Q: 1. Is there or could there be an Absolute Nothingness that everything, including Awareness, comes from or out of? Part of this question is the possibility that Awareness or Consciousness is only in this world and for this experience.
2. Without a brain and nervous system, or a manifesting medium, Awareness doesn’t even know it is. Therefore, it is still temporary, or a state it seems? And, as Nisargadatta says, what we are is PRIOR to this.
A: 1. The confusion of ‘awareness’ versus ‘consciousness’ a la Nisargadatta has been addressed in other questions. ‘Awareness’ in traditional (my) terminology is a characteristic of the mind of a jIva. A sharp, controlled mind has more awareness than a dull, undisciplined one. But ‘awareness’ is not a ‘substance’ in its own right, so it cannot ‘come out of’ anything. And ‘absolute nothingness’ is just that – and nothing can come out of it by definition! (Or, perhaps more accurately, ONLY nothingness can come out of it!) The concept of ‘absolute nothingness being the reality’ is shunya vAda, which is a Buddhist idea refuted by Shankara in his brahmasUtra and mANDUkya upaniShad commentaries.
‘Consciousness’ (as defined by advaita) is all there is in reality. In the world, Consciousness appears as the world and jIva-s to a Self-ignorant person. To a jIva who has gained Self-knowledge, Consciousness still appears as the world and jIva-s but he/she now knows that it is really only Consciousness.
2. I would have to rephrase this as ‘Without a brain and nervous system, a jIva would not be aware.’ Then I agree with the statement. As you have phrased it, it has no meaning. We are only ‘aware’ when awake or dreaming. Deep sleep is a state in which we are not aware.
I would stop reading Nisargadatta and stop worrying about aspects there that you have not understood. I gave up with his last books because they had stopped making any sense! The traditional teaching of advaita is all perfectly reasonable. Never be prepared to abandon common sense when reading any spiritual literature!
Q: Many thanks to a great web page. I’ve been through all of the Q&A section, and it really cleared up a lot of things for me.
I really like Swami Dayananda’s way of teaching. His explanations is really excellent. I’ve been watching some old videos on YouTube with him (at a time when he didn’t talk so slow 🙂 ) and I’ve read “Introduction to Vedanta”. And now I want to read more written by him. I’ve visited the bookstore at http://books.arshavidya.org/ and there’s quite a collection of books, which makes me a bit confused of where to start. So, I want to ask you if you could please write me a list of in which order one should read his books. They are not that expensive, so I might buy a bunch of them the first time already.
A: Regarding Swami Dayananda’s books, I have not read all of them but all that I have read have been readable and useful to some degree. It really depends on the level or topic that interests you. If you want short talks on a wide variety of subjects, the two-volume ‘Talks and Essays of Swami Dayananda’ is excellent. You buy these separately, rather than as a set incidentally. (And a third volume has been added recently.) Each is quite thick. I can highly recommend ‘Self-Knowledge’ and ‘Dialogues with Swami Dayananda’ – both short and ‘introductory’ in nature. ’The Value of Values’ and ‘Teaching Tradition of Advaita Vedanta’ are both classics. If you don’t mind a fair bit of Sanskrit (but English equivalents are usually given when a word is introduced), then the two-volume ‘Mundaka Upanishad’ and ‘Vivekachudamani: Talks on 108 Selected Verses’ are both excellent. If you want really advanced, try the Taittiriya Upanishad, which is published in a ring binder – but I haven’t yet read this myself. But the highest recommendation has to go the Gita Home Study Course (I am currently on Volume 4). You can buy this in nine volumes, beautifully printed and presented, for $250 or as a searchable PDF on CD for $40.