Written by Ann Shaw
The origin of the “NavnathSampradaya Lineage” dates back over a thousand years to Saint Dattatreya. The ‘Nine Masters’, one of the branches of the Navnath Lineage became the Inchegiri Navnath Sampradaya. Founded by Shri Bhausaheb Maharaj, it is the direct line that leads to Shri Ramakant Maharaj.
This householder Lineage remains relatively unknown to this day, as the Masters were all very humble and deeply devotional. Shri Bhausaheb, Shri Siddharameshwar, Shri Nisargadatta, Shri Ranjit and the latest exponent, Shri Ramakant, were ordinary people who were usually married with families.
Oneness of Knowledge and Devotion, (Jnana and Bhakti) is key in the Lineage teachings. The Masters were dedicated to spreading the knowledge. Devotion is the Mother of Knowledge. Only by intense devotion to the Guru, and worshipping Him with full faith, will the knowledge of Self-Realisation be revealed. In the end, there is total unity between the knowledge and devotion.
The Lineage is a Guru-centred one where the Masters make Masters out of their disciples. The Masters of this Lineage have all recited the same “Guru Mantra” (Naam Mantra), the Master Key. The Mantra, the Guru and the Initiation are inseparable. Faith in, and complete acceptance of the Guru and the Guru Mantra are essential. By taking the sacred Naam, a link to the Lineage is established and one receives the help and power from all the Masters of this Lineage. Ultimately, one becomes One with the Master, Sadguru. Ramakant Maharaj says, “Reciting the Guru Mantra leads to true Self-Knowledge; it is the only truly effective way to return to the Original State”.
Throughout the whole Lineage there is the recognition of grace at work and a very strong connection from Master to Master. Siddharameshwar Maharaj himself gave all credit to Bhausaheb Maharaj. Nisargadatta Maharaj did the same with Siddharameshwar Maharaj. Similarly, Ramakant Maharaj gave all credit to his Master, humbly stating,
“In our Lineage, we give ‘Direct Knowledge’ to your ‘Invisible Presence’, not intellectual knowledge for the mind”, says Shri Ramakant. “This knowledge is not bookish knowledge, but Spontaneous Knowledge direct from the Source. Although the words and the style of speaking may differ between Masters, the principle remains the same: There is nothing except Selfless Self”.
The way by which the Lineage Masters impart knowledge is rare: they do not simply talk about Reality but show Reality in the disciple. It is reminiscent of Swami Vivekananda’s long search for truth when he met Swami Ramakrishna. Desperate to find an authentic Guru, Swami Vivekananda asked one question only: “Have you seen God? Can you show me?” Ramakrishna said “Yes!” thus finally bringing Vivekananda’s long search to an end.
These pure teachings are solid and extremely powerful with the gravitas of the whole Lineage behind them. The direct knowledge, coming as it does from this long line of sparkling Masters, is further empowered by the sacred Naam Mantra.
Bhausaheb Maharaj (1843-1914), was initiated by Shri Raghunathpriya Maharaj whose Sadguru was Shri Gurulingajangam Maharaj. Bhausaheb Maharaj is known as the “Saint of Umadi”. He was a householder with many disciples, including Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj, Shri Gurudev Ranade, and Shri Amburao Maharaj, to mention just a few. His way came to be known as the “Ant’s Way”, employng the practices of meditation, dispassion and renunciation. He emphasised meditation over and above knowledge because many of his disciples came from rural communities and were illiterate. Bhausaheb Maharaj endured great hardships as he strove to find Reality. He stood in the forest for eighteen years without rest, meditating for twelve hours at a time. Stressing the importance of remembering the Divine Name, he would say tirelessly, “Take it to your bones. Always do fierce repetition of the Divine Name in the mind with meditation”. The book entitled Nama Yoga encompasses the teachings of Shri Bhausaheb.
Siddharameshwar Maharaj (1888-1936), was born in Pathri, Sholapur. When Shri Bhausaheb saw Shri Siddharameshwar for the first time, he announced, “This man is greatly blessed”, and initiated him on that very same day. Shri Siddharameshwar spent seven years in the company of his Master.
After his Master’s passing, Shri Siddharameshwar was determined to attain Self-Realisation to the extent that he was prepared to sacrifice his life for it by carrying out the strictest sadhana and enduring long periods of fasting. It is said that Shri Siddharameshwar reached such extraordinary heights during meditation that he emitted a beautiful, nectar-like fragrance which perfumed the air all around him!
