Excerpts from Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj's I AM THAT
compiled and edited by
The Big Cycle:
The Manifestation of the Absolute
The alternation of manifested (existence, becoming) and
unmanifested (pure being).
The three states, sleeping,
are all in consciousness, the manifested;
what you call unconsciousness will also be manifested - in time;
beyond consciousness altogether lies the unmanifested.
And beyond all, and pervading all,
is the heart of being which beats steadily:
It is the instinct of exploration,
the love of the unknown,
that brings me into existence.
It is in the nature of being
to seek adventure in becoming,
as it is in the nature of becoming to seek peace in being.
This alternation of being and becoming is inevitable;
but my home is beyond.
With being arising in consciousness,
the ideas of what you are arise in your mind
as well as what you should be.
This brings forth desire and action
and the process of becoming begins.
Becoming has, apparently, no beginning and no end,
for it restarts every moment.
With the cessation of imagination and desire,
and the being this or that merges into pure being,
which is not describable,
All that lives, works for protecting,
perpetuating and expanding consciousness.
This is the world's sole meaning and purpose.
It is the very essence of Yoga -
ever raising the level of consciousness,
discovery of new dimensions,
with their properties, qualities and powers.
In that sense, the entire universe becomes a school of Yoga.
Once you realize that the road is the goal
and that you are always on the road,
not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom,
life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple,
in itself an ecstasy.
After all, what do you really want?
Not perfection; you are already perfect.
What you seek is to express in action what you
For this you have a body and a mind.
Take them in hand and make them serve you.
[The centre of consciousness] cannot be given name and form,
for it is without quality and beyond consciousness.
You may say it is a point in consciousness,
which is beyond consciousness.
Like a hole in the paper is both in the paper
and yet not of paper,
so is the supreme state
in the very centre of consciousness,
and yet beyond consciousness.
It is as an opening in the mind
through which the mind is flooded with light.
The opening is not even the light.
It is just an opening.
From the mind's point of view,
it is but an opening for the light of awareness
to enter the mental space.
By itself the light can only be compared to a solid, dense, rocklike,
homogeneous and changeless mass of pure awareness,
free from the mental patterns of name and shape.
The supreme gives existence to the mind.
The mind gives existence to the body.
There can be no experience of the Absolute
as it is beyond all experience.
On the other hand, the Self is the experiencing factor
in every experience and thus,
in a way, validates the multiplicity of experiences.
The world may be full of things of great value,
but if there is nobody to buy them, they have no price.
The Absolute contains everything experienceable,
but without the experiencer they are as nothing.
That which makes the experience possible is the Absolute.
That which makes it actual is the Self.
In the Supreme the witness appears.
The witness creates the person
and thinks itself as separate from it.
The witness sees that the person appears in consciousness,
which again appears in the witness.
This realization of the basic unity is the working of the
It is the power behind the witness,
the source from which all flows.
It cannot be contacted, unless there is unity and love
and mutual help between the person and the witness,
unless doing is in harmony with the being and the knowing.
The Supreme is both the source and the fruit of such harmony.
As I talk to you, I am in the state of
detached but affectionate awareness (turiya) .
When this awareness turns upon itself,
you may call it the Supreme State (turiyatita).
But the fundamental reality is beyond awareness,
beyond the three states of becoming, being and not-being.
The body appears in your mind,
your mind is the content of your consciousness;
you are the motionless witness of the river of consciousness
which changes eternally without changing you in any way.
Your own changelessness is so obvious that you do not notice it.
The universe is in you and cannot be without you.
The world exists in memory,
memory comes into consciousness;
consciousness exists in awareness
and awareness is the reflection of the light
on the waters of existence.
Nobody can say "I am the witness".
The "I am" is always witnessed.
The state of detached awareness
is the witness-consciousness, the "mirror-mind".
It rises and sets with its object and thus it is not the real.
Whatever its object, it remains the same, hence it is also real.
It partakes of both the real and the unreal,
and is therefore a bridge between the two.
Consciousness arising, the world arises.
When you consider the wisdom and the beauty of the world,
you call it God.
Know the source of it all,
which is in yourself,
and you will find all your questions answered.
The absolute precedes time.
Awareness comes first.
A bundle of memories and mental habits attracts attention,
awareness gets focalized and a person suddenly appears.
