“Humanity’s problem lies in this misuse of the mind only. All the treasures of nature and spirit are open to man who will use his mind rightly.”
– Nisargadatta Maharaj
‘Non-identification and right understanding’ is one of the principles of Nisarga Yoga as taught by Nisargadatta Maharaj in the book ‘I Am That’.
It is the nature of the mind, which shapes itself according to its concepts, to misunderstand and Nisargadatta Maharaj’s Nisarga Yoga is liberation through right understanding. We live in a world of illusions. According to the message of Advaita (nonduality), the world itself is illusory. An unclear mind mixes the real with the unreal and therefore cannot discern the unbounded truth and sees a world of otherness. This the essence of bondage.
What we see as limited is interchangeably painful and pleasant. The ego feeds on separateness while something in us – the sense ‘I Am’ – naturally moves toward wholeness. We all want true contentment, and for this, Nisargadatta asks us to look beyond the finite world of suffering, for that stateless state beyond the known is the home of the real.
Mere mind-based knowledge is not sufficient, however. We are imprisoned when we are immersed in what we assume to be true and liberated when we dismantle the walls of conceptual knowledge. Jnana means spiritual knowledge and it could be said that Nisarga Yoga is a jana-yoga. But this doesn’t imply that the would-be Nisarga yogi or jnani should amass spiritual concepts. Jnana is a deep knowing of truth and that’s not a truth the mind can grasp. Yet many prefer to stay in prison refusing to examine what’s around and within them and this indifference creates karma and suffering. Even our self-image, our changeable sense of self we wear like a mask, is formed from experiences and is, according to beloved Nisargadatta, accidental; a mere product of inadvertence.
The clouded mind is veiled from truth; the pure mind is transparent like a mirror. And sometimes mirrors need to be cleaned until we can discern our face. We mistake the dirt for ourselves. The knowledge (jnana, not conceptual knowledge) that you are is the polishing cloth and all you really need. It is fine to use our minds to get to know our minds to transcend the mind.
We know so many things, but we do ever wonder or even inquire into the knower? Is the mind the ultimate knower? Who or what is the knower of the mind? Nisargadatta says we should find out who we are and inquire “Who is the knower of the known?” The false dissolves when it is questioned and the pathless path to truth is the destruction of untruth. How do we know what is false? The false is impermanent and cannot capture the entirety of life. Truth is self-evident and needs no qualification or confirmation; it simply is and discerned clearly when falsity is removed or seen through. So, Nisargadatta’s Nisarga Yoga involves earnestly unravelling the concepts we’ve inadvertently formed in our minds. “What the mind has done the mind must undo”, he says. The earnestness to understand ourselves is Nisarga Yoga, it is the science and the art of freedom by means of self-understanding. We are free from what we’ve understood. Right understanding is the remedy.
Freedom from the fictitious self and its little dualistic world is the gift of self-inquiry and nondual meditation. All states of mind, all moods and emotional flavours are a result of not inquiry into and fathoming truth, of not investigating what we imagine or even realising that we are caught in imagination. In Nisarga Yoga, we come to know what keeps us stuck within the confines of the dualistic manifestation. Understanding what that confinement consists of leads us to the absolute Self, which is actually never anywhere but here and anyone else but you. You are That already. Nothing really needs doing or putting right. But while you imagine you need to seek, mindful discrimination (including nondual inquiry and meditation) brings detachment and detachment builds the bridge to Self.
All we can truly conclude, says Nisargadatta is “I am not this, I am not that.” Or better still: “I Am.” Any other claim makes no sense when you really consider that you are simultaneously everything and nothing! What the mind can think of, what the eyes can see, the ears hear, can be remembered, apparent others can tell you, cannot be the entirety of you.
It’s enough to discern what we are not limited to. Are you limited to the hand? Are you limited to the head? Are you limited to the thoughts? Are you limited to the body? Of course, the idea of a body or asserting “I am the body” is not wrong. The problem is that we limit ourselves to the body, we see ourselves confined and defined to a transient dream-form of flesh, blood and bone. Ultimately, we need not even know what we are; we are already That.
In his book ‘I Am That’ Nisargadatta reassures us: “Don’t try to understand! Enough if you do not misunderstand. Don’t rely on your mind for liberation. It is the mind that brought you into bondage. Go beyond it altogether.”
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