Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj : Realizing the Infinite-Talks with an Indian Sage

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

The Spiritual Light of Nisargadatta

Nisargadatta Maharaj was a spiritual teacher known to speak with remarkable clarity, directness and insight on the question of suffering and how to end it. He spoke in absolute terms, and with such intimacy, that reading transcriptions of talks held with seekers seems to immediately raise one’s level of consciousness, expand it, and make real the seemingly improbable. With unfailing certitude he spoke on matters that, by their nature, defy explanation. His articulations sparkle with the truth like polished, transparent glass through which the ‘other shore’ can be glimpsed. All the more powerful no doubt, heard in the presence of the teacher himself.

Early Life of Nisargadatta

Nisargadatta Maharaj was born on Saturday, 17th April 1897, and died on Tuesday, 8th September 1981 at the age of 84. Biographical details of his early life are scant. His birth coincided with a full moon and the festival of Hanuman Jayanti. In association with this auspicious day, his parents named him Maruti, another name for Hanuman.

His father was a poor man working as a domestic servant in Bombay and later became a small time farmer. As a boy, Maruti assisted him by tending to the cattle and working in the fields. He was noted by elder relatives as having an inquisitive mind and always brimming with questions. A friend of his father’s, Gore, was a devout Hindu and comparatively well educated for a rural man. He and Maruti would engage in long philosophical conversations for which Maruti showed a maturity beyond his years. He saw in his father’s friend the qualities he valued most – wisdom, compassion and earnestness.

Just after turning 18, his father died and Maruti left for Bombay in search of work, following his elder brother. After just a few months of working as a low paid clerk he resigned in disgust and set up a small shop selling children’s clothes and cigarettes. His modest business did well, providing sufficient income to marry and have three children. In most respects he led a very unremarkable life and there was little to indicate that he would one day earn world renown as one of India’s greatest spiritual teachers.

I Am That : Talks with Sri Nisargadatta

Self Realization

A turning point in his life came one evening when a friend, Baagkar, took him to meet his Guru who practiced in the tradition of Navanath Sampradaya, a form of Hinduism. The Guru gave him basic instruction in meditation and some simple advice – to remember that he was the Supreme Reality, to stay within the field of pure being , ‘I Am’ awareness, and to look upon all with affectionate interest, but attaching to none of it. He was also asked to remember his Guru at every moment so that the Guru could help with his spiritual transformation. Maruti earnestly followed his Guru‘s advice and within a short space of time began to experience trance-like states and visions. After about three years of keeping his Guru and the fact of his being or pure consciousness ever present in his mind, a complete dissolution of ego mind occurred. He entered the eternal, and cosmic consciousness arose in him like a brilliant sun, casting light on all alike.

Nisargadatta continued to run his business for a time, living a dual life, but no longer being profit minded, soon abandoned it along with his wife and children who were now grown up. He set off on foot towards the Himalayas, a place seekers have gravitated to throughout millennium. Realizing that in truth he no longer sought anything in order to become complete, Nisargadatta laughed at the futility of his mission and returned to his home and family. The realization had fully awakened in him that ultimately nothing external is worth grasping and that eternal bliss is the true essence of unclouded consciousness.

Spiritual Teacher

Word that Nisargadatta had experienced self-realization spread and soon he had a steady stream of visitors to his humble tenement flat in Bombay. Visitors sought advice on personal problems and seekers from around the globe, hearing of his extraordinary enlightenment, came to drink in his wisdom.The name Nisargadatta translates to 'one who resides in the natural state.'

Nisargadatta’s teachings are harmonious with the tradition of Jnana Yoga / Advaita Vedanta, but the way he expressed the truth was uniquely his own. He counseled visitors to cease identifying with form, including the body and the mind. All forms, he maintained, are in a perpetual state of flux and are impermanent. The world created by the mind through thought is highly subjective and indeed private and the world-view presented to ourselves by the mind is constantly changing according to the restlessness of the mind itself.

The mind, he says, is clouded by limited views – subjectivity, duality, intentionality – but the sense of pure being-ness, pure awareness or knowing that we exist as an immutable fact, stands supreme. Freedom, he suggests, can only come when the self-made prison of conceptual thought ceases and we stand naked in the light of the fact, I Am! To be conscious of consciousness being aware of itself is the key, he says, and admits to the failure of words to adequately convey this attribute-free state. In this state, Nisargadatta offers, there is no suffering because there is no separation from that, which is. No duality, no suffering. There is no longer the problem of the meager little ego self with all its ambitions, expectations, and personal viewpoints which must be fed and defended at all costs. With the allure of past and future gone as refuges of an unfulfilled mind, the here and now becomes the eternal playground of liberated consciousness. Finally liberated from identification with a self in form – the body, the mind and its thoughts – one is free to behold the infinite potentiality of the universe, with which we are one.

