Sri Mooji: Direct Experience of I am
Interviewed by Paul Congdon
Sri Mooji is a disciple of Advaita master, Sri H.W.L. Poonja or ‘Papaji’, as he is affectionately known by devotees. His path through life has brought him through many experiences and led him to dedicating his life to the calling of the Heart. He warmly spoke to us about truth, and consciousness and challenges.
What do you feel is the true nature of consciousness?
Consciousness is life itself. It is the functioning and perception of life as the manifest world of names and forms and all sentient beings including our own existence. In India, the true nature of consciousness is said to be Satchidananda. ‘Sat’ means existence, ‘chid’ is consciousness, and ‘ananda’ is pure bliss or transcendental happiness. Its most profound aspect is its play as the natural sense ‘I am’ or ‘I exist’, which is the untaught way of knowing ourself as being.
What is the ‘I am’ practice?
I don’t generally give practices as they tend to imply that truth is something other than what and where we already are, to be reached after some striving. However, if one could be offered, it would be to just rest in and as the natural and effortless feeling ‘I am’. Don’t add anything further to it nor allow it to connect up with any concepts, thoughts, feelings or intentions. If a thought comes, be aware of it but don’t engage with it. Just remain one with the sense of being and stay present as that.
Anyone from any religion or background can do this simple exercise and it will strengthen the sense of intuitive presence – the divinity within. Even people who have never meditated or read any book on spirituality find that they begin to experience some kind of vibration, a deepening silence and stillness as the attention begins to turn away from the field of sensory information and rests in the emptiness of presence. Avoid expecting anything or using your imagination. With a little practice you will soon find that you are able to remain here quite naturally. This unmixed awareness is already introducing a certain spaciousness inside, a deepening tranquility, joy and intuitive sensitivity. The more you do it, the more you will love and value it.
What is one thing from your master, Papaji, that really sticks out for you?
One thing that Papaji always advises is simply to keep quiet. This is the most simple and profound pointing because our tendency is to follow whatever thoughts come. If you are in the habit of running off with your thoughts you will soon run into trouble in the form of some kind of chaotic, agitated state. When the mind arises, don’t just follow it out of reflex or habit. Instead, be aware of the unmoving space in which phenomena arise and be one with that.
Papaji is total experiencing and immediacy. He is always coming from emptiness, so he is not predictable. He is not a teacher who expounds any philosophy. Papaji simply points to the direct experience that truth is, without any frills. That is the potency of my master.
When the mind comes up with erratic thoughts, should we stand up to them? Or should we simply rest and watch as awareness?
First, recognise your place as the awareness itself. Without awareness, even the perceiving of thoughts could not arise. There would be no experience, for awareness is the root of all. This is often missed because, like a reflex, the attention goes out to the ‘crime scene’, and then we comment and get caught up in this story rather than being aware of the untouched witness. There is a great and immediate power in just staying as presence. It is a most profound pointing, for when this guidance is followed, thoughts lose their magnetism and bypass your attention and you quickly come to a beautiful place of rest within your own being.
Thoughts are nothing to be afraid of. They only become powerful when you identify with them as a person. As you begin to observe thoughts instead of identifying with them, they rapidly lose their power and your mind returns easily to the natural state of presence, which is always here in you. But when the attention goes towards the mind’s projections, you become distracted. Through the exercise of remaining as the formless perceiver, it becomes self-evident that you are witnessing from and as presence itself. Thought activity, particularly psychological thought activity, just loses its appeal and fades away in the light of true self-recognition. This is experienced as a great relief and freedom from the spells of the ego-mind.
Remember this: all problems are personal. We only have problems because we identify so personally with our thoughts. Thoughts by themselves are powerless; it is our identifying with them that gives them significance.
What advice do you give people who are going through some tough times or whose minds are running the show?
Well, I would not want to try and do anything with the mind, because the mind is just impossible. The mind also grows with conflict; the more you try to fight it, the more reality and strength you give it. Simply let it play and you remain as the impartial and detached witness. When attention and presence are one, mind is nowhere to be found. Mind has no power by itself. It runs on phantom power. If you are interested in the mind, it gets empowered by your attention. If you have no interest in the mind, it is hardly noticed. This is a simple thing, but it is something that the whole world misses.
As soon as you discover that you can witness the mind’s functioning with detachment, you are free of it. The trouble is that in the moment when it is pulsing, we believe what it is throwing at us, and when we believe it, we believe it into existence and are then caught up in its traffic. A thought without belief has no power, it doesn’t even register, but a thought with belief can create huge suffering. The mind is one baby you don’t need to pick up whenever it cries for attention.
As you grow in the simple way that I point out – to remain as the ‘I am’, you will start to see all this more clearly. Your ingrained psychological thoughts will crumble away. Mind’s seeming power will diminish quicker than you can imagine as you discover your true position as the unchanging awareness. If you take life too personally, then you will have trouble with your mind. When you are impersonal, the mind becomes your friend and everything flows as harmony.
How do our readers step into that way of being and living?
When you have a strong sense of personhood, it’s very difficult to step out of that. But with guidance, we are able to see that the idea we have of who we are is only a phenomenon inherited from conditioning. Who you think you are is only the idea you have about yourself at any given moment. Nothing is fixed here. It’s the nature of ideas to come and go. We have had many different identities throughout our life. Which version is true? Well, actually none of them. They come and go just like clouds in the sky – a play of transience. As this is grasped, one unexpectedly finds oneself in and as the state of untroubled being behind the fickle facade of personality.
All that you conceive of as yourself and your life is a passing show. You must recognise yourself as the witness of each and every move and be one with that unmoving seer. Develop the habit to stop identifying. Perceive but don’t identify personally. These are powerful tablets of understanding and as soon as they are swallowed, they begin to release their power inside your being. Their effect is tremendous inside the human spirit. Your world opens up into a new universe as you continue to flower into wisdom and perfect understanding.
We cannot continue trying to solve things through the mind alone, for it is saturated with conditioning. Sometimes I say that you have to be the cow that jumped over the moon. You have to be that one who jumps over the moon-mind and transcends its pull. It’s not difficult at all. Actually it is quite easy, but only if you are ready and open enough to try. Most fortunate is to find a teacher who makes it very simple for you to see what is obvious, yet obviously missed. Once you recognise truth, a great unburdening is experienced and a mystery begins to unfold. This is the greatness of satsang. It’s not setting you on a course for freedom in instalments. There is immediacy here – quicker than Zen!
What is humanity’s role in all that is?
My truest answer would be that humanity’s role is to become aware of our true nature. A human form is a great gift of consciousness, for in this form we can see, feel, meet and be one with God, the supreme reality. Life becomes fully alive when we discover, beyond the shifting sands of the mind, that our inmost reality is unborn and imperishable awareness. Every other role is only a role in temporality. All that we perceive is passing, impermanent. To discover one’s true nature outshines every other achievement or attainment. Are not all human beings searching for lasting happiness and peace? We have different ways of searching for this, but underlying all the urges and impulses in the human kingdom is the search for the eternal. Satsang is your chance to discover this in and as our own timeless self.