The Principles of Nisargadatta Maharaj’s Nisarga Yoga

 

Nisarga Yoga is the name of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teaching and approach to non-dual / advaita spirituality. There are several references to Nisarga Yoga in Nisargadatta’s book ‘I Am That’ (1973) which includes an appendix on the subject by the book’s translator Maurice Frydman. The seven key principles of Nisarga Yoga were identified by non-duality author and therapist Nic Higham in 2018.

The following are principles only; they do not constitute a system of Yoga. Nisargadatta did not teach a set of religious or spiritual beliefs or prescribe a particular yogic practice. He was very clear that although each school of Yoga has relative value, all traditions, ideas and set patterns of behaviour ultimately must given up:

“Each seeker accepts, or invents, a method which suits him, applies it to himself with some earnestness and effort, obtains results according to his temperament and expectations, casts them into the mound of words, builds them into a system, establishes a tradition and begins to admit others into his ‘school of Yoga’. It is all built on memory and imagination. No such school is valueless, nor indispensable; in each one can progress up to the point, when all desire for progress must be abandoned to make further progress possible. Then all schools are given up, all effort ceases; in solitude and darkness the vast step is made which ends ignorance and fear forever.

The true teacher, however, will not imprison his disciple in a prescribed set of ideas, feelings and actions; on the contrary, he will show him patiently the need to be free from all ideas and set patterns of behaviour, to be vigilant and earnest and go with life wherever it takes him, not to enjoy or suffer, but to understand and learn.”

 

The Seven Principles of Nisarga Yoga

1. Non-identification and right understanding

“Clarification of the mind is Yoga.”

“Desire and fear are the obscuring and distorting factors.” [More on this below]

“First purify your vision, learn to see instead of staring…”

“An understanding mind is free of desires and fears.”

“Yoga is the science and the art of self-liberation through self-understanding.”

“The effort to understand yourself is Yoga. Be a Yogi, give your life to it, brood, wonder, search, till you come to the root of error and to the truth beyond the error.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj 

“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

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2. Interest and earnestness

“Also you must be eager to see. You need both clarity and earnestness for self-knowledge. You need maturity of heart and mind, which comes through earnest application in daily life of whatever little you have understood. There is no such thing as compromise in Yoga.”

“A life lived thoughtfully, in full awareness, is by itself Nisarga Yoga… being fully interested in one’s life – all this is implied.”

“Be attentive, enquire ceaselessly. That is all.”

“The Yogi’s life is governed by a single desire – to find the Truth”

“You are not the sensual, emotional and intellectual person, gripped by desires and fears. Find out your real being. What am l? is the fundamental question of all philosophy and psychology. Go into it deeply.”

“Desires and fears have dulled your mind. It needs some scrubbing… By watching it relentlessly. Inattention obscures, attention clarifies.”

– Nisargadatta Maharaj

3. Spontaneity and effortlessness

“Living in spontaneous awareness, consciousness of effortless living…”

“In the mirror of your mind all kinds of pictures appear and disappear. Knowing that they are entirely your own creations, watch them silently come and go, be alert, but not perturbed. This attitude of silent observation is the very foundation of Yoga. You see the picture, but you are not the picture.”

“The cause of suffering is dependence and independence is the remedy.”

“This is the end of Yoga – to realise independence. All that happens, happens in and to the mind, not to the source of the ‘I am’. Once you realise that all happens by itself… you remain as witness only, understanding and enjoying, but not perturbed.”

“In adhi yoga life itself is the Guru and the mind – the disciple. The mind attends to life, it does not dictate. Life flows naturally and effortlessly and the mind removes the obstacles to its even flow.”

“A life of constraint and suppression is not Yoga. Mind must be free of desires and relaxed. It comes with understanding, not with determination, which is but another form of memory.”

– Nisargadatta Maharaj

“Life goes on, but it is spontaneous and free, meaningful and happy.”

– Maurice Frydman

4. Attentiveness to being

“Meet your own self. Be with your own self, listen to it, obey it, cherish it, keep it in mind ceaselessly. You need no other guide. As long as your urge for truth affects your daily life, all is well with you.”

