Questioner: I have met many realised people, but never a liberated man. Have you come across a liberated man, or does liberation mean, among other things, also abandoning the body?
Maharaj: What do you mean by realisation and liberation?
Q: By realisation I mean a wonderful experience of peace, goodness and beauty, when the world makes sense and there is an all-pervading unity of both substance and essence. While such experience does not last, it cannot be forgotten. It shines in the mind, both as memory and longing.
I know what I am talking about, for I have had such experiences.
By liberation I mean to be permanently in that wonderful state. What I am asking is whether liberation is compatible with the survival of the body.
M: What is wrong with the body?
Q: The body is so weak and short-lived. It creates needs and cravings. It limits one grievously.
M: So what? Let the physical expressions be limited. But liberation is of the self from its false and self-imposed ideas; it is not contained in some particular experience, however glorious.
Q: Does it last for ever?
M: All experience is time bound. Whatever has a beginning must have an end.
Q: So liberation, in my sense of the word, does not exist?
M: On the contrary, one is always free. You are, both conscious and free to be conscious. Nobody can take this away from you. Do you ever know yourself non-existing, or unconscious?
Q: I may not remember, but that does not disprove my being occasionally unconscious.
M: Why not turn away from the experience to the experiencer and realise the full import of the only true statement you can make: 'I am'?
Q: How is it done?
M: There is no 'how' here. Just keep in mind the feeling 'I am', merge in it, till your mind and feeling become one. By repeated attempts you will stumble on the right balance of attention and affection and your mind will be firmly established in the thought-feeling 'I am'. Whatever you think, say, or do, this sense of immutable and affectionate being remains as the ever-present background of the mind.
Q: And you call it liberation?
M: I call it normal. What is wrong with being, knowing and acting effortlessly and happily? Why consider it so unusual as to expect the immediate destruction of the body? What is wrong with the body that it should die? Correct your attitude to your body and leave it alone. Don't pamper, don't torture. Just keep it going, most of the time below the threshold of conscious attention.
Q: The memory of my wonderful experiences haunts me. I want them back.
M: Because you want them back, you cannot have them. The state of craving for anything blocks all deeper experience. Nothing of value can happen to a mind which knows exactly what it wants. For nothing the mind can visualise and want is of much value.
Q: Then what is worth wanting?
M: Want the best. The highest happiness, the greatest freedom. Desirelessness is the highest bliss. Q: Freedom from desire is not the freedom I want. I want the freedom to fulfil my longings.
M: You are free to fulfil your longings. As a matter of fact, you are doing nothing else.
Q: I try, but there are obstacles which leave me frustrated.
M: Overcome them.
Q: I cannot, I am too weak.
M: What makes you weak? What is weakness? Others fulfil their desires, why don't you?
Q: I must be lacking energy.
M: What happened to your energy? Where did it go? Did you not scatter it over so many contradictory desires and pursuits? You don't have an infinite supply of energy.
Q: Why not?
M: Your aims are small and low. They do not call for more. Only God's energy is infinite -- because He wants nothing for Himself. Be like Him and all your desires will be fulfilled. The higher your aims and vaster your desires, the more energy you will have for their fulfilment. Desire the good of all and the universe will work with you. But if you want your own pleasure, you must earn it the hard way.
Before desiring, deserve.
Q: I am engaged in the study of philosophy, sociology and education. I think more mental development is needed before I can dream of self-realisation. Am I on the right track?
M: To earn a livelihood some specialised knowledge is needed. General knowledge develops the mind, no doubt. But if you are going to spend your life in amassing knowledge, you build a wall round yourself. To go beyond the mind, a well- furnished mind is not needed.
Q: Then what is needed?
M: Distrust your mind, and go beyond.
Q: What shall I find beyond the mind?
M: The direct experience of being, knowing and loving.
Q: How does one go beyond the mind?
M: There are many starting points -- they all lead to the same goal. You may begin with selfless work, abandoning the fruits of action; you may then give up thinking and end in giving up all desires. Here, giving up (tyaga) is the operational factor. Or, you may not bother about any thing you want, or think, or do and just stay put in the thought and feeling 'I am', focussing 'I am' firmly in your mind. All kinds of experience may come to you -- remain unmoved in the knowledge that all perceivable is transient, and only the 'I am' endures.
Q: I cannot give all my life to such practices. I have my duties to attend to.
M: By all means attend to your duties. Action, in which you are not emotionally involved and which is beneficial and does not cause suffering will not bind you. You may be engaged in several directions and work with enormous zest, yet remain inwardly free and quiet, with a mirror-like mind, which reflects all, without being affected.
Q: Is such a state realisable?
M: I would not talk about it, if it were not. Why should I engage in fancies?
Q: Everybody quotes scriptures.
M: Those who know only scriptures know nothing. To know is to be. I know what I am talking about; it is not from reading, or hearsay.
Q: I am studying Sanskrit under a professor, but really I am only reading scriptures. I am in search of self-realisation and I came to get the needed guidance. Kindly tell me what am I to do?
M: Since you have read the scriptures, why do you ask me?
Q: The scriptures show the general directions but the individual needs personal instructions.
M: Your own self is your ultimate teacher (,sadguru). The outer teacher (Guru) is merely a milestone. It is only your inner teacher, that will walk with you to the goal, for he is the goal.
Q: The inner teacher is not easily reached.
M: Since he is in you and with you, the difficulty cannot be serious. Look within, and you will find him.
Q: When I look within, I find sensations and perceptions, thoughts and feelings, desires and fears, memories and expectations. I am immersed in this cloud and see nothing else.
M: That which sees all this, and the nothing too, is the inner teacher. He alone is, all else only appears to be. He is your own self (swarupa), your hope and assurance of freedom; find him and cling to him and you will be saved and safe.
Q: I do believe you, but when it comes to the actual finding of this inner self, I find it escapes me. M: The idea 'it escapes me', where does it arise?
Q: In the mind.
M: And who knows the mind.
Q: The witness of the mind knows the mind.
M: Did anybody come to you and say: 'I am the witness of your mind'?
Q: Of course not. He would have been just another idea in the mind.
M: Then who is the witness?
Q: I am.
M: So, you know the witness because you are the witness. You need not see the witness in front of you. Here again, to be is to know.
Q: Yes, I see that I am the witness, the awareness itself. But in which way does it profit me?
M: What a question! What kind of profit do you expect? To know what you are, is it not good enough?
Q: What are the uses of self-knowledge?
M: It helps you to understand what you are not and keeps you free from false ideas, desires and actions.
Q: If I am the witness only, what do right and wrong matter?
M: What helps you to know yourself is right. What prevents, is wrong. To know one's real self is bliss, to forget -- is sorrow.
Q: Is the witness-consciousness the real Self?
M: It is the reflection of the real in the mind (buddhi). The real is beyond. The witness is the door through which you pass beyond.
Q: What is the purpose of meditation?
M: Seeing the false as the false, is meditation. This must go on all the time.
Q: We are told to meditate regularly.
M: Deliberate daily exercise in discrimination between the true and the false and renunciation of the false is meditation. There are many kinds of meditation to begin with, but they all merge finally into one.
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.