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Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

The Last Days : Last Teachings

(source: "Pointers from Nisargadatta Maharaj" by Ramesh S. Balsekar)

Dark and dismal clouds overhung the horizon and there was the distant rumbling of thunder and lightning. We knew the storm was coming - the inexorable finality, the relentless leveller who holds nothing as sacrosanct.

Our beloved Master's vitals had been consumed by cancer and we knew his frail body would fall soon, perhaps sooner than we feared. But we were afraid of showing or fear to him for he would be hurt to find that his teaching was wasted on us. He had taught us that human beings were mere conceptual forms, no more real than dream-figures, that it is only the body that is subject to birth and death and not the self, which is not only ageless but birthless and deathless. And he was the Supreme Self. Yes, we knew all this, and yet at the prospect of his passing away we had started feeling like orphans, for we loved him too! It was difficult to rise above the human feelings and failings!

During his last days - from May-June to 8 September, 1981, when he dropped his mortal coil, his body had visibly withered day after day, but his spirit remained indomitable till the end. He continued to talk, though in a weal voice, with inherent authority, and at his mere word, as it were, the listeners' illusions and delusions shrivelled.

Verbal cameos from some of his talks during these last days are given below. He could not speak for long; he had to be brief, but whatever he said was seminal in nature and a sort of catalyst for the listeners. It was the Great Beyond speaking, not a frail old man in the clutches of death !

For over a fortnight now - June 1981 - Maharaj has not able to talk to visitors with his old zest. At the insistent request from many of us he has agreed to limit the discourses to a half hour, and it is just as well that he has done so, because even thirty minutes of talking has been exhausting him physically so much that he is unable to sit up thereafter.

Maharaj's words, though fewer, are more pregnant now. He has been saying that his physical weakness prevents him from elaborating what he wants to convey. He adds that this is a sort of blessing in disguise because the listeners would now have to pay greater attention to what he says, without letting their mind wander about much. Also they would do a certain amount of thinking for themselves !

Many of the visitors, in view of the extremely weak physical condition of the Master, now restrict their questioning to a minimum, even though Maharaj presses them to get their difficulties cleared up. "There's so little time now," he says.


* * * * *


One morning, one of the regular visitors, perhaps with a view to keep Maharaj's mind away from his physical suffering, started talking on various matters and asking rather superficial questions. Maharaj, of course, was quick to see through the device and sat erect in his easychair. I know what you are trying to do, he said, but you forget that I am not what you think I am. I do not suffer; I cannot suffer because I am not an object. Of course there is suffering. But do you realize what this suffering is ? I am the suffering. Whatever is manifested, I am the functioning. Whatever is perceptible I am the perceiving of it. Whatever is done I am the doing of it; I am the doer of it, and, understand this, I am also that which is done. In fact, I am the total functioning.

If you have apperceived this, you need to know no more. This is the Truth. But the meaningful word is 'apperceived'. What I have said I have said for myself. But if you have apperceived this, you too can say the same thing. You and I are not two, but the same Absolute Unicity.

If this apperception prevails, you could not possibly have any quarrel with anyone, whatever he does or does not do. Why ? Because you will then have realized that whatever happens is part of the general functioning in consciousness and that no phenomenal object (which is in effect merely an appearance in someone else's consciousness) can possible have any independence of existence or volition of action. Ponder over this deeply.


* * * * *


Another morning, Maharaj sat half-reclined in his bed, with his eyes closed. Visitors had arrived one by one and had quietly taken their seats. Seeing the Master resting, they sat in meditation with their eyes closed. It is astonishing how easy it is to go into the state of the 'fasting' mind in the Master's presence. Suddenly, Maharaj started speaking though in a very weak voice.

You people come here wanting something. What you want may be knowledge with a capital 'K' - the highest Truth - but nonetheless you do want something. Most of you have been coming here for quite some time. Why ? If there had been apperception of what I have been saying, you should have stopped coming here long ago! But what actually has been happening is that you have been coming here day after day, identified as individual beings, male or female, with several persons and things you call 'mine'. Also, you think you have been coming here, of your own volition, to see another individual - a Guru - who, you expect, will give you 'liberation' from your 'bondage'.

