Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897 - 1981) became known in West: 1981
Nisargadatta Maharaj was from the spiritual lineage of the Navanathas. He was affectionately known as the "Beedhi Baba" as he was a chain-smoker who died of cancer of the throat. Satsangs at his home were hazy with tobacco smoke.
He was born in Bombay in 1897, and was brought up on a farm in Kandalgaon, a village south of Bombay. He was deeply interested in religious and philosophical matters. After the death of his father, he moved to Bombay in 1918, and in 1924 married Sumatibai, they had a son and three daughters.
He began work as an office clerk but he soon went out on his own and started a small business and in a few years he owned several small shops. In 1933, due to a friend's urging, he approached the great Saint, Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj, and was initiated by him. After the death of his Guru in 1936, he abandoned his family and businesses and took to the life of a wandering monk. On his way to the Himalayas to find a cave, he met a brother disciple who convinced him that a life of dispassion in action would be more spiritually fruitful. Only eight months on the road isn't enough to make a guru famous in India but on the way home, bingo! He realized that "nothing was wrong anymore." There was only one small shop remaining in business - enough to support his family.
In his own words, "When I met my Guru, he told me, 'You are not what you take yourself to be. Find out what you are. Watch the sense I AM, find your real Self…' I did as he told me. All my spare time I would spend looking at myself in silence…and what a difference it made, and how soon! It took me only three years to realize my true nature." His message to us was simple and direct with no propounding of scriptures or doctrines. "You are the Self here and now! Stop imagining yourself to be something else. Let go your attachment to the unreal."
He built himself a mezzanine floor as a place for meditation and satsang. In the 1940s his mother, wife and a daughter died and in 1951 after a vision from his Master he began to initiate disciples. His Western career was based on the book "I Am That" which is a series of questions and answers as translated by Maurice Frydman (a remarkable Jew from a Polish ghetto) who spent a lot of time with Nisargadatta and in India. A section of this was published in the Yoga Journal of October 1981 along with numerous vulgar advertisements displaying some of the many ways Americans sell religion. This set him on a pedestal of non-dual Advaita Guruship matched only by Ramana Maharshi. From 1978 to 1981 during his sickness unto death from throat cancer, his talks were tape recorded, transcribed and edited and published under the titles of "Seeds of Consciousness" and "Prior to Consciousness."
Osho on Nisargadatta Maharaj
There was a man in Bombay, Nisargadatta Maharaj. Nobody knew this big name; he was known to the masses as "Beedie Baba" because he was continuously smoking beedies. You can find in every village such kinds of beedie babas. I think India has seven hundred thousand villages and each village must have at least one; more is possible. And Amrito wrote a few days ago to me, because another young Dutchman became very much involved with Beedie Baba… The man seems to be very sincere, but the trouble is that the people who come from the West have a very childlike heart, very trusting, and they are unaware that in India spirituality is just a routine. Everybody talks about great things and their lives are as ugly as possible.
The crowd that surrounded Beedie Baba was also of the same quality… rickshaw wallahs waiting for their passengers, sitting by the side of Beedie Baba. And when he said he would not speak to anybody unless it was this Dutchman… So he spoke to the Dutchman, who has now compiled books on Beedie Baba. Now in India it is almost parrot-like, but to the Westerner it seems to be a tremendous revelation -- when Beedie Baba said, "Aham brahmasmi; I am God, I am that" the young Dutchman immediately wrote a book: I AM THAT! Because for the West, spirituality is a foreign affair, just as for the East, science is a foreign affair.
Even the poorest beggar knows more about metaphysics, about great ideologies… And when the Western man comes - he may be well educated but his education is of science, his education is of logic, his education makes him a great intellectual. But in the heart he remains very naive. Then any Beedie Baba, any idiot can make a great impact on him. This Dutch man lived for months together with Beedie Baba. He does not mention his well-known name, Beedie Baba; he mentions only his legal name, Nisargadatta Maharaj. He has written many books on Nisargadatta Maharaj; he has made Nisargadatta famous all over the world. I have looked through those books - sheer nonsense.
Many reasonably famous "boys-club" Ophra-type teachers rave about Nisargadatta including Wayne Dyer, Eckhardt Tolle and Deepak Chopra. Being a self-realised, non-dual Advaita guru requires nothing but a small number of buzz words and a large amount of chutzpah so there are a lot proclaiming their bona fides and Nisargattian transmission even though Nisargadatta refused to accept any money or gifts for his teaching.
Nisargadatta actually had a wide range of spiritual practices in his life including Bhakta practices but his recorded speeches only displayed one facet of his life.
He actually had a wide range of spiritual practices in his life with but his recorded speeches only displayed one facet of his life.