Teisho 914, 2004
Nisargadatta: “Go back to that state of pure being where the I am is still in its purity before it became contaminated with I am this or I am that.” This sums up the entirety of the practice: whether we are following the breath, working on Mu, Who am I?, the sound of one hand clapping, or any of the subsequent koans.
It is useless to try to find yourself or to look for Mu. As soon as you start seeking I am or seeking Mu, you are already an infinite distance from it. You must break through the prison of ideas. When you know I am, you are firmly within that prison. When you think Mu is this or that, you are firmly in prison. To know I am is the beginning, it is like a finger that points. But to stay with knowing I am is staying in prison.
What is this state of pure being that Nisargadatta speaks of? It sleeps. It sleeps in sound, it sleeps in sight, it sleeps in feelings, it dreams. What is it that dreams? The very question is itself a trap. It introduces a separation between being and knowing. The word ‘what’ implies something that can be known, knowledge that can be grasped, understood. But every attempt to define yourself means you have to step outside yourself. What is real has no form, no quality, no shape, it has no existence. We always insist that there is something that is the doer.
He says, go back to that state of pure being where the I am is still in its purity, before it became contaminated with I am this or I am that. Your burden is identification, I am this or I am that. This is what you must investigate. The practice is not to see that you are not something, this is simply dealing with thoughts and images, beliefs. Investigate your identifications. As long as you see yourself as the body, as being a self, separate and distinct, you see yourself as a thing amongst things.
You are. Beyond all explanation, beyond all cause and effect. All beings are Buddha. Life is I am. What does it mean, to be alive? I am alive, what more is there, what are you going to add to that?