Questioner: Nisargadatta Maharaj says to be constantly in the “I am” realization. What does that mean? What is this “I am” realization? This he said was the mantra that his Guru gave him and this was also the advice that he would give to all his listeners. He used to say never forget “I am”. What does that mean?
Acharya Prashant: It means two things, of which one is ‘nothing’. We will first discuss the thing.
There is this entire world and its happenings, and seemingly you at the centre of this world and there are events that are happening all the time: thoughts, discussions, accidents, destiny, love, hate, anger, profit, loss, news, knowledge. All that is happening all the time and the mind is kept active, busy with all that.
To remember “I am” means to remember that none of that which is happening really has an objective existence. So whatever is happening is ‘you’. If you find it difficult to digest initially that if there is a war happening in the Middle East, how could this war be me? Then start off by at least remembering that whatever is happening is being given a color by you. At least this much can be remembered.
So, you can remember I am the one who is giving it a meaning. I am the one who is giving it an interpretation, a color. Slowly from there when you realize the depth of your interpretation, when you realize that the painting is nothing except the colors and all colors are been given by you. Then you come down to saying that, “I am that event”.
You start off by saying that, “I am the interpreter of the event”. And when you see how deep your interpretations are, that there is nothing really left if you take away the interpretations; then you actually say that, “I am that event”. This is the first level of remembering “I am”. Whatever is happening, whatever I am seeing is not outside of me; “I am its seer”, “I am its projector”, “I am its creator” and “I am its interpreter”. In fact, “I am it”. This is the first level of meaning.
What is the second level?
I had said that the second level is a nothing level. The second level means that I am nothing except the events that are happening. Understand the subtle difference. At the first level you said that whatever is happening that I am. There is no objective existence of the happening. If something is coming to me as news, if something is coming to me as a sight or smell or touch; I am that.
So, firstly you looked at the world and said that the world is me. In the second level you are saying that which I think of myself is nothing but the world. So, who am I? Nothing. Because whatever I would think of myself is not myself but the world. So what am I left with, as myself? Nothing.
That is why I have said that “I am” means two things, of which the second is nothing.
Everything that you think of as the world is nothing but ‘you’.
Everything that you think of as ‘you’ is nothing but the world.
Sans your thoughts, the world and the conception of ‘you’, there is a vast nothingness and that is what you really are.
Now, you cannot think about this second level. This second level, if you see is just a remainder. It is just that which remains after everything else has gone.
The mantra that Nisargadatta is giving is essentially only this much:
Do not take the world as different from yourself, see yourself in every happening. See that the happening cannot mean to you except if you give it a meaning. See that the world does not trouble you; you attach troublesome meanings to the world. This is the first meaning of “I am”. And when you can clearly see that you are the world and the world is you, and then your conception of yourself holds no ground. You cannot possibly say that I am this entire existence. If you say you are this entire existence, then again you are saying this same thing, “I am nothing”, because then you are boundary less.
You could put it this way. Something happens to you and you can ask yourself every time something happens to you this question:
Is it necessary for me to give this happening the same meaning that I am giving right now?
And if I do not give it meaning, does the happening hold any weight?
In fact if I do not give it a meaning, has the happening even happened?
It would be a mere blip upon my mental radar, nothing more than that and maybe not even that.
Or you could ask a question this way, “Can the world appear to me as it appears to me without me being what I am? So does the world have any objective existence? Can the world appear to me as it appears to me without me being what I am? So, is the world really separate from me? Or if something happens to me; could this have happened to me, had I not been what I am? Could this have happened to somebody else? No, it is happened only to me. And if it is happening only to me, it surely has something to do with what I am?”
Now, the happening loses its punch. Now, the happening cannot reinforce your sense of separation from the happening. When you feel separate from the happening, then your ego gets strength. Something has happened to me. And the more you are separate from the happening, the more you become vulnerable to being hurt from the happening. You say, “Something has happened to me”. At the same time, the more you become vulnerable to getting pleasure from the happening you say, “Something is happening to me”. Now, could this happening have pleased me so much, had I not been what I am? Had I not been greedy, could accidental discovery of this one thousand rupees note have pleased me so much? So, this note does not mean anything or to anybody, except me. And if am not greedy then this note holds no significance.
A woman is crying and walking away from a crowd of ten men. Only one is especially disturbed, the other nine are not. Could this one man have been disturbed, had he not been the husband of this woman? These nine men are not bothering right now. Would they have not bothered, had they been the husband of this woman?
So, look at the happening and see yourself in the happening.
The more you look at yourself in the happening, the more the distance between you and the world, the more the separation gets dissolved. When the separation gets dissolved, the happening loses meaning, then your definition of yourself loses meaning and there is just clarity. A pure clarity which you can call as an empty clarity. This empty clarity is the real “I am”.
This real “I am” will not come and shout “I am”. The shouting and analysis and everything happens only at the first level.
The things that mean so much to you today, could they have meant so much, had the course of your life been different? There are things that matter so much to you today. Could they have mattered, had the accidents in your life been different? So, that which you start taking as very important, as essential, when you remember that it is not essential, its significance is supplied to it by ‘me’. Then it starts losing its significance.
Your eyes are being attracted to one person or to one object. One way is to think that there is something special about that person or object. But Nisargadatta is telling you that if you are being attracted towards something, remember there is something in ‘you’ that is finding that thing attractive. Find out and remember what it is within you. And it is such a great relief to know that there is nothing special about that person, nothing special at all. Some part of my tendency and it is a tendency that has come from the world.
We do not remember this, do we?
When you come across something nice, what you immediately say? “Oh! What a thing!” Or do you say, “Something in my mind is finding that thing important”? What do you say? “Oh! What a thing!” As if there is some objective speciality about that thing.
Nisargadatta is saying remember not the thing, but the looker, there is nothing at all in that thing, that thing is devoid of all meaning, altogether.
If your eyes are resting upon one face, there is nothing in that face; there is something in your eyes. But you hardly ever find poets singing about their eyes. You find them singing about the face!
Nisargadatta would say, “What stupidity! Just say, ‘I am’”. There is nothing in that face, you are drawing the contours of that face and then you are supplying meaning to that face. And then you are imagining and hoping. All of that is being done by that which you define as ‘you’. So, that is the mantra.
Look around and say, “I am”. By saying “I am”, you beat away, wash away, the false “I am” and nothing remains and that is what “I am”.
L: Sir, what you just said is something about, like catching at the time of happening. But there are things which we have already given meaning, already the happening has become important. So, those memories are there; not giving importance is at the moment.
AP: When do the memories come to you? Yesterday? When do they come?
AP: And now, you give importance to memory. Yes, you do. And then do the memories have an objective importance? Or is it something in you that wants to make those memories important? So, memories do not mean anything. Memories are just another object. Something in you wants to give importance, and that something is not very mysterious.
You know what that something is? What is that something?
That petty ego. Nothing else.
~ Excerpts from a ShadYoga Session. Edited for clarity.
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