Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Only the Self is Real
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

flower picture
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

book cover

Order 'I am That' directly from Chetana Pvt. Ltd. at a favourable price.

Link to entry in Teachers Section

Maharaj: The world is but a show, glittering and empty. It is, and yet is not. It is there as long as I want to see it and take part in it. When I cease caring, it dissolves, It has no cause and serves no purpose. It just happens when we are absent-minded. It appears exactly as it looks, but there is no depth in it, nor meaning. Only the onlooker is real, call him Self or Atma. To the Self the world is but a colourful show, which he enjoys as long as it lasts and forgets when it is over. Whatever happens on the stage makes him shudder in terror or roll with laughter, yet all the time he is aware that it is but a show. Without desire or fear he enjoys it, as it happens.

Questioner: The person immersed in the world has a life of many flavours. He weeps, he laughs, loves and hates, desires and fears, suffers and rejoices. The desireless and fearless j~nAni, what life has he? Is he not left high and dry in his aloofness?

M: His state is not so desolate. It tastes of the pure, uncaused, undiluted bliss. He is happy and fully aware that happiness is his very nature and that he need not do anything, nor strive for anything to secure it. It follows him, more real than the body, nearer than the mind itself. You imagine that without cause there can be no happiness. To me dependence on anything for happiness is utter misery. Pleasure and pain have causes, while my state is my own, totally uncaused, independent, unassailable.

Q: Like a play on the stage?

M: The play was written, planned and rehearsed. The world just sprouts into being out of nothing and returns to nothing.

Q: Is there no creator? Was not the world in the mind of Brahma, before it was created?

M: As long as you are outside my state, you will have Creators, Preservers and Destroyers, but once with me you will know the Self only and see yourself in all.

Q: You function nevertheless.

M: When you are giddy, you see the world running circles round you. Obsessed with the idea of means and end, of work and purpose, you see me apparently functioning. In reality I only look. Whatever is done, is done on the stage. Joy and sorrow, life and death, they all are real to the man in bondage; to me they are all in the show, as unreal as the show itself.
I may perceive the world just like you but you believe to be in it, while I see it as an iridescent drop in the vast expanse of consciousness.

Q: We are all getting old. Old age is not pleasant — all aches and pains, weakness and the approaching end. How does a j~nAni feel as an old man? How does his inner self look at his own senility?

M: As he gets older he grows more and more happy and peaceful. After all, he is going home. Like a traveller nearing his destination and collecting his luggage, he leaves the train without regret.

Q: Surely there is a contradiction. We are told the j~nAni is beyond all change. His happiness neither grows nor wanes. How can he grow happier because he is older, and in spite of physical weakness and so on?

M: There is no contradiction. The reel of destiny is coming to its end — the mind is happy. The mist of bodily existence is lifting — the burden of the body is growing less from day to day.

Q: Let us say, the j~nAni is ill. He has caught some 'flu and every joint aches and burns. What is his state of mind?

M: Every sensation is contemplated in perfect equanimity. There is no desire for it, nor refusal. It is as it is and he looks at it with a smile of affectionate detachment.

Q: He may be detached from his own suffering, but still it is there.

M: It is there, but it does not matter. Whatever state I am in, I see it as a state of mind to be accepted as it is.

Q: Pain is pain. You experience it all the same.

M: He who experiences the body, experiences its pains and pleasures. I am neither the body, nor the experiencer of the body.

Q: Let us say you are 25 years old. Your marriage is arranged and performed and the household duties crowd upon you. How would you feel?

M: Just as I feel now. You keep on insisting that my inner state is moulded by outer events. It is just not so. Whatever happens, I remain. At the root of my being is pure awareness, a speck of intense light. This speck, by its very nature, radiates and creates pictures in space and events in time — effortlessly and spontaneously. As long as it is merely aware there are no problems. But when the discriminative mind comes into being and creates distinctions, pleasure and pain arise. During sleep the mind is in abeyance and so are pain and pleasure. The process of creation continues, but no notice is taken. The mind is a form of consciousness, and consciousness is an aspect of life. Life creates everything, but the Supreme is beyond all.

Q: The Supreme is the master and consciousness — his servant.

M: The master is in consciousness, not beyond it. In terms of consciousness the Supreme is both creation and dissolution, concretion and abstraction, the focal and the universal. It is also neither. Words do not reach there, nor mind.

Q: The j~nAni seems to be a very lonely being, all by himself.

M: He is alone, but he is all. He is not even a being, He is the beingness of all beings. Not even that. No words apply. He is what he is, the ground from which all grows.

Q: Are you not afraid to die?

M: I shall tell you how my Guru’s Guru died. After announcing that his end was nearing, he stopped eating, without changing the routine of his daily life. On the eleventh day, at prayer time he was singing and clapping vigorously and suddenly died! Just like that, between two movements, like a blown-out candle. Everybody dies as he lives. I am not afraid of death, because I am not afraid of life. I live a happy life and shall die a happy death. Misery is to be born, not to die. All depends how you look at it.

Q: There can be no evidence of your state. All I know about it is what you say. All I see is a very interesting old man.

M: You are the interesting old man, not me! I was never born. How can I grow old? What I appear to be to you exists only in your mind. I am not concerned with it.

Q: Even as a dream you are a most unusual dream.

M: I am a dream that can wake you up. You will have the proof of it in your very waking up.

Q: Imagine, news reaches you that I have died. Somebody tells you: ‘You know so-and-so? He died.’ What would be your reaction?

M: I would be very happy to have you back home. Really glad to see you out of this foolishness.

Q: Which foolishness?

M: Of thinking that you were born and will die, that you are a body displaying a mind and all such nonsense. In my world nobody is born and nobody dies. Some people go on a journey and come back, some never leave. What difference does it make since they travel in dreamlands, each wrapped up in his own dream. Only the waking up is important. It is enough to know the ‘I am’ as reality and also love.

Q: My approach is not so absolute, hence my question. Throughout the West, people are in search of something real. They turn to science, which tells them a lot about matter, a little about the mind, and nothing about the nature and purpose of consciousness. To them reality is objective, outside the observable and describable, directly or by inference; about the subjective aspect of reality they know nothing. It is extremely important to let them know that there is reality and it is to be found in the freedom of consciousness from matter and its limitations and distortions. Most of the people in the world do not know that there is reality, which can be found and experienced in consciousness. It seems very important that they should hear the good news from somebody who has actually experienced it. Such witnesses have always existed and their testimony is precious.

M: Of course. The gospel of self-realization, once heard, will never be forgotten. Like a seed left in the ground, it will wait for the right season and sprout and grow into a mighty tree.

© 1973 Nisargadatta Maharaj. World rights granted to Chetana Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, who have kindly granted permission for reproduction of this chapter. 'I am That' is currently in the 4th edition reprinted in 2003.

Return to list of topics in Discourses by Teachers and Writers.
See the list sorted by Topic.
See the list sorted by Author.

Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012