Mata Nirmala Devi - Mother divine
The figure on the dais is small built and plump, with a broad fair face
lit with a radiant smile. Framed by streaming locks of black hair and
an enormous red bindi on the forehead, it has an elemental quality. One
can imagine it astride a tiger, bearing a flaming trident. The face, of
course, is familiar, the subject of thousands of posters plastered all
over Mumbai, in Western India, that announce the arrival of well-known
spiritual leader, Mata Nirmala Devi.
She has a mass following. Her annual Shivaji Park rallies attract a hundred thousand acolytes, celebrities jostle with each other for a sight, and to millions more her word is law. Sahaja Yoga centers dot 86 countries. She has been a guest speaker at the 1995 Beijing World Women's Conference. For four consecutive years she was invited by the UN to speak of world peace and in 1989 was awarded the United Nations Peace Prize. In Russia, research on Sahaja Yoga was granted full government sponsorship in 1989. In 1995, the government of Bulgaria honored her with a Peace Award and the Romanian government with an honorary doctorate in Cognitive Science. What is the secret of her popularity?
Nirmala Devi's appeal is unique. Her USP is her ability to give mass kundalini awakenings, through a system called Sahaja Yoga or Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. "If I've done anything worth mentioning, it is the ability to give collective realization," she has said on several occasions.
Traditionally, kundalini and its awakening have been shrouded in mystery and awe. Most seekers view it as the maha shakti (great power), whose ascent symbolizes the adept's spiritual progress and manifests in fearful mental and physical experiences. Sages warn against willfully raising the kundalini, for its premature arousal can wreck damage. Nirmala Devi, however, makes it appear as easy as falling off a log, with no damage to one's system. She even grants it across cyberspace. Visitors to her site are given instructions on how to raise their kundalini.
Indeed, I am here at a meeting with Maharashtra's IAS officers where she is scheduled to give a demonstration. We are asked to raise our palms upward, then to place the left hand on the liver while extending the right towards her, then finally to raise our palms above our heads. She asks us if we feel any cool air radiating either from our palms or the top of the heads, which according to her is the infallible sign of a risen kundalini. The other is thoughtlessness and peace of mind. In the air-conditioned hall, it is difficult to gauge whether the cool feeling is from the kundalini, or from a more temporal source. Nevertheless, I do feel some coolness from up on top, and I put up my hand when she asks for a hand count. A majority of the audience feels likewise, I notice. Nirmala Devi explains the relative ease with which she raises kundalini in the kali yug, the present Hindu era of darkness. "This is blossom time," she says, adding that she has "shortened the seeking".
If kundalini awakening is Mataji's calling card, it is also easily the most controversial aspect of her teaching. For traditionalists, it is impossible to believe that one can get self-realization in the time it takes to have a cup of tea. How valuable is such an awakening? Do the results last?
Willy Doctor, a management consultant and former Head of the department of Psychology at Sophia College, is a senior disciple of Mataji. She concedes that the original self-realization may wane unless followed up regularly with Sahaja Yoga meditation. Raising the kundalini then is only the initial spark.
Sahaja Yoga follows the Indian system of mapping the energy flow in the body through nadis or channels. According to this theory, prana or vital energy enters our body through the three channels of ida, pingala and the sushumna, which run alongside the spinal cord. Ida or the moon channel is on the left, pingala or the sun channel is on the right and sushumna is the central channel. According to Nirmala Devi, when the fetus is two to three months old, a column of rays of consciousness from the Higher Power passes through the developing brain to enlighten it, which gets refracted, into these channels. Entering through the fontanelle bone (the seat of the sahasrara chakra), the energy passes into the medulla oblongata where it leaves a thread-like line and settles at the base of the spine in three-and a-half coils. This is the kundalini. On its way down, the rays activate six more centers, adding up to the principle seven chakras running along the spine, regulating the activities of adjacent organs. The right-hand side of the body is governed by the pingala, the activity center of the body, creating the ego (equivalent to the left brain). The left-hand side is governed by the ida and is the seat of the subconscious (right brain).
