Gurus & Saints of India

Sri Anandamoyi Ma

Sri Anandamoyi Ma

Sri Anandamoyi Ma (1896 - 1982), also called Anandamayi Ma, was a spiritual teacher (Guru), saint and a mystic from Bengal, and hailed as one of prominent mystics of the 20th century. During her times, she was considered the embodiment of spiritual bliss and her name literally means Joy Permeated Mother.

Anandamoyi was her ashram name, but she was also called Dakshayani, Kamala, Vimala, and "Mother of Shahbag". Swami Sivananda (Divine Life Society) had said that she was the finest flower that the soil of India had produced. Precognition, healing and other miracles are reported of her

Anandamayi Ma was born Nirmala Sundari (30 April 1896 to Bipinbihari Bhattacharya and Mokshada Sundari Devie in Kheora, Brahmanbaria District, British India, in what is now Bangladesh. Her father, who came originally from Vidyakut in Tripura, was a Vaishnavite singer. His devotion was shown when during a storm which blew the roof off their home, he was said to have continued singing during the downpour. His daughter experienced the presence of divine power in herself since childhood and went into a trance (Bhava) on hearing kirtans. She attended the village school for barely two years.

At the age of thirteen, in 1908, she was married to Ramani Mohan Chakrabarti of Vikramapura, who she called Bholanath and pitaji. She spent 5 years after her marriage at her brother-in-law's home, where she was in a trancelike state much of the time. It was a celibate marriage because whenever thoughts of sexuality occurred to him, Anandamoyi's body would take on the qualities of death and she would grow faint. When Nirmala Sundari was about 17, Nirmala went to live with her husband in Ashtagram. It was here that a devout neighbour, Harakumar, developed a habit of addressing her as "Ma", and prostrated before her morning and evening. In 1918, they went on to live in Bajitpur, where she became famous for her beauty. Here they stayed till 1924, while Nirmala went deeper into her trances. On his return from the office at the end of the working day, Bholanath often found Nirmala lying on the kitchen floor, the food half cooked or burnt. On the full moon night of August 1922, at midnight, 26-year old Nirmala went through the actions of spiritual initiation - all by herself. Members of Bholanath's family did not respond to his wife’s strange behavior as calmly as he did. While his relatives suggested he remarry, he became her first disciple in 1922. Her second disciple was Bhaiji.

Anandamoyi never prepared her discourse, wrote anything down, or revised what she had said. It is said that noting down what she said in her discourses was difficult, as the musicality and alliterative word-play of her saying died in writing. Only Brahmachari Kamal Bhattacharjee is said to have had the ability to transcribe her discourse with scrupulous fidelity.

The central theme of her teaching in endless variation is "the supreme calling of every human being is to aspire to self realization. All other obligations are secondary" and "only actions that kindle man's divine nature are worthy of the name of actions". However she did not ask everyone to become a renunciate. "Everyone is right from his own standpoint," she would say. She did not give formal initiations and refused to be called a guru, as she maintained that "all paths are my paths" and kept telling "I have no particular path".

She did not advocate the same method for all. "How can one impose limitations on the infinite by declaring - this is the only path - and, why should there be so many different religions and sects? Because through everyone of them He gives Himself to Himself, so that each person may advence according to his inborn nature." Though she was Tantric, Anandamoyi Ma blessed Saivas, Shaktas, Vaishnavas, Muslims and Christians equally. Even now, the Muslim population of Kheora still refer to her as "our own Ma". She taught how to live a God-centered life in the world and provided the powerful living inspiration to enable thousands to aspire to this most noble ideal. Her way of teaching involved jokes, songs and instructions on everyday life along with long discourses, meditation and reading of scriptures.

The Publication Department of Shree Shree Anandamayee Charitable Society in Kolkata regularly publishes her teaching in the periodical Anandavarta Quarterly. The Shree Shree Anandamayee Sangha in Haridwar organizes the annual Samyam Mahavrata congregration to devote a week to collective meditation, religious discourse and devotional music.