All Chapter Titles (#01 through #101), quotations and page numbers are cited from:

"I Am That, Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, " recorded and translated by Maurice Frydman, edited by Sudhakar S. Dikshit, The Acorn Press, Durham, N.C., 1999

Twenty years ago A.M. gave me a copy of I AM THAT, Sri Nisargadatta's satsangs. It continues to be one of the most important spiritual books to come into my life. It contains my favorite of all sentences in spiritual literature: "The silence after a lifetime of silence and the silence after a lifetime of talking is the same silence."

Recently, while recommending the book to someone, I thought to re-read it. I borrowed a copy from the public library. I still had trouble absorbing it. However, to slow my reading down -- having not long ago edited some books for another spiritual teacher -- I decided to go through it with the same thoroughness I would give to it if I were to edit it. Thus, I have read it at the rate of one chapter a day and, after each day's reading, I have written a poem -- the poem simply came after the reading. Therefore, in whatever way at whatever rate inspiration seeps through, these poems are "inspired" by Nisargadatta.

I AM THAT turned out to be a popular book at the library. I was not able to renew it. It took some days to decide to buy it and to find a new copy (I've owned and given it away many times). Thus the poems are divided into sections of eighteen poems -- because it was at poem #18 that the book became due at the library.

In addition, I have adopted that first enforced pause into the form of this series and have written Entre'actes between each 18-poem section -- poems about whatever ensorcelled me at that moment.

This particular series/ascesis/practice is one more step in the process of educating my soul. Nisargadatta speaks to the Western Soul perhaps more than other Eastern spiritual teachers I have read, because a lot of Westerners asked him a lot of Western question. I have not, so far, come across my favorite sentence again.

The poems are written in a diminishing Evolutionary Form derived from Kevin Kelly's Borgian library chapter(s) in OUT OF CONTROL.

Jan Haag
Seattle, Washington
June 15, 2002/January 14, 2007/October 19, 2009



#01 The Sense of 'I am'



"... the timeless and spaceless possibility of all experience." Nisargadatta, p.3

I don't feel ready to write this.
I Am is the contemplation --
like a luminous arrow created
by the after image of staring
out the window into the limitless
blue with clouds which exist no more
than my illusions, all body-attached.
But the limitlessness, the blueness --
ah even the blueness is an illusion --
only the limitlessness,
I Am.
The caw of the crow falls into the void.
Neti neti, I am neither this nor that.

#02 Obsession with the Body



"... I am nothing but myself..." Nisargadatta, p.4

I lie in my bed defining nothing
but myself hearing the wind
howling its emptiness round my
eyrie. That is too much content,
says Nisargadatta, too much, says the wind.
The sky without the blue,
the crow without the caw,
the concept without the thought, the bemusement
of the "real" --
Let be!
Climb on the comfort of warmth, high beyond
the southern curve's shadow of the Cascades, declining.

#03 The Living Present



"Mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it." Nisargadatta, p.8

That quote is the kind that turns
my cynical mind to jelly.
Yet, maybe I am not
so far from it: Think of the tears
that start at a cat's sudden death,
or a mother's death, no
matter how old, the mother
or the daughter. The heart leaps across
the rationalizing abyss,
weeps for
no reason, no discernible reason. All that lives
must die, even reasonable Hamlet wept between soliloquies.

#04 Real World is Beyond the Mind



"The desirable is imagined and wanted and manifests..." Nisargadatta, p. 10

" cannot find out why a thing
is as it is." Nor
can you stop your need,
self-obstruction, satiety, greed; nor your joy, nor your
laughter in inappropriate places. The funny bone's
-- the humerus's medial epicondyle's -- tingling pervades
the universe and is as real,
more real, than the persistent radioactivity of
Hiroshima even now.
The ionospheric
ions are permeable. "A thing is as it
is, because the universe is as it is."

