Pollen from the Casablanca lilies I hold as an offering to the guru dust my jacket and cheek. I keep reminding myself to take off my shoes when I go in. Like so many homes of the Indian community in north-west London, Kalpna Dave’s semi-detached, Harrow and Weadlstone residence is outwardly non-descript but reveals itself within as a temple in praise of God.
Indian spices and frankincense stain the air, Vedic memorabilia bedecks every room. In the lounge, a majestic shrine to Sri Sathya Sai Baba dominates half of one wall – photographs and paintings of Sri Shirdi Sai Baba and his reincarnation, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, are peppered with vibhuti. Mala beads hang over portraits of Krishna and Radha, Shiva and Parvati, Hanuman and Ganesh; on the altar, an Om sign is written in rice.
I am particularly excited about coming to talk with Vijai. It seems a little ironic that he is the first non-western teacher I will be speaking to – the advaita teaching having always tended in the past to be more the province of the Indian sage. I wonder if his interpretation will be different in any way. Somehow I imagine it will be embellished with superstition and mystery. Perhaps he will tell me about the stories of Krishna and Rama, the importance of Indian rituals and the magical powers of the Ganga.
Vijai’s round and cheeky face – his left eyebrow soaring up towards heaven – greets me with loving respect. He is wearing the traditional kurthapyjama, rendering him an exotic and dignified grace. He shows me through into the dining room at the back of the house, a very simple and modest room in contrast to the kaleidoscopic mirage of the lounge. Kalpna, his devoted assistant, appears from the next-door kitchen, a living embodiment of an Indian goddess, the silk of her emerald green sari swishing imperially as she enters. We namaste to each other; she smiles humbly, averting her gaze in an act of pious supplication.
Born in Bangalore in the late forties, Vijai was inspired by the writings of Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Compelled to discover the ultimate meaning of existence, he embarked on a search that led him to a meeting with Sri Sathya Sai Baba at the age of 16 and the subsequent first glimpse of his true self. In the early Seventies in Madras, he was then initiated into Tapas by Sri Shiva Ramakrishna.
Vijai trained as a medical doctor, first working in India and then over in Africa, specialising in cardiology and kidney diseases. In 1986, he came to London where he gained a Ph.D. from the University of London. This led him to teaching at medical school as a research scientist in cellular and molecular biology. It was around this time that something occurred that was to completely shatter his ego – a fall from worldly favour but it is not an event that he will disclose. In 1997, Vijai moved to the United States, living in a small garage apartment in Galveston. He is about to move into a new home built in Alvin, Texas the Kaivalya Shivalaya Ashram, the Abode of the Absolute.
Like many of his fellow advaitins, Vijai has his own web site, giving details of his schedule of talks, directions to his ashram and interviews and comments from devotees. There is also a reminder of what I am:
A drop of water falling as rain into the sea dissolves into the ocean. It does not lose its dropness but it gains the whole ocean. It is the same with the personal ‘I’. When it dissolves in the heart of awareness it gains the entire universe.
It is difficult to conceive that I am in London, as I listen to Vijai and Kalpna jabbering away in Gujrati. Kalpna smiles at me and says that Vijai remembers me from a satsang he gave just a couple of months before in Kensington. As is the tradition at the end of darshan, everyone lined up to receive prasad from the teacher. In turn, each person knelt before Vijai, bowing graciously before him, whilst he dispensed a handful of white and red grapes into their outstretched palms. As my turn approached, I too followed the ceremonial drill. ‘May God bless you, my child,’ said Vijai, pouring the sweetest affection into my eyes. ‘And may God bless you!’ I impulsively replied. At these words, Vijai looked up at the ceiling, bellowing with laughter. ‘That’s so sweet!’ he chuckled, as I surmised that what I had just said was possibly not quite the right thing to say.
As I start the tape recorder, Vijai waits meekly like a little boy, his fingers intertwined and resting nonchalantly on the table in front of us. As I ask my first question, he raises his eyes and rests them in mine. Suddenly his face contorts into a wry twist, he unlaces his hands and starts poking the air with his finger, his head hobnobbing in the familiar Indian fashion. His voice has a canticular quality, rising and falling, speeding up and slowing down, depending on the point he wants to make. At the end of an important philosophical conclusion, he flicks his tongue against the upper pallet, creating a popping sound, as if to give added emphasis, a full stop to the final proof.
Vijai loves to be provoked the more you challenge him, the more excited he becomes, his arms gesticulating wildly, like the conductor of an orchestra. Throughout our conversation he continues to tease me, gently pushing me along to follow his line of thinking. You get the impression that talking about God is the only subject worth opening your mouth for – his personal life an irritating distraction, which he dismisses with a brush of his hand.
Vijai’s humour keeps our intense theorising stomachable. My usual response to moments of such profundity is to undergo some tragic kind of experience. However my weekend with Arjuna seems to have wrung out every last drop of tears and I feel somehow that I am at a crucial turning point – well, at least that is, for the moment. For once, I feel positively inspired, blissful even, by the end of our time spent together. I am deeply touched by Vijai’s paternal tenderness. I feel that no matter what the problem is, everything is going to be OK.
