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I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

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This collection of the timeless teachings of one of the greatest sages of India, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, is a testament to the uniqueness of the seer's life and work and is regarded by many as a "modern spiritual classic".

I Am That preserves Maharaj's dialogues with the followers who came from around the world seeking his guidance in destroying false identities. The sage's sole concern was with human suffering and the ending of suffering. It was his mission to guide the individual to an understanding of his true nature and the timelessness of being. He taught that mind must recognize and penetrate its own state of being, "being this or that, here or that, then or now," but just timeless being.

550 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1973

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About the author

Nisargadatta Maharaj

66 books458 followers
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj was an Indian spiritual teacher and philosopher of Advaita (Nondualism), and a Guru, belonging to the Navnath Sampradaya. Sri Nisargadatta, with his direct and minimalistic explanation of non-dualism, is considered the most famous teacher of Advaita since Ramana Maharshi. In 1973, the publication of his most famous and widely-translated book, "I AM THAT", an English translation of his talks in Marathi by Maurice Frydman, brought him worldwide recognition and followers.

According to Sri Nisargadatta, the purpose of spirituality is to know who you are. His discussions are not for academic scholars. He is a rebellious spirit, abrupt in his style of discussion, provocative, and immensely profound, cutting to the core and wasting little effort on inessentials. His terse but potent sayings are known for their ability to trigger radical shifts from philosophical mind-games to the purity of consciousness, just by hearing or even reading them.

He talked about the 'direct way' of knowing the Final Reality, in which one becomes aware of one's original nature through mental discrimination, breaking the mind's false identification with the ego, knowing that "You are already That". The scene for these talks was a small upstairs room at his humble flat in Khetwadi, used for his own meditation and also for daily chantings. A simple man, Nisargadatta was a house-holder and a petty shop-keeper selling bidis - hand-made leaf-rolled cigarettes.

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5 stars
4,041 (64%)
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594 (9%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 274 reviews
Profile Image for Guttersnipe Das.
67 reviews43 followers
October 24, 2018
I was 18 the first time I bought I AM THAT, but I was 39 before I was able to read it. For this reason, I thought I might give a little advice about how to keep company with this book, a very beautiful and peculiar one, and unlike any other.

You will find your own way, as many others have before you. After all, this is the favorite book of many of the strangest people you will ever meet. In fact, there appear to be a significant number of people who do nothing, except read this book, and then accost strangers in cafés to tell them about it.

If you are new to this way of thinking, and you wish to read I AM THAT, or are struggling to read it now, it would help tremendously to first read a friendly introduction to Advaita Vedanta. Nothing too ethereal, steer clear of the Neo-Advaitins for now, perhaps Arthur Osbourne's Ramana Maharshi and the Path of Self-Knowledge , or any basic text on the life and teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Sri Ramanasramam publishes a great number of useful books. Aim for something rooted in the life of a person, preferably someone long-dead, and not a rarefied philosophical summary.

If you seek a living teacher, please be wary. These teachings have been commodified to a degree difficult to believe. Advaita is now big business. Genuine teachers are available, but you'll need your wits about you!

Above all, if you are struggling to read I AM THAT, I suggest abandoning a front-to-back reading for hopscotch. (I do not doubt some people have attained enlightenment while hopscotching around this book.)

Where to begin? I suggest Chapter 48: Awareness is Free. Then turn to the chapters which focus on Sri Nisargadatta's own experience, such as chapters 57 and 78. Then you could turn to chapters which address essential matters in the clearest possible way, such as Chapter 25: Hold on to `I AM', or Chapter 70, renouncing desire, or Chapters 95 and 8 on inner peace and cultivating acceptance.

Besides this, I found it very useful to create, among the end pages of the book, a personal index of what I found most useful and most inspiring. A combination of reading and rereading is very well-suited to I AM THAT.