Do you not see how ridiculous all this is ? Your coming here day after day only shows that you are not prepared to accept my word that there is no such thing as an 'individual'; that the 'individual' is nothing but an appearance; that an appearance cannot have any 'bondage' and, therefore, there is no question of any 'liberation' for an appearance.

Do you even now realize that if the very basis of your seeking is wrong, what can you achieve ? Indeed, is there anything to be achieved ? By whom ? By an appearance ?

This is not all. Whatever I say is being tape-recorded by some people; some others take down their own notes. For what purpose ? To make the conditioning even more powerful ? Do you not realize that there never has been any question of 'who' ? Whatever has happened (if at all anything has happened) has been spontaneous. There never has been any room for an individual in the totality of manifestation; all the functioning is at the level of the conceptual physical space (Mahadakash), which is contained in a conceptual speck of consciousness the mental space of time, perception and cognition (Chidakash). This totality of the known finally merges in the infinite potentiality that is the timeless, spaceless Reality (Paramakash). In this conceptual manifestation, innumerable forms get created and destroyed, the Absolute being immanent in all phenomenal forms. Where do the individuals figure as individuals ? Nowhere. And yet everywhere, because we are the manifestation. We are the functioning. We are the life being lived. We are the living of the dream. But not as individuals.

The apperception of this truth demolishes the individual seeker; the seeker becomes the sought and the sought is the apperception.


* * * * *


At another session, Maharaj brought up yet another aspect of the same theme, i.e., people coming to him wanting knowledge. This time he asked: What is this 'knowledge' that you want, this knowledge about which you take down notes ? What use will be made of those notes ? Have you given any thought to this aspect of the matter ?

The real point is, he continues: Did you find any need of any knowledge a hundred years ago ? That, which you do not know and cannot know is your true state. This, which you think is real because it can be objectified, is what you appear to be. Whatever knowledge you are now seeking about your true state is unknowable, because you are what you are seeking. All that you can get as knowledge is at a conceptual level - the knowledge that you would get as an objective appearance. Such 'knowledge' is in no way different from 'ignorance', because they are inter-related counterparts at the conceptual level. In other words, comprehension at the mind level means only conceptualization and, therefore, is totally illusory. Do understand please, the difference between such conceptualized knowledge and the intuitive apperceiving which is not at the conceptual level. Indeed, apperceiving is whole-seeing or in-seeing, which is vitally different from mere intellectual seeing. Once there is apperception, the duality of counterparts, the basis of mere intellectual comprehension, totally disappears. There is no question of any 'one' thinking that he has understood something by the use of reasoning and logic. True understanding is spontaneous apperception, intuitive and choiceless, and totally non-dualistic. Meditate on what I have said.


* * * * *


One day when a visitor brought up the question of 'ethics' and moral behaviour (matters which have always been considered outside the scope of discussion here). Maharaj was so amused that, inspite of extreme physical weakness he sat up and said that he never ceased being astonished at the confusion in thinking that was displayed even by people who were supposed to be intellectuals. He literally laughed himself into a paroxysm of coughing. Once having understood that there is a separate place, the toilet, for specific purposes, would you, he asked, use the living room or the bedroom for those purposes ?

Once there is an unequivocal apperception of your true nature, once you clearly see the false as false, is there any question of having to decide the propriety or otherwise of any action ? Who will make the decision ? Does one have the independence of volition to make the decision ? Is there really any choice ? Once it is apperceived that there is no entity with any independence of action, would 'living' thereafter not be totally non-volitional living ? Would not, in other words, the apperceiving itself lead to an abandonment - or more accurately - a spontaneous cessation of the very concept of volitional activity ? One may think that one lives; actually, one is only 'being lived'.

Exhausted by this brief but animated exposition, Maharaj lay back again in his bed, and said that he would have liked to expand this point further, but he just did not have the physical strength. He added, with a wary touch of humour, that it was perhaps just as well that he could now only give out capsules of knowledge.