“You can skip all the preparation and go directly for the ultimate search within. Of all the Yogas it is the simplest and the shortest.”

“The five senses and the three qualities (gunas) are your eight steps in Yoga. And ‘I am’ is the Great Reminder (mahamantra). You can learn from them all you need to know.”

“…the only thing you can be sure of is ‘I am’. Stay with it, and reject everything else. This is Yoga.”

– Nisargadatta Maharaj

“This dwelling on the sense ‘I am’ is the simple, easy and natural Yoga, the Nisarga Yoga. There is no secrecy in it and no dependence; no preparation is required and no initiation.”

– Maurice Frydman

5. Right action

“Live your life without hurting anybody. Harmlessness is a most powerful form of Yoga and it will take you speedily to your goal. This is what I call nisarga yoga, the Natural yoga. It is the art of living in peace and harmony, in friendliness and love. The fruit of it is happiness, uncaused and endless.”

“Yoga is bending the outer to the inner. Make your mind and body
express the real which is all and beyond all.”

“Relinquish your habits and addictions, live a simple and sober life, don’t hurt a living being; this is the foundation of Yoga. To find reality you must be real in the smallest daily action; there can be no deceit in the search for truth.”

“Harmony and beauty, understanding and affection are all expressions of reality. It is reality in action, the impact of the spirit on matter… Perfection of the mind is the human task, for matter and spirit meet in the mind.”

– Nisargadatta Maharaj

“The Nisarga Yoga, when persevered in and brought to its fruition, results in one becoming conscious and active in what one always was unconsciously and passively…”

– Maurice Frydman

6. Going within to go beyond

“To delve into the sense of ‘I’ – so real and vital – in order to reach its source is the core of Nisarga Yoga.”

– Maurice Frydman

“Remember that Yoga is the work of the inner self (vyakta) on the outer self (vyakti). All that the outer does is merely in response to the inner.”

“…the very essence of Yoga [is] ever raising the level of consciousness, discovery of new dimensions, with their properties, qualities and powers.”

“After all, all the Yogas, whatever their source and character, have only one aim: to save you from the calamity of separate existence…”

Nisargadatta Maharaj

7. Awareness of Self

“Not being continuous, the sense of ‘I’ must have a source from which it flows and to which it returns… This timeless source of conscious being is what Maharaj calls the self-nature, self-being, swarupa.”

– Maurice Frydman

“Sadhana consists in the witness turning back first on his conscious, then upon himself in his own awareness.
Self-awareness is Yoga.”

“[The sense of a separate existence] is a reflection in a separate body of the one reality. In this reflection the unlimited and the limited are confused and taken to be the same. To undo this confusion is the purpose of Yoga.”

“…there can be no defeat in Yoga. This battle is always won, for it is a battle between the true and the false. The false has no chance… Nobody ever fails in Yoga. It is all a matter of the rate of progress.”

“In due course a Guru appears to teach and inspire us to practise Yoga and a ripening takes place as a result of which the immemorial night of ignorance dissolves before the rising sun of wisdom. But in reality nothing happened. The sun is always there, there is no night to it; the mind blinded by the ‘I am the body’ idea spins out endlessly its thread of illusion.”

– Nisargadatta Maharaj 

 


Desire, Fear and the Primary Illusion

Desire and fear distort the truth of our true Self. Clarification of the mind is the purpose and work of Nisarga Yoga.

Nisargadatta Maharaj:

“The Supreme State is universal, here and now; everybody already shares in it…”

“Who does not like to be, or does not know his own existence? But we take no advantage of this joy of being conscious, we do not go into it and purify it of all that is foreign to it. This work of mental self-purification, the cleansing of the psyche, is essential. Just as a speck in the eye, by causing inflammation, may wipe out the world, so the mistaken idea: ‘I am the body-mind’ causes the self-concern, which obscures the universe. It is useless to fight the sense of being a limited and separate person unless the roots of it are laid bare. Selfishness is rooted in the mistaken ideas of oneself. Clarification of the mind is Yoga.”

