Questioner: When asked about the means for self-realisation, you invariably stress the importance of the mind dwelling on the sense 'I am'. Where is the causal factor? Why should this particular thought result in self-realisation? How does the contemplation of 'I am' affect me?
Maharaj: The very fact of observation alters the observer and the observed. After all, what prevents the insight into one's true nature is the weakness and obtuseness of the mind and its tendency to skip the subtle and focus on the gross only. When you follow my advice and try to keep your mind on the notion of 'I am' only, you become fully aware of your mind and its vagaries. Awareness, being lucid harmony (sattva) in action, dissolves dullness and quietens the restlessness of the mind and gently, but steadily changes its very substance. This change need not be spectacular; it may be hardly noticeable; yet it is a deep and fundamental shift from darkness to light, from inadvertence to awareness.
Q: Must it be the 'I am' formula? Will not any other sentence do? If I concentrate on 'there is a table', will it not serve the same purpose?
M: As an exercise in concentration -- yes. But it will not take you beyond the idea of a table. You are not interested in tables, you want to know yourself. For this keep steadily in the focus of consciousness the only clue you have: your certainty of being. Be with it, play with it, ponder over it, delve deeply into it, till the shell of ignorance breaks open and you emerge into the realm of reality.
Q: Is there any causal link between my focussing the 'I am' and the breaking of the shell?
M: The urge to find oneself is a sign that you are getting ready. The impulse always comes from within. Unless your time has come, you will have neither the desire nor the strength to go for selfenquiry whole-heartedly.
Q: Is not the grace of the Guru responsible for the desire and its fulfilment? Is not the Guru's radiant face the bait on which we are caught and pulled out of this mire of sorrow?
M: It is the Inner Guru (sadguru) who takes you to the Outer Guru, as a mother takes her child to a teacher. Trust and obey your Guru, for he is the messenger of your Real Self.
Q: How do I find a Guru whom I can trust?
M: Your own heart will tell you. There is no difficulty in finding a Guru, because the Guru is in search of you. The Guru is always ready; you are not ready. You have to be ready to learn; or you may meet your Guru and waste your chance by sheer inattentiveness and obstinacy. Take my example; there was nothing in me of much promise, but when I met my Guru, I listened, trusted and obeyed.
Q: Must I not examine the teacher before I put myself entirely into his hands?
M: By all means examine! But what can you find out? Only as he appears to you on your own level.
Q: I shall watch whether he is consistent, whether there is harmony between his life and his teaching.
M: You may find plenty of disharmony -- so what? It proves nothing. Only motives matter. How will you know his motives?
Q: I should at least expect him to be a man of self-control who lives a righteous life.
M: Such you will find many -- and of no use to you. A Guru can show the way back home, to your real self. What has this to do with the character, or temperament of the person he appears to be? Does he not clearly tell you that he is not the person? The only way you can judge is by the change in yourself when you are in his company. If you feel more at peace and happy, if you understand yourself with more than usual clarity and depth, it means you have met the right man. Take your time, but once you have made up your mind to trust him, trust him absolutely and follow every instruction fully and faithfully. It does not matter much if you do not accept him as your Guru and are satisfied with his company only. Satsang alone can also take you to your goal, provided it is unmixed and undisturbed. But once you accept somebody as your Guru, listen, remember and obey. Half-heartedness is a serious drawback and the cause of much self-created sorrow. The mistake is never the Guru's; it is always the obtuseness and cussedness of the discipline that is at fault.
Q: Does the Guru then dismiss, or disqualify a disciple?
M: He would not be a Guru if he did! He bides his time and waits till the disciple, chastened and sobered, comes back to him in a more receptive mood.
Q: What is the motive? Why does the Guru take so much trouble?
M: Sorrow and the ending of sorrow. He sees people suffering in their dreams and he wants them to wake up. Love is intolerant of pain and suffering. The patience of a Guru has no limits and, therefore, it cannot be defeated. The Guru never fails.
Q: Is my first Guru also my last, or do I have to pass from Guru to Guru?
M: The entire universe is your Guru. You learn from everything, if you are alert and intelligent. Were your mind clear and your heart clean, you would learn from every passer-by;. It is because you are indolent or restless, that your inner Self manifests as the outer Guru and makes you trust him and obey.
Q: Is a Guru inevitable?
M: It is like asking 'Is a mother inevitable?' To rise in consciousness from one dimension to another, you need help. The help may not always be in the shape of a human person, it may be a subtle presence, or a spark of intuition, but help must come. The inner Self is watching and waiting for the son to return to his father. At the right time he arranges everything affectionately and effectively. Where a messenger is needed, or a guide, he sends the Guru to do the needful.
Q: There is one thing I cannot grasp. You speak of the inner self as wise and good and beautiful and in every way perfect, and of the person as mere reflection without a being of its own. On the other hand you take so much trouble in helping the person to realise itself. If the person is so unimportant, why be so concerned with its welfare? Who cares for a shadow?
M: You have brought in duality where there is none. There is the body and there is the Self. Between them is the mind, in which the Self is reflected as 'I am'. Because of the imperfections of the mind, its crudity and restlessness, lack of discernment and insight, it takes itself to be the body, not the Self. All that is needed is to purify the mind so that it can realise its identity with the Self. When the mind merges in the Self, the body presents no problems. It remains what it is, an instrument of cognition and action, the tool and the expression of the creative fire within: The ultimate value of the body is that it serves to discover the cosmic body, which is the universe in its entirety. As you realise yourself in manifestation, you keep on discovering that you are ever more than what you have imagined.
Q: Is there no end to self-discovery?
M: As there is no beginning, there is no end. But what I have discovered by the grace of my Guru is: I am nothing that can be pointed at. I am neither a 'this' nor a 'that'. This holds absolutely.
Q: Then, where comes in the never-ending discovery, the endless transcending oneself into hew dimensions?
M: All this belongs to the realm of manifestation; it is in the very structure of the universe, that the higher can be had only through the freedom from the lower.
Q: What is lower and what is higher?
M: Look at it in terms of awareness. Wider and deeper consciousness is higher. All that lives, works for protecting, perpetuating and expanding consciousness. This is the world's sole meaning and purpose. It is the very essence of Yoga -- ever raising the level of consciousness, discovery of new dimensions, with their properties, qualities and powers. In that sense the entire universe becomes a school of Yoga (yogakshetra).
Q: Is perfection the destiny of all human beings?
M: Of all living beings -- ultimately. The possibility becomes a certainty when the notion of enlightenment appears in the mind. Once a living being has heard and understood that deliverance is within his reach, he will never forget, for it is the first message from within. It will take roots and grow and in due course take the blessed shape of the Guru.
Q: So all we are concerned with is the redemption of the mind?
M: What else? The mind goes astray, the mind returns home. Even the word 'astray' is not proper. The mind must know itself in every mood. Nothing is a mistake unless repeated.