At some point in the process, you may find your sense of life and yourself and the world disintegrating. This is normal. Just take it easy, OK? Take long walks and, for goodness sake, keep your mouth shut! Otherwise you'll soon be cornering strangers in cafés. "I read the most mind-blowing amazing book. It's called I AM THAT. All the mysteries of life are in it! I think I might be enlightened. Shouldn't we be sleeping together?"

The crazy people are not wrong about this book. The mysteries are indeed here, with stunning clarity and endless determined good humor. It's an adventure to read I AM THAT. But if you get stuck, don't feel you have to read it front to back, play hopscotch.
Profile Image for Martinxo.
674 reviews57 followers
November 19, 2007
If I had to choose one 'spiritual' book, just one, only one...it would be this one. Nisargadatta points to the 'truth' with such clarity.
Profile Image for David Simoni.
11 reviews2 followers
January 17, 2013
If I had to pick one book to take to a desert island, I Am That would be it! I've read it numerous times and still find inspiration and guidance from it. The excellent translation by Maurice Frydman makes I Am That eminently readable. It is filled with so many pearls of wisdom that I underlined practically the whole book!

Incidentally, you can find the complete book online here: http://www.celextel.org/otherbooks/ni...
Profile Image for Ann Debaldo.
6 reviews3 followers
November 29, 2012
Have read several times over the years - each time, it is a different book! Or...am I different?
Profile Image for Judy.
62 reviews
September 24, 2012
You cannot go wrong with this book, though my edition is much older, worn and tattered from travels with me, including India. I had the good fortune to meet Nisargadatta in his home in Mumbai, when it was still Bombay, many years ago and hear him talk. I never will forget his kind presence....he was absolutely present. This book is for every spiritual seeker who wants to stop seeking. Nisargadatta was that rare being who lived as he taught. He was what he taught.
Profile Image for David Guy.
Author 7 books27 followers
October 22, 2015
I have been reading this book for eight or nine years, picking it up now and then and reading it for a week or two, then taking something else up. I began reading it when my first meditation teacher, Larry Rosenberg, told me (quite casually, when we were in a bookstore) that it was a great book, and great it is. It is a series of dialogues with an Indian man, an ordinary householder, who is enlightened. I don't know what that word means, but I do know that Sri Nisargadatta sees the world much diffently than I do. People came to him from all over the world with their questions, their concerns, their complaints, and he responded in most unusual ways. Sometimes I have no idea what he's talking about and sometimes he startles me with his simple good sense. The book is often quite funny, because people are struggling so much, and become quite angry as he tells them they don't have to do that. Having read it through once (it's 550 pages) I will now read it through again; I'll probably be reading it for the rest of my life. It's endlessly interesting and endlessy boring, both. It's indescribable.

www.davidguy.org
Profile Image for Wanessa.
78 reviews10 followers
October 3, 2010
"Meditation is a SATTVIC activity and aims at complete elimination of TAMAS (inertia) and RAJAS (motivity). Pure SATTVA (harmony) is perfect freddom from sloth and restlessness,
The SATTVA is pure and strong always. It;s its own goal. It manifests spontaneosly and effortlessly, when things are left to themselves, are not interfered with, not shunned, or wanted, or conceptualized, but just experienced in full awarness. Such awarness itself is SATTVA. it does not make use of things and people - it fulfills them."

