HOW AM I TO KNOW IF THERE IS ANY PROGRESS IN MY SPIRITUAL SEARCH?
One of the foreign visitors, who had been coming to Maharaj for quite some time, began quietly:
Perhaps I am speaking from a body-mind identity but there is a question, a problem, which has been troubling me for so long that I cannot keep it bottled up any longer. I have talked about it to some of the seekers here and I know that they too have the same problem. However, now I am not speaking for them but only for myself.
The problem is: How am I to know if there is any progress in my spiritual search? Occasionally, particularly during meditation, I do have a glimpse of what I am searching for, but only a glimpse and that too only on rare occasions. How am I to know if I am progressing?
Maharaj : The problem apparently is about ‘progress’. Now, who is to make the progress, and progress towards what? I have said this repeatedly and untiringly that you are the Conscious Presence, the animating consciousness which gives sentience to phenomenal objects; that you are not a phenomenal object, which is merely an appearance in the consciousness of those who perceive it. How can an ‘appearance’ make any ‘progress’ towards any objective? Now, instead of letting this basic apperception impregnate your very being, what you do is to accept it merely as an ideological thesis and ask the question. How can a conceptual appearance know whether it is making any conceptual progress towards its conceptual liberation?
Maharaj took a match box in his hand and held it up. He asked: Is this you? Of course not. Does it need time to understand this? Apperception of this fact is immediate, is it not? Why then should it take time to apperceive that you are not the phenomenal object called the body-mind?
Remember, you are the animating consciousness that gives sentience to the phenomenal objects.
Please understand, said Maharaj, that apperception is prior to the arrival of consciousness which is the basis of intellect. Apperception is not a matter of gradual practice. It can only happen by itself instantaneously — there are no stages in which deliberate progress is made. There is no ‘one’ to make any progress.
Perhaps, one wonders, could it be that the surest sign of ‘progress’ — if one cannot give up the concept — is a total lack of concern about ‘progress’ and an utter absence of anxiety about anything like ‘liberation’, a sort of’ ‘hollowness’ in one’s being, a kind of looseness, an unvolitional surrender to whatever might happen?
- Pointers from Nisargadatta Maharaj