Nisargadatta Maharaj

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Nisargadatta Maharaj
Nisargadatta Maharaj.jpg
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 spiritual teacher and philosopher of Advaita (Nondualism), and a Guru, belonging to the Inchgiri branch of the Navnath Sampradaya.

In 1973, the publication of his most famous and widely translated book, I Am That, an English translation of his talks in Marathi by Maurice Frydman, brought him worldwide recognition and followers, especially North America and Europe.[1][2]


Early life[edit]

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.[3] The day was also the birthday of Lord Hanuman, hence the boy was named 'Maruti', after Lord Hanuman himself.[4][5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

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...".[8] 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!"[9]

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.[10]

After an association that lasted hardly two and a half years, Siddharameshwar Maharaj died on 9 November 1936,[11] though by that time he had done his task. Maruti had reached self-awareness. Soon he adopted a new name, "Nisargadatta" meaning "naturally given" ("nis-arga" literally means "without parts," suggesting establishment in the unfragmented, seamless, solid Awareness).[12] He was also appointed as the spiritual head of the Inchegeri branch of Navnath Sampradaya, the 'Nine Masters' tradition, a place he retained through his life.[13]

In 1937, he left Mumbai and travelled across India.[14] 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.[15] It was there that he spent the rest of his life.

Later years[edit]

Between 1942–1948 he suffered two personal losses, first the death of his wife, Sumatibai, followed by the death of his daughter. He started taking disciples in 1951, only after a personal revelation from his guru, Siddharameshwar Maharaj.[12]

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.[16]

Style of teaching[edit]

According to Nisargadatta the purpose of spirituality is to know who you are, a viewpoint he expounded in the talks he gave 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.[17]

He talked about the 'direct way' of knowing the Final Reality, in which one becomes aware of one's original nature through mental discrimination, a method which is common to the teachers of the Navnath Sampradaya.[18] This mental discrimination, or the Bird's way ('Vihangam Marg'), was also presented by Nisargadatta's co-disciple, Ranjit Maharaj; wherein Self-Knowledge is gained just as a bird flying in the sky that goes easily from branch to branch, instead of slowly crawling its way up the tree like an ant, as in the 'Pipilika Marg'. Here the disciple reaches straight to truth, without wasting time in long drawn out practices that would take him to the 'fruit' no doubt, only slowly. He proposed to use one's mental faculty to break from the unreal to the real, and the mind's false identification with the ego, simply by listening to and constantly thinking over what the master has said, and knowing that "You are already That".[19]

Earlier in Nisargadatta's spiritual lineage (sampradaya), Sadguru Shri Guruling Jangam Maharaj—a direct disciple of the twenty-second Shri Samarth Muppin Kaadsiddheswar Maharaj—had emphasised the accepted teaching style within the tradition: the Master would pre-select a passage from a traditional text on Advaita Vedanta, most commonly Dasbodh of Saint Shri Samarth Ramdas (as well as the Yoga Vasistha, "Sadachara" of Shri Shankaracharya, and the "Eknathi Bhagwat" of Sant Eknath), and then expound for devotees the accepted sampradaya commentaries and purports. Nisargadatta Maharaj, however, deviated from this format by giving informal spontaneous discourses, based for the most part on his own direct experience. (Apparently, Nisargadatta adapted this teaching style especially for the benefit of visitors from abroad, many of whom did not have access to Indian sacred texts, or who were not familiar with Indian spiritual traditions and customs.)[20]

Many of Nisargadatta Maharaj's talks in this vein were recorded, and formed the basis of I Am That as well as of the several other books attributed to him. His recorded words are often free from cultural religious trappings, and the knowledge he expounds is stripped bare of all that is unnecessary.

His teaching style may be summed up in the words of Advaita scholar and examplar, Dr. Robert Powell, "Like the Zen masters of old, Nisargadatta's style is abrupt, provocative, and immensely profound – cutting to the core and wasting little effort on inessentials. His terse but potent sayings are known for their ability to trigger shifts in consciousness, just by hearing, or even reading them."


Nisargadatta's "I Am That" in Hindi.

Nisargadatta's teachings are grounded in the Advaita Vedanta interpretation of the Advaita idea Tat Tvam Asi, literally "That Thou Art", (Tat = "Divinity", Tvam = "You", Asi = "are") meaning You are (actually) Divinity (who thinks otherwise). He also had a strong devotional zeal towards his own guru,[12] and suggested the path of devotion, Bhakti yoga, to some of his visitors, as he believed the path of knowledge, Jnana yoga was not for everyone.[21]

According to Nisargadatta, our true nature is beyond even perpetually free peaceful awareness, in Hinduism referred to as Brahman. Awareness is the source of, but different from, the personal, individual consciousness, which is identified with the body. The mind and memory are responsible for association with a particular body; awareness exists prior to both mind and memory. It is only the idea that we are the body that keeps us from living what he calls our "original essence".

