An Interpretation Of Ranjit Maharaj’s Teaching

Ranjit Maharaj’s teaching can be found in Illusion Vs. Reality, which is now a two-volume book. Here, I offer what I consider an interpretation of central aspects of his teaching.


You must trust the Master, provided that he or she really is a Master. This is the crucial bhakti element in Ranjit’s teaching.


1. You are mired in Ignorance (maya). Therefore, the Master says, “You are not the body, and, what’s more, the world is unreal. Know that you are the Final Reality. Know that only Final Reality is.”

2. Therefore, Knowledge comes to supplant Ignorance. You must use vichara (translated in this text as “thinking”) because believing what is false, wrong, or unreal has gotten you into this trouble in the first place. Thinking removes false thinking.

3. But you can’t hang onto Knowledge either, for Knowledge, indeed, is only a “thorn to remove a thorn.” Instead, you must realize, intuitively, that all thoughts, even Knowledge, come from Zero. Zero is incipience, the first stirring of manifestation. So, Zero is the thorn that removes the thorn of the Knowledge/Ignorance duality.

4. But what you are is beyond Zero. “If no Zero, then the ‘I’ cannot come. The Reality has nothing to do with these things [i.e., Ignorance, Knowledge, and Zero]” since “Reality is beyond Zero.”

5. So, no I, no God, no others, no world, no senses, no body, no-mind. No Ignorance, no Knowledge, no Ignorance/Knowledge, no Zero. This is Final Reality. “You are He,” yet this is not thought or said. Upshot: the highest teaching is Self-luminous Silence.

The Awareness Teaching: A Brief Overview

The Awareness Teaching

1. There are, perhaps, 2 main versions of the perennial nondual teaching when it comes to the path of knowledge: the first is the awareness teaching, the second the emptiness teaching. (One brief comparison by the sharp Greg Goode.) I believe that the awareness teaching makes the most sense for most of those stepping foot onto this path (again, the path of knowledge).

2. The awareness teaching states very simply: “There is only Pure Awareness.” That’s it! That’s all that truly exists (= sat)!

3. Often, various “levels”–as teaching tools–are introduced in order to (so to speak) bring one from misidentification with the bodymind to proper understanding of Oneself as Pure Awareness. In the end, these “rafts” are let go of as one comes to “the other shore.” More precisely, one realizes that one has never left Pure Awareness and thus that one simply had to apperceive This.

4. Among other tools are these: witnessing awareness and samskaric investigations. The latter intends to show us very vividly what we are not. In this respect, it is part of what some have termed “purification.” The former offers up “a bridge” to Pure Awareness.

Introduction: Direct Experience

1. We can, thanks to Advaita Vedanta, introduce one new term that will prove to be exceptionally helpful. That term is direct experience. It’s meant to allow us to answer the question: “What temporarily exists?” 

2. The answer to that question is: direct experience. By “direct experience,” I mean whatever it is that can arise. For now, let’s say that these include:

  • Physical sensation (physically sensing)
  • Touching
  • Tasting
  • Smelling
  • Hearing
  • Seeing
  • Thinking
  • Feeling
  • Desiring

3. The other reason we introduce direct experience is that it helps to dispel two myths. That first myth is the myth of “naive realism“: the view according to which the senses provide us with direct access to what already, objectively exists (i.e., exists independent of sense perception). The second myth: that physicalism (the view according to which only the physical exists) is true. Instead, we opt for an idealist position: there is only Pure Awareness, and therefore everything is Pure Awareness.

4. A step back: why does this matter? Because in the Eastern teaching what is brought out is that a sense of separation (= ignorance) is the cause of suffering. So, to truly understand that there is only sense of separation in Reality, only a single Substance that is Pure Awareness is indeed the end of suffering. 

Direct Experience, Inquiry, & Awareness

1. We’re in a position to set forth the basic “instruments” we’ll use to undertake our inquiry into (a) who we aren’t (see ND #1-3) and into (b) who we really are.

2. These include direct experience, inquiry, and Awareness.

3. Direct experience, as already implied, is the “primary datum.” It provides us with our starting point. I mean you can’t spit without “hitting” experience. The act of spitting is experiencing, the act of breathing is experiencing, the act of seeing the spit is experiencing, hearing the spit splat is experiencing, etc. In other words, we’re not swimming in anything but experiencing. At least that’s how we begin (until we see that there is only Pure Awareness).

4. Next, inquiry is the modus operandi. We test, explore, and verify through questioning. Just one version to illustrate: (a) “Can I find in my direct experience of hearing any evidence of egoity?” I “look” (so to say) and realize that I cannot. (b) Well then: “Can I find behind my direct experience of thinking any evidence of egoity?” No. 

5. And then (variously) awareness, witnessing awareness, or the witnessing state fills out the rest of what we need, at least for now. The Higher Reasoning goes like this:

Case 1:

  • X is either direct experience, or X is witnessing awareness.
  • In this case, X is a direct experience.
  • Then, X is a direct experience (e.g., feeling).

That is to say, tautologically so, that there is in X nothing but X (for now).

Case 2:

  • X is either direct experience, or X is witnessing awareness.
  • In this case, X is not a direct experience.
  • Then, X is witnessing awareness.

We end up through inquiry reducing everything, then, to experiences and witnessing awareness.

6. Moreover, through inquiry, we see–usually logically, i.e., one after the other–the following:

  • 1: Direct experience X arises TO witnessing awareness.
  • 2: Direct experience X arises IN witnessing awareness.
  • 3: Direct experience X arises AS Awareness. (I.e., every experience–that is to say, everything–is nothing but Awareness.)

