Questioner: Once I had a strange experience. I was not, nor was the world, there was only light -within and without -- and immense peace. This lasted for four days and then I returned to the everyday consciousness.
Now I have a feeling that all I know is merely a scaffolding, covering and hiding the building under construction. The architect, the design, the plans, the purpose -- nothing I know; some activity is going on, things are happening; that is all I can say. I am that scaffolding, some thing very flimsy and short-lived; when the building is ready, the scaffolding will be dismantled and removed. The ‘I am’ and the ‘What am I’ are of no importance, because once the building is ready, the ‘I’ will go as a matter of course, leaving no questions about itself to answer.
Maharaj: Are you not aware of all this? Is not the fact of awareness the constant factor?
Q: My sense of permanency and identity is due to memory, which is so evanescent and unreliable. How little I remember, even of the recent past! I have lived a life-time, and now what is left with me? A bundle of events, at best a short story.
M: All this takes place within your consciousness.
Q: Within and without. In daytime -- within; in the night -- without. Consciousness is not all. So many things happen beyond its reach. To say that what I am not conscious of does not exist, is altogether wrong.
M: What you say is logical, but actually you know only what is in your consciousness. What you claim exists outside conscious experience is inferred.
Q: It may be inferred and yet it is more real than the sensory.
M: Be careful. The moment you start talking you create a verbal universe, a universe of words, ideas, concepts and abstractions, interwoven and inter-dependent, most wonderfully generating, supporting and explaining each other and yet all without essence or substance, mere creations of the mind. Words create words, reality is silent.
Q: When you talk, I hear you. Is it not a fact?
M: That you hear is a fact. What you hear -- is not. The fact can be experienced, and in that sense the sound of the word and the mental ripples it causes are experienced. There is no other reality behind it. Its meaning is purely conventional, to be remembered; a language can be easily forgotten, unless practiced.
Q: If words have no reality in them why talk at all?
M: They serve their limited purpose of inter-personal communication. Words do not convey facts, they signal them. Once you are beyond the person, you need no words.
Q: What can take me beyond the person? How to go beyond consciousness?
M: Words and questions come from the mind and hold you there. To go beyond the mind, you must be silent and quiet. Peace and silence, silence and peace -- this is the way beyond. Stop asking questions.
Q: Once I give up asking questions, what am I to do?
M: What can you do but wait and watch?
Q: What am I to wait for?
M: For the centre of your being to emerge into consciousness. The three states -- sleeping, dreaming and waking are all in consciousness, the manifested; what you call unconsciousness will also be manifested -- in time; beyond consciousness altogether lies the unmanifested. And beyond all, and pervading all, is the heart of being which beats steadily -- manifested-unmanifested; manifested-unmanifested (saguna-nirguna).
Q: On the verbal level it sounds all right. I can visualise myself as the seed of being, a point in consciousness, with my sense ‘I am’ pulsating, appearing and disappearing alternately. But what am I to do to realise it as a fact, to go beyond into the changeless, wordless Reality?
M: You can do nothing. What time has brought about, time will take away.
Q: Why then all these exhortations to practice Yoga and seek reality? They make me feel empowered and responsible, while in fact it is time that does all.
M: This is the end of Yoga -- to realise independence. All that happens, happens in and to the mind, not to the source of the ‘I am’. Once you realise that all happens by itself, (call it destiny, or the will of God or mere accident), you remain as witness only, understanding and enjoying, but not perturbed.
Q: If I cease trusting words altogether, what will be my condition?
M: There is a season for trusting and for distrusting. Let the seasons do their work, why worry?
Q: Somehow I feel responsible for what happens around me.
M: You are responsible only for what you can change. All you can change is only your attitude. There lies your responsibility.
Q: You are advising me to remain indifferent to the sorrows of others!
M: It is not that you are indifferent. All the sufferings of mankind do not prevent you from enjoying your next meal. The witness is not indifferent. He is the fullness of understanding and compassion. Only as the witness you can help another.
Q: All my life I was fed on words. The number of words I have heard and read go into the billions. Did it benefit me? Not at all!
M: The mind shapes the language and the language shapes the mind. Both are tools, use them but don’t misuse them. Words can bring you only unto their own limit; to go beyond, you must abandon them. Remain as the silent witness only.
Q: How can I? The world disturbs me greatly.
M: It is because you think yourself big enough to be affected by the world. It is not so. You are so small that nothing can pin you down. It is your mind that gets caught, not you. Know yourself as you are -- a mere point in consciousness, dimensionless and timeless. You are like the point of the pencil -- by mere contact with you the mind draws its picture of the world. You are single and simple -- the picture is complex and extensive. Don’t be misled by the picture -- remain aware of the tiny point -- which is everywhere in the picture.
What is, can cease to be; what is not, can come to be; but what neither is nor is not, but on which being and non-being depend, is unassailable; know yourself to be the cause of desire and fear, itself free from both.
Q: How am I the cause of fear?
M: All depends on you. It is by your consent that the world exists. Withdraw your belief in its reality and it will dissolve like a dream. Time can bring down mountains; much more you, who are the timeless source of time. For without memory and expectation there can be no time.
Q: Is the ‘I am’ the Ultimate?
M: Before you can say: ‘I am’, you must be there to say it. Being need not be self-conscious. You need not know to be, but you must be to know.
Q: Sir, I am getting drowned in a sea of words! I can see that all depends on how the words are out together, but there must be somebody to put them together -- meaningfully. By drawing words at random the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavata could never be produced. The theory of accidental emergence is not tenable. The origin of the meaningful must be beyond it. What is the power that creates order out of chaos? Living is more than being, and consciousness is more than living. Who is the conscious living being?
M: Your question contains the answer: a conscious living being is a conscious living being. The words are most appropriate, but you do not grasp their full import. Go deep into the meaning of the words: being, living, conscious, and you will stop running in circles, asking questions, but missing answers. Do understand that you cannot ask a valid question about yourself, because you do not know whom you are asking about. In the question ‘Who am I?’ the ‘I’ is not known and the question can be worded as: “I do not know what I mean by ‘I’” What you are, you must find out. I can only tell you what you are not. You are not of the world, you are not even in the world. The world is not, you alone are. You create the world in your imagination like a dream. As you cannot separate the dream from yourself, so you cannot have an outer world independent of yourself. You are independent, not the world. Don’t be afraid of a world you yourself have created. Cease from looking for happiness and reality in a dream and you will wake up. You need not know ‘why’ and ‘how’, there is no end to questions. Abandon all desires, keep your mind silent and you shall discover.