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‘Never Criticize Others’ As A Metaphysical Pointer

Nisargadatta was a fiery one!

Consider this satsang not long before he left the body later on in 1981:

Q: Then these others [in this satsang] do not have the knowledge, and that’s why they come back?

M[aharaj]: You speak for yourself! Other people may be more knowledgeable than you, why do you equate them with you? You have committed a grave offense by equating these people with the level of your wisdom. Take care of yourself, don’t worry about others. How dare you bother about others when you do not fully know yourself?

Q: There is some link which binds us together.

M: Never criticize others.

Consciousness and the Absolute: The Final Talks of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, p. 51

You might wonder what is going on, but you needn’t. You might also be inclined to view Nisargadatta’s replies along moral lines–but you needn’t do that either.

Nisargadatta is not really pressing a moral case against his interlocutor. Rather, the key to understanding–and to being floored by his powerful style of teaching–this passage is to be found in his charge that his interlocutor does not know himself.

“Never criticize others” really means: stick with metaphysics! Let this statement drive you back into the depths of ignorance. Let it kindle a natural drive to go back beyond the personality, which claims to have knowledge of the world and others, to “I Amness,” which is chetana (or manifest, non-individuated consciousness).

In this sense, we should certainly regard Nisargadatta along strict Vedantic lines, for he is continuing, in his own impassioned and impressive way, one of the first Vedantic teachings, and that is the seminal value of discrimination (vairagya) between the unreal and the Real.

Here is how Frithjof Schuon summarized the matter at hand:

The entire message of the Upanishads, of the Brahma-Sūtras of Bādarāyana, and finally of Shankara, may be condensed into the following words: “Brahman alone is real; the world is illusion, Māyā; the soul is not other than Brahman.”

Similarly, Nisargadatta would say: the Absolute alone is real; the separate personality is an illusion; and I amness, though still very much within the orbit of Maya, is the key Home. Hold tightly onto I Amness until it too dissolves back into the Absolute.

In sum, the injunction–“Never criticize others”–is, in Nisargadatta’s hands, like a Mack truck driving away the personality, the illusory sense of a separate individual, while also driving back toward I Amness. A fierce, and very compassionate, pointer indeed!

Shankara And Nisargadatta On Sheaths And Investigation

Sri Shankara writes in Atma Bodha,

14. In union with the five sheaths this pure self appears to take on the nature of the one or the other, just as a crystal reflects the blue or other colors of objects which come near it.

The five sheaths, or koshas, are annamaya kosha (the physical sheath or that of gross matter), pranamaya kosha (the sheath of energy), manamaya kosha (the mental sheath or that of emotions and feelings), vijnanamaya kosha (the knowing sheath or that of I-am-ness), and anandamaya kosha (the sheath of bliss). Each sheath, as Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati writes, is like a lampshade covering the pure light of Awareness, or the Self.

Hence, “Verse 15” as well as “Verse 17” of Atma Bodha:

15. Pure awareness must be disengaged by intense investigation from the sheaths within which it is enveloped, as a grain of rice is separated from its husk.

17. This Atman must be distinguished from external perceptions, bodily sensations, feelings, and thoughts. It must be directly seen as the eternal witness of these activities as a king is seen watching over his ministers.

One especially direct way of doing so is through Self-inquiry (atma vichara). Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj seems to have his own version:

  1. Realize that the misery arises once there is the belief in “I am this.”
  2. So, drop every this and hold onto “I Am-ness.” This is equivalent to going straight to the vijnanamaya kosha, the sheath of I Am-ness. In other words, it must be clear in experience that I am not the gross matter sheath, the energy sheath, or the mental sheath.
  3. Investigate to discover the source of “I Am-ness.” As he states in Consciousness and the Absolute: The Final Talks of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, “So, I went back, tracing this original Self, and I reached a stage [I Am-ness] where I wanted to know what my state was before this consciousness [I Am-ness] arose” (p. 24, my italics).

What, indeed, is this original state before the arising of I Am-ness? Or in Huineng’s version of the koan, “What is your original face before your parents were born?”

What Is The Subject Of All Experience?

I. The Text

The Kena Upanishad begins with the student asking one of the most fundamental questions there is. That question, essentially, is: “Who am I?”

Who makes my mind think?

Who fills my body with vitality?

Who causes my tongue to speak? Who is that

Invisible one who sees through my eyes

And hears through my ears?

The teacher answers,

The Self is the ear of the ear,

The eye of the eye, the mind of the mind,

The word of words, and the life of life.

Rising above the senses and the mind

And renouncing separate existence,

The wise realize the deathless Self.

He elaborates:

That which makes the tongue speak but cannot be

Spoken by the tongue, know that as the Self.

This Self is not someone other than you.

That which makes the mind think but cannot be

Thought by the mind, that is the Self indeed.

This Self is not someone other than you.

And so on.

We’re now in a position to grasp the central question with greater specificity. It is: “What is the Subject of all experience?” The answer: “It is the Self.”

Be That knowingly.

II. Contemplation

Contemplate this teaching.

For That on account of which these fingers are moving is none other than That on account of which those eyes (“yours”) reading these lines are moving.

That which enables thought, the expression of this thought in words, the reading of these words, the questions that may arise, and all the rest is nothing but the Self.

In fact, every single experience—“yours” and “mine,” “his” and “hers”—is really made possible by the Self and is—also really—none other than the Self. Know this for sure: the Self is “none other than you,” none other than me, none other than each and all.

The Self is the miracle of breathing, thinking, feeling, desiring, and sensing, of all acts of breathing, thinking, feeling, desiring, and sensing. The Self is all.

You are the Self: know This and be free.