Kalpna makes the lunch. She waits at table for us, as is the custom, bringing in dish after dish of Indian delights. ‘Won’t you eat with us?’ I ask. ‘No, no!’ she emphatically replies. ‘It is a pleasure for me to serve you. In India, a guest is regarded as an embodiment of God. I am truly honoured that He should come to my home and bless us with His presence.’
I know the truth can’t be spoken about in words . . .
Why, Paula, can’t the truth be conveyed by words? You should be very clear about why the truth cannot be conveyed by words. It cannot be. Why?
There are a couple of reasons for it. Now supposing there is an event that happened outside your house, and you’re sitting within your house. Let’s call that event an accident between two cars and let us assume that there were ten people who saw that event. And you are well within your house and you have not witnessed it. So, you would like to know. You let these ten people who saw this event come one by one to let you know. You let the first person in and he tells you what happened and he goes out. The second enters and he says what he saw and goes away. If you complete the list of ten you will be surprised to find that all ten are different versions. Therefore, an event can never be conveyed by words. All of them will succeed only to convey his opinion.
So too the words that they use will always belong to time and space. But they only belong to your mind. Every word has got two meanings one internal, the other, external; one verbal, the other non-verbal.
What does that mean?
I will tell you what it means! I will tell you one word, and you describe that word, what you imaging it to be by your mind. Let me say only one word, OK! ‘River.’ Describe what that word conveys to you.
It is a stretch of water that flows from a high place to a low place . . .
No, don’t give me a definition of the word. I said ‘river’ to you. Describe the word as it appeared to your mind when I said the word ‘river’.
I saw blue water, a green bank on either side. I saw rippling waves on the surface.
Beautiful! The river that I meant was a small one, there was no greenery around, no mountains around, hardly a few fishes, grime is floating on the water. So, every word carries two meanings. One is the common, external meaning, and the other is an internal, personal meaning. Everybody can only latch on to the external, common meaning and then thinks what he or she wants to think about it. But nobody can enter or penetrate or come in contact with this internal, personal meaning. If one word has got two meanings, a whole sentence has got so many words in it – that’s the root cause of so many arguments and discussions everywhere.
The wife will say, ‘Why did you say that to me?’ The husband will say, ‘I did not say that!’ ‘What do you mean you did not say it? I heard you, I heard you!’ ‘Yes, you heard me but that’s not what I meant.’ ‘There you go again, you said it but you say you do not mean it!’ And he will say the same thing to her and she will say the same thing to him and nobody is able to get to the internal meaning – that’s the root cause of all divorces, all arguments, all fights, all discussions . . .
Everything, everything! You can elaborate around those terms. If someone says I’ll speak about the truth, it means, non-verbally, he has accepted the existence of false. The untruth is lingering somewhere behind, which means he has accepted something that is untrue.
Truth is a relative word?
Exactly. Nobody can speak about the truth because there is nothing called ‘truth’. For every truth there is an untruth, you see. You follow what I am saying?
I follow exactly what you are saying.
So go ahead, my child. I shall not be speaking about the truth. I shall only tell you things as it is, an illusion, the maya, which in reality appears as this unreality. It is a reality that appears as this unreality. Unreality is the appearance of the unreality. But it’s not the reality.
It can seem very confusing, my child. But it shouldn’t be confusing!
It’s all such a paradox.
Life is a paradox!
I do not exist and yet here I am!
No, you exist as the pure self. You appear as the non-self. What is the colour of your cardigan?
You say it’s blue. But I would say that’s not at all the colour of the cardigan – it’s everything else but blue. And that’s the illusion. I’ll explain why to you.
That’s the scientific definition – it reflects all colours other than blue.
Exactly. The light absorbs all the colours of the rainbow and the one it cannot imbibe, it exhibits it. That’s the maya, which is the illusion. You think something is real of something that is unreal.
What does ‘real’ mean?
‘Real’ means as it is. ‘Real’ means that which is permanent – it does not appear to disappear. ‘Real’ is something that is permanently there, it is not something that is only there in the daytime 6am to 9pm. It should be there even when you go to sleep.
I get that bit. What I find is that this word ‘illusion’ troubles me. Take this table [knocking the tabletop] – I know it doesn’t have reality in the sense that it won’t be here necessarily in two thousand years time, but it’s real enough now!
It is real in the sense that it’s not permanent. It’s disintegrating even now. How can you call it permanent?
But it’s not an illusion, is it?
It is an illusion in the sense that your conditioned mind is conditioned to believe that it’s a table, so it creates the illusion that it’s there. The conditioned mind has accepted it to be there. I tell you, my child, in your dream, don’t you see a table?
Yes, but that’s something else!
Why, my child? No, you got up from the dream and you said this does not exist. You should get up from this dream, and what is this dream? This daydream! What is it? Thinking!
But this table is here!
