the primary fact

Sometimes a stunning image calls for an equally knock-out quote. I’m moved to post this one from Nisargadatta, because there’s so much misunderstanding around the ‘primary fact’. It shows up as stories that equate Reality with divine or sublime objects, or posit that it’s an experience one should strive to attain (via a smorgasbord of profit-earning materials and activities). It’s touted to ‘bring’ peace, happiness, awakening, enlightenment, and of course the obliteration of all our messy emotions as well as the problems we have with ‘others’.

Bring? The primary fact is that these supposed attributes are immanent in every case.

The primary fact is not metaphorical, mythical, magical or mystical. It’s not able to be experienced yet all experiences depend upon it for their existence. It is prior to anything conceivable and depends upon nothing for its absolute and ever-available presence.

And yet: It can only be apperceived as its display. How sweet is that?


Tree of Life: photograph by Kenneth Mucke


Beyond the mind there is no such thing as experience.

Experience is a dual state.

You cannot talk of reality as an experience. Once this is understood, you will no longer look for being and becoming as separate and opposite. In reality they are one and inseparable like roots and branches of the same tree.

Both can exist only in the light of consciousness, which again, arises in the wake of the sense ‘I am’.

This is the primary fact.

If you miss it, you miss all.

– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That


What are the implications of this view?

There is only The Dance. Today you are as twinkle-toed as a prima ballerina. Yesterday you dragged those feet as though they were cast in lead. Tomorrow? Who knows what will arise and choreograph your steps with exquisite fidelity to your patterned preferences and aversions?

It’s all the same, beloveds: Reality r-e-a-l-s on regardless; it only has one pair of shoes.


the great perfection

Photograph: Tree of Life, copyright Kenneth Mucke: more information here.

15 thoughts on “the primary fact

  1. Essence of Mind

    Bassui wrote the following letter to one of his disciples who was
    about to die:

    “The essence of your mind is not born, so it will never die. It is
    not an existence, which is perishable. It is not an emptiness, which
    is a mere void. It has neither color nor form. It enjoys no pleasures
    and suffers no pains. . . You may not know who exactly is suffering, but
    question yourself: What is the essence of this mind? Think only of
    this. You will need no more.”

  2. I really like this, but I struggle to grasp the statement that “it” cannot be experienced. I also appreciate that questions like this result in our carving sentences into words, and words into letters, and pretty soon we just have a gleaming pile of pixels– the only thing left being what was there all along… 🙂


    • You are a master of “gleaming piles of pixels” dear Michael – your writing is both poetic and profound.

      Yes, it’s a great paradox. We cannot know (experience) “it” – we can only be it… and being it expresses it … or rather, it expresses itself! (How’s that for a heap of nonsensical pixels?)

      • Two of my heroes — Sri Niz and Huang Po — both gave the same advice, although separated by over a thousand years. It took me a while, but I continued to ponder that advice until it suddenly became as clear as the nose on my face, and that advice was: “Always remember — the perceived cannot perceive.”

  3. ‘Beyond the mind there is no such thing as experience.’ What this does is create a curiosity, an investigative contemplation or a leaning towards… something outside of what is ‘known’. The inclination is certainly towards ‘being’, I see now…

    • Thank you for commenting Tiramit – it’s good to hear from you.
      It occurred to me like a flash of lightning: Of course there’s ‘no such thing as experience’ beyond the mind, because there’s no mind-created experiencer. No wee ‘me’. Yet there’s this wondrous leaning… looking… investigating… happening of itself. Don’t you just love it? 🙂

      • Yes, wonderfully outside the box – no mind-created experiencer. I can see this intuitively, only the Dance, steps choreographed, as you say, with exquisite fidelity to patterned preferences and aversions. Interconnectedness…

  4. Pingback: the orange tree | dhamma footsteps

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