
All your identities at the body-mind level have been changing continuously, and none of them has been constant and faithful to you. Why then are you attracted to any of such identities by stating “I am like this,” “I am like that”?
V: This is all mental. At certain moments I think I am “like this,” at other moments I think I am “like that."
M: Who other than you is observing those moments? You are the witness of these moments. Whatever is seen and perceived and also whatever you see inside and outside you, that you are not.
V: I am trying to understand.
M: In meditation, you might convince yourself “I am Guru Nanak only,” or as some people in their meditation firmly believe: “I am Bhagavan Sri Krishna only.” None of such identities has any stability. The only stable one is the observer of those identities, and you alone are that observer — the eternal one.
Take the example of a poor actor who played the role of a king so splendidly that he received a lot of praise. But he is not the king. Similarly, you are not Guru Nana Nanak. You are the observer. Whatever you see and perceive is all the play of maya, the illusive principle.
February 19th 1980
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.