“This consciousness is extinguishing, knowingness is disappearing, but nothing affects you, the Absolute – that is the moment of death, but what matters? The vital breath is leaving the body, the “I Amness” receding, but the “I Amness” is going to the Absolute.”
My Comment: Words can have various functions. Sometimes they are like life-jackets that we can slip into and help keep us afloat in the high seas of confusion. They can also be building blocks with which we can construct complex thought structures. Some words take us for a wild ride, one leading to the next and the next and the next, higher and higher, like the mind flying a kite. Of course we all know how words can be used as weapons to hurt, or as medicine to heal and soothe.
Nisargadatta was a modern sage who died in 1981 in Mumbai, India. Many came from around the world for discussions with him or just to listen to him. In the following you will read a dialog with a questioner in which Nisargadatta uses words to lead beyond words. Sometimes I find certain of his words, especially the way he uses them, to be like a microscope that allows us to view deeper beneath the surface of our habitual world, if we are able to follow his train of thought. I find also that we are able, even now, years later and no longer in his physical presence, to tune in to the original transmission of his energy field while speaking. Many reports of those who were in Mumbai with him confirm that much more than an intellectual understanding was transmitted when he spoke. I will intersperse my comments in italics with my understanding of Nisargadatta’s words in the text below.
July 1, 1980 p. 20 – 23 / PRIOR TO CONSCIOUSNESS
“Once the body is gone, that knowledge which experienced itself as Christ, Krishna, Buddha, etc., has subsided, has become one with the total. If you abuse them by word, they do not come and ask why you are abusing them, because that knowledge which experienced itself as one of these has subsided into the totality. Similarly now, you might be a very great person but when you go to sleep you forget yourself as a separate entity. Don’t say that you are an individual; just stay in the beingness. The whole problem is the sense of being a separate entity – once that subsides, that is true bliss.”
Here Nisargadatta (N) dives right in to one main thread of his teaching: there is the ‘totality’ of the beingness, which we might call ‘the phenomenal world’, within which ‘the knowledge I Am’ experiences itself in various expressions. The sense of being an entity separate from the totality is an illusion which causes all suffering.
N: “With the arising of the “I Am” the whole of manifestation takes place; in any activity that which witnesses is the “I Am,” that which is doing all this is maya, the tendencies, attributes.”
In N’s way of seeing things, the sense of ‘I Am’ is a miraculous and mysterious energetic happening that “arises” spontaneously, which then leads to the appearance (manifestation) of the entire phenomenal world. Even though the manifestation sprouted due to the arising of the ‘I Am’, it remains as the witness of all that happens while the ‘doer’ is the equally mysterious power known as ‘maya’, which he qualifies here as being the tendencies (vasanas) and attributes. He states that maya is ‘doing all this’, but elsewhere I get the understanding that maya, as a term for the activity caused by all latent tendencies and accumulated attributes in a given situation, spontaneously plays itself out, just as dough rises due to the yeast, and thus ‘doing’ appears to happen.
N: “This is what I am trying to tell you, but you want something else, something that is in the manifestation – you want knowledge. That knowledge “I Am” is new, it is not the Real; the Real I am not telling you, words negate That.”
We have been entrained from an early age to have our attention on the manifest reality and have grown accustomed to seeing what is manifest and phenomenal as ‘real’ to the exclusion of all else. Actually it seems that in our subconscious there is a deeply rooted belief that there is nothing if it is not perceived with our physical senses. Now many are opening up to subtle phenomena that are ‘beyond’ our five senses. Nonetheless, these are still phenomena. N states that the Real is free of ALL attributes, no matter how subtle they may be. He states “In the ocean of pure awareness, on the surface of the universal consciousness, the numberless waves of the phenomenal worlds arise and subside beginninglessly and endlessly.” Thus he asks us to look altogether beyond the phenomenal world where the Real is. “That knowledge ‘I Am’ is new”, he states, meaning it is not of the Primordial Reality but came additionally, as an alien factor.
N: “Whatever I am telling you is not the truth, because it has come out of this “I Am.” The truth is beyond expression. You are going all over, amassing knowledge for an individual. This amassing of knowledge is not going to help you, because it is in a dream.”
Everything that is a product of this illusory construct “I Am” is necessarily of the same quality. We cannot reach beyond the Illusion using the means born of the Illusion.
Questioner: How does Maharaj feel about all the people coming here?
N: I don’t care. You come and listen to me and go. If you want it, take it. If not, go away. The space in this room is neither for, nor against, nor in love with, the space in that room; it is one.
Like a river flowing, if you want to utilize it, you take the water and drink it, assimilate it; otherwise, let it flow past. I am not charging you, just like the river is not charging for the water. You are spending a lot of money every day; come on, you put your money away and take my water.
While talking about it I take you to the source of the spring; there water is coming out in a trickle. This water afterwards becomes a river, an estuary, becomes the sea. I am taking you again and again to the source. Once you go to the source you will come to know there is no water actually, water is the news of “I Am.”
There is only one principle, the principle “I Am.” Because you are, everything is. Hold it close. You have heard, now live accordingly.
Q: My work as a doctor keeps me constantly busy, how can I do as Maharaj says?
N: You are engaging in worldly activity every day, but before you go to sleep at night forget all that, and think of what I have told you. Take one sentence of what I have told you and stay with it; that will lead you to your source.