* * * * *


This particular morning, Maharaj was too weak even to sit up but was in a mood to talk. He started speaking softly and slowly: What a fantastic subject this is ! The subject is elusive, the person who thinks he is listening is illusory, and yet nobody believes that he does not exist ! When you come here, I welcome you and extend to you my humble hospitality, but in doing so I am fully aware of the exact position, i.e., there is neither a speaker nor a listener. Why is it that nobody can honestly say that he does not exist ? Because he knows that he is present - or, rather, there is that intuitive sense of presence - and, this is important, there is no entity who can say that it does not exist. If an entity did assert that it did not exist such an assertion itself would prove its existence !

However, the more important point which is not so easy to grasp, is that the source of this phenomenal presence (which is the manifestation of the unmanifested) is noumenal absence. Further - I wonder how many of you would apprehend this - it means that whenever the mind is 'fasting', totally without any conceptualization, there is phenomenal absence, and this presence of phenomenal absence is noumenal.


* * * * *


It was a Sunday and Maharaj's small room was packed to capacity. Most of the visitors were regular ones, but a small group had arrived from a distant part of the country. The leader of the group discerned Maharaj's effete physical condition and reconciled himself to the fact that they would have to be satisfied with Darshan only. Maharaj however sat up in his bed, looked directly at the new group and smilingly asked if there were any questions. He added that he was not at all well physically and hoped that the questions would be at an appropriate level. There was a brief murmured consultation among the group, and the leader very respectfully said that he had only one question to ask: Is there really such a thing as 'enlightenment'? He added that this question was being asked not frivolously but against the background of a long spiritual quest. Maharaj smiled and started talking inspite of the exhaustion which was clearly visible on his face. He sat up quite erect and his voice gained an unexpected vigour.

Notwithstanding my repeating it constantly, he said, even the regular visitors do not seem able to accept the fundamental fact that it is sheer nonsense to think of an individual's need for enlightenment. Basically, there is only 'I'; there is no 'me', or 'you', to be enlightened. How can a phenomenal object, which is only an appearance, be transformed by 'enlightenment' into something other than what it is, i.e., a mere appearance ?

When 'enlightenment' occurs, there is an apperceiving that what we believe to be our normal condition - that of a phenomenal object - is merely a temporary condition, like an illness, which has come over our normal true state of the noumenon. It is suddenly realized that what was being considered 'normal' was not really normal. The result of such apperceiving is a sort of instantaneous adjustment from an individual existence to just existence as such; volition disappears and whatever happens seems right and proper. One takes one's stand as the witness of all that happens, or rather only witnessing remains.


* * * * *


This morning Maharaj lay in bed, obviously in the no-mind state. For several minutes, the visitors — not too many, it being a working day—sat still. Suddenly the Master opened his eyes, and said very softly that there would not be any talk -because he was too weak to speak. But he smiled graciously and added very slowly: If you would only apprehend, deeply and intuitively, what you were before you acquired this body-cum-consciousness, say a hundred years ago, even from within this physical prison, you would be seeing the world without the sense of duality— not from your identity as an illusory individual centre. Conceptualizing would cease.

Then the Master waved a hand to indicate that the session was over, and the visitors dispersed.

 

* * * * *


Sunday, 12 July 1981—As is usual these days Maharaj was lying in his bed, his legs being massaged by his faithful devotee and attendant, Anna. His breathing was rather laboured, mostly through the mouth, and he seemed almost fast asleep. Then suddenly he was struggling to sit up and was helped to a reclining position, leaning heavily against propped up pillows. He started speaking, and his voice was surprisingly firm. What I want to tell you is astonishingly simple if only it would be apperceived. And the amusing part of it is that it can be apperceived only if the 'listener' is totally absent!

Then, only apperceiving remains and you are that apperceiving. What happens is that the unmanifest Absolute expresses itself in manifestation: Manifestation takes place through millions of forms; consciousness functions through each form, the conduct and working of each form being, generally, according to the basic nature of the category to which the form belongs (whether it is a plant, or an insect, or a lion, or a man), and particularly, according to the nature of the particular combination of the basic elements in each form.

