A frequent contributor to the site, Vijay Pargaonkar has provided the following valuable information rearding the terminology of Nisargadatta Maharaj:
When references to Nisargadatta Maharaj and his teachings come up at the AV forum during discussions, the arguments often seem to become tangential. I think this is mainly due to the differences in terminologies and definitions used by the followers of Nisragadatta and the ones used in traditional Advaita forums.
Last week I came across a rare Satsang tape in Marathi where Maharaj clearly lays out his version of the Creation Model and Prakriyas while explaining various Advaita terms according to his definitions. I have excerpts of this Satsang translation (as I heard and understood) below, where I have indicated the Sanskrit/Marathi terms along with the English terms used by the translator – the translator has actually chopped the live recording and inserted his English translation in between.
Prior to your waking is Nirguna, the substratum of Waking. The Nirguna is not at all bothered by this samara (samara = ‘war (of life)’). In Nirguna appeared knowledge (Bodha). This is pure Consciousness or Beingness or the Sense “I am” that has no shape or form. In this pure Consciousness there appeared a slight perturbation or movement and the pure Consciousness then grabbed a body-form (deharupa). After wearing this body form it started calling itself a man or woman while bound by different concepts (I am this; I am that; I am going; I am coming etc.). These concepts are all imaginary (Kalpana) and not real.
What is this Kalpana (imaginary concepts)?
It appears in space spontaneously and starts taking form. I (Maharaj) call this form “Infant” (Mula). This infant is pure ignorance and root of all world and activities. It grows along with Consciousness and starts recognizing body, things and world.
Atma & Paramatma
Consciousness/Beingness is known by various names – Atma, Antaratma, Vasudev, Ishswar,
In the morning, Beingness appeared as “I”. The one who came to know about the Beingness or Consciousness is Nirguna. If we call sense of Being Atma then the other one is ParamAtma. Remember that the Word is only a pointer and it vanishes immediately but the actual ParBrahma or ParamAtma lasts.
(“janiv”, “antaratma”, “atma”, ‘me” are often translated as Consciousness or Beingness)
Purusha & Prakrati
The world and its activities are all nothing but Prakrati. Purusha is just a witness of this Prakrati. It is Pure Consciousness or Beingness that does not take part in any activity.
The belief “I am this body” is Maya or Ajnan (ignorance) and the one who has this belief is Ahamkar (Ego). Ahamkar is the knight or protector that guards the fort called Prakrati. Please remember that Maya, Prakrati & Ahamkara are all not real. When the Knowledge “I am not this body” shines, the ignorance “I am this body” vanishes without any effort like night disappearing upon sunrise.
The world is made of nothing but Panchabhutas (five basic elements). This body is made of the food essence (annarasa) derived from bhutas and the Consciousness/Beingness is the quality (Satvaguna) of the body (just the way sugar syrup is the form and sweetness is the quality). Without this food essence neither the body nor Consciousness can exist.
So now you know that Beingness is only a quality of this body and not the true Atmaswaupa (true I). A true being is beyond this food-essence body and Consciousness – only a Sadguru will tell you this!
When one is engulfed in ignorance “I am this body”, the Prakrati fort is standing rock solid and one has to face the miseries of life and death. When through the grace of Sadguru one KNOWS that “I am neither this body nor the quality of this body”, one transcends the Prakrati fort; one is kayarahit (without body); one is gunarahit (without gunas); one crosses birth & death cycle; one will lose all of the worldly desires.
This knowledge is only possible through the grace of a Sadguru. Drop everything and just remember and follow your Sadguru more than your life.
(To me, Maharaj clearly shows a three step prakriya: I am not the body; I am not the Consciousness; I am that .. beyond body and Consciousness.
Another interesting question Maharaj answers is : Who receives knowledge?
The initiation mantra is Knowledge and nothing but Consciousness – call it Sadguru. And the one who receives is also Consciousness – Consciousness receives Consciousness.)