Sunday, March 13, 2011

Living "As if"

Questioner. What made you so dispassionate?

Nisargadatta Maharaj: Nothing in particular. It so happened that I trusted my Guru. He told me I am nothing but my self and I believed him. Trusting him, I behaved accordingly and ceased caring for what was not me, nor mine.


The above quotation from I AM THAT, expresses one of the most important points in Nisargadatta Maharaj's teaching. Nisargadatta's teacher, Siddharameshwar Maharaj, told him to abide in the I AM, and behave accordingly. Nisargadatta trusted the words of his teacher. In Nisargadatta's teaching, he passes on the words of his teacher, and tells us that if we believe him, and behave accordingly, we will realize the Self as well. He goes on to say that if we don't believe him, we should abide in the I AM until we see what we are not.

It is clear that Nisargadatta did not get "instant " awareness, but lived out the teaching of his teacher on trust alone until the final understanding. Nisargadatta lived and behaved "as if " he already had the understanding. This is a very important point that is often missed. Nisargadatta trusted (believed) first, and lived as if he were already awakened.

The intellectual understanding comes to many of us quickly. We can see the truth in the I AM, and we can understand the concepts in the mind concerning non-dual awareness, but we have not realized it. To realize something is to make it real. This means to make it a part of us, to be it. Nisargadatta had spent many years in spiritual search before meeting his final teacher. Much of this involved Bhakti; devotion. This mind set, soul set, if you will, allowed Nisargadatta to trust his teacher. He recognized Siddharameshwar Maharaj as one entering his dream; A true Guru. This allowed Nisargadatta to trust his teacher absolutely. This trust, faith, if I can use that term, allowed him to live out the teaching in his daily life.

This living out the teaching is no different in any spiritual "system". If one has "faith" in Christ, one can walk the path to the Cross, with the confidence that the Christ has overcome death. Just as Nisargadatta could see that Siddharameshwar Maharaj lived a life of oneness, we can see that Nisargadatta, Jesus, Ramana Maharshi, all lived out their teachings. This indeed, is the true testof a teacher; do they walk the walk? I have often pointed out that Nisargadatta's life was as important, if not much more important a part of his teaching than his words. All true teachers are their teaching personified. But which came first, the understanding or the life?

We can see in the case of Nisargadatta, trust came first, followed by understanding. Ramana trusted sufficiently to engage thoughts of death; the courage to delve deeply into the I AM, without knowing the result. Even Christ, in the Garden of Gethsemane, expressed doubts, but went to the cross on faith. All of these "actions" took courage. They took living "as if " the understanding were already there. Behaving accordingly comes first, because it is almost always required as a first step. I sayalmost always, as it may be possible to become aware spontaneously, but I have not witnessed it.

When I say to live as if, I do not mean to pretend. Far too much pretending takes place in spirituality. I mean to accept the intellectual understanding, and live as if it were realized. This takes trust; faith. It takes trust in the teacher, and trust in yourself. This living accordingly is so important. Trust, faith opens up the heart. To live in the heart, as well as the mind is the basis of understanding. One of Nisargadatta's most famous sayings was "When I see that I am nothing, that is wisdom, when I see that I am everything, that is Love, between the two my life continually flows. This melding of heart and mind is at the center of any spiritual teaching. Trust requires one other factor; courage.

When we talk of courage in a spiritual context, we come to sacrifice. Sacrifice requires giving something up. In Christ's case, the giving up required the whole nine yards; the sacrifice of his life. In the case of Nisargadatta the sacrifice was one of will. Nisargadatta took his Guru at his word. He "subjugated " his will to that of his trusted teacher. The close observation of our selves that is required in self inquiry involves sacrifice if it is done honestly. The willingness to let go of the "story " of "me " is, in it's way, a sacrifice of "our " lives. And this sacrifice must come first. Once we realize that we are Love itself, and that nothing can harm or diminish that which we truly are, the "sacrifice" has already been made. The small "self " is dead, and we live as the Self. No more fear or harm can come to us. It is the "before" ; the living out the teaching that requires courage and trust.

So we are required to "do " something. Teachers that say that there is nothing to do, or there is no one to do anything misread the texts and the teachings. We are required to live out the teaching, the understanding. We are required to "live accordingly ", as if the understanding is present. When teachers fall from grace; ego, sexual dalliances, hypocrisy or whatever failings are seen, it has been said they fall under the influence of "the shadow " or some hidden trait that they transfer onto others. This is simply fancy talk for failing to live accordingly. We are required to sacrifice our desires for acceptance. Love is already perfect. It is our distortions and perversions of Love that appear as imperfection. Our acceptance of others must be absolute. If we put our "story " of them before the truth, we only see "our story", not who they really are; Love in action. In living "as if " (living accordingly), we step off the cliff into the unknown. We do this every day. We do not just talk about non-duality, we live it's reality every day. If I believe that you and I are "not two " than that is how I will treat you. When asked what were the greatest commandments, the Christ said "to love the lord, thy God, with all thy heart, all thy mind and all the soul, and the second is like unto it; to love thy neighbor as thy self." Love God completely, with all at your disposal, and loving your neighbor as your "self". This is living accordingly: Loving God, yourself and like unto that, your neighbor, as one. When this is seen with absolute clarity, the understanding is alive, real, realized. Until that realization, live "as if " that were your reality.

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