Sri Anandamoyi Ma
|Sri Ma Anandamayi|
|Date of birth||April 30 1896|
|Place of birth||Kheora, Brahmanbaria, Bangladesh|
|Date of passing||27 August 1982 (aged 86)|
|Place of passing||Kishanpur, Dehradun, India Last rites were performed in Kankhal, Haridwar, India|
Sri Anandamoyi Ma (1896 - 1982), also called Anandamayi Ma (meaning "Joy Permeated Mother"), was a Hindu spiritual teacher (guru), saint, and mystic from Bengal, India. Called "the finest flower that the soil of India had produced," she engaged in religious cross-fertilization with several notable Indian figures including Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Paramahamsa Yogananada, and many other spiritual leaders during her lifetime.
Esteemed for her religious devotion and her cultivation of paranormal abilities (such as precognition and faith healings), many miracles were also reported of her. She practiced Hindu Tantra herself but did not advocate the same method for all. She taught that there are so many different religions and sects because God reveals Himself to everyone through all of them so that each person may advance according to his or her inherent capabilities. Correspondingly, she blessed followers of all religions equally. The Muslim population of Kheora has continually venerated her their "own Ma" (Mother).
Anandamayi Ma was born Nirmala Sundari on April 30, 1896, to Bipinbihari Bhattacharya and Mokshada Sundari Devie in Kheora, Brahmanbaria District, British India, in what is now Bangladesh. Her father was a Vaishnavite singer. whose devotion to Vishnu was demonstrated during a storm that blew the roof off their home, whereupon he continued to sing during the downpour. His daughter experienced the presence of divine power in herself since childhood and went into a trance on hearing kirtans. She attended the village school for barely two years.
At the age of thirteen, in 1908, she was married to Ramani Mohan Chakrabarti of Vikramapura, who she called Bholanath and pitaji. She spent five years after her marriage at her brother-in-law's home, where she was in a trancelike state much of the time. It was a celibate marriage because whenever thoughts of sexuality occurred to him, Anandamoyi's body would take on the qualities of death and she would grow faint. When Nirmala Sundari was about 17, Nirmala went to live with her husband in Ashtagram. It was here that a devout neighbor, Harakumar, developed a habit of addressing her as "Ma," and prostrated before her morning and evening. In 1918, they went on to live in Bajitpur, where she became famous for her beauty. Here they stayed until 1924, while Nirmala went deeper into her trances. On his return from the office at the end of the working day, Bholanath often found Nirmala lying on the kitchen floor, the food half cooked or burnt. On the full moon night of August 1922, at midnight, 26-year old Nirmala went through the actions of spiritual initiation—all by herself. Members of Bholanath's family did not respond to his wife’s strange behavior as calmly as he did. While his relatives suggested he remarry, he became her first disciple in 1922. Her second disciple was Bhaiji who was the first to suggest that Nirmala be called Anandamayi Ma, meaning "Joy Permeated Mother," or "Bliss Permeated Mother." He was chiefly responsible for the first ashram built for Anandamayi Ma in 1929 at Ramna, within the precinct of the Ramna Kali Mandir.
Nirmala moved to Shahbag with her husband in 1924, where he had been appointed caretaker of the gardens of the Nawab of Dhaka. During this period Nirmala used to manifest the ecstasy that resembled Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In 1926, she set up a Kali temple in the Siddheshwari area and devoted herself to spirituality. Nirmala underwent a mystic experience while praying in the temple one day. In her trance, she would hold difficult yogic positions for long periods and spontaneously form complex tantric hand positions and gestures. Henceforth, she became known as Anandamoyi Ma, meaning the Joy Permeated Mother. She set up an ashram at Ramna within the precinct of the Ramna Kali Mandir. Though her parents were Vaishnavas, she followed the Tantric creed.
Scholars were attracted to Anandamoyi Ma's spiritualism, though she called herself "a little unlettered child". Mahamahopadhyay Gopinath Kaviraj, Sanskrit scholar, philosopher, and principal of Sanskrit College in Kolkata and the physician Triguna Sen were among them. Uday Shankar, the famous dance artist, was impressed by Anandamoyi's analysis of dance, which was used as a metaphor defining the relationship between humans and God.
In 1932, Anandamoyi Ma went to Dehradun with her husband and started working there. She travelled across the subcontinent to enlighten others. Several ashrams, and seats of learning hospitals were established in her name at Ramna (near Shahbag) and Kheora in Bangladesh, and Benares, Kankhal and other areas in India. Twenty-five ashrams are named after her. She also renovated many dilapidated holy places, including the Naimisharanya, where she set up a temple there and arranged for the recitation of holy names and the performance of kirtan and other religious rites. At this time, people like Arnaud Desjardins, the French producer of sprititual films, Melita Maschmann, the German novelist, and Dr. Collin Turnbull, the English author, became her disciples.
Kamala Nehru, wife of the future prime Minster, Jawaharlal Nehru, became a devotee in 1933. Anandamoyi was then staying at a small temple in Dehradun, while Pandit Nehru was incarcerated by the British in Dehradun jail. Later she took Kamala to the Ambika temple in Kajpur to perform a three-day yajna. She gave to her daughter Indira the rosary that Mataji had given her. Mahatma Gandhi came to hear of Anandamayi through Kamala and sent his aid, Jamnalal Bajaj, to see her. He in turn became a devotee. After the unexpected death of Bajaj, she went to Wardha to console Mahatma Gandhi.
