67. Experience is not the Real Thing
Maharaj: The seeker is he who is in search of himself. Soon he discovers that his own body he cannot be. Once the conviction: 'I am not the body' becomes so well grounded that he can no longer feel, think and act for and on behalf of the body, he will easily discover that he is the universal being, knowing, acting, that in him and through him the entire universe is real, conscious and active. This is the heart of the problem. Either you are body-conscious and a slave of circumstances, or you are the universal consciousness itself -- and in full control of every event.
Yet consciousness, individual or universal, is not my true abode; I am not in it, it is not mine, there is no 'me' in it. I am beyond, though it is not easy to explain how one can be neither conscious, nor unconscious, but just beyond. I cannot say that I am in God or I am God; God is the universal light and love, the universal witness: I am beyond the universal even.
Questioner: In that case you are without name and shape. What kind of being have you?
M: I am what I am, neither with form nor formless, neither conscious nor unconscious. I am outside all these categories.
Q: You are taking the neti-neti (not this, not this) approach.
M: You cannot find me by mere denial. I am as well everything, as nothing. Nor both, nor either. These definitions apply to the Lord of the Universe, not to me.
Q: Do you intend to convey that you are just nothing.
M: Oh, no! I am complete and perfect. I am the beingness of being, the knowingness of knowing, the fullness of happiness. You cannot reduce me to emptiness!
Q: If you are beyond words, what shall we talk about? Metaphysically speaking, what you say holds together; there is no inner contradiction. But there is no food for me in what you say. It is so completely beyond my urgent needs. When I ask for bread, you are giving jewels. They are beautiful, no doubt, but I am hungry.
M: It is not so. I am offering you exactly what you need -- awakening. You are not hungry and you need no bread. You need cessation, relinquishing, disentanglement. What you believe you need is not what you need. Your real need I know, not you. You need to return to the state in which I am -- your natural state. Anything else you may think of is an illusion and an obstacle. Believe me, you need nothing except to be what you are. You imagine you will increase your value by acquisition. It is like gold imagining that an addition of copper will improve it. Elimination and purification, renunciation of all that is foreign to your nature is enough. All else is vanity.
Q: It is easier said than done. A man comes to you with stomach-ache and you advise him to disgorge his stomach. Of course, without the mind there will be no problems. But the mind is there -- most tangibly.
M: It is the mind that tells you that the mind is there. Don't be deceived. All the endless arguments about the mind are produced by the mind itself, for its own protection, continuation and expansion. It is the blank refusal to consider the convolutions and convulsions of the mind that can take you beyond it.
Q: Sir, I am an humble seeker, while you are the Supreme Reality itself. Now the seeker approaches the Supreme in order to be enlightened. What does the Supreme do?
M: Listen to what I keep on telling you and do not move away from it. Think of it all the time and of nothing else. Having reached that far, abandon all thoughts, not only of the world, but of yourself also. Stay beyond all thoughts, in silent being-awareness. It is not progress, for what you come to is already there in you, waiting for you.
Q: So you say I should try to stop thinking and stay steady in the idea: 'I am'.
M: Yes, and whatever thoughts come to you in connection with the 'I am', empty them of all meaning, pay them no attention.
Q: I happen to meet many young people coming from the West and I find that there is a basic difference when I compare them to the Indians. It looks as if their psyche (antahkarana) is different. Concepts like Self, Reality, pure mind, universal consciousness the Indian mind grasps easily. They ring familiar, they taste sweet. The Western mind does not respond, or just rejects them. It concretises and wants to utilize at once in the service of accepted values. These values are often personal: health, well-being, prosperity; sometimes they are social -- a better society, a happier life for all; all are connected with worldly problems, personal or impersonal. Another difficulty one comes across quite often in talking with the Westerners is that to them everything is experience -- as they want to experience food, drink and women, art and travels, so do they want to experience Yoga, realization and liberation. To them it is just another experience, to be had for a price. They imagine such experience can be purchased and they bargain about the cost. When one Guru quotes too high, in terms of time and effort, they go to another, who offers instalment terms, apparently very easy, but beset with unfulfillable conditions. It is the old story of not thinking of the grey monkey when taking the medicine! In this case it is not thinking of the world, 'abandoning all self-hood', 'extinguishing every desire', 'becoming perfect celibates' etc. Naturally there is vast cheating going on all levels and the results are nil. Some Gurus in sheer desperation abandon all discipline, prescribe no conditions, advise effortlessness, naturalness, simply living in passive awareness, without any pattern of 'must' and 'must not' And there are many disciples whose past experiences brought them to dislike themselves so badly that they just do not want to look at themselves. If they are not disgusted, they are bored. They have surfeit of self-knowledge, they want something else.
M: Let them not think of themselves, if they do not like it. Let them stay with a Guru, watch him, think of him. Soon they will experience a kind of bliss, quite new, never experienced before, except, maybe, in childhood. The experience is so unmistakably new, that it will attract their attention and create interest; once the interest is roused, orderly application will follow.
Q: These people are very critical and suspicious. They cannot be otherwise, having passed through much learning and much disappointment. On one hand they want experience, on the other they mistrust it. How to reach them, God alone knows!
M: True insight and love will reach them.
Q: When they have some spiritual experience, another difficulty arises. They complain that the experience does not last, that it comes and goes in a haphazard way. Having got hold of the lollipop, they want to suck it all the time.
M: Experience, however sublime, is not the real thing. By its very nature it comes and goes. Self-realization is not an acquisition. It is more of the nature of understanding. Once arrived at, it cannot be lost. On the other hand, consciousness is changeful, flowing, undergoing transformation from moment to moment. Do not hold on to consciousness and its contents. Consciousness held, ceases. To try to perpetuate a flash of insight, or a burst of happiness is destructive of what it wants to preserve. What comes must go. The permanent is beyond all comings and goings. Go to the root of all experience, to the sense of being. Beyond being and not-being lies the immensity of the real. Try and try again.
Q: To try one needs faith.
M: There must be the desire first. When the desire is strong, the willingness to try will come. You do not need assurance of success, when the desire is strong. You are ready to gamble.
Q: Strong desire, strong faith -- it comes to the same. These people do not trust either their parents or the society, or even themselves. All they touched turned to ashes. Give them one experience absolutely genuine, indubitable, beyond the argumentations of the mind and they will follow you to the world's end.
M: But I am doing nothing else! Tirelessly I draw their attention to the one incontrovertible factor -- that of being. Being needs no proofs -- it proves all else. If only they go deeply into the fact of being and discover the vastness and the glory to which the 'I am' is the door, and cross the door and go beyond, their life will be full of happiness and light. Believe me, the effort needed is as nothing when compared with the discoveries arrived at.
Q: What you say is right. But these people have neither confidence nor patience. Even a short effort tires them. It is really pathetic to see them groping blindly and yet unable to hold on to the helping hand. They are such nice people fundamentally but totally bewildered. I tell them: you cannot have truth on your own terms. You must accept the conditions. To this they answer: Some will accept the conditions and some will not. Acceptance or non-acceptance are superficial and accidental; reality is in all; there must be a way for all to tread -- with no conditions attached.
M: There is such a way, open to all, on every level, in every walk of life. Everybody is aware of himself. The deepening and broadening of self-awareness is the royal way. Call it mindfulness, or witnessing, or just attention -- it is for all. None is unripe for it and none can fail.
But, of course, your must not be merely alert. Your mindfulness must include the mind also. Witnessing is primarily awareness of consciousness and its movements.