Questioner: Does a jnani die?
Maharaj: He is beyond life and death. What we take to be inevitable -- to be born and to die -appears to him but a way of expressing movement in the Immovable, change in the changeless, end in the endless. To the jnani it is obvious that nothing is born and nothing dies, nothing lasts and nothing changes, all is as it is -- timelessly.
Q: You say the jnani is beyond. Beyond what? Beyond knowledge?
M: Knowledge has its rising and setting. Consciousness comes into being and goes out of being. It is a matter of daily occurrence and observation. We all know that sometimes we are conscious and sometimes not. When we are not conscious, it appears to us as a darkness or a blank. But a jnani is aware of himself as neither conscious nor unconscious, but purely aware, a witness to the three states of the mind and their contents.
Q: When does this witnessing begin?
M: To a jnani nothing has beginning or ending. As salt dissolves in water, so does everything dissolve into pure being. Wisdom is eternally negating the unreal. To see the unreal is wisdom. Beyond this lies the inexpressible.
Q: There is in me the conviction: 'I am the body' Granted, I am talking from unwisdom. But the state of feeling oneself the body, the body-mind, the mind-body, or even pure mind -- when did it begin?
M: You cannot speak of a beginning of consciousness. The very ideas of beginning and time are within consciousness. To talk meaningfully of the beginning of anything, you must step out of it. And the moment you step out, you realise that there is no such thing and never was. There is only reality, in which no ‘thing' has any being on its own. Like waves are inseparable from the ocean, so is all existence rooted in being.
Q: The fact is that here and now I am asking you: when did the feeling 'I am the body' arise? At my birth? or this morning?
Q: But I remember having it yesterday too!
M: The memory of yesterday is now only.
Q: But surely I exist in time. I have a past and a future.
M: That is how you imagine -- now.
Q: There must have been a beginning.
Q: And what about ending?
M: What has no beginning cannot end.
Q: But I am conscious of my question.
M: A false question cannot be answered. It can only be seen as false.
Q: To me it is real.
M: When did it appear real to you? Now.
Q: Yes, it is quite real to me -- now.
M: What is real about your question? It is a state of mind. No state of mind can be more real than the mind itself. Is the mind real? It is but a collection of states, each of them transitory. How can a succession of transitory states be considered real?
Q: Like beads on a string, events follow events -- for ever.
M: They are all strung on the basic idea: 'I am the body'. But even this is a mental state and does not last. It comes and goes like all other states. The illusion of being the body-mind is there, only because it is not investigated. Non-investigation is the thread on which all the states of mind are strung. It is like darkness in a closed room. It is there -- apparently. But when the room is opened, where does it go? It goes nowhere, because it was not there. All states of mind, all names and forms of existence are rooted in non-enquiry, non-investigation, in imagination and credulity. It is right to say 'I am', but to say 'I am this', 'I am that' is a sign of not enquiring, not examining, of mental weakness or lethargy.
Q: If all is light, how did darkness arise? How can there be darkness in the midst of light?
M: There is no darkness in the midst of light. Self-forgetfulness is the darkness. When we are absorbed in other things, in the not-self, we forget the self. There is nothing unnatural about it. But, why forget the self through excess of attachment? Wisdom lies in never forgetting the self as the ever-present source of both the experiencer and his experience.
Q: In my present state the 'I am the body' idea comes spontaneously, while the 'I am pure being' idea must be imposed on the mind as something true but not experienced.
M: Yes, sadhana (practice) consists in reminding oneself forcibly of one's pure 'being-ness', of not being anything in particular, nor a sum of particulars, not even the totality of all particulars, which make up a universe. All exists in the mind, even the body is an integration in the mind of a vast number of sensory perceptions, each perception also a mental state. If you say: 'I am the body', show it.
Q: Here it is.
M: Only when you think of it. Both mind and body are intermittent states. The sum total of these flashes creates the illusion of existence. Enquire what is permanent in the transient, real in the unreal. This is sadhana.
