Wednesday August 22, 2018

Anandamayi Ma: The mother who filled joy in everyone’s hearts

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By Nithin Sridhar

Guru Poornima special- Part 6

Among the various saints and teachers that have roamed around the country, Anandamayi ma stands out as one of the few people who were completely filled with Vairagya (dispassion) and Ananda (bliss) right from their birth. And she spread this Ananda everywhere among all those who came to her.

Therefore, this sixth segment of Guru Poornima Series will be dedicated to Anandamayi Ma, the mother who filled the Hrdaya (hearts) of everyone with Ananda.

Photo Credit: www.anandamayi.org
Photo Credit: www.anandamayi.org

Her Life: Anandamayi Ma was born as Nirmala Sundari in a remote village of Kheora which is now in Bangladesh. She was born on 30 April 1896 to Bipinbihari Bhattacharya and Mokshada Sundari Devi, both of whom were devout Vaishnavas (devotees of Vishnu).

She was dispassionate and blissful from the beginning itself. She used to stay aloof from external happenings, but was sensitive to religious rituals that would put her into ecstasy.

At the age of 13, she was married to Ramani Mohan Cakravarti (also known as Bolanath) and she went to live with her brother-in-law’s family till she was 18.

Then, she moved with her husband to Ashtagram in 1918, and later moved to Bajitpur. The marriage was a celibate marriage. Nirmala Sundari was spontaneously dispassionate. It is said that whenever her husband felt sexual urges, her body would become weak and sick.

Slowly, Bolanath realized the true nature of his wife as being an emanation of Divine Mother, and later on took initiation from her.

Her stay in Bajitpur was a period of intense Sadhana (spiritual effort). She spontaneously received initiation from within herself on a full moon night in 1922. In 1922, they moved to Dhaka, where Nirmala Sundari built a Kali temple and involved herself in deep Yogic and Tantric practices and meditation.

It was during this time that people began to visit her. One of her early disciples, Jyotiscandra Ray began calling her as Anandamayi ma – mother who is full of joy/bliss.

She traveled throughout India visiting various ashrams and holy places and guiding many people in their spiritual sadhanas. She finally left her body on 27 August 1982 in Dehradun at the age of 96.

anandamayi ma3

Her Teachings: Anandamayi Ma never wrote anything. All her teachings have been conversational teachings imparted to her disciples and devotees.

In “From Mother as Revealed to Me” by Bhaiji (i.e. Jyotiscandra Ray) says: “The central theme of all her words and expressions is this: Life and religion are one. All that you do to maintain your life, your everyday work and play, all your attempts to earn a living, should be done with sincerity, love and devotion, with a firm conviction that true living means virtually perfecting one’s spiritual existence in tune with the universe.”

Some of the teachings imparted by Anandamayi Ma, as recorded by Bhaiji, are as follows:

With earnestness, love and goodwill carry out life’s everyday duties and try to elevate yourself step by step. In all human activities let there be a live contact with the Divine and you will not have to leave off anything. Your work will then be done well and you will be on the right track to find the Master.”

Just as there is a definite time-table for work at school, office or the shop, so should we set apart for divine contemplation a few minutes out of the twenty-four hours of every day, preferably in the morning and the evening. One must make a fixed resolve that this little time shall be dedicated to God throughout life. During this period no worldly activity should be allowed to encroach upon the contemplation of God. A fixed time for prayer or meditation must be allotted to all the members of the family including the servants. If this practice is continued for long, divine contemplation will become a part of your nature.”

Your earthly pension expires with your life, but the divine pension continues long, long after death. Those who amass money, store it up in a hidden chamber of their house, add to this store what they can save from time to time, and keep a constant watch over their treasure. So also reserve a little corner of your mind and heart for God and always steal an opportunity to add to your stock in the shape of the invocation of His name or some pious work or divine thought.”

She traveled extensively throughout India and sowed the seeds of devotion in people’s minds. She never formally initiated anyone and refused to be called a Guru, but she touched the hearts of thousands of people.

She became a guiding light for these people who considered her as the very emanation of Divine mother who spread joy and happiness everywhere.

Glossary:

Ananda: It can be translated as “Bliss or Joy.” It actually refers to a state of non-duality, which is full of joy because of absence of miseries that are rooted in duality. Anybody who can attain this state (i.e. Self-Realization/Atma Jnana) will always be filled with this spontaneous Joy. Even the common transient happiness that is experienced in daily life is derived from this ever-lasting joy.

Vairagya: It means “Dispassion.” It is non-attachment to worldly objects and pleasures that have arisen out of the understanding that they are transient in nature and true everlasting joy is possible only by renouncing them.

Hrdaya: It literally means “Heart.” But, in the context, it does not refer to the physical heart, but to the subtle Hrdaya which is the center of Individual existence.

Sadhana: Any spiritual effort that would help an individual to purify his mind and ultimately lead him to Moksha (Liberation).

Guru: It means one who dispels the darkness of ignorance. Hence, it refers to a teacher who helps his student to overcome his limitations and ignorance and hence attain Self-realization (Atma-Jnana).

More in this segment:

Guru Poornima Special- Part 1

Guru Poornima Special- Part 2

Guru Poornima Special- Part 3

Guru Poornima Special- Part 4

Guru Poornima Special- Part 5

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Hinduism Should Not be Viewed Through the Narrow Prism of Marxism

Regarding menstruation, the seers of ancient India set down certain dos and don’t. It is no exaggeration that they realized the subtle intricacies of not only the tangible body and but also various sheaths of spiritual bodies

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Hinduism
Indeed all ancient Hindu scriptures put the female on the same footing as the male.

