Quotes of Nisargadatta Maharaj from 'Prior to Consciousness'
Compiled by Pradeep Apte

  1. When you are in deep sleep and you feel that you are awake, the dream world appears simultaneously. With the ‘I am’, the world appears in the waking and dream states.

  2. Concepts come into the sense of being ‘I am’ because of the vital breath that causes the mind flow. Mind means words, so thoughts are there – they are the concepts. Look at your root, the child consciousness, and finish it off.

  3. It is only during the duration of the beingness that the world and creation is. This power is the faith in the primordial concept ‘I am’, and that is the concept that weaves the web of creation. The entire manifestation is an appearance in this concept.

  4. You must come to a firm decision. You must forget the thought that you are the body and be only the knowledge ‘I am’, which has no form, no name. Just be. When you stabilize in that beingness it will give all the knowledge and all the secrets to you, and when the secrets are given to you, you transcend the beingness, and you, the Absolute will know that you are also not the consciousness. Having gained all this knowledge, having understood what is what, a kind of quietude prevails, a tranquility. Beingness is transcended, but beingness is available.

  5. On my true, whole, homogenous state just a small ripple appeared, the news came, ‘I am’. That news made all the difference, and I started knowing this; but now I have known my true state, so I understand my true state first, and then I understand that this ripple is coming and going on my true state. While in your case, you take interest in the ripple and don’t take interest in your true state.

  6. The consciousness that ‘I am’ has created, and sustains, all the wonders in the world for which men take credit; on the other hand this consciousness has no control over itself. The principle out of which you have sprouted has tremendous powers. Lord Krishna has said, ‘You worship me, be devoted to me’, this means what? The knowledge ‘I am’ which is indwelling in you worship that only.

  7. Lord Krishna said ‘All are my expressions’. This knowledge ‘I am’ in each species is myself. The very life force – luminous, bright, radiant, indwelling principle is myself.

  8. When you got yourself separated from the Absolute with this identity ‘I am’, you felt fragmented, isolated, and that is why your demands started. In the Absolute there are no needs, Only the Absolute prevails. The truth is total Brahman only, nothing else but Brahman. In a total Brahman state arose the touch of beingness, ‘I am’, and with that, separation started, otherness has come. But this ‘I amness’ is not just a small principle, that itself is the ‘moolmaya’, the primary illusion.

  9. If you want to remember this visit, if you have love for me, remember this ‘I am’ principle and without the command or direction of this principle, do nothing.

  10. The ‘Maya’ is so powerful that it gets you completely wrapped up in it. ‘Maya’ means ‘I am’, ‘I love to be’, It has no identity except love. That knowledge of ‘I am’ is the greatest foe and the greatest friend. Although it might be your greatest enemy, if you propitiate it properly, it will turn around and lead you to the highest state.

  11. Death is considered to be a traumatic experience, but understand what happens. That which has been born, the knowledge ‘I am’, will end. That knowledge, which was limited by this body, will then become unlimited, so what is to be feared?

  12. That feeling of love must be understood and then love will unfold itself. Love for the Self, this consciousness, ‘I am’, those who have understood this as the true love, have themselves become love. All has merged in them.

  13. This illness that I have got is not separate from what exists as the body, breath and the knowledge ‘I am’. This is one bundle, which has been created; whatever happens is contained in that bundle. I have been separate from it before conception, and will continue to be separate from what has been created.

  14. What was conceived has grown physically, and some of the expressions of this knowledge ‘I am’ have achieved tremendous things. At the end of the time span the magnificent personalities, and whatever they have achieved – both have disappeared, however long the time, there is an end to it.

  15. What is wrong is that you consider yourself to be limited to this body and shape. What knowledge I try to give is given to the knowledge ‘I am’ in each of you, which is the same. If you try to get the knowledge as an individual you will never get it.

  16. That ‘I am’ is a concept is to be understood while the concept is there. Once it merges in the original state, who (or what) is there who wants to know? The illusory entity has disappeared.

  17. Whatever I am telling you is not the truth, because it has come out of this ‘I am’. The truth is beyond expression. I am taking you again and again to the source of the spring. Once you go to the source you will come to know there is no water, water is the news ‘I am’.

