3. The Living Present
Questioner: As I can see, there is nothing wrong with my body nor with my real being. Both are not of my making and need not be improved upon. What has gone wrong is the ‘inner body’, call it mind, consciousness, antahkarana, whatever the name.
Maharaj: What do you consider to be wrong with your mind?
Q: It is restless, greedy of the pleasant and afraid of the unpleasant.
M: What is wrong with its seeking the pleasant and shirking the unpleasant? Between the banks of pain and pleasure the river of life flows. It is only when the mind refuses to flow with life, and gets stuck at the banks, that it becomes a problem. By flowing with life I mean acceptance — letting come what comes and go what goes. Desire not, fear not, observe the actual, as and when it happens, for you are not what happens, you are to whom it happens. Ultimately even the observer you are not. You are the ultimate potentiality of which the all-embracing consciousness is the manifestation and expression.
Q: Yet, between the body and the self there lies a cloud of thoughts and feelings, which neither server the body nor the self. These thoughts and feelings are flimsy, transient and meaningless, mere mental dust that blinds and chokes, yet they are there, obscuring and destroying.
M: Surely, the memory of an event cannot pass for the event itself. Nor can the anticipation. There is something exceptional, unique, about the present event, which the previous, or the coming do not have. There is a livingness about it, an actuality; it stands out as if illuminated. There is the ‘stamp of reality’ on the actual, which the past and the future do not have.
Q: What gives the present that ‘stamp of reality’?
M: There is nothing peculiar in the present event to make it different from the past and future. For a moment the past was actual and the future will become so. What makes the present so different? Obviously, my presence. I am real for I am always now, in the present, and what is with me now shares in my reality. The past is in memory, the future — in imagination. There is nothing in the present event itself that makes it stand out as real. It may be some simple, periodical occurrence, like the striking of the clock. In spite of our knowing that the successive strokes are identical, the present stroke is quite different from the previous one and the next — as remembered, or expected. A thing focussed in the now is with me, for I am ever present; it is my own reality that I impart to the present event.
Q: But we deal with things remembered as if they were real.
M: We consider memories, only when they come into the present The forgotten is not counted until one is reminded — which implies, bringing into the now.
Q: Yes, I can see there is in the now some unknown factor that gives momentary reality to the transient actuality.
M: You need not say it is unknown, for you see it in constant operation. Since you were born, has it ever changed? Things and thoughts have been changing all the time. But the feeling that what is now is real has never changed, even in dream.
Q: In deep sleep there is no experience of the present reality.
M: The blankness of deep sleep is due entirely to the lack of specific memories. But a general memory of well-being is there. There is a difference in feeling when we say ‘I was deeply asleep’ from ‘I was absent’.
Q: We shall repeat the question we began with: between life’s source and life’s expression (which is the body), there is the mind and its ever-changeful states. The stream of mental states is endless, meaningless and painful. Pain is the constant factor. What we call pleasure is but a gap, an interval between two painful states. Desire and fear are the weft and warp of living, and both are made of pain. Our question is: can there be a happy mind?
M: Desire is the memory of pleasure and fear is the memory of pain. Both make the mind restless. Moments of pleasure are merely gaps in the stream of pain. How can the mind be happy?
Q: That is true when we desire pleasure or expect pain. But there are moments of unexpected, unanticipated joy. Pure joy, uncontaminated by desire — unsought, undeserved, God-given.
M: Still, joy is joy only against a background of pain.
Q: Is pain a cosmic fact, or purely mental?
M: The universe is complete and where there is completeness, where nothing lacks, what can give pain?
Q: The Universe may be complete as a whole, but incomplete in details.
M: A part of the whole seen in relation to the whole is also complete. Only when seen in isolation it becomes deficient and thus a seat of pain. What makes for isolation?
Q: Limitations of the mind, of course. The mind cannot see the whole for the part.
M: Good enough. The mind, by its very nature, divides and opposes. Can there be some other mind, which unites and harmonises, which sees the whole in the part and the part as totally related to the whole?
Q: The other mind — where to look for it?
M: In the going beyond the limiting, dividing and opposing mind. In ending the mental process as we know it. When this comes to an end, that mind is born.
Q: In that mind, the problem of joy and sorrow exist no longer?
M: Not as we know them, as desirable or repugnant. It becomes rather a question of love seeking expression and meeting with obstacles. The inclusive mind is love in action, battling against circumstances, initially frustrated, ultimately victorious.
Q: Between the spirit and the body, is it love that provides the bridge?
M: What else? Mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it.