Enlightenment Descriptions from Nisargadatta Maharaj

After finishing the book, I Am That, by Nisargadatta Maharaj, I have collected many of this quotes related to enlightenment. Note that he never uses the word “enlightenment,” but instead at least occasionally uses the word “gnani,” which is defined in the glossary as “the knower,” or one who understands “the realization of the unity of all things.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj enlightenment quotes

To get the ball rolling, here are some descriptions of enlightenment from Nisargadatta Maharaj:

  • To myself, I am the infinite expanse of consciousness, in which innumerable persons emerge and disappear in endless succession.
  • To my own surprise, I remain as I am — pure awareness, alert to all that happens.
  • There is a vastness beyond the farthest reaches of the mind. The vastness is my home; that vastness is myself. And that vastness is love.
  • I see only consciousness, and know everything to be but consciousness, as you know the picture on the cinema screen to be but light.
  • I am detached and see the passing show as a passing show.
  • I am not a person in your sense of the word, though I may appear a person to you. I am that infinite ocean of consciousness in which all happens.

He also shares this quote, which seems to make things scary, when I think all he is talking about is the destruction of your ego, which is not a bad thing at all:

  • The search for reality is the most dangerous of all undertakings for it will destroy the world in which you live.

And of course these quotes come from the front cover of the orange and black/brown book:

  • Once you know that death happens to the body and not to you, you just watch your body falling off like a discarded garment.
  • The real you is timeless and beyond birth and death. The body will survive as long as it is needed. It is not important that it should live long.

The differences between enlightened and non-enlightened beings

He also mentions the difference between himself and other humans who are not enlightened:

  • The gnani knows himself as he is. He is also aware of his body being crippled and his mind being deprived of a range of sensory perceptions.
  • A gnani commands a mode of spontaneous, non-sensory perception, which makes him know things directly, without the intermediary of the senses.
  • I am detached and see the passing show as a passing show, while you stick to things and move along with them.
  • Yes, there is something that may be called the memory body, or causal body.
  • Yes, I appear to hear and see and talk and act, but to me it just happens, as to you digestion or perspiration happens.
  • To me it is ‘a body,’ not ‘my body.’
  • Abandon all memories and expectations.
    • Don’t expect the next moment.
    • Daniel Ingram talks about this as well.

He also shares this quote, which is very similar to what Shinzen Young describes after the five-minute mark of this video:

  • Becoming has, apparently, no beginning and no end, for it re-starts every moment.

The witness

Nisargadatta Maharaj often refers to “the witness,” and these are some quotes related to that:

  • Know yourself to be the changeless witness of the changeful mind.
  • When the mind is quiet, we come to know ourselves as the pure witness.
  • You need nothing more, just remember that you are the witness only.
  • Just remember that you are the witness only ... even for a moment, do not think that you are the body.

All is one

In his book he also states several times that “all is one,” including these quotes:

  • All are One and the One is all.
  • All differences are in appearance only, and Oneness is a fact.
  • There is only light and the light is all. Everything else is but a picture made of light.
  • Go beyond the “I am the body” idea and you will find that space and time are in you, and not you in space and time. Once you understand this, the main obstacle to realization is removed.
  • Abandon all sense of separation, see yourself in all, and act accordingly.

The world as illusion

Many times he refers to the world that almost all of humanity knows as “illusion,” including these quotes:

  • Understand that what you think to be the world is your own mind.
  • Try to understand that you live in a world of illusions.
  • You do not see because you want the dream to continue.
  • To see everything as imagination, born of desire, is necessary for self-realization. We miss the real by lack of attention, and create the unreal by excess of imagination.
  • Don’t hold on to the person you take yourself to be.


In summary, I hope these quotes from Nisargadatta Maharaj and the book, I Am That, are helpful.

I’ll add more to this over time, but one thing I want to note right now is that many of these quotes are similar to what you’ll find in the Zen world, and a few of them also sound like Ram Dass talking about Maharaji.