Brought to you from the Library of Higher consciousness
by Gaurja Prashar**
Anandamoyi Ma was one of the most well-known and beloved women saints of India in the 1900’s. She was born in Bengal, in India, and right from early childhood, it was noticed that she was no ordinary human being. From a young age, she would go into deep states of inner bliss, and when her parents married her to a man of their choosing, wanting her to live the life of a householder, her husband immediately realized that Anandamoyi Ma’s life was dedicated only to, and absorbed only in, God; he beheld the divine mother in her from then on and took a vow of silence for the remainder of his life as her husband and disciple. She described herself as always having been the same (as a little girl, as a young woman, and even later) while affectionately conversing with Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, on his visit to India in 1936. Yogananda found her words echoing in his mind as he left her: “Behold, now and always one with the Eternal, ‘I am ever the same.’”
Anandamoyi Ma was a beloved mother, way shower, Guru, and divine friend to many, and even though she had not studied scriptures, she knew what they meant and effortlessly expounded on them for others when requested, for her source of knowledge was God himself. Her main message to all her devotees and truth seekers was to find God and realize oneness with his absolute joy.
Anandamoyi Ma was visited by many far and wide, and people, in an effort to understand her, to explain what she meant to them, or who she was, often found themselves earnestly looking for the right words. For most could not find words to fully express the manifestation of that something infinite, and that something eternal that they beheld in her. The late principal of Queen’s College in Benaras, B.Sanjiva Rao, who was a devotee of Ma, states in his essay about Ma (written in the book Mother as seen by her Devotees) that Anandamoyi Ma’s perfection of love and profundity of wisdom cannot be gauged by the mind. He writes, “To the mind she must ever remain a mystery. But to the heart that loves, she is no insoluble riddle…To love her is the indispensable condition for gaining a real insight into her nature.” He goes on to say that so long as the human mind is busy accumulating information about something, it is incapable of gaining real insight into its real nature. The way of the artist and mystic, he says, are not the way of the analytical scientist. And so, he feels that only those who love Ma will understand her. He expresses her nature, as he perceived it, with these words, “…She is one of those blessed ones through whom the Light and Love of the Divine pour into our world of darkness and conflict. She is her own proof. She is self-luminous, Swayam Prakasha.”
For all who came to Ma, it was hard for them to leave her presence. Mangalam Verlag S. Schang, in Matri Darshan, writes, “Many people from India and all around the world came and collected around Ma, wherever she happened to be, looking at her for hours and hours, in a spirit of deep reverence. Almost all without exception, were unwilling to move away as long as she was to be seen, even from a distance. When asked what the secret was of this mysterious attraction, Ma laughed and replied: “I am the nearest and the dearest to you all, although you may not know it.”
One devotee from France, named Arnaud Desjardins, travelled all the way from Paris to come and meet the “only person in India he was to meet” if one was all. His words (from Mother as seen by her devotees) describe with so much awe and wonder the happiness he felt around Ma – “Near Ma, no matter where we may follow her, we live in beauty. Every moment lies in another dimension, larger, wider, of another scale…this beauty comes from within…” In the same article, he contemplates the nature of Ma’s divine presence, “Off and on her eyes gaze into the far distance and her expression takes on a beauty that is truly divine and beyond all description. What does she see at such moments? With which world is she in touch? What is the significance of a being in our midst so totally different? She has eyes like ourselves and yet so entirely unlike. She sees us and sees much more than us…. the more I look at her, the more fascinated, the more amazed am I.”
Ma sometimes would heal sick people, and there have been people on the brink of death who were brought back to life with the divine blessings of Anandamoyi Ma. Saints often do this as a channel of the divine will of God and it is not out of any whim or personal desire. Many, after experiencing such miraculous healing, started their spiritual search for God, and this has been seen in the lives of devotees of many saints and masters.