No two human beings are alike (the fingerprints of no two persons are exactly alike) because the permutations and combinations of the millions of shades of the eight aspects (the five basic elements and the three Gunas) result in billions and trillions of forms, the nature of no two forms being exactly alike. Millions of such forms are constantly being created and destroyed in the process of manifestation. A clear perception of this process of manifestation comports the understanding:

(a) that there is really no question of any identification with any individual form because the very basis of this manifestation-show is duration (of each form) and duration is a concept of time; and

(b) that our true nature is the witnessing of this show. It goes without saying that the witnessing can take place only so long as the show goes on, and the show can go on only so long as there is consciousness.

And who is to understand all this? Consciousness, of course, trying to seek its source and not finding it, because the seeker is the sought. Apperceiving this truth is the final and the only liberation and 'the joker in the pack' is the fact that even 'liberation' is a concept! Now, go and ponder this.

After speaking these few words Maharaj felt totally exhausted. He lay back in bed. In a feeble voice he added: What I have said this morning is all the Truth anyone need know.


* * * * *

 

Tuesday, 14 July 1981 — A group of three was visiting Maharaj for the first time. Although languishing in bed and extremely weak, Maharaj asked the group if they had any questions. They had a brief talk amongst themselves and decided on asking only one question: "Maharaj, all three of us have done certain Sadhana for some time, but the progress does not seem to be adequate. What should we do?" Maharaj said that the purpose of any effort is to get some thing, some benefit which one does not possess. What is it that you are trying to achieve? The answer was quick and positive: We want to become like you — enlightened.

Maharaj laughed and sat up in bed. When he was made a little more comfortable with a couple of pillows to support his back, he continued: This is where the misconception lies; thinking that you are an entity who must achieve something so that you can become like the entity that you think I am! This is the thought which constitutes 'bondage', identification with an entity — and nothing, absolutely nothing, other than dis-identification will bring about 'liberation'.

As I said, you see yourselves and me as entities, separate entities; I see you exactly as I see myself. You are what I am, but you have identified yourself with what you think you are — an object — and seek liberation for that object. Is this not a huge joke? Can any object have independent existence and volition of action? Can an object be bound? And liberated?

The questioner joined his hands in a Namaskar and most respectfully submitted that what Maharaj had said could not possibly be challenged as a theoretical ideal, but, surely, he said, even though people may be fictitious entities, nothing more than mere appearances in consciousness, how are we to live in the world, unless we do accept the different entities as 'real' enough in life?

This discussion seemed to give an extraordinary zest to Maharaj, and the feebleness in his voice gradually disappeared. He said: You see how subtle this subject is. You have provided the answer in your own question, but it has eluded you. What you have said in fact is that you know that the entity as such is totally fictitious and has no independence of its own; it is only a concept. But this fictitious entity must live its normal life. Where is the problem? Is it so very difficult to lead a normal life, knowing that living itself is a concept? Have you got the point? Once you have seen the false as false, once you have seen the dual nature of what you call 'life' — which is actually living — the rest should be simple; as simple as an actor acting his role with zest, knowing that it is only a role that he is playing in a play or a movie, and nothing more.

Recognizing this fact with conviction, apperceiving this position, is all the truth. The rest is play-acting.


* * * * *


Thursday, 16 July 1981 — There were only a few regular visitors present. Maharaj, although visibly tired and exhausted, demanded that someone should ask some question, or give a talk! So, someone started with these words: "The consciousness that I have. . . . ."

If it were one of the occasional visitors who had said this, Maharaj would probably have ignored the implication of what was being said. But this was a 'regular' who should have known better. Maharaj suddenly shouted "Stop". Inspite of his debilitated condition, the word was like the sound of a gun shot. He glared at the speaker and said: What do you mean by saying: "The consciousness that I have. . . ..?" Do you realize what nonsense you have uttered? How can 'you', or anyone else, have consciousness? Do you realize the unimaginable greatness, the holiness of what you so casually call 'consciousness'? Give it whatever name you like, the word is not what it means. How can you ever forget the basic truth that consciousness is the very expression of what-we-are. It is through the stirring of consciousness that the unmanifest Absolute becomes aware of its awareness through manifestation, and the whole universe comes into existence.