"Consciousness is power. be aware of what need to be done and it will be done. Only keep alert - and quiet. Once you reach your destination and know your real nature, your exstence becmoes a blessing to all. You may not know, nor will the world know, yet the help irradiates. There are people in the world who do more good them everybody. They radiate light and peacewith no intention or knowledge. taking nothing as their own, they are neither proud, nor do they crave for reputation. They are just unable to desire anything for themselves, not even the joy of helping others knowing that God is good they are at peace."
Profile Image for Shafat.
90 reviews92 followers
December 3, 2015
Not everyone can read this book. Even after half a century of its publication, perhaps only a handful of people around the globe has reached the state necessary to read this book.
I feel like we are a secret brotherhood.
Adios amigos, brothers and sisters.
Profile Image for Rory.
7 reviews4 followers
September 27, 2011
This book is always on my bedside table and is the most important book I have ever read.
Profile Image for Julia Jewell.
1 review4 followers
December 26, 2015
I read this book for the first time earlier this year. I'm now reading it for a second time. I choose not to get too wordy here. But having read material by Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti, A Course in Miracles, etc, etc, this book really gets to the heart of the matter. I also read Consciousness and the Absolute:Final Talks with Nisargadatta Maharaj. Great book too. I agree with others, having read this book or any book by N.Maharaj, the urge to seek out other spiritual books diminishes significantly.
Profile Image for Barnaby Thieme.
496 reviews225 followers
August 19, 2017
This collection of practice interviews with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj never fails to astonish me. Students bring him the most difficult and abstruse philosophical and religious questions, and without fail he answers them clearly and directly, in plain, simple language that is easy to understand. I've rarely encountered any testimony of any spiritual master that was more persuasive on its face of the profound degree of insight and obtainment on the part of its master.

Here's an example from one of the early sections, "What is born must die":

Questioner: Is the witness-consciousness permanent or not?
Maharaj: It is not permanent. The knower rises and sets with the known. That in which both knower and the known arise and set, is beyond time. The words permanent or eternal do not apply.

Q: In sleep there is neither the known, nor the knower. What keeps the body sensitive and receptive?
M: Surely you cannot say that the knower was absent. The experience of things and thoughts was not there, that is all. But the absence of experience too is experience. It is like entering a dark room and saying "I see nothing." A man blind from birth knows not what darkness means. Similarly, only the knower knows that he does not know. Sleep is merely a memory. Life goes on.

Q: And what is death?
M: It is the change in the living process of a particular body. Integration ends and disintegration sets in.

Can you beat that? What is death - "Integration ends and disintegration sets in." His capacity to persuasively and concisely encompass broad, profound questions in simple, clear answers exceeds anything I've seen in any other spiritual teacher. This book is a masterpiece, and an invaluable resource for anyone grappling with nondual philosophy and yoga.
Profile Image for Susan.
71 reviews4 followers
February 8, 2010
I will be reading and re reading this book over and over for an indefinite period of time. Sri Nisaragadatta is interviewed by a westerner and his answers are as clear as crystal about why people suffer and how we can find peace within ourselves in chaos.
Profile Image for Bharath.
545 reviews423 followers
October 15, 2015
"I Am That" is a wonderful book. The path to self realization is covered in simple language and ways. Nisargadatta Maharaj's wisdom shines through and with the translation being excellent, the result is almost poetic. He speaks consistently on the direct experience of "I am", getting rid of all misconceptions of the mind. Of the entire narrative, I only felt his answers on personal virtue (smoking, food habits) and action to end suffering were inadequate and inconsistent with the rest of the teachings.

Nisargadatta Maharaj's teachings are very similar to that of Ramana Maharishi. He exudes respect for Ramana Maharishi and speaks well of all enlightened souls. There are questions which are direct, frank and at time provocative. Nevertheless, Nisargadatta Maharaj replies to all of them with grace and patience. He is extremely humble in his years - placing all at par, the only difference is that others have not yet realized what he has. He does not quote scriptures and sticks to his direct experience.

This is a book I strongly recommend for anyone who seek to understand who they really are beneath the layers of accumulated assumptions and mental wanderings.
Profile Image for Rory Mackay.
Author 8 books64 followers
November 14, 2012
not a book you read for entertainment, a book you read for understanding and knowledge about the nature of self, consciousness and reality. A collection of Nisargadatta's talks, demonstrating what an incredibly coherent and profound way he had of putting the highest truth into relatively simple words. That said, you have to be ready to read this and lay the groundwork, otherwise it'll be fairly mind-boggling and meaningless. But if you're ready to get it - wow. Your life (or at least your understanding of your Self) will most likely never be the same again.
Profile Image for Phineas.
31 reviews11 followers
February 25, 2008
The whole book is a dialogue between a realized master and his student(s). After reading too many books looking for the "ultimate Reality," this is the most clarifying of "It" I have found.
My only critique is that he describes our true identity too accurately, and consequently, the ideas can be redundant...there's only so much to say.
"The seeker is the sought."
25 reviews2 followers
January 6, 2008
A series of q/a with seekers, it remains spiritual whiskey. Not for the timid. Brought me out of an unconscious life into one of discovery.
Profile Image for ron btdtbttsawio.
53 reviews10 followers
July 10, 2012
This book is an English translation from audio recordings. The book is arranged in a q&a format and covers many topics such as god, the ego, living in the world, free will, and generally how maharaj sees things from the perspective of a self-realized person. There is lots of very poetic descriptions such as:

