Appearances and the Reality
Appearances and the Reality
Questioner: Repeatedly you have been saying that events are causeless, a thing just happens and no cause can be assigned to it. Surely everything has a cause, or several causes. How am I to understand the causelessness of things?
Maharaj: From the highest point of view the world has no cause.
Q: But what is your own experience?
M: Everything is uncaused. The world has no cause.
Q: I am not enquiring about the causes that led to the creation of the world. Who has seen the creation of the world? It may even be without a beginning, always existing. But I am not talking of the world. I take the world to exist — somehow. It contains so many things. Surely, each must have a cause, or several causes.
M: Once you create for yourself a world in time and space, governed by causality, you are bound to search for and find causes for everything. You put the question and impose an answer.
Q: My question is very simple: I see all kinds of things and I understand that each must have a cause, or a number of causes. You say they are uncaused — from your point of view. But, to you nothing has being and, therefore, the question of causation does not arise. Yet you seem to admit the existence of things, but deny them causation. This is what I cannot grasp. Once you accept the existence of things, why reject their causes?
M: I see only consciousness, and know everything to be but consciousness, as you know the picture on the cinema screen to be but light.
Q: Still, the movements of light have a cause.
M: The light does not move at all. You know very well that the movement is illusory, a sequence of interceptions and colour-ings in the film. What moves is the film — which is the mind.
Q: This does not make the picture causeless. The film is there, and the actors with the technicians, the director, the producer, the various manufacturers. The world is governed by causality. Everything is interlinked.
M: Of course, everything is interlinked. And therefore everything has numberless causes. The entire universe contributes to the least thing. A thing is as it is, because the world is as it is. You see, you deal in gold ornaments and I — in gold. Between the different ornaments there is no causal relation.
When you re-melt an ornament to make another, there is no causal relation between the two. The common factor is the gold. But you cannot say gold is the cause. It cannot be called a cause, for it causes nothing by itself. It is reflected in the mind as ‘I am’, as the ornament’s particular name and shape. Yet all is only gold. In the same way reality makes everything possible and yet nothing that makes a thing what it is, its name and form, comes from reality.
But why worry so much about causation? What do causes matter, when things themselves are transient? Let come what comes and let go what goes — why catch hold of things and enquire about their causes?
Q: From the relative point of view, everything must have a cause.
M: Of what use is the relative view to you? You are able to look from the absolute point of view — why go back to the relative? Are you afraid of the absolute?
Q: I am afraid. I am afraid of falling asleep over my so-called absolute certainties. For living a life decently, absolutes don’t help. When you need a shirt, you buy cloth, call a tailor and so on.
M: All this talk shows ignorance.
Q: And what is the knower’s view?
M: There is only light and the light is all. Everything else is but a picture made of light. The picture is in the light and the light is in the picture. Life and death, self and not-self — abandon all these ideas. They are of no use to you.
Q: From what point of view you deny causation? From the relative — the universe is the cause of everything. From the absolute — there is no thing at all.
M: From which state are you asking?
Q: From the daily waking state, in which alone all these discussions take place.
M: In the waking state all these problems arise, for such is its nature. But, you are not always in that state. What good can you do in a state into which you fall and from which you emerge, helplessly. In what way does it help you to know that things are causally related — as they may appear to be in your waking state?
Q: The world and the waking state emerge and subside together.
M: When the mind is still, absolutely silent, the waking state is no more.
Q: Words like God, universe, the total, absolute, supreme are just noises in the air, because no action can be taken on them.
M: You are bringing up questions which you alone can answer.
Q: Don’t brush me off like this! You are so quick to speak for the totality, the universe and such imaginary things! They cannot come and forbid you to talk on their behalf. I hate those irresponsible generalizations! And you are so prone to personalise them. Without causality there will be no order; nor purposeful action will be possible.
M: Do you want to know all the causes of each event? Is it possible?
Q: I know it is not possible! All I want to know is if there are causes for everything and the causes can be influenced, thereby affecting the events?
M: To influence events, you need not know the causes. What a roundabout way of doing things! Are you not the source and the end of every event? Control it at the source itself.
Q: Every morning I pick up the newspaper and read with dismay that the world’s sorrows — poverty, hatred and wars — continue unabated. My questions are concerning the fact of sorrow, the cause, the remedy. Don’t brush me off saying that it is Buddhism! Don’t label me. Your insistence on causelessness removes all hope of the world ever changing.
M: You are confused, because you believe that you are in the world, not the world in you. Who came first — you or your parents? You imagine that you were born at a certain time and place, that you have a father and a mother, a body and a name. This is your sin and your calamity! Surely you can change your world if you work at it. By all means, work. Who stops you? I have never discouraged you. Causes or no causes, you have made this world and you can change it.
Q: A causeless world is entirely beyond my control.
M: On the contrary, a world of which you are the only source and ground is fully within your power to change. What is created can be always dissolved and re-created. All will happen as you want it, provided you really want it.
Q: All I want to know is how to deal with the world’s sorrows.
M: You have created them out of your own desires and fears, you deal with them. All is due to your having forgotten your own being. Having given reality to the picture on the screen, you love its people and suffer for them and seek to save them. It is just not so. You must begin with yourself. There is no other way. Work, of course. There is no harm in working.
Q: Your universe seems to contain every possible experience. The individual traces a line through it and experiences pleasant and unpleasant states. This gives rise to questioning and seeking, which broaden the outlook and enable the individual to go beyond his narrow and self-created world limited and self-centred. This personal world can be changed — in time. The universe is timeless and perfect.
M: To take appearance for reality is a grievous sin and the cause of all calamities. You are the all- pervading, eternal and infinitely creative awareness — consciousness. All else is local and temporary. Don’t forget what you are. In the meantime work to your heart’s content. Work and knowledge should go hand in hand.
Q: My own feeling is that my spiritual development is not in my hands. Making one’s own plans and carrying them out leads no where. 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.
M: You think God knows you? Even the world He does not know.
Q: Yours is a different God. Mine is different. Mine is merciful. He suffers 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.
Nisargadatta Maharaj – I am That
Appearance and the Reality