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Excerpts from I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - Part 11

read by James Traverse

Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

 11. Awareness and Consciousness

What do you do when asleep?

I am aware of being asleep.


Is not sleep a state of unconsciousness?
Yes, I am aware of being unconscious.

And when awake, or dreaming?

I am aware of being awake or dreaming.

I do not catch you. What exactly do you mean? Let me make my terms clear: by being asleep I
mean unconscious, by being awake I mean conscious, by dreaming I mean conscious of one’s
mind, but not of the surroundings.

Well, it is about the same with me, Yet, there seems to be a difference. In each state you forget
the other two, while to me, there is but one state of being, including and transcending the three
mental states of waking, dreaming and sleeping.

Do you see in the world a direction and a purpose?

The world is but a reflection of my imagination. Whatever I want to see, I can see. But why
should I invent patterns of creation, evolution and destruction? I do not need them and have no
desire to lock up the world in a mental picture.

Coming back to sleep. Do you dream?

Of course.

What are your dreams?

Echoes of the waking state.

And your deep sleep?

The brain consciousness is suspended.

Are you then unconscious?

Unconscious of my surroundings -- yes.

Not quite unconscious?

I remain aware that I am unconscious.

You use the words 'aware' and 'conscious'. Are they not the same?

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.

How does one go beyond consciousness into awareness?

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 recognised as the original, basic existence, which is life itself, and also love and joy.

Since reality is all the time with us, what does self-realisation consist of?

Realisation is but the opposite of ignorance. To take the world as real and one’s self as unreal is
ignorance. The cause of sorrow. To know the self as the only reality and all else as temporal and
transient is freedom, peace and joy. It is all very simple. Instead of seeing things as imagined, learn
to see them as they are. It is like cleansing a mirror. The same mirror that shows you the world as it
is, will also show you your own face. The thought 'I am' is the polishing cloth. Use it.