22 October 2014

A Complete Summary of the Self-Realization Teachings of Ramana and Nisargadatta as the Result of a Question.

To Me:

Hello Edji

Would you please explain the difference between shuyata (Emptiness, the Void) and the witness. Is shunyata (Void, Emptiness)  an object ?

If so, does it mean that one can never know the seer because he is the seer? 

Maybe you can feel the seer as the Void. I feel like all of my question been answered except this distinction that perplexes me. Can we sense the witness at all?

Ed’s Response:

Sunyata, Emptiness, the Void all describe the same thing: the inner space that contains all other phenomena. It is the background field from where thoughts, images, memories, emotions emerge and then subside. It is the constant empty space that contains all inner phenomena, and is the inner equivalent of all external space that contains the entire world.

Because we can experience the Void, Shunyata, Emptiness as a field, it is an object, just like a thought or emotion, and thus is part of the inner, subjective manifest universe.

On the other hand, the Witness, the subject who witnesses emptiness and also the external world, is entirely outside of either the internal or external manifest worlds, and cannot be experienced directly. It, itself has no characteristic, color, form, or energetic presence.  You could say it does not exist in this universe or it is from a different dimension.

Thus it is often called the Unborn.  All things appear to the Unborn, but the Unborn appears to no one, to no thing.

You can only be the subject.  You can experientially fall backwards into the subject and suddenly you can't locate the subject anymore because you are it witnessing the world thoughtlessly.

This is precisely the goal of Douglas Harding’s books and experiments, to take you to the position of the pure subject seeing the world and not aware of itself (Having no Head).

So you can either be the subject, or know of it as an intuition.

The I Am, on the other hand, is the Self of the Manifest world. The Atman, the base of Consciousness also called Turiya, the 4th state.

Self-Realization is when that Self of the 4th state of Consciousness shows itself to you, the individual human, and you identify with it as opposed to your body and mind.  You become Atman, who was always there, but was unseen because of constant thinking, emotional issues, and just a plain lack of knowledge that deeper things lay within your Consciousness.

There are several characteristics of this Self-Realization: You now know pure knowingness; you become pure knowledge itself, and you know without wavering who and what you are.  You are the Life Force, Shakti, as well as the Void and everything within the Void.  You are the fullness of an energetic presence or Subtle Body, as well as a physical body. 

You also are your emotions, though at first they do not feel like you, but as a visiting entity.  When you learn to invite them into yourself, they become you by identification, and their energies are added to you.

Lastly, you are God, AKA as the Atman, or Turiya, the deepest level or most subtle level of human consciousness.  The experience of the arising of Self within an individual is Self-Realization, described by many as a brilliant white light, expansion, tremendous energy and power, and also with experiences of great grace, purity, surrender, and gratitude towards that inner arising being.

Nisargadatta refers to this as finding the Baby Krishna, that is the incarnation of Krishna in the individual, and its experience as Krishna-Consciousness.[1]

Ramana refers to it as Realization of I or Atman and describes it:

Is the body I? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the 'I' within me, apart from it. So I am Spirit transcending the body.

The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. That means I am deathless Spirit." All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly, almost without thought-process.

"I" was something very real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with my body was centred on that "I". From that moment onwards the "I" or Self, focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on. Other thoughts might come and go like the various notes of music, but the "I" continued like the fundamental sruti note that underlies and blends with all the other notes.

Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading, or anything else, I was still centered on "I". Previous to that crisis I had no clear perception of my Self and was not consciously attracted to it. I felt no perceptible or direct interest in it, much less any inclination to dwell permanently in it.

As you can see, the experience varies from person to person.  Nisargadatta’s was as the result of deep devotion to his Guru Siddharameshwar, and searching for the I as per his Guru’s instruction[2].  The experience was then of bliss and joy, and knowledge of who and what he was.

Ramana’s experience appears to lack the devotional element.  He did not mention God at all in his description, but soon the devotion would come as a worship of the mountain Arunachala as an embodiment of the divine.

Later, all merge into one.  Witness, I Am or Atman, and the individual all become integrated.  You see and feel and know all simultaneously.


