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The Inchagiri Sampradaya, also known as Nimbargi Sampradaya, is a lineage of Hindu Navnath and Lingayat teachers from Maharashtra which was started by Bhausaheb Maharaj.[web 1] It is inspired by Sant Mat teachers as Namdev, Raidas and Kabir. The Inchagiri Sampradaya has become well known throughout the western world due to the popularity of Nisargadatta Maharaj.
See also: Guru-shishya tradition
Main article: Navnath
The mythological origins of the Inchagiri Sampradaya are ascribed to Adiguru Shri Dattatreya. He initiated the Navanaths, the Holy Nine Gurus, and the Navanath Sampraday.[web 2]
One of those Navnaths was Revanath, the 7th or 8th Navnath. Revanath settled on the Siddhgiri hill for ascetic practice, living on whatever the jungle, gave him. He became famous as Kaadhsiddheshwar,[note 1] "the one who attained supreme realization in a forest".[web 3]
Revananath is considered to have established the Kaadsiddheshwar temple and math,[web 3] also called Kaadsiddheshwar Peeth.[web 4] in the 7th century CE.[web 3] Other accounts mention a history of "more than 1300 years",[web 5] and the 14th century CE, when a Lingayat Priest established a Shivling at the hill, which became Kaneri Math, nowadays called Siddhagiri Math,[web 6][web 7] It is located on Siddhagiri hill[web 8] in Kanheri village, Karveer tehsil, Kolhapur district, Maharashtra state, India.[web 6]
The Siddhagiri Math was established around the Moola-Kaadsiddheswar Shiva temple in the Shaiva-Lingayat tradition.[web 3] It is a vast campus with the central Shiva temple.[web 3]
In the 12th century the Math came under the influence of Basaveshwar, who established the Lingayat tradition of south India.[web 3] It is the main Kuldaivat[note 2] of the Lingayat Shaiva community,[web 4] its influence exceeding to most of the districts of Maharashtra and Karnataka, and also to some places in Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.[web 3]
Part of Siddhagiri Math is the "Siddhagiri Gramjivan Museum", a wax museum dedicated to Gandhi's ideal of rural life. It was established by the 27th Mathadhipati, Adrushya Kadsiddheshwar Swami Ji.[web 6]
Revanath initiated Sant Dnyaneshwar.[web 9] (1275–1296), also known as Sant Jñāneshwar or Jñanadeva[web 9] and as Kadasiddha or Kad-Siddheshwar Maharaj.
Dnyaneshwar was a 13th-century Maharashtrian Hindu saint (Sant – a title by which he is often referred), poet, philosopher and yogi of the Nath tradition whose works Bhavartha Deepika (a commentary on Bhagavad Gita, popularly known as "Dnyaneshwari"), and Amrutanubhav are considered to be milestones in Marathi literature.
According to Shirvaikar, Dnyaneshwar was initiated into the Nath by his older brother Nivrutti, who was born in 1273.[web 10]
In a state of extreme distress Vithalpant went to Triambakeshwar (near Nasik) with his family for performing worship at the Shiva temple. Triambakeshwar is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas or luminary lingas of Lord Shiva. While they had gone for performing pradakshina (circumambulation) of the temple one night they encountered a ferocious tiger (in thirteenth century the area was a deep forest) The members of the family ran helter skelter and were dispersed. Nivrutti wandered into a cave in the Anjani mountain where Gahininath, one of the nine Naths was staying for some time. He was attracted towards Nivrutti and in spite of his young age initiated him into Nath sect by initiation of nath panthi 'soham sadhana' which is combination of yoga, bhakti and also dnyana, instructing him to propagate devotion to Shri Krishna. That is how Nivrutti became Nivruttinath. The matter of excommunication did not affect this because the Nath sect does not bother about caste system and though socially it may be observed it is ignored in spiritual matters.[web 10]
In 1287 Nivrutti initiated his younger brother:
Nivrutinath initiated Dnyanadeo into the Nath sect and instructed him to write a commentary on Gita. Thus we have a unique situation of a fourteen-year-old Guru instructing his twelve-year-old disciple to write something which has become the hope of humanity.[web 10]
Dnyaneshwar died at the young age of 21.[web 10]
Different accounts of the founding of the Nimbargi Sampradaya by Nimbargi Maharaj, the alternate name of the Inchegeri Sampradaya, are to be found.