He describes this essence as pure, free, and unaffected by anything that occurs. He likens it to a silent witness that watches through the body's senses, yet is not moved, either to happiness or sadness, based on what it sees. But what is important to understand is that, according to Nisargadatta, even this is not who he really is or who you really are. You are that which is prior to even this "original essence."

For Nisargadatta, the Self is not one super-entity which knows independently, regardless of things; there is no such super-entity, no Creator with infinite intellect. God does not exist independently from creation. What does exist is the "total acting" (or functioning) of the Ultimate or Absolute Reality along the infinite varying forms in manifestation. This Absolute Reality is identical to the Self.

Nisargadatta's teachings also focus on our notion of causality as being misinterpreted. He understood that the interconnectedness of varying forces in the universe is so vast and innumerable that the notion of causality, as presently understood, is wasted. The endless factors required for anything to happen means that, at most, one can say everything creates everything; even the choices we make are predetermined by our genetic code, upbringing, mental strivings and limitations, our ethical and philosophical ideals, etc., all of which are uniquely combined to each person and recontextualised accordingly.

This leads to the radical notion that there is no such thing as a "doer". According to him and other teachers of Vedanta, since our true nature or identity is not the mind, is not the body, but the witness of the mind and body, we, as pure awareness, do nothing. The mind and body act of their own accord, and we are the witness of them, though the mind often believes it is the doer. This false idea (that the mind is the self and responsible for actions) is what keeps us from recognising our Self. Nisargadatta cautions:

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.

—The Ultimate Medicine, (pp.54 – 70)

Among his most known disciples are Sailor Bob Adamson, Stephen Wolinsky, Jean Dunn, Alexander Smit, Douwe Tiemersma, Robert Powell, Timothy Conway, Wayne Dyer[22] and Ramesh Balsekar. A less well known disciple is Ramakant Maharaj, who received the naam mantra from Nisargadatta in 1962 and spent the next 19 years with the master.[23]

Inchegiri Sampradaya[edit]

Main article: Inchegeri Sampradaya

The Inchegiri Sampradaya to which Nisargadatta Maharaj belongs is as follows:

Rishi Dattatreya, mythological deity-founder.[24][25][26]
Navnath, the nine founders of the Nath Sampradaya[25][26], also known as as Kada Siddha[27]
Gahininath[28], the 5th Navnath[26] Revananath, the 7th[26] or 8th[25] Navnath
Nivruttinath, Dnyaneshwar's brother[28]
Dnyaneshwar[29] (1275–1296)
also known as Sant Jñāneshwar or Jñanadeva[29]
and as Kadasiddha[26] or Kad-Siddheshwar Maharaj[25]
Kaneri Math, Lingayat Parampara[30] / Kaadasiddheshwar Parampara[31]

Kadasiddha[26], or "Almighty "Kadsiddeshwar" who appeared as a vision to Sri Gurulingajangam Maharaj"[32] or the 22nd Shri Samarth Muppin Kaadsiddheswar Maharaj[citation needed]

1 Nimbargi Maharaj (1789-1875)
also known as Guru Lingam-Jangam Maharaj [25][33][26]
23rd Shri Samarth Muppin Kaadsiddheswar Maharaj[citation needed]
2 Shri Bhausaheb Maharaj Umdikar[25][34] (1843 Umdi - 1914 Inchgiri[35]) 24th Shri Samarth Muppin Kaadsiddheswar Maharaj[citation needed]
3 H.H. Shri Amburao Maharaj of Jigjivani

(1857 Jigajevani - 1933 Inchgiri)[36][26]

H.H. Shri Gurudev Ranade of Nimbal[36][37][26][38] Girimalleshwar Maharaj[26] Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj (1875-1936)[25][26] 25th Shri Samarth Muppin Kaadsiddheswar Maharaj[citation needed]
4 H.H Shri Gurudev Chandra Bhanu Pathak[39] Shri. Aujekar Laxman Maharaj[40] Madhavananda Prabhuji
(d. 25th May, 1980)[41]
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897–1981)[25]

Sri Ranjit Maharaj (1913–2000)[25][42]

Sri Ganapatrao Maharaj Kannur (1909 - 2004)[34]

Shri Vilasanand Maharaj (1909–1993)

Shri Ranachhodray Maharaj, Baitkhol Karwar.