Q: The fact is that I am thinking of myself as the body.
M: Think of yourself by all means. Only don't bring the idea of a body into the picture. There is only a stream of sensations, perceptions, memories and ideations. The body is an abstraction, created by our tendency to seek unity in diversity -- which again is not wrong.
Q: I am being told that to think 'I am the body' is a blemish in the mind.
M: Why talk like this? Such expressions create problems. The self is the source of all, and of all -the final destination. Nothing is external.
Q: When the body idea becomes obsessive, is it not altogether wrong?
M: There is nothing wrong in the idea of a body, nor even in the idea 'I am the body'. But limiting oneself to one body only is a mistake. In reality all existence, every form, is my own, within my consciousness. I cannot tell what I am because words can describe only what I am not. I am, and because I am, all is. But I am beyond consciousness and, therefore, in consciousness I cannot say what I am. Yet, I am. The question 'Who am I' has no answer. No experience can answer it, for the self is beyond experience.
Q: Still, the question 'Who am I' must be of some use.
M: It has no answer in consciousness and, therefore, helps to go beyond consciousness.
Q: Here I am -- in the present moment. What is real in it, and what is not? Now, please don't tell me that my question is wrong. Questioning my questions leads me nowhere.
M: Your question is not wrong. It is unnecessary. You said: 'Here and now I am'. Stop there, this is real. Don't turn a fact into a question. There lies your mistake. You are neither knowing nor not-knowing, neither mind nor matter; don't attempt to describe yourself in terms of mind and matter.
Q: Just now a boy came to you with a problem. You told him a few words and he went away. Did you help him?
M: Of course.
Q: Wow can you be so sure?
M: To help is my nature.
Q: How did you come to know It?
M: No need to know. It operates by itself.
Q: Still you have made a statement. On what is it based?
M: On what people tell me. But it is you who asks for proofs. I do not need them. Setting things right lies in my very nature, which is satyam, shivam, sundaram (the true, the good, the beautiful).
Q: When a man comes to you for advice and you give him advice, wherefrom does it come and by what power does it help?
M: His own being affects his mind and induces a response.
Q: And what is your role?
M: In me the man and his self come together.
Q: Why does not the self help the man without you?
M: But I am the self! You imagine me as separate, hence your question. There is no 'my self' and 'his self'. There is the Self, the only Self of all. Misled by the diversity of names and shapes, minds and bodies, you imagine multiple selves. We both are the self, but you seem to be unconvinced. This talk of personal self and universal self is the learner's stage; go beyond, don't be stuck in duality.
Q: Let us come back to the man in need of help. He comes to you.
M: If he comes, he is sure to get help. Because he was destined to get help, he came. There is nothing fanciful about it. I cannot help some and refuse others. All who come are helped, for such is the law. Only the shape help takes varies according to the need.
Q: Why must he come here to get advice? Can't he get it from within?
M: He will not listen. His mind is turned outward. But in fact all experience is in the mind, and even his coming to me and getting help is all within himself. Instead of finding an answer within himself, he imagines an answer from without. To me there is no me, no man and no giving. All this is merely a flicker in the mind. I am infinite peace and silence in which nothing appears, for all that appears -disappears. Nobody comes for help, nobody offers help, nobody gets help. It is all but a display in consciousness.
Q: Yet the power to help is there and there is somebody or something that displays that power, call it God or Self or the Universal Mind. The name does not matter, but the fact does.
M: This is the stand the body-mind takes. The pure mind sees things as they are -- bubbles in consciousness. These bubbles are appearing, disappearing and reappearing -- without having real being. No particular cause can be ascribed to them, for each is caused by all and affects all. Each bubble is a body and all these bodies are mine.
Q: Do you mean to say, that you have the power to do everything rightly?
M: There is no power as separate from me. It is inherent in my very nature. Call it creativity. Out of a lump of gold you can make many ornaments -- each will remain gold. Similarly, in whatever role I may appear and whatever function I may perform -- I remain what I am: the 'I am' immovable, unshakable, independent. What you call the universe, nature, is my spontaneous creativity. Whatever happens -- happens. But such is my nature that all ends in joy.
