transcend the domain of consciousness

Calligraphy by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh


The Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that “The Pure Land is Now or Never” to wake us up to the insight of our eternal Essence that is never sullied by any experience in the “domain of consciousness”, as Nisargadatta calls it. This insight is never the result of long years of study. This doesn’t discount the value of prolonged contemplation on Truths from the perennial philosophy, as such practice can serve to get all the mind- and emotional-rubble out of the way. Most of us are very attached to certain forms and colors of the big activity of total manifestation and uphold our identity through them. Often we are not even aware of the depth of our identification. Such practice of deep contemplation can help to loosen such attachment and the resulting identification.. And yet, even decades of ‘clearing the rubble’ in no way result automatically in the insight that Thich Nhat Hanh points us to. His statement, for me, is useful as it opens us up to the immediacy of deeper realization that is never dependent on any outer circumstances and is always ‘available’ to each of us right now.

Below I have included some statements by Nisargadatta which express his view of Reality. Since we are ensconced in the realm of consciousness and our fundamental belief is that ‘all is consciousness’, it is very difficult for our minds to take in what he has to say. In a nutshell he tells us that Reality is not something outside of us that we can recognize and ‘know’ as we would know an object as the ‘seen’, for us being the ‘seeing’ subject. We can only let go of the delusions within the domain of consciousness. The state of consciousness is per definition the state wherein Awareness is aware of content, which is perceived and understood to be an object. Awareness, in this state, is deluded in that It sees Itself as one of the objects that make up the content of consciousness, and further is deluded into believing Itself to be the limited subject in a relationship to a particular (limited) object.

Other sages, such as Ramana, also state this view of Reality, for example here in Verse 3 of the Forty Verses on Reality:

“‘The world is real.’ ‘No, it, is a mere illusory appearance.’ ‘The world is conscious.’ ‘No.’ ‘The world is happiness.’ ‘No.’ What use is it to argue thus? That State is agreeable to all, wherein, having given up the objective outlook, one knows one’s Self and loses all notions either of unity or duality, of oneself and the ego.”

To “give up the objective outlook” is to be the One Subject and to recognize all ‘objects’ in consciousness as within that One Subject.

The following excerpt from Nisargadatta’s book “Prior to Consciousness” is a transcript of a dialog at his flat in Mumbai, India less than a year before his death. These statements will seem highly cryptic and, indeed, they are using term that we are familiar with, but in the context of his expression of Reality they often have a different meaning. For example, the term ‘ignorance’ is used to denote the state that we generally are in, as the Absolute that is identified with an object in consciousness and believes Itself to be a subject. As Nisargadatta himself says: “Just puzzling over my words and trying to grasp their full meaning is a sadhana quite efficient for breaking down the wall.”

Nisargadatta, December 7, 1980:

Questioner: I want direct experience of the Ultimate.

Nisargadatta: The Absolute cannot be experienced. It is not an objective affair. When I am unicity then that is pure awareness which is not aware of its awareness, and there can be no subject and object – therefore there can be no witnessing. Any manifestation, any functioning, any witnessing, can only take place in duality. There has to be a subject and an object, they are two, but they are not two, they are two ends of the same thing. When consciousness stirs, duality arises. There are millions of objects, but each object, when it sees another, assumes the subjectivity of the Absolute, although it is an object. I, as an object, perceive and interpret all the other objects, and I assume that I am the subject, and the witnessing takes place.

Q. Why does consciousness stir? What is the cause?

N. Without any cause, spontaneously, it happens; there is no reason. That consciousness is universal – there is no individuality. But when the consciousness stirs in a particular form which has also arisen spontaneously, and starts functioning in that form, that form assumes that it is an individual and what is unlimited limits itself to a particular form and the trouble starts.

Let us say that someone has become a jnani (a sage), but what was it to begin with? It was that sour, bitter, principle, that secretion because of which the consciousness has taken place. That very principle, the knowledge “I Am,” has developed, grown, and become sweet; it matures and becomes the manifest jnani state; but what is that? It is the product of the five elemental food essence. When that goes, what remains? The Absolute which does not know Itself.

Q. The desire for liberation is also a desire, isn’t it?

N. Don’t talk about liberation, talk about yourself, what you are.

When you understand that, both knowledge and ignorance disappear,

You only require knowledge so long as the ignorance is there.

A knowledgeable person can tell anything to an ignorant person to remove his ignorance. For that purpose he takes the aid of the so-called worldly knowledge, concepts, and both the worldly conceptual knowledge and the ignorance go simultaneously. A jnani will give you any concepts to remove your ignorance. This “I Amness” is the knowledge and you are embracing that. To remove that he gives you all these concepts; to understand that you are not this “I Amness”, which is an outcome of the food essence product. Once you realize that, whatever concepts he has given you, together with this “I Amness,” are to be thrown out. What remains is the Absolute.

This is the actual state of affairs. You can never say I am like this or that – you are without knowledge. Rarely will one understand this and, transcend the domain of consciousness.

After listening to my talks, you think it is all very simple, but it is not that easy.

Nisargadatta, Prior to Consciousness, December 7, 1980

My Comment: I always find it important to remember that the term “transcend” means to “include and raise above”. So here Nisargadatta is not suggesting that we leave consciousness or refute the validity of consciousness, but that we can gain a deeper understanding of Reality that includes the understanding of the true meaning of consciousness and also the realization of the Absolute as our original, true nature. From this deeper understanding our experience is no longer limited to existence perceived as individual beings in consciousness.





2 thoughts on “transcend the domain of consciousness

  1. ah lovely! We are the garden. How could i not love a blog post that has one of my favorite teachers, and within that one of my favorite enzos that is also by one of my favorite teachers! — within, and expanded — transcendence in a circle. circle? what circle……

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