“While waking from sleep in the morning, the primary thought is of our existence.”

“Don’t you love your consciousness the most?”

“People use consciousness to find everything other than the origin of consciousness itself. The search begins with the question ‘Who am I?’”

“You like all other things because first you like to be. Your self-love is a great desire; it is a great craving, a great hope… that itself is self-love…This desire to be, hope to be or self-love must be known fully. By taking your body as yourself, you have hopes, desires and cravings for the things of the world. Instead, hope for your own [true] Self, desire your Self.”

“Nothing stops you from being a jnani [realised] here and now, except fear. You are afraid of being impersonal, of impersonal being. It is all quite simple. Turn away from your desires and fears and from the thoughts they create and you are at once in your natural state.”

“The ultimate aim of every desire is to enhance and intensify this sense of [illusory] existence, while all fear is, in its essence, the fear of self-extinction.”

“Desire and fear are the obscuring and distorting factors.”

“Be free of desires and fears and at once your vision will clear and you shall see all things as they are.”

“It is not so much the matter of levels as of gunas (qualities). Meditation is a sattvic activity and aims at complete elimination of tamas (inertia) and rajas (motivity). Pure sattva (harmony) is perfect freedom from sloth and restlessness.”

“It is in the nature of sattva to reconcile and neutralise tamas and rajas and rebuild the personality in accordance with the true nature of the self. Sattva is the faithful servant of the self; ever attentive and obedient.”

“The world seen in consciousness is to be of the nature of consciousness, when there is harmony (sattva); but when activity and passivity (rajas and tamas) appear, they obscure and distort and you see the false as real.”

“The five senses and the three qualities (gunas) are your eight steps in Yoga. And ‘I am’ is the Great Reminder (mahamantra). You can learn from them all you need to know. Be attentive, enquire ceaselessly. That is all.”

“All desires aim at happiness. Their shape and quality depend on the psyche (antahkarana). Where inertia (tamas) predominates, we find perversions. With energy (rajas), passions arise. With lucidity (sattva) the motive behind the desire is goodwill, compassion, the urge to make happy rather than be happy. But the Supreme is beyond all, yet because of its infinite permeability all cogent desires can be fulfilled.”

“Your daily life vibrates between desire and fear… Trace every action to its selfish motive and look at the motive intently till it dissolves.”

“Maya [illusion] means self-love. It indicates that all appearances are deceptive… In this world, the infatuation for self-love is the highest. This is the primary illusion, the original enchantment. Your self-love is seen by you as the world. The world is born with your memory ‘I am’ and it vanishes with its exit… As long as you do not become one with your [true] Self, your needs will remain and will go on increasing.”

“…it is not easy to tolerate our consciousness. Different types of entertainment are designed to enable us to escape from ourselves.”

“Our activities happen due to rajas quality, which signifies restlessness. The attitude of being the doer and possessing so many things signifies the tamas quality. The soul of universe operates as the power of maya.”

“The ignorant suffers so much due to self-love… Maya [illusion] is self-love. As long as you love to live, you cannot get rid of Maya.”

“Once you know with absolute certainty that nothing can trouble you but your own imagination, you come to disregard your desires and fears, concepts and ideas and live by truth alone.”

“Tamas obscures, rajas distorts, sattva harmonises. With the maturing of the sattva all desires and fears come to an end. The real being is reflected in the mind undistorted.”

“The ending of the self with its desires and fears enables you to return to your real nature, the source of all happiness and peace. The perennial desire for pleasure is the reflection of the timeless harmony within.”

“The ending of the self with its desires and fears enables you to return to your real nature, the source of all happiness and peace.”

“Set your vision right before you operate. You are suffering from acute misapprehension. Clarify your mind, purify your heart, sanctify your life — this is the quickest way to a change of your world.”

“Be what you are, wherever you are and worry not about gunas.”

“Calm and clarify your mind and you will know yourself as you are.”