Question: You seem to advise me to be self-centered to the point of egoism. Must I not yield even to my interest in other people?
Maharaj: Your interest in others is egoistic, self-concerned, self-oriented. You are not interested in others as persons, but only as far as they enrich, or enoble your own image of yourself.
And the ultimate in selfishness is to care only for the protection, preservation and multiplication of one’s own body. By body I mean all that is related to your name and shape— your family, tribe, country, race, etc. To be attached to one’s name and shape is selfishness.
A man who knows that he is neither body nor mind cannot be selfish, for he has nothing to be selfish for.
Or, you may say, he is equally ‘selfish’ on behalf of everybody he meets; everybody’s welfare is his own. The feeling ‘I am the world, the world is myself’ becomes quite natural; once it is established, there is just no way of being selfish.
To be selfish means to covet, to acquire, accumulate on behalf of the part against the whole.
……There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”………
……Here’s another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: “Look, it’s not like I don’t have actual reasons for not believing in God. It’s not like I haven’t ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn’t see a thing, and it was 50 below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out ‘Oh, God, if there is a God, I’m lost in this blizzard, and I’m gonna die if you don’t help me.’” And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. “Well then you must believe now,” he says, “After all, here you are, alive.” The atheist just rolls his eyes. “No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp.”…..
“Take this whole life as a myth, as a story. It is one, but once you take it this way you will not be unhappy. Unhappiness comes out of too much seriousness. Try for seven days; for seven days remember only one thing – that the whole world is just a drama – and you will not be the same again. Just for seven days! You are not going to lose much because you don’t have anything to lose.
“You can try it. For seven days take everything as a drama, just as a show.
“These seven days will give you many glimpses of your buddha nature, of your inner purity. And once you have the glimpse you cannot be the same again. You will be happy, and you cannot conceive of what type of happiness can happen to you because you have not known any happiness. You have known only degrees of unhappiness: sometimes you were more unhappy, sometimes less unhappy, and when you were less unhappy you called it happiness.
“You don’t know what happiness is because you cannot know. When you have a concept of the world in which you are taking it very seriously, you cannot know what happiness is. Happiness happens only when you are grounded in this attitude, that the world is just a play.
Q: What are the key modes of thinking that drive our values and beliefs?
[Adam Grant]: Two decades ago, I read a brilliant paper by Phil Tetlock, who introduced me to this idea of thinking like a preacher, a prosecutor or a politician. Once I’d gotten that framework into my head, I couldn’t let it go. I saw it everywhere… I saw it in my own thinking… in other people’s thinking… I saw it in the way we communicate.
The basic idea is that when you’re preaching, you’re trying to proselytise to other people and defend your sacred beliefs. When you’re prosecuting, you’re trying to win an argument which means you’re going to have to prove the other side wrong. My big worry is when we’re locked into a preacher or prosecutor mindset, we’re not willing to question our own assumptions and opinions… if I’m right, and you’re wrong, then I get to stand still, and you are the one who needs to change. In politicianmode, things are a little more flexible. In that mode, I’m trying to win the approval of an audience – and that means I’m going to lobby or campaign. I might say things you want to hear, but I might not be actually changing what I really think or- if I do- I might be doing it to appease my tribe rather than to find the truth.
Once a frog from the ocean came and jumped into a well. He got acquainted with the frog in the well and the well frog asked, ‘From where do you come?’ He said, ‘I have come from the ocean.’ The well frog asked, ‘Is it bigger than this well?’ Of course suspicion was in his eyes, doubt in his mind, ‘How can anything be bigger than this well where I live?’ The ocean frog laughed and said, ‘It is very difficult to say anything because there is no measure.’ The well frog said, ‘Then I will give you some measure so that you can.’ He jumped one quarter of the well, one fourth of the way across, and said, ‘Is it that big?’ The ocean frog laughed and said, ‘No.’ So he jumped half of the well, and said, ‘Is it that big?’ Again the ocean frog laughed and said, ‘No.’ Then he jumped three quarters and said, ‘Is it that big?’ Again the ocean frog said, ‘No.’ Then he jumped the whole well, the whole length, and said, ‘Now – now you cannot say no.’ The ocean frog said, ‘You may feel hurt, and I don’t want to be offensive, but still the answer is no.’ Then the well frog said, ‘Get out from here, you liar. Nothing can be bigger than this well!’
“So please understand from the start, when I’m talking to you, I’m not trying to convert you. I’m not trying to do you any good.I’m just doing my own stuff. I talk this way like birds sing. It amuses me. I enjoy it because I’m interested. I’m full of wonder about this universe. Full of all sorts of thoughts about it and I like to share these with people not in order to interfere with your personal lives or make you dependent on me, heaven forbid. If I had enough people dependent on me I would have no sleep at nights at all, it would be on the phone, be hanging around as I go away. But simply that I think that with our exchange of ideas and rubbing ourselves against each other we may find something of mutual interest. And let’s not make any more ambitious claim for it than that. Because anything beyond that would be getting us into the world of power games. Trying to influence people, trying to control people and I’m not interested in that.”
People think that I am a Jnani. They come to me from all over the world — from Canada to Australia and New Zealand, from England to Japan. Most of them have read I Am That and come all the way to Bombay only to meet me. With great difficulty they are able to locate this little old house of mine in a dirty, narrow street. They climb up the stairs and find a small dark man in the simplest of clothing, sitting in a corner. They think: This man doesn’t look like a Jnani; he does not dress impressively, as someone known as Nisargadatta Maharaj could be expected to do. Could he really be the one? What can I say to these people? I tell them quite frankly that my education is up to the level which can barely put me in the category of the literate; I have not read any of the great traditional scriptures and the only language I know is my native Marathi. The only enquiry I have pursued, but pursued it relentlessly — like a hunter pursues his quarry— is this: ‘I know I am and I have a body. How could this happen without my knowledge and consent? And what is this knowledge I am?’This has been my life-long pursuit and I am fully satisfied with the answers I have reached. This is my only Jnana, yet people believe I am a Jnani.
My Guru told me: “You are Brahman, you are all and everything. There is nothing other than you.” I accepted my Guru’s word as truth, and now, for forty odd years I have been sitting in this very room doing nothing except talking about it. Why do people come to me from distant lands? What a miracle! This is the extent of my ‘knowledge’, basically.
There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.
“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”
If you manage to see how interconnected the game really is, then it becomes evident that cooperation and reciprocity are the best strategies of all.