Here are four quotes of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj that conveys the essence of his teachings. They are all taken from the book I Am That. Read them several times, contemplate what he is trying to convey, and put the teachings into practice.
Q. Why turn within at all? Nonduality as I have experienced it is the actual disappearance of what is considered within and without. One seamless blending.
Tom: It’s fairly easy for many to realise there is no real within or without, ie. that what we consider inner, such as the mind and thoughts, are non-separate from the supposed outer world. It is all one movement. But it is usually the mind that realises this, in combination with some kind of a genuine seeing.
However these teachings I share here are to end suffering. Most people interested in non-duality do realise on some level the false dividing line between self and other (ie. inner and outer), but suffering still continues due to the habitual egoic tendencies (vasanas).
Basically, the false identity as the ego-mind entity remains intact at a deeper level, and the essential notion of individuality still survives and is believed in despite the ego-mind saying ‘all is one’ or ‘this is it’ or ‘there is already no ego’ or ‘there is already no duality’.
Without turning inward first, it ends up being the ego-mind proclaiming ‘there is no inner/outer’ or ‘all is one’, etc.
After turning inwards, it is then eventually seen that there is no inner/outer, but it is not the ego that sees this and co-opts this, but it is merely the absence of the ego which is itself the illusion of separation.
It is for this reason practice is almost always required – to end duality at its root and not just on a superficial level. Otherwise the ego-mind, and suffering, both continue.
For a more in-depth understanding of the path to liberation/moksha, please see here: The Path of Sri Ramana
Q. Don’t these traditional Vedanta teachings create an artificial duality where there actually is none? Why turn away from the world towards an apparent ‘True Self’? Why create this duality in the first place? All is already one!
Tom: For most, the ego-mind keeps on habitually coming back, causing suffering and perpetuating the illusion of duality until one finally turns to Self-Enquiry and Abides as the Self. You can say ‘all is one’, or ‘this is it already’, or ‘there is no duality’, but usually it is just the ego-mind saying that (ie. it is only on the level of concepts and belief) and so suffering and the illusion of duality continue. The infinite-love-bliss of the Self is not ‘experienced’ or ‘known’.
How to remove the illusion of separation, so it, and the resultant suffering never returns? The only way I know is to abide as the pure consciousness within. This is the teaching of the Vedanta scriptures and of all effective and true spiritual teachings that I have come across.
For most, unless this is done, suffering and peace alternate, which is itself suffering.
The purpose of Satsang/teachers/teachings is only for you to turn within and Be what You already Are. Other than that, no teacher or teaching is required.
‘The seat of Realisation is within and the seeker cannot find it as an object outside him. That seat is bliss and is the core of all beings. Hence it is called the Heart. The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realise it. There is nothing else to do.’
Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk no. 219
The purpose of all spiritual teachings and practices is to remove ignorance and the vasanas (egoic habitual tendencies), and so end suffering.
There is nothing to gain. No special knowledge or experience. You are already That. Just lose the ignorance.
In truth spiritual practices and teachings are more illusion. There is no teacher, there is no teaching, there is no taught. Ignorance itself is more illusion. There is no real ignorance.
However as a belief that ‘I am a body mind’ has arisen, the teacher and teaching appear to also arise. This is known as ignorance.
This is because you take yourself to be limited. You take yourself to be a body mind.
Do not take yourself to be the body-mind!
You are That!
You are That Eternal Nothingness!
Many claim that to advise any kind of practice is to reinforce the ego and duality, and is therefore a dualistic expression. Now there is much truth in this. However to use the same logic against itself, isn’t this in itself a duality, distinguishing between dualistic and nondualistic expressions?
Ask yourself, what is more important to you: concepts of duality/nonduality or the cessation of suffering?
Ultimately the ‘truth’, so to speak, is not to be found in concepts of any kind, and is not really truth at all but simply the end of suffering.
Many expressions can help towards this end, both so-called dualistic and nondualistic expressions. To think otherwise is to artificially restrict yourself and close yourself to the endless variety of ways life teaches and guides us home – the home we never really left – you could even say the home we always already ARE.
While there is nothing wrong with discussing teachings (it can appear to be very helpful depending on where the seeker is – although a duality is also implied in the very discussion) – to argue endlessly about conceptual teachings often implies an egotism that is attached to certain expressions (ie. teachings), and this too can be an unhealthy source of egotism and suffering.
So if you find yourself tangled up in teachings and seeking, a suggestion is to simply relax and be as you are, free from worry, free to worry.
Q. Hypothetically speaking, if you were to start seeking Liberation all over again, what potential mistakes would you avoid this time?
Tom: I would relax more, much much more, and trust my own intuition in Silence, knowing that I already know this, what I am looking for is already totally and fully known, not with the mind, but intuitively effortlessly ‘known’. It is nothing else but my very BEING.