By Life Positive
Contemporary Women gurus are increasingly bringing in much needed maternal yin energy in a world suffocating under oppressive patriarchal structures
Flame of self-inquiry
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 universe
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 Worlds
RADHE 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
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
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.org
Razor’s edge guide
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
MAA GYAAN SUVEERA
When Sunita Kumar (name changed), a bank official, learnt that Maa Gyan Suveera was conducting a workshop in New Delhi, she was drawn to attend it. The encounter changed her life. Lonely and listless, Sunita learnt how to lead her life through meditation and clarity of goals.
Dressed in salwar suits with a short crisp hair cut and an all-embracing smile, there is something very likeable about Maa Gyaan Suveera. She emanates the compassion, kindness and efficiency of a competent householder, which is what she was until she separated from her family and decided to begin a new life on the banks of the Ganges.
A holistic healer and spiritual master, she has mastered remedial methods that achieve surprising results. A student of Vedanta, she had found in energy healing a perfect blend of simplicity and spirituality. She practices as well as teaches all levels of the Ci Plus Meditation, a technique that she herself created. In addition she uses reiki, along with tarot reading, gems and flower remedies, zen meditation, aura reading, crystal tools, astrology and chanting at her institute in Rishikesh. She has been conducting workshops across the globe and has initiated thousands of students on the healing path.
Hello, my dear child,” said the sweet voice at the other end of the phone, followed with a mischievous “Guess who this is?” While I hummed and hawed, the caller identified herself. “This is Amma from Gudda”. Flustered, I blabbered a hasty but appropriate salutation as she continued, “I am inviting you for my son’s wedding next Friday at the ashram. Please come. It will make me very happy to have you there. Ok, my child? Take care. Bless you.”
I can’t imagine too many spiritual masters calling up people personally for an ashram function, let alone a family wedding! Undoubtedly, all of them have different ways of expressing the qualities of love, care, compassion, humility et al which they expound and embody. However, this call by Gurumatha Amma of Sridhara Srigudda left me marvelling at her utter simplicity. I later heard that she did all things a mother does for a son of marriageable age – right from browsing the online match-making sites ‘looking’ for a suitable bride to shopping for and organising the wedding to the T.
Amma admits that many find it difficult to accept a woman as a guru. “The guru energy can manifest in human form either as a man or a woman. Being a woman is actually a blessing in disguise for a female spiritual leader, as she is indirectly free from all the bondages like peethas, robes and all such limitations. She is free to give herself as a parent to the world,” she says.
‘Though people revere women saints like Gargi, they have not developed the eyes to see saintliness in the women saints of the present,’ adds Amma. ‘The Upanishads say that the guru is a father, mother, teacher, friend and a child too,’ she says. To her devoted disciples, Amma is all this and more, who lovingly converts every home into an ashram and an ashram into a home with Her grace.
Guide to the cosmic airport
JACQUELINE MARIA LONGSTAFF
The beautifully petite and silver-haired Jacqueline from Denmark conveys a steely certainty which belies her frail frame. Founder of The Singing Heart Ashram, in South India, near the sacred hill Arunachala, Jacqueline focuses on conscious birthing, conscious living and conscious dying. This work is based upon her vision of a cosmic airport which has three main lounges: arrival, transit and departure.
The arrival lounge is a place for women to birth their babies in a safe, sacred space and heal their own birth traumas through confronting and understanding various phases of birth and their influence on life.
Jacqueline shares that the Devic kingdom is present during conception, pregnancy and birth. Her work draws attention to spiritual midwifery and the use of dolphin energy to facilitate the birth process.
The transit lounge focuses on ‘being’ in relation to healing. Meditation retreats, satsangs and energy celebrations form a big part of this space.
The departure lounge supports the possibility of using the death process for enlightenment, through the Dying for Truth programme. Jacqueline stresses upon the role of deep meditation and dis-identification with all the roles one plays whilst in incarnation. She imparts an understanding of the body layers the consciousness passes through during the death process and supports people to get in touch with the issues embedded in these layers.
She encourages group meditations during the birth as well as the death process to provide an enlightened energy field to support the soul coming on to the earth plane or leaving it. She also experiments with sound and music both for birthing and dying.
Read more on Jacqueline Maria Longstaff on www.cosmicairport.com
Born in the USA, Rasha exudes radiance in her ubiquitous flowing white dresses. Her long dark curly tresses complement her rosy complexion and make her look angelic. Her voice sounds like soft bells ringing in the distance.
