M: The common things of life: I experience them just as you do. The difference lies in what I do not experience. I do not experience fear or greed, hate or anger. I ask nothing, refuse nothing, keep nothing.
Questioner: I see you sitting in your son's house waiting for lunch to be served. And I wonder whether the content of your consciousness is similar to mine, or partly different, or totally different. Are you hungry and thirsty as I am, waiting rather impatiently for the meals to be served, or are you in an altogether different state of mind?
Maharaj: There is not much difference on the surface, but very much of it in depth. You know yourself only through the senses and the mind. You take yourself to be what they suggest; having no direct knowledge of yourself, you have mere ideas; all mediocre, second-hand, by hearsay. Whatever you think you are you take it to be true; the habit of imagining yourself perceivable and describable is very strong with you. I see as you see, hear as you hear, taste as you taste, eat as you eat. I also feel thirst and hunger and expect my food to be served on time. When starved or sick, my body and mind go weak. All this I perceive quite clearly, but somehow I am not in it, I feel myself as if floating over it, aloof and detached. Even not aloof and detached. There is aloofness and detachment as there is thirst and hunger; there is also the awareness of it all and a sense of immense distance, as if the body and the mind and all that happens to them were somewhere far out on the horizon. I am like a cinema screen -- clear and empty -- the pictures pass over it and disappear, leaving it as clear and empty as before. In no way is the screen affected by the pictures, nor are the pictures affected by the screen. The screen intercepts and reflects the pictures, it does not shape them. It has nothing to do with the rolls of films. These are as they are, lumps of destiny (prarabdha), but not my destiny; the destinies of the people on the screen.
Q: When I ask a question and you answer, what exactly happens?
M: The question and the answer -- both appear on the screen. The lips move, the body speaks -- and again the screen is clear and empty.
Q: When you say: clear and empty, what do you mean?
M: I mean free of all contents. To myself I am neither perceivable nor conceivable; there is nothing I can point out and say: 'this I am'. You identify yourself with everything so easily, I find it impossible. The feeling: 'I am not this or that, nor is anything mine' is so strong in me that as soon as a thing or a thought appears, there comes at once the sense 'this I am not'.
Q: Do you mean to say that you spend your time repeating 'this I am not, that I am not'?
M: Of course not. I am merely verbalizing for your sake.
Q: You make all these extraordinary statements about yourself. What makes you say those things? What do you mean by saying that you are beyond space and time?
M: You ask and the answer comes. I watch myself -- I watch the answer and see no contradiction. It is clear to me that I am telling you the truth. It is all very simple. Only you must trust me that I mean what I say, that I am quite serious. As I told you already, my Guru showed me my true nature -- and the true nature of the world. Having realised that I am one with, and yet beyond the world, I became free from all desire and fear. I did not reason out that I should be free -- I found myself free -- unexpectedly, without the least effort. This freedom from desire and fear remained with me since then.
Q: Is there no such thing as permanent perfection?
M: Yes, there is, but it includes all imperfection. It is the perfection of our self-nature which makes everything possible, perceivable, interesting. It knows no suffering, for it neither likes nor dislikes; neither accepts nor rejects. Creation and destruction are the two poles between which it weaves its ever-changing pattern. Be free from predilections and preferences and the mind with its burden of sorrow will be no more.
Q: Can one believe himself to be realised and be mistaken?
M: Of course. The very idea 'I am self-realised' is a mistake. There is no 'I am this'. 'I am that' in the Natural State.
M: I am nowhere to be found! I am not a thing to be given a place among other things. All things are in me, but I am not among things. You are telling me about the superstructure while I am concerned with the foundations. The superstructures rise and fall, but the foundations last. I am not interested in the transient, while you talk of nothing else.
Q: The person goes and only the witness remains.
M: Who remains to say: 'I am the witness'. When there is no 'I am', where is the witness? In the timeless state there is no self to take refuge in.
The man who carries a parcel is anxious not to lose it -- he is parcel-conscious. The man who cherishes the feeling 'I am' is self-conscious. The jnani holds on to nothing and cannot be said to be conscious. And yet he is not unconscious. He is the very heart of awareness. We call him digambara clothed in space, the Naked One, beyond all appearance. There is no name and shape under which he may be said to exist, yet he is the only one that truly is.
Q: I cannot grasp it.
M: Who can? The mind has its limits. It is enough to bring you to the very frontiers of knowledge and make you face the immensity of the unknown. To dive in it is up to you.
Q: What about the witness? Is it real or unreal?
M: It is both. The last remnant of illusion, the first touch of the real. To say: I am only the witness is both false and true: false because of the 'I am', true because of the witness. It is better to say: 'there is witnessing'. The moment you say: 'I am', the entire universe comes into being along with its creator.
Q: You are giving a certain date to your realisation. It means something did happen to you at that date. What happened?
M: The mind ceased producing events. The ancient and ceaseless search stopped -- l wanted nothing, expected nothing -- accepted nothing as my own. There was no 'me' left to strive for. Even the bare 'I am' faded away.
Q: Which experience?
M: The experience of being empty, uncluttered by memories and expectations; it is like the happiness of open spaces, of being young, of having all the time and energy for doing things, for discovery, for adventure.
M: Be nothing, know nothing, have nothing. This is the only life worth living, the only happiness worth having.
M: My home is in the unchangeable, which appears to be a state of constant reconciliation and integration of opposites.
People come here to learn about the actual existence of such a state, the obstacles to its emergence, and, once perceived, the art of stabilising it in consciousness, so that there is no clash between understanding and living. The state itself is beyond the mind and need not be learnt. The mind can only focus the obstacles; seeing an obstacle as an obstacle is effective, because it is the
mind acting on the mind. Begin from the beginning: give attention to the fact that you are. At no time can you say 'I was not' all you can say: 'I do not remember'. You know how unreliable is memory. Accept that, engrossed in petty personal affairs you have forgotten what you are; try to bring back the lost memory through the elimination of the known. You cannot be told what will happen, nor is it desirable; anticipation will create illusions.
M: The ordinary man is personally concerned, he counts his risks and chances, while the jnani remains aloof, sure that all will happen as it must; and it does not matter much what happens, for ultimately the return to balance and harmony is inevitable. The heart of things is at peace.
Q: I do not understand you.
M: The mind cannot understand, for the mind is trained for grasping and holding while the jnani is not-grasping and not holding.
Q: What am I holding on to, which you do not?
M: You are a creature of memories; at least you imagine yourself to be so. I am entirely unimagined. I am what I am, not identifiable with any physical or mental state.
Q: An accident would destroy your equanimity.
M: The strange fact is that it does not. To my own surprise, I remain as I am -- pure awareness, alert to all that happens.