His holiness Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj doesn't really need an introduction. He lit the fire of self discovery in millions of hearts and paved the way for Jnana Marg for attainment of self-realization. He was born on the auspicious day of Hanuman Jayanti in Mumbai in 1897 and was hence named Maruti. His father’s name was Shivarampanth and mother’s name was Parvatibai. Both his parents were devotees and used to sing bhajans regularly as prescribed under the varkari sect. After a few days, Shivrampanth resigned from his post and went back to his village in Konkan. He purchased some land in a nearby village named Kandalgaon and undertook agriculture as his profession. The childhood of Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj was spent in an environment of religion and where helping others was considered the greatest virtue.
Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj received his primary education in Kandalgaon. He could study only up to grade 4. It is astonishing to see how sadguru’s grace could elevate a man who studied only up to grade 4 to a mahagyaani saint with infinite wisdom. Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj took a keen interest in agriculture and in going to the pastures along with his cows. He was especially compassionate towards the poor and moved by their abject living conditions. He was always ready to help people in need.
His father passed away in 1915. Agriculture was not much of a viable option and he followed his elder brother’s example and moved to Mumbai in 1920. He set up a business there. Being industrious and greatly social, he did well in his business and married a girl named Sumatibai. She was also a lady of great wisdom. Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj’s business was prospering yet he never forgot lord Narayana. Since, he had been fond of religious literature since early days, he kept visiting temples and observing fasts on sacred days. Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj also practiced yoga under a yogi’s guidance for some days. The yogi’s name was Athavale Girgaum.
However, it was his friend Shri Yashvant Bagkar who introduced him to Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj – the sadguru who would change his life. Shri Bagkar would regularly participate in the bhajans and holy discourses given by Siddharameshwar Maharaj. Although initially hesitant, he visited Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj and expressed interest for initiation into sadhana in the first meeting itself. His life had taken a turn towards the divine, towards parabrahman.
His life as a sadhaka is equally fascinating. But one must know about his spiritual-lineage before any further discussion. The traditions of gurus of Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj is known as Nathpantha.
Shri Revannath also known as Shri Revansiddha was the first guru among the nine Nathas of the sect known as the Siddha sect. This sect initiates into and leads to aproksha swaroop jnan ( direct realization of the self) and therefore is also known as the swaroopa sect. The tradition of Sadgurus of Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj consist of Shri Revannath followed by Shri Marulsiddha, Shri Kadsiddha, Shri Gurulingjangam Maharaj Nimbargikar, Shri Bhausaheb Maharaj Umdikar, Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj Patharikar.
Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj was a highly accomplished yogi and an incarnation of vairagya ( detachement). He used to be a wrestler by profession. He was like a lotus in a pond of muddy water totally unaffected by worldly desires even amidst great affluence. His spiritual knowledge and wisdom penetrates one’s heart and makes a deep impact yet his language was simple. The life of Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj underwent a revolution under the influence of his guru’s explanation of supreme knowledge. He surrendered fully to what his guru told him – that your nature is of god, parabrahman. He told him “You are not what you take yourself to be. Find out what you are. Watch the sense ‘I am’, find your real self.“ All his spare time, Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj would spend looking at himself in silence. He made rapid progress under the grace of his sadguru!
Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj took mahasamadhi in 1936 before diwali. His presence sense ceased to exist and Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj began to deeply feel his absence. A beautiful Samadhi made of white marble in memory of Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj has been erected at the cremation ground at Valkeshwar, Banganga, Mumbai. Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj used to often go there to pay homage to his great guru. During his last days, Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj used to often say “I have so many disciples but I don’t know who it is who will abandon everything for the sake of his guru’s words”. These words would often disturb Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj. At that time, Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj had around 6 shops which were doing excellent business. However, Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj couldn’t give full attention to them because of his spiritual pursuits. He began to think of abandoning every attachment more often.
In the year 1937, everyone was enjoying Diwali but Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj wasn’t able to indulge himself in festivities. Without informing any of his old mother, wife and children, he left for pandharpur. He renounced high quality dress and put on a normal kurta-dhoti and started his journey without any money. Wandering on foot, he reached ganagapur. The remembrance of his guru’s words brought him further to Madras, Rameshwar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Mathura Vrindhavan. He had resolved to undertake penance in the Himalayas. He felt his guru’s grace on him on many occasions and this further deepened his resolve. In Delhi, he met a fellow disciple of his guru who convinced him to fulfill his worldly moral duties, a pre-requisite to the accomplishment of parmartha. He came back to Mumbai .
On his return he found out that his business was on the verge of collapse. Thus, he started to manage only one shop and took some time for his family as well. All the other time was devoted to spiritual contemplation. His long journey had instilled in him a strong sense of vairagya ( detachement from wordly pursuits). His devotion to his guru was so wholesome and complete that he never went to visit any other saint or temple. He studied Dasbodh, Sadachar by Shri Sankaracharya, Yogavashista, Bhagavat by Eknath, Jnaneshwari and Amritunabhav to realize their essence.
In due course, Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj came to have a direct realization of the self and now he existed only in the self. Outwardly, his life was the same as before self-realization. He looked after his shop, family, he did everything but at the same time he was doing nothing. As a man who had realized the ultimate truth, he looked upon both pleasure and pain evenly and from a distance. Between 1942 and 1948, he lost his dear daughter, his gentle wife and revered mother. His business suffered huge losses but Maharaj remain unaffected. Facing the recurring setbacks with a peaceful mind, he used to say “Crisis is sure to come if it’s in destiny”.
After self-realization Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj used to receive requests from many people for initiation. But, Maharaj didn’t cede to these requests initially and used to refer people to a fellow disciple of his guru. But when Siddharameshwar Maharaj made it clear that Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj should bless devotees and promote true spirituality. He obeyed his guru’s instructions and started initiating selected devotees by giving them naam-mantra deeksha from 1951. Under Maharaj’s guidance, regular practice of transcendental meditation and bhajan three times a day were started in a disciplined manner and his residence was gradually transformed into an ashram. His devotees and seekers consisted of people from a wide strata of society including professors, lawyers, judges, senior government officials etc. Maharaj never gave much importance to siddhis (miracles) and only stressed on the ultimate truth.
Maharaj had immense love for his guru Shri Siddharemshwar Maharaj and often spoke about the effect he had on his life. Shri Nisargadatta Mahara used to do 4 bhajans a day simply because his guru had asked him to do and continued with them for more than 40 years later. He used to tell that his guru asked him to do these 4 bhajans daily and he never cancelled his instructions before he passed away. He used to say “I don’t need to do them anymore but I will carry on doing them until the day I die because this is the command of my guru.” Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj took mahasamadhi in 1981 at the age of 85. His Samadhi mandir is situated at Dahisar ( Avadhootanand Maharaj’s former house), Nasik, Vangaon ( Avadhootanand Maharaj’s current residence) and at his native place Malvan.