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photo by Dan Vincent

Everyone has a sense of “I am,” a sense of existing, a sense of being conscious.  And we are taught from our earliest days that this “I am” is a body/mind, separate from all others, separate from life, separate from the world, separate from the Whole.  We are taught to think of the fluid functioning of the physical form and the continually changing thought-forms and feeling-forms that arise with perception, experience, memories, judgments and interpretations as “me.”  In other words, Consciousness seems to attach and identify its own sense of being with an “I-thought” called “me,” and generally, it is a “me” who needs to be different in one or many ways, depending on the conditioning of mind.

Our own innate consciousness is known, observable, but by what?  By something that cannot be looked upon as an object; that cannot be looked into by a mind; that cannot be thought, described, controlled, manipulated, or written about.  Some have called the source of body-mind consciousness Nondual or undivided Awareness, beyond being or non-being, beyond you or me, beyond sacred or profane.  But whatever name we give it, that is not it.  When we make a “something” that is “beyond” a something else, we have created division.  We have created another “object.” How can what we most deeply are be made into an object?  Can the Eye behold itself?  No, it only sees its reflection.

What happens when we stop trying to label ourselves? That which IS does not have a name.  That which recognizes and illuminates the stillness or the movement of mind does not need a name. We can be conscious of many things, but what is aware of consciousness?

“I am” is a portal; feeling is a portal; this moment’s experience is a portal.  Since the Unknown is never separate from its own dreaming, everything points; everything expresses; everything manifests the All in All.  How do you keep yourself separate?  You can’t really.  Only a thought creates an illusion of separation, and yet thoughts come and go as expressions of the Mystery, also.  Can we stop searching for a place to land, to name, to “know,” and just relax as we face into the Unknown?  The Unknown is not frightening; it is simply unknowable as an “object.”

First you identify with the body; then you identify with consciousness.
Even consciousness is time-bound.  The original state is before consciousness came upon you.
The Absolute is prior to consciousness yet “I am” and the Absolute are not two.
Whatever you have understood, you are not. . . .
You are prior to consciousness.

–Excerpts from Nisargadatta, Prior to Consciousness

a series excerpted from The Altar of This Moment

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3 Responses to “I AM and the Unknown”

  1. May 02, 2015 at 2:33 pm, Alberto Martin said:

    Those inspiring words of Nisargadatta may be, or will be, confusing to those who are more conversant with the tenets of advaita Vedanta. From the latter’s perspective there is nothing prior to Consciousnes (our true identity). Nisargadatta replaces awareness for consciousness (did I say it right?); that is the basic difference. Also, the ‘I Am’ is an intermediary step (also for him), and is equivalent to the ‘saguna Brahman’ of advaita, Brahman with attributes (or Creator God).

  2. September 02, 2015 at 1:25 pm, John Sharman said:

    Dorothy, you say: ‘When we make a “something” that is “beyond” a something else, we have created division.’ But surely that’s exactly what you’ve done in this article, because you also say: ‘Our own innate consciousness is known, observable, but by what?’ But consciousness is not observable by something else, consciousness is That which is doing the observing! And it is never ‘my own’ consciousness or ‘your own’ consciousness. There is no separation between us, except conceptually.

    “All there is, is consciousness. Consciousness is all there is.” – Nisargadatta, Balsekar, et al.

  3. September 24, 2016 at 2:42 pm, derrida unknown said:

    The feeling is somewhere somehow now.

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