She visited Ramana Maharshi at his ashram and also met Jiddu Krishnamurti. Although she is mentioned in many books about Indian spiritual teachers, she is notably written about in Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi. His meeting with her is recounted in the chapter titled The Bengali "Joy-Permeated Mother," where he wrote:
"Father, there is little to tell." She spread her graceful hands in a deprecatory gesture. "My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body. Before I came on this earth, Father, I was the same. As a little girl, I was the same. I grew into womanhood, but still I was the same. When the family in which I had been born made arrangements to have this body married, 'I was the same… And, Father, in front of you now, I am the same. Ever afterward, though the dance of creation change[s] around me in the hall of eternity, I shall be the same."
As you love your own body, so regard everyone as equal to your own body. When the Supreme Experience supervenes, everyone's service is revealed as one's own service. Call it a bird, an insect, an animal or a man, call it by any name you please, one serves one's own Self in every one of them (Anandamayi Ma, Ananda Varta Quarterly).
Anandamoyi never prepared her discourse, wrote anything down, or revised what she had said. It is said that noting down what she said in her discourses was difficult, as the musicality and alliterative word-play of her sayings died in writing. Only Brahmachari Kamal Bhattacharjee is said to have had the ability to transcribe her discourse with scrupulous fidelity.
The central theme of her teaching in endless variation is "the supreme calling of every human being is to aspire to self realization. All other obligations are secondary" and "only actions that kindle man's divine nature are worthy of the name of actions." However she did not ask everyone to become a renunciate. "Everyone is right from his own standpoint," she would say. She did not give formal initiations and refused to be called a guru, as she maintained that "all paths are my paths" and kept telling "I have no particular path".
She did not advocate the same method for all. "How can one impose limitations on the infinite by declaring—this is the only path—and, why should there be so many different religions and sects? Because through everyone of them He gives Himself to Himself, so that each person may advence according to his inborn nature." Though she was Tantric, Anandamoyi Ma blessed Shaivas, Shaktas, Vaishnavas, Muslims and Christians equally. Even now, the Muslim population of Kheora still refer to her as "our own Ma". She taught how to live a God-centered life in the world and provided the powerful living inspiration to enable thousands to aspire to this most noble ideal. Her way of teaching involved jokes, songs, and instructions on everyday life along with long discourses, meditation and reading of scriptures.
The Publication Department of Shree Shree Anandamayee Charitable Society in Kolkata regularly publishes her teaching in the periodical Anandavarta Quarterly. The Shree Shree Anandamayee Sangha in Haridwar organizes the annual Samyam Mahavrata congregation to devote a week to collective meditation, religious discourse, and devotional music.
Called "the finest flower that the soil of India had produced," Sri Anandamoyi Ma is renowned not only for her influence on several prominent Indian spiritual figures but also for her religious discourses shared with thousands of devotees. Esteemed for her spiritual insight, paranormal abilities and miracles, she welcomed all people from different religious backgrounds under her wing, and spoke of them as part of one cosmic family. She stands out as a beacon of inter-religious harmony.
- Monoranjan Ghosh, Banglapedia (Dhaka: Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, 2003, ISBN 978-9843205766).
- Anandamayi.org, Introduction, As the Flower Sheds Its Fragrance. Retrieved December 9, 2008.
- Richard Lannoy, Ananadamayi: Her Life and Wisdom (Element Books Ltd, 1996, ISBN 1852309148).
- Om Guru, Anandamayi Ma, Saints, Teachers, and Seekers in the Indian Tradition. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
- Lipski, 66.
- Anandamayi.org, Mataji's Methods, As the Flower Sheds Its Fragrance. Retrieved December 9, 2008.
- Bithika Mukherje, Life and Teachings of Sri Ma Anandamayi: A Bird on the Wing. Retrieved December 9, 2008.
- Fitzgerald, Joseph, and Alexander Lipski. 2007. The Essential Sri Anandamayi Ma: Life and Teaching of a 20th Century Indian Saint. World Wisdom. ISBN 978-1-933316-41-3.
- Chaudhuri, Narayan. 1986. That Compassionate Touch of Ma Anandamayee. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 8120802047.
- Ganguly, Adwaita P. 1996. Yuga-Avatar Sri Sri Ma Anandamayee and Universal Religion. VRC Publications. ISBN 8187530006.
- Hallstrom, Lisa Lassell. 1999. Mother of Bliss. US: Oxford University Press. ISBN 019511647X.
- Lannoy, Richard. 1996. Ananadamayi: Her Life and Wisdom. Element Books Ltd. ISBN 1852309148.
- Maschmann, Melita. 2002. Encountering Bliss: My Journey Through India with Anandamayi Ma. Trans. S.B. Shrotri. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 8120815416.
- Mukerji, Bithika. 1998. A Bird on the Wing—Life and Teachings of Sri Ma Anandamayi. Sri Satguru Publications. ISBN 8170305772.
- Mukerji, Bithika. 2002. My Days with Sri Ma Anandamayi. India: Indica Books. ISBN 8186569278.
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