‘Your destiny is not death but the disappearance of I Am.’ Nisargadatta
It’s an inscrutable classic that gives up its secrets slowly over time, in keeping with our own awakening.
I Am That, published in the early 1970s, takes the seeker into the realms of the Absolute where nothing is, beyond time and space, back to what the poet Rumi called ‘the root of the root of the Self’.
Its void marks the end of the individual, the death of the I Am, which is otherwise known as being-ness or consciousness.
In the awareness that is the Absolute or the Para Brahman, there is no second, no other, no individual.
Small wonder we find it terrifying, for our return to our true home means our own non-existence. The compensation is almost impossible to comprehend. No longer just the wave, we become the whole ocean.
But before we return to our pre-birth state before the arising of consciousness, we have to return to the I Am, focus on it and watch it merge back with its source.
That’s the message of the great eastern teachers of non-duality, who see no separation and seem to have lived as jnanis, awakened ones.
Perhaps it is helpful to look at the story of Adam and Eve, particularly that moment when they become conscious of their nakedness.
Until then, they lived in and as the Absolute, in Eden itself.
But the desire to be separate, seemingly outside the Para Brahman (we never are even though it feels that way) birthed the world as we know it.
This world of reflected light seems and feels real and pulls us all in to have experience and finally to wake up and remember our true identity.
‘The I Amness is part of the play, you are prior to it.’ Nisargadatta.
His contemporary, perhaps the slightly better known Ramana Maharshi, gave his message in silence, transmitting the force of his energy, helping visitors and devotees alike.
But their message is clear: you are not the body, nor the mind, nor the feelings, rather the Supreme itself, and if you look within you will find that truth.
By staying with the root thought I Am and not deviating from it, the being-ness which is a pale reflection of the Absolute finally returns home.
It makes me wonder about Christ’s words, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.’
Insert a comma and things look quite different, ‘I Am, the Way, the Truth and the Life.’
For was he too not talking about returning home and a self-realisation that he promised would bestow on others his own powers, and more?
That may sound contentious, it is not meant to be, rather a thought to ponder.
Jim Gordon, of Inner Light Ministries in Austin, Texas puts it this way:
‘Your purpose is of spirit. It is not to be successful, have a family, write a book etc. Your purpose is what God intended when He created you as a divine spark of loving.
‘We were meant for the wonder and joy and bliss of God’s creation, but we got caught in the finite reflection.’
Even though he is not teaching advaita or non-duality unlike the two Indian sages, his words bear a remarkable similarity.
Find the companion who is always with you, he suggests, while Nisargadatta urges aspirants to find the one who was there at their birth and who will witness their death.
The Absolute, very much like the small child, does not know itself, for how can that which has no other be conscious? Consciousness is always relative to an object, awareness is not.
“All you want is to be happy. All your desires, whatever they may be, are longing for happiness. Basically, you wish yourself well…desire by itself is not wrong. It is life itself, the urge to grow in knowledge and experience. It is choices you make that are wrong. To imagine that some little thing-food, sex, power, fame-will make you happy is to decieve oneself. Only something as vast and deep as your real self can make you truly and lastingly happy.”
― Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
We notice as time goes on, the child loses its innocence, the awareness of oneness, of being All That Is, and becomes ever more self-conscious as the world impacts its sensitivities.
Didn’t someone once say, unless you become as little children you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven?
Does it not make sense in coming from a place that has no other, the child will also behave like Adam before The Fall?
To return to our natural state, we can practise focusing on the question Who Am I? known as self-enquiry.
Or we can meditate to begin the process of the light from above meeting the light within, bringing us home.
I am sure there are many other practises that facilitate this awakening to our real nature, which we all carry within the heart.
Brahman is another term for being-ness, but when that is transcended, only the Para Brahman remains without the knowledge I Am.
‘The I Am isn’t eternal but you are.’ Nisargadatta
At first the mind cannot grasp a truth that is outside its province and capacity, but with practise an inner shift occurs as the mind surrenders itself to the heart.
This process can take eons, the desire to withdraw from experience to a place of no experience nor experiencer a long arc for the soul to travel.
But it is possible to step off the wheel of birth and death to journey in other realms. ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions,’ said Christ.
Other opportunities await us all.
Read the great sages and allow their words to penetrate deep within and stir energies long dormant that will finally bring you home. Last words:
“Wisdom is knowing I am nothing,
Love is knowing I am everything,
and between the two my life moves.”
― Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
“The consciousness in you and the consciousness in me, apparently two, really one, seek unity and that is love.”
― Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
© simon heathcote