Questioner: Is the witness-consciousness permanent or not?
Maharaj: It is not permanent. The knower rises and sets with the known. That in which both the knower and the known arise and set, is beyond time. The words permanent or eternal do not apply.
Q: In sleep there is neither the known, nor the knower. What keeps the body sensitive and receptive?
M: Surely you cannot say the knower was absent. The experience of things and thoughts was not there, that is all. But the absence of experience too is experience. It is like entering a dark room and saying ‘I see nothing’. A man blind from birth knows not what darkness means. Similarly, only the knower knows that he does not know. Sleep is merely a lapse in memory. Life goes on.
Q: And what is death?
M: It is the change in the living process of a particular body. Integration ends and disintegration sets in.
Q: But what about the knower. With the disappearance of the body, does the knower disappear?
M: Just as the knower of the body appears at birth, so he disappears at death.
Q: And nothing remains?
M: Life remains. Consciousness needs a vehicle and an instrument for its manifestation. When life produces another body, another knower comes into being.
Q: Is there a causal link between the successive body-knowers, or body-minds?
M: Yes, there is something that may be called the memory body, or causal body, a record of all that was thought, wanted and done. It is like a cloud of images held together.
Q: What is this sense of a separate existence?
M: It is a reflection in a separate body of the one reality. In this reflection the unlimited and the limited are confused and taken to be the same. To undo this confusion is the purpose of Yoga.
Q: Does not death undo this confusion?
M: In death only the body dies. Life does not, consciousness does not, reality does not. And the life is never so alive as after death.
Q: But does one get reborn?
M: What was born must die. Only the unborn is deathless. Find what is it that never sleeps and never wakes, and whose pale reflection is our sense of ‘I’.
Q: How am I to go about this finding out?
M: How do you go about finding anything? By keeping your mind and heart on it. Interest there must be and steady remembrance. To remember what needs to be remembered is the secret of success. You come to it through earnestness.
Q: Do you mean to say that mere wanting to find out is enough? Surely, both qualifications and opportunities are needed.
M: These will come with earnestness. What is supremely important is to be free from contradictions: the goal and the way must not be on different levels; life and light must not quarrel; behaviour must not betray belief. Call it honesty, integrity, wholeness; you must not go back, undo, uproot, abandon the conquered ground. Tenacity of purpose and honesty in pursuit will bring you to your goal.
Q: Tenacity and honesty are endowments, surely! Not a trace of them I have.
M: All will come as you go on. Take the first step first. All blessings come from within. Turn within. ‘I am’ you know. Be with it all the time you can spare, until you revert to it spontaneously. There is no simpler and easier way.