[Maharaj tells a story]: A person meets a man and the man gives him something to drink, then he tells him, “I have put poison in that drink, and in six months you will die.” That person becomes very frightened and believes that he will die in six months. Later he meets a friend, and tells him what has happened and that he will die in six months. His friend tells him not to worry, and says, “Here, drink this, and if you drink it there will be no death for you.” So the fellow is happy and drinks it. With the first concept he is full of fright, and convinced that he is going to die; later on, the friend gives him another concept which negates the first concept.
This is one of the attributes of the vital air (prana), getting concepts, ideas, creations, again and again. It is only when you search for your Self that you become aware of this.
The very source of all happiness is your beingness, be there. If you get involved with the flow of maya there will be misery. You try to derive pleasure from the activities of maya, this is the product of beingness. Be still in your beingness.
What I have told you, remember it, chew it, recollect it. It will lead you to the stillness. Establish in that knowledge.
Q: What will happen?
N: It will be clear to you, just as clear as seeing the five fingers on your hand. You observe, this body is made of the five elements, and because the five elemental body is there, your beingness, the consciousness has appeared.
Your beingness is there because of this food body and the vital breath, and you will be able to watch all these elements – the body, your vital force and your beingness; but you must be established in that knowledge. In short, you liquidate that yardstick of body-mind as your identity. When this is done, you are Iswara (dynamic manifest consciousness, the Supreme Being), you are Brahman.
Q: Then how do I elevate it to a higher level?
N: Leave it alone! There is no question of elevating to a higher level. Here it is only a question of understanding.
Iswara is the manifestation of the five elements and the universe, the “I Amness.” To the Absolute, the witnessing of that “I Amness” occurs. This is the Absolute standpoint, siddha (the perfected standpoint). This understanding should not be claimed by you, who are a sadhaka. Sadhaka (student, learner) means the process of getting established in the Iswara principle, the consciousness.
Q: Last night there was an experience of very great vibration in the body. In fact there was no body, just vibration, no form, and very intense.
N: Whatever that vibration, that is the product of the five elements.
Q: It is not a taste of “I Amness”?
N: If you want to express it that way, you may. These are the five elements, three gunas, prakriti and purusha, ten elements. These are the expressions of your beingness.
Q: So when Maharaj says to stay firm in the consciousness of not being the body-mind, how does that relate to these ten elements?
M: That talk – to transcend the body-mind and establish in your beingness, is for the kindergarten spiritual seeker, the lowest level. But now I am talking to a sadhaka who is getting established in beingness; that first lesson is over now.
M: Your world, your universe, is the expression of your beingness. The second step, the sadhaka gets established in beingness, Iswara principle, manifestation. A sadhaka is manifestation.
Now, after listening to all these talks, he will leave this place and tell people that he meets, “I have met a Maharaj who was talking, and he has added confusion worse compounded.”
Q: Maharaj’s teaching is very clear. The only thing is that it is happening so fast, and that it is clear, so fast.
N: This manifestation is Self-effulgent, Self-created, but you are still wanting to modify something, you are not through with this.
Q: That is what I am saying. The consciousness is aware of being everything; that it is Iswara, then because of some firm-set habit of the body-mind state, all of a sudden, spontaneously, comes a desire to modify, or adjust everything, and, at that moment something else happens that says, “You can’t adjust it, it is as it is.” That is what has been happening.
N: See that you are not involved in that.
Q: That is why it is so helpful for me to be here.
N: The Absolute is aloof. In the sleeping state the “I Amness” goes into oblivion, he forgets himself. “I Amness” is subjected to the waking and deep sleep states, but the Absolute is also that. You will not comprehend exactly what it means, but as you get established in beingness and transcend that, you will understand how you are beyond deep sleep and waking, because those are only the characteristics of the beingness.
Q: That Absolute, is He aware what is happening when that “I Amness” goes to sleep?
N: “I Amness” is a sort of tool, with “I Amness” only He observes. You entertain some concepts, when you listen to me. If you hear something that tallies with your concepts you are quite happy – you say it is knowledge – but I completely blast that. I want to blast all concepts and establish you in a no-concept state.
Your beingness is the subtlest, at the same time it has gross qualities latent in it. Take the seed of the banyan tree: it is very small, very subtle, but all the gross matter is already there, inside. Your beingness is the subtlest, and still it contains the entire universe. It is a continuous process; the seed contains everything, repeat, repeat, repeat.
The so-called spiritual seeker wants Brahman, but how? As he orders, the Brahman should happen like that. According to your concepts, you want to recreate the Brahman.
Q: Which just brings you further from the truth.
N: Everything is the truth – the Absolute. Brahman is created out of your beingness. All this Brahman is illusion, ignorance. Your beingness is ignorance only, from the Absolute standpoint.
When you pursue this spiritual path of understanding the Self, all your desires just drop off – even the primary desire, to be. When you stay put in that beingness for some time, that desire also will drop off; you are in the Absolute.
Q: That is what was happening today, and there is a certain sadness, in realizing that, and yet, a great understanding of the Absolute.
N: It is only that consciousness constantly receding, receding from the Absolute, there is no movement for you – It is minding the show.
When you are in consciousness, you understand the nature of consciousness.
This consciousness is extinguishing, knowingness is disappearing, but nothing affects you, the Absolute – that is the moment of death, but what matters? The vital breath is leaving the body, the “I Amness” receding, but the “I Amness” is going to the Absolute.
That is the greatest moment, the greatest moment of immortality. The “I Amness” was there, that movement was there, and I observe, it is extinguished.
The ignorant one will get very frightened at the moment of death – he is struggling – but for the jnani (the awakened one), it is the happiest moment.