Recognized as one of the greatest sages of India, the wisdom that flows from Nisargadatta has helped millions unravel the mystery of the self and its true nature. A truly inspiring collection of transcribed talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj is contained in the book, ‘I Am That’, regarded by many as a modern spiritual classic.

Also read

The Spiritual Journey Unfolds

Sri Anandamayi Ma The Enigmatic Beautiful Mystic of India

Sources:

I Am That, Talks with Sri Nisargadatta, Transcribed and edited by Maurice Frydman, Chetana Publishing, Bombay

Seeds of Consciousness: The Wisdom of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Edited by Jean Dunn. (Talks recorded, 1979-1980). Chetana Publishing, Bombay 1990

The Ultimate Medicine: Dialogues with a Realized Master, Edited by Robert Powell. 1994

The Experience of Nothingness, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj's Talks on Realizing the Infinite. Edited by Robert Powell. 1996

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Comments 19 comments

philip carey 61 6 years ago

I have a copy of "I Am That" that I read on a regular basis. I never know what to make of this whole Advaita thing. At times it seems it must be true, at others, it seems somehow vacant--difficult for me to explain.

Anyway, so glad to see another has discovered this wonderful sage.


shimla profile image

shimla 6 years ago Author

Hi Philip, I have never studied Advaita and these days am not so interested in schools of thought but in those who have gone beyond spiritual discilpines and speak spontaneously and in a way that resonates deeply within. Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta, Sogyal Rimpoche, Chogyam Trungpa, Ekhart Tolle - they all seem to me to speak from a place that is pure and free of ego. I know what you mean about Absolute teachings seeming vacant - I guess that's just it - there is nothing to hold onto - just being, without content, the void, but somehow blissful - hard to do in a world that demands that we be full of content! But being full of content and conditioned responses is difficult too! It seems a little more seeps in with each reading of I Am That - I come back to it over and again too. I love how Nisargadatta says he moves between knowing that he is nothing which is wisdom and knowing he is everything, which is love - or something like that. Namaste!


Manu Namasivayam 6 years ago

A non-commercial site exclusively for the articles related to Nisargadatta Maharaj. Books, Photos, Videos, and others.

nisargadatta{dot}co{dot}cc/

Manu Namasivayam


Ashmi profile image

Ashmi 6 years ago from Somewhere out there

Who am I? is the most fundamental question we can ask ourselves. Without knowing the answer; whatever we do is based on who we THINK we are. In other words: all our thinking, talking and doing is based on a misapprehension of reality. We live in an imaginary world based on false ideas concerning the nature of reality. This is the dream in which we live in.

Advaita is simply the knowledge that underlying all manifestation is but One Reality. We are but units of expression, emanations from this One Supreme Being. All is in the One, the One is in the all. There is but One Life!

Great hub!!


shimla profile image

shimla 6 years ago Author

Thank you so much for that incredibly succinct and insightful comment. Awakening from the dream by shining pure awareness on all we experience. It sounds so simple but the mind by its nature makes for a slippery slope! Many thanks.


Singular Investor profile image

Singular Investor 6 years ago from Oxford

Hi Shimla - excellent hub, I didn't know anything about NM's early life so it was interesting to read about it. I also heard that he said the best book about him was Prior to Consciousness by Jean Dunn, but I've got to admit I find his teaching style and vocabulary somewhat hard to follow at times :-)


shimla profile image

shimla 6 years ago Author

Thanks for letting me know about Jean Dunn's book - I shall try and find it. I do know what you mean about the difficulty in following Nisargadatta at times - I guess the Truth is so profound (and to us paradoxical) that it is no easy job to convey it in words, which are only symbols really. I feel that he hands you kernels of truth and one has to let them ferment in ones consciousness until they are fully digested. Sometimes I think I have understood something and then later read it again and a deeper meaning is realized. He doesn’t hold back with the Absolute! For me he is the most powerful and enigmatic mystic I’ve come across. If only reading about the Truth was in itself enough to liberate! My little mind just won’t shut up sometimes! :-)


