Non-identification and right understanding – Nisarga Yoga

“The Nisarga Yoga, the ‘natural’ Yoga of Maharaj, is disconcertingly simple – the mind, which is all-becoming, must recognise and penetrate its own being, not as being this or that, here or there, then or now, but just as timeless being.”

“To rectify [the] misunderstanding of one’s reality, the only way is to take full cognisance of the ways of one’s mind and to turn it into an instrument of self-discovery.”

– Maurice Frydman


Nisarga Yoga – Principle One of Seven

Non-identification and right understanding

If we understand the mind its hold on us will cease, said Nisargadatta Maharaj, the founder of Nisarga Yoga. All mind states, every name and form of existence are rooted in imagination and non-inquiry. Self-realisation is the converse of ignorance. In the popular spiritual book ‘I Am That’, Nisargadatta points out that to take the world as real and one’s self as unreal is ignorance — the root of suffering. Our fundamental struggle lies in the wrong use of the mind. Right understanding is the only medicine. Boundless gifts are open to those who use their mind correctly. Nisargadatta said that we should use the mind to understand the mind. In non-dual spirituality, using the mind as a tool is entirely appropriate and provides the ideal groundwork for going beyond the mind. The tainted mind obscures truth; the clear mind is transparent; truth is seen through it without difficulty and with precision. Fear and desire are the obscuring factors. Right understanding of oneself is critical for freedom from the captivity of falsehood.

What Nisargadatta Maharaj taught was the ancient and straightforward method of freedom through clear understanding. His approach, ‘Nisarga Yoga’, is the science and the art of true liberation. According to him, the work of understanding oneself is Yoga. Misunderstanding is the very nature of the mind. It is only our self-identification with the mind that makes us either happy or unhappy. The mind continually fashions itself in accordance with its beliefs. The essence of bondage is the mixing of the real with unreal. The person concept should be mindfully investigated, and its unreality recognised. Nisargadatta said that the path to truth lies through the annihilation of the false and the person is an aspect of falsity. Nisarga Yoga is like scrubbing a mirror. Mere mental knowledge is not enough because the known is accidental. But not-knowing is the home of the real. To dwell in the known is bondage, to dwell in not-knowing is liberation. According to Nisargadatta, all Yogic paths lead to the purification of the mind. It is our failure to examine that produces perpetual karma. It is indifference to our suffering that prolongs it. We are free from what we’ve understood.

In Nisarga Yoga the reality of identity and the world is questioned. After all, only our outlook is faulty and needs adjusting. It’s all about focus. This process is called sadhana, or spiritual practice. Nisargadatta asks us to apply ourselves conscientiously to dismantling the structure we’ve built in our minds. He said, “What the mind has done the mind must undo.” We must try to understand that we live in a world of Maya (illusion). If we mindfully examine the knowable, it softens and only the unknowable – which is truth – endures. However, with the first glimpse of imagination and misdirected interest, truth is hidden, and the illusory known comes dominates.

What is limited is bound to be sometimes painful and other times pleasant. If we want real peace and joy, we must go beyond the world of desire and fear. Likewise, the self-image we have of ourselves is a collection of memories and is basically a product of inadvertence. The concept ‘I am the body’ is our main error and the trigger of suffering. Our false self-image is most inconsistent and entirely vulnerable. When the person is seen as false, it loses its power and dominance and reality, that is our true indefinable and eternal Self, shines through. Non-identification, which can happen naturally and spontaneously, is freedom.

Freedom from the ego-self is the fruit of self-inquiry. All “our” problems actually belong to the body only and all lose their validity the moment we realise that we’re not limited to the form of the body. The body is simply one expression of what we are, but it is not all we are. In not knowing this we limit ourselves to one body and therefore suffer its desires and fears and ultimate death. We are existence itself, each form is our own, within our beingness. We cannot say what we are because words can point only to what we are not. Nisargadatta said “I am, and because I am, all is. But I am beyond consciousness and, therefore, in consciousness, I cannot say what I am. Yet, I am.”

To know that we are (i.e. known as ‘I am’, beingness or consciousness) is effortless, but to know what we are is the outcome of extensive inquiry and meditation. It is correct to assert, ‘I am’, but to assert, ‘I am someone or something’ is the product of mental weakness or laziness, and ultimately the absence of inquiry. Nisargadatta Maharaj said it’s useful to know what keeps us within the contracted confines of the known, and that it’s the complete and correct knowledge of the known that leads to the unknown, to truth beyond comprehension. Therefore, we need to investigate ourselves, and we’ll not only unravel not only our own predicament but also the human dilemma. Nisarga Yoga involves brooding, wondering, and searching until we come to the root of our innocent error (i.e. the belief in duality) and to the reality beyond the error of perceived separateness. Duality dissolves when it is questioned. We need not know every ‘why’ and ‘how’; questions are endless! We know so many things about ourselves but must come to know the knower. Sadhana consists of finding out who we are and realising that we are knower of the known.

The best role of the mind is to tell us what we are not. But for positive knowledge we must transcend the mind altogether. “Self-remembrance is in the mind,” said Nisargadatta, “Self-realisation is beyond the mind.” To discover reality, we must not be attached to our convictions. And we must not even try to understand! It’s enough if we don’t go on misunderstanding. It’s enough if we don’t rely on the mind for freedom. It is a tool only and all tools have their limits. Since it was the mind that brought us into bondage, we should go beyond it with inquiry and meditation. It’s sufficient to know what we are not. We can only be what we are, and what are, we already are! We have never left our natural state.

With Nisarga Yoga, a Nisargadatta Maharaj self-inquiry, we identify and investigate the world’s contradictions, incongruities, falsehoods and the torment of the human condition. Discrimination leads to detachment; detachment cultivates right action, and right action connects us to our real being. Nisargadatta often asserted that earnestness was the most significant quality and that action is a proof of earnestness. If we are earnest, we can discover all that we are not, and this realisation is itself right understanding. He said, “The thought ‘I am’ is the polishing cloth. Use it.”

This article is based on quotes from ‘I Am That’ by Nisargadatta Maharaj

The Seven Principles of Nisarga Yoga:

– Non-identification and right understanding
Interest and earnestness
– Spontaneity and effortlessness
– Attentiveness to being
– Right action
– Going within to go beyond
– Awareness of Self