Remove the light of awareness,
go to sleep o swoon away,
and the person disappears.
The person (vyakti) flickers,
awareness (vyakta) contains all space and time,
the absolute (avyakta) is.
Awareness is not of time.
Time exists in consciousness only.
where are time and space?
Mahadakash is nature, the
ocean of existence,
the physical space
with all that can be contacted through the senses.
Chidakash is the expanse of
awareness, the mental space of time,
perception and cognition.
Paramakash is the timeless
and spaceless reality,
mindless, undifferentiated, the infinite potentiality,
the source and origin, the substance and the essence,
both matter and consciousness, yet beyond both.
It cannot be perceived,
but can be experienced as ever witnessing the witness,
perceiving the perceiver,
the origin and the end of all manifestation,
the root of time and space,
the prime cause in every chain of causation.
Just like in a cinema all is light,
so does consciousness become the vast world.
Look closely and you will see that all names and forms
are but transitory waves on the ocean of consciousness,
that only consciousness can be said to be,
not its transformations.
In the immensity of consciousness a light appears,
a tiny point that moves rapidly and traces shapes,
thoughts and feelings, concepts and ideas,
like the pen writing on paper.
And the ink that leaves a trace is memory.
You are that tiny point,
and by your movement the world is ever re-created.
Stop moving and there will be no world.
Look within and you will find that the point of light
is the reflection of the immensity of light in the body,
as the sense "I am".
There is only light, all else appears.
To the mind, it [that light] appears as darkness.
It can be known only through its reflections.
All is seen in daylight - except daylight.
To be the point of light tracing the world is turiya.
To be the light itself is turiyatita.
But of what use are names when reality is so near?
Don't say "everybody is conscious".
Say "there is consciousness",
in which everything appears and disappears.
Our minds are just waves on the ocean of consciousness.
As waves they come and go.
As ocean they are infinite and eternal.
Know yourselves as the ocean of being,
the womb of all existence.
These are all metaphors of course;
the reality is beyond description.
You can know it only by being it.
Neither comes first [matter or mind],
for neither appears alone.
Matter is the shape, mind is the name.
Together they make the world.
Pervading and transcending is Reality,
pure being-awareness-bliss, your very essence.
When the self-identification with the body is no more,
all space and time are in your mind,
which is a mere ripple in consciousness,
which is awareness reflected in nature.
Awareness and matter are the
active and passive aspects of being,
which is in both and beyond both.
Consciousness is always of movement, of change.
There can be no such thing a changeless consciousness.
Changelessness wipes out consciousness immediately.
A man deprived of outer or inner sensations blanks out,
or goes into the birthless and deathless state.
Only when spirit and matter come together,
consciousness is born.
In reality you were never born and never shall die.
But now you imagine that you are, or have, a body
and you ask what has brought about this state.
Within the limits of illusion the answer is:
desire born from memory attracts you to a body
and makes you think as one with it.
But this is true only from the relative point of view.
In fact, there is no body, nor a world to contain
there is only a mental condition,
a dream-like state,
easy to dispel by questioning its reality.
The Big Cycle
The Return to the
There is the body
and there is the Self.
Between them is the mind,
in which the Self is reflected as "I am".
Because of the imperfections of the mind,
its crudity and restlessness,
lack of discernment and insight,
it takes itself to be the body, not the Self.
All that is needed is to purify the mind
so that it can realize its identity with the Self.
When the mind merges in the Self,
the body presents no problems.
It remains what it is, an instrument of cognition and action,
the tool and the expression of the creative fire within.
The ultimate value of the body
is that it serves to discover the cosmic body,
which is the universe in its entirety.
As you realize yourself in manifestation,
you keep on discovering that you are ever
more than what you have imagined.
Consciousness as such
is the subtle counterpart of matter.
Just as inertia (tamas) and energy (rajas) are
attributes of matter,
so does harmony (sattva) manifest itself as consciousness.
You may consider it in a way
as a form of very subtle energy.
Wherever matter organizes itself into a stable organism,
consciousness appears spontaneously.
With the destruction of the organism,
The mind produces thoughts ceaselessly,
even when you do not look at them.
When you know what is going on in your mind,
you call it consciousness.
This is your waking state -
your consciousness shifts from sensation to sensation,
from perception to perception,
from idea to idea, in endless succession.