In 1947, during the time of partition of India into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Anandamoyi Ma initiated a fire ceremony called the Gayatri Mantra Yagna which was kept going by devotees for three years continuously at her Varanasi Ashram. She initiated the ceremony as a way to uplift the vibrations and consciousness of the people in the country, as there was much suffering and strife being experienced by people of the country at the time. Her blessings were sent out into the ether with compassion for people, so that they may find inner peace despite the turmoil going on.
What were some of the things taught by Ma? Swami Kriyananda, in his book Visits to Saints of India, writes memorably about his experience of meeting Ma for the first time and gives an insight into something she taught him. After a blissful meeting Anandamoyi Ma asked Swami Kriyananda when he would be returning to America, to which he replied, “We’ll all be going back to our ashram in April.”
“‘Our ashram’? Can you tell me where your ashram is that you must go back to it?” said Anandamoyi Ma.
Swami Kriyananda corrected himself and said, “This body is my ashram, because it is here I sit for meditation.”
“No, why your body? Your body is temporary. Ashram is everywhere. It cannot be limited.
“In a spiritual sense,” Ma continued, “the meaning of the word ‘ashram’ is, ‘ar shram noy’ – cessation from all compulsory activity. In this effortless divine state, all is perceived as one.
“In another sense, ‘ashram’ refers to the four stages of life (brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa). But the divine can be known in all of these states. So these, too, are all one. Everything is one – all one.”
The four stages of life, explained in English, are the student (brahmacharya), the householder (grihastha), the forest dweller or counsellor (vanaprastha), and the renunciate (sannyasa). Nischala Cryer, director of Ananda College, has written a book on the subject from her own experiences on the yogic path within these stages. It is called The Four Stages of Yoga: How to Lead a Fulfilling Life.
Anandamoyi Ma and Swami Kriyananda had a deep and special connection which she expressed in this sweet way, “Here is a lotus in a pond. Many frogs sit under the lotus, croaking. Then a bee flies in, takes the honey, and flies away. Kriyananda is that bee.” Many words of counsel and loving guidance also flowed from Ma to Swami Kriyananda:
“Always think the divine grace is with you. Depend on it, and you will never find it wanting.”
“Joy cannot be measured in terms of ‘much’ or ‘little’. It is absolute.”
“Always practice japa. Keep your mind busy chanting God’s name, and you won’t have time to think of anything else. Say, ‘Hari! Hari!’ or any other mantra you like. Filled with His joy, you will laugh at all dangers.”
“Always try to do your Guru’s bidding. Don’t accept suggestions from anyone that are in conflict with his bidding.”
“The more you advance in meditation, the more you will realize your identity with me.”
Through the interactions recounted by Swami Kriyananda in Visits to Saint of India, one also gets a glimpse of the sweetness expressed by Ma, and the divine love and grace that flowed through her. When at the end of one of their meetings, Anandamoyi Ma rose to leave, Swami Kriyananda thanked her for having come out especially to meet him.
“‘Thank you’ is too formal,” she replied in Bengali. “Will you thank your own self?” and she asked a friend to ask Swamiji, “Ask him, would he thank his own mother?” When Swamiji said that in English it was customary to show appreciation to one’s loved ones also, Ma replied, “Well, if it is customary with you, it is alright.” Another meeting, Swamiji was offered a gift of his choice by Anandamoyi Ma, a gift from her personal belongings, which he was reluctant to ask for. Ma’s sweet reply was, “Will you be shy about asking from your own mother?”
In the words of Paramhansa Yogananda, “Anandamoyi Ma offers her sole allegiance to the Lord. Not by hairsplitting distinctions of scholars but by the sure logic of faith, the childlike saint has solved the only problem in human life – establishment of unity with God.”
(All the books mentioned here are available from the Ananda College of Living Wisdom Library of Higher Consciousness at Ananda Village. Those living at the village may check these books out. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
**I am very fortunate I had the opportunity to work on this article, and the topic of the saints. Right now, nine days of the Divine Mother have also begun in India. They are called Navratri, or nine sacred nights. Yesterday, April 13th, the new year in India began, astrologically also. So this is a very auspicious time to send this article on Anandamoyi Ma out.