Cover - Book review of I Am That

Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

[Chetana Publishing, 531 pages]

One of the most delightful forms of spiritual service is to pass on to others what has enhanced one’s own life. I do that here with unreserved enthusiasm. The book I Am That remains one of the great open spiritual secrets of our time. It contains more than 500 pages of conversation between a simple man who entertained visitors in a small room in Mumbai until his death in 1981, and those who came from all over the world to request his help. Sri Nisargadatta’s spontaneous replies are replete with poetic truth-nuggets and expositions of spiritual wisdom which are on par with anything that has ever been revealed to humanity by a spiritual figure.

I say this without the slightest disrespect to my own master, Avatar Meher Baba. Every personification of spiritual truth presents a certain slant on that truth, or, in other words, a certain music that is unique while still being universal. I don’t regard my reading of Nisargadatta as the following of another master, but as partaking of universal truth. I sometimes read saints like Sri Aurobindo and Inayat Khan, and realized poet-masters like Kabir, Hafiz and Rumi as well.

Ever since the first time I read a paragraph written by Nisargadatta, I felt that even though I generally don’t have the ability to determine anyone’s spiritual status, his words could have come only from the highest level. Here are a few of my favorite nuggets, which are scattered throughout I Am That. I sometimes seem to be underlining the entire thing as I read.

“To you the body is real, to me there is none. I, as you see me, exist in your imagination only. Surely, you will see me again, if and when you need me. It does not affect me, as the Sun is not affected by sunrises and sunsets. Because it is not affected, it is certain to be there when needed.” (p. 316 in the online PDF)

“But the real giving up is in realizing that there is nothing to give up, for nothing is your own. It is like deep sleep—you do not give up your bed when you fall sleep—you just forget it.” (p. 270)

“If you need time to achieve something, it must be false. The real is always with you; you need not wait to be what you are.” (p. 236)

“Out of love for corporate existence one is born and once born, one gets involved in destiny. Destiny is inseparable from becoming. The desire to be the particular makes you into a person with all its personal past and future. Look at some great man, what a wonderful man he was! And yet how troubled was his life and limited its fruits. How utterly dependent is the personality of man and how indifferent is its world. And yet we love it and protect it for its very insignificance.” (p. 309)

“The person is merely the result of a misunderstanding. In reality, there is no such thing. Feelings, thoughts and actions race before the watcher in endless succession, leaving traces in the brain and creating an illusion of continuity. A reflection of the watcher in the mind creates the sense of ‘I’ and the person acquires an apparently independent existence. In reality there is no person, only the watcher identifying himself with the ‘I’ and the ‘mine’. The teacher tells the watcher: you are not this, there is nothing of yours in this, except the little point of ‘I am’, which is the bridge between the watcher and his dream. ‘I am this, I am that’ is dream, while pure ‘I am’ has the stamp of reality on it. You have tasted so many things—all came to naught. Only the sense ‘I am’ persisted—unchanged. Stay with the changeless among the changeful, until you are able to go beyond.” (p. 254)

As may have become clear from the last quote above, Nisargadatta’s teaching is very radical! He repeatedly tells people, “You are not a person.” But his words just feel so true! Thanks to Maurice Frydman, who recorded Nisargadatta and translated his tapes from Marathi to English, we have hundreds upon hundreds of pages of his glow to bask in. We must let them warm our spirits gradually and gently, until we ultimately reach a spiritual boiling point.

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