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Nisargadatta Maharaj

Nisargadatta Maharaj (born Maruti Shivrampant Kambli; 17 April 1897 – 8 September 1981) was an Indian guru of nondualism, belonging to the Inchagiri Sampradaya, a lineage of teachers from the Navnath Sampradaya and Lingayat Shaivism. His birth day was also Hanuman Jayanti, the birthday of Hanuman, hence the boy was named 'Maruti', after him. His parents were followers of the Varkari sampradaya, an egalitarian Vaishnavite bhakti tradition which worships Vithoba.

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..." Siddharameshwar initiated him into the Inchegiri Sampradaya, giving him meditation-instruction and a mantra, which he immediately began to recite. Siddharameshwar gave Nisargadatta instructions for self-enquiry 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!

Following his guru's instructions to concentrate on the feeling "I Am," he used all his spare time looking at himself in silence. He remained in that state for the coming years, practicing meditation and singing devotional bhajans.

Within three years, Maruti realized himself and took the new name Nisargadatta. He became a saddhu and walked barefoot to the Himalayas, but eventually returned to Mumbai, where he lived for the rest of his life, working as a cigarette vendor and giving religious instruction in his home.

Nisargadatta’s best-known book, I Am That, is widely regarded as one of the greatest spiritual books of the twentieth century. The success of I Am That, first published in 1973, made him internationally famous and brought many Western devotees to the tenement apartment where he gave satsangs.

Nisargadatta did not prescribe a specific practice for self-knowledge but advised his disciples, "Don't pretend to be what you are not, don't refuse to be what you are." By means of self-enquiry, he advised, "Why don't you enquire how real are the world and the person?". Nisargadatta frequently spoke about the importance of having the "inner conviction" about one's true nature and without such Self-knowledge one would continue to suffer. Nisargadatta claimed that the names of the Hindu deities Shiva, Rama and Krishna were the names of nature (Nisarga) personified and that all of life arises from the same non-dual source or Self. Remembrance of this source was the core of Nisargadatta's message.

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj gave mantra initiation, with the underlying point being that the mantra was more than sound, it was the Self Itself which could be reverberated throughout life in all circumstances.

Nisargadatta adopted a different mode of instruction, through questions and answers, for his Western disciples. Many of Nisargadatta Maharaj's talks were recorded and formed the basis of I Am That and several other books attributed to him.

Most of Nisargadatta’s books are transcriptions of his recorded conversations.

However, there is at least one book, Self-knowledge and Self-realization, that he apparently wrote himself with pen and paper. Two editions of this book exist in English. The first was a printed translation by Prof. Vasudeo Madhav Kulkarni published in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1963. The second was an edited version of Kulkarni’s edition made by Jean Dunn and released in digital form by Ed Muzika in 2005.

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