It may be through inadvertence that you used these words, I don't know, but the very inadvertence displays the strength of the conditioning which makes you identify yourself with the body. You think you are the body and that the body has the consciousness. If you must consider the matter in terms of one possessing the other, surely it is consciousness that is in possession of not only the body that you think you are but the millions of other bodies through which consciousness functions as Prajna.


* * * * *

 

Friday, 17 July 1981 — It was the sacred day of Guru Purnima and Maharaj must have drawn heavily on his dwindling physical resources, to say a few words on this most auspicious day. He was sitting up in bed, with a thick pullover on, inspite of the small room being quite warm due to over-crowding of devotees. He started talking very feebly, but soon his voice seemed to gather a new strength.

You people have been coming here hoping all the time that I would give you a programme of what you should do in order to get 'liberation.' And what I keep telling you is that since there is no entity as such, the question of bondage does not arise; and that if one is not bound there is no need for liberation. All I can do is to show you that what you are is not what you think you are.

But what I say is not acceptable to most of you. And sortie of you go elsewhere, where they are happy to be given a list of do's and dont's. What is more, they act on such instructions with faith and diligence. But what they do not realize is that whatever they practise as an 'entity' only strengthens their identification with the illusory entity and, therefore, understanding of the Truth remains as far away as ever.

People imagine that they must somehow change themselves from imperfect human beings into perfect human beings known as sages. If only they would see the absurdity in this thinking. The one who is thinking along these lines is himself only a concept, an appearance, a character in a dream. How can a mere phenomenal phantom awaken from a dream by perfecting itself?

The only 'awakening' is apperceiving of that-which-is. Indeed there is no question of a 'who' in this apperceiving because the apperceiving itself is one's true nature; and the pre-requisite of such

apperceiving is the disappearance of the phenomenon. What is apperceived is manifestation as a whole, not by a 'who' keeping himself as a separate observer. The apperceiving is the total functioning of the Absolute — apperceiving is what you are. The universe appearing in consciousness is a mirror which reflects every sentient being, i.e. consciousness is the very source of the apparent universe. Consciousness is not different from its manifested content.

And such apperceiving has nothing whatever to do with a 'who', with a phenomenon, an appearance in consciousness which is only an infinitesimal part of the total functioning. The profound intuitive understanding of this fact is the only 'awakening', or 'enlightenment', the only illusory 'liberation' from an illusory 'bondage', the awakening from the living-dream.

What does the Guru do? A self-realized Guru would do the only thing that could be done; point a finger towards the Sadguru that is within. The Sadguru is always there whether you remember him or not, but a constant association with him — irrespective of whatever you may be doing — is all that is necessary. Anything else by way of effort will not only not help, but would be a hindrance and a hazard.


* * * * *

 

Sunday, 26 July 1981— There was the usual Sunday morning crowd. The room was filled to capacity. Maharaj smiled and said that inspite of knowing that he was not in a position to speak people continued to visit him. What did they expect to get? With considerable effort, and support from his attendant devotee, he sat up. He looked around and said that he was not able to recognize people, but if there were any questions, let them not be kept bottled up. Do try, however, he added, to keep in mind that at the intellectual level there could be no end to questions.

One visitor asked: During the course of the search for one's true nature, the world without and the mind within create numerous obstructions. Why? And what should one do? Maharaj quickly answered: Hang on to the one who is searching. That is all you need do, and indeed, there is nothing else you could really do. If you do this — i.e. never leaving the one-in-search to escape you — you will ultimately find that the seeker is none other than consciousness seeking its source, and that the seeker himself is both the seeking and the sought, and that is you.

There were several other questions which Maharaj disposed of more or less summarily, as they related to one's behaviour in the world, his main point being that it is nature, or consciousness in action, which was responsible for the spontaneous growth of the body from the moment of conception to the birth of the body and further on from infancy and childhood through youth to full development and finally to decay. "Why do you suddenly accept responsibility, for the actions of the body, and thereby the bondage of retribution for such actions?" he asked.

