To live in the world is to be on the way to Self-realizationSri Anandamayi Ma
Ma Anandamayi is a giant among the great saints of modern India, with her transformational presence being felt by those in the East and West alike. She’s often referred to as ‘Mataji’ or simply ‘Ma’ by her followers, meaning mother.
An incarnation of divine love, wisdom, and bliss, Sri Anandamayi Ma was named the ‘Joy/bliss-permeated mother’ by her early devotees, who saw that her constant state was one of unbound joy.
Her life and teachings will continue to be an inspiration for many, many years to come, especially profound to those who feel that unconditional love is the true heart of yoga.
Let’s take a look at:
- Who is Anandamayi Ma?
- The life the Anandamayi Ma
- Anandamayi Ma teachings
- Anandamayi Ma’s lasting impact
Who is Anandamayi Ma?
Widely accepted to be a wholly Self-realized being, to her devotees, Ma was not just considered to be a great spiritual icon and saint, but a true incarnation of God in human form.
Many believed Sri Ma Anandamayi was an incarnation of Kali, naming her Manusha Kali (meaning Kali in human form). Those that admired her believed her to be a full embodiment of God, a true Divine Mother.
Any Google image search of Ma can see the pure bliss and spiritual ecstasy that radiates from her face and entire being, both her thoughtful words and enrapturing appearance providing devotional inspiration for many.
Life of Anandamayi ma
Ma was born in modern-day Bangladesh on April 30, 1896, in a small village called Kheora.
By her own testimony, Anandamayi Ma chose to incarnate in response to prayers for a female manifestation of the Divine.From her very birth, those around her said she radiated expansive joy. As a small child at the mere age of two, she was said to be ‘overwhelmed with ecstasy’ in her mother’s lap as her family sat listening to devotional kirtan at her uncle’s house.
Anandamayi Ma, then Nirmala Sundari, was married at the age of 12 years and 10 months old to Ramani Mohan, later known as Bholanath.
There are many stories about the nature of their marriage and, although he is accredited by many as being a praiseworthy devotee, he was initially confused by the obvious fact that she was not an ‘ordinary’ individual.
Many say this confusion was clear, with Ramani showing both fear and anger towards his wife.
Many say he was frustrated at Ma for spending much of the beginning of their marriage in a trance, with a sole focus on meditating and praying.
Ramani first believed that she may have been possessed by evil, though later began to see that instead of being possessed by demons, she was ‘possessed by God’.
After his realization, she gave him initiation and he accepted Anandamayi as his guru. Then, instead of being scared of Ma’s behaviors, he was both stunned and delighted by them, Anandamayi’s sadhana inspiring a sense of awe.
Divine happiness, even the tiniest particle of a grain of it, never leaves one again; and when one attains to the essence of things and finds one’s Self – this is supreme happiness.
When it is found, nothing else remains to be found; the sense of want will not awaken anymore, and the heart’s torment will be stilled forever.Sri Anandamayi Ma
She did not have a guru nor did she consult scriptures, and when asked who taught her the extremely advanced asanas that she would spontaneously move into, she answered that it was Shakti.
Sri Anandamayi Ma listened to her deep intuition and inner voices, performing spontaneous yoga kriyas. Even her own self-initiation (diksha) was spontaneous in 1922, in which she played the role of both guru and disciple.
Famously, she announced Purna Brahma Narayana, declaring that she was an incarnation of God. After this, she began a 3-year-long silence that ended in 1925.
It was in 1925 that she was given the name that we all know her as today by Shri Jyotish Chandra Roy (Bhaiji), Anandamayi Ma.
In the final stage of her enlightenment, she described becoming completely absorbed by God and a total melting away of all duality.
As well as her compassionate nature, she was also known for, what some called, strange behaviors. Talking at great speed in Sanskrit-like language, rolling around in the dust for extended periods, and switching from fasting to consuming enough food for a family of 8!
Nevertheless, Ma seemed to captivate the hearts of all who came near her and grew increasingly more followers year on year.
In 1932, Ma moved to Dehradun with her husband and the number of her followers grew rapidly. From sages and scientists to celebrities and political figures, she was loved and respected by thousands, numbering in millions by the 1970s.
Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru (former Indian Prime Minister), and Indira Gandhi, for example, are well known for treating her with the deepest reverence.
Swami Sivananda said Ma was the ‘most perfect flower that the Indian soil has ever produced’. And Yogananda, as described in his book, said that with her wisdom, ‘she bestows equally on all persons the divine love of the Universal Mother’.
Sri Ma was well known for her siddhis (yogic powers) too!
It was said that she could read her devotees’ thoughts and emotions at a distance, cure those with illnesses or disabilities, notably completely curing a paralyzed girl in 1925 through her grace, and change the size of her body.
Though these were certainly not the goals of her practice, only focused on God-realization and leading others to do the same, it certainly encouraged some to walk the path that Ma did.
At the age of 86, on August 27, 1982, Sri Anandamayi Ma chose to take mahasamadhi and take on the immutable and immanent form outside of her physical body.