Nimbargi belonged to a Nellawai sub-caste of the Lingayat caste. According to Boucher,
It is significant that some of the founders of the Navnath Sampradaya are Lingayat or Virasaiva because this was a revolutionary movement, allowing people of all walks of life, and both sexes to find Shiva immanent within themselves. Part of this democratizing movement, I believe, is a reaction of Western India's contact with Islam, which embraces people of all class, creed and gender. The iconoclasm, which is at the heart of Virasaivism actually comes down to us in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as something we can easily relate to. The breaking down of taboos, of certain parts of India's spiritual structure makes it possible for us as modern people to partake of these teachings. We do not even have to be practicing Hindus, in the traditional sense, in order to hear it. This attitude was most evident in the Satsang room of Sri Nisargaddatta Maharaj.
Nimbargi practiced for 36 years, meanwhile living as a householder, and was finally awakened when he was 67. Until his death, at the age of 95, he "initiated people and lived the life of a Jivanmukta".
Main article: Bhausaheb Maharaj
According to Kotnis, Bhausaheb Maharj was looked upon as the reincarnation of Sant Tukaram (1577–1650), a prominent Varkari Sant and spiritual poet of the Bhakti, who had taken birth again in the Neelwani Lingayat community to finish his work of spreading the knowledge of Self-realization. Bhausaheb Maharaj belonged to the Deshastha Brahmin caste. the same caste to which the thirteenth century Varkari saint and philosopher Dnyaneshwar belonged, the 16th century sant Eknath, and the 17th century saint and spiritual poet Samarth Ramdas.
At the request of Nimbargi,[web 14] Bhausaheb Maharaj Deshpande (1843 Umdi – 1914 Inchgiri)[web 14] received mantra initiation from Shri Raghunathpriya Sadhu Maharaj,[web 14] who was an ardent follower and a devoted disciple of Shri Gurulingajangam Maharaj.[web 14] Bhausaheb Maharaj became a disciple of Nimbargi Maharaj.[web 14]
Bhausaheb Maharaj teachings were collected in a book called Nama-Yoga, a term coined by the compilers and translators of the book, whereas Bhausaheb Maharaj himself called it Jnana Marga, just like Nimbargi Maharaj did. Bhausaheb Maharaj's teachings, and those of his student Gurudeo Ranade, have been called Pipilika Marg ,[web 15] "the Ant's way",[web 15] the way of meditation,[web 16] while the teachings of Siddharameshwar Maharaj and his disciples Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ranjit Maharaj have been called Vihangam Marg,[web 15] "the Bird's Way", the direct path to Self-discovery.[web 16][note 6][note 7]
After his awakening he was authorized by Nimbargi to carry on the lineage, and established the Inchegeri Sampraday. Sri Bhausaheb Maharaj had many students, among which were:
Main article: Ramachandra Dattatrya Ranade
Ramachandra Dattatreya Ranade (1886–1957) was a scholar with an academic career. He taught at Willindon College, Sangli, on a regular basis before being invited to join Allahabad University as Head of Department of Philosophy where he rose to be the Vice-Chancellor. After retirement in 1946 he lived in an ashrama in a small village, Nimbal, near Solapur where he died on 6 June 1957.[web 20]
Main article: Siddharameshwar Maharaj
Siddharameshwar Maharaj was born in 1888. In 1906[web 11] he was initiated by his guru Bhausaheb Maharaj in Inchegeri in Karnataka India, who taught mantra-meditation as the way to reach Final Reality.[web 15] In 1920 Siddharameshwar Maharaj started to set out on "the Bird's Path", the fast way to attain realisation, six years after Bhauhaseb maharaj had died.[web 15] His fellow-students opposed, but eventually he succeeded by himself.[web 15]
Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj initiated several well-known teachers:
Siddharameshwar Maharaje used four books to give sermons on: Dasbodh of Saint Shri Samarth Ramdas; the Yoga Vasistha; "Sadachara" of Shri Shankaracharya; and the "Eknathi Bhagwat" of Sant Eknath.[web 22]
Main article: Nisargadatta Maharaj
Nisargadatta started to give initiations in 1951, after a personal revelation from his guru, Siddharameshwar Maharaj:[web 23]
Ever since his return to Bombay in 1938, Nisargadatta had been sought out by those desiring his counsel on spiritual matters. Many wanted to become his disciples and get formal mantra-initiation from him, reverentially calling him "Maharaj," "Great (Spiritual) King." Yet he was reluctant to have disciples and serve as a guru. Finally, in 1951, after receiving an inner revelation from Siddharamesvar, he began to initiate students into discipleship.[web 23]
Nisargadatta Maharaj attracted a broad following in the western world. He never appointed any successor, because
