What is meant by pure consciousness?

Jonathan Bricklin brickmar at EARTHCOM.NET
Thu Nov 20 13:01:39 CST 1997

Miguel Angel Carrasco writes:

>Consciousness-of (as opposed to pure contentless Awareness) cannot be
>always there, it just appears and disappears. If it were always present,
>always with knowledge of things past or future, that would mean that the
>Absolute cannot be without objects, without thoughts, that It is always
>Dual, that It is just an eternal I-Subject watching the Not-I. That is
>Fichte thought. But that is not Advaita.

Perhaps Hegel's "free-ranging variable" is more to the point.
Consciousness is all there is, but it is not ultimately limited to or by
any given instance of it.  Rather, any given instance of it is a
relativized moment of what is, was, and will always be.  In its root (and
original) meaning, "absolute" means "loosened from."  For an advaitin, that
translates into a loosening of the "I" (not content) from consciousness.
As Gummuluru Murthy's signature line quote from Sankara reminds us:  "The
end of the rise of the sense of "I" of the ego is the culmination of
knowledge."  When Nisgardatta says "'I do not know,'" is the only true
statement the mind can make," he doesn't mean that there is not a lot of
knowing going on, but that there is no "I"ing happening.  He is in a state
of permanent awareness and bliss in which no "I" can stabilize as a fixed
existent.  But consciousness has not vanished.  You cut through the paradox
of his "This void is also fullness" by seeing that the void of his fullness
is the void of an "I".

>Of course, I understand the only natural ┬┤horror vaciui┬┤, the fear of
>nothingness. But there is infinite bliss there. Nisargadatta was anything
>but a sad nihilist.

Clearly not.  But some of his metaphysical pronouncements as they have come
down to us support such an unsustainable doctrine.  The series of quotes
that you end with could have been lifted from the Ashtavakra Gita.  Your
earlier quotes sound like no one but Nisgardatta.  But replace the
"awareness/consciousness" distinction with a "consciousness/consciousness
of self" distinction and he is right back in the fold.  As evidenced by
your latter quotes, Nisgardatta's intense meditation practice, based on his
guru, Ramana Marhashi,'s "Who am I" question,  brought him to the same
space *and void* as other enlightened beings before him.  As David Loy
wrote of the meditation experience:

"Meditation is learning how to become nothing by learning to forget the
sense-of-self, which happens when I become absorbed into my
meditation-exercise.  If the sense-of-self is a result of consciousness
attempting to reflect back upon itself in order to grasp itself, such
meditation practice makes sense as an exercise in *de-reflection*.
Consciousness *un*learns trying to grasp itself, real-ize itself, objectify
itself.  Enlightenment occurs...when the usually-automatized reflexivity of
consciousness ceases, which is experienced as a letting-go and falling into
the void and being wiped out of existence.  'Men are afraid to forget their
minds, fearing to fall through the Void with nothing to stay their fall.
They do not know that the Void is not really void, but the realm of the
real Dharma' (Huang-po)."

Jonathan Bricklin

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