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.