In your dream, too! You should wake up from this dream – meaning, I will tell you what it means, it means the mind is active now, it is flowing, just like the way it was flowing in your dream. You saw the table, here and now, it is flowing like the river you described. The mind is not still.
Yes, I get that.
Good. You are conditioned to believe it is a table, that’s the illusion. See, I’ll tell you what, if you walk in a desert, wouldn’t you see water, pineapples, fruits, in front of you?
Like a mirage?
Exactly. You call it a mirage but isn’t it there? Don’t people run after it? Have you been to a desert to experience it?
Well, I have certainly seen faces in the patterns of curtains or fires but I know that they don’t really exist.
Exactly. You will see what the mind longs to see. Do you follow?
But if I strike my head on this table, it will hurt! Is that still a dream?
Exactly! But it hurts you too in the dream, doesn’t it? Doesn’t dream water quench your dream thirst?
Oh no, my child. You are not deep enough in the dream. Of course, dream thirst and dream hunger can be satisfied in a dream. Let me tell you exactly what’s happening in a dream.
But this table has physicality, the dream world has mentality.
Oh no, this table too has mentality! You say there wasn’t physicality in your dream weren’t you driving your car? Weren’t you walking your dog? Weren’t you painting your house?
But I could prove that this table exists!
How do you prove it? How?
I . . .
You really think so, is that true? Where’s the proof of your proof?
I think this is just a semantic argument!
This isn’t a semantic argument because you are not allowing me to proceed! If your mind remains still, absolutely still . . . OK, let me tell you another thing. Supposing you sit in front of a mirror, what do you see in it?
I see a person in the mirror who I presume is myself.
Perfect! You will see your hair, your eyes, your eyebrows, your nose, your lips, your cheeks you want to change a few things . . .
Like add a bit of makeup!
Exactly! You follow? Now try this, my child. Next time you sit in front of a mirror, you will see the same thing. How do you know that you see it? You see it merely because your mind informs you. Your mind says head, nose, eyebrows, forehead, cheeks, mouth. Your mind tells you these things, there’s nobody else telling you. Mind repeats it, repeats the previous information.
But you’re asking me to deny everything that my experience tells me.
I’m not asking you to deny anything. I am asking you to perceive. You are not allowing me to finish this either!
When your mind informs you, don’t pay attention to it. Just be yourself and watch your reflection. The mind will keep on repeating again and again information of your face in the mirror. Don’t pay any attention to it. Not paying attention means not applying the thinking process to it. It will say hair and then suddenly it will be thinking comb your hair, do this, do that. See, that’s the thinking process already started from the word hair. Don’t pay any attention. If it says cheek, it will see a small spot and you’ll want to take it out, and again the thinking process has started.
As time goes by, as days go by, you will sit in front of the mirror. This is an exercise, an experimental exercise, not a pattern, not a technique, not a method. It will again tell you, inform you after many days, as long as your mind is not still. After a while, there will come a time when the mind will tell you, hair, and then there will be a gap, and after some time, cheek, and then some more time, chin. A time will come when it will stop informing you because you are not giving any attention to your preconditioned mind. You are not paying any attention to the mind informing you this is the face, etc. Mind will not inform you. A time will come when it say, after some time, hair, and then it will stop informing you. A time will come when the reflection will be there but it will not inform you. What has happened then, can you tell me?
There’ll be nothing there.
Exactly. There won’t be a reflection there, my child. The mirror will be there but the face won’t be there. There will not be a reflection. That is what I say. You do not see objects, you see the thought of the object being there. Do you see objects or do you see thoughts of the objects?
You would still see a mirror?
Yes, you would see a mirror as a thought but there won’t be a face there, for there is no thought of the face.
There will be colours and shapes in the mirror.
Nothing! There will just be a plain mirror. Your mind has become still. That’s what I am trying to tell you. That’s what the rishis have been saying – it’s an illusion, the play of light and sound. You mean to say that there are men on the silver screen – you think Brad Pitt is there kissing somebody?
Oh, I do, I do!
Is he there really on the screen? Where is the movie? You should stand back and see the movie at the back and not at the front. On the screen is the play of light and sound, creating images, creating tables, the play of light and sound. Existence itself has created a movie, existence itself is a cinema director. This is what I am doing in life. This is a play of light and sound. Naada and bindu are the two Sanskrit words used for it. Naada is sound and bindu is light. The rishis have said this years, centuries, ago, my child. This is not saying something new. If you decondition the mind to say table, if the mind is absolutely still, there is not a ripple [he claps his hands], it won’t be there at all. There wouldn’t be even light there, water or anything else. Trust me!
Your ego, ‘I’, is in the waking state. Once the ‘I’ goes right inside and gets sunk into your consciousness, you attain your sleeping state in the waking state.
Your sleeping state in the waking state??
That means that your ‘I’ is no longer operative your ego, you have pulled it down and you are there, in samadhi. And once you have reached it, you have opened your eyes, there will be light, and nothing else besides that. And then you bring the ego out to function within the physical body and then everything appears. The problem is that people who talk about truth don’t know what they are talking about.
