Beloved Immortal Atman, Beloved seekers and aspirants! Yesterday we werereferring to saints and sages as being of two types. Some who were born likeother human individuals, but who, by their prayer and persistence in spirituallife, went beyond to God-realization. The second category were never born, everfree souls with some mission on earth; eternally free, perfect beings.
In the case of the latter category, many are born with their advent announcedbefore their birth and with their birth attended by many supernatural,supranormal signs. Sometimes they gave indications of their special divineorigin, through certain events or actions, even in their young age. There was noquestion on any spiritual struggle in them. Sometimes, if they seemed to dosadhana, it was more as an example to guide others, rather than for anynecessity of theirs.
Among this unique class of never bound, ever free beings, we have ourworshipful Sri Sri Ananda Mayee Ma. Sri Sri Ma was born in a Bengali family in arural part of East Bengal, which is now a separate state under the name ofBangladesh. It was part of India and Bengal at that time.
Her father and mother were both pious God-fearing people. The specialuniqueness of this child when she was born was something we could learn onlymuch later from the lips of Ma herself. Otherwise, there was no means of knowingwhat the state of consciousness of this child was when it was in infancy. But itis now definite and certain that even from the time of being born, theconsciousness of the child was one of awareness of its spiritual identity.
The little infant in the cradle gazed around and saw its surroundings andpeople moving about, but it was aware that it did not belong to that outerenvironment and was fully aware of itself as an ever free, ever-perfect soul. Atall times the child was fully aware that it was pure, untrammeled spirit,without limitation of body, mind or identity. It knew itself to be SatchidanandaAtman. From that state it watched like a witness the parents and relatives athome as if in a play or dramatic performance. So the child grew up in a state ofawareness of her true self. That awareness afterwards never left Ma until thevery last day of her life. This then is the secret behind Ma’s personality.
As was the case in those days, the child was brought up with great love andaffection by her parents, relatives and neighbors. She received the rudiments ofordinary, normal education, but was more interested in serving her parents athome than anything else. As in the case of Lord Krishna, this little girl had apowerful attraction to all people. She was of an extremely sweet and kindnature, filled with the spirit of service. She liked to help her mother in thehousehold duties. One extraordinary trait in her, was that when she heard thechanting of God’s Name, she gravitated to that place. She could not resist it.Otherwise, she was normal and ordinary in every respect.
This young girl, Nirmala, which means “pure”, grew up into a veryvirtuous and sweet tempered, good-natured young maid. As was the Indian custom,when she became of marriageable age, the family arranged a marriage with a goodboy from a reputable family and they were married. The young man, Bholnath, wasalso of a pure and simple nature.
Now the couple entered into the second stage of life, according to the Hindulife pattern. However, in a short time, through a couple of incidents, Bholnathbecame aware that his bride was no ordinary human individual. He felt that hehad some celestial or divine being as his partner. From that day onwards allthought of basing their relationship upon the gross physical level vanished fromthe mind of the earthly husband of this being.
As days passed by, many extraordinary experiences were gone through by theyoung bride and housewife, but through it all she was meticulous in performingall her household duties and responsibilities and, if necessary attending toguests in the house. She was a very good cook and a very large-heartedhousewife.
At this stage, extraordinary phenomena began to occur in and through herbody. The husband would sit after supper in bed, put up the mosquito curtain andsmoke. After finishing in the kitchen, his wife would come into the room and siton the floor. As I told you, she had no special spiritual sadhana routine. Shewas engaged in household work, but suddenly from nowhere various ingredients ofworship began to manifest in front of her. Her body started to assume variousyogic postures and kriyas began to manifest in and through her body.
Bholnath had a clear vision of all that was happening. He watched in wonderand silence. The young housewife was at that time in a peculiar state of tranceand was not aware of her body. Soon, various kriyas manifested in herbody. A fire appeared and she made use of all the ingredients for doing worship.When the whole thing was completed, she would go into a deep trance and all theingredients of worship would vanish and the place would be exactly as it wasbefore, but remnants of the worship in the form of flowers would be left behind.This went on for many weeks and months.