Singular Investor profile image

Singular Investor 6 years ago from Oxford

Yes, he certainly doesn't hold back ! He seems quite intimidating at times, I have to admit to being more inclined towards the style of Ramana Maharshi as I came acros his teachings first. Trying to shut the mind up is very difficult, because it doesn't exist. Lol.


shimla profile image

shimla 6 years ago Author

Exactly - I love Ramana Maharshi too - those eyes of his spoke of such depths of wisdom and kindness. I assume you have read Osbourne's book about RM. From watching video of Nisargadatta, he does seem almost fierce in comparison, like the old Zen masters of China and Japan were reputed to have been. Behind the fierceness is a well of compassion and a wish for us to awaken from the dream I believe. I would love to sit with a being of Ramana Maharshi's understanding for a while.....


SpiritualNetwork profile image

SpiritualNetwork 6 years ago

All the good words about Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharshi... Good work, Shimla!

They are constantly advancing my life, here.

After having read "I Am That" four times, there's no reduction in the power his words generate. In my practice, reading just a few paragraphs helps me greatly in meditation.

However, being their students we must remember that the knowledge doesn't lead to the Knowledge. Only Self-enquiry does.

Peace,

Stan


shimla profile image

shimla 6 years ago Author

Thanks Stan, I couldn't agree more with your comment. I have read through 'I am That' twice and keep it by my bed and read one talk most nights. I find it inspires my practice. I also enjoy satsang with Papaji and Mooji on Youtube too. You're right about going beyond words into self-inquiry - that's where things start to change fundamentally. Have you read my article on Anandamayi Ma? Namaste, Scott


SpiritualNetwork profile image

SpiritualNetwork 6 years ago

Not yet, Scott. But after locating your hub, definitely will.

There's one book that provides unique perspective on the last days of Maharaj. It is: "Consciousness and the Absolute - the Final Talks of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj" edited by Jean Dunn. Don't feel sad when you read it. NM wouldn't like it!

Finally, you can find rare insight into NM's life by reading interviews of David Godman from his site at: http://www.davidgodman.org/ very few people knows about David, but he is one of very few true sages, living today.

Peace,

Stan


shimla profile image

shimla 6 years ago Author

Thanks very much for those refernces Stan - will definitely follow them up. Namaste, Scott


soumyasrajan 6 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

Hi! shimla

Nice article. I live in Mumbai but somehow I did not know about Sri Nisargdatta Maharaj. You wrote very nicely about his life. It is an inspiration for any one. I also enjoyed comments of philip and others. This doubt and faith combination will remain of course until one realizes truth.

I am not really an expert on Advaita. But I wrote recently an article on basic ideas of Advaita Vedanta, as I understand it.

http://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Truth-what


shimla profile image

shimla 6 years ago Author

Hi soumyasrajan, thank you for your kind words. I enjoyed writing the article very much. Reading I Am That caused me to feel close to his consciousness. I have been seeking out books on liberation of various traditions since a teenager, but never has the truth of existence been so powerfully articluated (for me) as by Nisargadatta. I look forward to reading your articles. Namaste.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

I have read 'I Am That' and am in awe at the transmission of Presence I experience when I read Nisargadatta's words. It was a gift from the friend who has the photo of the Divine Sri Anandamayi Ma.

Well written hub-voted up and awesome and have bookmarked this hub, as well as the hub about Sri Anandamayi Ma. I am pleased to know there are other writers who are on this Path of Oneness. Namaste.


shimla profile image

shimla 5 years ago Author

Hi Denise, I too experience the transmission of Presence when I read 'I Am That' Thank you for your kind comments -lately I seem to be coming into contact with more and more people who are on the Path of Oneness -I'm now convinced that if we relax and earnestly 'practice' awareness with a view to understanding our true nature, all will be revealed as it was for Nisargadatta and so many others. Namaste.


lightning john profile image

lightning john 5 years ago from Florida

Shimia, thank you for writing on this great man. I have never met a person from India that I didn't like. All my experiences with the people of India have been very positive and always enlightening. Lj


shimla profile image

shimla 5 years ago Author

Hi LJ- thanks for the comment. India sure is a country of extremes - impermanence is really in your face and suffering is very evident. Someone recently asked me why so many enlightened masters hark from India and I answered that perhaps it’s partly because the question of becoming free from suffering seems more urgent there-going all the way back to the Buddha 2550 years ago. I’ve met good hearted and dark hearted alike in India, and had a beautiful Indian friend who tried to teach me sitar. I was a poor student though, finding her beauty too distracting.All the best, Shimla

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