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Nisargadatta Maharaj

Nisargadatta Maharaj
Born Maruti Shivrampant Kambli
(1897-04-17)17 April 1897
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Died 8 September 1981(1981-09-08) (aged 84)
Mumbai, India
Guru Siddharameshwar Maharaj
Philosophy Advaita Vedanta
Quotation Establish yourself firmly in the awareness of 'I AM'. This is the beginning, and also the end of all endeavour.

Nisargadatta Maharaj /ˌnɪsərɡəˈdɑːtə ˌmæhəˈrɑː/ (17 April 1897 – 8 September 1981), born Maruti Shivrampant Kambli, was an Indian Guru of Shiva Advaita (Nondualism), belonging to the Inchagiri Sampradaya, a lineage of teachers from the Navnath Sampradaya and Lingayat Shaivism.

The publication in 1973 of I Am That, an English translation of his talks in Marathi by Maurice Frydman, brought him worldwide recognition and followers, especially from North America and Europe.[1]


Early life

Nisargadatta was born at break of dawn on 17 April 1897, a full-moon day in the month of Chaitra, to a devout Hindu couple Shivrampant Kambli and Parvatibai, in Bombay.[web 1] The day was also, Hanuman Jayanti, the birthday of Lord Hanuman, hence the boy was named 'Maruti', after Lord Hanuman himself.[2][web 2] Maruti Shivrampant Kambli was brought up in Kandalgaon, a small village in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, where he grew up amidst his family of six siblings, two brothers and four sisters, and deeply religious parents.[web 3] His father, Shivrampant, worked as a domestic servant in Mumbai and later became a petty farmer in Kandalgaon.

In 1915, after his father died, he moved to Bombay to support his family back home, following his elder brother. Initially he worked as a junior clerk at an office but quickly he opened a small goods store, mainly selling beedis – leaf-rolled cigarettes, and soon owned a string of eight retail shops.[web 4]

In 1924 he married Sumatibai and they had three daughters and a son.


Nisargadatta Maharaj met his guru Siddharameshwar Maharaj in 1933.
In 1933, he was introduced to his guru, Siddharameshwar Maharaj, the head of the Inchegiri branch of the Navnath Sampradaya, by his friend Yashwantrao Baagkar. His guru told him, "You are not what you take yourself to be...".[web 5] He then gave Nisargadatta simple instructions which he followed verbatim, as he himself recounted later:
My Guru ordered me to attend to the sense 'I am' and to give attention to nothing else. I just obeyed. I did not follow any particular course of breathing, or meditation, or study of scriptures. Whatever happened, I would turn away my attention from it and remain with the sense 'I am'. It may look too simple, even crude. My only reason for doing it was that my Guru told me so. Yet it worked![3]

Following his guru's instructions to concentrate on the feeling "I Am", he used all his spare time looking at himself in silence, and remained in that state for the coming years, practising meditation and singing devotional bhajans:[web 6]

My Guru told me: “...Go back to that state of pure being, where the ‘I am’ is still in its purity before it got contaminated with ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that.’ Your burden is of false self-identifications—abandon them all.” My guru told me, “Trust me, I tell you: you are Divine. Take it as the absolute truth. Your joy is divine, your suffering is divine too. All comes from God. Remember it always. You are God, your will alone is done.” I did believe him and soon realized how wonderfully true and accurate were his words. I did not condition my mind by thinking, “I am God, I am wonderful, I am beyond.” I simply followed his instruction, which was to focus the mind on pure being, “I am,” and stay in it. I used to sit for hours together, with nothing but the “I am” in my mind and soon the peace and joy and deep all-embracing love became my normal state. In it all disappeared—myself, my guru, the life I lived, the world around me. Only peace remained, and unfathomable silence. (I Am That, Dialogue 51, April 16, 1971).[web 7]

After an association that lasted hardly two and a half years, Siddharameshwar Maharaj died on 9 November 1936,[4][web 7]

In 1937, he left Mumbai and travelled across India.[web 8] Through realising the shortcomings of a totally unworldly life and the greater spiritual fruitfulness of dispassionate action, he eventually returned to his family in Mumbai in 1938,[5] where he spent the rest of his life. On the journey home he reached awakening:

On the return journey he evidently opened up in an irreversible, unbroken realization of the Atma or transcendent-immanent Divine Self. His spiritual practices had exhausted all samskaras, the problematic likes and dislikes inherited from past karma. He had spontaneously, finally awakened to Absolute Self, Absolute Reality. All attachment, aversion, and delusion had ended. Nisargadatta was now totally free in the Freedom of the jivanmukta, one liberated while still functioning with a body. As he put it, “Nothing was wrong anymore.”[web 7]