Until this time, the nature of this young person and their mutualrelationship was known only to themselves and God. No other person was aware oftheir special relationship. But soon it came to the knowledge of an officecolleague of the husband, who was a genuine seeker and devotee of the DivineMother. He expressed the ardent desire to have the darshan of Ma. So one eveninghe accompanied Bholnath home from the office. Arriving home, they met Nirmalaand from the moment the man set eyes on her, he immediately fell prostrate onthe ground in adoration. He saw in her the veritable Divine Mother. He calledher Ananda Mayee Ma (Bliss-filled Mother).
After that, the devotee started coming to the house for satsang withMa. At that time she was an unassuming young lady, quite normal in all otherways. But when not engaged in work, she had a far off look, as if she did notbelong here, but in timeless eternity. She was subject to various moods andstates. During this period, whenever the divine Name of the Lord was recited,she immediately went into a higher spiritual state. It was in this way that thelife of Ma began and grew into a center of inspiration and blessing and a centerof many miraculous healings as the years rolled by. All the time she wascontinuously in a high state of spiritual consciousness, of self-awareness,which had come along with her when she was born.
It was in the year 1943 that Swami Chidananda, who was not Swami Chidanandaat that time, bid farewell to secular life and surrendered at the feet of HolyMaster Swami Sivananda. At that time, a learned philosopher and professor whowas the head of the Department of Philosophy at Calcutta University, was aregular visitor to Rishikesh. He was a student and disciple of a very learnedpundit who was head of the great Kailash Ashram Center of Sanskrit Study nearour ashram in Rishikesh. Being a devotee of that very learned mahatma,the professor used to spend some time with him and then he would come and visitGurudev before returning to Calcutta. There were few visitors during those daysand the few who came got a lot of time from Master.
I was new to the ashram and I was deeply interested in the conversation thisprofessor had with Gurudev. The professor was a very anglicized type of Bengaligentleman with a very orthodox wife. They were both sitting with Gurudev and hewas narrating their experiences with Ma. He told how when he first heard aboutthe presence of such an extraordinary holy lady, he was prompted to have her darshan.He was an important university professor. Sri Sri Ma was living in a small roomof a temple dedicated to Divine Mother Kali. It was called the temple ofDakshineshwar, the same temple where Ramakrishna lived during his lifetime.
Reaching the temple, they enquired about the room of Ma and they were takento a small corner room, where Ma sat deeply immersed. After paying theirrespects, he sought permission to ask a few questions. Ma graciously smiled andsaid, “Yes.” Being a philosopher, he wanted to put some intricate,subtle philosophical question to her. He narrated what happened when he askedthis question. He told Swami Sivananda, “Even before I had finished myquestion, there came a torrential outpouring of words from Ma dispelling mydoubts, answering my question and bestowing much more upon me, leaving mewonderstruck. It did not seem like the words were coming from this Being sittingin front of me. It was like a great shower of luminous wisdom coming in and thenissuing forth from her mouth.”
Fascinated by this flood of wisdom, the professor continued to pose questionsand each time, before the question was completed, the answer came in thisextraordinary manner. He had been told that Ma never had formal schooling atall. He returned to his home a very much humbled professor and Doctor ofPhilosophy.
He determined that such a real spiritual phenomenon should not remain hiddenfrom public knowledge. Others also should have a glimpse of and experience ofthis phenomenon. He had some learned colleagues from a prestigious college inPoona. He decided to write them and invite them to Calcutta for their summervacation. They were all pure intellectuals and academics and not devotees likehimself. They agreed, and that summer two more professors came to Calcutta.
All three went to have Ma’s darshan and found her in the same state of highconsciousness. They plied her with innumerable questions. Upon the firstoccasion, the professor had questioned Ma with humility, as a devotee andseeker. But now, these two professors from Poona had no spiritual background atall, so they continued to put forth intricate questions to Ma to see how shewould answer.
For two and a half to three hours this non-stop session went on. Ultimatelythe professors were exhausted, while Ma was ever serene, unperturbed, with nosign of fatigue and as fresh as ever! This ended their first meeting. Uponsubsequent visits, they became convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, that theywere in the presence of a Divine Being and not a human person. All this theprofessor related to Swami Sivananda, and Swami Chidananda, who was not a swamithen, was listening to the conversation with great interest.
That was how I came to know about Ma, never having met her before and notknowing where she lived. Three or four years later, an occasion came when Ifound myself in the holy city of Varanasi, and I came to know that there was abig ashram of Ma and that she was there. This was in February 1948. I wasstaying with an old monk in Varanasi. I requested that he take me to Ma’sashram.