Then comes awareness,
the direct insight into the whole of consciousness,
the totality of the mind.
The mind is like a river,
flowing ceaselessly in the bed of the body;
you identify yourself for a moment with some particular ripple
and call it "my thought".
All you are conscious of is your mind;
awareness is the cognizance of consciousness as a whole.
Consciousness comes and goes,
awareness shines immutably.
When there is a person, there is also consciousness.
"I am", mind,
consciousness denote the same state.
If you say "I am aware", it only means
"I am conscious of thinking about being aware".
There is no "I am" in awareness.
Witnessing is of the mind.
The witness goes with the witnessed.
In the state of non-duality, all separation ceases.
It [the witness] is both [real and unreal].
The last remnant of illusion,
the first touch of the real.
To say: "I am only the witness"
is both false and true: false because of the "I am",
true because of the witness.
It is better to say "there is witnessing".
The moment you say "I am",
the entire universe comes into being
along with its creator.
The witness is merely a point in awareness.
It has no name and form.
It is like the reflection of the sun in a drop of dew.
The drop of dew has name and form,
but the little point of light is caused by the sun.
Watch yourself closely and you will see
that whatever be the content of consciousness,
the witnessing of it does not depend on the content.
Awareness is itself
and does not change with the event.
The event may be pleasant or unpleasant,
minor or important,
awareness is the same.
Take note of the peculiar nature of pure awareness,
its natural self-identity,
without the least trace of self-consciousness,
and go to the root of it
and you will soon realize that awareness is your true nature,
and nothing you may be aware of, you can call your own.
When the content is viewed without likes and dislikes,
the consciousness of it is awareness.
But still there is a difference between awareness
as reflected in consciousness
and pure awareness beyond consciousness.
the sense "I am aware"
is the witness,
while pure awareness
is the essence of reality.
Reflection of the sun in a drop of water
is a reflection of the sun, no doubt,
but not the sun itself.
Between awareness reflected in consciousness
as the witness
and pure awareness there is a gap,
which the mind cannot cross.
Consciousness does not shine by itself.
It shines by a light beyond it in which it appears,
which gives it being.
Don't be all the time immersed in your experience.
Remember that you are beyond the experiencer,
ever unborn and deathless.
In remembering it,
the quality of pure knowledge will emerge,
the light of unconditional awareness.
By its very nature, the mind is outward turned;
it always tends to seek for the source of things
among the things themselves;
to be told to look for the source within, is, in a way,
the beginning of a new life.
Awareness takes the place of consciousness;
in consciousness there is the "I",
who is conscious,
while awareness is undivided;
awareness is aware of itself.
The "I am" is a thought,
while awareness is not a thought;
there is no "I am aware" in awareness.
Consciousness is an attribute while awareness is not;
one can be aware of being conscious,
but not conscious of awareness.
God is the totality of consciousness,
but awareness is beyond all - being as well as not-being.
The totality of conscious experience is nature.
As a conscious self your are a part of nature.
As awareness, you are beyond.
Seeing nature as mere consciousness is awareness.
There are levels in consciousness, but not in awareness.
It is of one block, homogeneous.
Its reflection in the mind is love and understanding.
There are levels of clarity in understanding and intensity in love,
but not in their source.
The source is simple and single,
but its gifts are infinite.
Only do not take the gifts for the source.
Realize yourself as the source and not as the river, that is
Of course, you are [the river too].
As an "I am" you are the river,
flowing between the banks of the body.
But you are also the source
and the ocean and the clouds in the sky.
Wherever there is life and consciousness, you are.
Smaller than the smallest, bigger than the biggest, you are,
while all else appears.
Awareness is primordial; it is the original state,
beginningless, endless, uncaused,
unsupported, without parts, without change.
Consciousness is on contact,
a reflection against a surface, a state of duality.
There can be no consciousness without awareness,
but there can be awareness without consciousness, as in deep sleep.
Awareness is absolute, consciousness is relative to its content;
consciousness is always of something.
Consciousness is partial and changeful,
awareness is total, changeless, calm and silent.
And it is the common matrix of every experience.
Since it is awareness that makes consciousness possible,
there is awareness in every state of consciousness.
Therefore, the very consciousness of being conscious
is already a movement in awareness.