[Vijai starts to draw some diagrams explaining the layers of the body.] You see, there is the physical body, do you follow what I am saying, my child? It has got a corresponding physical mind, OK? This area – this is where people are, identified with their body and their mind. If you go deeper down, this is what you call anamaya kosa in Sanskrit. Ana means food, maya is illusion and kosa is a sheath. And then you go more inside and you have what is called pranamaya kosa, which can be translated into English as etheric body and astral body, OK? Prana means life.
And after the astral body, you have the intelligent body or what we call the vigynamaya kosa. After that you have your soul or atman. And that’s what they call the anandamaya kosa. Ananda means bliss. You follow what I’m saying? Up to the anandamaya, the mind extends – the etheric mind, the astral mind, the intelligent mind and ‘I’ operates from here, right through all these kosa. So strong is the illusion, the ‘I’ is there, the consistency of objects will be there, the name, the shape, the colour. Now bring the ‘I’ right from the anandamaya and immerse it your atman, you follow me?
But why is it that way?
That is the illusion that the Lord has created, that is this magic, that is his creation.
So, it’s not a bad thing, the ‘I’?
I’ll tell you what is an illusion. What is this? [Vijai points to a pen.]
I don’t think I know anymore!
It is a pen, isn’t it? Do you think anything such as a pen exists? It is a bit of plastic, isn’t it? Not a pen. Do you see the illusion? Do you follow what I am saying? People say they are wearing a ring. That is an illusion, isn’t it?
It’s just gold?
You got it, my child. You got it! Not even gold.
You got it! Look at that building. You mean to suggest that anything such as building exists? Can you give me building? Can you examine a building? What would you give me – rock! Look at the illusion, the maya. Green colour, red colour – it is the play of light! There isn’t anything called colour, it’s just the play of light. Multiple colours are colours that are non-existent.
What about you say this shape is rectangle. Have you ever seen anything called rectangle? Can you give me rectangle in my hand and say rectangle, rectangle, rectangle?? What is it? There is nothing called shape. Shape is the boundary of it. That is the illusion. There’s no shape, there’s no name, there’s no colour, there’s no consistency!
Plato said that all these forms and ideas are held in a subtle way somewhere in the universe – that horses and buildings are held in the realm of forms. The world is a manifestation of these subtle forms.
As a thought form, yes. The whole world is a thought form. Eddington said that the whole world is nothing but a world of thoughts.
Consciousness. You call it whatever you want. Awareness. [Vijai draws another diagram.] This awareness in the East is known as Shiva, OK? And then when there is reflected awareness. When awareness reflects itself it becomes consciousness. Consciousness is kinetic, it’s moving. Awareness is static, you follow? Awareness is called Shiva and once it becomes kinetic is becomes Shakti. This entire consciousness is all vibrating. The initial vibration gave rise to the word Om, OK? So, Om creates space, water, earth, then fire, then air. It started vibrating.
Out of these five manifestations, the whole universe came into being as animate and inanimate, you follow me? And each animate and inanimate are points of consciousness. And each point of consciousness, each atman, which is the same as everybody, has got a small mind. Mind is of the atman, a partial mind compared to the whole universe. Everything is appearing in this consciousness as a reflection. So each one has got a mind, reflected in one way. Can anyone see your mind, Paula?
Exactly, Paula. Because that’s your mind, your individual mind. So, all these individual minds are held by the supermind here – that’s consciousness. You see what I am saying? That’s the thought form, the whole thing is a thought form. And then it goes in your soul, here. Where is the world, my darling, when you go to bed?
Are even the elements of water and earth and fire just thoughts?
They don’t really have any existence?
No, not at all. Those were the first thoughts that appeared as air, water, fire and earth. And from that, boom, the universe manifested!
So even this table is a thought?
Most certainly, my child. Do you know why I say it is thought? No?
Because . . .
Because? You must be sure that you know why.
Because it is a mental construct.
Why? Now listen to me. You must be sure.
Go on . . . tell me . . . I want to be free, Dr. Shankar . . . and I want to know!
You have been with me for how long, my child?
In a relative perspective, I have been here about half an hour.
And previously? When we met before?
I also listened to you for about three hours in the past giving a talk.
Exactly, so be patient. In three and a half hours, you want to know who you are! Be patient, I’ll get you there. No matter how hard we try, the mind will say I am seeing a pen. You are right when you say that you are seeing a pen, I do not deny it. But pray, tell me. Do you think your eyes can see a pen? Supposing there is a twenty-year-old healthy boy. He dies and the very minute he dies, he still has his eyes there. Can his eyes see the pen? He’s got a brain there, can his eyes see this pen?
Not if he is dead.
But he’s got eyes, hasn’t he?
But there’s no consciousness left within him.
Exactly. So if eyes really see this pen, his eyes should still see the pen. Isn’t it, my child. Are you with me so far?