Like many other Masters of this Lineage, he had a job and a family. Being a householder was not to be seen as an obstacle but instead, a welcome opportunity for selflessness and detachment. Through his sadhana, it became clear to him that meditation was only a beginning stage – and an overly lengthy one at that – in the process of reaching the Final Reality. And so, he advanced the teachings from the slower “Ant’s Way” to the more rapid “Bird’s Way”. He realised that Ultimate Truth is indeed attainable if one utilises discrimination and dispassion on the journey from illusion to Reality! Put simply, he discovered that renouncing all that is illusory was unnecessary. One only had to perceive its deceptive form!
Self-enquiry leads to dispassion, and in turn, dispassion leads to detachment! His spirituality, like his Master’s before him, was pragmatic. He knew that if the knowledge of the Self is only understood intellectually, it will never be completely imprinted in one’s heart and mind. It would not become active in everyday life. Two years later, his beloved Master, Shri Bhausaheb, blessed him with a vision, communicating, “Now you have reached the Final Reality. There is nothing left for you to do”.
Shri Siddharameshwar started teaching, using simple language to convey the knowledge and devotion. It is said that he initiated countless people from all walks of life with the Naam Mantra. The figure is not exactly known, but it is believed that dozens of devotees were realised through this extraordinary Master. They include Ganapatrao Maharaj, Bainath Maharaj, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ranjit Maharaj, Muppin Kaadsiddheshwar Maharaj and Balkrishna Maharaj. Shri Siddharameshwar encouraged his disciples to employ the methods of Self-enquiry, discrimination and dispassion while keeping his teachings practical, using ordinary examples from everyday life. To prevent the knowledge from remaining dry and hollow, he stressed the importance of devotion and honouring one’s Master. His book of teachings, “Master of Self-Realization”, is a spiritual classic.
Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981), was devoted to his Master, Shri Siddharameshwar. He was very fortunate to have met him when he did – around three years before his Master’s passing, at the age of forty-eight. Remarkably, a few years later, he himself attained Self-Realisation. Nisargadatta explained the swiftness of his own Self-Realisation simply and succinctly: “My Master told me, ‘You are Ultimate Truth’. Therefore, I am Ultimate Truth. End of story!”
Shri Nisargadatta advanced the teachings yet again by bringing into play his often snappy and always piercing, direct knowledge. Half a century on, his remarkable teachings continue to awaken many seekers. The famous book “I Am That”, published in 1973, with the clarion call of, “The seeker is he who is in search of himself”, brought a flurry of Western visitors to his humble abode in Mumbai. Speaking on the Naam Mantra, Shri Nisargadatta said: “The Mantra is very powerful and effective. My Guru gave me this Mantra, and the result is all these visitors from all over the world. That shows you its power”.
Ranjit Maharaj (1913-2000) was also devoted to his Master, Shri Siddharameshwar. He met him at the tender age of eleven, was initiated by him the following year, and subsequently lived most of his simple and selfless life in relative anonymity. It was not until 1983 that he started initiating. His first disciple was Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj’s granddaughter-in-law.
As Shri Ranjit’s refreshingly simple message spread, he began to attract an international following. During the remaining years of his life, from 1996 until 2000, he travelled abroad extensively, offering Satsang in various countries throughout Europe, the U.S.A and beyond. The book “Illusion vs. Reality”, written in a light and humorous style, is a compilation of recordings of Shri Ranjit’s final talks from 1996 to 2000.
A few years after this beautiful and gentle Master’s Mahasamadhi, the unbreakable thread of devotion running through the Lineage from Master to Master continued in the form of Shri Ramakant Maharaj.
Ramakant Maharaj (1941-2018), received the Naam Mantra in 1962, from his Master, Nisargadatta Maharaj. Once more, he evolved the teachings of the Lineage. His approach was ground-breaking, radical and absolute. He presented the highest teachings in down-to-earth language while refusing point blank to entertain concepts, including the “I Am” concept. By cutting through and dispensing with these, he offered a shortcut to Self-Realisation.
These extraordinary Lineage Masters have been passing on knowledge of the highest quality, selflessly and openly, while at the same time, strongly discouraging any kind of dependency on them. Their sincere and noble wish is to enable the transformation of the disciple into a Master. Therein lies the uniqueness of the Inchegiri Navnath Sampradaya.
Here we can see a stark contrast to the commercialisation of spiritual knowledge in the West where teachers frequently make lucrative careers out of the endless, travelling circus of Satsang. This Lineage is very clear about charging monies for Satsang. Any commercialisation of the knowledge and the Naam Mantra is strictly forbidden. “Money contaminates Satsang. “Why pay for knowledge that is one’s own?” said Bhausaheb Maharaj.