Rasha has made Arunachala her abode. She lives the life of a recluse; channelling ‘Oneness’ and spreading its message through her books which offer an insight into where we’re headed, both individually and collectively, at this crucial juncture in the planet. Her key message is that our present circumstances must be used as an opportunity to transform our lives by making use of the accellerated energy driving these changes. Since 1987, Rasha has been transcribing Divine guidance, word for word, like a secretary taking dictation; first from Lord Rama and later by an aspect of Lord Siva, known to her as Amitabh, who emerged from within her. Her work with Oneness began in 1998.
Rasha is emphatic that recognising and experiencing Divine connection is the birthright of each human being; and in these times, many are destined to have that experience and realise who they really are. Her teachings are not new as the concept of oneness is the essence of all spiritual wisdom. However, her emphasis that no two spiritual journeys are alike, each being as unique as an individual fingerprint, is very reassuring. She explains that ascension is a universal motion that is ongoing. It always has been. But now the process has accelerated to the point that it’s noticeable. The opportunity in these times is not simply to believe that we are powerful beyond imagination but to know it from one’s firsthand experience of it.
Living on prana
Jasmuheen, an Australian, is best known as the lady who lives on ‘prana’, a feat mastered by the yogis of yore. She is the president of Global Congress of Spiritual Scientists, and founder of the Self Empowerment Academy, Cosmic Internet Academy, and the Embassy of Peace. She specialises in inter-dimensional field science, and is a leading researcher on pranic nourishment. Her beautiful glowing persona radiates a unique vibration of love and warmth.
Jasmuheen’s Prana Programme helps to access a limitless, free, internal stream of energy that can take away all personal and global hungers on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. She teaches how to take this energy in through the atoms which are doors to inner universes. She is clear that we all attract this prana to us, through the Universal Law of Resonance whether we are conscious of it or not.
She recommends an eight-point lifestyle programme for pranic nourishment:
1) Meditation for at least 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening, with the use of a mantra
2) Conversational prayer for establishing an intelligent communion with the United Field of Intelligence
3) Using the mind as a servant rather than being the servant of the mind
4) Eating smaller amounts and less often, refining the diet to vegetarian, then vegan, and raw, fruitarian and eventually pranic
5) Doing a combination of exercises to create a strong and fit physical body
6) Doing something beneficial for someone every day without any thought of reward
7) Spending some time in a silent communion with nature to absorb more Earth prana and become conscious of the planet in a positive way.
8) Using the frequencies of devotional music and being fed by compassion and devotion.
Connect with Jasmuheen on her official website www.jasmuheen.com
The housewife sage
I met Deepa Kodikal in 1997, when I interviewed her for Life Positive’s first anniversary issue. I had read her book, Journey within the Self, and had been awestruck by the profound experiences she had been pitchforked into during her fourth pregnancy. They included unbelievable phenomena such as seeing the nature of the universe (vishvarupa) which she describes as stars revolving around a galaxy which then becomes a unit in a larger galaxy and so on until whole universes become units of humongous galaxies, ad infinitum. What is more, she intimately experienced the nature of the Creator who she describes as more humble than anything in creation. ‘The Lord,’ says she authoritatively, ‘has perfect segmented awareness, as also universal awareness. He is aware of what each being thinks, talks, knows, tastes, hears and smells, individually and collectively.’
I went prepared to worship this awe-inspiring personage but found myself in the presence of a gracious and hospitable housewife, who thought nothing of serving me delectable home-made snacks with her own hands and mixing me a cup of tea. There is nothing remotely guru-like about her, “I don’t see myself in the nature of a guru. Once you feel the oneness, you don’t feel the need for different positions,’ she says.
Like many women I have met subsequently, she rejects the need for power or authority. Those who are drawn to her by the tremendous knowledge and insight contained in her books are guided gently but without fuss.
For me she has long been a mentor and guide, a big sister on the path. Her own assessment of her state of mind is as follows: “There’s a constant sense of worship, directed not to any particular God or deity, but to all of life. Everything becomes more meaningful, and life is a celebration.’ And yet she remains disarmingly human. She reports being frightened of the spirits who crowd around her, clamouring for release. Her divinity is shot through with her human-ness and to me that seems to be the essence of the womanly way.
Friend and philosopher
I met Divyaa Kummar quite recently, about the time I had begun work on the anniversary issue. Coincidentally she seemed to symbolise everything I had conceived a woman spiritual teacher to be like: friendly, informal, not attached to robes or positions of power and hierarchy, content to be herself rather than play a role, a householder who had no issue with that status. She ran a beautiful home, enjoyed a full life with family, friends, was called D or Dee by friends and related to people on her facebook page without expecting to be deified. Her facebook friend list has almost touched the saturation point and she sent out a call asking those who were not interested in her messages to de-friend her.