Yes. I understand what you are saying.
Now, second point. Is the pen moving towards your eyes? Do you think your eyes have got a capacity of receiving pen? What are the eyes that receive, my child? What is the eyes’ function? Is it not the eyes’ function to receive light? What else? The function of the eyes is to receive light. Only light can enter the pupil – not pen, not trees . . .
It’s just reflected light.
And it’s reflected light! It is not light per se. Light the eyes cannot see. It only sees reflected light. Now, reflected light comes straight out of these atoms, quarks and super quarks and so on as energy, and your eyes receive light, my child. And then it goes . . can I use your pen?
Of course, that’s if it really is a pen!
[Drawing yet more diagrams with great enthusiasm.] Light waves go into the eye, OK? Light waves are transmitted by optic nerves and they go behind your brain. The light waves reach the back of the brain and there, physiologists stop because they do not know what happens. Then the psychologists come into play and they say these light waves are converted by your mind and the mind says pen – you follow me? Now what is your mind? Your mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts, isn’t it, my child? What is it? Your mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts! So, what you see is a thought and not pen.
I agree that the mind is just a bundle of thoughts but it must have certain properties and characteristics and . . .
Those too will be thoughts . . .
Yes, but I see that object as a pen and you would also agree that you too see a pen?
As long as you are in your physical mind, physical body, yes.
But a lot of other people would agree that is also a pen. So there must be a commonality of these thoughts.
It must have a mental construct of some sort.
Exactly. There are conditioned constructs everywhere. You mean to say that when a five-year-old child comes, this is what happens. [Another diagram.] This is your life from zero to seventy. At five years, your self, your atman, sees a cat, OK? He will see a cat. You follow me? Now, the mummy will tell the child, see child, cat, cat, cat, see child, cat, cat, cat. The child will just look. The mummy has just destroyed the child’s existence because the child was simply enjoying the cat, not as a cat . . .
But as it is.
As it is! The child does not know where the cat begins and where the cat ends. The child was experiencing the oneness of existence appearing as so many different forms. And he was thoroughly enjoying it not as a mental thought but as existence itself, just glorified. The colour of the cat was his own colour, he had no concepts of its colour. Then the mother keeps hammering into him cat, cat, cat – the child doesn’t know. Then the child says, cat, and the mother is thrilled to bits. The mother thinks the child has become knowledgeable but mum doesn’t know the child has become stung!
You got it! Now, you’ve got a cat here. Then after some time, what happens? A dog comes along, OK? And the mummy says, what is this? Do you know what the child will say?
You got it right! The mummy says, oh my child, it is a dog. So she tries to teach the child, dog, dog, dog, not cat, not cat, not cat. One day that child will say dog, dog, dog, and the parents will be proud. Like that, my child – pen, table, everything was conditioned to you, not in this life time but how many generations has the conditioning been going on? Because it has been going on for so many generations, it appears real to you.
But there must have been a first person, whoever that was, who wasn’t conditioned. Why did the conditioning start in the first place?
My child, it didn’t start at all, the illusion is just created by the mind. As it is. It is an appearance to disappear. That is the drama, that’s the leela, that is the illusion. How beautiful it is.
So it’s OK that the child thinks cat or dog – there’s nothing wrong in that?
Most certainly, there’s nothing wrong in that. There’s nothing wrong in conditioning. As long as you tell the child as it grows up to be aware that the mind is simply naming and labeling existence. You should be aware that you are there and the mind is simply naming and labeling existence. The mind is nothing but names and labels of existence. Give it a sticker, give it a sticker, give it a sticker! It is simply identified. There will come a point in time when you realise that when you open your eyes, seeing stops, identification begins. When you close your eyes, identifications stops and seeing really begins. You understand what I am saying?
Great! Now, I will tell you something, so listen very carefully. Everybody wants to find the meaning of life, yes? It only goes to show that they haven’t found it up to now. It only means that the meaning of life is far ahead of them in the future – they have to find it. Somewhere, not here, but somewhere. You follow me? It’s the end, it’s not yet the middle or the beginning, it’s somewhere at the end. That is the fallacy. That’s why he is not able to find out the meaning because he thinks that the meaning of life is in the end.
Why do I say that? I say that because of this, listen! If there’s a seed that has become a rose, you know that in the packet you have got rose seeds. You know when you plant the seeds in the ground that it will blossom into a rose, isn’t it? You know the meaning of the rose is in the seed because you know they are rose seeds. Now you put a rose seed in the ground – will you start panicking because it will become a lotus or a daffodil or a sunflower, will you panic? What’s the meaning of this? You will not panic because you know the meaning, you know the source of it. You follow what I am saying?
I follow what you are saying.
The rishis before knew what their source was – you are already one being, you will become a divine being. If you do not know your own source, you will be like the guy who planted the seed and doesn’t know what it is going to become. The meaning of life is in your shoes!
If that source is within me,why do I not know that intrinsically, right from the start?
It’s not that you are lost in your reality, you are simply lost in your dreams – that is why.
