‘Rest in the I Am’
There is no resting in the ‘I Am’
Resting is the nature of I Am.
I suspect you mean that the ego, which is of the nature of ‘doing’ cannot ‘do resting’ as the I Am.
The resolution of this conundrum is that when the ego turns towards the I Am or the Self, it disappears.
A common objection is that anything the ego does, such as ‘trying to rest as the I AM’ just perpetuates the ego.
However, this is just a logical supposition, ie. it is a belief, based on logic, and is not actually the way it is.
In practice, when the ego-I turns inwards, it disappears. Ego is only of the nature of movement, or doing, and when it turns inwards, towards the I Am, which is of the nature of being (ie. no movement, not doing), the ego-I becomes still and disappears.
Being an illusion, it, the ego-I, never really was.
Here are four quotes of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj that conveys the essence of his teachings. They are all taken from the book I Am That. Read them several times, contemplate what he is trying to convey, and put the teachings into practice.
The following are quotes from Nisargadatta Maharaj, taken from the book ‘I Am That’. The subheadings are my own additions; I have also added bold type where I felt emphasis would be useful:
Questioner: You were telling us that there are many self-styled Gurus, but a real Guru is very rare. There are many jnanis who imagine themselves realised, but all they have is book knowledge and a high opinion of themselves. Sometimes they impress, even fascinate, attract disciples and make them waste their time in useless practices. After some years, when the disciple takes stock of himself, he finds no change. When he complains to his teacher, he gets the usual rebuke that he did not try hard enough. The blame is on the lack of faith and love in the heart of the disciple, while in reality the blame is on the Guru, who had no business in accepting disciples and raising their hopes. How to protect oneself from such Gurus?
Maharaj: Why be so concerned with others? Whoever may be the Guru, if he is pure of heart and acts in good faith, he will do his disciples no harm. If there is no progress, the fault lies with the disciples, their laziness and lack of self-control.
On the other hand, if the disciple is earnest and applies himself intelligently and with zest to his sadhana, he is bound to meet a more qualified teacher, who will take him further.
Your question flows from three false assumptions: that one needs concern oneself with others; that one can evaluate another and that the progress of the disciple is the task and responsibility of his Guru. In reality, the Guru’s role is only to instruct and encourage; the disciple is totally responsible for himself.
On surrender to a guru
Q: We are told that total surrender to the Guru is enough, that the Guru will do the rest.
M: Of course, when there is total surrender, complete relinquishment of all concern with one’s past, presents and future, with one’s physical and spiritual security and standing, a new life dawns, full of love and beauty; then the Guru is not important, for the disciple has broken the shell of self-defence. Complete self-surrender by itself is liberation.
What if both guru and seeker are inadequate?
Q: When both the disciple and his teacher are inadequate, what will happen?
M: In the long run all will be well. After all, the real Self of both is not affected by the comedy they play for a time. They will sober up and ripen and shift to a higher level of relationship.
Q: Or, they may separate.
M: Yes, they may separate. After all, no relationship is forever. Duality is a temporary state.
Is meeting a guru a chance occurrence?
Q: Is it by accident that I met you and by another accident shall we separate never to meet again? Or is my meeting you a part of some cosmic pattern, a fragment in the great drama of our lives?
M: The real is meaningful and the meaningful relates to reality. If our relationship is meaningful to you and me, it cannot be accidental. The future affects the present as much, as the past.
How can I determine a True Guru?
Q: How can I make out who is a real saint and who is not?
M: You cannot, unless you have a clear insight into the heart of man. Appearances are deceptive. To see clearly, your mind must be pure and unattached. Unless you know yourself well, how can you know another? And when you know yourself – you are the other.
Leave others alone for some time and examine yourself. There are so many things you do not know about yourself – what are you, who are you, how did you come to be born, what are you doing now and why, where are you going, what is the meaning and purpose of your life, your death, your future? Have you a past, have you a future? How did you come to live in turmoil and sorrow, while your entire being strives for happiness and peace? These are weighty matters and have to be attended to first. You have no need, nor time for finding who is a jnani and who is not?
Tom: ie. knowing yourself is the chief aim, and this should be the focus of your attention, not concerning yourself about who is a real jnani/guru and who isn’t.
Q: I must select my guru rightly.
M: Be the right man and the right Guru will surely find you.
