"I AM" - Concept - Beware!
Ramakant Maharaj’s spontaneous response to questions on "I Am", yesterday.
Q. What exactly is ‘I am’ in simple words, and what is it not?
Maharaj. Your spontaneous, anonymous presence is called ‘I am’, but it is without any shape, without any colour. Name is given to ‘Atma’, ‘Paramatma’, ‘God’, just to understand, to communicate. Reality is beyond imagination. There should not be any confusion. It sounds like some people have created a special house for ‘I am’…
So, at the advanced stage, ‘I am’ is also illusion. Again, be clear, there is no ‘I am’, there is no ‘you are’ - these are words. Prior to beingness, you are not knowing what the ‘I’ or the ‘you’ is. What has happened is that you are artificially moulding yourself, saying ‘I am’ somebody else (an individual), and in the light of that knowledge thinking, meditating on ‘I am’. You are limiting your Reality by naming, enclosing it. Remember, ‘I am’ is a concept. We are just using words to try and understand, exchanging words through which we are inviting attention of the invisible, anonymous listener within you. All words are used for the purpose of understanding. Try to know your identity. Try to know your unidentifiable identity. The knower will disappear. Trying to know Ultimate Truth, the knower will disappear. No knowledge, no knower.
Q. The understanding is that ‘I Am’ is very deep…
M. Who is understanding that? (laughter). I am understanding. Who is understanding that? All this requires presence, but your presence is not any shape or form. It is formless. No beingness, no non-beingness, no consciousness, no unconsciousness, no awareness, no unawareness. No knower, no knowledge, etc. You are neglecting the somebody that already exists within you - the formless, invisible somebody. You are That, you are Brahman, Atman. ‘I’ is just like the sky. Does the sky say ‘I am’. Sky is totally unaware of its existence. Likewise, your presence is totally unaware of your existence. All these words are body knowledge. Beingness is also illusion. Who says beingness and non-beingness? When you came across with the body you created a big illusionary field: beingness, non-beingness, awareness, unawareness, consciousness. You are roaming in the field and trying to extract knowledge. Come out of the field. Be brave, be courageous!
Q. I think the ‘I Am’ practice has maybe been taken literally and grown out of proportion. And there is a lot of confusion around it, a third of a century since Nisargadatta’s passing. It has perhaps ballooned into something….
M. What happens is that devotees read books, and on the basis of their reading, they form a square… and they are expecting answers within the square. Master is not in the square, he is out of the square. So you have to leave all that. Whatever is realized from the existence of the body (body knowledge) is illusion. You have brought yourself into the confusion field, using confusing words. You are a victim of your own ideas, own concepts: ‘I am’ ‘you are’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘Brahman’...
Q. When people abide in ‘I Am’ , they don’t seem to know how to stay or go beyond ‘I Am’.
M. Forget about spiritual talk. To say ‘I’ is ego. Why are you trying to remain in/as I? It means you are taking some ego and saying I am somebody else. I am… this means you are somebody else, and you are to stay like this (eyes closed) ‘I’. This is duality. You have not to make any efforts. In the beginning, you are to accept that your ‘I am’ is in existence and you are knowing ‘I am’ through body only. It is an open fact that the body is not your identity. But while remaining in the ‘I am’, you are considering yourself as somebody else and, with the subtle ego, you are staying as “I Am”. This is not the Ultimate Truth and will not give you happiness.
So, your presence is spontaneous – don’t think, don’t apply the intellect. To stay in the ‘I am’, how to stay there…. this is all illusion. You are already in that. It is already within you. But you are trying deliberately to remain in the ‘I am’. I am somebody else and I am to remain in the ‘I am’. Illusory concept! Be as it is! Reality! Don’t think, don’t pressure the brain. The spontaneous feeling is just that… I am… there is no concept. As Nisargadatta Maharaj says: What is this body? Just glimpses of “I”. Just the glimpses of ‘I’ which has no shape, no colour, no witness, no experiencer, just…...Maharaj holds his hands up and relaxes and, says ‘I’. We’re tryng to experience ‘I’, to be Brahman, Atman, and to do that you are having to be somebody else.
Q. So there is duality, there is a split.
M. Immediately! When you try to stay like that. Why to try? I want to stay John. I am John. You are already John, so why to be ‘I am’ John. John is the name which has been given to this body, it is not your Ultimate Reality. Similarly, your spontaneous presence, existence is without shape.
Q. I think the understanding was that if you stay in the ‘I am’, meditate on the ‘I am’, then you will go beyond the ‘I am’. But it seems people are not managing to go beyond.
M. You see, your spontaneous existence manifested , so without you, there is not any focus. When I say ‘I am’, ‘I’ stays there, the subtle ego. Don’t make any effort. Don’t take the literal meaning of these spiritual words, rather take what they were trying to convey. You cannot realize presence through the bodily ‘I’.
You are your own Master. So whatever you read or listen, to some extent, it is helpful but after reaching the final destination, you do not need an address. So don’t take the literal meaning of what the Masters say. What they want to convey is most important. To remain in ‘I’ is keeping you stuck… You have created a balloon, a concept, how to stay – it is not like that.
Why to remain in the ‘I am’, when you are already there? All you have to do is realize that the body is not my identity. You are posing as someone else when you meditate, and therefore the meditation has become dual.
Q. Why did Nisargadatta Maharaj not make this teaching clearer?
M. Listen to me, this ‘I am’ is also a concept, which maybe has been over-emphasized and misunderstood. All this meditation, concentration, knowledge, self-inquiry - these are all only various steps, a process, and through the I, you are coming to the Final Truth. After having conviction that you are not the body, there is nothing to do. Your reaction is spontaneous action.
You are already ‘I am’, without saying. So you just have to know yourself in the real sense because your spontaneous, invisible presence is there, to whom you are giving the name, ‘I am’? Except your Selfless Self, there is no ‘I am’. So why stay in the little world ‘I am’? You are already there - you are already 24 hrs in the ‘I am’, but you are unaware. You are 24 hrs together.You are ‘I am’ only. Why to remain in something that’s artificially created or imagined, guesswork? Why to remain like that in the square?
So don’t struggle with ‘I am’ - the words are just indications of Ultimate Truth and how that truth is my identity, but it is invisible and anonymous. So don’t imagine, don’t guess, don’t use logic or intellect. You are 24 hr Presence, so no need to try to be, or think of ‘I am’ at all.