Nisargadatta's "I Am That" - chapter 74
Truth is Here and Now.
Questioner: My question is: What is the proof of truth?
Followers of every religion, metaphysical or political, philosophical or ethical, are convinced that theirs is the only truth, that all else is false and they take their own unshakable conviction for the proof of truth.
'I am convinced, so it must be true', they say.
It seems to me, that no philosophy or religion, no doctrine or ideology, however complete, free from inner contradictions and emotionally appealing, can be the proof of its own truth.
They are like clothes men put on, which vary with times and circumstances and follow the fashion trends.
Now, can there be a religion or philosophy which is true and which does not depend on somebody's conviction?
Nor on scriptures, because they again depend on somebody's faith in them?
Is there a truth which does not depend on trusting, which is not subjective?
Maharaj: What about science?
Q: Science is circular, it ends where it starts, with the senses.
It deals with experience, and experience is subjective.
No two persons can have the same experience, though they may express it in the same words.
M: You must look for truth beyond the mind.
Q: Sir, I have had enough of trances.
Any drug can induce them cheaply and quickly.
Even the classical samadhis, caused by breathing or mental exercises, are not much different.
There are oxygen samadhis and carbon dioxide samadhis and self induced samadhis, caused by repetition of a formula or a chain of thoughts.
Monotony is soporific.
I cannot accept samadhi, however glorious, as a proof of truth.
M: Samadhi is beyond experience.
It is a qualityless state.
Q: The absence of experience is due to inattention.
It reappears with attention.
Closing one's eyes does not disprove light.
Attributing reality to negative states will not take us far.
The very negation contains an affirmation.
M: In a way you are right.
But don't you see, you are asking for the proof of truth, without explaining what is the truth you have in mind and what proof will satisfy you?
You can prove anything, provided you trust your proof.
But what will prove that your proof is true?
I can easily drive you into an admission that you know only that you exist -- that you are the only proof you can have of anything.
But I do not identify mere existence with reality.
Existence is momentary, always in time and space, while reality is changeless and all-pervading.
Q: Sir, I do not know what is truth and what can prove it.
Do not throw me on my own resources.
I have none.
Here you are the truth-knower, not me.
M: You refuse testimony as the proof of truth: the experience of others is of no use to you, you reject all inference from the concurring statements of a vast number of independent witnesses; so it is for you to tell me what is the proof that will satisfy you, what is your test of a valid proof?
Q: Honestly, I do not know what makes a proof.
M: Not even your own experience?
Q: Neither my experience, nor even existence.
They depend on my being conscious.
M: And your being conscious depends on what?
Q: I do not know.
Formerly, I would have said: on my body; now I can see that the body is secondary, not primary, and cannot be considered as an evidence of existence.
M: I am glad you have abandoned the l-am-the-body idea, the main source of error and suffering.
Q: I have abandoned it intellectually, but the sense of being the particular, a person, is still with me.
I can say: 'I am', but what I am I cannot say.
I know I exist, but I do not know what exists.
Whichever way I put it, I face the unknown.
M: Your very being is the real.
Q: Surely, we are not talking of the same thing.
I am not some abstract being.
I am a person, limited and aware of its limitations.
I am a fact, but a most unsubstantial fact I am.
There is nothing I can build on my momentary existence as a person.
M: Your words are wiser than you are!
As a person, your existence is momentary.
But are you a person only?
Are you a person at all?
Q: How am I to answer?
My sense of being proves only that I am; it does not prove anything which is independent of me.
I am relative, both creature and creator of the relative.
The absolute proof of the absolute truth -- what is it, where is it?
Can the mere feeling 'I am' be the proof of reality?
M: Of course not.
'I am' and 'the world is' are related and conditional.
They are due to the tendency of the mind to project names and shapes.
Q: Names and shapes and ideas and convictions, but not truth.
But for you, I would have accepted the relativity of everything, including truth, and learnt to live by assumptions.
But then I meet you and hear you talking of the Absolute as within my reach and also as supremely desirable.
Words like peace, bliss, eternity, immortality, catch my attention, as offering freedom from pain and fear.
My inborn instincts: pleasure seeking and curiosity are roused and I begin to explore the realm you have opened.
All seems most attractive and naturally I ask.
Is it attainable?
Is it real?
M: You are like a child that says: Prove that the sugar is sweet then only I shall have it.
The proof of the sweetness is in the mouth not in the sugar.
To know it is sweet, you must taste it, there is no other way.
Of course, you begin by asking: Is it sugar?
Is it sweet?
and you accept my assurance until you taste it.
Then only all doubts dissolve and your knowledge becomes first hand and unshakable.
I do not ask you to believe me.
Just trust me enough to begin with.