Test: Ego

1. Therefore, one line of inquiry involves looking for an ego (of various sorts). Take but one example:

  • Anger arises. This is the direct experience of feeling.
  • Turn inside the body and see that anger is just sensation-energy.
  • Ask Q #1: “Is there any evidence of ego in this sensation-energy?” (No.)
  • Ask Q #2: “Is there any evidence of ego outside of this sensation-energy?” (No.)

Notice that Q #1 and Q #2 cover all the logical cases–all but one. Perhaps this is true: ego is not an object/experience that can be found because ego is the subject of experience. OK, then. Ask: “What is the background of all experiencing right now?” The answer turns out to be witnessing awareness. But then the latter must be the subject of all experience. Therefore, since ego is not an object/experience and also since ego is not the subject, there is “no place” for ego to be. Therefore, ego does not exist.

Many other inquiries are helpful in that each one, little by little, loosens the grip on the illusion that the ego exists. 

2. But why does, e.g., looking for ego matter? In order to show that it doesn’t exist (no sat). But why does its inexistence matter? Because ego is the illusion of delimitation and localization. No ego, no localization. But without localization, there’s only Global Awareness. QED.

In Brief

Awareness is awaring in the modes of hearing, seeing, touching, thinking, and so forth. In this, there is only the vibrating of the single Substance of Awareness. Awareness, untouched, pristine, appears to vibrant forth, to “experience out” or “expand out” (in the words of Kashmir Shaivism) into manifestations before it “returns” to Itself as Itself. 

You are That. 


Know this!

When Isaac Asimov Missed Nonduality

The Last Question

I just finished reading Isaac Asimov’s beautiful SF short story “The Last Question.” I begin with my interpretation.

1. AC is the evolution of Consciousness into God. So, God becomes; it’s not the case that God is.

2. God is Supreme Intelligence just because God, as Supreme Intelligence, has answered the last question–namely, how to reverse entropy.

I argue that Asimov is stuck in becoming, in a model that still holds onto the Creator God as the first principle. Nondual metaphysics shows that this begs a basic question.

My Critique of Asimov

I think what Asimov got right is that there is a winding down of Universe X and the creation of a Universe Y. But here is where we begin to part ways since, on a nondual picture, the Supreme Intelligence is neither exhausted in the winding down nor fully expressed in the expansion. This Supreme is identical with the Universe (material cause) without being exhausted by the Universe (in this sense, it is “transcendent” but not transcendent in the terms of traditional Christianity). 

This morning I began reading a book on Kashmir Shaivism that, I felt, put the basic points quite well. 

Thus, in reality, the Universe is only an “expansion” of the Power of Parama Shiva Himself; or–to put it perhaps more correctly–of Parama Shiva in his aspect as Shakti [the power of manifestation–AT], by which aspect he both becomes and pervades the Universe thus produced, while yet He remains the ever transcendent Chaitanya [Universal, Pure Consciousness–AT] without in any way whatsoever being affected by the manifestation of a Universe.

J.C. Chatterji, Kashmir Shaivism, p. 5).

From this point of view, any Universe is regarded, metaphorically speaking, as an “opening out” or “experiencing out” of the Supreme. And this expanding out into a Universe while (a) totally pervading that Universe and yet (b) remaining untouched by manifestation precedes the contraction back into Itself as Itself. Chatterji again:

But it is not once that She thus opens herself out, or that She will gather herself up; nor is the present Universe the first and only one which has come into manifestation. On the contrary, there have been countless Universes before and there will be an equally countless number of them in the endless futurity of time–the Universes, thus produced, following one another and forming a series in which they are linked together by the relation of causal necessity (p. 6).

A metaphysic like the above helps to answer the logical question: what is it that makes possible manifestation in the first place? This is sometimes called the Unmanifest or the Unborn or the Unconditioned or the Groundless Ground. It’s the question that the Zen philosopher Masao Abe often put to the Catholic theologians he met: what is it that makes possible the creator God? 

In short, I think Asimov got a lot right about becoming, but he remained “uninquisitive” with respect to the ultimate question: what is the Whole, impartite, without change, without form, beyond space, beyond time? What is Pure Isness “prior to” all becoming?

Divine Beauty

Divine beauty–that of a rolling mountainscape, of a dancer’s gait, of a kind, matronly face–is the truth of the divine light shining forth in form.

The beautiful form, intimating the fullness of splendor, whispering its essence, entreats the tarrier.

But allow the eye of the heart to gaze through the form. Then the gaze and the gazer both are lost in the heart of the source. Lost forever, never to return.

I Shining As I

Question: Satcitananda: Yes, Being-Awareness-Peace. I have no doubt. But when I remotely try to explain (and only when people ask) I get wordy, stumble.

Answer 1

The nondual teaching, which is, at bottom, no-teaching, proceeds with the lightest possible touch.

Because you are Pure Awareness, the slow unwinding of the mind is all that is necessary for this to be entirely clear. Meaning: there is only the relaxation into the Quietness That Is.

But even this–namely, may you relax–may be saying too much since there is no one in needing of relaxing. So, the teaching may be even more direct: Be still.

Yet because the last directive may imply that one is somehow not still at Heart, the teaching may whisper just: Still.

Yet because that may imply the possibility of the non-stillness of Being (a contradiction), there is the highest no-teaching teaching of Silence (mauna). 

There is only abidance in and as I. I shining as I. Awareness awarenessing.

Answer 2

Who gets wordy? Who stumbles?

Answer 3


Answer 4

The roadrunner scoots up the desert willow.