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: You do not mean to say that the people in a picture have destinies! They belong to the story, the story is not theirs.
M: And what about you? Do you shape your life or are you shaped by it?
Q: Yes, you are right. A life story unrolls itself of which I am one of the actors. I have no being outside it, as it has no being without me. I am merely a character, not a person.
M: The character will become a person, when he begins to shape his life instead of accepting it as it comes, and identifying himself with it.
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. By the grace of my Guru I have realised once and for good that I am neither object nor subject and I do not need to remind myself all the time.
Q: I find it hard to grasp what exactly do you mean by saying that you are neither the object nor the subject. At this very moment, as we talk, am I not the object of your experience, and you the subject?
M: Look, my thumb touches my forefinger. Both touch and are touched. When my attention; is on the thumb, the thumb is the feeler and the forefinger -- the self. Shift the focus of attention and the relationship is reversed. I find that somehow, by shifting the focus of attention, I become the very thing I look at and experience the kind of consciousness it has; I become the inner witness of the thing. I call this capacity of entering other focal points of consciousness -- love; you may give it any name you like. Love says: 'I am everything'. Wisdom says: 'I am nothing' Between the two my life flows. Since at any point of time and space I can be both the subject and the object of experience, I express it by saying that I am both, and neither, and beyond both.
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. Another thing I noticed was that I do not need to make an effort; the deed follows the thought, without delay and friction. I have also found that thoughts become self-fulfilling; things would fall in place smoothly and rightly. The main change was in the mind; it became motionless and silent, responding quickly, but not perpetuating the response. Spontaneity became a way of life, the real became natural and the natural became real. And above all, infinite affection, love, dark and quiet, radiating in all directions, embracing all, making all interesting and beautiful, significant and auspicious.
Q: We are told that various Yogic powers arise spontaneously in a man who has realised his own true being. What is your experience in these matters?
M: Man's fivefold body (physical etc.) has potential powers beyond our wildest dreams. Not only is the entire universe reflected in man, but also the power to control the universe is waiting to be used by him. The wise man is not anxious to use such powers, except when the situation calls for them. He finds the abilities and skills of the human personality quite adequate for the business of daily living. Some of the powers can be developed by specialised training, but the man who flaunts such powers is still in bondage. The wise man counts nothing as his own. When at some time and place some miracle is attributed to some person, he will not establish any causal link between events and people, nor will he allow any conclusions to be drawn. All happened as it happened because it had to happen everything happens as it does, because the universe is as it is.
Q: The universe does not seem a happy place to live in. Why is there so much suffering?
M: Pain is physical; suffering is mental. Beyond the mind there is no suffering. Pain is merely a signal that the body is in danger and requires attention. Similarly, suffering warns us that the structure of memories and habits, which we call the person (vyakti), is threatened by loss or change. Pain is essential for the survival of the body, but none compels you to suffer. Suffering is due entirely to clinging or resisting; it is a sign of our unwillingness to move on, to flow with life.
As a sane life is free of pain, so is a saintly life free from suffering.
Q: Nobody has suffered more than saints.
M: Did they tell you, or do you say so on your own? The essence of saintliness is total acceptance of the present moment, harmony with things as they happen. A saint does not want things to be different from what they are; he knows that, considering all factors, they are unavoidable. He is friendly with the inevitable and,. therefore, does not suffer. Pain he may know, but it does not shatter him. If he can, he does the needful to restore the lost balance -- or he lets things take their course.
Q: He may die.
M: So what? What does he gain by living on and what does he lose by dying? What was born, must die; what was never born cannot die. It all depends on what he takes himself to be.
Q: Imagine you fall mortally ill. Would you not regret and resent?
M: But I am dead already, or, rather, neither alive nor dead. You see my body behaving the habitual way and draw your own conclusions. You will not admit that your conclusions bind nobody but you. Do see that the image you have of me may be altogether wrong. Your image of yourself is wrong too, but that is your problem. But you need not create problems for me and then ask me to solve them. I am neither creating problems nor solving them.