Every step proves or disproves itself.
You seem to want the proof of truth to precede truth.
And what will be the proof of the proof?
You see, you are falling into a regress.
To cut it you must put a stop to asking for proofs and accept, for a moment only, something as true.
It does not really matter what it is.
It may be God, or me, or your own self.
In each case you accept something, or somebody, unknown as true.
Now, if you act on the truth you have accepted, even for a moment, very soon you will be brought to the next step.
It is like climbing a tree in the dark -- you can get hold of the next branch only when you are perched on the previous one.
In science it is called the experimental approach.
To prove a theory you carry out an experiment according to the operational instructions, left by those who have made the experiment before you.
In spiritual search the chain of experiments one has to make is called Yoga.
Q: There are so many Yogas, which to choose?
M: Of course, every jnani will suggest the path of his own attainment as the one he knows most intimately.
But most of them are very liberal and adapt their advice to the needs of the enquirer.
All the paths take you to the purification of the mind.
The impure mind is opaque to truth; the pure mind is transparent.
Truth can be seen through it easily and clearly.
Q: I am sorry, but I seem unable to convey my difficulty.
I and asking about the proof of truth and am being given the methods of attaining it.
Assuming I follow the methods and attain some most wonderful and desirable state, how do I come to know that my state is true?
Every religion begins with faith and promises some ecstasy.
Is the ecstasy of the real, or the product of faith?
For, if it is an induced state, I shall have nothing to do with it.
Take Christianity that says: Jesus is your Saviour, believe and be saved from sin.
When I ask a sinning Christian how is it that he has not been saved from sin in spite of his faith in Christ, he answers: My faith is not perfect.
Again we are in the vicious circle -- without perfect faith -- no salvation, without salvation -- no perfect faith, hence no salvation.
Conditions are imposed which are unfulfillable and then we are blamed for not fulfilling them.
M: You do not realise that your present waking state is one of ignorance.
Your question about the proof of truth is born from ignorance of reality.
You are contacting your sensory and mental states in consciousness, at the point of 'I am', while reality is not mediated, not contacted, not experienced.
You are taking duality so much for granted, that you do not even notice it, while to me variety and diversity do not create separation.
You imagine reality to stand apart from names and forms, while to me names and forms are the ever changing expressions of reality and not apart from it.
You ask for the proof of truth while to me all existence is the proof.
You separate existence from being and being from reality, while to me it is all one.
However much you are convinced of the truth of your waking state, you do not claim it to be permanent and changeless, as I do when I talk of mine.
Yet I see no difference between us, except that you are imagining things, while I do not.
Q: First you disqualify me from asking about truth, then you accuse me of imagination!
What is imagination to you is reality to me.
M: Until you investigate.
I am not accusing you of anything.
I am only asking you to question wisely.
Instead of searching for the proof of truth, which you do not know, go through the proofs you have of what you believe to know.
You will find you know nothing for sure -- you trust on hearsay.
To know the truth, you must pass through your own experience.
Q: I am mortally afraid of samadhis and other trances, whatever their cause.
A drink, a smoke, a fever, a drug, breathing, singing, shaking, dancing, whirling, praying, sex or fasting, mantras or some vertiginous abstraction can dislodge me from my waking state and give me some experience, extraordinary because unfamiliar.
But when the cause ceases, the effect dissolves and only a memory remains, haunting but fading.
Let us give up all means and their results, for the results are bound by the means; let us put the question anew; can truth be found?
M: Where is the dwelling place of truth where you could go in search of it?
And how will you know that you have found it?
What touchstone do you bring with you to test it?
You are back at your initial question: What is the proof of truth?
There must be something wrong with the question itself, for you tend to repeat it again and again.
Why do you ask what are the proofs of truth?
Is it not because you do not know truth first hand and you are afraid that you may be deceived?
You imagine that truth is a thing which carries the name 'truth' and that it is advantageous to have it, provided it is genuine.
Hence your fear of being cheated.
You are shopping for truth, but you do not trust the merchants.
You are afraid of forgeries and imitations.
Q: I am not afraid of being cheated.
I am afraid of cheating myself.
M: But you are cheating yourself in your ignorance of your true motives.
You are asking for truth, but in fact you merely seek comfort, which you want to last for ever.
Now, nothing, no state of mind, can last for ever.
In time and space there is always a limit, because time and space themselves are limited.
And in the timeless the words 'for ever' have no meaning.
The same with the 'proof of truth'.
In the realm of non-duality everything is complete, its own proof, meaning and purpose.
Where all is one, no supports are needed.
You imagine that permanence is the proof of truth, that what lasts longer is somehow more true.
Time becomes the measure of truth.