#05 What is Born must Die



"There is no simpler and easier way..." Nisargadatta, p. 13

Incapable of knowing the truth, even if
the spider-lady, inventor of alphabets,
came up, nibbled the grain
at the tip of your tongue, crawled into
your throat, spun her web on your
glottis, snapped your life with her black-widowish
hunger. Even then, what is it
this truth means? Will you look under rocks
for rattlers? Snakes
of coral?
Truly, the choice is not simple, the way
is not easy. And why should it be?

#06 Meditation



"Pure sattva (harmony) is perfect freedom from sloth and restlessness." Nisargadatta, p. 14

James, growing up on Seattle's Sunnyside, once
said: "I know no one
with a richer inner life
than you." I didn't know what he meant.
I knew I was shy, withdrawn, self-conscious,
consciously, continuously examining the contents of consciousness,
my own and stymied by trying
to discern the (even probable) consciousness of others.
I toiled in perpetual
semi-darkness like
the Lascaux/Chauvet Cave painters. Nisargadatta says: bringing-to-consciousness is
dissolution, a release of energy, is, itself, a meditation.

#07 The Mind



" my world nothing ever goes wrong." Nisargadatta, p. 18

Nisargadatta and I have Total Trust.
He always, me intermittently. When
the poltergeists stop playing, when
Peter's First Principle vacations, from time to time,
I trust that my memory will come
back as I stand in the middle
of my life with my hands
full of shit, diamonds, and doodads wondering where
I meant to put
them. Memory
has always returned before, no doubt it will
again and I'd like my hands free to be.

#08 The Self Stands Beyond Mind



"...keep quietly alert, enquiring into the real nature of yourself." Nisargadatta, p. 22

Just myself and the floating snowflakes,
the crackles of heat and melt,
steadily studying confusion, listening quietly
to the silence, tapping in a picture here
and there, mirroring my mind in the computer's
mirror which mirrors the trees, the light,
the massive vertical beam, the light
cross of the window's sash, the blank white
light of the day,
the white
of the walls, the blankness of being, rise
and fall of breath, everything leads to undisturbed contemplation.

#09 Responses of Memory



"I have eaten up the world and I need not think of it any more." Nisargadatta, p. 24

So let digestion begin. I wonder
what Nisargadatta means by that? Jaded,
like me? With everything? Done
it all? Has he consumed enough to simply
gestate until eternity comes to meet him face
to face? Once eaten, the world is
forgotten. Digested, it is inevitably absorbed,
yet contributes, just as inevitably, to internal nourishment
and external activity, an
aid to, the life
blood of the body. I, God, pump red
blood; man's karma must watch itself in God's mirror.

#10 Witnessing



"Of course you are the Supreme Reality! But what of it?" Nisargadatta, p. 27

"Consider," Nisargadatta goes on to instruct,
"what you are not." But sleep
lies heavy on my eyes.
Too late in the day I have begun
my poem. Night comes; my energies have fled,
along with desire, into the lateness, into sorrow,
the ineptness of not enough desire,
not enough time. Where shall I find enlightenment --
and why? What will
it be? What conceivable use
will it be? -- lost, as I am, in
bliss at noon and the ceaseless chaos of life?

#11 Awareness and Consciousness



"Instead of seeing things as imagined, learn to see them as they are." Nisargadatta, p. 29

I find I am wrong, most
of the time -- lately. Always? I
look up a page in
a book, the reference is not there, I
turn back to the referee and, eventually, find,
I have turned to the wrong page. I
ask a question in class and am gently
informed I'm on the wrong subject -- more often
than I care to
remember. Repetitions of this all
day long and into the night -- each night.
It wasn't always this way. Is it now? Forever?

#12 The Person is not Reality



"Pleasure and pain lost their sway..." Nisargadatta, p. 30

Like listening to the radio, who
needs to be interested or not interested?
Everyday news is the same
and no matter how accurately one might think
one's way into the stark tragedy of another,
still, in the scheme of things, one more
cup of blood is one more cup of
blood, nothing more, nothing less. We're ever so
ready to say it is
the nature of things, human
nature, until it is my child! That feeling,
too, shall pass in the numberless waves of consciousness.