But why? If I am God and I am amazing, why does a little speck of dust, which is my dreams, obscure my true nature?
Because your mind is attentive on that which is not. Your mind is busy in the morning – table, pen. You’re continuously naming, you’re continuously running away. I told you the definition of thinking – thinking is nothing but dreaming in the waking state.
But God put that thinking there.
For you to realise that you are dreaming!
It’s like God has created a trap!
Well, get out of it! The drama is over. There’s a director who makes a drama, the drama is going on, the spectators are watching. You need to become the director. If you become the director you will be able to watch this drama and then you will become happy.
This is the bit I never understand. If I am God, why don’t I realise it!
It is because, my child, your mind is not still. Your thinking process – you’re giving attention to it. The thinking process hasn’t been completed as yet. You are still thinking and thinking and thinking. You have to become a master of your mind. The body is a wheel and the centre is the axle. You have to become an axle in the centre of the wheel. The whole wheel of life turns and turns and when you are not bothered, everything disappears.
When will my thinking mind be still?
The moment you say ‘when’, my child, the mind has jumped into the future. ‘When’ indicates future. Future is non-existent. You will never be there.
At what point will my mind be still?
I’ll tell you, if you proceed with this, it will be still. [More diagrams.] This is the present, OK? This is the past and this is the future – past, present, future. Where is the past? Is there any place where the past is stored?
Are you very sure? Maybe the past is somewhere behind Iceland somewhere?
The past is back here in my mind.
Exactly. What I mean to say is that there is no space where the past is stored. Nobody can bring the past in my hand for me to objectively analyse. It’s all a thought, isn’t it? Now, what about future? Do you think there is a space where there is future you can go, find out what’s happening and come back to the present? So what’s the future?
Just a thought.
And what is the future if not a strengthened past which is projected into a non-existent time scale? And the future is nowhere else but in your mind. You got it now?
I got it now!
Good, so there’s no future too. There’s only the present. Present means there must be something called time if you want to call it present.
It seems that time doesn’t exist in the present.
Exactly. Past indicates time, isn’t it? Present indicates time, isn’t it? Future . . .
Yes, present is relative to past and future.
Exactly, exactly! Now what’s the fundamental characteristic of time? When you say time, what has penetrated that word ‘time’?
Movement. Time is measured by movement. Time has also got something called duration. If there is no duration, there is nothing that can be called time. Time always has to do with five minutes, ten minutes, one hour, three hours, six, seven, it has a duration. When you talk about time, you say how long. That is duration, isn’t it? Duration has a beginning, it has a middle, and it has an end. That’s the duration. Tick, tick, tick . . . So, time has got a beginning, it has a middle, it has got an end. You follow what I am saying?
Now, let us come to the present. The moment I say ‘present’, the ‘pr’ has gone in the past, the ‘es’ has gone into the past, ‘s’ and ‘en’ have gone into the past and the ‘t’ has gone into the past. Do you follow? You cannot even say ‘present’ in the present, my child. You can only respond to the now where there’s no time! There is no present. And yet the mind says that you’ve got time.
We are in the constant flow of the now. You are always in the now! That is why nobody can speak about the truth because the moment you say something, one word has already gone in the past. You have to link up, you are living a dead life again. You are not fresh, you are not alive. If you are suspended now, then you are alive. Then your mind becomes still. What can you think in the now? What can you judge in the now? What can you criticise in the now? What can you interpret in the now? What can you say about anything in the now? You have become the now. You have become existence. You are flowing. You have come home. Do you follow?
It’s beautiful, my child. You’ve got to melt in the now. The only way to melt in the now is to watch your thoughts as they come and don’t apply your thinking process to it. Let them come, watch them, witness them, don’t interpret them, whether good or bad or right or wrong. What authority do we have to judge them being right or wrong? What is our résumé?
I think you have made everything very clear and precise. I spent about ten years study advaita theory . . .
Advaita is not a theory. Advaita was seen by the rishis – they had to use that word because advaita is a beautiful word which means ‘not two’. They included duality in advaita. is not a theory. Advaita was seen by the rishis – they had to use that word because advaita is a beautiful word which means ‘not two’. They included duality in advaita.
You recently spoke about the reason why we use the word advaita, which means not two, and not the word ekant, which means one.
The rishis were so clever. When you say one, there is only one. One has got a meaning in relation to two, isn’t it? That means when you say one, you admit there are two already. You see? You say there is only one but in the back of your mind, there are two. One has got a meaning in reference to two, my child.
Truth and untruth?
You got it! So they say advaita, which means not two. Not two! Even dvaita is included in advaita because dvaita is advaita. I’ll tell you why – listen to me carefully. Supposing there is a lump of gold here on this table. A lump of gold. Does it look enhanced or beautiful – it’s just a lump of gold. Now, from that gold, someone takes that gold and he’s a goldsmith. He takes the gold and he melts it and he makes a beautiful so-called ring. So, is that ring existent or non-existent?
In truth, the ring does not exist.
