The metaphor that is used for the restless mind is that of the ocean: the bitter ocean of birth and death, which refers to the arising and subsiding of circumstances, wave after wave. We are swept along, from one circumstance to another.” Buddha said that life is suffering. This is what he was talking about. We cannot even register our own suffering.
“From the beginning, you are the goal that you are seeking.” Not the ‘selfie’ you have just taken, not the picture you have just put up on Facebook, not the ‘me’ and ‘I’ you are always referring to. What then? What is this ‘you’ that he refers to?
This ‘you’ is ‘I am’. But one cannot say that ‘I am’ is the goal, the basis of everything, while still identifying oneself as something, while one is constantly presenting oneself in order to be appreciated as something. One has to earn the right to say the basis of all is ‘I am’. This is the work we are undertaking.
teisho 1247 2011.
The state before ‘I am’ arises, being beyond mind and language, is indescribable. This is the key problem in our practice. The practice is centered on ‘what transcends all experience?’ This is what questions like ‘what am I?’ ‘what is it?’ are asking. And as language has been designed to describe experience, how can one even approach ‘I am’?
‘I am’ is the foundation of all experience. Without being, there is nothing. Because you are, everything else is. Once you see that you are the foundation of all, then all that arises loses any power that it presently has over you. You are not an experience, ‘I am’ is not an experience. Anything that can be experienced, however wonderful, is not you, is not ‘I am’.
What does ‘I am’ mean? Nisargadatta says, ‘the words themselves are the bridge.’ We can take the word ‘chair’ and use it as a bridge, by saying ‘please bring me a chair.’ You pick up a chair and bring it to me. But when we come to ‘I am’, there is nothing substantial that it is indicating, there is nothing objective relating to it. But when we use ‘I am’, when we say, for instance, ‘I am going out,’ one is saying something that is very real. So what kind of bridge is ‘I am’? The essence of ‘I’ is knowing, and the essence of ‘am’ is being: knowing/being.
So what you are asking about is what is asking; what is asking is what is being asked about. If I ask about a chair, I am asking; the chair is not asking, it is being asked about. They are separate. But when I ask ‘what am I?’ there is a loop: this is not an ordinary question. You cannot ask ‘what am I?’ in the same way that you ask ‘what is a chair?’ You are asking and you are being asked about, but it is you that is doing the asking. If you really get into this you are locked in the ultimate bind: like a rat in a bamboo tube, one cannot go forward because one can’t answer it, one cannot go back because one has to answer it.
You have to patiently, subtly, penetrate into the kind of question being asked here, recognizing that it is quite unlike other questions. There is not going to be an answer like you get to other questions. You ask the question so that it goes deeper and deeper and deeper, until suddenly it breaks open, falls apart.
Nisargadatta: “Practice is the persistent attempt to cross over from the verbal to the nonverbal.” (Or one could say that practice is the persistent attempt to cross over from experience to what is beyond experience.) “Repeated attempts to go beyond words is called meditation.”