[2] Master of Self-Realization, Siddarameshwar, recorded (handwriting) and transcribed by Nisargadatta Maharaj, Sadguru Press, 2009.

NOTICE:  You need to realize that this is my best explanation based on myown experienceas well as the writings of Ramana and Nisargadatta.

In essence, though the word 'Self' for me points to a certain kind of past and present continuous experience, it may have a very different meaning for other teachers, especially for those like Nisargadatta, who later dropped the critical centrality of the I Am in his teachings, to that of the Unmanifest Witness.  He took the position of the Witness, but still had the I Am available as an experience, in which he gradually lost interest.

The neo-Advaitins always talk about "beingness," and I really don't know what they are talking about.  Often they equate it with emptiness, nowness, experiences in the moment, or the concept of an unmoving awareness or witness, which they regard themselves to be primarily, and everything else is illusory.

Please help me help you and others seeking to understand themselves and to realize their own Self.  This blog is the main support for this blog, the wearesentience.com website, Sunday Satsangs, and video and email support for seekers, as well as many outdoor feral cats and my own cats.  Please give generously, or whatever you can.


  1. Thank you for this super clear elucidation of these states. The mixed use of terminology alone can make it unclear what's being referred to at times.

    Void, emptiness, witness, observer, absolute, source, self, Self, on and on are used so randomly by different translators, teachers and students that I'm never sure if I'm understanding or being understood. It seems like a lot of FB fighting happens because people are talking on different levels.

    So, in that light, I still have a question about use of the word Witness. You're using it, with capital 'W', to mean Parabrahmin or Absolute, where there is no subject/object. At least, this how I understand your meaning.

    But what is the manifestation called witness or observer that we take when looking within our ourselves, such as witnessing the lighted emptiness as in zen practice, or swinging back and forth between the perspective of witnessing an emotion and then shifting into direct experience of the emotion.

    This is the perspective shifting most of us use, often without really naming it clearly.

    Sometimes, I see this position equated with the Absolute, partly by ignorance and partly by misunderstood terminology. Is there a better word to use than witness in describing witnessing emotions, sensations, thinking etc.?

    Thank you for your patient efforts to make this stuff clear to our ' rock heads ' !!

  2. If you are completely "in" the Witness, you are only aware of the world. If you are aware thatyou are separate from the world, you have a reflexive self-awareness of you separate from the observed, but no awareness of what you as witness are.

    Therefore I would not say the position of the Absolute does not have subject and object. Actually, it has the absolute witness and the absolute or pure objects.

    The arguments on FB are almostall between those who think they understand Advaita either through reading Nisargadatta or Ramana, or either's many disciples, and few having realization, or Self-Realization.

    Those who read books are always clarifying terms of each other, but have never attained nO sELF, sELF-rEALIZATION, OR EVEN eMPTINESS.


    Sorry cap lock was on.

    But the real deep understanding is the separation of the Witness, or Unmanifest Self, from the I Am, or Manifest Self. One is the Absolute Witness, the other youmight say is the Self of sentience or Life as embodied in each of us.

  3. Thank-you, Edji. Yes, your description in your first two paragraphs describe what I perceive when witness in emptiness.

    Maybe because the witnessing of emotions, then entering back into the emotion happens so quickly that it just seems different.

    The subjectless, objectless awareness happened once to me for just a few moments.
    I can't describe it because there was no experience, just awareness. I only remember it because it was utterly different from experience.

    I've wondered, though, if the way you experienced the world after your awakening in 1995 is a constant state of witnessing as you describe in the first two paragraphs.

    And is, thus, the same as what we perceive in witnessing. Just that you are
    constantly there, whereas, for us it isn't stabilized, comes and goes.

    I don't obsess about this question. I just wonder sometimes, if you and I actually perceive the same world at all when in the witness and are we witnessing in the same way? My witnessing doesnt have stamina or stability, and so does that make it a different, less deep perception.

    I guess I'm wondering if there is a spectrum of witnessing from the stabilzed awakened to the student who just suddenly pops in and out of it.

    ....oh no.... I have feeling you're going to whack me on head with your zen stick!!