The eternal state of ‘I-do-not-know’ and ‘I-do-not-know’ that ‘I-do-not-know…

People think that I am a Jnani. They come to me from all over the world — from Canada to Australia and New Zealand, from England to Japan. Most of them have read I Am That and come all the way to Bombay only to meet me. With great difficulty they are able to locate this little old house of mine in a dirty, narrow street. They climb up the stairs and find a small dark man in the simplest of clothing, sitting in a corner. They think: This man doesn’t look like a Jnani; he does not dress impressively, as someone known as Nisargadatta Maharaj could be expected to do. Could he really be the one? What can I say to these people? I tell them quite frankly that my education is up to the level which can barely put me in the category of the literate; I have not read any of the great traditional scriptures and the only language I know is my native Marathi. The only enquiry I have pursued, but pursued it relentlessly — like a hunter pursues his quarry— is this: ‘I know I am and I have a body. How could this happen without my knowledge and consent? And what is this knowledge I am?’ This has been my life-long pursuit and I am fully satisfied with the answers I have reached. This is my only Jnana, yet people believe I am a Jnani.

My Guru told me: “You are Brahman, you are all and everything. There is nothing other than you.” I accepted my Guru’s word as truth, and now, for forty odd years I have been sitting in this very room doing nothing except talking about it. Why do people come to me from distant lands? What a miracle! This is the extent of my ‘knowledge’, basically.

Once it is clear that whatever happens in the manifested world is something apart from me, as the ‘I’, all other questions resolve themselves. At what stage exactly did I come to have the knowledge of my ‘existence’? What was I before this knowledge ‘I am’ came to me? This knowledge ‘I am’ has been with me ever since I can remember, perhaps a few months after this body was born. Therefore, memory itself must have come with this knowledge ‘I am’, this consciousness. What was the position before that? The answer is: I do not know. Therefore, whatever I know of anything has its beginning in consciousness, including pain and pleasure, day and night, waking and sleeping — indeed the entire gamut of dualities and opposites in which one cannot exist without the other. Again, what was the position before consciousness arose? These interrelated opposites inevitably must have existed but only in negation, in unicity, in wholeness. This must then be the answer. This unicity is what I am. But this unicity, this identity, this wholeness cannot know itself because in it there exists no subject as separate from an object—a position that is necessary for the process of seeing, or knowing, or cognizing. In other words, in the original state of unicity, or wholeness, no medium or instrument exists through which ‘knowing’ may take place. Mind cannot be used to transcend the mind. The eye cannot see itself; taste cannot taste itself; sound cannot hear itself. ‘Phenomena’ cannot be phenomena without ‘noumenon’.

The limit of possible conceptualization — the abstract of mind — is noumenon, the infinity of the unknown. Noumenon, the only subject, objectifies itself and perceives the universe, manifesting phenomenally within itself, but apparently outside, in order to be a perceivable object. For the noumenon to manifest itself objectively as the phenomenal universe, the concept of space-time comes into operation because objects, in order to be cognizable, have to be extended in space by giving them volume and must be stretched in duration or time because otherwise they could not be perceived. So, now I have the whole picture: The sentient being is only a very small part within the process of the apparent mirrorization of the noumenon into the phenomenal universe. It is only one object in the total objectivization and, as such, ‘we’ can have no nature of our own. And yet — and this is important— phenomena are not something separately created, or even projected, but are indeed noumenon conceptualized or objectivized. In other words, the difference is purely notional. Without the notion, they are ever inseparable, and there is no real duality between noumenon and phenomena. This identity — this inseparableness — is the key to the understanding, or rather the apperceiving of our true nature, because if this basic unity between the noumenon and the phenomenon is lost sight of, we would get bogged down in the quagmire of objectivization and concepts. Once it is understood that the noumenon is all that we are, and that the phenomena are what we appear to be as separate objects, it will also be understood that no entity can be involved in what we are, and therefore, the concept of an entity needing ‘liberation’ will be seen as nonsense; and ‘liberation’, if any, will be seen as liberation from the very concept of bondage and liberation.

When I think about what I was before I was ‘born’, I know that this concept of ‘I am’ was not there. In the absence of consciousness, there is no conceptualizing; and whatever seeing takes place is not what one — an entity — sees as a subject/object, but is seeing from within, from the source of all seeing. And then, through this ‘awakening’, I realize that the all-enveloping wholeness of the Absolute can not have even a touch of the relative imperfection; and so I must, relatively, live through the allotted span of life until at the end of it, this relative ‘knowledge’ merges in the noknowing state of the Absolute. This temporary condition of ‘I-know’ and ‘I-know-that-I-know’ then merges into that eternal state of ‘I-do-not-know’ and ‘I-do-not-know’ that ‘I-do-not-know.

Nisargadatta Maharaj

What does Noumenal mean?
Noumenon, plural noumena, in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, the thing-in-itself (das Ding an sich) as opposed to what Kant called the phenomenon—the thing as it appears to an observer.

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