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Swami Muktananda Giri, the mother of Anandamayi Ma
In America before I first went to India in 1962 I had felt strongly that either Anandamayi Ma or Swami Sivananda would leave the body very soon. I was right: Swami Sivananda left his body only two weeks after my last visit to him. Anandamayi Ma remained here for nineteen more years, during which I went many times to India and traveled with her. For the last fifteen of those years our ashram was under her direct supervision, and she advised me very carefully and in detail, including the Christian aspects of the ashram.
I find it difficult to write about those times with her, and it is impossible to attempt describing or defining her. Some years back on the internet a woman posted a request that someone who knew Ma would tell her what Ma “was like.” Reading that I vividly remembered when during a visit to our ashram by Swami Kriyananda, one of our members asked him: “What was Yogananda like?” And Swamiji replied: “He was not ‘like’ anything. He was unique.” In the same way I knew that no one could tell that inquirer was Ma was like. They could try. But they would fail.
Instead I would like to tell you about her mother, Srimati Mokshada Sundari Devi Bhattacharya, who became Swami Muktananda Giri but was usually called Didima or Giriji.
My first darshan of Didima
In January of 1963 I went with my friend Rani Bhan and her adopted son Inder Jit to the town of Modinagar, about an hour’s drive northeast of Delhi. That morning of that day the huge Laksmi-Narayan temple was to be consecrated, and Anandamayi Ma had been invited to participate. It would be my first darshan of Ma. The town was jammed with cars and busses, and it was difficult to find a place to park.
As we spilled out of the car, someone clutched my arm and said, pointing to an auto several yards ahead: “Go quickly, Mother is in that car!” I ran. But when I reached there I saw immediately that Mother was not there at all. Instead, sitting in the front seat was a tiny woman swathed in the orange (gerua) clothing of a monastic. In retrospect I have no idea how I knew the little figure was a woman, for her hair was cut short–almost shaven–and she looked for all the world just like my great uncle Riley Maxey. But that is how I had my first darshan of Srimat Swami Muktananda Giri, the mother of Anandamayi Ma.
I learned afterward that Giriji had been a great yogi even when young, and there are indications that even then she had disciples who did not make it public. She was married to a true saint, Sri Bipin Bihari Bhattacharya. Giriji was unique in that she had totally interiorized her illumination, concealing it completely from external manifestation. Mother Anandamayi said that such an accomplishment occurs only once in many, many centuries, and was a great wonder beyond any miracles that could possibly be worked, that such a one as Giriji rarely appeared upon the earth.
Although after her enlightenment Giriji, who was beforehand virtually illiterate, had written exquisite hymns in Sanskrit delineating spiritual experiences reaching far beyond the bounds of the yoga shastra, the classical texts on yoga, she had never “done” anything that could be taken as a miracle. Instead, she passed her days sitting quietly, rosary in hand, reciting the Name of God. When asked by others why she did this, since she had no more need for formal spiritual practice, she would answer: “I am doing it for my disciples who do not repeat their mantra.”
Didima as Guru
Speaking of disciples. Sri Ma Anandamayi did not take on the role of guru and did not give initiation. Instead, when anyone asked for initiation (diksha), she told them to receive initiation from Giriji. As a consequence Giriji gave initiation to a great many people who did not really care anything about her and who told people that they were Ma’s disciples, not even mentioning Giriji. One man bragged to me that when Ma told him to be initiated by Giriji he replied: “I will do what you say, Ma, but you must be present for the diksha and I will still consider you my guru.” So as I say, Giriji bestowed her tremendous grace and love upon a multitude of people who could not care less and never gave her a thought. But that made no difference to her: she loved and she cared; and she looked after them all.
Most people who came to see Anandamayi Ma had no idea who the frail elderly person dressed in gerua and usually sitting next to Ma even was. When Ma would leave, they would surge after her, and more than once I saw people push Giriji aside and nearly knock her down in their haste. She would look at them with total calmness without a flicker of annoyance. Her humility and patience were the humility and patience of God.
Listen to Memories of Didima (Swami Muktananda Giri), Mother of Anandamayi Ma to hear more about Abbot George’s experiences with Didima.
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