Next to Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj is the most popular twentieth century advaitic sage in the West.
Born in 1897, on the same birthday as the Puranic monkey deity, Hanuman, Nisargadatta was a contemporary guru belonging to the Ichegeri branch of the Navnath Sampradaya, and a major exponent of Advaita Vedanta (nondual knowledge).
His teacher, Siddharameshwar Maharaj, told him, “You are not what you take yourself to be.” and gave him a simple set of instructions.
“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!”
“My teacher told me to hold on to the sense ‘I am’ tenaciously and not to swerve from it even for a moment. I did my best to follow his advice and in a comparatively short time I realized within myself the truth of his teaching. All I did was to remember his teaching, his face, his words constantly. This brought an end to the mind; in the stillness of the mind I saw myself as I am — unbound.”
“I simply followed (my teacher’s) 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 peace and joy and a 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.”
It should be noted that Nisargadatta’s unfolding took only three years. He became a sadhu, walking the Himalayas before returning home to Mumbai. Most renowned for the contemporary classic book of dialogues, I am That, Nisargadatta attracted many Western devotees to his humble apartment in Mumbai.
Sri Nisargadatta passed away at age 84, in 1981.
David Godman is a well known biographer who has published books that chronicle, or provide insights into, the lives of teachers like Ramana Maharshi and Papaji. In the interview titled “Remembering Nisargadatta Maharaj” David provides a wealth of information about Nisargadatta.
The website nisargadatta.com is a collection of various articles about Nisargadatta. Unfortunately this site is not being actively updated but still offers some useful information.
We also offer some free articles (downloadable PDFs) about Nisargadatta Maharaj, courtesy of Pradeep Apte.
Rays of the Absolute (the Legacy of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj), from: Stephen Wolinsky’s YouTube Channel
Post & Featured Images: Attribution pending.