Maharaj tells the visitors that it is only about this consciousness or I-am-ness that he always talks. Any enquiries about anything else would be useless because this consciousness must be there before anything else can be. If I am not (conscious), he says the world is not (as in deep sleep). It is only when I am conscious that the world exists for me. All inquiries of the seeker, Maharaj asserts, must therefore relate to this consciousness: How did it arise ? What is its source ? What sustains it ? What is its nature ? The answers to these queries lead to true knowledge. Without consciousness there can be no phenomenal existence, and therefore consciousness is the highest God that an individual in his individuality can conceive, although he may give it any name - Krishna, Iswara, Shiva, Christ etc. When consciousness leaves the body, there is no individual, no world, no God.
The relationship between the physical body and consciousness, says Maharaj, must be very clearly perceived. Consciousness can be conscious of itself only so long as it has manifested itself in a phenomenal form, a body, whether it is that of an insect, or a worm, or an animal, or a human being. Without the body, in unmanifested state, consciousness is not conscious of itself. Without consciousness the body is merely dead material. The body, therefore, says Maharaj, is the food that sustains consciousness and the instrument through which consciousness functions. In fact, he says, consciousness is the 'nature', or 'suchness', or 'taste' of the physical body like sweetness is of sugar.
After we have understood this intimate relation between the body and consciousness, Maharaj asks us to find out the source of this body-consciousness. How did it come about ? The source of the human body is the male sperm fertilized in the ovum of a female womb, and when conception takes place, consciousness is latent therein. It is this - the fertilized male sperm with consciousness latent in it - that grows in the mother's womb, is delivered in due course as a baby, grows into infancy and thereafter through its span of life. What is the force behind this natural growth ? Nothing other than consciousness which is latent in the male sperm, the latter itself being the essence of the food consumed by the parents. It should be clear then, says Maharaj, that consciousness is the very nature of the physical body (like sweetness of sugar) and that the physical body is made of and sustained by food, which is the essence of the five elements. In this spontaneous natural process, the individual, as such, does not have any significance. The individual body is made of food, and consciousness is universal, all-pervading. How can the individual claim either separate existence, or bondage and liberation for himself ?
Has any individual been consulted about his 'birth' as the issue of particular parents ? The 'me' and 'mine' have come about only after the birth, which is clearly the result of a natural process in which neither the parents nor the baby has any choice. In other words, Maharaj points out, the body-cum-consciousness is a phenomenal unit which has spontaneously been created out of the five elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth) and the three attributes (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas). This unit grows during its life-span and then 'dies' - that is, goes back to the five elements, and consciousness that was limited by the body is released into Impersonal Consciousness.
Now, asks Maharaj, in this natural process of the creation and destruction of a phenomenal unit, where is the question of a 'you' ? You have never been a party to the creation of the phenomenal unit that 'you' are supposed to be. You have been told by your parents that you were 'born' and that a particular body is 'you'. You really have no actual experience of being born. What is born is a phenomenal unit, a psychosomatic apparatus that is activated by consciousness. If consciousness is not there, the body-apparatus is not only useless but has to be disposed of as quickly as possible.
Who then are you ? You are, says Maharaj, what you were before the body-cum-consciousness came into being, what you were a hundred years ago !
The question that naturally arises at this stage is: Who then acts in the world as the body ? The answer according to Maharaj is that in manifestation consciousness is everything. It is consciousness that acts through the millions of bodies according to the innate character of the composition of each body. There are millions of psychosomatic forms but no two forms are exactly alike in all respects because each form has a distinctive combination of the five elements plus the three attributes. Each element has its own characteristics and so has each attribute. Imagine the millions of gradations that each of these eight aspects can have, and the resulting billions and trillions of permutations and combinations that can be effected ! Consciousness acts through the physical bodies, each of which has its own temperament and character, based partly on its physical composition and partly on the conditioning it has received. If this is clearly perceived it should be also crystal clear that no individual has the autonomy to act independently. But the individual, in his ignorance, believes that it is he who acts; he 'takes delivery', says Maharaj, of the actions that take place, binds himself in illusory bondage, and suffers pain and pleasure. This is how 'bondage' arises.
Maharaj wants us to be clear on one point: Man considers himself a special being, apart from all other creation. But so far as the ingredients of the physical construct are concerned, there is no difference between the various kinds of sentient creatures. Only the process of creation differs.
-- excerpts from the book : "Pointers from Nisargadatta Maharaj" by Ramesh S. Balsekar -- there may be missing portions -- to read full text, please refer to the book --