June 29, 1980
Nisargadatta Maharaj: Whatever concept you have about yourself cannot be true. The “I Amness” is the prime 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: In the world this concept is always trying to be at the top. Even to the children we say, “You must be first in the examination.” Is it wrong to push your personality and individuality on others?
M. 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?
M. That “I Am” is a concept is to be understood while the concept is there. Once it merges in the original state, who (or what) is there who wants to know? The illusory entity has disappeared.
Q. I am convinced that this “I Am” is a concept and it will end, but why should I take it that it is a false concept?
M. 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 whimper. 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 also will go.
This consciousness is time-bound, but the knower of the consciousness is eternal, the Absolute.
source: Nisargadatta, Prior to Consciousness p. 19
There is one statement from the above dialog that I want to highlight:
“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.”
Nisargadatta’s use of the term “concept” is different than the conventional use which is as follows:
something conceived in the mind : thought, notion, an abstract or generic idea.
He begins the above discussion by stating “The ‘I Amness’ is the prime concept, and it has to be satisfied by letting it do its normal work in the world.” This tells me that from in his way of looking at things, a concept is much more than a thought or a notion. However, to say that it is something conceived in the mind, brings us a bit closer to a deeper understanding.
Ramana used the simile of the cinema film with the individual frames and the light of the projector shining through them and thus creating the illusion of moving shapes and colors. He said that our mind’s latent tendencies (vasanas) were like the images on the individual frames of the film and the light from our Source, the Inner Effulgence, illuminates them like the projector light, thus making our world appear as a projection on the screen of the Self.
Nisargadatta spoke of there being seeds in the Beingness that sprout under the suitable conditions and become the events, people, places and situations that we experience as our world. Since all perceptions are made of this same substance as part of the holographic projection we are a part of, it is an illusion to want to use what the mind conceives to grasp anything outside of the mind-made reality. The lesser can never encompass the Greater.
How, then, to experience the Greater and thus grasp the true nature of the mind-made, projected world? He states further: “so long as I know that I am not the one who experiences, but I am the knower…” gives us a clue. Not through more experience will I gain this insight, but only by recognizing what consciousness actually is, namely something that is born and will die and is thus temporary.
When I understand that all perception is due to the movement of the mind as consciousness, the “I Amness” itself recognizes the utter futility of attempting to go outside of itself. The hunger and craving for experience, which sprouts from the primordial “love to be”, subsides. There is a faint inkling that Consciousness is not everything, and that there is something much more primal than the sense of “I Am”.
When that happens, the mind modifications, the brain waves, or oscillations in consciousness begin to subside and calm down. Then the mind-stuff becomes still and Knowing happens. Of course it is not knowing of anything, because the subject-object state (duality) has ceased. As Nisargadatta states: “If you try to get that knowledge as an individual you will never get it.” There must be a deep and total surrender of the individual for this state to occur.
All we can do is to inquire more and more persistently and deeply as to what this “I Amness” really is: “That “I Am” is a concept is to be understood while the concept is there.” He equates “I Amness” with the sense of Beingness and emphasizes over and over again that we need to be established in this Beingness before we ‘transcend’ it and are able to let go of the frantic grip by ‘the love to be’ on our world. It is a world of living concepts that have become flesh (And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us).