Quietly and earnestly, Self-Realised Master, Shri Ramakant Maharaj, shared with seekers the highest knowledge from a small, humble ashram in Nashik, Maharashtra, India. In 1962, he was initiated into the Inchegiri Navnath Sampradaya by the world-renowned Jnani, Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Shri Ramakant spent almost 20 years with him until September 8th 1981, when he attended the glorious occasion of his Beloved Master’s Mahasamadhi.
Ramakant Sawant (July 8th 1941-August 31st 2018) was brought up in rural Phondaghat, Gadgesakhal Wadi. In 1965, he was enrolled at the prestigious establishment of Elphinstone College, Bombay, at the behest of Shri Nisargadatta. Following this, he graduated from Bombay University in 1972 (M.A. in History and Politics). In 1976, he obtained his LLB qualification from Siddhartha Law College, Bombay. Subsequently, he took up a career in banking, working in the Legal Department from 1970 until his retirement as a bank manager in 2000. He was married to Anvita Sawant, also a long-standing disciple of Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj. They had two sons.
Shri Ramakant faced many challenges in life, including the devastating loss of his mother at age seven, poverty, educational struggles, unemployment, etc. About his life, he used to say, “I know my past and where I have come from. I am a miracle! All thanks to my Master, Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj”.
He had an inquisitive nature, and from the age of around eight or nine, he found himself asking the ultimate questions such as “Who am I?” “Where have I come from?”. Shri Nisargadatta took this young boy under his wing and became a father figure to him. Displaying a warm and caring touch, Nisargadatta bought him his first watch and opened a bank account for him.
From the age of twenty-one, Shri Ramakant faithfully attended his Master’s discourses. When he retired, he and his wife, Anvita, relocated to Nashik, accompanied by his ailing father-in-law. Some years later, Maharaj started guiding young seekers in the locality. However, it was not until 2013 that this humble and extraordinary Jnani gradually became known to the world, principally through the efforts of a couple from the U.K. Most auspiciously at that time, Charles and Ann Shaw, who had been searching for a disciple of Nisargadatta Maharaj for several years, tracked down Shri Ramakant. It would be a fallacy to say that they found him when it is always the Guru who finds the disciple!
Shri Ramakant Maharaj was ordinary, kind, humble, compassionate and humorous. He was a beautiful, gentle being, yet, simultaneously, one could feel his power, his Presence, a sense of divine otherworldliness. When he spoke, the words flowed out of him spontaneously and forcefully. He often cautioned seekers: “Don’t take my words literally; it is what I am trying to convey that is important”. And it wasn’t just the meaning behind the words that was highly effective, it was the power behind them which was experienced as a transmission from Source. That power, energy, or vibration was palpable all around him. Being in the presence of a Jnani elicited one response only: spontaneous and complete self-abandonment and an endless desire to fully prostrate and bow before His resplendent light.
On meeting an authentic Guru, one’s life is instantly transformed, never to be the same again! In the Jnani’s presence, in those timeless and transformative moments of overpowering energy flowing from the Source, the value of Satsang is immediate and incomparable. Here is an excerpt from the book “Timeless Years with Shri Ramakant Maharaj 2012 – 2022” by Ann & Charles Shaw, which illustrates this unique encounter:
“We were sitting close, facing Maharaj, when suddenly, he points directly at us. In an authoritative voice, he forcefully states: “YOU are Ultimate Truth. YOU are Almighty God!” When he stretched out his arm, I could see the shimmering, vibrating waves of energy coming from (his) space, and then, it was as if that energy behind the words entered (my) space. We both felt this transmission deeply. And not only that, the experience has had a lasting effect which has never left us!
During his time, Shri Nisargadatta initiated very few Westerners because he considered them to be “spiritual tourists”. In contrast, Shri Ramakant freely gave the powerful and beneficial Naam Mantra to sincere seekers around the world. The Naam Mantra has a dual purpose: it dissolves the illusory concepts that keep us separate from our true nature and enables the absorption of spiritual knowledge.