Later years

Between 1942–1948 he suffered two personal losses, first the death of his wife, Sumatibai, followed by the death of his daughter. He started to give initiations in 1951, after a personal revelation from his guru, Siddharameshwar Maharaj:[web 7]

Ever since his return to Bombay in 1938, Nisargadatta had been sought out by those desiring his counsel on spiritual matters. Many wanted to become his disciples and get formal mantra-initiation from him, reverentially calling him “Maharaj,” “Great (Spiritual) King.” Yet he was reluctant to have disciples and serve as a guru. Finally, in 1951, after receiving an inner revelation from Siddharamesvar, he began to initiate students into discipleship.[web 7]

After he retired from his shop in 1966, Nisargadatta Maharaj continued to receive and teach visitors in his home, giving discourses twice a day, until his death on 8 September 1981 at the age of 84, of throat cancer.[web 9]


Style of teaching

Nisargadatta gave talks and answered questions at his humble flat in Khetwadi, Mumbai, where a mezzanine room was created for him to receive disciples and visitors. This room was also used for daily chantings, bhajans (devotional songs), meditation sessions, and discourses.[web 10]

Cathy Boucher notes that the Inchagiri Sampradaya emphasized mantra meditation from its inception in the early 19th century, but that the emphasis shifted toward a form of Self-enquiry with Sri Siddharameshwar.[6] Nevertheless,

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj [...] still gave mantra initiation, with the underlying point being that the mantra was more than sound, it was the Absolute Itself which could be reverberated throughout life in all circumstance.[6]

Boucher also notes that Nisargadatta adopted a different mode of instruction, through questions and answers, for his western disciples.[6] Many of Nisargadatta Maharaj's talks were recorded, and formed the basis of I Am That as well as of the several other books attributed to him.[7]

Awareness of true nature

File:Iamthat goethean.jpg
Nisargadatta's "I Am That" in Hindi.

According to Timothy Conway, Nisargadatta's only subject was

...our real Identity as the birthless-deathless, infinite-eternal Absolute Awareness or Parabrahman, and Its play of emanated universal consciousness. For Maharaj, our only "problem" (an imagined one!) is a case of mistaken identity: we presume to be an individual, and, originally and fundamentally, we are not an individual, we are intrinsically always and only the Absolute.[web 10]

Nisargadatta explains:

The life force [prana] and the mind are operating [of their own accord], but the mind will tempt you to believe that it is "you". Therefore understand always that you are the timeless spaceless witness. And even if the mind tells you that you are the one who is acting, don't believe the mind. [...] The apparatus [mind, body] which is functioning has come upon your original essence, but you are not that apparatus.[8]


According to Conway, awareness of the Absolute could be regained by

... a radical disidentification from the dream of "me and my world" via intensely meditative self-inquiry (atma-vicara) and supreme Wisdom-Knowledge (vijñana or jñana). "I know only Atma-yoga, which is 'Self-Knowledge,' and nothing else.... My process is Atma-yoga, which means abidance in the Self."[web 10]


Nisargadatta was critical of a merely intellectual approach to nondual Truth.[web 10] He had a strong devotional zeal towards his own guru,[web 7] and suggested the path of devotion, Bhakti yoga, to some of his visitors, as he believed the path of knowledge, Jnana yoga was not the only approach to Truth. Nisargadatta also emphasized love of Guru and God.[9][web 10][note 1]


Template:Navnath Sampradaya - Inchagiri Sampradaya

Main article: Inchagiri Sampradaya


Among his best known disciples are Sailor Bob Adamson, Stephen Wolinsky, Jean Dunn, Alexander Smit, Douwe Tiemersma, Robert Powell, Timothy Conway, Wayne Dyer[10] and Ramesh Balsekar. A less well known disciple is Ramakant Maharaj, who received the naam mantra from Nisargadatta in 1962, spent the next 19 years with the master.[web 11][web 12] and states to be "the only Indian direct disciple of Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj" who offers initiation into this lineage.[web 13] Sachin Kshirsagar, who has piblished a series of books on Nisargadatta in the Marathi language[web 14] and also re-published Master of Self Realization, says to have received the Naam (Mantra) in a dream from Shree Nisargadatta Maharaj in Oct., 2011.