  18. Understand that it is not the individual that has consciousness; it is the consciousness which assumes innumerable forms. That something which is born or which will die is purely imaginary. It is the child of a barren woman. In the absence of this basic concept ‘I am’, there is no thought, there is no consciousness.

  19. Any embodied person with the knowledge ‘I am’ carries on his activities in the world with the name only. That inner core, the ‘I am’ has no shackles. Once it is understood that I am that ‘I am’ only, and not this shackled form, then no liberation is called for, that itself is liberation.

  20. In this spiritual hierarchy, from the grossest to the subtlest, you are the subtlest. How can this be realized? The very base is that you don’t know you are, and suddenly the feeling of ‘I amness’ appears. The moment it appears you see space, mental space; that subtle sky-like space, stabilize there. You are that. When you are able to stabilize in that space, you are space only. When this space-like identity ‘I am’ disappears, the space will also disappear, there is no space. When that space-like ‘I am’ goes into oblivion, that is the eternal state, ‘nirguna’, no form, no beingness. Actually, what did happen there? This message ‘I am’ was no message. Dealing with this aspect, I cannot talk much because there is no scope to put it in words.

  21. Most essential is that knowledge ‘I am’. Claim it, appropriate it as your own. If that is not there, nothing is. Knowledge of all stages will be obtained only with the aid of this knowledge ‘I am’ From the Absolute no-knowing state, spontaneously this consciousness ‘I am’ has appeared – no reason, no cause.

  22. This passing show maybe likened to the following situation: suppose I was well all along, then suddenly I was sick and the doctor gave me medicine. After three days my fever was gone. So this stage of fever for three days is the ‘I am’ consciousness. Exactly like that – a passing show, a time-bound state.

  23. The knowledge ‘I am’ is not a thought but observes thought. The innermost, subtlest principle is that gnawing principle ‘I am, I am’ without words, by which you know you are. It has no form or image; it is only beingness, the love to be.

  24. The ‘I am’ and the Absolute are not two. In the Absolute the ‘I amness’ comes and then the experience takes place. Whatever is happening, from the Absolute standpoint, without the knowledge ‘I am’, is very profound, unlimited, and expansive

  25. Investigate that concept ‘I am.’ In the process of trying to find out your identity or this spiritual search, all will happen in the realm of this consciousness. You finally stumble on, or culminate into the Absolute ‘Parabrahman’ state, which is desireless.

  26. Before the idea ‘I am’ sprouted, you are, but you don’t know you are. Subsequent to that there have been many happenings with which you have started decorating yourself. You try to derive the meaning of yourself out of subsequent words, happenings, and the meaning of words…that is not you…give it up. You are prior to the idea ‘I am’. Camp yourself there, prior to the words ‘I am’.

  27. From deep sleep to the waking state, what is it? It is the ‘I am’ state with no words, later the words start flowing and you get involved with the meaning of the words and carry out your worldly life with the meaning of those words – that is the mind. But before the ‘I am’ and waking state, that borderline, there you have to be.

  28. At most I would say ‘ you worship that ‘I am’ principle, be one with it and that would disclose all the knowledge’ That’s all I will say, but the subtlest part is this, from deep sleep to waking state. To abide in that you must have an intensely peaceful state. In that state witnessing of the waking state happens. You must go to that limit, but it is very difficult.

  29. If you have regard for me remember my words. The knowledge ‘I am’ is the greatest God, the Guru, be one with that, be intimate with it. That itself will bless you with all the knowledge relevant for you in the proliferation of that knowledge, it will lead you to the state which is eternal.

  30. What is this knowingness? It is the stamp or registration of the booking ‘I am’. You are booking a flat, which is under construction but where is the flat? It is only the booking. Similarly this ‘I am’ is only booking, it represents your Absolute state.

  31. Discrimination is very necessary to understand what I am saying. It is only after the arrival of consciousness that we try to understand ourselves. Consciousness is the so-called birth, birth means the three aspects: waking state, deep sleep and the knowledge ‘I am’. Once I understand what this birth is, then the whole mystery is solved. Since I have thoroughly known what this birth principle is, I will know very well at that happening of so-called death. I shall observe the departure of the vital breath, the language and the ‘ I amness”, there is no question of death.