In 2015, “Selfless Self”, the authorised book of Shri Ramakant Maharaj’s teachings (hailed as a spiritual classic), was published in the U.K. The late Alan Jacobs, President of the “Ramana Maharshi Foundation U.K.” who was the first to review it, said: “There is no difference between the teachings of Shri Ramakant Maharaj and those of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi! “Selfless Self” explores every aspect of the necessary Spiritual Practices or Sadhanas which are needed for the ardent aspirant to achieve Self-Realisation. This is truly a great book and a worthy successor to the much-celebrated “I Am That” by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Sri Ramakant’s own Master. The utterances in “Selfless Self” are spoken directly from the Source, from a true Master who has transcended the limitations of his bodily existence. The book is a testament to the grace-filled genius of Sadguru Shri Ramakant Maharaj, whereby the ineffable is miraculously conveyed clearly and succinctly.
Shri Ramakant’s message is simple and direct: “You are unborn. You have forgotten your true identity that is invisible, anonymous. I am here to remind you. You are not a person or a separate individual, but prior to beingness”. The remedy is also simple: “Remove the layers on your presence using the Naam Mantra, discrimination and discernment. Once all the attachments to the illusory world have dissolved, Ultimate Reality will emerge!”
His teachings can be found in “Selfless Self”, “Ultimate Truth”, “Be with You”, (books edited by Ann Shaw), “Timeless Years with Shri Ramakant Maharaj 2012 – 2022”, (by Ann & Charles Shaw), and “Who Am I?” by Ann Shaw. In “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Shri Ramakant not only answers these ultimate questions but offers a pragmatic approach to Oneness in simple language that dramatically and effectively awakens readers from their long dream of life! Here are a few examples of his fresh method and direct teaching. These glistening, golden nuggets powerfully resonate in the Heart of the reader:
“You are already realised; you have just forgotten your identity.” “You have read all the books, but have you read the reader?” Did you read any spiritual books prior to beingness?”
“Selfless Self” offers a fresh, simple, clear and totally pragmatic application of the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. His teaching method is radical and absolute: “This is not an intellectual approach, not a logical approach, not an egoistic approach, as all these things came after your Presence”. His teachings have nothing to do with the mind, the intellect or the ego but are beyond words, prior to everything, prior to all our body-based related concepts. They are like a great wind blowing from Essence to Essence, from the “Awakened Master” to the “Sleeping Master” (the seeker).
These direct hammerings of truth, an antidote to illusion, act as spiritual tablets to bring the seeker back “Home”. The Master’s message is definitely not a comfortable read that will feed and entertain the complacent dreamer. This universal knowledge is a mover or shaker; veritable dynamite intended to disturb, explode and obliterate all the comfortable and safe, illusory concepts that we hold dear. His teachings reawaken and transform the reader’s slumbering dream-state to Reality. They are an urgent clarion call for everyone to wake up before it is too late. “Find out who you are in a real sense, otherwise you will be shaking and trembling with fear on your deathbed”, he urges.
After the publication of “Selfless Self” (subsequently translated into eleven languages), seekers from all over the world started visiting Shri Ramakant in Nashik. Many of them arrived with great anticipation and enthusiasm; they left awakened! All thanks to the grace, knowledge and blessings coursing through the vehicle of Maharaj, they knew their search had finally ended.
Ramakant Maharaj, like his Master, Nisargadatta Maharaj, before him, said: “I am not making you disciples, I am making you Masters”. He had no interest whatsoever in fame, money, or gathering a cult following. He had only one wish: to help others become enlightened or liberated from their small selves. He shared “Direct Knowledge” – Truth, stating unequivocally: “It is my duty to share this knowledge, the same knowledge that my Master shared with me”.
He often commented on the numerous people teaching today who only possess book knowledge (what he termed dry or literal knowledge), maybe some experiences, but no knowledge in the true sense, no Self-Knowledge. He always asserted that Self-Realised Masters are essential to guide seekers, otherwise all we have are blind teachers leading blind students, which is pointless, a waste of time and, needless to say, frequently damaging!
Following in the footsteps of Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj and the other Masters of this illustrious Lineage, Shri Ramakant taught for free. The Lineage has plenty to say about the commercialisation of knowledge: “Why pay for knowledge that is your innate knowledge and rightful inheritance?” However, he did ask for payback of a sort. When visitors were about to leave the ashram and return home, he would say with a smile: “Before you leave, deposit your mind, intellect and ego. That is all I ask from you!”
“Everyone should be enlightened”, intoned Maharaj with a sense of urgency, “because when you see through the illusory world, your suffering will come to an end. When you realise everything is within you, there will be happiness without any material cause. Your happiness is my payment”, the Master said graciously. He had one wish only: to put an end to our needless suffering once and for all! Even when he delivered his last discourse at the ashram when he was visibly frail and his voice was very feeble, his focus remained steadfast: liberation for his devotees. With great poignancy, he pleaded: “Please accept the Reality”.