David Godman gives the following account of an explanation by Nisargadatta of the succession of Gurus in the Inchagiri Sampradaya:

I sit here every day answering your questions, but this is not the way that the teachers of my lineage used to do their work. A few hundred years ago there were no questions and answers at all. Ours is a householder lineage, which means everyone had to go out and earn his living. There were no meetings like this where disciples met in large numbers with the Guru and asked him questions. Travel was difficult. There were no buses, trains and planes. In the old days the Guru did the traveling on foot, while the disciples stayed at home and looked after their families. The Guru walked from village to village to meet the disciples. If he met someone he thought was ready to be included in the sampradaya, he would initiate him with mantra of the lineage. That was the only teaching given out. The disciple would repeat the mantra and periodically the Guru would come to the village to see what progress was being made. When the Guru knew that he was about to pass away, he would appoint one of the householder-devotees to be the new Guru, and that new Guru would then take on the teaching duties: walking from village to village, initiating new devotees and supervising the progress of the old ones.[web 15]

According to David Godman, Nisargadatta was not allowed by Siddharameshwar to appoint a successor:

Siddharameshwar told him that he could teach and give out the Guru mantra to anyone who asked for it, but he wasn't allowed to appoint a successor. You have to remember that Nisargadatta wasn't realised himself when Siddharameshwar passed away.[web 15]

Nisargadatta started to initiate others in 1951, after receiving an inner revelation from Siddharamesvar.[web 7] Nisargadatta himself explains:

The Navnath Sampradaya is only a tradition, way of teaching and practice. It does not denote a level of consciousness. If you accept a Navnath Sampradaya teacher as your Guru, you join his Sampradaya. Usually you receive a token of his grace - a look, a touch, or a word, sometimes a vivid dream or a strong remembrance.[11]

David Godman also recalls the following conversation on the understanding by his visitors of his teachings:

[Nisargadatta:] 'Why do I waste my time with you people?' he exclaimed. 'Why does no one ever understand what I am saying?'

[Godman:] I took my chance: 'In all the years that you have been teaching how many people have truly understood and experienced your teachings?'
[Nisargadatta:] He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, 'One. Maurice Frydman.' He didn't elaborate and I didn't follow it up.[web 15]



Maurice Frydman
Matthew Greenblatt
  • The Wisdom-Teachings of Nisargadatta Maharaj, A Visual Journey (Talks recorded,1977–1979). Edited by Matthew Greenblatt. InnerDirections Publishing, 2003. ISBN 1-878019-20-1.
Robert Powell
  • The Nectar of the Lord's Feet: Final Teachings of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj: Discourses January–November 1980. Edited by Robert Powell. 1990.ISBN 1-85230-011-6.
  • Nectar of Immortality, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj Discourses on the Eternal, Edited by Robert Powell. 1987. ISBN 81-208-1733-8.
  • The Ultimate Medicine: Dialogues with a Realized Master, Edited by Robert Powell. 1994. ISBN 1-55643-633-5.
  • The Experience of Nothingness, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj's Talks on Realizing the Infinite. Edited by Robert Powell. 1996. ISBN 1-884997-14-7.
Jean Dunn
Pradeep Apte
  • I Am Unborn: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, by Pradeep Apte & Vijayendra Deshpande.
  • The Nisargadatta Gita. Pradeep Apte, India, 2008
  • I AM – The complete "I am" quotes of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Pradeep Apte, India, 2008
  • Beyond Freedom: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Maria Jory (Ed.).Yogi Impressions Books, 2007. ISBN 8188479535
  • The Wisdom of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Blue Dove Press, 1995.
  • Gleanings From Nisargadatta, Mark West, Australia, Beyond Description Publishing, 2006.



Sachin Kshirsagar,Pune,India

  • Anusandhan-Marathi Text Book" quotes of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj",1st Edition,Published by Ravindra Katre in 2013,Compiled by Sachin Kshirsagar,Pune,Maharashtra,India
  • SatChidAnanda-Marathi Text Book" quotes of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj",1st Edition,Published by Satish Avhad in 2103,Edited & Compiled by Sachin Kshirsagar,Pune,Maharashtra,India
  • Nisargadatta Bodhawani-Marathi Text Book" 65 Discourses of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj",1st Edition,Published by Satish Avhad in 2013,Edited & Compiled by Sachin Kshirsagar,Pune,Maharashtra,India
  • AtmaDnyan Ani ParmatmaYog-Marathi Text Book" 19 Discourses of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj", 3rd Edition Published by Satish Avhad in 2013,Edited & Compiled by Sachin Kshirsagar,Pune,Maharashtra,India
  • Vivek Ki Nirupan-Marathi Text Book" 8 Discourses of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj", 2nd Edition Published By Satish Avhad in 2014,Edited & Compiled by Sachin Kshirsagar,Pune,Maharashtra,India
  • Sukhasamvad-Marathi Text Book of I Am That" Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj", 4th Edition Published by Satish Avhad & Sachin Kshirsagar in 2012
  • AtmaPrem-Marathi Text Book" Discourses of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj", 1st Edition Published & Compiled by Ravindra Katre,Pune,Maharashtra,India in 2011
  • "GuruBodh-Marathi Text Book" Discourse of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj", 2nd Edition

