Q: Like beads on a string, events follow events — for ever.
Nisargadatta: They are all strung on the basic idea: ‘I am the body’. But even this is a mental state and does not last. It comes and goes like all other states. The illusion of being the body-mind is there, only because it is not investigated. Non-investigation is the thread on which all the states of mind are strung. It is like darkness in a closed room. It is there — apparently. But when the room is opened, where does it go? It goes nowhere, because it was not there. All states of mind, all names and forms of existence are rooted in non-enquiry, non-investigation, in imagination and credulity. It is right to say ‘I am’, but to say ‘I am this’, ‘I am that’ is a sign of not enquiring, not examining, of mental weakness or lethargy.
Q: If all is light, how did darkness arise? How can there be darkness in the midst of light?
Nisargadatta: There is no darkness in the midst of light. Self-forgetfulness is the darkness. When we are absorbed in other things, in the not-self, we forget the self. There is nothing unnatural about it. But, why forget the self through excess of attachment? Wisdom lies in never forgetting the self as the ever-present source of both the experiencer and his experience.
Q: In my present state the ‘I am the body’ idea comes spontaneously, while the ‘I am pure being’ idea must be imposed on the mind as something true but not experienced.
Nisargadatta: Yes, sadhana (practice) consists in reminding oneself forcibly of one’s pure ‘being-ness’, of not being anything in particular, nor a sum of particulars, not even the totality of all particulars, which make up a universe. All exists in the mind, even the body is an integration in the mind of a vast number of sensory perceptions, each perception also a mental state. If you say: ‘I am the body’, show it.
Q: Here it is.
Nisargadatta: Only when you think of it. Both mind and body are intermittent states. The sum total of these flashes creates the illusion of existence. Enquire what is permanent in the transient, real in the unreal. This is sadhana.
[excerpt from Wolinsky, I Am Not, Ch. 20, The Spanda: “It is called the spanda, which is the throb or pulsation of appear-disappear-appear-disappear—the blink whereupon the “world” appears to arise and subside. Appearing and disappearing simultaneously, and ultimately not at all.” … “Between appear and disappear is ksana (Sanskrit for moment) which appears, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, 10 times per second; according to other scientists, such as Itzhak Bentov, 17 times per second, appears “NOW” as condensed or contracted consciousness on the screen of itself, which witnesses an event that appears and disappears, along with the “I” which experiences and knows it. With the appearance of I AM is the veil of existence, past, time, space, etc.” … “The whole universe appears and disappears alternately but the interval called a ksana is so small that it appears to be a continuous phenomena. We see a continuous glow in an electric bulb with an alternating current but we know that the glow is discontinuous and periods of illumination follow periods of darkness alternately at very short intervals. PDF source]
Q: The fact is that I am thinking of myself as the body.
Nisargadatta: Think of yourself by all means. Only don’t bring the idea of a body into the picture. There is only a stream of sensations, perceptions, memories and ideations. The body is an abstraction, created by our tendency to seek unity in diversity — which again is not wrong.
Q: I am being told that to think ‘I am the body’ is a blemish in the mind.
Nisargadatta: Why talk like this? Such expressions create problems. The self is the source of all, and of all — the final destination. Nothing is external.
Q: When the body idea becomes obsessive, is it not altogether wrong?
Nisargadatta: There is nothing wrong in the idea of a body, nor even in the idea ‘I am the body’. But limiting oneself to one body only is a mistake. In reality all existence, every form, is my own, within my consciousness. I cannot tell what I am because words can describe only what I am not. I am, and because I am, all is. But I am beyond consciousness and, therefore, in consciousness I cannot say what I am. Yet, I am. The question ‘Who am I’ has no answer. No experience can answer it, for the self is beyond experience.
Q: Still, the question ‘Who am I’ must be of some use.
Nisargadatta: It has no answer in consciousness and, therefore, helps to go beyond consciousness.
Q: Here I am — in the present moment. What is real in it, and what is not? Now, please don’t tell me that my question is wrong. Questioning my questions leads me nowhere.
Nisargadatta: Your question is not wrong. It is unnecessary. You said: ‘Here and now I am’. Stop there, this is real. Don’t turn a fact into a question. There lies your mistake. You are neither knowing nor not knowing, neither mind nor matter; don’t attempt to describe yourself in terms of mind and matter.