[...] he wasn't allowed to appoint a successor. You have to remember that Nisargadatta wasn't realized himself when Siddharameshwar passed away.[web 24]
Only a few persons were acknowledged as jnani by Sri Nisargadatta.[web 24][note 8] Nevertheless, several western teachers regard Sri Nisargadatta to be their guru.[web 25] Shri Ramakant Maharaj says to be "the only Indian direct disciple of Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj" who offers initiation into this lineage.[web 26] He received the Naam mantra in 1962 from Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj, and spent the next 19 years with him.[web 27]
Main article: Ranjit Maharaj
Sri Ranjit Maharaj (1913–2000) met Siddharameshwar Maharaj in 1924. The following year he was initiated by Siddharameshwar Maharaj. In 1934, at the age of 24, he took initiation to monkhood. Only in 1983, at the age of 70, initiated his first disciple, Shri Siddharameshwar Maharajs granddaughter in law.[web 28]
Main article: Ganapatrao Maharaj Kannur
Shri Samartha Sadaguru Ganapatrao Maharaj Kannur (1909–2004) was initiated by Siddharameshwar Maharaj when he was thirteen. After graduation he attained liberation at age 24. Later in life he founded the Shanti Kuteer Ashram.[web 29]
Main article: Kaadsiddheshwar
Shri Muppin Kaadsiddheshwar Maharaj was formally adopted by the 25th Virupaksha Kaadeshwar of the Kaneri Math, Lingayat Parampara, and invested as the 26th Mathadheepati of the (Siddhagiri) Kaneri Math, Lingayat Parampara, in 1922 at the age of 17.[web 30] He met Siddharameshwar Maharaj in 1935, who became his guru.[web 30]
Nisargadatta narrates the following about the succession of teachers of the Inchagiri Sampradaya:
I sit here every day answering your questions, but this is not the way that the teachers of my lineage used to do their work. A few hundred years ago there were no questions and answers at all. Ours is a householder lineage, which means everyone had to go out and earn his living. There were no meetings like this where disciples met in large numbers with the Guru and asked him questions. Travel was difficult. There were no buses, trains and planes. In the old days the Guru did the traveling on foot, while the disciples stayed at home and looked after their families. The Guru walked from village to village to meet the disciples. If he met someone he thought was ready to be included in the sampradaya, he would initiate him with mantra of the lineage. That was the only teaching given out. The disciple would repeat the mantra and periodically the Guru would come to the village to see what progress was being made. When the Guru knew that he was about to pass away, he would appoint one of the householder-devotees to be the new Guru, and that new Guru would then take on the teaching duties: walking from village to village, initiating new devotees and supervising the progress of the old ones.[web 24]
Nisargadatta also told:
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.
Nisargadatta also explained:
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 practice the sadhana of focusing their minds on 'I am' may feel related to others who have followed the same sadhana succeeded. They may decide to verbalise their sense of kinship by calling themselves Navnaths. It gives them the pleasure of belonging to an established tradition.
Nisargadatta further explains:
Q:Do you have to realise to join the Sampradaya?
M:The Navnath Sampradayais is only a tradition, a way of teaching and practice. It does not denote a level of consciousness. If you accept a Navnath Sampradayateacher 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 behavior.
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.
Q:What proof will I have that I know myself correctly?
M:You need no proofs. The experience is unique and unmistakable. It will dawn on you suddenly, when the obstacles are removed to some extent. It is like a frayed rope snapping.
Nisargadatta started to give initiations in 1951, after a "personal revelation" from his guru, Siddharameshwar Maharaj,[web 23] while Ranjit Maharaj started to give initiations in 1983, almost half a century after his awakening, on request of Siddharameshwar Maharaj granddaughter-in-law:[web 22]
In 1936, when he passed away, I was living my simple life because I never wanted to become a Master [laughs]. I started to teach in 1983 because my Master's granddaughter-in-law wanted me to give her a mantra. She said to me, "I want a mantra from you." If I didn't give her a mantra, then I'd be faithless to Siddharameshwar Maharaj. So by my Master's order and grace I started to teach, and at this moment I teach you. [laughs].[web 22]
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