  32. Who is going to give you eternal peace? It is only the sun, that ‘I am’. If you embrace that Self-effulgent sun everything else will go, but you will prevail eternally.

  33. All your experiences and visions depend on your knowledge ‘I am’ and this itself is going to dissolve. For this knowledge there are no customers, no devotees, because they want something concrete in their hand, but when your knowingness itself is going to dissolve, is it possible to hold on to something?

  34. You live in the house but the house is not yourself. Similarly the knowledge ‘I am’ is in the body, but it is not the body. When the knowledge ‘I am’ is not there do you perceive or observe anything?. Knowingness is knowledge and no-knowingness is also knowledge, but it has no form. Call that knowledge ‘I am’ as your Self; don’t call the body as knowledge. The knowledge ‘I am’ is the primary God, meditate on that only.

  35. All those praises sung by the ‘Vedas’ are only for that tiny little pinch ‘I am’. The moment you start making a design of that ‘ I amness’ you are getting into deep waters. This incense holder is silver; you have the knowledge that it is silver. What is the shape, color, or design of that knowledge? If all knowledge is formless, could there be a form, design or color to the knowledge ‘I am’? Could it be subject to sin or merit?

  36. I never seek anything from anybody else. Whatever I want to get, I want to get out of my own being, I worship that very principle ‘I am’ and demand what I want out of that; because of that all these things are coming.

  37. In this process you, as an individual, are not left at all. Try to understand that ‘I am’ is a product of the ‘satwa guna’, food essence product. When you throw out all the concepts, including your primary concept (‘I am’), then whatever is, is. Stay put in quietude.

  38. All this profound talk is nothing but mental entertainment. As you go further into spirituality you will realize that ‘I am’ is the very God or soul of an infinite number of universes, but the ‘I am’ is again entertainment. All my talks are conceptual entertainment.

  39. In the first few years the primary concept ‘I am’ was there, but in a dormant condition. Later on it started knowing itself. The ‘jnani’ state is like the child, when the child was not knowing itself. The apparatus through which that knowingness expresses itself is now quite different, but the principle is the same.

  40. The world of ‘Maya’ is built up of concepts only. I cannot charge the world with giving me the pain; the whole cause of the pain is the knowingness ‘I am’. When this knowledge was not there was there any pain or pleasure?

  41. All your moments of spirituality are based on the ‘I am the body’ idea. This knowledge ‘I am’ is going to remain for a short period. This will be very clear to you when you remain in your real position. Until then accept whatever concepts of spirituality you like. Until you know your true state you will accept all the hearsays because you don’t know the truth.

  42. You must maintain this knowledge ‘I am’ in proper order. All the dirt, which is not the towel, should be removed. Similarly ‘I am’ is the tool through which you get all the knowledge. You worship that ‘I am’, remove all the adulteration, the dirt.

  43. That knowingness alone points out all the dirt which is imposed on it. Even the space is not as pure as the knowledge ‘I am’. Innately the world is very pure, it is rendered dirty because you identify with the body. Since you do not recognize your ‘I amness’ in its purity, you refer to various books and saints to get an identity.

  44. To know these senses, to understand these secrets, you surrender to that very principle ‘I am’, and that consciousness alone will lead you to this. Presently stabilize in the consciousness. If you don’t do that, your very concepts will be very dangerous to you – they will throttle you to death. The knowledge you are the is very source of all energy, the source of all Gods, of all types of knowledge. This is the simplest method, you know you are, just be there.

  45. You came here and I talk to you but I am not concerned whether you come or go. I am totally independent. I, as the Absolute, do not need the consciousness. Total independence is merely to apprehend and understand. My apparent dependence is on this consciousness which says ‘I am’. It is this sentience which enables me to perceive you. This concept I did not have but even then I existed. I was there before this consciousness appeared.

  46. When did this process of observing start? It started with the arrival of the waking state, deep sleep state and the knowledge ‘I am’, all rolled into one ‘I am’. This is known as birth. With the so-called birth this triad has come, and with its arrival observation started. Everyday it is going on. The moment the ‘I amness’ comes it is being used for experiencing, observing etc. Prior to the happening of this birth, where was the ‘I amness’? It was not there.

