The mind and the self

This week, Zac guided our sangha discussion. He played an excerpt from a dharma talk by Rob Burbea and read a very insightful chapter from the book “I Am That” by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, some of which is quoted below.

The talk by Rob Burbea is here: https://dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/51513/

Here is an excerpt from “I Am That”:

Maharaj: You were glad when the body was well and you are sad when the body is unwell. Who is glad one day and sad the next?

Questioner: The mind.

M: And who knows the variable mind?

Q: The mind.

M: The mind is the knower. Who knows the knower?

Q: Does not the knower know itself?

M: The mind is discontinuous. Again and again it blanks out, like in sleep or swoon, or distraction. There must be something continuous to register discontinuity.

Q: The mind remembers. This stands for continuity.

M: Memory is always partial, unreliable and evanescent. It does not explain the strong sense of identity pervading consciousness, the sense ‘I am’. Find out what is at the root of it.

Q: However deeply I look, I find only the mind. Your words ‘beyond the mind’ give me no clue.

M: While looking with the mind, you cannot go beyond it. To go beyond, you must look away from the mind and its contents.

Q: In what direction am I to look?

M: All directions are within the mind! I am not asking you to look in any particular direction. Just look away from all that happens in your mind and bring it to the feeling ‘I am’. The ‘I am’ is not a direction. It is the negation of all direction…. Bringing the mind to the feeling ‘I am’ merely helps in turning the mind away from everything else.

Q: Where does it all lead me?

M: When the mind is kept away from its preoccupations, it becomes quiet. If you do not disturb this quiet and stay in it, you find that it is permeated with a light and a love you have never known…

Q: How shall I recognize this state when I reach it?

M: There will be no fear.

Q: Surrounded by a world full of mysteries and dangers, how can I remain unafraid?

M: Your own little body too is full of mysteries and dangers, yet you are not afraid of it, for you take it as your own. What you do not know is that the entire universe is your own body…