You say: As a child fairly often I experienced states of complete happiness, verging on ecstasy: later, they ceased, but since I came to India they reappeared, particularly after I met you. Yet these states, however wonderful, are not lasting. They come and go and there is no knowing when they will come back.
Life asks: How can anything be steady in a mind which itself is not steady?
You say: How can I make my mind steady?
Life asks: How can an unsteady mind make itself steady? Of course it cannot. It is the nature of the mind to roam about. All you can do is to shift the focus of consciousness beyond the mind.
You say: How is it done?
Life says: Refuse all thoughts except one: the thought ‘I am here now, I am consciously present now’. The mind will rebel in the beginning, but with patience and perseverance it will yield and keep quiet. Once you are quiet, things will begin to happen spontaneously and quite naturally without any interference on your part.
You say: Can I avoid this protracted battle with my mind?
Life answers: Yes, you can. Just live your life as it comes, but alertly, watchfully, allowing everything to happen as it happens, doing the natural things the natural way, suffering, rejoicing — as life brings. This also is a way.
You say: Well, then I can as well marry, have children, run a business… be happy.
Life says: Sure. You may or may not be happy, take it in your stride.
You say: Yet I want happiness.
Life says: True happiness cannot be found in things that change and pass away. Pleasure and pain alternate inexorably. Happiness comes from core engagement with the world and can be found in this only. Find your self in the real and all else will come with it.
You say: If my real self is peace and love, why is it so restless?
Life answers: It is not your self in the real that is restless, but its reflection in the mind appears restless because the mind is restless. It is just like the reflection of the moon in the water stirred by the wind. The wind of desire stirs the mind and the ‘me’, which is but a reflection of the Self in the mind, so appearing changeful. But these ideas of movement, of restlessness, of pleasure and pain are all in the mind. The Self (capital S) stands beyond the mind, aware, but unconcerned.
You ask: How to reach it?
Life anwer: You are the Self, here and now leave the mind alone, stand aware and unconcerned and you will realise that to stand alert but detached, watching events come and go, is an aspect of your real nature.
You ask: What are the other aspects?
Life answers: The aspects are infinite in number. Realise one, and you will realise all.
You say: Tell me some thing that would help me.
Life says: You know best what you need!
You say: I am restless. How can I gain peace?
Life ask: For what do you need peace?
You say: To be happy.
Life says: Are you not happy now?
You say: No, I am not.
Life says: What makes you unhappy?
You say: I have what I don’t want, and want what I don’t have.
Life says: Why don’t you invert it: want what you have and care not for what you don’t have?
You say: I want what is pleasant and don’t want what is painful.
Life says: How do you know what is pleasant and what is not?
You say: From past experience, of course.
Life says: Guided by memory you have been pursuing the pleasant and shunning the unpleasant. Have you succeeded?
You say: No, I have not. The pleasant does not last. Pain sets in again.
Life ask: Which pain?
You say: The desire for pleasure, the fear of pain, both are states of distress. Is there a state of unalloyed pleasure?
Life answers: Every pleasure, physical or mental, needs an instrument. Both the physical and mental instruments are material, they get tired and worn out. The pleasure they yield is necessarily limited in intensity and duration. Pain is the background of all your pleasures. You want them because you suffer. On the other hand, the very search for pleasure is the cause of pain. It is a vicious circle.
You say: I can see the mechanism of my confusion, but I do not see my way out of it.
Life says: The very examination of the mechanism shows the way. After all, your confusion is only in your mind, which never rebelled so far against confusion and never got to grips with it. It rebelled only against pain.
You say: So, all I can do is to stay confused?
Life answers: Be alert. Question, observe, investigate, learn all you can about confusion, how it operates, what it does to you and others. By being clear about confusion you become clear of confusion.
You say: When I look into myself, I find my strongest desire is to create a monument, to build something which will outlast me. Even when I think of a home, wife and child, it is because it is a lasting, solid, testimony to myself.
Life says: Right, build yourself a monument. How do you propose to do it?
You say: It matters little what I build, as long as it is permanent.
Life says: Surely, you can see for yourself that nothing is permanent. All wears out, breaks down, dissolves. The very ground on which you build gives way. What can you build that will outlast all?
You say: Intellectually, verbally, I am aware that all is transient. Yet, somehow my heart wants permanency. I want to create something that lasts.
Life says: Then you must build it of something lasting. What have you that is lasting? Neither your body nor mind will last. You must look elsewhere.
You say: I long for permanency, but I find it nowhere.
Life asks: Are you, yourself, not permanent?
You say: I was born, I shall die.
Life says: Can you truly say you were not before you were born and can you possibly say when dead: ‘Now I am no more’? You cannot say from your own experience that you are not. You can only say ‘I am’. Others too cannot tell you ‘you are not’.
You say: There is no ‘I am’ in sleep.
Life says: Before you make such sweeping statements, examine carefully your waking state. You will soon discover that it is full of gaps, when the mind blanks out. Notice how little you remember even when fully awake. You just don’t remember. A gap in memory is not necessarily a gap in consciousness.
You say: Can I make myself remember my state of deep sleep?
Life says: Of course! By eliminating the intervals of inattention and distraction during your waking hours you will gradually eliminate the long interval of absent-mindedness, which you call sleep. You will be aware that you are asleep.
You say: Yet, the problem of permanency, of continuity of being, is not solved.
Life says: Permanency is a mere idea, born of the action of time. Time again depends of memory. By permanency you mean unfailing memory through endless time. You want to eternalise the mind, which is not possible.
You say: Then what is eternal?
Life says: That which does not change with time. You cannot eternalise a transient thing — only the changeless is eternal.
You say: I am familiar with the general sense of what you say. I do not crave for more knowledge. All I want is peace.
Life says: You can have for the asking all the peace you want.
You say: I am asking.
Life says: You must ask with an undivided heart and live an integrated life.
You say: How?
Life says: Detach yourself from all that makes your mind restless. Renounce all that disturbs its peace. If you want peace, deserve it.
You say: Surely everybody deserves peace.
Life says: Those only deserve it, who don’t disturb it.
You say: In what way do I disturb peace?
Life says: By being a slave to your desires and fears.
You say: Even when they are justified?
Life says: Emotional reactions, born of ignorance or oversight, can never entirely be justified. So we seek a clear mind and a clean heart. All you need is to keep quietly alert, enquiring into the real nature of yourself. This is the only way to peace.
The above text comes from Sri Nisargadatta’s I Am That.