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The Bengali "Joy-Permeated" Mother
"Sir, please do not leave India without a glimpse of Nirmala
Devi. Her sanctity is intense; she is known far and wide as Ananda
Moyi Ma (Joy-Permeated Mother)." My niece, Amiyo Bose, gazed
at me earnestly.
course! I want very much to see the woman saint." I added,
"I have read of her advanced state of God-realization. A little
article about her appeared years ago in East-West."
met her," Amiyo went on. "She recently visited my own
little town of Jamshedpur. At the entreaty of a disciple, Ananda
Moyi Ma went to the home of a dying man. She stood by his bedside;
as her hand touched his forehead, his death-rattle ceased. The disease
vanished at once; to the man's glad astonishment, he was well."
A few days later
I heard that the Blissful Mother was staying at the home of a disciple
in the Bhowanipur section of Calcutta. Mr. Wright and I set out
immediately from my father's Calcutta home. As the Ford neared the
Bhowanipur house, my companion and I observed an unusual street
Ma was standing in an open-topped automobile, blessing a throng
of about one hundred disciples. She was evidently on the point of
departure. Mr. Wright parked the Ford some distance away, and accompanied
me on foot toward the quiet assemblage. The woman saint glanced
in our direction; she alit from her car and walked toward us.
you have come!" With these fervent words she put her arm around
my neck and her head on my shoulder. Mr. Wright, to whom I had just
remarked that I did not know the saint, was hugely enjoying this
extraordinary demonstration of welcome. The eyes of the one hundred
chelas were also fixed with some surprise on the affectionate tableau.
had instantly seen that the saint was in a high state of samadhi. Utterly oblivious to her outward garb as a woman, she knew herself
as the changeless soul; from that plane she was joyously greeting
another devotee of God. She led me by the hand into her automobile.
Moyi Ma, I am delaying your journey!" I protested.
I am meeting you for the first time in this life, after ages!"
she said. "Please do not leave yet."
We sat together
in the rear seats of the car. The Blissful Mother soon entered the
immobile ecstatic state. Her beautiful eyes glanced heavenward and,
half-opened, became stilled, gazing into the near-far inner Elysium.
The disciples chanted gently: "Victory to Mother Divine!"
I had found
many men of God-realization in India, but never before had I met
such an exalted woman saint. Her gentle face was burnished with
the ineffable joy that had given her the name of Blissful Mother.
Long black tresses lay loosely behind her unveiled head. A red dot
of sandalwood paste on her forehead symbolized the spiritual eye,
ever open within her. Tiny face, tiny hands, tiny feet --- a contrast
to her spiritual magnitude!
I put some questions
to a near-by woman chela while Ananda Moyi Ma remained entranced.
Blissful Mother travels widely in India; in many parts she has hundreds
of disciples," the chela told me. "Her courageous efforts
have brought about many desirable social reforms. Although a Brahmin,
the saint recognizes no caste distinctions. 1 A group of us
always travel with her, looking after her comforts. We have to mother
her; she takes no notice of her body. If no one gave her food, she
would not eat, or make any inquiries. Even when meals are placed
before her, she does not touch them. To prevent her disappearance
from this world, we disciples feed her with our own hands. For days
together she often stays in the divine trance, scarcely breathing,
her eyes unwinking. One of her chief disciples is her husband. Many
years ago, soon after their marriage, he took the vow of silence."
The chela pointed
to a broad-shouldered, fine-featured man with long hair and hoary
beard. He was standing quietly in the midst of the gathering, his
hands folded in a disciple's reverential attitude.
her dip in the Infinite, Ananda Moyi Ma was now focusing her consciousness
on the material world.
please tell me where you stay." Her voice was clear and melodious.
in Calcutta or Ranchi; but soon I shall be returning to America."
Indian woman saint would be sincerely appreciated there by spiritual
seekers. Would you like to go?"
can take me, I will go."
This reply caused
her near-by disciples to start in alarm.
or more of us always travel with the Blissful Mother," one
of them told me firmly. "We could not live without her. Wherever
she goes, we must go."
I abandoned the plan, as possessing an impractical feature of spontaneous
come at least to Ranchi, with your disciples," I said on taking
leave of the saint. "As a divine child yourself, you will enjoy
the little ones in my school."
Father takes me, I will gladly go."
A short time later the Ranchi Vidyalaya was in gala array
for the saint's promised visit. The youngsters looked forward to
any day of festivity --- no lessons, hours of music, and a feast for
Ananda Moyi Ma, ki jai!" This reiterated chant from scores
of enthusiastic little throats greeted the saint's party as it entered
the school gates. Showers of marigolds, tinkle of cymbals, lusty
blowing of conch shells and beat of the mridanga drum! The
Blissful Mother wandered smilingly over the sunny Vidyalaya grounds, ever carrying within her the portable paradise.
beautiful here," Ananda Moyi Ma said graciously as I led her
into the main building. She seated herself with a childlike smile
by my side. The closest of dear friends, she made one feel, yet
an aura of remoteness was ever around her --- the paradoxical isolation
tell me something of your life."
knows all about it; why repeat it?" She evidently felt that
the factual history of one short incarnation was beneath notice.
I laughed, gently
repeating my question.
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 when, passion-drunk, my husband came to me and
murmured endearing words, lightly touching my body, he received
a violent shock, as if struck by lightning, for even then 'I was
knelt before me, folded his hands, and implored my pardon.
he said, 'because I have desecrated your bodily temple by touching
it with the thought of lust --- not knowing that within it dwelt not
my wife but the Divine Mother --- I take this solemn vow: I shall be
your disciple, a celibate follower, ever caring for you in silence
as a servant, never speaking to anyone again as long as I live.
May I thus atone for the sin I have today committed against you,
I quietly accepted this proposal of my husband's, 'I was the same.'
And, Father, in front of you now, 'I am the same.' Ever afterward,
though the dance of creation change around me in the hall of eternity,
'I shall be the same.'"
Ma sank into a deep meditative state. Her form was statue-still;
she had fled to her ever-calling kingdom. The dark pools of her
eyes appeared lifeless and glassy. This expression is often present
when saints remove their consciousness from the physical body, which
is then hardly more than a piece of soulless clay. We sat together
for an hour in the ecstatic trance. She returned to this world with
a gay little laugh.
Ananda Moyi Ma," I said, "come with me to the garden.
Mr. Wright will take some pictures."
Father. Your will is my will." Her glorious eyes retained the
unchanging divine luster as she posed for many photographs.
Time for the
feast! Ananda Moyi Ma squatted on her blanket-seat, a disciple at
her elbow to feed her. Like an infant, the saint obediently swallowed
the food after the chela had brought it to her lips. It was plain
that the Blissful Mother did not recognize any difference between
curries and sweetmeats!
dusk approached, the saint left with her party amidst a shower of
rose petals, her hands raised in blessing on the little lads. Their
faces shone with the affection she had effortlessly awakened.
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy
soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength:" Christ
has proclaimed, "this is the first commandment."2
every inferior attachment, Ananda Moyi Ma offers her sole allegiance
to the Lord. Not by the 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. Man has forgotten
this stark simplicity, now befogged by a million issues. Refusing
a monotheistic love to God, the nations disguise their infidelity
by punctilious respect before the outward shrines of charity. These
humanitarian gestures are virtuous, because for a moment they divert
man's attention from himself, but they do not free him from his
single responsibility in life, referred to by Jesus as the first
commandment. The uplifting obligation to love God is assumed with
man's first breath of an air freely bestowed by his only Benefactor.
On one other
occasion after her Ranchi visit I had opportunity to see Ananda
Moyi Ma. She stood among her disciples some months later on the
Serampore station platform, waiting for the train.
I am going to the Himalayas," she told me. "Generous disciples
have built me a hermitage in Dehra Dun."
As she boarded
the train, I marveled to see that whether amidst a crowd, on a train,
feasting, or sitting in silence, her eyes never looked away from
God. Within me I still hear her voice, an echo of measureless sweetness:
now and always one with the Eternal, 'I am ever the same.'"
I find some further facts of Ananda Moyi Ma's life, printed in East-West.
The saint was born in 1893 at Dacca in central Bengal. Illiterate,
she has yet stunned the intellectuals by her wisdom. Her verses
in Sanskrit have filled scholars with wonderment. She has brought
consolation to bereaved persons, and effected miraculous cures,
by her mere presence.
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