"You are like the point of the pencil — by mere contact with you the mind draws its picture of the world. You are single and simple — the picture is complex and extensive. Don’t be misled by the picture — remain aware of the tiny point — which is everywhere in the picture." Page 452

And:

"The difference lies in what I do not experience. I do not experience fear or greed, hate or anger. I ask nothing, refuse nothing, keep nothing. In these matters I do not compromise. Maybe this is the outstanding difference between us. I will not compromise, I am true to myself, while you are afraid of reality." Page 171

Once in a while there is some practical advice for spiritual practice. Usually it involves holding on to the "I am" feeling.
For example:

"My teacher told me to hold an to the sense ‘I am’ tenaciously and not to swerve from it even for a moment. I did my best to follow his advice and in a comparatively short time I realized within myself the truth of his teaching. All I did was to remember his teaching, his face, his words constantly. This brought an end to the mind; in the stillness of the mind I saw myself as I am — un- bound." Page 223

This was my second time reading it. It is an excellent and well recommend book for anyone on a spiritual path.
I would recommend reading it slow over a long period of time.
Also, at the back, there is a glossary of all the terms encountered in this kind of book such as sat chit ananda, etc.
Profile Image for Fuad Fuad.
Author 1 book3 followers
October 5, 2008
Nisargadatta Maharaj in I AM THAT make clear the meaning Advaita in strike matter. Before I read I Am That ...it's very dificult to understand another advaita clasic.Nisargadatta,is great teacher advaita in our times. I read Ramana Maharshi....but for words...I like words from Nisargadatta Maharaj...Nisargadatta is clear...and he speak with clarity..his dialogues very fresh and spontaneous.I always read his words and I feel immersed with his words...I try to contemplate....think..remember..and this is my practices.
Profile Image for Martin Jones.
1 review3 followers
February 12, 2016
This book transformed my life for ever. It was made manifest to me at a most challenging time. A book that reveals the illusion of the mind and disharmony caused by attachment to thoughts as they ebb and flow on the tide of consciousness. There is really nowhere to go and nobody you have to be. Identification with form and ego create separation and all fall away when you become "the witness" and "the watcher" of the dreams you create. Out of that realisation comes a stillness and a peace you know has always been there.
Profile Image for Chris Dietzel.
Author 26 books394 followers
September 14, 2018
When I tried to read this straight through I quickly found myself losing the importance of what was being discussed. So instead I decided to read a page here and a page there over the course of 5 years. While some of the concepts were too lofty for me to truly appreciate, there was still much in the book that enlightened me. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the idea of spirituality.
Profile Image for Brandon Peele.
80 reviews9 followers
September 12, 2011
Nisargadatta is a negation specialist - pointing to a deeper, more sustaining reality. He is in good company with Jed McKenna, Wei Wu Wei, Richard Rose, Ashtavakra Gita, UG Krishnamurti. If corporeal/emotional transcendence is of interest, look no further. He is generally antagonistic and often eloquently arrogant. It's funny. He's sort of like a vampire stand-up comic, who only makes jokes about the differences between vampires and humans. Anything a human says is irrelevant because it comes from the human/ego. He speaks from this other realm of being and is incredibly convincing.
Profile Image for Ron Wyn.
Author 2 books18 followers
September 21, 2011
For those who wish to gain a truthful insight on the nature of reality. Simply AWESOME!!
Profile Image for Linda Belmont.
148 reviews
April 7, 2015
I am always reading this. If I feel the urge, I pick it up, turn to a page, and find what I'm looking for. Seriously.
Profile Image for Linus.
24 reviews9 followers
October 5, 2020
This book can be understood by reading first few chapters.
The book is a conversation in question-answer format, more that half of the answers are same,
application of being with oneself.
Book tells not about yoga exercise or any breathing practice,
neither about religion or any ritual; it is all about focus on self.

