Rays of the Absolute

Rays of the Absolute

Neti Neti Films has recently released a labour of love. Rays of the Absolute is a documentary with archival footage of Nisargadatta and more recent meetings with some of his core students. Shot in 2007, it took 7.5 years going through “mounds of material” to put this together. It is only available on-line.

“Nisargadatta did not leave an ashram; he did not leave any teachings, nor successors. This movie is homage to him; a look at his unintended legacy from people that have been inspired by him more then words can express.”


Rays in Sanskrit are sutras, sutras that stitch together wholeness. A silver thread.

You can note he speaks to a process. In the film he says “Search for your true nature.” and “Search for Consciousness.” and that everything is in Consciousness. Then “Having understood the nature of consciousness you will also understand that you are not the consciousness.”

This is further explained later in the film: the first part – you identify with consciousness rather than the body-mind. Then know that you are witness of the consciousness, not the consciousness but the absolute. The absolute principle because of which everything is. I explore these same gradations here.

This may at first sound like Brahman beyond consciousness and indeed, he uses the term at one point. However, he is actually describing the stages of witness. The way I describe this here, it is cosmic consciousness that is witnessing the local consciousness. The witness is inherently observing and is thus another value of consciousness, beyond local consciousness. What he is describing as the absolute is Atman, the Cosmic Self. At this stage it does appear as absolute. He uses the word Brahman for the absolute, which is appropriate. But this is not the way I use Brahman here. That is deeper in, beyond Atman.

He also spoke of Love and Ishwara (personal deity) which are qualities of God Consciousness. But there has not apparently been the recognition of global consciousness as Atman. Consciousness aware of itself globally and at every point within itself. This is a quality of Unity. This is also illustrated by his point that “The “I” creates God.” I agree that the point (local consciousness) knows God and does so from it’s own perspective. And the way it knows God is I-created, personalized, with form. But to say that the Divine does not exist unless we are perceiving it makes it that form only, an object. The Divine is much more than a form. More even than that absolute witness.

His minimalism may be valuable for some people to cut through the noise of the mind. But this is not the complete picture, not the whole journey possible.

This is not to say his realization was not profound and long-established. My point is only to illustrate the context in which a teacher is speaking. And to emphasize that someone with this experience should not be stuck with some idea of being done or having the whole truth.

Last Updated on April 26, 2018 by

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 1

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.


  1. Daniel

    Hi David.

    What do you think Nisargadatta meant with this quote?

    Q: Does that sense of presence continue after the body and mind go?

    M: When the body goes that sense of presence will go and consciousness will no longer be conscious of itself.

    I thought consciousness is presence itself and can never vanish?


  2. Hi Daniel
    The teachings presented in the film are based on the detached witness, essentially the jiva observing the absolute. From his perspective, the jiva functions through the body-mind. When the body-mind goes, that functioning will to. This is spiritual materialism.
    However, if past lives have been experienced, we know that the jiva moves from body to body. It usually forgets itself when it becomes identified with a new body. But when that identification ends (during the life or at the end of it), it remembers itself again.
    if actual Self Realization dawns, we shift from being a jiva to being eternal consciousness observing the jiva. Then we step into our eternal nature and gain the continuity of Atman. We step out of the cycle of the jiva.
    Yes, presence is consciousness and is eternal. Our relationship with that evolves and with it our perspective.
    What would be the point of enlightenment if it ended when the body died? A happier retirement?
    Consciousnesses is aware of itself both globally and at every point. This is irrespective of it those points (you and I) have recognized this yet. If this was not the case, there would be no world nor you and I.
    Don’t confuse presence with mind awareness.

  3. Daniel Skedelj

    Thanks David!
    What really is the jiva? Does it have personal attributes? Is it also eternal?
    Or is it just the point value of consciousness, also formless and without personal attributes?

  4. Olli

    Hi Davidya

    I always assumed Nisargadatta was talking about the Brahman same way as you do, beyond or before unity consciousness. I haven’t revisited his stuff in quite a while but I had the assumption that spiritually he definitely would be “up there”.
    Maybe it’s not in good taste to go around guessing where revered spiritual teachers were, but would you say that he was at least self realized? I definitely assumed he was in Brahman and speaking about that point of view.

    1. Hi Olli
      I’ve not studied Nisargadatta much – this article was primarily about the film.

      Some people move slowly through the stages but become much more deeply embodied than others who have moved into more advanced stages. There’s more to it than just reaching milestones.

      Not so long ago, Brahman stage was rare. There was no one qualified to be the Shankaracharya of the North in India for almost 150 years, for example. (There were other qualifications required too.)

      It is tricky territory to judge someones progress because of variations in the use of language and the audience they’re speaking to. Not to mention cognitive biases. During his time, few people had woken so he’d primarily be speaking to that initial shift. And many teachers of the time avoided talk of stages as they were yet rare.

      Some of the old texts talk widely about Brahman. Some have adopted the term as a catch-all even though Brahman itself isn’t recognized until we transcend consciousness, just as consciousness itself isn’t recognized until we transcend the mind.

      I notice now that ParaBrahman and pure Divinity are showing up more widely, sometimes way outside context. Only a few of us were using these terms until recently. Brahman has had the same fate prior.

  5. Randall

    A Vedanta Swami addressed this very question about Nisargadatta’s teachings. He said N used the term ‘‘consciousness’ in a special, limited way. He said consciousness ends with the death of the body. Elsewhere N says that only AWARENESS continues after death. So he made a distinction between consciousness and awareness. Awareness continues eternally.

    1. Hi Randall
      Thanks for clarifying. As I mention in the article, he uses the terms differently than I do. This is common, strongly influenced by the teachings we’re exposed to and how we label our experiences.

      My commentary in the article was mainly about the film, noting some differences in how we frames it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest