Here’s the final review. I got rid of the sections on meditation, spiritual trappings, and death. I went for a grabbing opener with human interest. I hit the main points: the four steps in Nisargadatta’s profound teaching. I created a little angst by questioning whether Wolinsky, the narrator, gets between the viewer and Nisargadatta. I made an effort to get across the essence of what the viewer will get out of sitting down and watching this film. What they’re going to get is the teaching of Nisargadatta (of nonduality) and the opportunity to experience the teaching.
So here it is. Now I may still make changes prior to publishing this review on Amazon.com and in the Nonduality Highlights.
Reviewed by Jerry Katz
The most profound teachings of Nisargadatta Maharaj are brilliantly delivered through teacher and writer Stephen Wolinsky and filmmaker Maurizio Benazzo.
You could pause the video at any point and view a crystal clear, detail-filled image of India, whether it is women hanging out clothes on ancient lived-in balconies over the streets teeming with people, or a man walking reverently into the home where Nisargadatta Maharaj lived and being moved to tears with gratitude.
Modern scenes of India alternate with footage of Nisargadatta taken around 1979-1980 (he passed away in 1981). Thus you get a feel for Nisargadatta’s personal residence, the city in which he lived, and significant spiritual locations.
NISARGADATTA MAHARAJ’S MOST PROFOUND TEACHING:
Wolinsky describes four steps of Nisargadatta’s most profound and final teaching. These are repeated several times throughout the film. The repetition is necessary and assures the success of the film.
To briefly summarize the four steps of the final teachings, the first step is recognition that you are not the activities of the mind and body. In the second step you know your essence as the nonverbal I Am.
In the third step the silent I Am begins to dissolve, exposing consciousness itself. It is recognized that there is only the impersonal consciousness, the universe arising out of it. In the fourth step this impersonal consciousness is known as temporary, leaving the recognition that who you are is prior to consciousness.
This “prior to consciousness” is the Absolute, which is what you are. The Absolute knows itself through consciousness but does not require consciousness. Consciousness is dependent upon the Absolute. You are prior to consciousness. Existence swims in you, like fish in water.
The words of Nisargadatta are shown on screen at strategic points. Here are a few quotes that appear while Steven is teaching the four steps:
“Even the experience of I Am is a concept, it’s temporary, it comes one day and it will go.”
“Even the state of beingness consciousness is temporary.”
“When you realize consciousness is not the truth then you are beyond consciousness.”
As I said, Steven elaborates and painstakingly describes each of these steps several times in different contexts: Buddhism, the Heart Sutra, meditation, spiritual trappings, death, desire, bhakti, jnana. The film rises to become an education in nondual spirituality.
THE MEDITATION CD:
Supplementing the film is an audio CD in which Wolinsky leads a meditation workshop. This CD is very important as it allows you to experience the teachings of Nisargadatta.
The meditation identifies and opens the space between words, between thoughts, between the ripples of the mind’s activities, exposing the steps in Nisargadatta’s most profound teaching.
Steven instructs as follows, I am roughly quoting him; there may be long pauses between sentences:
“Focus on the empty space after the sound of my voice. If you do not depend upon the thoughts, memories, emotions, associations, perceptions, or body, are you in the present, not in the present, or neither? …Is there such a thing as present, not present? …. Do you exist, not exist, or neither? What occurs if the awarer and the space are made of the same substance? Are you the awarer aware of the emptiness or are you the emptiness on which the awarer appears? Be the emptiness on which the awarer appears. Be the awarer and notice what occurs when I say what awarer is awaring this.”
Is this the most direct way of experiencing Nisargadatta? Does Steven come between the viewer and Nisargadatta? Steven Wolinsky is a teacher in his own right.
Steven personally discovered an inner relationship between Avadhut Nityananda and Nisargadatta Maharaj (there was no outer, overt relationship between them of which I am aware). Steven states that there is one consciousness in the two apparent forms. Steven could be said to be a third form. That consciousness is “in” all of us.
So does it matter whether the teaching is from Nisargadatta or Steven? No, not as long as the teaching comes from recognition of the Absolute, effectively describes the most sublime spiritual states, and communicates that even they are temporary, and that who you are is … nothingness, the Absolute.
This film is recommended to anyone who wants to understand Nisargadatta Maharaj through many different themes and in the setting of significant locations in India. Wolinksy organizes Nisargadatta’s teaching and makes it outstandingly comprehensible.
Maurizio Benazzo, the director and producer has created a film of the highest quality and meaning.