By Salil Gewali

“A little knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance”. And far more dangerous is when that little knowledge is spread in the society being propelled by the fuel of “prejudices”.  This write-up is with reference to a number of articles by a certain class of writers published in the mainstream media. Those articles are intended to rake up the issues in order to push the sacred temple of “Sabarimala” of Kerala or Shani Shingnapur and the culture associated with it, into the mire of controversy. Tarnishing the image of Hinduism is the main goal. Not unexpectedly, some stories even proclaim that in India “women” are thus demonized and their menstruation is abhorred.

Having gone through some of them I immediately contacted a number of top scholars in Kerala for hands-on verification — whether “women” are being despised so heartlessly or not. Since one of my books is translated into their language I did that with all ease. Not a single scholar (women included) informed me suggesting that they, or temple management of Sabarimala, have ever “despised women”, or hated “menstruation”.  I rather got an earful for asking such absurd questions.  They instantly reiterated referring to Hindu scriptures which teach all and one to look upon women as “Motherly figures”. One scholar remarks, “this confrontation has actually been orchestrated by the politicians with the help of certain forces which want to demean our culture”.  I heaved a sigh of relief!

Indeed all ancient Hindu scriptures put the female on the same footing as the male. But some vested interests with an ulterior motive have been distorting the true history/legends of India and also merrily belittling or shrugging off the literary treasure troves of the country. It was first done by the British in order to divide and rule Indians, in which they were very successful. And later, the legacy has been faithfully and aggressively carried forward by the Indian intellectuals influenced by certain thinkers and writers of the West and their culture.

Hinduism
Representational image.

Well, the seers of ancient India not only knew as information but they “fully realized” that everything, in and out, is pervaded by “Brahman” (Almighty). The modern science too has arrived at the “same conclusion”. The father of Quantum Mechanics — Erwin Schrodinger has scientifically discussed this fact in his world-famous book – “What is Life?”.  All knowledge associated with the ONENESS of Universe and the “Unity in Diversity” is systematically enshrined in 108 Upanishads.  They expounded with a force that “Purusha” (male) and “Pratriki” (female) both combine themselves to put forth the infinite COSMIC CREATION. One without other is like the fire without the heat. They are mutually complementary, inter-dependent and inter-related. The “discrimination” of any kind, not just “against women”, but even against the tiny “insects” and “plants” are considered irreligious. I would also request such biased scholars to read between the lines from the literature authored by Sri Aurobindo and Vivekananda who just quote from them to gloss over the footprint of their agendas. One wonders when they will learn to shake off the baggage of prejudices against while getting down to study the literature of the home country.

Now about the legend Ayyappa of Sabarimala in brief. The story which is long and interestingly too drawn-out, says —  Lord Ayyappa, who was born out of Lord Shiva and the feminine energy of Lord Vishnu, had exceptional power. His birth on earth was in order to kill a female demon– Mahishi. After having been killed the demoness, the curse against her ends. She again takes birth, this time the Goddess incarnate. This is laws of karma works. When she grew up she approached Lord Ayyappa for the marriage. But Ayyappa, who was practicing celibacy, denied. But, he consoles her saying that he will only marry her when no “first timer” will visit his temple for blessings. However, Lord Ayyappa asks her to reside just near to his temple. Later, in her memory, the devotee constructed a temple known as Malikapurathamma just adjacent to the temple of Ayyappa.

Since Lord Ayyappa, who was known for his celibacy, and had promised to marry Malikapurathamma, it has become a sort of a tradition among women not to visit the temple.  It should not be  misunderstood that it is apparently as a mark of showing respect to both Lord Ayyappa and Goddess Malikapurathamma.

Hinduism
Representational image.

Regarding menstruation, the seers of ancient India set down certain dos and don’t. It is no exaggeration that they realized the subtle intricacies of not only the tangible body and but also various sheaths of spiritual bodies (five sheaths mentioned in Upanishads). The areas of study are very vast. They caution that a woman during her monthly cycle should abstain from the religious public rituals, but can perform the personal spiritual practice. In fact, contrary to the modern tradition and practice, the seers didn’t “limit themselves” to the personal and public hygiene alone, but they went further, and so taken the “spiritual aspect” into consideration. Of course, lot many such dos and don’ts are beyond the understanding of we mundane people with limited five senses and “scattered mind”. It is too absurd who interpret that it is a practice of “untouchability”. A medical doctor will never allow you to enter into ICU unless you are well washed. Is not everything there meticulously sterilized?  Do you say that the hospital is practicing “untouchability”? I don’t think any mother will allow her children to enter the kitchen and take food immediately after the latrine without washing hands and feet.

Going by such biased articles in the mainstream media intended to denigrate the culture and heritage of the country; and also literary books (who unfortunately receive “Sahitya Akademi” and “Padma Shree” awards), I fervently wish that one should have the deeper knowledge of the subjects. Here the crucial prerequisite is that they must first unlearn false history and start to learn the true history without being weighed down by the prejudices.  Moreover, the cosmic ocean of the Indian wisdom is so deep, even it has described many “inconceivable” laws and principles which are seemingly out-of-box and discriminatory. I humbly suggest not to selectively pick up a few odds and use them to demean this vast culture of knowledge. The Vedanta should not be view through the narrow prism of Karl Marx and LeninEven their favorite master Fredrick Hegel (front ranking philosopher of the west) cheerfully confessed the depth of ancient wisdom, –  “It strikes everyone in beginning to form an acquaintance with the treasures of Indian literature, that a land so rich in intellectual products and those of the “profoundest” order of thought”. How I wish that a dagger not be wielded by an untrained person or else it will be disastrous!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali.