On December 4th, 2011 I posted a blog post featuring Nisargadatta Maharaj called, Quickest Way to Change the World is to Change Yourself. Today I am posting another conversation he had with someone (posted below, as a Q & A, in grey), that speaks to the same problem. It’s a problem we face today, it’s a problem we faced yesterday & centuries ago. It’s a problem we will always face, until we can finally face ourselves.
The problem is always the ‘I’. Take away the ‘I’ (the me, the mine, the sense of a separate self) & you take away every problem you have ever had, as well as any problem you could ever have. For most people this is confusing & hard to grasp; “No self, no problem? Huh? But I am here? I exist! How could I think or act as if I don’t?” But reflect on it for only a moment, reflect on all the times when you were truly happy, truly at peace. Think back to a time (or many times). Where are you? Are you not exactly where you are at that moment? Yes, you are. You are here, but there is a self-less quality to it. You forget time & space. You forget about the past & future. You are present, completely One with what is.
Most people have a glimpse of this ‘Oneness’ while having sublime sex, or being in-love, or getting lost in their craft/passion, or experiencing something new, or serving people unconditionally, or by simply being very-very relaxed. But this doesn’t have to be a rare or random occurrence. This can be the self-less awareness that you simply are. You can live your life with an understanding that relieves any suffering & confusion. When living as awareness, one is not living in a confused state. They are not lost in a fantasy story, or a drama of what one thinks is happening to a lonely self. They can rightly see the world, the world as oneself.
If you read the text below, you will get a better idea of what I am referencing & commenting on.
Page 211, Question #60 — Live Facts, not Fancies
Questioner: You say that whatever you see is yourself. You also admit that you see the world as we see it. Here is today’s newspaper with All the horrors going on. Since the world is yourself, how can you explain such misbehavior?
Maharaj: Which world do you have in mind?
Q: Our common world, in which we live.
M: Are you sure we live in the same world? I do not mean nature, the sea and the land, plants and animals. They are not the problem, nor the endless space, the infinite time, the inexhaustible power. Do not be misled by my eating and smoking, reading and talking. My mind is not here, my life is not here. Your world, of desires and their fulfilments, of fears and their escapes, is definitely not my world. I do not even perceive it, except through what you tell me about it. It is your private dream world and my only reaction to it is to ask you to stop dreaming.
Q: Surely, wars and revolutions are not dreams. Sick mothers and starving children are not dreams. Wealth, ill-gotten and misused, is not a dream.
M: What else?
Q: A dream cannot be shared.
M: Nor can the waking state. All the three states — of waking, dreaming and sleeping — are subjective, personal, intimate. They all happen to and are contained within the little bubble in consciousness, called ‘I’. The real world lies beyond the self.
Q: Self or no self, facts are real.
M: Of course facts are real! I live among them. But you live with fancies, not with facts. Facts never clash, while your life and world are full of contradictions. Contradiction is the mark of the false; the real never contradicts itself.
For instance, you complain that people are abjectly poor. Yet you do not share your riches with them. You mind the war next door, but you hardly give it a thought when it is in some far off country. The shifting fortunes of your ego determine your values; ‘I think’, ‘I want’, ‘I must’ are made into absolutes.
Q: Nevertheless, the evil is real.
M: Not more real than you are. Evil is in the wrong approach to problems created by misunderstanding and misuse. It is a vicious circle.
Q: Can the circle be broken?
M: A false circle need not be broken. It is enough to see it as it is — non-existent.
Q: But, real enough to make us submit to and inflict indignities and atrocities.
M: Insanity is universal. Sanity is rare. Yet there is hope, because the moment we perceive our insanity, we are on the way to sanity. This is the function of the Guru — to make us see the madness of our daily living. Life makes you conscious, but the teacher makes you aware.
Q: Sir, you are neither the first nor the last. Since immemorial times people were breaking into reality. Yet how little it affected our lives! The Ramas and the Krishnas, the Buddhas and the Christs have come and gone and we are as we were; wallowing in sweat and tears. What have the great ones done, whose lives we witnessed? What have you done, Sir, to alleviate the world’s thrall?
M: You alone can undo the evil you have created. Your own callous selfishness is at the root of it. Put first your own house in order and you will see that your work is done.
Q: The men of wisdom and of love, who came before us, did set themselves right, often at a tremendous cost. What was the outcome? A shooting star, however bright, does not make the night less dark.
M: To judge them and their work you must become one of them. A frog in a well knows nothing about the birds in the sky.
Q: Do you mean to say that between good and evil there is no wall?
M: There is no wall, because there is no good and no evil. In every concrete situation there is only the necessary and the unnecessary. The needful is right, the needless is wrong.
Q: Who decides?
M: The situation decides. Every situation is a challenge which demands the right response. When the response is right, the challenge is met and the problem ceases. If the response is wrong, the challenge is not met and the problem remains unsolved. Your unsolved problems — that is what constitutes your karma. Solve them rightly and be free.
Q: You seem to drive me always back into myself. Is there no objective solution to the world’s problems?
M: The world problems were created by numberless people like you, each full of his own desires and fears. Who can free you of your past, personal and social, except yourself? And how will you do it unless you see the urgent need of your being first free of cravings born of illusion? How can you truly help, as long as you need help yourself?
Q: In what way did the ancient sages help? In what way do you help? A few individuals profit, no doubt; your guidance and example may mean a lot to them; but in what way do you affect humanity, the totality of life and consciousness? You say that you are the world and the world is you; what impact have you made on it?
M: What kind of Impact do you expect?
Q: Man is stupid, selfish, cruel.
M: Man is also wise, affectionate and kind.
Q: Why does not goodness prevail?
M: It does — in my real world. In my world even what you call evil is the servant of the good and therefore necessary. It is like boils and fevers that clear the body of impurities. Disease is painful, even dangerous, but if dealt with rightly, it heals.
Q: Or kills.
M: In some cases death is the best cure. A life may be worse than death, which is but rarely an unpleasant experience, whatever the appearances. Therefore, pity the living, never the dead. This problem of things, good and evil in themselves, does not exist in my world. The needful is good and the needless is evil. In your world the pleasant is good and the painful is evil.
Q: What is necessary?
M: To grow is necessary. To outgrow is necessary. To leave behind the good for the sake of the better is necessary.
Q: To what end?
M: The end is in the beginning. You end where you start — in the Absolute.
Q: Why all this trouble then? To come back to where I started?
M: Whose trouble? Which trouble? Do you pity the seed that is to grow and multiply till it becomes a mighty forest? Do you kill an infant to save him from the bother of living? What is wrong with life, ever more life? Remove the obstacles to growing and all your personal, social, economic and political problems will just dissolve. The universe is perfect as a whole and the part’s striving for perfection is a way of joy. Willingly sacrifice the imperfect to the perfect and there will be no more talk about good and evil.
Q: Yet we are afraid of the better and cling to the worse.
M: This is our stupidity, verging on insanity.