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Dustin LindenSmith

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On Nisargadatta, Nisarga Yoga, and definitions of Nonduality

Today I'm excerpting from the first appendix of the seminal book I Am That (Amazon.com | Amazon.ca), by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (?-1981), the illumined shopkeeper in India who became an early Western guru in contemporary Advaita Vedanta, or what we refer to here as Nonduality. The version I own is the most commonly available one online, first published in 1973 from tape-recorded talks translated by Maurice Frydman.

The essay I'm about to quote from is a short treatise by Frydman on Nisargadatta's way of practice, if you could say that he had one (he didn't admit to one in particular). It also happens to elucidate on some of 'what is nonduality', starting with a description of Maharaj's own simple, unfettered, un-Guru-like lifestyle.
Simplicity and humility are the keynotes of his life and teachings; physically and inwardly he never takes the higher seat; the 'essence of being' on which he talks, he sees in others as clearly as he sees it in himself. He admits that while he is aware of it, others are not yet, but this difference is temporary and of little importance, except to the mind and its ever-changing content.

When asked about his Yoga, he says he has none to offer, no system to propound, no theology, cosmogony, psychology or philosophy. He knows the real nature -- his own and his listeners' -- and he points it out. The listener cannot see it because he cannot see the obvious, simply and directly. All he knows, he knows with his mind, stimulated by the senses. That the mind is a sense in itself, he does not even suspect.

The Nisarga Yoga (where 'nisarga' = natural state, innate disposition), the 'natural' yoga of Maharaj, is disconcertingly simple -- the mind, which is all-becoming, must recognize and penetrate its own being, not as being this or that, here or there, then or now, but just timeless being.
I reflect: Nonduality recognizes that everything the mind perceives and identifies itself with is but an expression of pure, timeless, unqualified being. On this sense of 'being' itself:
Every man has it, every man is it, but not all know themselves as they are, and therefore identify themselves with the name and shape of their bodies and the contents of their consciousness.

The rectify this misunderstanding of one's reality, the only way is to take full cognizance of the ways of one's mind and to turn it into an instrument of self-discovery.

The mind was originally a tool in the struggle for biological survival. It had to learn the laws and ways of Nature in order to conquer it. That it did, and is doing, for mind and Nature working hand-in-hand can raise life to a higher level. But, in the process the mind acquired the art of symbolic thinking and communication, the art and skill of language. Words became important. Ideas and abstractions acquired an appearance of reality, the conceptual replaced the real, with the result that man now lives in a verbal world, crowded with words and dominated by words.
Such an important thing to remind ourselves of, this: the recognition of how deeply our outlook is affected by our constant, word-based interaction; not to mention the inability to recognize, connect with, and understand what is real. Too often we allow the images that our minds project to ourselves to be the sum total of our whole reality. Many of us don't look any more deeply than those simple images the mind plays out for us.
Obviously, for dealing with things and people words are exceedingly useful. But they make us live in a world totally symbolic, and, therefore, unreal. To break out from this prison of the verbal mind into reality, one must be able to shift one's focus from the word to what it refers to, the thing itself.
In terms of technique, Maharaj mainly stresses that the only thing to do to develop this awareness is to dwell on the sense 'I am'. By delving deeply into the sense of 'I', going beyond that sense to its original source, one realizes the supreme, primordial state. And what does it mean, if anything, once you've reached this understanding?
Nisarga Yoga results in one becoming conscious and active in what one always was unconsciously and passively. There is no difference in kind -- only in manner -- the difference between a lump of gold and a glorious ornament shaped out of it. Life goes on, but it is spontaneous and free, meaningful and happy.

Maharaj most lucidly describes this natural, spontaenous state, but as the man born blind cannot visualize light and colours, so is the unenlightened mind unable to give meaning to such descriptions. Expressions like dispassionate happiness, affectionate detachment, timelessness and causelessness of things and being -- they all sound strange and cause no response. Intuitively we feel they have deep meaning, and they even create in us a strange longing for the ineffable, a forerunner of things to come, but that is all. As Maharaj puts it, words are pointers, they show the direction but they will not come along with us. Truth is the fruit of earnest action, words merely point the way.
(x-posted to nonduality)