By Life Positive April 2011 Contemporary Women gurus are increasingly bringing in much needed maternal yin energy in a world suffocating under oppressive patriarchal structures Flame of self-inquiryGANGAJI Gangaji was born Antoinette Roberson in Texas in 1942, but grew up in Mississippi. Following her graduation from the University of Mississippi in 1964, she married and had a daughter. In 1972, she moved to San Francisco where she took Bodhisattva vows, practised Zen and Vipassana meditation, helped run a Tibetan Buddhist meditation centre but continued to feel unfulfilled. She made a final prayer for true help and in 1990, the universe took her to India and to Sri HWL Poonja, also known as Papaji, whom she met at the banks of the Ganga. In this meeting, her personal story of suffering ended and the promise of a true life began to flower and unfold. Papaji gave Antoinette a new name – Gangaji – after the river Ganga. Gangaji uses her own form of self-enquiry first associated with Ramana Maharshi, Papaji’s teacher. “I invite people to just stop and be still. And in that you discover who you are, because once you discover who you are, you can stop fragmenting into pieces. I know that in any one day there are moments where there is nothing going on, but we link up what is happening from thought to thought without any space. We overlook the spaciousness that it is all happening in. “I use inquiry as a way of getting the mind to turn inward to the silence. It could be the question, ‘Who am I?’ Or it could be ‘What am I avoiding in this moment?’ Or, ‘Where is silence?’ ‘What is needed in this moment, right in this very moment, what is needed for true peace?’ ‘What is needed if this was my last moment on earth?’ Rather than sending the mind outward to gather information or experiences, it is really sending the mind inward to question our basic assumption of who we think we are.” Gangaji travels across the globe guiding seekers from all walks of life. She draws from her direct experience of the deepest insights she has received from Papaji to all seekers who approach her.Read more on Gangaji on www.gangaji.org Hugging the universeMATA AMRITANANDAMAYI Revered variously as a saint, an avatar of Krishna and of the Mother of the Universe, Mata Amritanandamayi, more popularly called Amma, Ammachi and the Mother, is the Hugging Saint of India. She hugs every one who comes to meet her as an act of unconditional love. She began her spiritual practice from Parayakadavu in Kerala, but Amma’s humanitarian activities span the globe today. Born on 27 September 1953 in a low-caste family, she was christened Sudhamani. Born with a dark complexion, her skin turned darker with time and her devotional fervour which was always evident increased as she grew older. Her parents did not like what they perceived as their daughter’s aberrant spiritual inclinations and stopped her from sharing food with people from castes lower in the rung. By the end of 1979, Mata Amritanandamayi had attracted enough seekers to lay the foundations of Amritapuri in Kollam, Kerala, which is an umbrella organisation, under which several spiritual, educational, social and cultural activities are performed. Mata Amritanandamayi is known to individually hug over 50,000 people in a day; at times, even sitting for as long as 20 hours at a stretch. It is said that she has hugged at least 21 million people in the past 20 years. In 2005, Darshan – The Embrace, a film based on the life of Amma, was showcased at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.Read more on Mata Amritanandamayi and to contribute to her efforts visit www.ammachi.org Beauty of the Three WorldsRADHE GURU MA The evening I saw Radhe Guru Ma I was struck by her heart-stopping beauty and the look in her eyes. They were red, not clear. However, when our eyes met I felt as if it was a child I was looking at. I was surprised when a devotee told me that she had grownup kids who were married. I was reminded of Tripura Sundari, one of the ten wisdom goddesses of Tantra, the beauty of the three worlds, who stands for an idea of divinity as absolute beauty. Radhe Guru Ma’s pictures adorn several billboards across Mumbai owned by a wealthy devotee. I was touched by the love devotees had for Radhe Guru Ma. All of them insisted that my life was about to change because some good deed had brought me to her doorstep. “I have no doubts that big miracles await you,” said one. “She is an avatar. The light of her grace dispels all darkness.” Her darshan consists of a visit to her ‘kutia’ which is on a lavishly decorated floor of a building owned by a devotee. She speaks as she pleases. Devotees come with their offerrings, touch her feet and move on while she looks over them kindly. On the day I went for a darshan, the devotees included sadhus, simple