  47. You know you are. Because you know you are, everything is happening. Go to that knowledge ‘I am’. When you understand what that ‘I amness’ is, then the shell of mystery is broken.

  48. Pose the question from the standpoint that you are only the knowledge ‘I am’. The primary ignorance is about our ‘I amness’; we have taken it as the Ultimate, that is ignorance. We presume that this consciousness is the eternal, the Ultimate, that is the mistake. This ‘I am’ principle is there provided the waking state and deep sleep are there. I am not the waking state, I am not the deep sleep – therefore I, the Absolute, am not that ‘I am’. Leave aside this triad, what are you? Understand clearly, when you keep aside the very instrument of questioning, where is the question? Which you? You have removed the ‘you’.

  49. I repeatedly tell you that there is nothing save this consciousness, the knowledge ‘I am’ – if you feel like worshipping something, worship that. I am giving blessings. Blessings mean what? I am giving confidence and courage.

  50. Can any of your concepts grasp the total, the Ultimate? Have you understood that knowledge itself is ignorance? If it were real it would have been there eternally – it would not have had a beginning and an end. Now the experience ‘I am’ is felt, earlier that experience was not. When it was not, no proof was called for, but once it is, lots of proof is required.

  51. One is the Absolute, two is consciousness, three is space. Where there was no knowledge ‘I am’ that is number one, later on there is the sense ‘I am’ that is number two, then there is space – number three.

  52. Increase the conviction that you are the formless consciousness. You develop your firm conviction that you are the total manifesting universal consciousness. There is nobody who can have the knowledge of the Truth, the Eternal. It is one’s eternal true state, but is not a knowledgeable state – you cannot know It. So-called knowledge is boundless and plenty in the state of attributes, ‘I am’. In this body is the knowledge ‘I am’. When the body drops down, the knowledge ‘I am’ will subside there only – what remains is the Absolute.

  53. Be one with the knowledge ‘I am’, the source of sentience, the beingness itself. If you are seeking that peace which is priceless, it can only be in establishing yourself in the consciousness with steadfast conviction. By conviction I mean never doubted, firm, unshakable, never wavering – have that kind of conviction in your beingness. Think of nothing else, pray to nothing else, ‘Atma Prem’, because of it everything is.

  54. In that body the ‘I am’ is ticking – that is the Guru. You worship that ‘I am’ principle and surrender to that Guru and that Guru will give all the grace. What you call ‘I am’ and birth, you are not that, it is material. The Ultimate knowledge does not have any knowledge. This knowledge ‘I am’ has appeared spontaneously, as a result of the body. See it as it is, understand it as it is.

  55. This ‘I am’ is a concept also, is it not? And you want to hang on to this concept also. This ‘I amness’ is not going to remain in your association, and when it goes, everything relating to that ‘I amness’ goes. When this is the state of affairs, what is the use of trying to gain or assimilate knowledge? You are standing on a concept ‘I am’ and trying to paint that with another concept.

  56. I have experienced all four kinds of speech and transcended them. Rarely will anybody follow this hierarchy to stabilize in the consciousness and transcend consciousness. Starting from ‘Vaikhari’ (word), normally we listen to words; from ‘Vaikhari’ we go to ‘Madhyama’ (mind-thought); in watching the mind we are in ‘Pashayanti’ where the concept formation takes place and from there to ‘Para’ (‘I am’ – without words), and finally from ‘Para’ to prior to consciousness. This is the line to follow, but only a rare one follows it – receding, reversing.

  57. You must possess that confirmation that you are formless, designless and not only rely on meditation. Always insist on that you are formless, free and not conditioned. You must hammer on this constantly, that is the practice. You must have a strong conviction that conviction means practicing. That conviction means not only ‘I am’ but it means I am free from the ‘I am’ also.

  58. Normally in the name of spirituality, knowledge is expounded. Knowledge is in the realm of five elements and it is talked about as real or unreal so long as the knowledge ‘I am’ is there, it is a product of the knowledge ‘I am’. A ‘jnani’ is that state from which the witnessing of the knowledge ‘I am’ takes place. In that ‘jnani’ state there is no touch of ‘I amness’ (it is a quality-less state) and it is not knowledge – knowledge means ‘I amness’.