Q: I have a case of a boy gone blind because his stupid mother fed him methyl alcohol. I am requesting you to help him. You are full of compassion and, obviously, eager to help. By what power can you help him?
M: His case is registered in consciousness. It is there -- indelibly. Consciousness will operate.
Q: Does it make any difference that I ask you to help?
M: Your asking is a part of the boy's blindness. Because he is blind, you ask. You have added nothing.
Q: But your help will be a new factor?
M: No, all is contained in the boy's blindness. All is in it -- the mother, the boy, you and me and all else. It is one event.
Q: You mean to say that even our discussing the boy's case was predestined?
M: How else? All things contain their future. The boy appears in consciousness. I am beyond. I do not issue orders to consciousness. I know that it is in the nature of awareness to set things right. Let consciousness look after its creations! The boy's sorrow, your pity, my listening and consciousness acting -- all this is one single fact -- don't split it into components and then ask questions.
Q: How strangely does your mind work?
M: You are strange, not me. I am normal. I am sane. I see things as they are, and therefore l am not afraid of them. But you are afraid of reality.
Q: Why should l?
M: It is ignorance of yourself that makes you afraid and also unaware that you are afraid. Don't try not to be afraid. Break down the wall of ignorance first.
People are afraid to die, because they do not know what is death. The jnani has died before his death, he saw that there was nothing to be afraid of. The moment you know your real being, you are afraid of nothing. Death gives freedom and power. To be free in the world, you must die to the world. Then the universe is your own, it becomes your body, an expression and a tool. The happiness of being absolutely free is beyond description. On the other hand, he who is afraid of freedom cannot die.
Q: You mean that one who cannot die, cannot live?
M: Put it as you like; attachment is bondage, detachment is freedom. To crave is to slave.
Q: Does it follow that if you are saved, the world is saved?
M: As a whole the world does not need saving. Man makes mistakes and creates sorrow; when it enters the field of awareness, the consciousness of a jnani, it is set right. Such is his nature.
Q: We can observe what may be called spiritual progress. A selfish man turns religious, controls himself, refines his thoughts and feelings, takes to spiritual practice, realises his true being. Is such progress ruled by causality, or is it accidental?
M: From my point of view everything happens by itself, quite spontaneously. But man imagines that he works for an incentive, towards a goal. He has always a reward in mind and strives for it.
Q: A crude, unevolved man will not work without a reward. Is it not right to offer him incentives?
M: He will create for himself incentives anyhow. He does not know that to grow is in the nature of consciousness. He will progress from motive to motive and will chase Gurus for the fulfilment of his desires. When by the laws of his being he finds the way of return (nivritti) he abandons all motives, for his interest in the world is over. He wants nothing -- neither from others nor from himself. He dies to all and becomes the All. To want nothing and do nothing -- that is true creation! To watch the universe emerging and subsiding in one's heart is a wonder.
Q: The great obstacle to inner effort is boredom. The disciple gets bored.
M: Inertia and restlessness (tamas and rajas) work together and keep clarity and harmony (sattva) down. Tamas and Rajas must be conquered before Sattva can appear. It will all come in due course, quite spontaneously.
Q: Is there no need of effort then?
M: When effort is needed, effort will appear. When effortlessness becomes essential, it will assert itself. You need not push life about. Just flow with it and give yourself completely to the task of the present moment, which is the dying now to the now. For living is dying. Without death life cannot be.
Get hold of the main thing that the world and the self are one and perfect. Only your attitude is faulty and needs readjustment.
This process or readjustment is what you call sadhana. You come to it by putting an end to indolence and using all your energy to clear the way for clarity and charity. But in reality, these all are signs of inevitable growth. Don't be afraid, don't resist, don't delay. Be what you are. There is nothing to be afraid of. Trust and try. Experiment honestly. Give your real being a chance to shape your life. You will not regret.