18 June 2012

The following is the preface from the book Prior to Consciousness by one of my two main teachers, Jean Dunn, describing Nisargadatta’s teaching style.  It makes abundantly clear that Maharaj did not teach a systematic philosophy, for example, as found in traditional Advaita scriptures, such as the Tripura Rahasa or the Ribu Gita.  He taught freedom.  He taught freedom from concepts and beliefs, including attacking the fundamental misconception that most everyone has, that we, consciousness, are the body that consciousness acts through. 

Actually, it is quite easy to reach the understanding that we are not the body, and instead the consciousness that witnesses the body and the world.  As a concept is understood, it is so easy to accept the concept that we are consciousness itself and not the witnessed body or mind.

However, self-investigation carefully done continuously reveals that we have literally hundreds of interrelated concepts that support that primary concept that we are our bodies. Until these concepts are uprooted and transcended, we really do not have any freedom, only a new concept that we are not the body.  That old network of thought stills keeps the identity alive that we are the body, and when the body dies, we die.

This is why Maharaj’s teacher, Siddharameshwar, used a different method than Maharaj.  He told a story, a fairy tale, of different levels of consciousness in a systematic philosophy, to wean his students slowly of all identification with the body by having them investigate their various experiences to find out that identification too was a story, an older story than his, which was not a story of freedom, but of death.

Robert Adams did similarly. Once in a while he would give a long lecture, entitled variously, the Four Principles, the Three Freedoms, or something like that, and talk for 30 minutes on these concepts. At the end, he’d pause and say forget all he just said.  He just made it up!  Everyone would laugh but really few got the point that he was trying to have us unlearn everything and just dwell within ourselves.

Still, both Siddharameshwar and Nisargadatta told stories, just as Robert told stories, stories of freedom through liberation from concepts, and a final disidentification with the body.

Yet, they still were stories of existence and knowledge, of phenomena and noumena, of knowing and unknowing which themselves, at some point had to be dropped so that one could rest in one’s own flowing beingness, without knowledge or certainty, free from the web of knowing, even knowing of the absolute. This Is why Nisargadatta would often attack or contradict even the concepts he had espoused a day or a week ago. He wanted to tear us from attachment to ideas and all identifications of the mind so that we could live from the heart directly feeling the apparent environment.

Thus even all of the wonderful samadhis, voids, bliss states, ecstasies, love, etc., encountered in the inward search as seen to be no more than transient experiences on the way to freedom, which, like concepts, even concepts about parabrahman and the non-identification with the body, need to be forgotten.

The only purpose of all these lofty concepts was to free us from more mundane concepts and identifications. All spiritual experiences served the same purpose, to destroy our old worldview of being human beings encased in bodies.  All the bliss states, the ecstatic love, the energies and movements felt around the guru and through self-inquiry, were only part of the awakening process of reinvigorating the mind and body, thus sweeping away lethargy and depression, and to drive our self-inquiry with a revitalized energy.

What is left is who we are in the most primitive way.  Daily we operate not from principles and knowledge, but spontaneously from whatever is left of our beingness.  The mind no longer checks to see what is the right thing to do.  No longer hounded by concepts of right living, we thoughtlessly, guiltlessly live from freedom and an unconscious morality grounded in love and caring.