The following text is a summary of Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teaching and was written by Maurice Frydman, the translator and editor of ‘I Am That’, Nisargadatta’s most widely read work. The text was entitled ‘Nisarga Yoga’ which, as Maurice Frydman explains below, means ‘the easy or natural yoga’, and it was originally published as an appendix to ‘I Am That’.
The text below is essentially the same as how it was originally published except for my addition of bold type for emphasis of what I felt were key points for a seeker of liberation.
I have also made a compilation of direct quotes from Nisargadatta Maharaj which fully explains his method for the discerning reader.
Wishing you peace and realisation
In the humble abode of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, but for the electric lights and the noises of the street traffic, one would not know in which period of human history one dwells. There is an atmosphere of timelessness about his tiny room; the subjects discussed are timeless – valid for all times; the way they are expounded and examined is also timeless; the centuries, millennia and yugas fall off and one deals with matters immensely ancient and eternally new.
The discussions held and teachings given would have been the same ten thousand years ago and will be the same ten thousand years hence. There will always be conscious beings wondering about the fact of their being conscious and enquiring into its cause and aim. Whence am I? Who am I? Whither am I? Such questions have no beginning and no end. And it is crucial to know the answers, for without a full understanding of oneself, both in time and in timelessness, life is but a dream, imposed on us by powers we do not know, for purposes we cannot grasp.
Maharaj is not a learned. There is no erudition behind his homely Marathi; authorities he does not quote, scriptures are rarely mentioned; the astonishingly rich spiritual heritage of India is implicit in him rather than explicit. No rich Ashram was ever built around him and most of his followers are humble working people cherishing the opportunity of spending an hour with him from time to time.
Simplicity and humility are the keynotes of his life and teachings; physically and inwardly he never takes the higher seat; the essence of being on which he talks, he sees in others as clearly as he sees it in himself. He admits that while he is aware of it, others are not yet, but this difference is temporary and of little importance, except to the mind and its ever-changing content. When asked about his Yoga, he says he has none to offer, no system to propound, no theology, cosmology, psychology or philosophy. He knows the real nature – his own and his listeners’ – and he points it out. The listener cannot see it because he cannot see the obvious, simply and directly. All he knows, he knows with his mind, stimulated with the senses. That the mind is a sense in itself, he does not even suspect.
The Nisarga Yoga, the ‘natural’ Yoga of Maharaj, is disconcertingly simple – the mind, which is all becoming, must recognise and penetrate its own being, not as being this or that, here or there, then or now, but just as timeless being.
This timeless being is the source of both life and consciousness. In terms of time, space and causation it is all-powerful, being the causeless cause; all-pervading, eternal, in the sense of being beginningless, endless and ever-present. Uncaused, it is free; all-pervading, it knows; undivided, it is happy. It lives, it loves, and it has endless fun, shaping and re-shaping the universe. Every man has it, every man is it, but not all know themselves as they are, and therefore identify themselves with the name and shape of their bodies and the contents of their consciousness.
To rectify this misunderstanding of one’s reality, the only way is to take full cognisance of the ways of one’s mind and to turn it into an instrument of self-discovery. The mind was originally a tool in the struggle for biological survival. It had to learn the laws and ways of Nature working hand-in-hand can raise life to a higher level. But, in the process the mind acquired the art of symbolic thinking and communication, the art and skill of language. Words became important. Ideas and abstractions acquired an appearance of reality, the conceptual replaced the real, with the result that man now lives in a verbal world, crowded with words and dominated by words.
Obviously, for dealing with things and people words are exceedingly useful. But they make us live in a world totally symbolic and, therefore, unreal. To break out from this prison of the verbal mind into reality, one must be able to shift one’s focus from the word to what it refers to, the thing itself.
The most commonly used word and most pregnant with feelings, and ideas is the word ‘I’. Mind tends to include in it anything and everything, the body as well as the Absolute. In practice it stands as a pointer to an experience which is direct, immediate and immensely significant. To be, and to know that one is, is most important. And to be of interest, a thing must be related to one’s conscious existence, which is the focal point of every desire and fear. For, the ultimate aim of every desire is to enhance and intensify this sense of existence, while all fear is, in its essence, the fear of self-extinction.
To delve into the sense of ‘I’ – so real and vital – in order to reach its source is the core of Nisarga Yoga. Not being continuous, the sense of ‘I’ must have a source from which it flows and to which it returns. This timeless source of conscious being is what Maharaj calls the self-nature, self-being, swarupa.
