I Am That

I Am That

Dennis Bradford

389 Posts



I Am That is a book of dialogues with the 20th century Indian sage Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.

It is also an enlightening spiritual practice of overcoming duality by identifying with everything.

When I began a spiritual practice nearly twenty years ago I would pester my teacher for the names of books to read so that I might better understand what I was trying to do. One of the books he loaned me was Maharaj’s. After looking through it, I quickly purchased my own copy and devoured it.

I understood that I was only conceptualizing his ideas rather than realizing them, but, at least for me at that time, I needed that. What ideas they were!

To cite from one almost random page [316]: “all you can say about yourself is: ‘I am.’ You are pure being – awareness – bliss. To realize that is the end of all seeking. . . detachment is needed. It is the clinging to the false that makes the true so difficult to see. . . the past and future . . . are merely mental.”

Either that kind of talk is profound or crazy.

I think it profound.

With what should I identify myself?

My body? That’s a start. My thoughts? It’s difficult not to. My emotions? They come from my thoughts to affect my body. My loved ones? Who would I be without relationships?

What else? My past story or autobiography? Surely those events happened. My future? Well, my future is never anything except my thoughts about my future story.

Identifying with what is human is only a start. Cf. Terence: Homo sum; humani nil a me alienum puto.

Maharaj says I am beyond all categories in the sense that differences don’t separate. This is why suffering, which requires separation, is optional and abiding joy is possible.

I am reality, which is not known as an object but by being it.

Ideas from books (and blog posts!) may be useful in the beginning, but, in the end, they should be discarded.

“You have to give up everything to know that you need nothing.” [339]

If so, I need to give up attachment to my ego that separates me from everything else. If I do that, of course I would need nothing! I would realize that I am everything else. Of course there would be no dissatisfaction!

Maharaj says, “You are not what you think yourself to be.” That’s because I think myself to be my ego, my self, my separate identity.

Time to drop all such abstractions and get on with the business of making the (material) identity judgments. (Click here for more on identity judgments.) Time to detach from ego.

I am the child squealing with delight as her father tosses her into the air.

I am that fanatical young suicide murderer strapping the explosives around his body.

I am that still mountain lake reflecting moonlight.

I am the puff adder slithering away in the grass after biting that child who almost stepped on me and will soon die.

I am the batter who struck out to end the World Series.

I am the alcoholic who smells slightly of urine sleeping in the park under that cardboard.

I am that co-ed who was raped last night in the woods near her parking lot.

I am the rapist who raped her.

I am that sycamore tree standing quietly near the brook.

I am the soldier who lost his legs to the I.E.D.

I am the fighter who planted and detonated the I.E.D. that blasted the bottom of the SUV carrying that soldier who lost his legs.

I am the polar bear hibernating peacefully in its den.

I am that seal desperately trying to outmaneuver the great white shark.

I am all that I think I am and much, much more.

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