Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Nisagadatta Maharaj - Excerpt from 'Pointers'

The mind creates the abyss; the heart crosses it

The highest truth can be found in the teachings of Nisagadatta Maharaj, a barely-educated tobacco-kiosk owner who died in Bombay in 1982. The classic book of his teachings is 'I Am That' transcribed and translated from his native Marathi by Maurice Frydman, as well as books about his teaching such as 'Pointers' by Ramesh Balsekar.

The dialogue, one evening, was started by a young Canadian, wearing a lunghi and a thin kurtha. He said that he was twenty-three, but looked barely out of his teens. He wore around his neck an elegant little silver cross on a dainty chain. He said that he had come across the book I Am That in a bookshop in Bombay a couple of days ago. A cursory glance at a few pages impelled in him a desire to meet Maharaj personally. He had already gone through the book reading almost continuously, through the afternoon, evening and night, and had finished both volumes only a few hours ago.

Maharaj: You are so young. I wonder since what age you have been interested in the spiritual quest?
Visitor: Sir, ever since I can remember I have been deeply interested in Love and God. And I strongly felt that they are not different. When I sit in meditation, I often.....
M: Wait a moment. What exactly do you mean by meditation?
V: I don't really know. All I do is sit cross-legged, close my eyes, and remain absolutely quiet. I find my body relaxing, almost melting away, and my mind or being or whatever, merging into space, and the thought process getting gradually suspended.
M: That's good. Please proceed.
V: Quite often, during meditation, an overwhelming feeling of ecstatic love arises in my heart together with an effusion of well-being. I do not know what it is. It was during one such spell that I felt inspired to visit India - and here I am.
M: How long will you be in Bombay?
V: I don't really know. I rarely make any plans. I have sufficient money to live frugally for about fifteen days, and I have my return ticket.
M: Now tell me, what is it exactly that you want to know? Do you have any specific questions?
V: I was a very confused man when I landed in Bombay. I felt i was almost going out of my mind. I really don't know what took me to the bookshop (Chetana in Rampart Row, where I Am That was for a long time uniquely available -HL) because I don't do much reading. The moment i
I picked up the first volume of I Am That, I experienced the same overpowering feeling that I get in meditation. As I went on reading the book a weight seemed to lift off within me, and, as I am sitting here before you, I feel as if I am talking to myself. And what I am saying to myself feels like blasphemy. I was convinced that love is God. But now I think that love is surely a concept and if love is a concept, God also must be a concept.
M: So what is wrong in it?
V: (Laughing) Now, if you put it like that, I have no feeling of guilt in transforming God into a concept.
M: Actually, you said that love is God. What do you mean by the word 'love'?. Do you mean love as the opposite of 'hate'? Or do you mean something else, although of course no word can be adequate to describe God?
V: No. No. By the word 'love' I certainly do not mean the opposite of 'hate'. What i mean is that love is abstaining from discrimination as 'me' and the 'other'.
M: In other words, unity of being?
V: Yes, indeed. What then is God to whom I am expected to pray?
M: Let us talk about prayer later. Now then, what exactly is this God you are talking about? Is he not the very consciousness - the sense of being that one has - because of which you are able to ask questions? I am itself is God. What is it that you love most? Is it not this 'I am', the conscious presence that you want to preserve at any cost? The seeking itself is God. In seeking you discover that 'you' are apart from this body-mind complex. If you were not conscious, would the world exist for you? Would there be any idea of God? And the consciousness in you and the consciousness in me - are they different? Are they not separate only as concepts, seeking unity unconceived, and is that not love?
V: Now I understand what is meant by 'God is nearer to me than I ma to myself'.
M: Also remember there can be no proof of Reality other then being it. Indeed, you are it, and have always been. Consciousness leaves with the end of the body (and is therefore time-bound) and with it leaves the duality which is the basis of consciousness and manifestation.
V: What then is prayer, and what is its purpose?
M: Prayer, as it is generally understood, is nothing but begging for something. Actually prayer means communion-uniting-Yoga.
V: Everything is so clear now, as if a great deal of rubbish has been suddenly thrown out of my system, blown out of existence.
M: Do you mean that you now seems to see everything clearly?
V: No. No! Not 'seem'. It is clear, so clear that I am amazed that it was not clear at any time. Various statements that i had read in the Bible, which seemed important but vague before, are now crystal clear - statements like: Before Abraham was, i am; I and my father are one; I am that I am.
M: Good. Now that you know what it is all about, what Sadhana will you do to to obtain liberation from your bondage?
V: Ah! Maharaj. Now you are surely making fun of me. Or are you testing me? Surely, now that I know and have realized that I am that - - I am, which I have always been ad which I shall always be. What is left to be done? Or, undone? And who is to do it? And for what purpose?
M: Excellent! Just be.
V: I shall, indeed.
Then, the young Canadian prostrated himself before Maharaj, his eyes brimming with tears of gratitude and joy. Maharaj asked him if he would be coming again, and the lad said: 'Honestly, I don't know'. When he had left, Maharaj sat for a ewhile with his eyes closed, the gentlest of smiles on his lips. The he said very softly: 'A rare one'; I could barely catch the words.
I never saw the young Canadian again, and have often wondered about him.

From 'Pointers From Nisagadatta Maharaj' by Ramesh Balsekar. Chetana Bombay 1982.

Friday, 23 June 2006

Things we learn in time

As man advances through life, and begins to see things from a higher angle, then everything the world has agreed to call beauty loses much of its importance for him, as well as carnal pleasures and other trifles of that sort.

In the eyes of a clear-sighted and disillusioned man each season has its beauty, and it is not spring that is the most enchanting, nor winter the most evil. Henceforth beauty for him will not mean the promise of physical pleasure and happiness. It is Stendhal who says that beauty will henceforth be the form which promises the most kindliness, most loyalty in fulfilling one's side of the bargain, most honesty in keeping trust, most delicacy in intellectual perception. Ugliness will mean cruelty, avarice, falseness and stupidity. Many men do not know these things and only learn them later to their own cost. Just a few know them now, but each knows them for himself alone.

By what means would I ever make it clear to a young flibbertigibbet that the great attraction and sympathy I feel for ageing women, for those poor unfortunate creatures who have suffered much though their lovers, though their husbands, though their children and most of all through their own fault, are coupled with no sensual desire? If the notion of virtue and love is not mingled with our pleasures, then those pleasures will only become anguish and a source of remorse.


In similar vein, Coleridge:

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the night thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles
Quietly shining to the quiet moon