Interest in your stream of consciousness takes you to awareness.
It is not a new state.
It is at once recognized as the original, basic experience,
which is life itself, and also love and joy.
Awareness with an object we call witnessing.
When there is also self-identification with the object,
caused by desire or fear,
such a state is called a person.
In reality there is only one state;
when distorted by self-identification it is called a
when coloured with the sense of being, it is the
when colourless and limitless, it is called the
One word may convey several and even contradictory meanings.
The "I am" that pursues the
pleasant and shuns the unpleasant is false;
the "I am" that sees pleasure and pain
as inseparable sees rightly.
The witness that is enmeshed in what he perceives is the person;
the witness who stands aloof, unmoved and untouched
is the watch-tower of the real,
the point at which awareness,
inherent in the unmanifested,
contacts the manifested.
The "I am" in movement creates the
The "I am" at peace becomes the
Of course you can [change the world you project].
But you must cease identifying yourself with it and go beyond.
Then you have the power to destroy and re-create.
As long as you are ignorant of yourself as the creator,
your world is limited and repetitive.
Once you go beyond your self-identification with your past,
you are free to create a new world of harmony and beauty.
Or you just remain, beyond being and non-being.
The world has only as much power over you as you give it.
Rebel. Go beyond duality.
The person merges into the witness,
the witness into awareness,
awareness into pure being,
yet identity is not lost,
only its limitations are lost.
It is transfigured and becomes the real Self,
the sadguru, the eternal friend and guide.
When I look through the mind, I see numberless people.
When I look beyond the mind, I see the witness.
Beyond the witness there is
the infinite intensity of emptiness and silence.
Without the one [the witness] the other [the "I am"] cannot be.
Yet they are not one.
It is like the flower and its colour.
Without flower, no colours; without colour, the flower remains unseen.
Beyond is the light which on contact with the flower creates the colour.
Realize that your true nature is that of pure light only,
and both the perceived and the perceiver come and go
That which makes both possible, and yet is neither,
is your real being,
which means not being a "this" or "that",
but pure awareness of being and not-being.
When awareness is turned on itself,
the feeling is of not knowing.
When it is turned outward,
the knowables come into being.
To say "I know myself" is a contradiction in terms
for what is "known" cannot be "myself".
There must be love in the relation between
the person who says "I am" and the
observer of that "I am".
As long as the observer, the inner self, the higher self,
considers himself apart from the observed,
the lower self, despises it and condemns it,
the situation is hopeless.
It is only when the observer (vyakta) accepts the person (vyakti)
as a projection or manifestation of himself and,
so to say, takes the self into the Self,
the duality of "I" and "this" goes,
and in the identity of the outer and the inner
the Supreme Reality manifests itself.
This union of the seer and the seen
happens when the seer becomes conscious of himself as the seer;
he is not merely interested in the seen,
which he is anyhow,
but also interested in being interested,
giving attention to attention,
aware of being aware.
Affectionate awareness is the crucial factor
that brings Reality into focus.
When the vyakti realizes its non-existence
in separation from the vyakta,
and the vyakta sees the vyakti as his own expression,
then the peace and silence of the avyakta state come into being.
In reality the three are one:
the vyakta and the avyakta are inseparable,
while the vyakti is the sensing-feeling-thinking process.
[Between vyakta and avyakta] there is no difference.
It is like light and daylight.
The universe is full of light which you do not see;
but the same light you see as daylight.
And what the daylight reveals is the vyakti.
The state of identity is inherent in reality and never fades.
But identity is neither the transient personality (vyakti),
nor the karma-bound individuality (vyakta).
It is what remains when all self-identification is given up as false -
pure consciousness, the sense of being all there is, or could be.
Consciousness is pure in the beginning and pure in the end;
in between it gets contaminated by imagination
which is at the root of creation.
At all times consciousness remains the same.
To know it as it is, is realization and timeless peace.
Beyond the self (vyakta), lies the unmanifested (avyakta),
the causeless cause of everything.
All happens in consciousness and you are the root,
the source, the foundation of consciousness.
The world is but a succession of experiences
and you are what makes them conscious,
and yet remain beyond all experience.
It is like the heat, the flame and the burning wood.
The heat maintains the flame,
the flame consumes the wood.