At that time Ma was having performed a very great spiritual yajna orsacrifice for the welfare of the world and all people. She had initiated therepetition of an important mantra several millions of times. It was in the formof the repetition each day of the Gayatri mantra by one hundred Brahmin learnedpundits. It actually took two and a half years to complete this yajna,and it was in progress when I first met Ma.
It was an interesting revelation to me at that time. I thought that Ma wouldgive me darshan perhaps sitting upon a special seat, but I found her seated onthe floor giving instruction regarding the yajna. I bowed down to her and theold monk said, “He comes from Rishikesh and is a disciple of Sri Swami Sivananda”. The moment she heard “Sivananda” she folded her handsand asked me, “How is pitaji?” To Sri Sri Ma, everyone wasfather and everyone was mother, because her consciousness was that of a littlegirl. She never felt that she was a grown-up woman, but she was a child.”Blessed are they who are pure of heart, for theirs is the kingdom ofheaven”. “Suffer the little children come to me”. I did notunderstand who she was referring to as “father”. The monk told me,”She is referring to your guru, Swami Sivananda”. That darshan of Mawas the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream I had, since first hearing abouther.
Ma is a curious mixture of absolute being in the Divine Being combinedparadoxically with a practicality in the outer. When it came to little detailsof programs in her ashram, she was constantly in touch with the organizers andgave detailed instructions on how to proceed.
Ma’s advent was to bring about wide awakening in the inner spirit ofpresent day humanity. It was to bring about a great spiritual wave that wouldlift mankind’s life to a higher level. Her one admonition to us is: God is theone great Reality. To know and experience Him is the whole purpose of humanexistence, and the life that does not strive to do this is wasted. So do nothesitate to strive to achieve this great goal. She counseled patience in all theups and downs of life. Everything will right itself. But this patience did notimply negation. Do all that is necessary to be done, but do not be anxious. Doyour best and leave the rest to God.
She gave great importance to the chanting of the Divine Name. The only wordsworth uttering are those concerned with God. If you want to talk, talk aboutGod. All other talk is just futile and leads only to sorrow and grief.
To her own disciples, she laid down strict rules and regulations for theirdaily life and sadhana. For the past nearly twenty-five years, she alloweddevotees to prepare a full week of retreat every year, in the month of November.It was sadhana from early morning until evening, about 9:30 p.m. Reading of thescriptures was a salient feature each day. Punctuality was a must. A bellsounded two minutes before each session, when everyone must be at his place. Ifpeople came late the door was closed and they could not enter. They weresupposed, in this case, to sit outside and go through the same sadhana as thoseinside. During this week period, Ma regularly attended morning, noon and night.In the forenoon at 9:00 a.m., and again in the afternoon at 2:30 there was afull hour of silent meditation, when she came and sat on stage immersed in deepsilence.
This was called “One Week of Self-Control” and not “SadhanaWeek”. There was a great deal of restriction in diet also. The sadhaks ateonly one time in twenty-four hours. There were two fasts on days one and sevenwith only water. On the fourth day, only milk and fruit was taken. In that way,though her consciousness was always in a higher spiritual plane, she was alsoable to be pragmatic and plan details of the programs.
The colleague of her husband who first discovered her, was the first one towrite a detailed biographical sketch of Ma. He wrote a book entitled”Mother as I knew Her”, under the name Brother Madji.
There have been numerable times when I had Ma’s darshan during her birthdaycelebrations. Every time I found I was standing in the presence of an impersonalDivine Being. She was a great light, a spiritual luminary in India, for Indiaand for the whole world in this century.
Once again, similar was the state of consciousness of the young lad who wentto settle down in Arunachala–Ramana Maharshi. Both of these people, I find,though from different parts of India, were more or less in the same state ofconsciousness that was undiminished even in the midst of so much activity. Theywere always aware of their Reality.
The presence of such great souls in the midst of human society is a powerfulforce to uplift our consciousness and to goad us toward our goal in life.Literally and truly, they lived only for others and in this life they hadobtained whatever was to be obtained. These beings, having cast aside theirphysical bodies, are no less present amidst us at this moment than they werepresent in their physical bodies. We bow down in homage to their presence. Andnow also, we bow to the great Father Time, so we must conclude for the moment.God bless you.
Jai Jai Ma!
Notes taken at a morning talk on 9th December 1990,Masabielle, France.