hai Mumbai meri jaan)
A simple man, Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981)was a
householder and petty storekeeper in Mumbai (then known as Bombay) .Like Ramana
Maharishi he attracted spiritual seekers across the globe. He got world
recognition through the book “I am That”, a translations of his
Marathi Tape recordings by Maurice Frydman.
I first heard about him
from a reader of my website.
wrote triggered my search to understand who Nisargadatta Maharaj was.
Then I got a note from
I brought a copy of the book “I am That” and tried
to read it. To be honest, it took me repeated reading (of even a passage)
thinking and reflecting to understand the essence of it.
But once the book started to
reveal itself, there has been no looking back in my life. It talks about the
absolute from the stand point of the absolute. Nisargadatta Maharaj, was an
enlightened saint who abided in himself as himself.
In describing Nisargadatta
Maharaj, in the introduction of the book it is written.
are seers, teachers and revealers who, while living in the same world, live
simultaneously in another world also – the world of cosmic consciousness,
effulgent with infinite knowledge. After his illuminating experience Sri
Nisargadatta Maharaj started living such a dual life. He conducted his shop, but
ceased to be a profit- minded merchant. Eternal life, he perceived, was not to
be sought for; he already had it. Having gone beyond the I-am-body idea, he had
acquired a mental state so joyful, peaceful and glorious that everything
appeared to be worthless compared to it. He had attained self- realization”
I had the deep desire to go
and find out the place where he spoke these words of enlightenment. Even though
I lived in the city of Mumbai, it took me years to take the initiative. As they
say in spiritual path, till the call comes you cannot go.
Then, one Tuesday, on May the 10th,
2005 I made a plan with a few of
my‘enlightened’ friends to visit the humble abode of Sri Nisargadatta. I
figured that we go all the way to bask in the spiritual environment of Shirdi
Sai Baba, Meher Baba, Swami Ramkrishnan, then why be lazy about visiting such
spots in ‘aamchi Mumbai’?
We were told that Nisargadatta used to have a Pan-Beedi shop.
(Beedi is a hand made local cigarettes containing tobacco for smoking).
We had Nisargadatta Maharaj’s
10th Road, Khaitwadi,
Grant Road, Mumbai
And the landmark – A public
toilet bank opposite his residence !!!
We finally found the place.
It was the hot afternoon of
Mumbai roughly about 12 noon. The roads were narrow. This is a market area of
Mumbai, totally crowded, jam packed with traffic, old buildings and shops in
each and every gulli (the small streets). It took us about 15 minutes
walk in the heat to finally reach the whereabouts.
Maharaj had left his body in
We were looking out for the
building, Vanmali Bhavan. As we asked another passer-by he just pointed out
“This one”. We looked at it. There was not a single name plate on the
building. No one could recognize it under any means. However we looked what was
opposite the footpath, and we found a ‘Public toilet’.
No signs of temple or any
religious or spiritual look in that old building. Wondered if we were at the
correct place. As we climbed up, a middle age lady was standing in the first
floor. “Yes, this is the house.” she told us. This pious middle aged
Maharashtrian lady, guided us inside the small house. It had just 2 rooms an
entrance through the kitchen and then a small bedroom. In the bedroom in a small
corner wall, was a framed color photo of Maharaj. Other than that, there was no
sign that a great master ever lived in this place.
A young girl in the house said:
“Quite a few people, especially foreigners from Europe come here like
you. They then sit in front of the photo of Maharaj, meditate for some time and
The immediate children of Maharaj,
had now shifted out from this place formally handing over this place to them.
The young girl said “When he
was alive this place was different. The place where you are sitting used to have
a plank where devotees used to come and sit. There were steps leading to the
downstairs shop from the room. Today we have renovated the place”
The young lady went into
the kitchen as she had to attend to some work.
We sat there for about 15 minutes in meditation at the feet of the photo.
Thoughts crossed my mind…
“Sometimes close family members
also may not understand the depth of a spiritual master”
“ A Living master right
in the midst of a the crowded streets of Mumbai”
“A profession as unhealthy as
making and selling beedies, a residence as unhealthy as opposite a public urinal,
a place where hardly 10 people could sit. A following – across the
Sitting there, I had learnt a bit
more. A realized man is much beyond the perception of the persons who look at
things only from the worldly level.
I was not expecting anything
sensational with this visit as the master had left the mortal coil 24 years
back. But the visit was more enlightening than expected.
We were going out to lunch… we
felt we had overstayed… As we got into the car
another line from the book “I am that” hit me…
“Maharaj is a unique teacher
who helps the seekers to a clearer understanding of himself when he comes to him
with the age old questions ‘Whence am I? Who am I?” and “whither am I?”
The listeners were never turned away from the humble abode of Maharaj then, and
are not turned away now”.
the Book “I am That”
A series of translations of
Nisargadatta Maharaj’s Marathi Tape recordings by Maurice Frydman in a
question answer format. It s a revised and re-edited version of 101 talks that
appeared in two volumes in earlier editions. Presently in its 4th
edition it has been reprinted over 17 times.
It has also been translated
into 8 foreign languages.
It is considered as
“ A Modern Spiritual Classic” and many regard it as the book of
spiritual teachings really worth studying.
Published by Chetana Publications
www.chetana.com. Copy right 1973 by
ISBN : 81-85300-53-4
interesting answers of Maharaj from 'I am that'
Questioner : As I look at
you, you seem to be a poor man with very limited means, facing all the problems
of poverty and old age, like everybody else.
Maharaj : Were
I very rich, what difference would it make? I am what I am. What else can I be?
I am neither rich nor poor, I am myself.
Questioner : Are you not
afraid to die?
Maharaj : Everybody dies
as he lives. I am not afraid of death, because I am not afraid of life. I live a
happy life and shall die a happy death. Misery is to be born, not to die. All
depends how you look at it.
Questioner : Is
there a way to realization?
Maharaj : Everything can
become a way, provided you are interested.
Just puzzling over my words and trying to grasp their full meaning is Sadhana
quite sufficient for breaking down the wall. On your side there is so much
trouble. On mine there is no trouble at all. Come to my side. You are
trouble-prone. I am immune. Anything may happen – what is needed is sincere
interest. Earnestness does it.
Questioner: Again a
counsel of perfection! To integrate and strengthen the mind is not an easy task!
How does one begin?
Maharaj: You can start
only from where you are. You are here and now, you cannot get out of here and
But what can I do here and now?
Maharaj: You can be aware
of your being-here and now.
Questioner: That is all?
Maharaj: That is all.
There is nothing more to it.
Some of the
excerpts (in the note above) are from a note by Radhakrishnan Pillai.
The following note is from Ms Shali Chandna.
She speaks about Ms Scylla Vatcha
Both of the above mentioned taught me
the meaning of Yoga, in more ways than one, and I feel love for them and
gratitude for what they taught me.
Note from Shali
Very interesting! Just for your information Scylla Vatcha & I had
visited Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj in his home at the same address as
below while he was still alive in the late 70's. My memory of him - a
very simple unassuming humble 'deceptively ordinary' human being. He was weak
and lying down but talked to us at length - just about ordinary
I had read his enlightening book 'I Am That' and one day when Scylla
told me that she had found his address we both rushed there expecting to see a
sage - but we had no idea what a real 'sage' looks like!
After meeting him we came home feeling very inspired cause we felt if
he can realize he is already realized - so can all of us. The goal is not beyond
the reach of any genuine seeker.
Incidentally u are doing a great job with this newsletter! Do get in
touch whenever u are in Bangalore.
Lots of love,
'On Saints and Suffering'
Yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan