By Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
M: How did that original creation take place of the body as infant? And even prior to its birth: How did the conception happen? How did the infant come into being, without it asking for it? Understand that. Understand thoroughly that drop of stuff which eventually has developed into a body, and then you will understand the whole mystery that you are not that. This body that is now occupying a certain space, how much space did it occupy upon its conception? And what was it then? If you understand that, you will understand the mystery of the Self.
You base yourself on the body that you are now, and don’t understand its root. That is why we think we are this body. And for that, you must do meditation. What is meditation? Meditation is not this body-mind meditating as an individual, but it is this knowledge “I am,” this consciousness, meditating on itself. Then the consciousness will unfold its own beginning.
Identification is with what? With this body that is now. But does it understand its origin? If you understand the temporal aspect, then you won’t take so much pride in the body that is now existing.
[Maharaj is now talking about himself] The body is thoroughly old, my mission is fulfilled. Now you people come, which is all right, but my mission is done. My soul is about to leave this body. I am happy. I clap! [clapping his hands] I am in a clapping mood that I am about to pass on. I am no longer in love with, or held by, anybody, anything, any attachment.
Forgetfulness — that noble, most elevated forgetfulness —will not arrive until all doubts have been dispelled. Unless the doubts are eradicated, that peace will not prevail.
So long as I remain identified with the body, I want to be occupied with actions, because I am not able to sustain that pure “I” without them. I cannot endure it, because I identify with the body-mind, with all kinds of activities. I call it jiva-atman, which means “conditioned by the body-mind,” and is the self that is occupied with all the activities. And the “I” which is unconditioned by, and not identified with, the body-mind — that therefore has no form, design, or name — is Paramatman. The jiva-atman is being witnessed by Paramatman, which is your real Self only.
V: What is it doing? Is it partaking in the working of the world?
M: Paramatman need not participate in the activities of the world, but without that principle no activities could take place at all. Just as is the case with akash (space): without it, no activities are possible.
Activities are going on naturally, spontaneously, in the same way that there is no author or doer of your dream world. Nevertheless, you fully put to use your dream world. You will not be able to comprehend this so long as you try to understand things as an individual. But once you are the universal manifest consciousness and abide in that Paramatman spirit — “I am” without form and distinction — then you will realize how things are.
V: It can be doubted whether Krishna was the incarnation of God into a human being. If it is indeed so, however, then we must attach importance to what he told us.
M: Whatever Krishna stated is perfectly correct. For that moment, that particular time in history, it was most appropriate. But that moment, that time, has gone. He also has gone. The spiritual elevation happened in him; that is why he is great.
You are seeing and understanding things through the concepts which you have absorbed. But, as a matter of fact, the actual state of affairs is quite different. You are holding on to it as the truth, but whatever you have heard will not remain as authority or as permanent; it will disappear. Then after the disappearance of everything, whatever remains, that you are: neti-neti.
You have been continuously changing; you are in a state of flux. No identity of yours has remained as a permanent feature. And in due course you will also become very old. So is there any constancy in all this?
V: The truth is that the body is perishable, but Atma is imperishable, eternal.
Second visitor: Do you know that or have you read it?
V: I am experiencing and also have read it. I am getting old and have seen people perish.
M: Yet there must be some author authorizing all these activities. You take the grosser four elements, which are engaged in activity. These four elements are presided over by space. In what activity is that engaged? If you are going to investigate the world of your observation, you will never reach your destination. Unless you give up whatever you have heard and abide in yourSelf, you will not understand all this. You may take it upon yourself to investigate this entire manifest world and whatever you have heard, but you will be caught more and more in a quagmire.
When incarnation takes place, what is its cause? And in what form does it occur? The stories you have heard…
V: Why doesn’t everybody become Krishna?
M: What is that childhood? What is that child-principle? Investigate that. The touch of that quality, the child quality: understand and realize it. When did you encounter yourself? Since when and how? After collecting all the messages and concepts in the world, you cannot investigate yourself. When Krishna was born, he had that touch of “I-am-ness.” The same goes for yourself. Understand that! What is that touch of “I-am-ness,” that touch of child in you? Since when did you know that you are? And with what did you know that you are? If you try to employ whatever you have heard, you will never be able to understand this. You know that you were not, but now you know that you are. How did this happen, this confluence? You were not and suddenly you are. This is what we want to discover.
V: I think I will give up on all this.
M: You just find out and enquire about your own self. Since when did you come to know your self? And how? Did anybody tell you that you are? Or did you come to know yourself spontaneously?
V: I was told and also it kept occurring to me when I read Ramana Maharshi’s questions, “Who is it that dreams, who is it that sleeps?"
M: Give up your body identity. Since when did you start knowing yourself? Concentrate on that only.
V: Who is the one who slept?
M: Give up that question, because it is not relevant. There is no value in your question. At the moment I do not want you to ask any questions. I am driving you to the source and would be satisfied with your knowing what you are. I want to find out from you with what it is you know you are. Confine yourself to this area. Focus only on your knowing that “you are.” How do you know you are? Just be there. You have been shadow-boxing with the many concepts you have collected from the world — you are fighting with all that. What is the use of it?
You know you are. How do you know it? And with what did you know it? This is the sum total of my teaching needed to put you on the right track, its very quintessence.
When all your questions are answered, my talks are very easy to understand. And when you understand, all your questions have gone. It is a vicious circle: So long as you have questions, you cannot follow what is being said.
V: What happens is that certain questions keep cropping up.
M: I am going for the basic questions only: What are you? Since when are you? How did you happen to be? And due to what are you? I don’t want to deal with a lot of sundry questions; they are of no value to me. If you like my teachings, you may sit here; otherwise, by all means quit this place.
In any true spiritual search, whatever you have heard, whatever you have done, is of no use at all to arrive at the real truth. The knowledge “you are” has happened. Due to what?
First of all, you witness that you are. Stay put there only, with this “you are.” Just be there. Then with the help of this “you are,” you are witnessing the world. If you are not witnessing “you are,” you will not be witnessing the world either.
When you do not know you are, people also will not know that you are and they will cremate you. So long as you know you are, people will respect you, as you are something. When you do not know you are, people will dispose of you. Stay put there. You must be present there only, at this point — the “you are” point, bereft of all concepts, all hearsay. When you recognize and realize the knowledge that you are, you will also know what Krishna is. Any number of incarnations have come and gone. But when you understand yourself, you will realize all the incarnations.
Because you know you are, you know the world is. You also know that God is. If you don’t know you are, where is the world and where is the God?
There have been so many incarnations, and now you know you are. That “you are” is the divine principle because of which all the incarnations were. Many people have come here, but rarely has anybody after listening to me, come closer to himself, rarely anyone will understand what I am driving at. But that rare person, in the process of understanding me, will come closer to himself, the one who listens. Those who really understand will abide in themselves.
You did not know your parents before your birth, nor did the parents know you. In spite of this, how did the knowledge “you are” sprout in that particular situation? What is this amazing thing? I am again putting the same question. The parents did not know the child, and the child also did not know his parents before his birth. Now the child says, Here I am. How is that?
This itself is the greatest miracle, that I got the news “I am.” Have you any doubts that you are?
Text copyright © 1994 Robert Powell. Reprinted by permission from The Ultimate Medicine, Chapter 5, ‘The Greatest Miracle is the News “I Am”.’
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 conversations that Sri Nisargadatta held with visitors about a year before his death, when he was 83 years old and sick with cancer. Although it affords extraordinary glimpses into the mind of a man who had been self-realized for over half a century, the tone is occasionally impatient and even cranky. This is a good book to read after you've finished I Am That.
This page was published on October 3, 2001 and last revised on June 8, 2017.