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Differences And Similarities In The Teachings Of Nisargadatta Maharaj And Sri Ramana Maharshi

Nisargadatta Maharaj and Sri Ramana Maharshi are two of the most influential modern Advaita Vedanta teachers. Despite their different personalities and teaching styles, their teachings share significant similarities as well as notable differences.


  1. Core Teaching of Non-Duality (Advaita Vedanta):

    • Both emphasized the essential non-dual nature of reality, teaching that the individual self (jiva) is not separate from the universal self (Brahman). They taught that the true self (Atman) is identical to Brahman, and realization of this truth is the goal of spiritual practice.
  2. Self-Inquiry:

    • Ramana Maharshi's primary teaching method was the practice of self-inquiry ("Who am I?"). He taught that by persistently asking this question and turning inward, one could realize the true self.
    • Nisargadatta Maharaj also emphasized self-inquiry, though his approach was more focused on understanding the sense of "I am" or the feeling of existence as a doorway to the ultimate reality.
  3. Direct Experience Over Intellectual Understanding:

    • Both teachers stressed the importance of direct experience of the truth over intellectual understanding. They believed that spiritual knowledge should come from inner realization rather than from external sources or mere theoretical study.
  4. Rejection of Rituals and Formal Practices:

    • They both de-emphasized rituals, formal religious practices, and philosophical discussions, focusing instead on direct personal experience and inner exploration.
  5. Emphasis on the Present Moment:

    • Both taught the importance of living in the present moment and the futility of dwelling on the past or future. They believed that realization is found in the immediacy of the present experience.


  1. Teaching Style and Personality:

    • Ramana Maharshi: Known for his gentle, serene, and silent presence, Ramana taught in a more passive and silent way, often simply sitting in silence while his presence alone imparted wisdom. His responses to questions were typically concise and rooted in his direct experience of the self.
    • Nisargadatta Maharaj: Known for his direct, often confrontational style, Nisargadatta engaged actively with his visitors, challenging their assumptions and pushing them towards direct realization. His teachings were often more conversational and dynamic.
  2. Path to Realization:

    • Ramana Maharshi: Advocated primarily for the path of self-inquiry as the most direct means to self-realization. He believed that by persistently questioning the nature of the self, one would dissolve the ego and reveal the true self.
    • Nisargadatta Maharaj: While also supporting self-inquiry, he placed significant emphasis on the practice of meditation on the sense of "I am" as a method to transcend the ego and realize the true self. He encouraged his students to focus on the pure sense of being as a gateway to the ultimate reality.
  3. Role of Grace and Guru:

    • Ramana Maharshi: Often spoke about the role of divine grace and the guru's influence in the process of self-realization. He believed that the presence of a realized master could help the seeker by providing the necessary spiritual support and guidance.
    • Nisargadatta Maharaj: While recognizing the importance of the guru, he emphasized the responsibility of the seeker to find the truth within themselves. He often pointed out that the ultimate guru is one's own true self.
  4. Background and Upbringing:

    • Ramana Maharshi: Came from a traditional Hindu background and had a spontaneous awakening experience at a young age, leading him to renounce worldly life and settle at the holy mountain Arunachala.
    • Nisargadatta Maharaj: Came from a more modest background, was a householder, and ran a small shop in Mumbai. His spiritual journey began later in life after meeting his guru, and he continued his business even after his realization, leading a more typical worldly life while being a teacher.

Both Nisargadatta Maharaj and Sri Ramana Maharshi have left a profound impact on contemporary Advaita Vedanta. Their teachings continue to inspire and guide spiritual seekers around the world. While their approaches and personal styles differed, the essence of their teachings points to the same non-dual reality and the realization of the true self. Understanding both their similarities and differences can provide a richer perspective on the path to self-realization.