“God gives us 24 hours a day, can’t we give Him fifteen minutes of quiet meditation ?”
Sri Anandamayi Ma
Anandamayi Ma – excerpt from the biography by Richard Lannoy
“Throughout Indian history, this pattern of instruction ensured the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next. In the case of Anandamayi who did not herself have a Guru, but was self-initiated, the traditional model of the teacher and the taught has, in certain respects, taken on new life, but in other equally important respects she radically departed from tradition.
“Her role as a revered Brahmin divine was by no means orthodox since this was a departure from the traditional status parameters of the married woman; further, for some 50 years as a widow and thus a member of the lowliest rank of Indian society, she was at the same time one of the most sought after of all spiritual teachers.
“In the case of Anandamayi, it has become obvious, indeed widely known, that we are dealing with a level of spiritual genius of very great rank; her manifestation is extraordinarily rich and diverse.
“She lived for 86 years, had an enormous following, founded 30 ashrams, and travelled incessantly the length and breadth of the land. People of all classes, castes, creeds and nationalities flocked to her; the great and the good sought her counsel; the doctrine which she expounded came as near to being completely universal as is attainable by a single individual.
“Though she lived for the good of all, she had no motive of self-sacrifice in the Christian sense: “there are no others,” she would say, “there is only the One”. She came of extremely humble rural origins, though from a family respected over generations for its spiritual attainments.
“In the course of time she would converse with the highest in the land, but draw no distinction between the status of rich and poor, or the caste and sectarian affiliations of all who visited her. She personified the warmth and the wide toleration of the Indian spiritual sensibility at its freshest and most accessible.
“The fact that she was a woman certainly accentuates the distinctive features of her manifestation. Female sages as distinct from saints capable of holding sustained discourse with the learned are almost unheard of in India. Her femininity certainly imparts to the heritage of Indian and global spirituality certain qualities of flexibility and common sense, lyricism and humour not often associated with its loftiest heights.
“Her quicksilver temperament and abundant lila sacred play are in stark contrast with the serenity of that peerless exemplar of Advaita Vedanta, Sri Ramana Maharshi of Tiruvannamalai, the quintessence of austere stillness. That a woman of such distinction and wide-ranging activity should emerge in India in the 20th century, the century of world-wide feminism and reappraisal of feminine phenomenology hardly seems a coincidence.
“I believe Anandamayi has added a whole new spiritual dimension to the re-awakening awareness of women to their own inheritance. As an exemplary figure, she emanates a feeling of complete ease, warmth and secure confidence in her femininity.
“Anne Bancroft, in her line study of modern women mystics, Weavers of Wisdom, quotes this moving statement by an English woman: “I felt she loved me so utterly that I could never be the same again. Although I only saw her a few times, I have never lost that feeling and her presence is always with me. She was a person who had a vision of life and reality which she could transmit in such a way that, since seeing her, I have always known that there is harmony and purpose in the universe.”
“In the wisdom and profundity of Anandamayi’s discourse we recognize the true voice of the sage. But she was more than just a wise person, although when it comes to defining exactly what this special extra dimension to wisdom and spiritual goodness was, adequate words are hard to find. She was, I believe, just about as near perfect a human simulacrum of the divine as we are ever likely to encounter on this planet. I chose the word ‘simulacrum’ with care for the simple reason that I do not know what a divine human being really is. I am agnostic to this degree, whereas the majority of her followers are devotees, bhaktas, and for them she is, without qualification, truly a Divine Being.”
Who Is Anandamayi Ma?
Anandamayi Ma was a 20th-century avatar: a direct emanation of wisdom, born totally awake. By her own testimony, Ma manifested in response to the prayers of sentient beings for a female incarnation of the divine. While accounts of her extraordinary lila, or enlightened activities, are legion, she lived her life as a householder in unusually close contact with her devotees, advising them about all aspects of life, laughing with them, comforting them, singing and simply allowing all those who came to find refuge in her presence. Her guiding presence is still available to anyone who wishes to seek it out. Although Ma had little formal education, she directly embodied enlightened wisdom to such a degree, she was able to convey the subtlest teachings to tens of thousands of followers from all walks of life. Her teachings are precise, playful, gutsy, down-to-earth, inspiring and deeply moving. Jaya Ma!