Exactly, the ring does not exist. What exists except the gold around your finger? The same gold as the lump on the table. So, the same gold is here only, it is not any different gold. But he superimposed something called ring over it. A ring, an ornament. An ornament is non-existent. Can anyone give me ornament as such? Nobody can give me ornament as such. Do you understand what I am saying? So, ornament, ring, is non-existent. That which is non-existent has enhanced that which is existent, which is the gold.
You have superimposed a concept.
You have followed! You are very good! Can I have a better pen? Thank you. [More diagrams.] Nobody can give me a ring. You can only give me gold. So, that which is non-existent has enhanced, has enriched, that which is existent. Advaita is here and dvaita is there – duality, an appearance. Dvaita enhances advaita. Appearance enhances reality. Existence sees itself dressed up. You see? It is simply an appearance. It is not the reality.
The appearance exists within the reality.
You got it!
This is the thing – appearance or illusion is OK and this is the way that reality plays itself.
You got it! So you enjoy the illusion!
I shouldn’t deny it?
No! You should not!
I don’t have to be detached?
How can you be detached? If you got it, enjoy it! If you’ve got yourself a Mercedes, enjoy it. You did not get it, it was given to you. That is the stand you take. It happened to come by. The Lord gave you something. I mustn’t say, I got it, it’s mine. That is the illusion – to say that’s mine. That’s what gives you bondage.
There’s a lovely sentence that you sometimes use – I’m not a human being having a spiritual experience, I’m a spiritual being having a human experience.
Most certainly, you are a spiritual being having a humane experience. If you consider yourself to be a human being, wanting a spiritual experience, you’re on a dead-end because all experiences are in the presence of your mind, isn’t it? It’s all within time and space. All experiences are separate and bounded and chained within the concept of time and space. That is why it is called an experience, isn’t it? A divine being bound by time and space? When you are in the now, you are experiencing the experiencing.
And there’s no experiencer?
Exactly! If you are in the now, you will be experiencing the experiencing. You will not be experiencing the experienced. If you are experiencing the experienced, you are living a dead life. You follow me? You become the mystery now when you are experiencing the experiencing. What are you experiencing? The experiencing, not an interpretation. You become the flow. The existence has become one with us. Do you mean to say that the bird knows where it is flying? No, consciousness says, look, I can do what I want in that form. I’ll do what I want in this form, too. Don’t think that your are doing it. You follow?
One last question, then.
One last question and that’s it?! What is your last question, my child? You must remember that it is not the function of the mind to receive an answer. Put it down in black and white. The function of the mind is to always to question and not to receive an answer. But it keeps propagating, I want an answer, I want an answer! Why? The moment any answer reaches any mind, the same answer turns into a hundred questions. That is the food for its existence. That is why life is not a matter of questions and answers, there is nothing to be solved. Life is not a pattern. You can’t dictate life, you can’t predict life. If you can, you are better than God! You will have solved his creation. But it is a limitless and manifold manifestation, of endless variety. Endless and beginningless. He is nameless and formless. Now, do you understand why they say he’s nameless, do you?
What is your reasoning, to say he is nameless and formless?
Because when I try and think about it, I can’t attribute any name or form to him.
No, my child. Vishnu gives us a very good clue. There are 1,008 names to God. What do you mean by that he is nameless? Listen to me very carefully – people have got it totally wrong, I tell you. You are the God in you, isn’t it? God is there in you?
I think so.
You should not be thinking about it. Do you think you are alive?
Do you need proof that you are alive?
Exactly! There is something alive in you. Do you follow? Consciousness is alive in you. In everybody, isn’t it? If everywhere is God, if only God is, which name is this then? He’s nameless in the sense that no particular name belongs to him – all names are his. That’s why he is nameless. You can put any name for him – Paula, Kalpna, Vijai . . . Everything is his name! And if you say God is Paula, then he is named. He is nameless because you can take any name. That’s why there are 1,008 names of Vishnu. Every name is his. The rishis were very clever. They could have given 10,008 names to him!
And that’s just the Hindu tradition!
Exactly! Every name is his. That’s why he is formless. How can you say he is this form? That means you have only given him that form. This form is his too, that form too is his. Every form is his. That’s why he is formless. Because every form belongs to his form. He’s formless, he’s nameless. You understand? You’re different. He’s different. The room is different. The cockroach is different. The butterfly is different. The beetle is different. The bug is different. The fly is different. Everything is different. The daffodil. The nightingale. You follow what I am saying? Beautiful. We name. When the labeling process stops, we become still.
I tell you a nice story, a nice parable. There was this man, a bird-watcher. He went to watch birds. He took along with him his binoculars and his book of birds. On top of a tree are two woodpeckers. So, the bird-watcher was reading about them. One of the woodpeckers flew from the tree and sat on his right shoulder in order to see what he was reading. He read it and then he flew back to the other woodpecker and he said, ‘Hey, guess what, we’re woodpeckers!’