This man rejects emotional suppression like 'bramhacharya'.
He also shows disagreement with idea of god.
Pleasure and pain are two different sides of same coin,
if you earn the coin you will get both.

"I am" only the witness.
The book tells us to ignore all temptations,
and practice observing self,one's deeds of body and mind.


Some great quotes,

-Give up all questions except one, "Who am I?" After all the only fact you are sure of is that you "are".
The "I am" is certain, the "I am this" is not. Struggle to find out what you are in reality.

-Be content with what you are sure of. And the only thing you can be sure of is "I am".
Stay with it and reject everything else. This is Yoga.

-Love says: "I am everything". Wisdom says: "I am nothing". Between the two my life flows.

-To deal with things, knowledge of things is needed. To deal with people, you need insight, sympathy.
To deal with yourself, you need nothing. Be what you are — conscious being — and don't stray away from yourself.


The book is a good read for those who like spiritual books.

The one contradiction I felt in this book is that at a particular point this man tells us to be harmless to nature,
be desire-less and
at other occasion he mentions that he eats non-veg and smokes because his body wants these habits.
The contradiction is confusing.

But anyways I liked this book.

**some more random quotes i liked from this book,
-A man who claims to know what is good for others, is dangerous.
-The man with low intelligence believes, against all evidence, that he is exception and the world own him happiness.
-Before pain was, you were. After pain had gone, you remained. Pain is transient, you are not.
Profile Image for Vicki.
147 reviews
March 28, 2010
this is the kind of book which can take years to read... very dense in that it opens the mind, shakes out paradigms, and catalyzes new thoughts which need to simmer, percolate and be experienced in practice while engaging the world with new perspective.... coming back to it is like an old friend and a fresh spring day... refreshing and comforting companionship on a sometimes solitary journey of self-exploration and earnest, albeit often ungraceful, experiencing of the true nature of reality, the meeting of our internal worlds w/the world around us....
Profile Image for Gizem.
2 reviews3 followers
Currently reading
August 28, 2013
I have been looking for a book which will make me say " this time thats it" for a long time.. I bought or reviewed many books that is meant to "help you".. this one is really something.. you feel that the words are the words of an extraordinary human being.. even ı dont kmow if he is a human being in the sense we use this word.. it is sincere.. only and only this time ı felt this.. Maharaj is sincere on the answers, no commercial aims.. just answers coming from within.. I am still reading it and must admit that it is very hard to digest.. however it gives the feeling of " being completed".. read and see for yourself
Profile Image for Nate.
117 reviews530 followers
August 26, 2021
The road is the goal. You are the road. The road is That. It is all perfect.

Fear is a cage; may may sink deeper into it as we age. Always asking what's next, when what matters is what is. Desires and fears make the mind restless. Love is inclusion. Causality is an illusion. Happiness is when you want what you have already. Suffering is necessary to balance life. Simply continue in the right direction, forget results. The purpose of meditation is to break from attachments, observing mental projections from within.
Profile Image for Arnav.
23 reviews9 followers
June 1, 2013
So the Ideas in this book given by Maharaj really makes sense. .. But almost every chapter is an overdose of ideas and it gets petty monotonous .

This is one of those books which should perhaps be read on a quite morning and only in parts ... THe reason why i liked the ideas and concepts here is that it is not governed by religion o religion practices ..
Profile Image for Todd Settimo.
Author 1 book13 followers
April 14, 2010
One of the best spiritual books ever...but you have to be ready for it. This isn't for rookies.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 274 reviews

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