Questioner: Some Mahatmas (enlightened beings) maintain that the world is neither an accident nor a play of God, but the result and expression of a mighty plan of work aiming at awakening and developing consciousness throughout the universe. From lifelessness to life, from unconsciousness to consciousness, from dullness to bright intelligence, from misapprehension to clarity -- that is the direction in which the world moves ceaselessly and relentlessly. Of course, there are moments of rest and apparent darkness, when the universe seems to be dormant, but the rest comes to an end and the work on consciousness is resumed. From our point of view the world is a dale of tears, a place to escape from, as soon as possible and by every possible means. To enlightened beings the world is good and it serves a good purpose. They do not deny that the world is a mental structure and that ultimately all is one, but they see and say that the structure has meaning and serves a supremely desirable purpose. What we call the will of God is not a capricious whim of a playful deity, but the expression of an absolute necessity to grow in love and wisdom and power, to actualise the infinite potentials of life and consciousness.
Just as a gardener grows flowers from a tiny seed to glorious perfection, so does God in His own garden grow, among other beings, men to supermen, who know and love and work along with Him.
When God takes rest (pralaya), those whose growth was not completed, become unconscious for a time, while the perfect ones, who have gone beyond all forms and contents of consciousness, remain aware of the universal silence. When the time comes for the emergence of a new universe, the sleepers wake up and their work starts. The more advanced wake up first and prepare the ground for the less advanced -- who thus find forms and patterns of behaviour suitable for their further growth.
Thus runs the story. The difference with your teaching is this: you insist that the world is no good and should be shunned. They say that distaste for the world is a passing stage, necessary, yet temporary, and is soon replaced by an all-pervading love, and a steady will to work with God.
Maharaj: All you say is right for the outgoing (pravritti) path. For the path of return (nivritti) naughting oneself is necessary. My stand I take where nothing (paramakash) is; words do not reach there, nor thoughts. To the mind it is all darkness and silence. Then consciousness begins to stir and wakes up the mind (chidakash), which projects the world (mahadakash), built of memory and imagination. Once the world comes into being, all you say may be so. It is in the nature of the mind to imagine goals, to strive towards them, to seek out means and ways, to display vision, energy and courage. These are divine attributes and I do not deny them. But I take my stand where no difference exists, where things are not, nor the minds that create them. There I am at home. Whatever happens, does not affect me -- things act on things, that is all. Free from memory and expectation, I am fresh, innocent and wholehearted. Mind is the great worker (mahakarta) and it needs rest. Needing nothing, I am unafraid. Whom to be afraid of? There is no separation, we are not separate selves. There is only one Self, the Supreme Reality, in which the personal and the impersonal are one.
Q: All I want is to be able to help the world.
M: Who says you cannot help? You made up your mind about what help means and needs and got your self into a conflict between what you should and what you can, between necessity and ability.
Q: But why do we do so?
M: Your mind projects a structure and you identify yourself with it. It is in the nature of desire to prompt the mind to create a world for its fulfilment. Even a small desire can start a long line of action; what about a strong desire? Desire can produce a universe; its powers are miraculous. Just as a small matchstick can set a huge forest on fire, so does a desire light the fires of manifestation.
The very purpose of creation is the fulfilment of desire. The desire may be noble, or ignoble, space (akash) is neutral -- one can fill it with what one likes: You must be very careful as to what you desire. And as to the people you want to help, they are in their respective worlds for the sake of their desires; there is no way of helping them except through their desires. You can only teach them to have right desires so that they may rise above them and be free from the urge to create and recreate worlds of desires, abodes of pain and pleasure.
Q: A day must come when the show is wound up; a man must die, a universe come to an end.
M: Just as a sleeping man forgets all and wakes up for another day, or he dies and emerges into another life, so do the worlds of desire and fear dissolve and disappear. But the universal witness, the Supreme Self never sleeps and never dies. Eternally the Great Heart beats and at each beat a new universe comes into being.
Q: Is he conscious?
M: He is beyond all that the mind conceives. He is beyond being and not being. He is the Yes and No to everything, beyond and within, creating and destroying, unimaginably real.
Q: God and the Mahatma are they one or two?
M: They are one.
Q: There must be some difference.
M: God is the All-Doer, the jnani is a non-doer. God himself does not say: 'I am doing all.' To Him things happen by their own nature. To the jnani all is done by God. He sees no difference between God and nature. Both God and the jnani know themselves to be the immovable centre of the movable, the eternal witness of the transient. The centre is a point of void and the witness a point of pure awareness; they know themselves to be as nothing, therefore nothing can resist them.
Q: How does this look and feel in your personal experience?
M: Being nothing, I am all. Everything is me, everything is mine. Just as my body moves by my mere thinking of the movement, so do things happen as I think of them. Mind you, I do nothing. I just see them happen.
Q: Do things happen as you want them to happen, or do you want them to happen as they happen?
M: Both. I accept and am accepted. I am all and all is me. Being the world I am not afraid of the world. Being all, what am I to be afraid of? Water is not afraid of water, nor fire of fire. Also I am not afraid because I am nothing that can experience fear, or can be in danger. I have no shape, nor name. It is attachment to a name and shape that breeds fear. I am not attached. I am nothing, and nothing is afraid of no thing. On the contrary, everything is afraid of the Nothing, for when a thing touches Nothing, it becomes nothing. It is like a bottomless well, whatever falls into it, disappears.
Q: Isn't God a person?
M: As long as you think yourself to be a person, He too is a person. When you are all, you see Him as all.
Q: Can I change facts by changing attitude?
M: The attitude is the fact. Take anger. I may be furious, pacing the room up and down; at the same time I know what I am, a centre of wisdom and love, an atom of pure existence. All subsides and the mind merges into silence.
Q: Still, you are angry sometimes.
M: With whom am l to be angry and for what? Anger came and dissolved on my remembering myself. It is all a play of gunas (qualities of cosmic matter). When I identify myself with them, I am their slave. When I stand apart, I am their master.
Q: Can you influence the world by your attitude? By separating yourself from the world you lose all hope of helping it.
M: How can it be? All is myself -- can't I help myself? I do not identify myself with anybody in particular, for I am all -- both the particular and the universal.
Q: Can you then help me, the particular person?
M: But I do help you always -- from within. My self and your self are one. I know it, but you don't. That is all the difference -- and it cannot last.
Q: And how do you help the entire world?
M: Gandhi is dead, yet his mind pervades the earth. The thought of a jnani pervades humanity and works ceaselessly for good. Being anonymous, coming from within, it is the more powerful and compelling. That is how the world improves -- the inner aiding and blessing the outer. When a jnani dies, he is no more, in the same sense in which a river is no more when it merges in the sea, the name, the shape, are no more, but the water remains and becomes one with the ocean. When a jnani joins the universal mind, all his goodness and wisdom become the heritage of humanity and uplift every human being.
Q: We are attached to our personality. Our individuality, our being unlike others, we value very much. You seem to denounce both as useless. Your unmanifested, of what use is it to us?
M: Unmanifested, manifested, individuality, personality (nirguna, saguna, vyakta, vyakti); all these are mere words, points of view, mental attitudes. There is no reality in them. The real is experienced in silence. You cling to personality -- but you are conscious of being a person only when you are in trouble -- when you are not in trouble you do not think of yourself.
Q: You did not tell me the uses of the Unmanifested.
M: Surely, you must sleep in order to wake up. You must die in order to live, you must melt down to shape anew. You must destroy to build, annihilate before creation. The Supreme is the universal solvent, it corrodes every container, it burns through every obstacle. Without the absolute denial of everything the tyranny of things would be absolute. The Supreme is the great harmoniser, the guarantee of the ultimate and perfect balance -- of life in freedom. It dissolves you and thus reasserts your true being.
Q: It is all well on its own level. But how does it work in daily life?
M: The daily life is a life of action. Whether you like it or not, you must function. Whatever you do for your own sake accumulates and becomes explosive; one day it goes off and plays havoc with you and your world. When you deceive yourself that you work for the good of all, it makes matters worse, for you should not be guided by your own ideas of what is good for others. A man who claims to know what is good for others, is dangerous.
Q: How is one to work then?
M: Neither for yourself nor for others, but for the work's own sake. A thing worth doing is its own purpose and meaning, Make nothing a means to something else. Bind not. God does not create one thing to serve another. Each is made for its own sake. Because it is made for itself, it does not interfere. You are using things and people for purposes alien to them and you play havoc with the world and yourself.
Q: Our real being is all the time with us, you say. How is it that we do not notice it?
M: Yes, you are always the Supreme. But your attention is fixed on things, physical or mental. When your attention is off a thing and not yet fixed on another, in the interval you are pure being. When through the practice of discrimination and detachment (viveka-vairagya), you lose sight of sensory and mental states, pure being emerges as the natural state.
Q: How does one bring to an end this sense of separateness?
M: By focussing the mind on 'I am', on the sense of being, 'I am so-and-so' dissolves; "I am a witness only" remains and that too submerges in 'I am all'. Then the all becomes the One and the One -- yourself, not to be separate from me. Abandon the idea of a separate 'I' and the question of 'whose experience?' will not arise.
Q: You speak from your own experience. How can I make it mine?
M: You speak of my experience as different from your experience, because you believe we are separate. But we are not. On a deeper level my experience is your experience. Dive deep within yourself and you will find it easily and simply. Go in the direction of 'I am'.