A Meditation on Madness

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NM: Each man suffers alone and dies alone. Numbers are irrelevant. There is as much death when a million die as when one perishes.

Q: Nature kills by the millions, but this does not frighten me. There may be tragedy or mystery in it, but no cruelty. What horrifies me is man-made suffering, destruction and desolation. Nature is magnificent in its doings and undoing. But there is meanness and madness in the acts of man.

NM: Right. So, it is not suffering and death that are your problem, but the meanness and madness at their root. Is not meanness also a form of madness? And is not madness the misuse of the mind? Humanity’s problem lies in this misuse of the mind only. All the treasures of nature and spirit are open to man who will use his mind rightly.

Q: What is the right use of mind?

NM: Fear and greed cause the misuse of the mind. The right use of mind is in the service of love, of life, of truth, of beauty.

Q: Easier said than done. Love of truth, of man, goodwill — what luxury! We need plenty of it to set the world right, but who will provide?


You can spend an eternity looking elsewhere for truth and love, intelligence and goodwill, imploring God and man — all in vain. You must begin in yourself, with yourself — this is the inexorable law. You cannot change the image without changing the face. First realize that your world is only a reflection of yourself and stop finding fault with the reflection. Attend to yourself, set yourself right — mentally and emotionally. The physical will follow automatically. You talk so much of reforms: economic, social, political. Leave alone the reforms and mind the reformer. What kind of world can a man create who is stupid, greedy, heartless?

Q: If we have to wait for a change of heart, we shall have to wait indefinitely. Yours is a counsel of perfection, which is also a counsel of despair. When all are perfect, the world will be perfect. What useless truism!

NM: I did not say it. I only said: You cannot change the world before changing yourself. I did not say — before changing everybody. It is neither necessary, nor possible to change others. But if you can change yourself you will find that no other change is needed. To change the picture you merely change the film, you do not attack the cinema screen!

Q: How can you be so sure of yourself? How do you know that what you say is true?

NM: It is not of myself that I am sure, I am sure of you. All you need is to stop searching outside what can be found only within. Set your vision right before you operate. You are suffering from acute misapprehension. Clarify your mind, purify your heart, sanctify your life — this is the quickest way to a change of your world.

From "I Am That" p.129 by Nisargadatta Maharaj

joejo's picture

Living on words

The basic problem to me is that we give too much importance to words. We take words to be the thing and thus grows our self image. We store all our hurts and pleasures which again are the words. It has the magical power to entrap us and recreate the experiences through imagination.

This living in the unreal (dream) world of our make beliefs and thoughts are the root cause of our problem. As an antidote we feel that it is enough to know another concept like I am That but truth is not to be known mentally but the mental confusion got rid off by right observation.

joejo | Thu, 06/24/2010 - 01:15
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Excellently put. The conceptualization of truth will always be subjective wont it. So in truth, the old saying, "To know That you must be That" is all we truly have to understand isn't it?

We can also even be mucked up by the concept of right observation. I mean what is there to be observed? Anything the mind observes is in reality already dead. All we have is the instant memory of it, for, by the time the brain processes an observation it is already past. So what is it that is capable of observing the present moment? lol It's a mind bender huh...It must be "That". How does one observe That which only exists with the present moment when the mind is incapable of perceiving the present moment? I guess in the process of observing ourselves or observing our "I"ness, our True Self, which can be the only living thing, presents the present to us.

LOL...you mucked up enough yet?

So back to your point, the mind with its words and concepts can only take us so far as demonstrated by the gobbledegook above.

B-friend | Thu, 06/24/2010 - 05:23
joejo's picture

Knowing the false

Mind may not be able to know the truth but it can know its own errors. If we deny & say mind cannot know anything then there is no escape from the quagmire of confusion.

Mind has a tremendous capacity of weaving illusions and right observation is seeing the false as false.

joejo | Thu, 06/24/2010 - 07:59
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Mind has a tremendous capacity of weaving illusions and right observation is seeing the false as false.

B-friend | Thu, 06/24/2010 - 09:39