Many Advaitin teachers speak of transcending the body, individuality, and the self, and even teaching the transcendence the personality.
But what are they talking about?
One such teacher I talked to said he no longer had any sense f identity to anything, and that everything was Shakti. I don't known exactly what he means, except that maybe he "sees," "feels," "understands," that nothing is him, and everything perceived and experienced is "other," Shakti. Or maybe he means he too, his sense of existence is also Shakti.
But has he lost his personality? If he has, what was his experience? Did he feel he no longer was a human, or did he feel he no longer had a "personality," that which has emotions, moods, makes decisions, and has habit patterns of reactions to the world?
I don't know what he, or other teachers mean when they talk about their alleged transcendence.
I for one, definitely feel my personality, my emotions, my individuality, my body, and say, "All this is part of me, one aspect of me."
I also "understand" that all the apparent world and my body are objects within my own consciousness when I am awake. So I am aware that essentially I am consciousness which includes thinking and the mind as well as memories and intuitions. I carefully watch and also feel into the entirety of my consciousness as a living totality of awareness.
This consciousness is continually changing, variable, and features one experience or one aspects in an unending flow of experiences and objects. One can say there is an experiencer and the flow of conscious experiences which are objects. Or one can say the experiences and the experiencer are one. Sometimes it appears one or the other is a true statement, sometimes that neither is.
Then sometimes I can self experience as awareness without mind, without a sense of self or world, without the I Am sensation, and just stay there too, knowing and experiencing nothing.
All these states of consciousness come and go, including the experiences of coming awake out of a dark and moist nothingness, which is totally relaxing and in total peace.
I am also aware of my awareness of these various states. These states come and go on me, the witness.
But my resting state is that of being me as awareness, aware of the life force inside and acting through this body/mind, indwelling my own sense of presence that permeates my body and mind and the space around my body and mind, and all permeated by an empty space, itself permeated by the light of consciousness. I feel the energies inside, not really inside the body, but inside of my energetic self, and feel "see" the life force and the intelligence of consciousness within me. I think Robert calls this the Brahman state. Certainly this is what Nisargadatta called Brahman: the totality of my manifest consciousness or self.
I am certainly aware of nothingness as the dark void from which I as consciousness emerge each day, and to which I return each night, and which I experience from time to time by being totally merged into itself. But it is not my primary identification.
Regarding personality, it is my position that personality does not reside in the body or mind, but in the totality of my consciousness. My individual expression of consciousness has its own unique fingerprint in terms of emotional reactions, opinions, lack of opinions, ways of expression, behaviors, directions and desires. I think the rush towards transcendence is often a rush to deny one's own humanity and leads to a poverty rather than transcendence.
Nisargadatta says in his book the Experience of Nothingness, that once he heard the words that he had cancer, he lost all identification with his body and taught from that denial the last two or three years of his life.
This is clear indication that he ran from body identification once he knew his body was dying. In fact, much of that book and others written around that time, was his obsession with death, and since he didn't identify with either his body or consciousness, he was not worried or bothered, except that he hoped death came quietly without too much pain.
I have known hundreds of teachers up close. From my point of view, all had prominent personalities and all were very human, even if a few claimed not to have a self or personality. What is actually going on in them, I don't know, and often, when describing their self-experience they use abstract or Sanskrit terms that hide rather than reveal who they are.
Robert was the closest person I ever knew to be close to being totally empty and not there. He was uniquely empty. Others tend to be talking heads.