Without heat there would be neither flame nor fuel.
Similarly, without awareness
there would be no consciousness, nor life,
which transforms matter into a vehicle of consciousness.
What relationship can there be
between what is and what merely appears to be?
Is there any relationship between the ocean and its waves?
The real enables the unreal to appear and causes it to
The succession of transient moments creates the illusion of time,
but the timeless reality of pure being is not in movement,
for all movement requires a motionless background.
It is itself the background.
Once you have found it in yourself,
you know that you had never lost that independent being,
independent of all divisions and separations.
But don't look for it in consciousness, you will not find it there.
Don't look for it anywhere, for nothing contains it.
On the contrary, it contains everything and manifests everything.
It is like the daylight that makes everything visible
while itself remaining invisible.
The seeker is he who is in search of himself.
Soon he discovers that his own body he cannot be.
Once the conviction "I am not the body"
becomes so well grounded that he can no longer feel,
think and act for and behalf of the body,
he will easily discover that he is the universal being,
that in him and through him the entire universe
is real, conscious and alive.
This is the heart of the problem.
Either you are body-conscious and a slave of circumstances,
or you are the universal consciousness itself -
and in full control of every event.
Yet consciousness, individual or universal, is not my true
I am not in it, it is not mine, there is no"me" in it.
I am beyond, though it is not easy to explain
how one can be neither conscious nor unconscious, but just beyond.
I cannot say that I am in God or I am God;
God is the universal light and love,
the universal witness:
I am beyond the universal even.
Ultimately you will come to see that
you are neither the particular nor the universal,
you are beyond both.
As the tiny point of a pencil
can draw innumerable pictures,
so does the dimensionless point of awareness
draw the contents of the vast universe.
Find that point and be free.
The enlightened (gnani) is neither [conscious or unconscious].
But in his enlightenment (gnana) all is contained.
Awareness contains every experience.
But he who is aware is beyond every experience.
He is beyond awareness itself.
There can be no experience beyond consciousness.
Yet there is the experience of just being.
There is a state beyond consciousness,
which is not unsconscious.
Some call it super-consciousness,
or pure consciousness,
or supreme consciousness.
It is pure awareness free from the subject-object nexus.
Consciousness is intermitent, full of gaps.
Yet there is the continuity of identity.
What is this sense of identity due to,
if not to something beyond consciousness?
To take appearance for reality is a grievous sin
and the cause of all calamities.
You are the all-pervading,
eternal and infinitely creative awareness -consciousness.
All else is local and temporary.
Creation - reflection - rejection:
Brahma - Vishnu - Shiva :
this is the eternal process.
All things are governed by it.
After the stage of creation,
comes the stage of examination and reflection,
and finally the stage of abandonment and forgetting.
The consciousness remains,
but in a latent, quiet state.
Understand that the One includes the Three
and that you are the One,
and you shall be free of the world process.
There are no real differences.
Only the One is real.
There is the body.
Inside the body appears to be an observer,
and outside a world under observation.
The observer and his observation
as well as the world observed
appear and disappear together.
Beyond it all, there is void.
This void is one for all.
The knower comes and goes with the known,
and is transient;
but that which knows that it does not know,
which is free of memory and anticipation,
The known is but a shape
and knowledge is but a name.
The knower is but a state of mind. The real is beyond.
All knowledge is in memory;
it is only recognition,
while reality is beyond the duality
of the knower and the known.
How misleading is your language!
You assume, unconsciously,
that reality also is approachable through knowledge.
And then you bring in a knower of reality beyond reality!
Do understand that to be, reality need not be known.
Ignorance and knowledge are in the mind, not in the real.
To become free,
your attention must be drawn to the "I am",
Of course, the knower and the known are one, not two,
but to break the spell of the known
the knower must be brought to the forefront.
Neither is primary,
both are reflections in memory of the ineffable experience,
ever new and ever now,
unstranslatable, quicker than the mind.
They [the person and the witness] appear to be two,
but on investigation they are found to be one.
Duality lasts as long as it is not questioned.
The trinity: mind, self, spirit (vyakti, vyakta, avyanta) ,
when looked into, becomes unity.
These are only modes of experiencing:
of attachment, of detachment, of transcendence.
They [matter and spirit] are one, or two, or three.
On investigation, three become two, and two become one.
