Questioner: My own feeling is that my spiritual development is not in my hands. Making one’s own plans and carrying them out leads nowhere. I just run in circles round myself. When God considers the fruit to be ripe, He will pluck it and eat it. Whichever fruit seems green to Him will remain on the world’s tree for another day.
Maharaj: You think God knows you? Even the world He does not know.
Q: Yours is a different God. Mine is different. Mine is merciful. Hesuffers along with us.
M: You pray to save one, while thousands die. And if all stop dying, there will be no space on earth.
Q: I am not afraid of death. My concern is with sorrow and suffering. My God is a simple God and rather helpless. He has no power to compel us to be wise. He can only stand and wait.
M: If you and your God are both helpless, does it not imply that the world is accidental? And if it is, the only thing you can do is to go beyond it.
Questioner: Without God’s power nothing can be done. Even you would not be sitting here and talking to us without Him.
Maharaj: All is His doing, no doubt. What is it to me, since I want nothing? What can God give me, or take away from me?
What is mine is mine and was mine even when God was not. Of course, it is avery tiny little thing, a speck the sense ‘I am’, the fact of being. This is my own place, nobody gave it to me. The earth is mine: what grows on it is God’s.
Q: Did God take the earth on rent from you?
M: God is my devotee and did all this for me.
Q: Is there no God apart from you?
M: How can there be? ‘I am’ is the root, God is the tree. Whom am I to worship, and what for?
Q: Are you the devotee or the object of devotion?
M: Am neither, I am devotion itself.
Q: There is not enough devotion in the world.
M: You are always after the improvement of the world. Do you really believe that the world is waiting for you to be saved?
Q: I just do not know how much I can do for the world. All I can do, is to try. Is there anything else you would like me to do?
M: Without you is there a world? You know all about the world, but about yourself you know nothing. You yourself are the tools of your work, you have no other tools. Why don’t you take care of the tools before you think of the work?
Q: I can wait, while the world cannot.
M: By not enquiring you keep the world waiting.
Q: Waiting for what?
M: For somebody who can save it.
Q: God runs the world, God will save it.
M: That’s what you say! Did God come and tell you that the world is His creation and concern and not yours?
Q: Why should it be my sole concern?
M: Consider. The world in which you live, who else knows about it?
Q: You know. Everybody knows.
M: Did anybody come from outside of your world to tell you? Myself and everybody else appear and disappear in your world. We are all at your mercy.
Q: It cannot be so bad! I exist in your world as you exist in mine.
M: You have no evidence of my world. You are completely wrapped up in the world of your own making.
Q: I see. Completely, but hopelessly?
M: Within the prison of your world appears a man who tells you that the world of painful contradictions, which you have created, is neither continuous nor permanent and is based on a misapprehension. He pleads with you to get out of it, by the same way by which you got into it. You got into it by forgetting what you are and you will get out of it by knowing yourself as you are.
Q: In what way does it affect the world?
M: When you are free of the world, you can do something about it. As long as you are a prisoner of it, you are helpless to change it. On the contrary, whatever you do will aggravate the situation.
Q: Righteousness will set me free.
M: Righteousness will undoubtedly make you and your world a comfortable, even happy place. But what is the use? There is no reality in it. It cannot last.
Q: God will help.
M: To help you God must know your existence. But you and your world are dream states. In dream you may suffer agonies. None knows them,
and none can help you.
Q: So all my questions, my search and study are of no use?
M: These are but the stirrings of a man who is tired of sleeping. They are not the causes of awakening, but it’s early signs. But, you must not ask idle questions, to which you already know the answers.
I am That is Nisargadatta Maharaj’s most well known book and perhaps the best selling Advaita (nonduality) book in the West. Translated by Maurice Frydman, this book has profound effect on spiritual seekers from all over the world.