The Indian spiritual teacher, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj described shifting one’s focus of attention and becoming the very thing one looks at and experiencing the kind of Consciousness it has Oneness – and becoming the inner witness of the thing. He called this capacity of entering other focal points of consciousness ‘love’. As love we are simultaneously everything and nothing, the Seer and the seen are united. You may have moments when you’ve witnessed something striking – a piece of touching music, the tenderness or play of your children or pets, a beautiful landscape or object, the loving words of a stranger – whatever it is, it’s your world for that instant. Giving your attention to it, you were absorbed in pure adoration and Awareness.
“There is no basic difference,” was Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj’s reply to a typical question asked by one of the many seekers who had travelled far and wide to Bombay to sit in the presence of this spiritual master. “Maharaj, you are sitting in front of me and I am here at your feet. What is the basic difference between us?” Great though he was, Maharaj lived an ordinary, modest Indian working-man’s life up to his death in 1981, but his teaching, always delivered in a characteristically direct and uncompromising way, was extraordinarily profound. “I see what you too could see, here and now, but for the wrong focus of your attention. You give no attention to your self. Your mind is all with things, people and ideas, never with your self.” What Nisargadatta was pointing to (and what I echo in this book due to my strong resonance with his teaching) is that our habit of inattention and inadvertence causes us to lose sight of our underlying Beingness. Because of this distortion, we perceive a world divided into separate parts, making us view ours as fundamentally isolated, incomplete and insecure. Existence gets distorted by imagined concepts and projections and from these springs the cycle of desire and fear. Solitary confinement by way of an obscured lens.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj taught what has been called Nisarga Yoga (Nisarga meaning ‘the natural state’), which clarifies the mind bringing Self-awareness. Extraordinarily, he didn’ t base his teaching on any particular theology, cosmology or psychology, or philosophy (although it resonates strongly with Advaita Vedanta). Maharaj even said himself that it might seem too simple, or even crude. Having not practiced any specific forms of meditation or spiritual practice himself, Maharaj didn’t prescribe a formal spiritual method or belief system. Everyone has their own means to truth and realization, he affirmed, and there are no genuine ‘one-size-fits-all’ techniques for Self-realization. Maharaj just lived his life and told others to do the same: “Your sadhana”—meaning practice— is to be. The doing happens. Just be watchful. Where is the difficulty in remembering that you are? You are all the time.”
Following in his beloved Guru’s footsteps, Shri Samartha Siddharameshwar Maharaj, Nisargadatta Maharaj urged his disciples to delve into the ever-present sense of ‘I’ to reach its source and once and for all find lasting happiness within. Echoing the powerful instruction given to him by his teacher, he never grew tired of telling those who came to listen to him that there were not what they took themselves to be. They simply needed to find out what they were by focusing their minds on pure Being, and staying in it. “Watch the sense ‘I am’” he said over and over, “Find your real self”, “You cannot part with it, but you can impart it to anything”, “Give your heart and mind to it, think of nothing else.”
As his affectionate yet direct guidance suggests, Nisargadatta’s Yoga means to stay attentive to one’s Beingness. This is most effective and transformative when we’re attentive to Being without effort or pretence, when we naturally live meditatively and inquiringly and are familiar with shifting the focus of consciousness. This is the continual encounter of Self- intimacy, to surrender our “small” lives to our vast lives and to let it be our teacher, to wonder earnestly, to investigate, till we arrive at the crux of the mind’s misunderstanding and thus to the clarity of non-dual Knowing beyond the illusory. Then we discover that it’s impossible to be isolated or afraid because we are everything. What is there to be scared? Who is missing from our lives? Yes, loneliness and fear and other experiences may fleetingly pass through us, we feel them fully, but we aren’t fooled into claiming them. We know the difference between superficial experience and Truth. This is the utmost secure human existence; it is true friendship, harmony and wholeness, real intimacy of Self-with-Self.
Nic Higham, author of ‘Living The Life That You Are: Finding Wholeness When You Feel Lost, Isolated, and Afraid’