In one way the core of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj's teaching is easy to grasp, and extremely difficult in another. It is easy if we are willing to be completely honest with ourselves, to look at the concepts of others with which we have built our own prisons. To investigate for one's self can be extremely difficult because we are very attached to our concepts - we don't want to give them up. But if the desire to KNOW is a burning desire, then we will set forth on our course. We can only know who or what we are by personal experience, not from books or others.
Maharaj urged us to find out what this "I" is. He was like a surgeon with a sharp scalpel, cutting away all inessential things. His questions often left one out in "left field," not knowing what to say. His answers, were never what was expected. He would not allow any quoting of scriptures - only personal experience - and he could get quite angry about this. Once when someone quoted Dakshinamurti, a Hindu deity, Maharaj responded: "Hang Dakshinamurti! What about you? What is your experience?"
Most of us identify ourself with the body-mind and so he insisted that we find out what this body-mind is. Did it not come from the sperm of the father and the ovum of the mother? The body then is a product of the food consumed and is sustained by food, which is the essence of the five elements. Can we be this? Without consciousness the body is dead material. When consciousness leaves the body there is no individual, no world, and no God. Consciousness can only be conscious of itself when it has manifested in a physical form. Consciousness is latent in every grain of food, in all the five elements - it is universal, non-personal, all-pervading. Everything is consciousness, and that is what we are, presently. Consciousness acts through the forms according to the combination of the gunas, satwa (being-light-purity), tamas (inertia-passivity-darkness), rajas (activity-passion-energy), and to the conditioning received. What happens when one of these forms "dies?" The form again becomes part of the five elements and the consciousness merges with the universal consciousness. This is all a process happening, the play of consciousness.
Before this form came - what was I? That is what one truly is. That Absolute Parabrahman - these are only words which we have invented to name the Unmanifest, Unnameable. The eternal "I," absolutely unconditioned, timeless, spaceless Being, not aware of being (because there is no other). I am as I Am, as I always was, as I ever will be, eternally.
Seekers from all over the world came to Sri Maharaj for his spiritual guidance. The contents of this book (Prior to Consciousness) are transcribed from the tape recordings made during the question and answer periods of 1980 and 1981, until the death of Sri Maharaj from cancer of the throat on September 8, 1981, at the age of 84. Maharaj spoke only in Marathi and at each meeting there was a translator, not always the same one; we are very grateful to them. The most frequent ones were Sri S. K. Mullarpattan, Dr. D. Doongaji, Ramesh S. Balsekar, and S. V. Sapre, and the evening translator whom I remember only as Mohan. There were others at different times, but generally these were the day-to-day translators. We are also very grateful to Miss N. Vanaja who was so faithful in recording these talks.
During the last two years of his life Maharaj did not entertain any questions pertaining to this worldly life and its improvement. He taught only the highest truth, and due to the weakened condition of his body, on some days there was very little discussion. But even one sentence of his was like an Upanishad. He was very blunt and sharp in his answers and did not cater to anyone's ego - in fact, his stated purpose was to destroy this "psuedo-entity." To be in his presence was to feel the vibrant truth, impossible to describe. He was amazing to watch: that "personality" could be happy, angry, sad, gay, sarcastic, or gentle, and a variety of emotion played through that "bundle" like sunlight on water. There was never any attempt to change any of it ... let it do its thing, it was not him. Suffering there was in abundance, due to the cancer, but in this human picture I have never seen anyone braver. Never did a whimper leave his lips. That body carried on when it seemed impossible that it could do so. One could only gaze at him in total love and awe. Although there was no doubt that the form of Sri Maharaj was suffering from cancer, he carried on just as usual with the daily routine of bhajans four times a day, question and answer periods twice daily, although as the body grew weaker these periods were often cut short. It was enough to be in his presence. It was only toward the end that he rarely spoke.
The repetitions in the text are necessary, as Maharaj hammered continuously at our concepts, each time bringing us back to the root when we tried to stray to the leaves and branches. When we tried to hang on to words, even words which he had used, he shot them right out from under us. As someone once said, "I am tremendously grateful to Maharaj. What is most different is that, regardless of anything, he answers what is most helpful and right, but people want to make the teachings into a system, which ultimately ruins them. But Maharaj doesn't worry. He just says on Wednesday that red is black, and on Friday that red is white, but the answer is correct at the time, because it changes the orientation of the questioner. It is tremendously valuable and unique." The reader should take only a few pages at a time and ponder and meditate over them.
If you read this book (Prior to Consciousness) it is assumed that you have, as Maharaj said, "Done your homework." If you are ready to give up your identity with this pseudo-entity, read on and happy journey.
-- excerpts from the book : "Prior to Consciousness" by Jean Dunn -- there may be missing portions -- to read full text, please refer to the book --