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 scrip­tures - 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 five 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 com­bination of the gunas, satwa (being-light-purity), tamas (inertia­ passivity-darkness), rajas (activity-passion-energy), and to the condi­tioning 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 happen­ing, 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 un­conditioned, 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, eter­nally.
During the last two years of his life Maharaj did not entertain any questions pertaining to this worldly life and its improvement. He taught only the highest truth, and due to the weakened condition of his body, on some days there was very little discussion. But even one sentence of his was like an Upanishad. He was very blunt and sharp in his answers and did not cater to anyone's ego - in fact, his stated purpose was to destroy this "psuedo-entity." To be in his presence was to feel the vibrant truth, impossible to describe. He was amazing to watch: that "personality" could be happy, angry, sad, gay, sarcastic, or gentle, and a variety of emotion played through that "bundle" like sunlight on water. There was never any attempt to change any of it ... let it do its thing, it was not him. Suffering there was in abundance, due to the cancer, but in this human picture I have never seen anyone braver. Never did a whimper leave his lips. That body carried on when it seemed impossible that it could do so. One could only gaze at him in total love and awe. Although there was no doubt that the form of Sri Maharaj was suffering from cancer, he carried on just as usual with the daily routine of bhajans four times a day, question and answer periods twice daily, although as the body grew weaker these periods were often cut short. It was enough to be in his presence. It was only toward the end that he rarely spoke.
The repetitions in the text are necessary, as Maharaj hammered continuously at our concepts, each time bringing us back to the root when we tried to stray to the leaves and branches. When we tried to hang on to words, even words which he had used, he shot them right out from under us. As someone once said, "I am tremendously grateful to Maharaj. What is most different is that, regardless of anything, he answers what is most helpful and right, but people want to make the teachings into a system, which ultimately ruins them. But Maharaj doesn't worry. He just says on Wednesday that red is black, and on Fri­day that red is white, but the answer is correct at the time, because it changes the orientation of the questioner. It is tremendously valuable and unique." The reader should take only a few pages at a time and ponder and meditate over them.
If you read this book it is assumed that you have, as Maharaj said, "Done your homework." If you are ready to give up your identity with this pseudo-entity, read on and happy journey.


  1. For me this whole process has been like unraveling a tightly wound ball or yarn. The unraveling has been slow and often painful, but freeing at the same time.

    I have moments when hearing something or reading something that it feels like a bomb has gone off in my mind and often this experience is accompanied with what feels like earthquakes deep within my beingness.

    My head will feel swept clean, like a fog lifting, and vision becomes clearer and my body will feel completely empty.

    I don't know how many times this will happen until the entire conceptual house of cards collapses.

    At times a 'seeing' triggers great fear and I'm sure I don't want to see through anything else for a while.

    But, I am not in control.

    I really enjoyed this post Ed.

    With Love and deep Gratitude,


  2. Dear Ed,

    Your words of Absolute Truth are like nectar, and I mean that from my heart. It seems that whether those words come in paragraphs, or a single sentence, they immediately reflect the very things being felt through and beyond in “my own” process. There are times when I lament that I am not in LA, and then read something like this post and nothing is missing. [Still can’t wait to meet you face-to-face though!]

    The growing ease I have felt since my first contact with you has been such that I see this understanding is alive in me, as I Am. With that, the release of all that has come before is not so difficult. [Yes, there will inevitably be more shit floating to the surface, but who cares?] I had noticed less emotion-based involvement or concern in things that arose within the last year-and-a-half…it could [outwardly] still be called “personal stuff”…but the bite, the knot in the stomach, was very often absent. The little “I” is obviously not the one doing it, but the wonderful surprise is that “she” is also no longer a daunting obstacle…no longer a problem, or a source of pain, and confusion. There is this sweet growing love for all of who I Am. The guilt and shame and sorrow seems all but gone. I am no longer splitting off the parts of myself as good or bad…and as the whole of Victoria feels loved, the sense of separation from Life Itself falls away.

    I am becoming my own Beloved and am finally not ashamed to say it…I am loved…I Am Love. Not ashamed, because my Beloved holds everything as Itself. The Fire is burning cleaner, brighter…it is Beautiful. As Robert said [which I freely and loosely paraphrase] “You stir the fire with a stick, throwing the lies/illusions in, bit by bit, and in the end you toss in the stick itself.” Whatever remains to be thrown in?...don’t care…not concerned. I have watched so many bad/and exquisite dreams go up in flames—and become lighter for it—that the fear is not so frightening; there is no boogie-man but the one in your mind.
    Whatever is left to do will be done…for I have found my final Teacher, by whom I am completely met, completely seen, completely loved.

    With love and gratitude,


  3. Ed said, " No longer hounded by concepts of right living, we thoughtlessly, guiltlessly live from freedom and an unconscious morality grounded in love and caring."

    No longer hounded by concepts of 'right' living, guiltless living, unconscious morality...it all sounds too good to be true, but I am beginning to experience this to some degree.

    I would often read such statements and my mind would glorify the whole idea. Not once did it dawn on me that there would be a price to pay for this kind of freedom; and yet I realize that no one becomes free, there is just freedom.