  59. ‘I am’ is only a few letters. Has anyone been able to keep this ‘I am’ in his pocket for all time? If whoever feels that ‘I am’ had knowledge, would he have cared to become this ‘I am’? No, he would have said ‘I don’t want this consciousness’. You are unreal – you know that you are – that is also unreal. This sense of presence is an untruth, it is like a dream.

  60. The ‘Linga-deha’ is the seed, the chemical, the product of the five elemental essences which give rise to and sustain the consciousness ‘I am’. Just like the seed of a tree, that seed latently contains all future manifestations and expressions of the tree that will sprout out of the seed. You take a fountain pen and on the paper you put a drop of ink, so that drop is the ‘Linga-deha’. That drop is the moment of conception; its expression is the thought-free state, like space, in the knowingness state. That ‘Linga-deha’, that little drop, and the knowledge ‘I am’ is the same.

  61. It is not important where you are, once you are established in the ‘I am’. It is like space – it neither comes nor goes; just as when you demolish the walls of a building only space remains.

  62. If you do not have the knowledge ‘I am’ who is going to seek? You must be, only then the search can begin. Remember the knowledge ‘ I am’ – that alone pervades everything – be only that and give up the rest.

  63. At the moment of death it is the culmination or termination of the Self-experience, ‘I am’. After the termination of ‘I amness’ there is no experience of knowingness or not knowingness, the knowingness is a quality of the material stuff.

  64. All this knowledge has dawned on me, I am not the knowledge. The knowledge ‘I am’, and all its manifestations, are understood. In understanding, I am not That.

  65. To establish oneself firmly in the awareness ‘ I am’, it is not necessary to think ‘ I am’, ‘I am’. Is it necessary to think you are sitting here? You know that you are sitting here. Whatever name and form there is belongs to that material and that material is not you. Do you analyze the problem and with the firm conviction decide that you are not the material? When the material disintegrates what does the name refer to? Does it have any significance? Only one in ten million goes to the crux of the matter, analyzes what it is, comes to a conclusion, and gets liberated, all by himself. The one who gets liberated is the consciousness, there is no entity.

  66. As long as you are wearing this concept ‘I am’ you will be involved with all the concepts. When this concept ‘I am’ departs there will be no memory left that ‘I was’ and ‘I had’ those experiences; the very memory will be erased.

  67. All this process of communication, expounding, etc., will go on so long as this conscious presence is available, and all this is to merely satisfy the concept ‘I am’, and you the Absolute, are not the primary concept ‘I am’.

  68. That which you like most – that itself is ‘I am’, the conscious presence – but that is not going to last forever. When the body drops off and the consciousness is extinguished, you need to do nothing. With this understanding do what you like in the world.

  69. The only spiritual way to understanding you true nature is to find out the source of this concept ‘I am’. Before the sense of presence arrived I was in that state in which the concept of time was never there. So what is born? It is the concept of time, and that event which is birth, living, and death together constitute nothing but time, duration.

  70. When you are the space you are no more the body, but whatever is contained in that space you are. You are now manifest – whatever is known – the space. This space is known as ‘chidakash’. In ‘chidakash this knowingness is ‘I am’. In the highest ‘Paramakash’ there is no is or is not, It transcends everything.

  71. The Guru tells you ‘Get rid of concepts, just be yourself’. The seeker having understood what the Guru said, gets rid of the concepts, and now, as the first step, the seeker dwells in the state ‘I am’, just being. First of all there is the knowingness ‘I am’, without words, with that knowingness the world is. Now when the seeker goes into meditation that knowingness goes into no-knowingness. This is the highest state in the hierarchy when the body aspect is there because this knowing and no-knowing are aspects of the body, and body means consciousness, and in the realm of consciousness, knowingness and no-knowingness exist. The Absolute transcends knowingness and no-knowingness. So, no-knowingness is the highest in the hierarchy of spirituality, and the destination is the transcendence of knowingness and no-knowingness.