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Ishwar Totapuri
Totapuri Baba.jpg
Born 1630 AD
Died 1961 AD

Ishwar Totapuri is not the same Totapuri we are discussing here. Most likely Sri Iswar Totapuri was a disciple of Totapuri Maharaj. As we have studied on him, we know that he was most likely born at Hinglaj in border area Of erstwhile Punjab and NWFP now fall under Balochistan of Pakistan some time in the year 1630AD. The Head of Monastery at Hinglaj. Totapuri Maharaj' (also known as Nanga Baba, Nangtababa, Nagababa, Languli Baba, Digambar Baba, Kankaria Baba and Tota Puri: Bengali: তোতাপুরী: Hindi: तोतापुरी) affectionately known as "Nangta Baba" (1630AD), born likely in Hinglaj now in Baluchistan, Pakistan in a border village to Erstwhile Punjabi Suba of Mughal India. He, was a parivrajaka (wandering monk) who have followed the path of the of Advaita Vedanta towards 18th. Some confusion has arisen due to the meager information that exists on Totapuri even in the minds of monks in Ramkrishna Mission.[1]

By the time he arrived at Dakshineswar Temple in 1864, he was a wandering monk of the Dasnami order of Adi Shankara, and head of a monastery in the Punjab claiming the leadership of seven hundred sannyasins. He is said to have initiated Ramakrishna into Advaita Vedanta,[2] as well as Anandpuri Ji from the Advait Mat tradition.[3]

Trained from early youth in the disciplines of the Advaita Vedanta, he looked upon the world as an illusion. The gods and goddesses of the dualistic worship were to him mere fantasies of the deluded mind. Prayers, ceremonies, rites, and rituals had nothing to do with true religion, and about these he was utterly indifferent. Exercising self-exertion and unshakable will-power, he had liberated himself from attachment to the sense-objects of the relative universe. For forty years he had practised austere discipline on the bank of the sacred Narmada and had finally realized his identity with the Absolute. Thenceforward he roamed in the world as an unfettered soul, a lion free from the cage. Clad in a loin-cloth, he spent his days under the canopy of the sky alike in storm and sunshine, feeding his body on the slender pittance of alms. He had been visiting the estuary of the Ganges. On his return journey along the bank of the sacred river, led by the inscrutable Divine Will, he stopped at Dakshineswar. Totapuri, discovering at once that Sri Ramakrishna was prepared to be a student of Vedanta, asked to initiate him into its mysteries.

Totapuri taught Ramakrishna that the sole reality of the impersonal Absolute could only be realized in a state of consciousness devoid of all conceptual forms.[4] Ramakrishna described Totapuri as "a teacher of masculine strength, a sterner mien, a gnarled physique, and a virile voice", and addressed him affectionately as Nangta, the "Naked One", because as a renunciate he did not wear any clothing.[2]

Totapuri, a monk of the most orthodox type, never stayed at a place more than three days. But he remained at Dakshineswar eleven months. He too had something to learn.

Totapuri had no idea of the struggles of ordinary men in the toils of passion and desire. Having maintained all through life the guilelessness of a child, he laughed at the idea of a man's being led astray by the senses. He was convinced that the world was maya and had only to be denounced to vanish for ever. A born non-dualist, he had no faith in a Personal God. He did not believe in the terrible aspect of Kali, much less in Her benign aspect. Music and the chanting of God's holy name were to him only so much nonsense. He ridiculed the spending of emotion on the worship of a Personal God.

Totapuri's lesson[edit]

From Sri Ramakrishna Totapuri had to learn the significance of Kali, the Great Fact of the relative world, and of maya, Her indescribable Power.

One day, when guru and disciple were engaged in an animated discussion about Vedanta, a servant of the temple garden came there and took a coal from the sacred fire that had been lighted by the great ascetic. He wanted it to light his tobacco. Totapuri flew into a rage and was about to beat the man. Sri Ramakrishna rocked with laughter. "What a shame!" he cried. "You are explaining to me the reality of Brahman and the illusoriness of the world; yet now you have so far forgotten yourself as to be about to beat a man in a fit of passion. The power of maya is indeed inscrutable!" Totapuri was embarrassed.

About this time Totapuri was suddenly laid up with a severe attack of dysentery. On account of this miserable illness he found it impossible to meditate. One night the pain became excruciating. He could no longer concentrate on Brahman. The body stood in the way. He became incensed with its demands. A free soul, he did not at all care for the body. So he determined to drown it in the Ganges. Thereupon he walked into the river. But, lo! He walks to the other bank." (This version of the incident is taken from the biography of Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Saradananda, one of the Master's direct disciples.) Is there not enough water in the Ganges? Standing dumbfounded on the other bank he looks back across the water. The trees, the temples, the houses, are silhouetted against the sky. Suddenly, in one dazzling moment, he sees on all sides the presence of the Divine Mother. She is in everything; She is everything. She is in the water; She is on land. She is the body; She is the mind. She is pain; She is comfort. She is knowledge; She is ignorance. She is life; She is death. She is everything that one sees, hears, or imagines. She turns "yea" into "nay", and "nay" into "yea". Without Her grace no embodied being can go beyond Her realm. Man has no free will. He is not even free to die. Yet, again, beyond the body and mind She resides in Her Transcendental, Absolute aspect. She is the Brahman that Totapuri had been worshipping all his life.

Totapuri returned to Dakshineswar and spent the remaining hours of the night meditating on the Divine Mother. In the morning he went to the Kali temple with Sri Ramakrishna and prostrated himself before the image of the Mother. He now realized why he had spent eleven months at Dakshineswar. Bidding farewell to the disciple, he continued on his way, enlightened.

Sri Ramakrishna later described the significance of Totapuri's lessons[edit]

"When I think of the Supreme Being as inactive — neither creating nor preserving nor destroying —, I call Him Brahman or Purusha, the Impersonal God. When I think of Him as active — creating, preserving, and destroying —, I call Him Sakti or Maya or Prakriti, the Personal God. But the distinction between them does not mean a difference. The Personal and the Impersonal are the same thing, like milk and its whiteness, the diamond and its lustre, the snake and its wriggling motion. It is impossible to conceive of the one without the other. The Divine Mother and Brahman are one."


  1. ^ Comans. Some baceless arguments advocated by Michael such as-, The Question of the Importance of Samadhi in Modern and Classical Advaita Vedanta, Philosophy East & West. Volume: 43. Issue: 1. (1993) pp.33.
    "The time [Ramakrishna] spent under the direction of Totapuri, who was said to be an Advaitin, was much shorter than the time spent studying Tantra, and the information available on Totapuri is very meager, so it is difficult to be sure whether he was actually an Advaitin rather than a follower of yoga.
  2. ^ a b Swami Nikhilananda, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (1972), Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, New York
  3. ^ Geaves, R. R., From Totapuri to Maharaji: Reflections on a Lineage (Parampara) (2007), in Indian Religions: Renaissance and Revival, ed. Anna King. London: Equinox, 2007
  4. ^ Von Dehsen, Christian D. (Ed.) WritersPhilosophers and Religious Leaders p.159, Oryx Press, 1999