In this excerpt from the talks with Nisargadatta (I AM THAT) three Sanskrit terms are used: 1. vyakta (the observer); 2. vyakti (the observed, also the person); and 3. avyakta (the ground of observation, also the Supreme or Absolute). The three are really only one and this talk goes into an understanding of their relationship to each other for the purpose of deepening our understanding of how consciousness works. Strictly speaking they have no relationship to each other because they are one:
Q: What is the relation between the vyakta and the avyakta?
Nisargadatta Maharaj: How can there be relation when they are one? All talk of separation and relation is due to the distorting and corrupting influence of ‘I-am-the-body’ idea. The outer self (vyakti) is merely a projection on the body-mind of the inner self (vyakta), which again is only an expression of the Supreme Self (avyakta) which is all and none.
In the following passages Nisargadatta goes into more detail on this topic, which some of you might find as enlightening as I do:
Q: There are teachers who will not talk of the higher self and lower self. They address the man as if only the lower self existed. Neither Buddha nor Christ ever mentioned a higher self. J. Krishnamurti too fights shy of any mention of the higher self. Why is it so?
Nisargadatta Maharaj: How can there be two selves in one body? The ‘I am’ is one. There is no „higher I-am’ and „lower I-am’. All kinds of states of mind are presented to awareness and there is self-identification with them. The objects of observation are not what they appear to be and the attitudes they are met with are not what they need be. If you think that Buddha, Christ or Krishnamurti speak to the person, you are mistaken. They know well that the vyakti, the outer self, is but a shadow of the vyakta, the inner self, and they address and admonish the vyakta only. They tell him to give attention to the outer self, to guide and help it, to feel responsible for it; in short, to be fully aware of it. Awareness comes from the Supreme and pervades the inner self; the so-called outer self is only that part of one’s being of which one is not aware. One may be conscious, for every being is conscious, but one is not aware. What is included in awareness becomes the inner and partakes of the inner. You may put it differently: the body defines the outer self, consciousness the inner, and in pure awareness the Supreme is contacted.
Q: You said the body defines the outer self. Since you have a body, do you have also an
M: I would, were I attached to the body and take it to be myself.
Q: But you are aware of it and attend to its needs.
M: The contrary is nearer to truth — the body knows me and is aware of my needs. But neither is really so. This body appears in your mind; in my mind nothing is.
Q: Do you mean to say you are quite unconscious of having a body?
M: On the contrary, I am conscious of not having a body.
Q: I see you smoking!
M: Exactly so. You see me smoking. Find out for yourself how did you come to see me
Smoking, and you will easily realize that it is your ‘I-am-the-body’ state of mind that is
responsible for this ‘I- see-you-smoking’ idea.
Q: There is the body and there is myself. I know the body. Apart from it, what am l?
M: There is no ‘I’ apart from the body, nor the world. The three appear and disappear together. At the root is the sense ‘I am’. Go beyond it. The idea: ‘I-am-not-the-body’ is merely an antidote to the idea ‘I-am-the-body’ which is false. What is that ‘I am’? Unless you know yourself, what else can you know?
Q: From what you say I conclude that without the body there can be no liberation. If the idea: ‘I-am- not-the-body’ leads to liberation, the presence of the body is essential.
M: Quite right. Without the body, how can the idea: „I-am-not-the-body’ come into being? The idea ‘I-am-free’ is as false as the idea ‘I-am-in-bondage’. Find out the ‘I am’ common to both and go beyond.
Q: All is a dream only.
M: All are mere words, of what use are they to you? You are entangled in the web of verbal
definitions and formulations. Go beyond your concepts and ideas; in the silence of desire
and thought the truth is found.
Q: One has to remember not to remember. What a task!
M: It cannot be done, of course. It must happen. But it does happen when you truly see the need of it. Again, earnestness is the golden key.
Q: At the back of my mind there is a hum going on all the time. Numerous weak thoughts
swarm and buzz and this shapeless cloud is always with me. Is it the same with you? What is at the back of your mind?
M: Where there is no mind, there is no back to it. I am all front, no back! The void speaks, the void remains.
Q: Is there no memory left?
M: No memory of past pleasure or pain is left. Each moment is newly born.
Q: Without memory you cannot be conscious.
M: Of course I am conscious, and fully aware of it. I am not a block of wood! Compare
consciousness and its content to a cloud. You are inside the cloud, while I look at. You are lost in it, hardly able to see the tips of your fingers, while I see the cloud and many other clouds and the blue sky too and the sun, the moon, the stars. Reality is one for both of us, but for you it is a prison and for me it is a home.
Q: You spoke of the person (vyakti), the witness (vyakta) and the Supreme (avyakta). Which comes first?
M: In the Supreme the witness appears. The witness creates the person and thinks itself as separate from it. The witness sees that the person appears in consciousness which again appears in the witness. This realization of the basic unity is the working of the Supreme. It is the power behind the witness, the source from which all flows. It cannot be contacted, unless there is unity and love and mutual help between the person and the witness, unless the doing is in harmony with the being and the knowing. The Supreme is both the source and the fruit of such harmony. As I talk to you, I am in the state of detached but affectionate awareness (turiya). When this awareness turns upon itself, you may call it the Supreme State, (turiyatita). But the fundamental reality is beyond awareness, beyond the three states of becoming, being and not being.
Q: How is it that here my mind is engaged in high topics and finds dwelling on them easy and pleasant. When I return home I find myself forgetting all l have learnt here, worrying and fretting, unable to remember my real nature even for a moment. What may be the cause?
M: It is your childishness (immaturity) you are returning to. You are not fully grown up; there are levels left undeveloped because unattended. Just give full attention to what in you is crude and primitive, unreasonable and unkind, altogether childish, and you will ripen. It is the maturity of heart and mind that is essential. It comes effortlessly when the main obstacle is removed — inattention, unawareness. In awareness you grow.