#13 The Supreme, the Mind and the Body



"The universe works by itself -- that I know."" Nisargadatta, p. 34

"Succumbing to the most grievous form
of the mystery of evil" -- said the Pope
regarding sexuality, the preying of priests
on little boys -- usually. Sometimes girls. He didn't
of course mention the sanctioning of it by
The Church from time immemorial, the cover-ups,
the relocations, the pay-offs. I try to keep
my mind on consciousness, but what does diddling
little alter boys have to
do with enlightenment? Indeed what
does The Church have to do with enlightenment?
Unreachable by words, who decries the act, who's harmed?

#14 Appearances and the Reality



"You are bringing up questions which you alone can answer." Nisargadatta, p. 41

Forgetting about the world seems to imply
inertia, energylessness, sleepiness, lethargy, depression, listlessness, loitering in
and around nothingness, silence, the void.
My vegetable brother is desireless, untainted by wants.
Is this the Buddha? He fills the void
with television, overeating, with lack of desire to
imagine a different world. Is this the Buddha?
Nothing has a cause, everything has no cause.
Life and death -- these ideas
are of no use to me.
Change is. Life is. Light is. Energy is.
Nonetheless work, work to your heart's content. Write poems.

#15 The Gnani



"Even stones are conscious and alive." Nisargadatta, p. 47

Nobody exists in my world and nothing happens.
It is relentlessly quiet, the heat pipes crackle.
There are strange movements and pains
in my body, this rented shell which I
pay for with patience, anguish and slow-dawning awareness.
"Only," says Nisargadatta, "the unexpected and unpredictable is
real." I sit at the edge of meditation.
I stroll the softness of skin, the brightness
of blood, the illusion of breath.
The pressure in my ears against
my skull shifts, changes, my heart is steady
and silent. There is no remorse. The sun shines.

#16 Desirelessness, the Highest Bliss



"Nothing of value can happen to a mind which knows exactly what it wants." Nisargadatta, p. 49

I sit on the edge of delight, at times
it shines -- like the sun in Seattle: suddenly,
blindingly brilliant, brighter than the daffodils.
Wet grass and black mud between my toes,
I stroll the only place in Seattle where, barefoot,
one can stride up and down past budding
cherry and plum, upon, momentarily, the periwinkle-blue Veronica.
I undulate along Azalea Way, past the pools
with ducks and -- later in life --
dragonflies, contemplating delight, wonder, desirelessness, enlightenment,
liberation, realization, all dancing to the dawning awareness:
"I am...the beginning and...end of all endeavor."

#17 The Ever-present



"Delayed response is wrong response." Nisargadatta, p. 55

Bliss begins at five o'clock. The light peeps in.
The body rouses from its spent, dream-troubled, nighttime
hours. Crows stand ready to announce
the sun. They caw even for a sunless
dawn. Present in the world, desiring none of it,
enjoying minutes of the world, needing none of it.
Heavy, blank with the breathing weight of nothingness,
the bog of the mind solidifies into peat,
blackishness. Bodies of tanned leather turn
up from time to time, having spent
half of eternity in darkness. The mind shakes
free for the simpleness, the delight of ominous day.

#18 To Know What you Are, Find What you Are Not



"...try to feel what it means to be, just to be, without being 'this' or 'that'." Nisargadatta, p. 60

"...without memory, what are you?" It doesn't seem to
matter. All of matter and the trees exist
without memory. The wind exists without a body.
Space exists, turns blue or white or gold
or orange, but it is never here, there, anywhere.
"I am" -- even as a body in a cave,
even as consciousness mute, deaf, blind, infirm, invisible.
Can you sit in a cave without influence?
Who breathes the air after you?
Why bother with such ennui-inducing questions? You
can retreat to the cave, become rock, but --
say it: "Because of you, there is a world."

Entr'acte I

Copyright © 2002 through 2015 Jan Haag
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