I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.


“I Am That” is a compilation of transcribed talks of the teachings of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Nisargadatta Maharaj is a renowned Indian spiritual teacher. Many followers visited him from around the world. They used to seek his guidance in destroying false identities. The Guru’s only concern was with human suffering and thus the ending of suffering.

He took charge to guide the individuals to an understanding of their true nature. He helped them understand the timelessness of being. His teachings included that the mind must recognize and penetrate its state of being. To put it in his own words, “being this or that, here or that, then or now,’ but timeless being.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj was born as Maruti Shivrampant Kambli. He was born in 1897. He lived a simple life, fulfilling his duties as a husband. He worked as a shopkeeper within the slums of Bombay as he was not educated until he died in 1981. Many consider him to have attained the Ultimate state of “moksha”. “Moksha” or “Mukti” stands for “enlightenment” in Sanskrit.  He is also considered as one of the most profound avant-garde masters of the Hindu school of Advaita Vedanta.

The book is in the classical Q and A format which is a standard in most of the non-dualist genre. Nisargadatta Maharaj carried Satsang or spiritual teachings. He used to conduct these Satsangs from his apartment located in Bombay (Mumbai). He continued to conduct his Satsangs until he died in 1981. 

Nisargadatta Maharaj wasn’t a stereotypical guru. He made a living out on the streets. He did it by making and selling cigarettes. Unlike others, He chain-smoked them as he gave his teachings. He liked to contend against his disciples. He would even throw them out if he felt they overstayed their welcome. Of course, this was after gaining most of the aspects of his teachings. He only spoke in Marathi and would use translators for Foreigners.

The Advaita scholar, Dr. Robert Powell described Nisargadatta as follows. “Like the Zen masters of old, Nisargadatta’s style is abrupt, provocative, and immensely profound — cutting to the core and wasting little effort on inessentials. His terse but potent sayings are known for his or her ability to trigger shifts in consciousness, just by hearing, or even reading them.”

The following is an excerpt from the book:

Questioner: It will take much time if I just wait for self-realization.

Maharaj: What have you to wait for when it is already here and now?  You have only to look and see.  Look at yourself, at your own being.  You know that you are and you like it.  Abandon all imagining, that is all.  Do not rely on time.  Time is death.  Who waits–dies.  Life is now only.  Do not talk to me about past and future–they exist only in your mind.

Questioner: You too will die.

Maharaj: I am dead already. Physical death will make no difference in my case. I am a timeless being. I am free of desire or fear because I do not remember the past or imagine the future.  Where there are no names and shapes, how can there be desire and fear? With desirelessness comes timelessness. I am safe because what is not, cannot touch what is. You feel unsafe because you imagine danger. Of course, your body as such is complex and vulnerable and needs protection.  But not you. Once you realize your own unassailable being, you will be at peace.

Questioner: How can I find peace when the world suffers?

Maharaj: The world suffers for very valid reasons. If you want to help the world, you must be beyond the need of help. Then all your doing as well as not doing will help the world most effectively.

Here are some of the quotes taken from the book:

“But the real giving up is in realizing that there is nothing to give up, for nothing is your own. It is like deep sleep—you do not give up your bed when you fall sleep—you just forget it.”

“If you need time to achieve something, it must be false. The real is always with you; you need not wait to be what you are.”

“Out of love for corporate existence one is born and once born, one gets involved in destiny. Destiny is inseparable from becoming. The desire to be particular makes you into a person with all its personal past and future. Look at some great man, what a wonderful man he was! And yet how troubled was his life and limited its fruits. How utterly dependent is the personality of man and how indifferent is its world. And yet we love it and protect it for its very insignificance.”

“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’. The teacher tells the watcher: you are not this, there is nothing of yours in this, except the little point of ‘I am’, which is the bridge between the watcher and his dream. ‘I am this, I am that’ is a dream, while pure ‘I am’ has the stamp of reality on it. You have tasted so many things—all came to naught. Only the sense ‘I am’ persisted—unchanged. Stay with the changeless among the changeful, until you are able to go beyond.”

You can get your copy of “I am that’ here:

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