Near the end of his life, Nisargadatta is in a satsang with a student who asks: “What is the yardstick to measure the progress of the seeker” (Prior to Consciousness: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, p. 45)? His answer may surprise you.
Maharaj: “The indication of your progress is your disinclination to associate with normal people; your desires and expectations get less and less. When out of intense hunger for Self knowledge, the door, or the floodgate is opened, then you start rejecting everything, right from the gross state to Iswara state, your own consciousness, you reject everything” (pp. 45-6).
Does this sound peculiar to you? Harsh? Impossible? Well, it’s none of these. It is plainly true and being true, it is marvelous.
That disinclination can be hard to put into words. It could be said, quite concretely, that you decline various, almost all social engagements. They have no flavor. It’s not just that you’re disinclined to engage in small talk, and it’s not just that you cease taking any interest in promoting–directly or indirectly–the ego-self. All of this just stops of its own accord. You have zero interest. Nada. Keiner.
Maybe the word disinclination is a touch misleading. There’s just nothing “registering” when you’re asked to associate with normal people. It is neither attraction nor aversion. It’s like being told that you can eat as much fruit as you like when you’re on a Keto diet. The fruit simply ceases to “show up” as food.
Make no mistake: Maharaj is not speaking only of renunciation here. He is also pointing to the fact–the lived fact–that the “hunger” for Self knowledge has become singular, concentrated, the most real inquiry there is.
At this point, nothing can sway or divert you from your inquiry. In fact, every happening becomes more “grist for the mill,” a gift that miraculously pushes the inquiry forward. For surely the “doubt sensation” (in the language of Chan) has arisen and it’s as if What Is is carrying you Home–in its own time, according to its own rhythm, in its own way.
Nothing can stop this unfolding. There is nothing here to impede it. It is an inevitability of the kind that we might, drawing from Zen, call Great Trust. Of course, to say all this is to say much too much. The labels–the need for labels–melt away and everything becomes sanctified.