Sri Anandamayi Ma (1896-1982) was one of the most influential spiritual luminaries of the Twentieth Century. Her devotees ranged from Prime Ministers and great Saints down to the simplest villagers, and people came from all over the world to simply see Her and sit in Her presence. Though virtually uneducated, She spoke with the authority of direct experience and captivated all with Her sweetness and power. To this day, Her presence and guidance is felt by those who turn to Her in prayer, and Her life is an inspiration to all who feel drawn to the spiritual Path.
Many times in the history of the world, Divinity has manifested to bring light, guidance and inspiration to the human race. Anandamayi Ma was an embodiment of Divinity and spiritual power in our own times, and Her message and guidance is eternally relevant and uplifting. She often stressed that Her appearance and birth was not the result of karma or compulsion, but that She was the visible manifestation of the pure aspiration of the spiritual longing of mankind. During Her eighty-six years on this earth, in Her own unassuming and spontaneous way, She exerted a profound influence on an entire generation.
Ma was born in April 30th, 1896 in Kheora, East Bengal (now Bangladesh). Preceded by many miraculous signs and visions, She exhibited perfect awareness and consciousness from birth. She never uttered a cry, but was peaceful and radiant, and later surprised people by remembering by name people who were present in the immediate time following Her birth.
She was given the name Nirmala Sundari Devi, meaning “Goddess of flawless beauty”. At each stage of Her life, She spontaneously manifested an example of perfection in fulfilling the different stages of human existence. As a child, She was the embodiment of sweetness and beauty, and manifesting no desire of Her own, lived to serve others, seeing only the One in all, and the One AS all. The traits of absolute obedience, complete guilelessness and perfect purity manifested in all Her behavior, together with a marked mystical quality of occasional self-absorption in inner yogic states and visions.
As She grew into a young schoolgirl, all the dharma of this stage was beautifully reflected in Her life. Complete honesty and obedience joined themselves to Her naturally free and joyous nature to manifest a personality that lit up Her village surroundings with its radiance. In addition to learning the lessons of school, She mastered all the household crafts and skills necessary to a girl of Her age. On occasion, while playing with Her friends, She would become immobile, and with Her face shining with inner effulgence, divine mantras (holy sound formulas) would issue from her lips in flawless accents. When hearing kirtan, She would enter into a deep inner bhav with tears streaming down Her face.
According to custom, Ma’s marriage was arranged at an early age, and the ceremony took place when She was only thirteen years old. When She was eighteen, Her husband called Her to join him in the town of Ashtagram. Her husband, Sri Ramani Chakravarty had assumed he had married a simple village girl, but when She entered into his life, he found Her wrapped in such an aura of holiness and sanctity, that any thoughts of a normal marital relationship were driven from his mind. Considerably older than Her, he came to look on Her as a divine Child, and himself as Her guardian. He later turned to Her for spiritual counsel as a Guru, and She molded his life and led him to the heights of spiritual attainment.
Here in Ashtagram, for six full years we see in Ma’s life the play of sadhana (spiritual discipline and striving). It is called Lila (Divine Sport or Play), because having perfect, integral knowledge of Reality from birth, there was nothing for Her personally to attain. For the sake of all who would later come to Her for guidance, it was necessary that all the kriyas and sadhanas in every religious Tradition spontaneously be manifested in Her person and come to the perfect fruition of enlightenment. And so it happened. Practices that take sadhaks lifetimes to perfect played through Her body in a matter of minutes. Because of this She became an abode of sadhana shakti (spiritual power), and in later days, She was immediately familiar with the problems and practices of anyone who came to Her for advice, regardless of what culture or religion they came from.
Although having no external Guru, in 1922 She spontaneously went through the ritual of Initiation exactly according to the Shastras, the Guru emerging from within, and after imparting the instruction and empowerment, being absorbed back into Her own Self. She later gave Her husband diksha, changing his name to Bholanath, and beginning his transformation from a simple, yet virtuous man of the world, into a great sadhak and saint.
In 1924, when Bholanath was working as the manager of a large garden estate in Dacca, the story spread by word of mouth that there was an unusual Mataji living in the gardens who was immersed in a deeply spiritual state. Devotees began to be attracted as bees to the flower, and soon a large following had gathered around Ma, many of whom were devoted to Her for the remainder of their lives. The garden estate became the center of daily kirtan and religious festival. Ma never gave formal speeches, but answered everyone’s questions and guided all according to their inner needs. Although having little formal education, She spoke with the authority of direct perception, and Her spontaneous replies even won the admiration of scholars and pandits.
In the year 1932, Ma left Bengal and for the next fifty years of Her life, wandered the length and breadth of India, never staying in any one place for long. Led only by the needs of the many devotees that surrounded Her and the inner call of mankind to manifest spirituality, She gave comfort and guidance to all that came to Her. The divine attraction that drew people to Her cannot be explained in words. People found a joy and inner awakening in Her presence, and felt that She was someone who had known them from eternity. There is a wealth of stories of Ma’s guidance and blessing, many accompanied by supernatural manifestations. Many ashrams sprang up in Her Name and became centers of spiritual activities. Even political leaders came to Her, and She was loved and respected by Mahatma Gandhi, and Prime Ministers Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Many famous Saints and Mahatmas realized Her divinity and even openly proclaimed it.
Ma left Her mortal body in the year 1982 in Her ashram in Dehradun UA. It was enshrined in a beautiful marble Samadhi in Kankhal, south of the pilgrimage center of Haridwar, and to this day the Jyoti Peeth (Center of Light) radiates blessing and light to the entire world. Ma still makes Her divine presence felt to those who turn to Her in prayer.
May all be inspired to learn more about Ma, and turn to Her for guidance, blessing and inspiration. Jai Ma!