Questioner: When I look into myself, I find my strongest desire is to create a monument, to build something which will outlast me. Even when I think of a home, wife and child, it is because it is a lasting, solid, testimony to myself.
Nisargadatta Maharaj: Right, build yourself a monument. How do you propose to do it?
Q: It matters little what I build, as long as it is permanent.
M: Surely, you can see for yourself that nothing is permanent. All wears out, breaks down, dissolves. The very ground on which you build gives way. What can you build that will outlast all?
Q: Intellectually, verbally, I am aware that all is transient. Yet, somehow my heart wants permanency. I want to create something that lasts.
M: Then you must build it of something lasting. What have you that is lasting? Neither your body nor mind will last. You must look elsewhere.
Q: I long for permanency, but I find it nowhere.
M: Are you, yourself, not permanent?
Q: I was born, I shall die.
M: Can you truly say you were not before you were born and can you possibly say when dead: ‘Now I am no more’? You cannot say from your own experience that you are not. You can only say ‘I am’. Others too cannot tell you ‘you are not’.
Q: There is no ‘I am’ in sleep.
M: Before you make such sweeping statements, examine carefully your waking state. You will soon discover that it is full of gaps, when the min blanks out. Notice how little you remember even when fully awake. You just don’t remember. A gap in memory is not necessarily a gap in consciousness.
Q: Can I make myself remember my state of deep sleep?
M: Of course! By eliminating the intervals of inadvertence during your waking hours you will gradually eliminate the long interval of absent-mindedness, which you call sleep. You will be aware that you are asleep.
Q: Yet, the problem of permanency, of continuity of being, is not solved.
M: Permanency is a mere idea, born of the action of time. Time again depends of memory. By permanency you mean unfailing memory through endless time. You want to eternalise the mind, which is not possible.
Q: Then what is eternal?
M: That which does not change with time. You cannot eternalise a transient thing — only the changeless is eternal.
Q: I am familiar with the general sense of what you say. I do not crave for more knowledge. All I want is peace.
M: You can have for the asking all the peace you want.
Q: I am asking.
M: You must ask with an undivided heart and live an integrated life.
M: Detach yourself from all that makes your mind restless. Renounce all that disturbs its peace. If you want peace, deserve it.
Q: Surely everybody deserves peace.
M: Those only deserve it, who don’t disturb it.
Q: In what way do I disturb peace?
M: By being a slave to your desires and fears.
Q: Even when they are justified?
M: Emotional reactions, born of ignorance or inadvertence, are never justified. Seek a clear mind and a clean heart. All you need is to keep quietly alert, enquiring into the real nature of yourself. This is the only way to peace.
The above excerpt is from I Am That by Nisargadatta Maharaj