When the alternative of starting a fan page was suggested, she said that a ‘fan’ page was not something she was comfortable having. It seemed significant to me that many male fb guru types had no difficulty in switching to a fan page when facing the same problem. As a spiritual teacher Divyaa’s bandwidth is broad-based. She can convey the same teaching through vedantic and contemporary standpoints or through the perspective of various paths such as karma, jnana or bhakti. She seems to get truths at a very deep level and to communicate them as well.
A book on the channelled messages of Seth propelled her into spirituality in 2000. She absorbed the complex truths effortlessly. Compelled by an urge to channelise him directly, she found herself downloading capsules of knowledge spontaneously, which deepened and expanded into profound insights.
She has been sharing these insights with a core group of friends and has a flourishing group of followers on facebook as well. Her approach is direct, intimate, personal. Could this be one more way a woman does it?
Read more on Divyaa Kummar on her website www.divyaakummar.com
Grandmother to the world
I first saw Dadi Janki when she gave a talk at a summit on the Divine Feminine organised in Jaipur in March 1998 by the Global Peace Initiative of Women. At 92, her bearing was majestic, indomitable and her wrinkled face was full of peace, wisdom and acceptance. Like a grandmother counselling beloved scions she advised us on how to remain grounded and strong in a stress-ridden world. “Woman shares, cares and inspires. If you can do that, everything will be okay,” she prescribed.
She herself has been doing this for the last 73 years, first as part of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University and today as its head. Headquartered in Mount Abu, the Brahma Kumaris is the world’s largest woman-run spiritual organisation and is the closest to how a world run by women could be. The organisation is committed to bringing about Satyug, a mission entrusted to them by the founder, Dada Lekhraj, later knows as Brahma Baba. Today, the organisation has grown into a mighty tree with 8500 centres in 110 countries and with members running into lakhs.
At 94, Dadi keeps up a punishing pace by travelling all over the world and creating awareness of a spirit-based life. A favourite memory of my visit to Mount Abu in 1998, are the meetings with the dadis, all of who sit with a huge steel dabba next to them into which their hands dip to hand each person a sweetmeat, just like a grandmother would do in real life.
Read more on Dadi Janki on www.bkwsu.com
About 10 years ago, Nirmala Devi, called Shri Mataji, was extremely high profile. Her annual rallies at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park attracted lakhs of followers and her meditation technique called Sahaja Yoga had its centres in over 80 countries. Gradually less was heard and eventually almost nothing. The guru was said to be ill. On February 23, of this year, she passed away…
Shri Mataji had an unusual USP – she gave mass kundalini awakenings. Although gurus have traditionally given shakti pat to followers this is usually in small and intimate circles…a far cry from the massive rallies she held.
Mataji’s technique was simplicity itself. The left hand is placed across the liver, the right is stretched towards her. Proof of activation is a cool feeling over the head. At every rally the majority raised their hands in confirmation. In every way, this phenomenon militates against traditional wisdom which warns against willfully raising the kundalini and portrays it as a fearsome path full of mental and physical dangers. On the flip side, many have testified to healing from ailments and achieving peace and happiness, through the activation of kundalini.
Mataji, as she is called, was indeed motherly. While interviewing her, I sat on the ground along with her other devotees, and found that my feet had gone numb when I stood. While others tittered at my comical tottering, Mataji drew me towards her and said,
“Let me put my foot over yours. I am Mother Earth.” The moment she did so, great warmth spread over my feet and sensation returned. She was a committed feminist. “Women should help other women,” she maintained and accordingly instituted mass marriages within her organisation where people were matched by their vibrations. Truly, a mother to the world.
Explore Sahaja Yoga on www.sahajayoga.com
Energy that transforms
I was working for a leading Mumbai tabloid daily less than a year ago when my friend told me about the Maharishika. She appears to be in her late ‘30s, speaks English and is not averse to cracking the occasional joke. Her darshan is called the Presence. It is held at a small property called the Land in the village of Chikani near Kashid beach on the outskirts of Mumbai. “There is too much work, and I don’t know if I have the money to pay for this,” I told my friend who is a devotee. “There is no way I can get away for a weekend.”
Two weeks later, I had resigned from the job, a participant had backed out because his wife was unwell and he had paid the money, which is non-refundable. This is how I landed at the Presence. It was a small group of about 20 people and I saw Maharishika. She is a rather young per
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