Take the simile of face - mirror - image.
Any two of them presuppose the third which unites the two.
In sadhana, you see the three as two,
until you realize the two as one.
You are really in search of yourself, without knowing it.
You are love-longing for the love-worthy, the perfect lovable.
Due to ignorance you are looking for it
in the world of opposites and contradictions.
When you find it within, your search will be over.
Pain and pleasure, good and bad, right and wrong:
these are relative terms and must not be taken absolutely.
They are limited and temporary.
What you see is yours, and what I see is mine.
The two have little in common.
To find the common factor you must abandon all distinctions.
Only the universal is in common.
When you look at anything, it is the ultimate you see,
but you imagine that you see a cloud or a tree.
We love variety,
the play of pain and pleasure,
we are fascinated by contrasts.
For this we need the opposites
and their apparent separation.
We enjoy them for a time and then get tired
and crave for the peace and silence of pure being.
My world is free from opposites,
of mutually destructive discrepancies;
harmony pervades; its peace is rocklike;
this peace and silence are my body.
In the mirror of your mind,
images appear and disappear.
The mirror remains.
Learn to distinguish the immovable in the movable,
the unchanging in the changing,
till you realize that all differences are in appearance only,
and oneness is a fact.
This basic identity -you may call God,
or Brahman, or the mattrix (Prakriti) , the words matter little-
is only the realization that all is one.
Once you can say with confidence
born from direct experience
"I am the world, the world is myself",
you are free from desire and fear on one hand
and become totally responsible for the world on the other.
The senseless sorrow of mankind
becomes your sole concern.
A man who knows that he is neither body nor mind
cannot be selfish, for he has nothing to be selfish for.
Or you may say he is equally "selfish"
on behalf of everybody he meets;
everybody's welfare is his own.
The feeling "I am the world, the world is myself" becomes quite natural;
once it is established, there is just no way of being selfish.
To be selfish means to covet, acquire,
accumulate on behalf of the part against the whole.
I have no shape, nor name.
It is attachment to a name and shape that breeds fear.
I am not attached.
I am nothing, and nothing is afraid of no thing.
On the contrary, everything is afraid of Nothing,
for when a thing touches Nothing,
it becomes nothing.
Reality is neither subjective nor objective,
neither mind nor matter, neither time nor space.
These divisions need somebody to whom to happen,
a conscious separate centre.
But reality is all and nothing,
the totality and the exclusion,
the fullness and the emptiness,
fully consistent, absolutely paradoxical.
You cannot speak about it, you can only lose your self in it.
When you deny reality to anything,
you come to a residue which cannot be denied.
No relation [between Reality and its expressions].
In Reality, all is real and identical.
As we put it, saguna and nirguna are one in
There is only the Supreme.
In movement, it is saguna.
Motionless, it is nirguna.
But it is only the mind that moves or does not move.
The real is beyond,
you are beyond.
individuality, personality (nirguna, saguna, vyakta, vyakti),
all these are mere words, points of view, mental
There is no reality in them.
The real is experienced in silence.
In reality the three are one: the vyakta and the avyakta are
while the vyakti is the sensing-feeling-thinking process.
How can there be relation when they are one?
All talk of separation and relation is due to
the distorting and corrupting influence of "I-am-the-body" idea.
The outer self (vyakti) is merely a projection on the body-mind
of the inner self (vyakta),
which again is only an expression of
the Supreme Self (avyakta) ,
which is all and none.
All attributes are personal.
The real is beyond all attributes.
As water remains water regardless of the vessels,
as light remains itself regardless of the colours it brings out,
so does the real remain real
regardless of conditions
in which it is reflected.
If I ask you what is the taste of your mouth,
all you can do is to say:
it is neither sweet nor bitter, nor sour nor astringent;
it is what remains when all these tastes are not.
Similarly, when all distinctions and reactions are no more,
what remains is reality, simple and solid.
When all names and forms have been given up,
the real is with you.
You need not seek it.
Plurality and diversity are the play of the mind only.
Reality is one.
In reality there is only the source,
dark in itself, making everything shine.
Unperceived, it causes perception.
Unfelt, it causes feeling.
Unthinkable, it causes thought.
Non-being, it gives birth to being.
It is the immovable background of motion.
Once you are there, you are at home everywhere.