And since time is in the mind, the mind becomes the arbiter and searches within itself for the proof of truth -- a task altogether impossible and hopeless!
Q: Sir, were you to say: Nothing is true, all is relative, I would agree with you.
But you maintain there is truth, reality, perfect knowledge, therefore I ask: What is it and how do you know?
And what will make me say: Yes, Maharaj was right?
M: You are holding on to the need for a proof, a testimony, an authority.
You still imagine that truth needs pointing at and telling you: 'Look, here is truth'.
It is not so.
Truth is not the result of an effort, the end of a road.
It is here and now, in the very longing and the search for it.
It is nearer than the mind and the body, nearer than the sense 'I am'.
You do not see it because you look too far away from yourself, outside your innermost being.
You have objectified truth and insist on your standard proofs and tests, which apply only to things and thoughts.
Q: All I can make out from what you say is that truth is beyond me and I am not qualified to talk about it.
M: You are not only qualified, but you are truth itself.
Only you mistake the false for the true.
Q: You seem to say: Don't ask for proofs of truth.
Concern yourself with untruth only.
M: The discovery of truth is in the discernment of the false.
You can know what is not.
What is -- you can only be.
Knowledge is relative to the known.
In a way it is the counterpart of ignorance.
Where ignorance is not, where is the need of knowledge?
By themselves neither ignorance nor knowledge have being.
They are only states of mind, which again is but an appearance of movement in consciousness which is in its essence immutable.
Q: Is truth within the realm of the mind or beyond?
M: It is neither, it is both.
It cannot be put into words.
Q: This is what I hear all the time -- inexpressible (anirvachaniya).
It does not make me wiser.
M: It is true that it often covers sheer ignorance.
The mind can operate with terms of its own making, it just cannot go beyond itself.
That which is neither sensory nor mental, and yet without which neither sensory nor the mental can exist, cannot be contained in them.
Do understand that the mind has its limits; to go beyond, you must consent to silence.
Q: Can we say that action is the proof of truth?
It may not be verbalised, but it may be demonstrated.
M: Neither action nor inaction.
It is beyond both.
Q: Can a man ever say: 'Yes, this is true'?
Or is he limited to the denial of the false?
In other words, is truth pure negation?
Or, does a moment come when it becomes assertion?
M: Truth cannot be described, but it can be experienced.
Q: Experience is subjective, it cannot be shared.
Your experiences leaves me where I am.
M: Truth can be experienced, but it is not mere experience.
I know it and I can convey it, but only if you are open to it.
To be open means to want nothing else.
Q: I am full of desires and fears.
Does it mean that I am not eligible for truth?
M: Truth is not a reward for good behaviour, nor a prize for passing some tests.
It cannot be brought about.
It is the primary, the unborn, the ancient source of all that is.
You are eligible because you are.
You need not merit truth.
It is your own.
Just stop running away by running after.
Stand still, be quiet.
Q: Sir, if you want the body to be still and the mind -- quiet, tell me how it is done.
In self- awareness I see the body and the mind moved by causes beyond my control.
Heredity and environment dominate me absolutely.
The mighty 'I am', the creator of the universe, can be wiped out by a drug temporarily, or a drop of poison -- permanently.
M: Again, you take yourself to be the body.
Q: Even if I dismiss this body of bones, flesh and blood as not-me, still I remain with the subtle body made up of thoughts and feelings, memories and imaginations.
If I dismiss these also as not- me, I still remain with consciousness, which also is a kind of body.
M: You are quite right, but you need not stop there.
Neither consciousness, nor the 'I am' at the centre of it are you.
Your true being is entirely un-self-conscious, completely free from all self-identification with whatever it may be, gross, subtle or transcendental.
Q: I can imagine myself to be beyond.
But what proof have l?
To be, I must be somebody.
M: It is the other way round.
To be, you must be nobody.
To think yourself to be something, or somebody, is death and hell.
Q: I have read that in ancient Egypt people were admitted to some mysteries where, under the influence of drugs or incantations, they would be expelled from their bodies and could actually experience standing outside and looking at their own prostrate forms.
This was intended to convince them of the reality of the after-death existence and create in them a deep concern with their ultimate destiny, so profitable to the state and temple.
The self-identification with the person owning the body remained.
M: The body is made of food, as the mind is made of thoughts.
See them as they are.
Non- identification, when natural and spontaneous, is liberation.
You need not know what you are.
Enough to know what you are not.
What you are you will never know, for every discovery reveals new dimensions to conquer.
The unknown has no limits.
Q: Does it imply ignorance for ever?
M: It means that ignorance never was.
Truth is in the discovery not in the discovered.
And to discovery there is no beginning and no end.
Question the limits, go beyond, set yourself tasks apparently impossible -- this is the way.