The Infinite a sudden guest
Has been assumed to be,
But how can that stupendous come Which never went away?
– Emily Dickinson
Preface – Prior to Consciousness by Jean Dunn
In one way the core of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teaching is easy to grasp, and extremely difficult in another. It is easy if we are willing to be completely honest with ourselves, to look at the concepts of others with which we have built our own prisons. To investigate for one’s self can be extremely difficult because we are very attached to our concepts – we don’t want to give them up. But if the desire to KNOW is a burning desire, then we will set forth on our course. We can only know who or what we are by personal experience, not from books or others.
Maharaj urged us to find out what this “I” is. He was like a surgeon with a sharp scalpel, cutting away all inessential things. His questions often left one out in “left field,” not knowing what to say. His answers, were never what was expected. He would not allow any quoting of scrip- tures – only personal experience – and he could get quite angry about this. Once when someone quoted Dakshinamurti, a Hindu deity, Maharaj responded: “Hang Dakshinamurti! What about you? What is your experience?”
Most of us identify ourself with the body-mind and so he insisted that we find out what this body-mind is. Did it not come from the sperm of the father and the ovum of the mother? The body then is a product of the food consumed and is sustained by food, which is the essence of the f ive elements. Can we be this? Without consciousness the body is dead material. When consciousness leaves the body there is no individual, no world, and no God. Consciousness can only be conscious of itself when it has manifested in a physical form. Consciousness is latent in every grain of food, in all the five elements – it is universal, non-personal, all- pervading. Everything is consciousness, and that is what we are, presently. Consciousness acts through the forms according to the com- bination of the gunas, satwa (being-light-purity), tamas (inertia- passivity-darkness), rajas (activity-passion-energy), and to the condi- tioning received. What happens when one of these forms “dies?” The form again becomes part of the five elements and the consciousness merges with the universal consciousness. This is all a process happen- ing, the play of consciousness.
Before this form came – what was I? That is what one truly is. That Absolute Parabrahman – these are only words which we have invented to name the Unmanifest, Unnameable. The eternal “I,” absolutely un- conditioned, timeless, spaceless Being, not aware of being (because there is no other). I am as I Am, as I always was, as I ever will be, eter- nally.