Finally, towards the end, came the question: 'Is there any difference between a person who is an Avadhuta and another who is a Jnani?" I am asking the question because I want to know how a self-realized person acts in this world.'
 

Maharaj laughed, and said: All your words as questions and all my words as answers seem to go the same way into nothingness. Had even a single answer of mine found its mark, there would not be any more questions. So, in a way, what happens is best; your continued questions and my answers both contribute towards some entertainment to pass the time! Indeed, there is nothing else to be done since there is no 'purpose' to this that is seen as the Universe — it is all Lila, and we join in it. But we must understand this.

However, let us deal with your question. Avadhuta, Jnani, self-realized are all names of a state, the very basic assumption of which is the total negation of the separateness of an individual entity, and yet the question is based on an understanding that a Jnani is a 'person', and you want to know how such a person acts in this world. Do you see the contradiction in terms? As soon as there is self-realization, the difference between a self and the others disappears, and, of course, along with it the doership of the pseudo-personality. Therefore, once self-realization happens — do understand that 'one' does not 'acquire' self-realization—the sense of volition, or desire, or choice of action cannot remain.

Do try to understand the significance of what I have just said. If you have understood it, you will also have understood that there can he no self-realized 'person' and, therefore, there is no question of how a self-realized person acts in the world. What happens to the body? The response to external situations is spontaneous, intuitional, without the interference of the individual divided mind, and thus excludes any question of volitional activity.


* * * * *


Saturday, 8 August 1981 — A young lady asked Maharaj about the significance and usefulness of repeating a Japa. Maharaj said that he would interpret the word 'Japa' in its meaning as the 'purposive' noun, which would be 'protecting'.

He continued: By continuously repeating a Japa, or a Mantra, either as one word or a combination of words, you intend to 'protect' something. What does one want to protect? Something that one 'loves' most. What does one love most? Something which one 'needs' most: And what is it that one needs most? Something without which nothing else has any meaning, any value. Is it not the 'animus', the sense of animating presence, the consciousness, without which you cannot know anything or enjoy anything? This most precious 'need' is consciousness which you want to 'protect' at any cost, and the best way to protect anything is not to be away from it at all. Is it not?

So, the main purpose of repeating a Japa continuously is to remain one with consciousness all the time. But you must understand that this 'practice' will enable you to achieve your 'purpose' only for the limited duration while you repeat the Japa. A clear apperception of your true nature, on the other hand, is not at all based on the concept of time; apperception is intemporality.


* * * * *

 

Sunday, 9 August 1981 — The same young lady wanted to know whether the practice of observing a day every week as the 'day of silence' was a good one. Maharaj smiled and said that it would be an excellent practice if the significance of the word 'silence' was clearly understood. Maharaj explained: I have heard of certain Mahatmas and Gurus, greatly interested in politics, observing 'days of silence', when they do not speak but communicate with the aid of pen and paper. I am sure their throats get a lot of much-needed rest, but other than that, I doubt if there could be any other benefit.

What I would understand by 'silence' is total absence of word and thought. Have you ever considered from where the word comes? Before a word becomes vocal, it has to be a thought; a movement in consciousness, and therefore, the source of the word as well as the thought is consciousness. Once you understand this, you will also understand that perfect silence can only be in the absence of thought— only when thought ceases, and conceptualization and objectivization are also suspended. When conceptualization ceases, identity, which is the basis of conceptualization, cannot remain, and in the absence of identity there is no bondage.


* * * * *


Tuesday, 18 August 1981—This morning Maharaj was too weak to speak. The suggestion that one of the recorded tapes of his talks be played was approved by him. After about twenty minutes of this, he asked that the tape be stopped. He sat up in his bed with some difficulty, and whispered a message: "Think on what you have heard just now — what you heard and, infinitely more important, who heard it".

After this brief whispered message words failed the Master. His throat got choked. He closed his eyes, his frail physical resources grappling with an excruciating pain. And we watched helplessly.

 

- Mahasamadhi - the last moments

- Biography of Nisargadatta Maharaj

- Meet the sage

 

 

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