    It is my opinion that one of the greatest downfalls of any religion is it's propensity to make 'consciously' good and 'consciously' moral persons. Good and moral in this sense is alien to one's true nature. It might be beneficial to the world but if one's goal is freedom it is merely another another stumbling block.

    I just read this in "Master of Self-Realization"

    "Dear aspirants, although the possession of good qualities in comparison with vices and bad qualities seem to be better with regard to the pursuit of attaining Self Knowledge, the possession of good qualities which one holds dear to one's heart is really a hundred times worse, and truly needs to be thrown out. Look into this and see. An aspirant tries to leave his bad qualities on the advice of the Saints because of the sense of shame that is created by society or in one's mind, however, the one who possesses good qualities is always getting praise in the world, and is accordingly full of pride about these good qualities. It is very difficult for one to let go of the pride about good qualities."

    This is on pages 7 and 8 for anyone interested.

  4. Back in Holland after 10 lazy weeks in Nepal and Tibet. Finally sitting in MY bed, not knowing or willing, incapable for the world and just reading the first text in Prior to Consciousness. Putting aside the book and check my Iphone for the bleep of an incomming email. Suprise! It's a sangha message of Edji! It's on Prior to Consiousness I just read one minute before and the words still resonating: "Hang Dakshinamurti!..." :).
    I don't believe in miracles but everything is one big miracle. And yes I agree it is very hard to REALY overcome this deep rooted I am the body concept. But for now it is ok. Now it's time to sleep. Turn out the light. Close my eyes and dissapear. Halleluja. Love Dennis

  5. Thanks Ed, and thanks to all the commentators for what they shared!

    Funny, today I picked up 'Prior to Consciousness' again after not having touched it for quite some time... and then Ed writes about it :)

  6. "I"

    I have worn many faces.

    I have moved about in many forms.

    I have covered Myself in veils too numerous to mention.

    I have hidden Myself behind a wall of knowing so thick, so seemingly impenetrable, that I am almost a mystery to Myself.

    A time comes; My curiosity is aroused.

    I begin to wonder.

    I begin to question.

    WHO AM I?

    I have married Myself, as a faithful lover, to these faces, these forms, these veils too numerous to mention, to this seemingly impenetrable wall of knowing.

    I wonder at My hesitation to remove the masks, to lift the veils, to not 'know'.

    I tremble.

    I quake within Myself as I begin to see the illusory nature of that which I have been so faithful to.

    I marvel at My hesitancy to divorce Myself from all of this.

    I embrace the fears and the anxieties that I feel within Myself as I diligently search for Myself beneath all of this rubble.

    I want Myself, I long for Myself, I lust for Myself, I desire Myself, I am consumed with passion for Myself.

    I am blissfully delighted with a mere passing glimpse of Myself.

    I ask Myself if I am ready for My own nakedness to be revealed?

    I am Silent.

  7. Oh, Joan, how powerful your words are...you are really on FIRE!

    I can feel you so strongly, the longing in every cell of your being...and that which is emerging, bursting forth in mere words that cannot really touch or contain what is being Seen. Yourself. Alive. The Freedom growing Real! I know this because your words set my own heart ablaze.

    I see you, feel you, know you directly, as woman, as mySelf.

    In this Dream of bodies...one woman's Awakening sends a million "veils" up in flames.

    You are beautiful.


  8. Thank you for your words of encouragement, Victoria.

    The fire changes with intensity, sometimes a roaring flame, sometimes a glowing ember, sometimes nothing but cold ashes. It's all part of 'The Freedom growing real."

    "A million veils up in flames." YES!

    I welcome the burning and all that comes or rather all that goes with it.



  9. Someone is dying
    but there will not be a funeral
    because no one will notice.

    They will think he is still alive.

    Only he knows he is a walking cadavre
    Still speaking
    Still working
    Still married.

    It's STRANGE!

    He has started to bury the old forms himself:

    the fearfull-self
    the concepts of self-self
    the propriety self
    the old beliefs

    all being buried by him in tiny little boxes
    in tiny graves

    no headstones
    and he cannot rember where they are being laid to rest.

    It's not over yet

    he knows

    what will be left of him is


    With love and gratitude to the Master Edji