The following text is from “Prior to Consciousness” by Nisargadatta Maharaj
“Nisargadatta: Whatever concept you have about yourself cannot be true. The I Amness” is the primary concept, and it has to be satisfied by letting it do its normal work in the world. The important thing is the realization of the fact that it is a concept.
Questioner: Is it wrong to push your personality and individuality on others?
N: What is wrong is that you consider yourself to be limited to this body and shape. What knowledge I try to give is given to the knowledge “I Am” in each of you, which is the same. If you try to get that knowledge as an individual you will never get it.
Q: If “I Am” is a concept and it disappears, how is one to know that that concept has disappeared?
N: That “I Am” concept is to be understood while the concept is there. Once it merges in the original state, who (or what) is there who will want to know? The illusory entity has disappeared.
Q: I am convinced that this “I Am” is a concept and will end, but why should I take it that it is a false concept?
N: How and when did this very thought come? Did this thought not come merely as a movement in that concept itself? If the consciousness were not there, the thought would not be there.
Consciousness is a temporary condition which has come upon the total, timeless, spaceless, changeless state. It is a happening which has come and which will disappear.
This psychosomatic bundle which is born will suffer or enjoy during its allotted span; so long as I know that I am not the one who experiences, but I am the knower, how am I concerned?
It is perfectly clear. I merely watch the body, mind, and consciousness laugh or suffer. In suffering it may cry out, all right, cry out. If it is enjoying, it may laugh. I know it is a temporary thing, if it wants to go, let it go. While I am talking to you, imparting knowledge, at the same time I am feeling unbearable pain, if it becomes a little more unbearable I may wimper. It can do what it likes, I am not concerned. So long as you have not known what this consciousness is, you will fear death; but when you really understand what this consciousness is, then the fear leaves, the idea of dying will also go.
This consciousness is time-bound, but the knower of the consciousness is eternal, the Absolute.”
This statement in the text above warrants some consideration:
“Questioner: I am convinced that this “I Am” is a concept and will end, but why should I take it that it is a false concept?”
It is the quote from one of the questioners who came to visit Nisargadatta in 1980.
In his reply to the questioner, Nisargadatta does not say that “I Am” is a false concept. He goes on to explain that, in his view, consciousness is a concept and, as such, is a temporary phenomenon. Thus, he urges us to open up to an understanding of Reality as being a no-state-state without attributes from which consciousness arises like a ripple on the pond.
His entire teaching is, for me, a way to get a more palpable sense of what he is pointing us to when he says that “consciousness is a concept”. Where these contemplations have lead me is to realize that consciousness (chit) is an integral aspect of beingness (sat) and that these two are fundamental together with ananda to the primordial sat-chit-ananda.
Can it be that the realization (chit) of beingness (sat) being a “given” that no one can do anything about, it just IS, is crucial to this view? No matter what form it takes, whatever is perceived in any way is <sat> (beingness) . Realizing that it is an absolute fact of consciousness (no consciousness without <sat>) spontaneously brings <ananda> (bliss) into existence. The three are like three facets of a crystal. As soon as we become aware (<chit>) of primordial <sat> (beingness), <ananda> (bliss) is part of the party.
As long as we remain in the belief that consciousness is anything other than an evanescent ripple on the ocean of beingness we will be caught in the distortion of our mind modifications (vrttis) and not realize the true character of beingness.
The concept of <finite-infinite> (meaning, we are the finite expression of the infinite) is related to our experience of consciousness, and thus it is relative to that from which consciousness comes, namely the Noumenon, or the Unspeakable, or that which is not of words. Nisargadatta’s pointing is consistently towards our becoming aware AS that which is free of attributes (the Knower). Only then, in his view, will we truly be able to <see> what consciousness, existence, finite-infinite, etc. etc. are/is. He never tires to say that we cannot “know” God, we can only BE God, as the Highest is not something that consciousness can see or know, since subject-object cease there.
The following statement of Nisargadatta is also of key significance for me:
“The ‘I Amness’ is the primary concept, and it has to be satisfied by letting it do its normal work in the world.”
In my understanding of this statement, “letting (‘I Amness’ ) do its normal work in the world” includes the very succinct formula of being aware in life that one is the <finite-infinite>. When “I Amness”, or consciousness in the form of Tomas or any other incarnate being does its normal work (not perverted by the effect of vrttis) we are love incarnate, we are compassionate, we are mindful in every minute of the effect of our thoughts, words and deeds on others and on the world at large.
The only ‘value’ in seeing that all is ‘maya‘, or illusion, is to allow the attachment to the phenomenal world to subside in order for our deeper view of Reality to emerge clearly. From this deeper view of Reality we then re-emerge into the world of phenomena with a new quality.