Gurus & Saints of India

Sree Maa

Shree Maa is a Hindu Mystic who was born near Kamakhya, Assam, India. She was descended from the family of the famous Bengali mystic, Ramprasad Sen. Shree Maa's great uncle was Atulananda Saraswati, a Sannyasi or renunciate who never married, but spent his entire life wandering from place to place. One of her aunts was Renuka Sen, a famous poet and friend and inspiration in the life of Rabindranath Tagore. The author of her biography, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, writes that she was born in the year when there was a great earthquake in Assam. Many records were destroyed in the earthquake and so there is no factual evidence to verify her date of birth. He adds that her birth could be somewhere between 1938 and 1948, although it could easily be earlier or later.

From her earliest years her only desire was to meditate, merging her own being in the universal being the Hindus call Brahman [i.e. God]. Inspired by the 19th century Bengali mystic, Sri Paramahamsa Ramakrishna, she left her family's home. She lived in the forests and foothills of Kamakhya and Himalayas where she performed intense sadhana. She meditated for long periods without moving and became absorbed in the silence of deep meditation. In this period, she ate practically nothing except sandal paste mixed with water, tulsi [basil] leaves and occasional juice fed to her by disciples and devotees. Because of her intense tapasya [austerity], her body weight reduced to little more than 60 pounds. People who saw her in samadhi [deep communion with God] for hours and days at a time, called her the Goddess of the Mountain, The Goddess of the River, or simply Shree Maa, the Respected Holy Mother.

After several years, she began to roam throughout India in temples, forests, fields and homes, conducting pujas and archana to the Divine Mother, reading from the Chandi Path, a famous Hindu scripture that describes the Divine Mother Durga's manifestations on Earth. Sometimes she would also sing bhajans[divine hymns] all night, and devotees, filled with bhakti [devotion], would gather to be in her presence.

In 1980, in a small temple in Bakreswar, West Bengal, Shree Maa met Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Born and educated in America, the latter had worked for several major corporations in managerial positions before traveling to India in the mid 1960s. At a time when journeying throughout Middle Asia was arduous at best, he had traveled an unbeaten path to India's interior where he studied with a number of gurus, coming to embrace the worship of Chandi and the sacred fire ceremony, the yagya, as his primary system of worship and meditation, while undertaking great austerities in the process. On his journey he became proficient in numerous languages including Bengali, Hindi, Latin, Hebrew, Pahari, Urdu and several dialects of Indian languages among others, and developed a deep passion for Sanskrit.

After this meeting, the two traveled together throughout India, sharing dharma even when, due to cultural clashes and unrest, their own lives were at risk. It was in the early eighties that Shree Maa, in communion with her guru Ramakrishna Patramahamsa, was instructed to move to America to share divine love and to teach the meaning of dharma.

In 1984, with no capital and few possessions they left the shores of India for the West Coast of the United States. Shunning self promotion and publicity, they lived a very simple life dedicated to daily worship, preferring to own little, and to offer all to God. They undertook the Sahasra Chandi Yagya, a three year fire ceremony and worship of the Goddess, without setting foot outside from the humble temple grounds they established in Martinez, California. The temple itself contained numerous beautiful murtis, statues fashioned from clay by Maa and Swami's own hands. As word of Shree Maa's presence in the Bay area spread, thousands of seekers found their way to the humble grounds of the Devi Mandir.

Shree Maa teaches that every home is an ashram, a place of worship, every resident is a priest or priestess, and that all acts of life can be service to God and expressions of devotion. Life itself is worship.