In a huge funeral procession the following day, crowds and crowds of devotees appeared on foot, in cars, bikes, and rickshaws to take their final darshan of the Divine Mother.
Teachings of Anandamayi Ma
1. I am the same
Ever afterward, though the dance of creation changes around me in the hall of eternity, I shall be the sameSri Anandamayi Ma
These were the words that Ma Anandamayi shared with Paramahansa Yogananda when he visited her in Calcutta in 1936.
It was clear Ma identified with the same formless, unchanging Reality that lived inside of her (as it does all of us) before birth, throughout childhood, womanhood, and after the soul has left the temporary body too. She is always the same.
In this way, death is inextricably connected with this life. When her husband died, one of her devotees asked her how she stayed so joyful at his bedside. She replied ‘do you start to cry if someone you love goes to another room?’.
Ma’s teaching reveals what is so unique and special about life; the formless is contained within form, and then suddenly, it’s not. But, the fact we leave form in death does not mean that the formless no longer exists.
Yet we spend the majority of our time in this body-mind being so obsessed with the way that it changes. How our weight fluctuates, how our hair turns grey, how our face changes, how we can no longer move in the way we used to when we were younger.
When we turn our attention inward, we remember that there is an aspect of the self much deeper than the temporal body. This part of us remains unchanged, with no beginning or end.
2. ‘Everyone’s service is revealed as one’s own service’
Ever unconditionally compassionate and loving, Ma explained how everyone is interconnected. The way that we serve others is also the way in which we serve ourselves, teaching us to see all others as equal to ourselves.
She believed that people seeing themselves as separate from one another was a kind of spiritual disease (bhava roga).
3. Other obligations are secondary
The primary obligation of our life is to achieve God-realization, Sri Ma taught.
Her life was a testimony to her service to the Divine and her view that unreserved surrender to God was the ‘best solace for man’, casting aside every other attachment and supporting her followers to do the same.
Even in her household chores like cooking and cleaning, Ma saw them as an act of devotion to God. Everything should be done for God, as well as seeing everyone and everything as an incarnation of Him.
She also believed that there should be a specific time, ideally in the morning and evening, carved out of the day to connect to God. An established practice will ensure the ‘flow of the mysterious Divine Grace feeding all your thoughts and giving you new strength’.
The unending Self can become lost in the chaos of life, thinking about our true priorities can help us to remember that we are not just this temporary reality, but part of something so much bigger.
4. You are your own guru
Ma’s belief was that everyone had what they needed inside of themselves.
Instead of relying wholly on external guidance, we should listen to our own heart and inner voice, as she lived her life doing.
Refusing to be known as a guru, nor referring to anyone that followed her as a disciple, she empowered those to seek solace in the one true guru, the Self.
5. Laugh often
Ma taught her students that they should laugh as much as they can, whenever they have the chance. Her devotees say that her laugh was one that came truly from the heart, entirely uninhibited.
As she did regularly, she told her followers to laugh with their whole body, from head to toe!
This was an aspect of Ma that infected those in her orbit with the joy that she carried with her in her own portable paradise.
Some of the best teachers and gurus, in my opinion, tell us to laugh more often, knowing that this embodiment on earth is about fun and discovery, not seriousness and solemnity.
In the Mahabharata, ‘Krishna’s mocking smile’ is a phrase that is repeated continuously. This is because Krishna saw the battlefield as a playground – He could see the bigger picture!
Life is not as serious as we think it is!
I believe that those who know and teach this, like Ma, have an enlightened essence nature and therefore perceive that this is the playful nature of life and the creative dance of consciousness.
lasting Impact of anandamayi Ma
I had been, as if, not on earth but in the heaven moving with the DivineSwami Kedarnathji, the direct disciple of Sri Sri Ma on living with her for 6 years
Being one of the most influential teachers of our lifetime, it is hard to quantify the lasting impact that Sri Ma has had on the world.
Though some may wish to know which path to walk down (bhakti, jnana, karma, kriya, etc.) to connect with Ma more deeply, it is futile to try and categorize her since, as she so regularly proclaimed, ‘all paths are my paths’.
Though she no longer walks the earth in human form, her formless, ever-loving presence and guidance are still available to anyone who wishes to seek it. Connecting with Ma’s presence in our hearts can lead us to that place of profound joy that lives at the core of our being.
Many devotees tell of dreams of Ma giving them advice, showing them signs from the universe, and deep hits of intuition knowing it is the guiding presence of their beloved teacher.
She specifically asked for her images to remain forever free and, if you wish, you can find images here to print for your altar and connect with the Divine Mother.
Her shrine is now a place of worship and pilgrimage known for its spiritual power, and there are 3 Sri Anandamayi Ma ashrams that you can visit in India.
Her message was not what she taught, but what she was – a living embodiment of love, the eternal bliss of the Mother.
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If you’ve enjoyed reading about the wonderful Anandamayi Ma, you may want to read one of the many books written about her or take a look at some of our other biographies on inspiring teachers and gurus.