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Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981)

Nisargadatta's teacher was Siddharameshwar (1888-1936, aka Sadguru) who learned a system of "meditation" which was referred to as "the ant's way" because it was slow, deliberate and difficult. Siddharameshwar's teacher died in 1914 and some six years later Siddharameshwar made a determined effort consisting of a nine-month period of ceaseless meditation and finally realized the self in 1920. After this experience he began to teach a more direct way, the way of "understanding", which he called "the bird's way". A relatively late-comer among Siddharameshwar's disciples was Nisargadatta, who met Siddharameshwar in 1933.

Several followers of Siddharameshwar besides Nisargadatta reportedly came to realization, one of whom was Ranjit Maharaj (1913-2000), who also taught the way of understanding.

Materials by Siddharameshwar and Ranjit Maharaj are linked on the right side of this page. The intent is not to delve into an endless study of the guru-chain but simply to provide a slightly different color on basically the same approach, to provide some freshness to the mind if nothing else.

Nisargadatta comes from the Nath Tradition or Navnath Sampradaya

From Chapter 50 - Clear synopsis of Nisargadatta's ideas

[After an apparent careful study of Nisargadatta's teachings, a student attempts to confirm his understanding with his teacher.]

Questioner: You told me that I can be considered under three aspects: the personal (vyakti), the super-personal (vyakta) and the impersonal (avyakta). The Avyakta is the universal and real pure 'I'; the Vyakta is its reflection in consciousness as ‘I am'; the Vyakti is the totality of physical and vital processes. Within the narrow confines of the present moment, the super-personal is aware of the person, both in space and time; not only one person, but the long series of persons strung together on the thread of karma. It is essentially the witness as well as the residue of the accumulated experiences, the seat of memory, the connecting link (sutratma). It is man's character which life builds and shapes from birth to birth. The universal is beyond all name and shape, beyond consciousness and character, pure unselfconscious being. Did I put down your views rightly?

Maharaj: On the level of the mind -- yes. Beyond the mental level not a word applies.

Q: I can understand that the person is a mental construct, a collective noun for a set of memories and habits. But, he to whom the person happens, the witnessing centre, is it mental too?

M: The personal needs a base, a body to identify oneself with, just as a colour needs a surface to appear on. The seeing of the colour is independent of the colour -- it is the same whatever the colour. One needs an eye to see a colour. The colours are many, the eye is single. The personal is like the light in the colour and also in the eye, yet simple, single, indivisible and unperceiveable, except in its manifestations. Not unknowable, but unperceiveable, un-objectival, inseparable. Neither material nor mental, neither objective nor subjective, it is the root of matter and the source of consciousness. Beyond mere living and dying, it is the all-inclusive, all-exclusive Life, in which birth is death and death is birth.

Q: The Absolute or Life you talk about, is it real, or a mere theory to cover up our ignorance?

M: Both. To the mind, a theory; in itself, a reality. It is reality in its spontaneous and total rejection of the false. Just as light destroys darkness by its very presence, so does the absolute destroy imagination. To see that all knowledge is a form of ignorance is itself a movement of reality. The witness is not a person. The person comes into being when there is a basis for it, an organism, a body. In it the absolute is reflected as awareness. Pure awareness becomes self-awareness. When there is a self, self-awareness is the witness. When there is no self to witness, there is no witnessing either. It is all very simple; it is the presence of the person that complicates. See that there is no such thing as a permanently separate person and all becomes clear. Awareness -- mind -- matter -- they are one reality in its two aspects as immovable and movable, and the three attributes of inertia, energy and harmony.

Q: What comes first: consciousness or awareness?

M: Awareness becomes consciousness when it has an object. The object changes all the time. In consciousness there is movement; awareness by itself is motionless and timeless, here and now.