You should stop, then you will know your true nature. You have forgotten because you have remembered that which you should not remember. You will remember your true nature if your forget all what you have remembered. You follow, Paula? You should be the sakshi – that is Sanskrit for the witness. Then you are always witnessing your waking state. You’ve woken up now. You no longer think. You should think you’re dreaming. Now, don’t think – the thinking process has been completed. If anybody asks you, you will switch on thinking process.
The realised one is the one who has unlearnt, he is unidentified with that which all he has learnt. What has he learnt – this is mine, this is mine, this belongs to me, you are my wife . . . Everything belongs to existence. You came with empty hands, you will go with empty hands. These things came by you, this body is using it, and it will go. When you melt into life, by becoming mysterious, unpredictable, you’ll come home because life is mysterious. Once you become life, you become mysterious too. Nothing will touch you. You will transcend all opposites. All opposites will look like complimentary for you. Positive will exist because of negative, that’s all. For me, everything is nice as it is. It’s beautiful. It’s perfect. It’s imperfectly perfect. Every moment is fresh, Paula. It can never be repeated again.
As I sit here and look at you and I hear what you say, there is no doubt. And I have been in this space before but, the buts keep coming back. When will the buts stop?
The moment you stop asking when. That is your barrier. You keep asking me when. When the mind is in the future, my child, I cannot penetrate and bring it back into the now. Recognise your mind saying when. Don’t believe anything about it, don’t make an effort to stop it – that itself is another effort by the mind. When is it, tomorrow, next week, 2001, 2002, 2040? You expect some answers from me. So, I go, OK, Paula, 2002. So what? Do you think your mind will be quiet? You’ll be longing for 2002. You’ll be restless until that time. It will never happen.
Recognise the mind as saying when. When the mind does not say when, you’re home. Nobody is lost in reality. You’re only lost in your dreams. That is your thinking. You can never be lost in reality because you are always in reality. It’s a falsity to say that you are lost in reality. What do you mean? Find reality! Are you sure you have lost it? Thinking is the dreaming in the waking state and dreaming is the thinking in the sleeping state. Conquer death before death conquers you. The truth is never the truth.
Maharaj: Even to say that you are not the body is not quite true. In a way you are all the bodies, hearts and minds and much more. Go deep into the sense of ‘I am’ and you will find. How do you find a thing you have mislaid or forgotten? You keep it in your mind until you recall it. The sense of being, of ‘I am’ is the first to emerge. Ask yourself whence it comes, or just watch it quietly. When the mind stays in the ‘I am’, without moving, you enter a state which cannot be verbalised but can be experienced. All you need to do is to try and try again. After all the sense of ‘I am’ is always with you, only you have attached all kinds of things to it – body, feelings, thoughts, ideas, possessions etc. All these self-identifications are misleading. Because of them you take yourself to be what you are not.
Questioner: Then what am I?
Maharaj: It is enough to know what you are not. You need not know what you are. For, as long as knowledge means description in terms of what is already known, perceptual, or conceptual, there can be no such thing as self-knowledge, for what you are cannot be described, except as total negation. All you can say is: ‘I am not this, I am not that.’ You cannot meaningfully say, ‘this is what I am.’ It just makes no sense. What you pint out as ‘this’ or ‘that’ cannot be yourself. Surely, you cannot be ‘something’ else. You are nothing perceivable or imaginable. You observe the heart feeling, the mind thinking, the body acting; the very act of perceiving shows that you are not what you perceive. Can there be perception, experience, without you? An experience must ‘belong’. Somebody must come and declare it as his own. Without an experiencer the experience is not real. It is the experiencer that imparts reality to experience. An experience which you cannot have, of what value is it to you?
Questioner: The sense of being an experiencer, the sense of ‘I am’, is it not also an experience?
Maharaj: Obviously, every thing experienced is an experience. And in every experience there arises the experiencer of it. Memory creates the illusion of continuity. In reality each experience has its own experience and the sense of identity is due to the common factor at the root of all experiencer-experience relation. Identity and continuity are all the same. Just as a flower has its own colour, but all colours are cause by the same light, so do many experiencers appear in the undivided and indivisible awareness, each separate in memory, identical in essence. This essence is the root, the foundation, the timeless and spaceless possibility of all experience.
Questioner: How do I get at it?
Maharaj: You need not get at it, for you are it. It will get at you, if you give it a chance. Let go your attachments to the unreal and real will swiftly and smoothly step into its own. Stop imagining yourself being and doing this or that and realisation will come that you are the source and heart of all will dawn upon you. With this will come great love which is not choice or predilection, nor attachment, but a power which makes all things love-worthy and lovable.
I Am That: Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
A couple of weeks later, I receive a postcard from Washington, depicting the Jefferson Memorial. It is from Kalpna – she is on a world tour with Vijai who is currently giving satsang in America. Headed with the Sanskrit symbol Om, it reads, ‘This Dr. Vijai and Kalpna saying hello and namaste to you. Dr. Vijai sends his blessings and lots of love from me too.’
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