I was reading from Nisargadatta’s book, ‘I am That’, this morning, and stumbled upon these interesting and profound few lines:
Nisargadatta: ‘You are on the level of mind. When the ‘I am myself’ goes, the ‘I am all’ comes. When the ‘I am all’ goes, ‘I am’ comes. When even ‘I am’ goes, reality alone is…’
Möller: My sense of what Nisargadatta tries to communicate here is that the levels of ‘mind’ are very subtly embedded in our being and that these could very easily be mistaken for reality.
The first level of confusion Nisargadatta points to is that at first I am totally identified with mind. The centre of everything is me and myself and this me presents itself as the observer, the doer, the thinker, the consciousness behind all experiences which it regards as not-self. This is the fundamental dualistic condition of the ‘I’ in the I-conscious state. Here mind takes on the dualistic vision of me and myself, the separate self-sense.
When this world of self and other (I am myself) begins to fall apart through introspection and perhaps some kinds of insight, it becomes apparent that this dualistic proposition is no longer sustainable. Not yet being fully embraced in the living experience of the non-dual fact of life, the Mind then projects a vision of what it believes wholeness is and comes to the conclusion that ‘I am all’. Here the delusion of separation is not so apparent because while we are absorbed in the mind, any projection of mind as wholeness appears to us as wholeness itself.
For instance, I have often been critical of what I have called the Advaitist Dream. Here, being unknowingly caught in the world of thought (mind), when thought projects the notion of the non-separation of everything as Consciousness, the individual truly believes that they stand in the fullness of the Unitive, direct experience of Consciousness. ( I am not suggesting there is such a ‘thing’ as Consciousness. I am merely repeating their supposition that there is). In this, the projection of thought about Wholeness gets mistaken for reality, and the individual lives a misunderstanding mistaken for Truth. This gives many the false notion that they are truly enlightened, while in truth they are only entranced by the mere thought about enlightenment (non-duality), which clearly is not the living, experiential reality of it. Here the delusion is very difficult to break free from, because, through such identification, the individual is deeply convinced that the state they describe is the genuine article.
Now, someone comes along and tap such a person on the shoulder and say to them: ‘Listen, my friend, perhaps you are fooling yourself about your own enlightened state. If you were to stop for one moment projecting the notion of your inherent wholeness, would you still be enlightened, whole, non-dual? So, what came first, your enlightenment, or the thought-projection of enlightenment? Does your ‘enlightenment’ exist as a living truth when thought is not around to confirm its own projection about ‘your’ (note the dualism) non-dual state?’
This sets the guy thinking again, and let’s say they abandon their identification with the thought if non-dualism.
Now they ask themselves, but to whom did this thought occur? After all, this thought did occur to some inner principle, otherwise how could it have been noticed? Here the fellow moves into the third state of delusion Nisargadatta points to: ‘I am’. Now the person becomes convinced that there is nothing more fundamental to their life than this mere sense of ‘I am’. And when they read books about these matters, they get confirmation from many Neo-Advaitist writings that this ‘I am’, is the genuine article. It is the Witness, the eternal One behind all appearances.
This makes immediate sense to such a person because it confirms (note: all confirmation at this level of delusion is created and sustained by thought) the suspicion they have always had that the observer is real and that everything appears to me as the observer. But because this dualistic state has never been properly inspected, so that the falseness of it has been seen for what it is, the individual now becomes totally convinced that the Witness is the final truth to human life. They now assume the position of the objective observer, the mere Witness of passing events – no longer affected by the vicissitudes of changing life circumstances.
Yet again, we notice the subtle delusion Nisargadatta is pointing to here. This is still a state of mind, and of no higher quality than any other projection of thought. The Witness still rests on the subtle projection of separation between the observer and the observed. Thought may create the image of the free person who merely looks at life as a mirror would reflect events objectively to itself, and therefore as existing separately, and in freedom, from its own reflective surface. Unfortunately this subtle thought gets mistaken for reality through the power of identification.
Because such an individual has not investigated the binding power of identification and the inner workings of thought and attention which hold such forms of identification in place, they completely become identified with this new projection of thought – the Witness, ‘I am’. And this notion finds resonance in many of the traditional teachings where consciousness is described as the Ultimate Witness, and the need for complete identification between one’s personal sense of the ‘observer’, (the Jiva or ‘I’) and the Universal notion of ‘Consciousness’ or ‘Self’. In this way, Nisargadatta points out that even here the illusion of separateness remains intact.
Then, when this illusion of the free separate observer gets shattered by the challenges of life and the painful realization that such objective ‘Witnessing’ does not resolve deep emotional and traumatic incidents in one’s life, or other forms of self-created suffering, it may begin to dawn on such an individual that yet another step needs to be taken. Freedom from suffering is not yet the case. But how?
Again, if through luck, co-incidence or the kind suggestion of a true spiritual friend, such a person is made aware, or become aware, of the falseness of the entire project of thought projecting some truth about things and how through identification with this ‘truth’ it assumes the disposition of reality, the direct path to freedom is entered. Although still conditioned by the power of identification, projection and transference, the individual now begins to assume responsibility for their own inner activities. They begin to observe the workings of thought, attention, awareness, identification and so on. And with correct guidance and a dedicated heart, it may gradually dawn on such a person that mind is the slayer of truth. They realize that no aspect of mind could be trusted to allow for the revelation of the natural non-dual condition of the living moment. Mind, in its varied subtle manifestations, can now be observed, re-cognized for what it is, and gradually being transcended.