Published & Compiled by Sachin Kshirsagar,Pune, Maharashtra, India in April 2015

Transliterations of Siddharameshwar Maharaj

  • Adhyatma Dnyanacha Yogeshwar (Vol I & II) written by Nisargadatta Maharaj. Collection of 130 talks of Siddharameshwar Maharaj (Marathi), November 1961 and July 1962.
  • Master of Self Realization, An English translation of Adhyatma Dnyanacha Yogeshwar written by Nisargadatta Maharaj, a collection of 130 Talks by Siddharameshwar Maharaj, which also includes a newly revised edition of Master Key to Self-Realization written by Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj. ISBN 978-0-578-02789-0. 2nd Edition Published by Shri Satish Avhad & Shri Sachin Kshirsagr, Pune, Maharashtra,India in Nov 2014.

See also


  1. ^ Nisargadatta himself said to a visitor:
    I may talk Non-duality to some of the people who come here. That is not for you and you should not pay any attention to what I am telling others. The book of my conversations [I Am That] should not be taken as the last word on my teachings. I had given some answers to questions of certain individuals. Those answers were intended for those people and not for all. Instruction can be on an individual basis only. The same medicine cannot be prescribed for all.
    Nowadays people are full of intellectual conceit. They have no faith in the ancient traditional practices leading up to Self-Knowledge. They want everything served to them on a platter. The path of Knowledge makes sense to them and because of that they may want to practice it. They will then find that it requires more concentration than they can muster and, slowly becoming humble, they will finally take up easier practices like repetition of a mantra or worship of a form. Slowly the belief in a Power greater than themselves will dawn on them and a taste for devotion will sprout in their heart. Then only will it be possible for them to attain purity of mind and concentration.[web 10]


  1. ^ Jones & Ryan 2006, p. 315.
  2. ^ I Am That, pp. 6, Who is Nisargadatta Maharaj.
  3. ^ I Am That, Chapter 75, p. 375.
  4. ^ Prior to Consciousness, pp. 1–2, 4 April 1980.
  5. ^ I Am That p.xxviii
  6. ^ a b c Boucher year unknown.
  7. ^ Nisargadatta 1973.
  8. ^ The Ultimate Medicine, (pp.54 – 70)
  9. ^ Rosner 1987, p. 212–218.
  10. ^ Dyer 2007, p. 39.
  11. ^ Nisargadatta 1973, p. chapter 97.


Printed sources


Web sources

Further reading

  • Stephen H. Wolinsky, I Am That I Am: A Tribute to Sri Nisargadatta. 2000. ISBN 0-9670362-5-9.
  • Peter Brent, Godmen of India. NY: Quadrangle Books, 1972, pp. 136–40.
  • S. Gogate & P.T. Phadol, Meet the Sage: Shri Nisargadatta, Sri Sadguru Nisargadatta Maharaj Amrit Mahotsav Samiti, 1972.
  • Neal Rosner (Swami Paramatmananda), On the Road to Freedom: A Pilgrimage in India, Vol. 1, San Ramon, CA: Mata Amritanandamayi Center, 1987, pp. 212–8.
  • Ramesh S. Balsekar, Explorations into the Eternal: Forays from the Teaching of Nisargadatta Maharaj . 1989. ISBN 0-89386-023-9.
  • Ramesh S. Balsekar, Pointers from Nisargadatta Maharaj. 1990 . ISBN 0-89386-033-6.
  • Bertram Salzman, Awaken to the Eternal: Nisargadatta Maharaj: a Journey of Self Discovery. 2006. ISBN 1-878019-28-7.
  • S.K. Mullarpattan, The Last Days of Nisargadatta Maharaj. India: Yogi Impressions Books, 2007. ISBN 81-88479-26-8.
  • Dasbodh – Spiritual Instruction for the Servant – Saint Shri Samartha Ramdas, Sadguru Publishing, 2010 ISBN 978-0-615-37327-0


External links

Nisargadatta websites
Background and biography
Publications by Nisargadatta Maharaj

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