26th Shri Muppin Kaadsiddheshwar Maharaj

Student of Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj

5 Shri. Nagnath Alli Maharaj[40]

No lineage-holders, but mentioned as a person who really understood Nisargadatta's message:

H. H. Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Shree Swami Narendracharyaji Maharaj[44][45]


  • 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
  • Atmagyana and Paramatmayoga, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Marathi.[46][47]
  • Self Knowledge and Self Realization, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Edited by Jean Dunn, 1963.
  • I Am That, Talks with Sri Nisargadatta, Transcribed and edited by Maurice Frydman. Chetana Publishing, Bombay,[48] 1973. ISBN 0-89386-022-0.
  • 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.
  • Seeds of Consciousness: The Wisdom of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Edited by Jean Dunn. (Talks recorded, 1979–1980). Chetana Publishing, Bombay 1990. ISBN 0-89386-025-5.
  • Beyond Freedom: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Maria Jory (Ed.).Yogi Impressions Books, 2007. ISBN 8188479535
  • Consciousness and the Absolute, The Final Talks of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Edited by Jean Dunn. (Talks recorded, 1981). 1994. ISBN 0-89386-041-7.
  • The Wisdom of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Blue Dove Press, 1995.
  • Prior to Consciousness, Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Edited by Jean Dunn. (Talks recorded,1980–1981). Chetana Publishing 1999. ISBN 0-89386-024-7.
  • The Ultimate Medicine: Dialogues with a Realized Master, Edited by Robert Powell. 1994. ISBN 1-55643-633-5.
  • I Am Unborn: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, by Pradeep Apte & Vijayendra Deshpande.
  • The Experience of Nothingness, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj's Talks on Realizing the Infinite. Edited by Robert Powell. 1996. ISBN 1-884997-14-7.
  • 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.
  • Gleanings From Nisargadatta, Mark West, Australia, Beyond Description Publishing, 2006.
  • The Nisargadatta Gita. Pradeep Apte, India, 2008
  • I AM – The complete "I am" quotes of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Pradeep Apte, India, 2008

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Constance Jones; James D. Ryan (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. pp. 315–. ISBN 978-0-8160-7564-5. 
  2. ^ Nisargdatta profile at
  3. ^ Biography of Nisargadatta Maharaj
  4. ^ I Am That, pp. 6, Who is Nisargadatta Maharaj.
  5. ^ S. Gogate & P.T. Phadol, Meet the Sage: Shri Nisargadatta, p. 5 (1972)
  6. ^ Detailed Biography
  7. ^ Sri Nisagdatta bio at
  8. ^ Sri Nisargdatta Quote
  9. ^ I Am That, Chapter 75, p. 375.
  10. ^ Guru's teachings
  11. ^ Prior to Consciousness, pp. 1–2, 4 April 1980
  12. ^ a b c Nisargadatta Maharaj Biography
  13. ^ I Am That, Page 271 Part II, chapter 97
  14. ^ Sri Nisargdatta bio in
  15. ^ I Am That p.xxviii
  16. ^ It Is Not Real
  17. ^ Spiritual Masters at
  18. ^ Ranjit Maharaj at
  19. ^ Navnath Sampradaya
  20. ^ RANJIT MAHARAJ | meeting siddharameshwar
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ Wayne W. Dyer (2007). Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life. Hay House, Inc. pp. 39–. ISBN 978-1-4019-2052-4. 
  23. ^ Interview with Ramakant maharaj
  24. ^, Navnath Sampradaya
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i Boucher year unknown.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Frydman 1987.
  27. ^ Gurudev R.D. Ranade, Kada Siddha
  28. ^ a b V. V. Shirvaikar, A brief biography of saint Dnyaneshwar (Jnanadeva)
  29. ^ a b Advaita Vision, Navnath Sampradaya. Disciples of Nisargadatta Maharaj
  30. ^ Mazad Sad Guru, Biography
  31. ^, The Kaadsiddheshwar Parampara
  32. ^ Sadguru Shri Ranjit Maharaj, History
  33. ^ Gurudev R.D. Ranade, Sadguru Shri Guruling Jangam Maharaj
  34. ^ a b ShantiKuteer Ashram, Bhausaheb Maharaj
  35. ^ Gurudev R.D. Ranade, Sadguru Shri Bhausaheb Maharaj Umdikar
  36. ^ a b Gurudev R.D. Ranade, Sadguru Shri Amburao Maharaj
  37. ^ Gurudev R.D. Ranade, Shri Gurudev R. D. Ranade
  38. ^ Bridge-India, Shri Gurudev R.D. Ranade
  39. ^ Sri Ranjit Maharaj profile
  40. ^ a b Shri S.S. Nagnath Alli Maharaj Sansthan, About us
  41. ^ Gurus Feet, Madhavananda Prabhuji
  42. ^ See also, Shri Ranjit Maharaj and, "Final Reality has no beginning and no end."
  43. ^ a b David Godman, Remembering Nisargadatta Maharaj pt.1
  44. ^ Montreal Marathi Mandal, H. H. Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Shree Swami Narendracharyaji Maharaj's Montreal Visit
  45. ^ A brief biography of Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Sri Swami Narendracharyaji Maharaj
  46. ^ Self Knowledge Introduction at
  47. ^ 'Self Knowledge and Self Realization', Book[dead link]
  48. ^ Chetna Publishing Bombay



  • 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[edit]