The first podcast is about Nisargadatta Maharaj’s books, which have been a complete joy and privilege to publish. We have published four of his books, and I wish there were opportunities to publish more. There are numerous volumes that have been published for Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, especially the work available through the ashram archives and David Godman’s many books. By contrast, for Maharaj, there were few writings other than the 5–6 titles that were initially published. It would be wonderful to bring out new material on Maharaj’s teaching.
The first book we published on Maharaj was Beyond Freedom. I had started visiting Mullarpattan, who was one of Maharaj’s English translators, on Sunday evenings. We would have tea together. He lived about 20 minutes away from me. I always learned so much from this wise old man who had spent so much time with Maharaj. I also felt he liked my company because he had few visitors. I was quite surprised about that, because it could be such a learning experience and privilege to be in his company for anyone who was drawn to the teaching, and he shared so much of his knowledge and experiences. I always enjoyed our conversations very much.
After meeting Mullarpattan a couple of times, we established a comfort level that enabled me to ask him, “Is there any material of Maharaj that has not been published before? Do you have any?” He said, “Give me one sentence of Maharaj that really appeals to you.” It sounded so out of context that I thought it might be a test. Anyway, one sentence immediately appeared in my mind and I repeated, “Only the dead can die, for that which is living is eternal.” I must confess that I had no idea about the deeper meaning of this sentence, and had not analyzed it. But it had struck me in the heart at the time that I read it, and so that is what appeared in that instant through my voice. As soon as I finished speaking it, he looked at me. He pointed at a box in his room, and asked me to pull it out for him. Then he handed the box to me. He said, “These are ten tapes of unpublished talks.” And the content of those previously unpublished talks gave birth to Beyond Freedom. It contains 10 small talks. Anyone who has enjoyed Maharaj’s teachings will enjoy this material, which was unknown at the time it was published.
Mullarpattan also gave me a speech that he prepared and read out on the occasion of Maharaj’s Mahasamadhi. I thought that this should not get lost because it talked about the last days of this great Master. This speech was too short for a book, so we produced a booklet that could be preserved and made available for Maharaj’s devotees. And that is how we published the booklet titled The Last Days of Nisargdatta Maharaj. I consider it a deep privilege that Mullarpattan shared this writing and we were able to publish it.
These books did not have numerous sales because Maharaj’s books generally are only bought by those in Advaita circles. Mullarpattan decided that the accruing royalties should be given to a hospice in Bangalore, South India, which is what we have been doing since they were published.
The third volume we published was a book in color with beautiful photographs of Maharaj and good-quality paper called Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj—A Tribute. We also received short reviews from various spiritual individuals personalities within India and overseas, so that people could appreciate the relevance of this Master’s teaching in today’s context. This book was technically a loss-making proposition, but fortunately sponsors agreed to support the project. So for those who would like the sensory experience of a large-format color book with good-quality paper, this book is a rare treat.
The fourth book we published was Meditations with Sri Nisargdatta Maharaj, which contains one- or two-page chapters called nirupanas. These are similar to contemplations by Maharaj; there is no question-answer, but Maharaj talking to the Indian group in the evenings. These contemplations are very deep! You could read perhaps just one or two nirupanas a day, and keep the book beside you, and absorb what has been written. This book is for the serious Maharaj devotee.
So these are the four books we have published so far. I have read all the published books of Maharaj’s works from various publishers, have enjoyed all of them, and can’t say which is better and which is not better: Prior to Consciousness, The Ultimate Medicine, Seeds of Consciousness, Consciousness and the Absolute, The Blissful Life, and Self Realisation and Self Knowing (Maharaj’s first book is more like a Kundalini journey if you read between the lines). All these books are fascinating and very enriching, but I do have a soft spot for the last book (Consciousness and the Absolute, edited by Jean Dunn), as those final talks have a special potency because the body is dropping away. The potency is because the Master’s final talks are even more precious. I had the same experience with Rameshji during his last days. We all could sense that the body was giving way, but the way the consciousness was flowing through that body, the words that were voiced by that consciousness with long gaps between them, had a profound impact that cannot be described in words, and led to Rameshji’s last book that I worked on, The End of Duality. This book also has this presence of finality. So Consciousness and the Absolute has a special place for me, along with the recent Jean Dunn Journals, which I enjoyed tremendously (this book is not currently in print). Jean Dunn was one of the most sincere devotees of Maharaj, and she kept a diary and translated his talks. In one of her journal entries, she writes that Maharaj told her that Ramesh Balsekar will start teaching in his own words. It was wonderful to learn that.
Another thing that Mullarpattan told me was that the book Prior to Consciousness was initially titled Beyond Consciousness. Maharaj asked them to change this title because nothing is beyond consciousness, it can only be prior to consciousness, the Parabrahman. So that preliminary title was corrected to Prior to Consciousness.
I Am That was the epic book that introduced Maharaj to the broader international community. But in fact, in one of the talks published in Beyond Freedom, Maharaj says that “these talks (which are in Beyond Freedom) are meant for this time, I Am That was meant for that time.”
Every book is relevant. Each presents some nuance, something new, a new angle to look at the teaching, a new insight. They are all precious, beautiful, and I hope you enjoy reading Maharaj as much as I do. I have enjoyed sharing these small nuggets with anyone who is interested in Maharaj’s books and works. Let us hope that more material will continue emerging from other sources.