Nisargadatta: Found in Translation


M. We are called collectively the ‘Nine Masters’. The legend says that our first teacher was Rishi Dattatreya, the great incarnation of the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Even the ‘Nine Masters’ (Navnath) are mythological.

Q: What is the peculiarity of their teaching?

M: Its simplicity, both in theory and practice.

Q: How does one become a Navnath? By initiation or by succession? 

M: Neither. The Nine Masters’ tradition, Navnath Parampara, is like a river — it flows into the ocean of reality and whoever enters it is carried along. 

Q. Does it imply acceptance by a living master belonging to the same tradition? 

M: Those who practise the sadhana of focussing their minds on ‘I am’ may feel related to others who have followed the same sadhana and succeeded. They may decide to verbalize their sense of kinship by calling themselves Navnaths. It gives them the pleasure of belonging to an established tradition. 

Q: Do they in any way benefit by joining?

M: The circle of satsang, the ‘company of saints’, expands in numbers as time passes. 

Q: Do they get hold thereby of a source of power and grace from which they would have been barred otherwise? 

M: Power and grace are for all and for the asking. Giving oneself a particular name does not help. Call yourself by any name — as long as you are intensely mindful of yourself, the accumulated obstacles to self-knowledge are bound to be swept away.

Q: If I like your teaching and accept your guidance, can I call myself a Navnath? 

M: Please your word-addicted mind! The name will not change you. At best it may remind you to behave. There is a succession of Gurus and their disciples, who in turn train more disciples and thus the line is maintained. But the continuity of tradition is informal and voluntary. It is like a family name, but here the family is spiritual.

Q: Do you have to realize to join the Sampradaya? 

M: The Navnath Sampradaya is only a tradition, a way of teaching and practice. It does not denote a level of consciousness. If you accept a Navnath Sampradaya teacher as your Guru, you join his Sampradaya. Usually you receive a token of his grace — a look, a touch, or a word, sometimes a vivid dream or a strong remembrance. Sometimes the only sign of grace is a significant and rapid change in character and behaviour. 

Q: I know you now for some years and I meet you regularly. The thought of you is never far from my mind. Does it make me belong to your Sampradaya? 

M: Your belonging is a matter of your own feeling and conviction. After all, it is all verbal and formal. In reality there is neither Guru nor disciple, neither theory nor practice, neither ignorance nor realization. It all depends on what you take yourself to be. Know yourself correctly. There is no substitute to self- knowledge.

from 'I Am That' ch-97


M: The worrier is not you, it is the affair of the intelligence. [In English Maharaj said, "You ... No!"] Now I am talking in English.

Q: The English language is blessed.

M: My teaching is spread among all the foreigners through the English language. Very intelligent people, very advanced, thousands of them. The beauty lies in the fact that my knowledge will be in conflagration in foreign countries. It will be spread in America and from there it will be spread back to the Indians. When the Indians receive it they will say, "It has the approval of the foreigners, therefore we will accept it."; that is the nature of the Indians. Indians are like this. If somebody goes to America or England and works, even washing dishes, when he returns many people will go to see him and present garlands; that is our nature.

Q: Ramana Maharshi was a great sage, he was unknown in India. When Paul Brunton wrote the book in English about him, everybody went to see him and he became well known.

M: I agree with that. Ramana Maharshi was discovered by Paul Brunton and I was discovered by Maurice Frydman.

~Nisargadatta Maharaj (& questioner)
‘Prior to Consciousness’
translated by Jean Dunn


Interpreter: What has happened is this: as a jnani he would have remained unknown to the world. That is what his guru thought. So he told him, when Maharaj asked how he could repay this debt after he got realization, you cannot repay this anyway. But if at all you want to repay, you must do bhajans four times a day. Now the purpose of his guru's command was that when some bhajan goes on somewhere, people were alerted to the fact that this is a place where worship of God is taking place. So that is how people started coming here. Initially, they were mainly Indian people who were not primarily interested in knowing themselves, but who had faith in God. Those people came first, and subsequently others started flowing in, like Maurice Frydman. And thereafter that book [referring to I Am That] was published. Ultimately, you came to know of these teachings because of him. So the purpose of this bhajan was indirectly to let people know about him; otherwise, he would have remained absolutely unknown.

~The Ultimate Medicine
translated by Robert Powell


I met Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj some years back and was impressed with the spontaneous simplicity of his appearance and behaviour and his deep and genuine earnestness in expounding his experience.

However humble and difficult to discover his little tenement in the back lanes of Bombay, many have found their way there. Most of them are Indians, conversing freely in their native language, but there were also many foreigners who needed a translator. Whenever I was present the task would fall to me. Many of the questions put and answers given were so interesting and significant that a tape-recorder was brought in. While most of the tapes were of the regular Marathi-English variety, some were polyglot scrambles of several Indian and European languages. Later, each tape was deciphered and translated into English.

It was not easy to translate verbatim and at the same time avoid tedious repetitions and reiterations. It is hoped that the present translation of the tape recordings will not reduce the impact of this clear-minded, generous and in many ways an unusual human being.

 A Marathi version of these talks, verified by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj himself, has been separately published.

from ‘I Am That’
Translators Note
-Maurice Frydman, (Translator)
Bombay, October 16, 1973

Good Fit

In 1976 or 1977 ( I believe) a book review of I Am That appeared in the Mountain Path Magazine. The Mountain Path is the in house magazine of Sri Ramanasramam in South India. It was a very positive and
because Maurice Frydman had been associated with Sri Ramana Maharshi, it carried some weight.

This was the first time I found out that there could be a living Jnani, a realized Sage of the caliber of Sri Ramana Maharshi. I sent for the book, read it and was blown away. I wrote to Maurice Frydman and he began to correspond with me. At some point he asked me to find a publisher for I Am That in the United States. So I began sharing I Am that with various spiritual publishing houses. I specifically sent it to Shambhala, Rainbow Bridge and Unity Press. They didn't feel it was a good fit for their publishing houses. Then I got a letter from Mr., Dikshit, publisher of Chetana Press (which is the publisher of I AM That) informing me that Maurice Frydman had died and my letter had been found on his desk. So I began to correspond with Mr. Dikshit. I decided that I really wanted to visit Nisargadatta and started a correspondence with Mr. Hate (who was Maharaj's son-in-law). Which brings me to January 1978 when I flew Air India to Bombay with the intention of meeting Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.

‘Meeting Maharaj’
~Cathy Boucher

Railway Station Platform

Maurice Frydman became a disciple of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj in the early days of Maharaj's spiritual work in 1965. Maurice Frydman had the advantage that he could speak Marathi and so became a translator of Sri Maharaj's talk for Indians who did not understand Marathi and also for foreigners. Maurice Frydman compiled the talks in the form of Q&A sessions and recorded in tapes, leading to the publication of this great spiritual classic " I Am That".[5]

According to Maharaj: "Maurice (Frydman) told me "Everything that is said here is immediately lost, though it could be of a great benefit for those looking for truth. I wolud like to translate and publish your words so others might know them". And so, he wrote I Am That".[8]

With the publication of the book, Sri Maharaj became very popular and hundreds of foreigners started flock to the small tenement that Sri Maharaj lived in, and once Sri Maharaj remarked ″ I used to have a quiet life' but the book " I Am That" by Maurice has turned my house into a railway station platform.″

Maurice Frydman initially found publication of "I Am That" difficult as it was declined by the major publishers. So, Maurice worked with a then small publisher Chetana Publications to undertake the publishing. The book was first published in hard cover in two volumes in 1973 by Chetana Publication. The 2nd edition and revised and enlarged in one volume in 1976. The first paperback published in 1984. The book is published in USA and Canada by The Acorn Press.

5 Maurice Frydman-Jnani and a Karma Yogi - A Biography, Chapter 6
8 Yoga en Zaragoza, Estudios tradicionales (Spanish)

All the Gurus

I told him (Nisargadatta) that Maurice Frydman was the decisive reason for my coming. Frydman was a friend of Krishnamurti and Frydman was planning to publish all of the earlier work of Krishnamurti at Chetana Publishers in Bombay, And that he had heard from Mr. Dikshit, the publisher, that there was someone in Bombay who he had to meet. (I AM THAT was of course not yet published at that time because Frydman had yet to meet Nisargadatta). Frydman went there with his usual skeptical ideas. He came in there, and within two weeks things became clear to him that had never become clear with Krishnamurti. And I thought then: if it all became clear to Frydman within two weeks, how will it go with me?

I told all this to Nisargadatta and he said: 'That says nothing about me, but everything about Frydman.' And he also said: 'People who don't understand Krishnamurti don't understand themselves.' I thought that was beautiful, because all the gurus I knew always ran everyone down."

~Alexander Smith

What did you see?

I heard a story that he also encountered U. G. Krishnamurti in Bombay. I will tell you the version I heard and you can make up your own mind about it. It was told to me by someone who spent a lot of time with U. G. in the 1970s.

It seems that Maurice Frydman knew U. G. and also knew that he and Maharaj had never met, and probably didn’t know about each other. He wanted to test the theory that one jnani can spot another jnani by putting them both in the same room, with a few other people around as camouflage. He organised a function and invited both of them to attend. U. G. spent quite some time there, but Maharaj only came for a few minutes and then left.

After Maharaj had left Maurice went up to U. G. and said, ‘Did you see that old man who came in for a few minutes. Did you notice anything special? What did you see?’

U. G. replied, ‘I saw a man, Maurice, but the important thing is, what did you see?’

The next day Maurice went to see Maharaj and asked, ‘Did you see that man I invited yesterday?’

A brief description of what he looked like and where he was standing followed. Then Maurice asked, ‘What did you see?’

Maharaj replied, ‘I saw a man Maurice, but the important thing is, what did you see?’

It’s an amusing story and I pass it on as I heard it, but I should say that U. G.’s accounts of his meetings with famous teachers sometimes don’t ring true to me. I have heard and read his accounts of his meetings with both Ramana Maharshi and Papaji, and in both accounts Bhagavan and Papaji are made to do and say things that to me are completely out of character.

~David Godman
‘Remembering Nisargadatta Maharaj’


One morning Maharaj seemed to be more-than-usually frustrated about our collective inability to grasp what he was talking about.

'Why do I waste my time with you people?' he exclaimed. 'Why does no one ever understand what I am saying?'

I took my chance: 'In all the years that you have been teaching how many people have truly understood and experienced your teachings?'

He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, 'One. Maurice Frydman.' He didn't elaborate and I didn't follow it up.

I mentioned earlier that at the conclusion of his morning puja he put kum kum on the forehead of all the pictures in his room of the people he knew were enlightened. There were two big pictures of Maurice there, and both of them were daily given the kum kum treatment. Maharaj clearly had a great respect for Maurice. I remember on one of my early visits querying Maharaj about some statement of his that had been recorded in I am That. I think it was about fulfilling desires.

Maharaj initially didn't seem to agree with the remarks that had been attributed to him in the book, but then he added, 'The words must be true because Maurice wrote them. Maurice was a jnani, and the jnani's words are always the words of truth.'

~David Godman


The present crop of Indians are following the Westerners who have developed so much on the material side. They are not after spirituality -they would like to follow Western scientific development, to imitate you. Because "I Am That" is certified by Maurice Frydman they will read it;the books by Jean Dunn will have more significance also. I am not short of any knowledge relating to God or spirituality because I have fully known what this child-principle is. When you get to know that ignorant child-principle, beingness, you will not fall short of anything in your spiritual or worldly pursuits.

~Nisargadatta Maharaj
‘Prior to Consciousness’
translated by Jean Dunn

The Ultimate Meaning

V: A person translated the book I Am That into a foreign language, and he wants to give it the title of Tat-Tvam-Asi.

M: I do not like that. Either keep the title I Am That or none at all.

V: But Mr. Maurice Frydman had agreed.

M: I do not agree. And also do not dilute the contents of the book with your understanding, even though you may consider yourself a jnani. Do it the same way Frydman did; the exact and original text should be translated, with no modifications.

V: I now realize after meditation that the essence of your teachings is contained in I Am That.

M: If you want to realize the meaning of "I Am That," go into deep meditation, but "you," the manifest, should merge in "You," the Unmanifest. That is the ultimate meaning.

~Nisargadatta (& visitor)
‘The Nectar of Immortality
translated by Robert Powell

Addendum: On Jean Dunn translator of 'Prior to Consciousness' etc.

"Jean Dunn speaks about life with Nisargadatta Maharaj. This interview was recorded by Malcolm Tillis in 1981, while Jean was living in Bombay, India."

"An Interview with Jean Dunn first posted on September 13, 2010 on the Inner Directions Journal website."

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