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Conversations with a Sage: Nisargadatta Maharaj in “Self-Awareness is the Witness”

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posted on Mar, 13 2012 @ 06:07 PM
With this thread I would like to start a new series called, “Conversations with a Sage”. The intention is to publish a different Q&A session in each thread between 'Enlightened Sages' and seekers of wisdom, with a focus on 20th century sages instead of more ancient ones like say a Jesus or a Buddha or a Lao Tzu. None of these conversations are posted anywhere else on the internet in there entirety, they are all from my personal collection of books. Hopefully, besides just being interesting to read, it will become clear to see the commonality between all of them; that they are pointing from and to a similar 'thing', just in different ways.

Here is a short list of the sages whose Q&A conversations you can expect to read: Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Alan Watts...

I encourage others to add on to this series. Just make sure the content posted is not already on the internet and it is a Q&A conversation between a modern day sage and a seeker. Also try to follow a similar format as is shown below, just for aesthetic purposes. Title the thread like this: “Conversations with a Sage: (name) and (subject)”. If you need help just PM me.

We will start this series off with a bang, something that is sure to not disappoint anyone, a conversation between Nisargadatta Maharaj and a seeker who is very troubled by this world, and maybe even more troubled by what this Sage has to say about it.


Conversations with a Sage: Nisargadatta Maharaj in “Self-Awareness is the Witness”

Questioner: Unknown
Sage: Nisargadatta Maharaj

Questioner: You told me that I can be considered under three aspects: the personal, the super-personal and the impersonal. The “impersonal” is the universal and real pure “I”; the “super-personal” is its reflection in consciousness as 'I AM'; the “personal” 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'.

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.

Questioner: 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?

Maharaj: 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 unperceivable, except in its manifestations. Not unknowable, but unperceivable, 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 all-inclusive, all-exclusive Life, in which birth is death and death is birth.

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

Maharaj: 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. Where 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.

Questioner: What comes first: consciousness or awareness?

Maharaj: 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.

Questioner: There is suffering and bloodshed in East Pakistan at the present moment. How do you look at it? How does it appear to you, how do you react to it?

Maharaj: In pure consciousness nothing ever happens.

Questioner: Please come down from these metaphysical heights! Of what use is it to a suffering man to be told that nobody is aware of his suffering but himself? To relegate everything to illusion is insult added to injury. The Bengali of East Pakistan is a fact and his suffering is a fact. Please, do not analyze them out of existence! You are reading newspapers, you hear people talking about it. You cannot plead ignorance. Now, what is your attitude to what is happening?

Maharaj: No attitude. Nothing is happening.

Questioner: Any day there may be a riot right in front of you, perhaps people killing each other. Surely you cannot say: nothing is happening and remain aloof.

Maharaj: I never talked of remaining aloof. You could as well see me jumping into the fray to save somebody and getting killed. Yet to me nothing happened.

Imagine a big building collapsing. Some rooms are in ruins, some are intact. But can you speak of the space as ruined or intact? It is only the structure that suffered and the people who happened to live in it. Nothing happened to space itself. Similarly, nothing happens to life when forms break down and names are wiped out. The goldsmith melts down old ornaments to make new. Sometimes a good piece goes with the bad. He takes it in his stride, for he knows that no gold is lost.

(continued in next post)

posted on Mar, 13 2012 @ 06:08 PM
Questioner: It is not death that I rebel against. It is the manner of dying.

Maharaj: Death is natural, the manner of dying is man-made. Separateness causes fear and aggression, which again cause violence. Do away with man-made separations and all this horror of people killing each other will surely end. But in reality there is no killing and no dying. The real does not die, the unreal never lived. Set your mind right and all will be right. When you know that the world is one, that humanity is one, you will act accordingly. But first of all you must attend to the way you feel, think and live. Unless there is order in yourself, there can be no order in the world.

In reality nothing happens. Onto the screen of the mind destiny forever projects its pictures, memories of former projections and thus illusion constantly renews itself. The pictures come and go – light intercepted by ignorance. See the light and disregard the picture.

Questioner: What a callous way of looking at things! People are killing and getting killed and here you talk of pictures.

Maharaj: By all means go and get killed yourself – if that is what you think you should do. Or even go and kill, if you take it to be you duty. But that is not the way to end the evil. Evil is the stench of a mind that is diseased (dis-eased). Heal your mind and it will cease to project distorted, ugly pictures.

Questioner: What you say I understand, but emotionally I cannot accept it. This merely idealistic view of life repels me deeply. I just cannot think myself to be permanently in a state of dream.

Maharaj: How can you be permanently in a state caused by an impermanent body? The misunderstanding is based on your idea that you are the body. Examine the idea, see its inherent contradictions, realize that your present existence is like a shower of sparks, each spark lasting a second and the shower itself – a minute or two. Surely a thing of which the beginning is the end, can have no middle. Respect your terms. Reality cannot be momentary. It is timeless, but timelessness is not duration.

Questioner: I admit that the world in which I live is not the real world. But there is a real world, of which I see a distorted picture. The distortion may be due to some blemish in my body or mind. But when you say there is no real world, only a dream world in my mind, I just cannot take it. I wish I could believe that all the horrors of existence are due to my having a body. Suicide would be the way out.

Maharaj: As long as you pay attention to ideas, your own or of others, you will be in trouble. But if you disregard all teachings, all books, anything put into words and dive deeply within yourself and find yourself, this alone will solve all your problems and leave you in full mastery of every situation, because you will not be dominated by your ideas about the situation.

Take an example. You are in the company of an attractive woman. You get ideas about her and this creates a sexual situation. A problem is created and you start looking for books on continence, or enjoyment. Were you a baby, both of you could be naked and together without any problem arising. Just stop thinking your are bodies and the problems of love and sex will lose their meaning. With all sense of limitation gone, fear, pain and the search for pleasure – all cease. Only awareness remains.

posted on Mar, 15 2012 @ 11:11 PM
Jiddu Krishnamurti is my favorite philosopher of modern time. I'll be looking forward to reading future posts.

I never heard of Nisargatta Mahara before. Thanks for sharing.

I was enjoying all of Nisargadatta Mahara's words until he began to espouse extreme pacifism of non-involvement. There is strong truth in his rationalizations. On many levels he is spot on, I do not disagree with his conceptualizations at all.

However, when we're done examining and analyzing reality, existence, and consciousness.... the truth remains that 'Now' I am a human. I am an expression of all that ever was, all that is, and all that ever will be. There are no separate selves, and all is co-dependent, interconnected, and impermanent. But in the present moment, I am a human. Each thing in this physical reality serves some purpose in this earthly system. Each thing in this reality has a nature to experience. I am a human. I understand the arising of thoughts, emotions, and perceptions. However, this current human incarnation has the capacity to care and to help. What is compassion and what is charity if one is to just sit and ponder, meditate, and conceptualize? I understand all of these principles, but I am a human right now who understands these deep philosophical truths, but is practicing my free will to care and to help.

We must not fight violence with violence. That is not what I am proposing. No Peace is gained in such a way. How do I gauge bad or evil, being fully subjective concepts? Well, the infringement upon the free will of others is the most logical cause to most injustice. These offenses should be exposed and shouted from the roof-tops. Wickedness can not thrive in the Light of Truth. We as mankind should stand up collectively and say 'No!' to such injustice.

I came from the stars, and to infinity I shall return. But in this moment I am a human capable of experiencing humanity. If not to experience, then what is the purpose to life?

What are your feelings in regards to war and violence?

posted on Mar, 16 2012 @ 12:31 AM
Self-Awareness is the Witness as long as you are referring to the true Self of your Awareness, which you can only find within.


posted on Mar, 16 2012 @ 01:18 AM
reply to post by Sahabi

Hey, I feel you brother, at least to an extent. My life has been full of fights and standing up to injustice, but in the end nothing has changed, and in many ways things have got worse. In many ways, the mindset that says "I want to save the world" is the same mindset that says "I want to destroy the world". Both are deeply troubled by the world, yet this perspective is a part of the dream, it is a part of the 'devils' trick to make this conceptual 'world' more real than it is. So should I spend this entire bodily existence deeply engaged in something I now KNOW is an illusion, to the point I lose all peace of mind, when I also know that these things have been happening for thousands of years before this body took form and will most likely be happening for thousands of years after it falls apart and ceases?

Regardless, his point was not advocating for absolute pacifism. In fact, he said "I never talked of remaining aloof. You could as well see me jumping into the fray to save somebody and getting killed. Yet to me nothing happened." He is speaking from an absolute standpoint: first, understand and clarify exactly who you TRULY are, transcend the dream, and then you can go on playing in the dream if you choose. The reason there is all of this violence and suffering in the world is because people have lost touch with who they are, the source. That is why it is the greatest thing one can do, the most courageous and brave, the most rebellious and revolutionary thing, is to not only intellectually clarify humanities problems like so many politicians and philosophers have done throughout the ages, but actually transcend these problems yourself. There is no greater act of defiance towards an oppressive machine than to render it useless by overcoming its grip upon your mind and body, completely.

All the war and greed and oppression that humanity is suffering from is being caused by this misunderstanding: that we, the "I", is somewhere inside the mind and body. It is the mind that says there is suffering, it is the mind that creates divisions between races and nations and so on, it is the mind that says Maharaj is an idealist who is too busy stuck in his concepts to be engaged with reality, it is the mind that says "I am this body" which creates all sorts of fears and passions which lead to the very conflict it is trying to solve... Maharaj was not pointing to somewhere in the mind, he was pointing to the same place Krishnamurti was, the source.

Glad you posted though, almost scraped this whole idea since no one seemed interested in reading some of the greatest wisdom ever recorded, lol. Peace.

edit on 16-3-2012 by LifeIsEnergy because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 16 2012 @ 11:05 AM

edit on 16-3-2012 by Itisnowagain because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 16 2012 @ 11:46 AM
reply to post by LifeIsEnergy

This is well worth a watch, a documentary, about Maharaj.

posted on Mar, 16 2012 @ 02:17 PM
A talk with Ramana Maharshi:

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