Nisargadatta, sitting in the loft he built above his small shop on Bombay (now Mumbai), India, answered questions of the many visitors who came from around the world to sit with him. He often spoke of the dynamic of manifest consciousness and the individual, as we commonly think of ourselves. This short excerpt is one of those conversations.
Visitor: Does the consciousness remain forever?
Nisargadatta: No, the consciousness is there only so long as the body is there.
V: Even when one understands, will there be bodies coming into existence?
N: Yes. The five elements, three gunas, prakriti and purusha, together are the means of demonstrating the “I Amness”.
(Terms are in footnotes. Link to Sanskrit terms: http://www.sanskrit.org/www/Sanskrit/sanskritterms.htm)
In the original state there is no sense of consciousness, no awareness of being, but as soon as the “I Amness” comes the entire manifestation is seen at once, this is the expression of consciousness. In the Absolute the “I Amness” is whole but the expression is in many. I manifest Myself in many.
Human beings are one type of form and each type of form will act according to its nature according to the combination of the three gunas. How can an individual come in?
The only way to understand this mystery is to realize your identity with the universal consciousness, which is expressed in total space. So long as you identify yourself with the human form it is impossible for the mystery to be solved.
V: What is the realization?
N: Before the idea “I Am” sprouted, you are, but you don’t know you are. Subsequent to that there have been many happenings with which you have started decorating yourself. You try to derive the meaning of yourself out of the subsequent words, happenings, and the meaning of words . . . that is not you . . . give it up. Your are prior to the idea “I Am.” Camp yourself there, prior to the words “I Am.”
Once again Nisargadatta points to a place, a space in awareness that is before the very first thought of “I Am”. In the process of following the stream of thoughts back “upstream” to the root thought “I Am”, a great simplicity instills itself into my consciousness. That space is like a “jumping-off” point on a huge boulder in the middle of a stream from which the very subtle space prior to the idea “I Am” is sensed as a fine inkling.
*guna = quality, positive attributes or virtues. In the context of Bhagavad–gita and Sankhya philosophy there are three gunas of matter. Sometimes guna is translated as phase or mode. Therefore the three gunas or phases of matter are: sattva–guna, rajo-guna and tamo–guna.
sattva–the first of the three gunas of matter. Sometimes translated as goodness, the phase of sattva is characterized by harmony, lightness, peace, cleanliness, knowledge, etc.
rajas–the second of the three gunas of matter. Sometimes translated as passion, the phase of rajas is characterized by action, passion, the desire to do something, creation, etc.
tamas–the third of the three gunas of matter. Sometimes translated as darkness or inertia, the phase of tamas is characterized by darkness, ignorance, slowness, destruction, heaviness, disease, possessiveness, sense of being the ‘doer’ etc.
*prakrti = material nature. In sankhya philosophy prakrti is comprised of eight elements: earth, water, fire, air, space, mind, intellect and ego. It is characterized by the three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas. Prakrti is female. Purusa is male.
*purusa = man, male. In sankhya philosophy purusa denotes the Supreme Male Principle in the universe. Its counterpart is prakrti.