What “was” Shri Ramakant Maharaj like? There is no past tense for Jnanis! His Shining Light of Presence is eternal, guiding us here now! As Shri Nisargadatta said: “If a disciple calls on the Jnani his form will appear to him”. Jai Sadguru!
Maharaj’s penetrative drops of nectar
“The purpose of spirituality is to know yourself in a real sense, erase illusion and dissolve all body-based knowledge.”
“I am not giving knowledge. I am removing knowledge. I am not giving you anything new. You are “That” already. I am simply removing the ash of illusion. This is a process of subtraction, not addition.”
“What is the meaning of life? This question is body-based. The meaning of life for whom? Self-enquire! You are unborn.”
“Find out what you are not! Remove all the illusory layers on your Presence! You were never in bondage. You are free as a bird.”
“I am reminding you of your Masterly Essence. You are a Master. There’s no need to look to others for blessings. Put your hand on your own head and bless yourself. Bow to your Selfless Self. Everything is within you.”
“At the initial stage, you are a devotee. At the last stage, you are a Deity. There is no separation between the devotee and the Deity. The Deity knows through the devotee. The Deity lies within the devotee.”
“Reality is engraved in the invisible listener.”
Why keep travelling when you are the destination?
“You are already realised; you just do not know it.”
“When happiness is no longer required, you have reached the destination.”
“You have read all the books, but have you read the Reader?”
“Look within! Read your book. Visit your temple, search your website.”
“You are covered in ash. Underneath the fire is burning. The Master removes the ash.”
“You want to stay in the illusory world, but at the same time, you want to know Reality. Impossible!”
“Wherever you are, there is your ashram.”
“When happiness is no longer required, you have reached the destination.”
About the author
Ann Shaw has been fascinated with the ultimate questions of “Who am I?”, “Where have I come from?” for as long as she can remember. She spent many periods in solitude and reflection, looking for answers. She practised meditation, Self-enquiry, and contemplation, and also attended various solitary retreats.
Finding the meaning of life became the most crucial topic. Driven by a fiery determination and in hot pursuit of answers, Ann immersed herself in a wide variety of spiritual literature from East and West. This included the mystics, teachers and masters of varied traditions, including Ramana Maharshi, Paramahansa Yogananda, Joel Goldsmith, Buddhism, Taoism, Rumi and Sufism, etc.
Her interest and passion led her to the academic study of the subjects close to her heart, namely: psychology, theology, mysticism, comparative religion, etc. Ann graduated from Edinburgh University’s School of Divinity with an MA in 1980.
Armed with intellectual knowledge and graced with several spiritual/mystical experiences, the search continued with a vengeance. The journey had its highs and lows – with long periods “in the desert” until at last, further down the illusory road, what she was looking for found her!
The teachings of Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj and his Master, Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj, freed Ann from the illusory “I”, thus bringing her search to an end. In 2013-2014, she spent nearly six months in Nashik, India, with her husband, in the presence of Nisargadatta’s successor, Shri Ramakant Maharaj, absorbing the teachings and undergoing the various simple yet powerful practices. She had reached her destination! They remained in close contact with Maharaj over the years while continuing to spread the teachings across the globe and enabling seekers to visit Maharaj in Nashik.
Auspiciously, Ann returned to Nashik for a few more months in 2018 to be with her Master. Shri Ramakant Maharaj attained Mahasamadhi in August 31st.
Ann is the editor of “Selfless Self” (hailed as a spiritual classic), on the teachings of Shri Ramakant Maharaj, which was published in 2015 and has since been translated into numerous languages. She also edited Maharaj’s books, “Be With You” (2016) and “Ultimate Truth” (2018).
The book T”imeless Years with Shri Ramakant Mahararj 2012 – 2022” by Ann & Charles Shaw was published on March 1st 2022. It is a fascinating story of their time in India with their Master and offers a unique and profound insight into Maharaj’s life and the Guru-disciple or Teacher-student relationship.
“Who Am I?” published on April 11 2022, offers answers to anyone searching for a greater understanding of who we are and why we are here. Not only that, its uplifting, vibrational wisdom enables a true experience of the Self. This self-help book contains practical guidance and techniques on how to know yourself, put an end to suffering and find lasting happiness and peace. “Who Am I?” is a refreshing read that crosses all barriers. Not limited by any belief system, philosophy, religion, spirituality, or genre, it speaks to us all.
As well as continuing to write books, she teaches Naam Mantra meditation, as she was instructed to do by Shri Ramakant Maharaj.