Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj Biography

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (April 17, 1897 – September 8, 1981) was an Indian Spiritual Teacher and philosopher of Advaita. His book, I Am That – summarises his Advaita philosophy through the many talks with devotees.

“Love is seeing the unity under the imaginary diversity.”

– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (I am That)

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj was born in March 1897. From birth, he was called Maruti, in honour of Hanuman. After his father died, in 1915, Maruti went to Bombay where he worked as a clerk and later selling hand-rolled cigarettes. Through this small business, he became financially prosperous.

Through a friend, in 1933 he was brought to the Guru Siddharameshwar Maharaj. Maruti was moved by Sri Siddharameshwar and made his first steps to practise spirituality. He was given a mantra in the Navnath tradition, and instructions on how to meditate. After his Guru, Sri Siddharameshwar passed away in 1936, Maruti felt a strong sense of renunciation and lost interest in his worldly pursuits. He left both his business and family and went on a pilgrimage to the Himalayas.

However, on the way to the Himalayas, he met a brother disciple, who persuaded him to stay in Bombay and practise spirituality within the world. When he returned to Bombay in 1938, his business had significantly declined, but it was enough to sustain him and his family. It was in 1938, that he became Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj devoting all his free time to meditation. In particular, Nisargadatta meditated on the concept that:

“I Am”

The spiritual idea, that we are not the body and ego, but the all-pervading consciousness.

In 1951, he began accepting disciples, and he would regularly give discourse in his house to disciples, where he would answer their questions. These talks are summarised in the book “I Am That”. It has become a classic of Advaita philosophy, in the tradition of ancient traditions in the Upanishads, and contemporary teachers like Ramana Maharshi. Sri Nisargadatta explained concepts in the simplest way, without any complex religious or spiritual terms.

Quotes by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

from I Am That.

Desire and fear come from seeing the World as separate from my-Self.

– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That

“My advice to you is very simple – just remember yourself, ‘I am’, it is enough to heal your mind and take you beyond, just have some trust. I don’t mislead you. Why should I? Do I want anything from you? I wish you well – such is my nature. Why should I mislead you? Common sense too will tell you that to fulfill a desire you must keep your mind on it. If you want to know your true nature, you must have yourself in mind all the time, until the secret of your being stands revealed

– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That

“A quiet mind is all you need. All else will happen rightly, once your mind is quiet. As the sun on rising makes the world active, so does self-awareness effect changes in the mind. In the light of calm and steady self-awareness inner energies wake up and work miracles without effort on your part.”

– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That

There is nothing to practice. To know yourself, be yourself. To be yourself, stop imagining yourself to be this or that. Just be. Let your true nature emerge. Don’t disturb your mind with seeking.

– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That

The person is merely the result of a misunderstanding. In reality, there is no such thing. Feelings, thoughts and actions race before the watcher in endless succession, leaving traces in the brain and creating an illusion of continuity. A reflection of the watcher in the mind creates the sense of “I” and the person acquires an apparently independent existence. In reality there is no person, only the watcher identifying himself with the “I” and the “mine”. (p. 343)

Discard all you are not and go ever deeper. Just as a man digging a well discards what is not water, until he reaches the water-bearing strata, so must you discard what is not your own, till nothing is left which you can disown. You will find that what is left is nothing which the mind can hook on to. You are not even a human being. You just are – a point of awareness, co-extensive with time and space and beyond both, the ultimate cause, itself uncaused. If you ask me “Who are you?”, my answer would be: “Nothing in particular. Yet, I am.” (318)

There is no good and no evil. In every concrete situation, there is only the necessary and the unnecessary. The needful is right, the needless is wrong. In my world, even what you call evil is the servant of the good and therefore necessary. It is like boils and fever that clear the body of impurities. Disease is painful, even dangerous, but if dealt with rightly, it heals. In some cases death is the best cure. (283-4)

In the end you know that there is no sin, no guilt, no retribution, only life in its endless transformations. With the dissolution of the personal “I”, personal suffering disappears. What remains is the great sadness of compassion, the horror of the unnecessary pain. (496)

Nisargadatta Maharaj belongs to the Inchegiri Sampradaya, a lineage of Guru’s going back to the Naiveness.

Related pages

spiritualSpiritual figures – Famous saints, mystics and religious figures. Including Jesus Christ, The Buddha, Lord Krishna, St Teresa of Avila.