Chapter 11: What Is Eternal?
There is a third state which has always been difficult to express, where neither thou nor I exists - neither the periphery nor the center exists. People like Buddha tried to express this state but they failed. There is no way to express it, because all language revolves around I and thou. The very birth of language is in the conversation between I and thou. Hence language is unable to convey that which is beyond I and thou. That is why the sage has to call it twam, thou.
Here the sage is trying to commit the least, the smallest possible error. The whole truth cannot be said, hence an untruth which is closest to it, the least untruth, is being said. This state cannot be expressed exactly because neither I nor thou exist there, but some expression of it is a must, the message has to be conveyed. Returning from that unknown realm the sage desires to convey to his loved ones what he has known, what he has seen.
So the sage calls it thou. This he is saying to the disciple who is sitting with him to learn, who is there with a longing to know. He is told that when the experience of pure consciousness happens, we call it thou.
Thou is a lovely word, and closer to the truth. And if someone starts living his life centered on this understanding of thou, it is also very revolutionary.
The whole spiritual practice of Ramakrishna revolved around thou. A mystic called Totapuri, practicing vedanta, visited Dakshineshwar where Ramakrishna lived.
Totapuri asked him, “Why do you keep on repeating thou - thou? Drop it, and attain to where neither I nor thou exist.”
Ramakrishna was as humble as a devotee should be. Sometimes humbleness becomes a great phenomenon. Ramakrishna said, “Show me the way. I accept your invitation.”
Ramakrishna was a respected man. His devotees called him paramahansa, the great swan; millions bowed at his feet. Totapuri never expected that he would agree to learn so easily. Even Totapuri, if asked, would not have said yes so easily. “I am brahman - I am God,” was all he said. When someone proclaims, “I am brahman, I am the divine,” there is nothing left to learn. If this proclamation is truthful, then no learning is needed. But this proclamation can also be a deception. If it is said after experiencing the divine, great, but if it is said while still under the lure of I, then it is dangerous. Anyone may rejoice in saying this statement, but if the experience has actually happened, then to say “I am brahman” is used only as a means of expression. Actually, then it would be better to say, “The I no longer exists and only brahman is.”
Totapuri was surprised, but he was not aware that one who keeps thou as the center can easily agree to anything - provided thou is really at their center. It is not possible if I is the center.
Ramakrishna agreed and said, “Take me to where neither I nor thou exists.” This is the way of someone who keeps thou at the center.