When the kundalini is awakened, which Mataji says can be done by anyone whose own kundalini has been awakened, it heals and balances the over activity of the right and left sides. "In Sahaja Yoga our dormant spirituality is awakened to achieve true meditation. We are completely alert, yet our thoughts are slowed down and the mind is silent. Our hearts are full of joy and love but we are emotionally detached from what is going on around us."
walk into a center at Napean Sea Road, Mumbai, India, run by Willy. Today, she is absent, and a young Angana Shroff puts us through our paces. The 20-odd meditators are affluent, relatively young and predominantly women. Angana came in contact with Sahaja Yoga through Willy three years ago. Says she: "I realize now that it is not what happens to you but your perspective that really matters. I'm far more aware of my actions, personality and ego." Adds Grishma Dattani: "You know what is appropriate and what is not. Surrendering to Mataji has saved me from all fears."
Sameer Desai, a young stockbroker, suffered from recurring high fever when he came in contact with Sahaja Yoga. "After Willy raised my kundalini, I had no fever for the next three days." Now fully recovered, he also claims to be more composed.
The Sahaja Yoga brochure says: "Through Sahaja Yoga meditations, blocks of the subtle body are released, cleansing the chakras and channels. This practice can be regarded as a sophisticated internal biofeedback process which demystifies stress, improves health and heals the harried nervous system."
The organization has opened a hospital in Badlapur, in New Mumbai, called the Sahaja Yoga Research and Health Center that only treats ailments with Sahaja Yoga. Set amidst lush green lawns and singing birds, the three-storeyed structure has a serene charm. Inside, I meet Dr Hule, an allopath who converted to Sahaja Yoga when he found that a patient who was also practicing yoga healed much faster than others did. Dr Hule claims to have cured thousands of asthma and bronchitis patients. Other diseases receptive to this healing include diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, migraines, insomnia. Steeping the foot in warm salted water to dissipate negative energy and the application of ice on the heat-congested chakras are some other treatments.
Hari Prakash, a software engineer from Hyderabad, has been at the Center for the last two months. He says: "I was feeling lethargic and so weak that I could not work. I'm much better now. My blood pressure and sinus problem are also under control."
Jenny Cook, a care assistant for the learning disabled in the UK, is here to treat depression after an operation to remove her right ovary. "I feel much happier now," she says.
So Sahaja Yoga helps its practitioners. But how do you contend with their assertion that it's the only way to self-realization? One may add that they are hardly the first organization to make that claim. Moreover, Mataji is unusually emphatic in denouncing most spiritual leaders as frauds.
According to Willy: "Sahaja Yoga is the only way which gives enlightenment first and then works its way backwards. The other way, you may not be liberated for lifetimes; with Sahaja Yoga you are likely to be so within one lifetime itself."
Mataji asks: "Others say that they give self-realization, but what is the proof of that?" Her own, she says, can actually be felt within the palms of the hand and on the crown of the head as well as experienced as peace. I wonder if vibrations could not be created by fervent expectation and desire, just as the speaking with tongues is a unique manifestation of the Pentecostal faith? Man, after all, makes his own reality. And the common collective experience of a group is no more proof that it is the only way, than the common human experience of being bodies disproves our spiritual identity. Both are only beliefs created by our own certainty about it.
To do Mataji credit, however, she reserves her ire for those gurus who she feels take money for self-realization, or mislead their disciples in other ways. She says categorically: "It's a living process, you cannot pay for it. It's your own power which will be awakened." She also contends that once the kundalini is awakened, an individual feels all knowledge at the tips of his fingers. "When you encounter a bad person or a cheat, your fingertips begin to burn."
The lady herself is said to have "opened sahasrara chakra of the universe" at a beach in Nargol, near Mumbai on May 5, 1970. She describes the experience of merging with the divine as a feeling of cool rain falling upon her. Subsequently, she realized within her the power of raising mass consciousness. The Sahaja Yoga people have a portfolio of photographs, accessible on their website, which shows blinding light or energy emerging from her or surrounding her. Subsequently, Nirmala Devi started her ministry across the world. But she is no sanyasi (nun). She is the wife of a top bureaucrat, Sir C.P. Srivastava, whose illustrious career culminated as the Secretary General of the UN Maritime Organization. Her two daughters are married and she has just become a great grandmother.
Today, at 77, she spends half her time in a chateau in Italy and the other half in India. Her Indian abode is in Pune. She is said to be independently wealthy. Prathisthan, her house, resembles a cross between a palace and a museum. The entry is lined with bronze statues of Indian gods and goddesses, and the rooms within are studded with priceless bric-a brac.
Her drawing room is massive, with beautiful carved furniture and elaborate candelabra. The hall is ringed with a balcony, accessible through a carved staircase. Nirmala Devi is reputed to have designed the place herself. We are shown into a portico, overlooking a beautiful lawn. Mataji is sitting on a sofa. A few chairs have been laid for us, but the disciples accompanying me sink to the floor, hands folded in deep reverence. I do likewise. Later, as I try to rise, my legs feel rubbery. I wobble comically in my attempt to find my balance. Mataji, with deep concern, holds me and says: "Let me put my foot on yours. I am Mother Earth."
A great warmth fills my foot and sensation returns. The next day, we return to say goodbye. Nirmala Devi is having an inventory of her kitchen vessels (hundreds of them) done, but she meets us with a smile. When she notices me, she asks with genuine concern how I am. Feeling my back with her hands, she says: "She is a very emotional child."
One cannot help warming to her persona, which is affectionate, natural and motherly. Her fervent patriotism is touching. "What saved me (as the wife of an IAS officer) from false pride was patriotism. My husband got into the IFS but I refused to leave the country. I also told him, 'The day you take a bribe, I will leave you'."
Likewise, her concern for women is genuine. "I have started an organization to look after destitute Muslim women. If their mothers and sisters are weeping what will become of the children?" she asks. "Women should help other women."
One of the ways she addresses it within the organization is through the inter-marriage of Sahaja Yogis, from across the globe. "Sahaja Yogis fill up forms and submit them at centers. She selects by matching their vibrations," says Willy. "To an outsider some of the alliances seem wildly improbable, but they work."
Lyn, an Australian working with Mukund Iron and Steel, was married to Vasudeva on a trip to Ganapatipule in Maharashtra. She says: "Has it worked? Well, it's the only marriage I've had; we have two children and we aren't planning to kill each other. My husband tells me that he was always interested in Australia and knew he would marry an Australian. As for me, my friends said I would never marry an Australian."
Other initiatives taken by the group are the Sahaja Yoga school in Dharamshala, in Northern India, which apart from the academic curriculum emphasizes the absorption of Indian values. Meditation is a daily activity. With transformation of human society as her mission, Mataji has a long way to go, but who can deny that she has brought the end closer?
Subject: Sahajyoga experience - 2 April 2012
I feel very good after Joined sahayoga . I am regularly attend centre .Also i feel happy after some discussion with any Sahajyogi. Just take a opportunity & come to any nearest centre & make your internal power.
by: Dinesh sudhakar saraf
Subject: for mataji - 19 November 2011
mataji u r my god,god,god only u.
by: dheeraj verma
Subject: self realisation - 15 September 2011
Sahaja Yoga is a unique method of meditation based on an experience called Self Realization (Kundalini awakening) that can occur within each human being. Through this process an inner transformation takes place by which one becomes moral, united, integrated and balanced. One can act More...
by: vishnu udupa
Subject: dream - 12 March 2011
i feel very good in sahaja yoga and our life has been changed when Mataji came in our life and give us a path of truthfulness , honesty and punctuality .
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