As to the methods of realising one’s supreme identity with self-being, Maharaj is peculiarly non-committal. He says that each has his own way to reality, and that there can be no general rule. But, for all the gateway to reality, by whatever road one arrives to it, is the sense of ‘I am’. It is through grasping the full import of the ‘I am’, and going beyond it to its source, that one can realise the supreme state, which is also the primordial and the ultimate. The difference between the beginning and the end lies only in the mind. When the mind is dark or turbulent, the source is not perceived. When it is clear and luminous, it becomes a faithful reflection of the source. The source is always the same – beyond darkness and light, beyond life and death, beyond the conscious and the unconscious.
This dwelling on the sense ‘I am’ is the simple, easy and natural Yoga, the Nisarga Yoga. There is no secrecy in it and no dependence; no preparation is required and no initiation. Whoever is puzzled by his very existence as a conscious being and earnestly wants to find his own source, can grasp the ever-present sense of ‘I am’ and dwell on it assiduously and patiently, till the clouds obscuring the mind dissolve and the heart of being is seen in all its glory.
The Nisarga Yoga, when persevered in and brought to its fruition, results in one becoming conscious and active in what one always was unconsciously and passively. There is no difference in kind – only in manner – the difference between a lump of gold and a glorious ornament shaped out of it. Life goes on, but it is spontaneous and free, meaningful and happy.
Maharaj most lucidly describes this natural, spontaneous state, but as the man born blind cannot visualise light and colours, so is the unenlightened mind unable to give meaning to such descriptions. Expressions like dispassionate happiness, affectionate detachment, timelessness and causelessness of things and being – they all sound strange and cause no response. Intuitively we feel they have a deep meaning, and they even create in us a strange longing for the ineffable, a forerunner of things to come, but that is all. As Maharaj puts it: words are pointers, they show the direction but they will not come along with us. Truth is the fruit of earnest action, words merely point the way.
Nisargadatta Maharaj often spoke about his own spiritual journey and practice, and how his guru’s teachings led him to his own eventual self-realisation. In his most widely read book, ‘I Am That’, Nisargadatta speaks many times of his practice and the profound effect his own guru had upon him. The following are direct quotes from I Am That focusing on what Nisargadatta spoke of his own sadhana (spiritual practice) and the teachings of his own Guru.
I have not added any commentary as I think the excerpts speak for themselves, but I have added bold text to emphasize specific points I thought would be of use for seekers in terms of making the sadhana practical.
I hope you find the following quotes both instructive and inspiring for your own sadhana,
It so happened that I trusted my Guru. He told me I am nothing but my self and I believed him. Trusting him, I behaved accordingly and ceased caring for what was not me, nor mine.
Questioner: Kindly tell us how you realised.
Maharaj: I met my Guru when I was 34 and realised by 37.
Questioner: What happened? What was the change?
Maharaj: Pleasure and pain lost their sway over me. I was free from desire and fear. I found myself full, needing nothing. I saw that in the ocean of pure awareness, on the surface of the universal consciousness, the numberless waves of the phenomenal worlds arise and subside beginninglessly and endlessly. As consciousness, they are all me. As events they are all mine. There is a mysterious power that looks after them. That power is awareness, Self, Life, God, whatever name you give it. It is the foundation, the ultimate support of all that is, just like gold is the basis for all gold jewellery. And it is so intimately ours! Abstract the name and shape from the jewellery and the gold becomes obvious. Be free of name and form and of the desires and fears they create, then what remains?
M: Yes, the void remains. But the void is full to the brim.
Q: Please tell me which road to self-realisation is the shortest.
M: No way is short or long, but some people are more in earnest and some are less. I can tell you about myself. I was a simple man, but I trusted my Guru. What he told me to do, I did. He told me to concentrate on ‘I am’ – I did. He told me that I am beyond all perceivables and conceivables — I believed.
I gave him my heart and soul, my entire attention and the whole of my spare time (I had to work to keep my family alive). As a result of faith and earnest application, I realised my self (swarupa) within three years. You may choose any way that suits you; your earnestness will determine the rate of progress.
Q: No hint for me?
M: Establish yourself firmly in the awareness of ‘I am’. This is the beginning and also the end of all endeavour.
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.
…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.
Put in all and you will get all. I was doing it. All my time I was giving to my Guru and to what he told me.
Q: Still, you have a body and you depend on it.
M: Again you assume that your point of view is the only correct one. I repeat: I was not, am not, shall not be a body. To me this is a fact. I too was under the illusion of having been born, but my Guru made me see that birth and death are mere ideas — birth is merely the idea: ‘I have a body’. And death — ‘I have lost my body’. Now, when I know I am not a body, the body may be there or may not — what difference does it make? The body-mind is like a room. It is there, but I need not live in it all the time.
I trusted my Guru and he proved right. Trust me, if you can. Keep in mind what I tell you: desire nothing, for you lack nothing. The very seeking prevents you from finding.
‘One can give food, clothes, shelter, knowledge, affection, but the highest gift is the gospel of enlightenment‘, my Guru used to say. You are right, enlightenment is the highest good. Once you have it, nobody can take it away from you.
I am now 74 years old. And yet I feel that I am an infant. I feel clearly that in spite of all the changes I am a child. My Guru told me: that child, which is you even now, is your real self (swarupa). Go back to that state of pure being, where the ‘I am’ is still in its purity before it got contaminated with ‘this I am’ or ‘that I am’. Your burden is of false self-identifications — abandon them all.
My Guru told me — ‘Trust me. I tell you; you are divine. Take it as the absolute truth. Your joy is divine, your suffering is divine too. All comes from God. Remember it always. You are God, your will alone is done’.
I did believe him and soon realised how wonderfully true and accurate were his words. I did not condition my mind by thinking: ‘I am God, I am wonderful, I am beyond’. I simply followed his instruction which was to focus the mind on pure being ‘I am’, and stay in it. I used to sit for hours together, with, nothing but the ‘I am’ in my mind and soon peace and joy and a deep all-embracing love became my normal state. In it all disappeared — myself, my Guru, the life I lived, the world around me. Only peace remained and unfathomable silence.
When I met my Guru, he told me: ‘You are not what you take yourself to be. Find out what you are. Watch the sense ‘I am’, find your real self’. I obeyed him, because I trusted him. I did as he told me. All my spare time I would spend looking at myself in silence. And what a difference it made, and how soon! It took me only three years to realise my true nature. My Guru died soon after I met him, but it made no difference. I remembered what he told me and persevered.
Q: The mind is so absolutely restless. For quieting it what is the way?
M: Trust the teacher. Take my own case. My Guru ordered me to attend to the sense ‘I am’ and to give attention to nothing else. I just obeyed. I did not follow any particular course of breathing, or meditation, or study of scriptures. Whatever happened, I would turn away my attention from it and remain with the sense ‘I am’, it may look too simple, even crude. My only reason for doing it was that my Guru told me so. Yet it worked! Obedience is a powerful solvent of all desires and fears.
Just turn away from all that occupies the mind; do whatever work you have to complete, but avoid new obligations; keep empty, keep available, resist not what comes uninvited.
In the end you reach a state of non-grasping, of joyful non-attachment, of inner ease and freedom indescribable, yet wonderfully real.
My Guru, before he died, told me: Believe me, you are the Supreme Reality. Don’t doubt my words, don’t disbelieve me. I am telling you the truth – act on it. I could not forget his words and by not forgetting – I have realised.
I lived my life, plied my trade, looked after my family, and every free moment I would spend just remembering my Guru and his words. He died soon after and I had only the memory to fall back on. It was enough.
Q: How did you get it?
M: I found it all in the holy presence of my Guru — I did nothing on my own. He told me to be quiet – and I did it – as much as I could.
Q: You made no efforts whatsoever?
M: None. Believe it or not, I was not even anxious to realise. He only told me that I am the Supreme and then died. I just could not disbelieve him. The rest happened by itself. I found myself changing — that is all. As a matter of fact, I was astonished. But a desire arose in me to verify his words. I was so sure that he, could not possibly have told a lie, that I felt I shall either realise the full meaning of his words or die. I was feeling quite determined, but did not know what to do. I would spend hours thinking of him and his assurance, not arguing, but just remembering what he told me.
Q: What happened to you then? How did you know that you are the Supreme?
M: Nobody came to tell me. Nor was I told so inwardly. In fact, it was only in the beginning when I was making efforts, that I was passing through some strange experiences; seeing lights, hearing voices, meeting gods and goddesses and conversing with them. Once the Guru told me: ‘You are the Supreme Reality’, I ceased having visions and trances and became very quiet and simple. I found myself desiring and knowing less and less, until I could say in utter astonishment: ‘I know nothing, I want nothing.’
Questioner: Is your world full of things and people as is mine?
Nisargadatta Maharaj: No, it is full of myself.
Questioner: But do you see and hear as we do?
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. Continue reading