village folk in dhotis and rich businessmen with swanky cars. I had to stand for a few minutes after which I was in the lavishly decorated sanctum sanctorum where she sat. After her darshan, I was directed to a langar. The darshan as well as langar is entirely funded by the devotee who hosts her in Mumbai.Log on to shriradhemaa.blogspot.com for a darshan Shakti unleashedAMMA Sri Amma was born on August 15, 1954, in the village of Sangham in Andhra Pradesh, where people looked upon her as an incarnation of the Divine Mother. Devotees regard Bhagavan and Amma as two bodies and one being. Both are known to transfer the state of Oneness to their devotees. Bhagavan is believed to guide this process while Amma generates the tremendous energy that is expected to make the state of Oneness available to all. Bhagavan and Padmavati married on June 9, 1977 and have a son named Krishna who has since formed his own spiritual organisation. When asked about healing, Bhagavan often tells people to ask Amma as she would react faster than him since she is an embodiment of Shakti, the feminine divine power. In the 1980s Sri Amma, Bhagavan, and his friend and disciple from childhood, Shankar, opened Jeevashram, a school in July 1989. The school grew eventually into the massive organisation that it is today. Bhagavan and Amma selected six students as their direct disciples and began their real project – to transfer theOneness state to mankind. From this beginning in 1991, Sri Amma Bhagavan’s Golden Age Movement has today approximately 30-40 millions members from all over the world. This number is increasing daily and many new countries get added every passing year.Read more on Amma on www.ammabhagavan.net Compassionate motherSRI KARUNAMAYI Born in Andhra Pradesh in 1958, Sri Karunamayi’s nativity chart marked her as a savior of humanity. Amma, as she is known to her devotees, often gave away food and clothes to whoever needed them. When a servant contracted cholera, a deadly contagious disease, Amma tended to the servant without concern for her own safety. The servant survived despite the doctor’s dire prognosis. As a little girl Amma gave away food that was meant to be offered to the deity to some poor people and told her grandmother that she should be happy that God himself had partaken of the food in the form of the hungry people. In 1980, when she was 21, Amma abandoned her parents’ home and travelled on foot to the sacred Penusila Forest. There she rose at 2.30 in the morning and bathed in the cold water. She wore a simple cotton sari and remained absorbed in meditation for hours, days, or even weeks at a time. A devotee took her to Bangalore, where a simple building was constructed to house a temple as well as living quarters for her. Her insightful discourses made her known in India and later in the US where she has followers. Later, her devotees created a free state-of-the-art hospital for villagers in Penusila. Amma divides her time between the US, Europe and India, fulfilling her life’s mission of providing comfort, solace, and spiritual guidance to all who come to her.To know more about Sri Karunamayi log on to www.karunamayi.orgSatish Purohit Razor’s edge guideJAYA ROW Jaya Row is the founder of Vedanta Vision and Founder-Managing Trustee of Vedanta Trust. Vedanta Vision is dedicated to the dissemination of Vedanta, which is pithily referred to as the oldest management school in the world. Jaya Row has spent more than 40 years in the study and research of Vedanta. She is a microbiologist by training, who later jumped on the MBA bandwagon. It took her eight years at a pharmaceutical company before the questioning began: “I realised I was getting doctors to prescribe medicines that patients don’t need. I was only helping people who had a lot of money make more money.” Intense soul-searching put her in touch with two deep-rooted interests, Vedanta and a desire to serve humanity. Ever since, Row has been teaching Vedanta, merging both her passions. Speaking to Life Positive, she explained the concept of swadharma, an individual’s area of core interest. “If you deviate and choose a field of activity that is alien to your area of interest, it becomes paradharma. You may be successful at what you’re doing, but there’ll always be something rankling inside, a feeling of something being amiss.” Jaya Row excels at presenting the ancient wisdom of India in a contemporary fashion and motivates her audiences to live inspired lives. Her discourses on the Bhagavad Gita draw large audiences in India and abroad.To catch a Jaya Row lecture close to your home log on to www.vedantavision.org Soul healerMAA GYAAN SUVEERA When Sunita Kumar (name changed), a bank official, learnt that Maa Gyan Suveera was conducting a workshop in New Delhi
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