Anandamayi Ma is an immortalized Hindu saint who will forever be remembered for her spirituality intoxicating presence and selfless ways. Throughout her lifetime, ‘The Bliss Permeated Mother’ was able to positively impact the lives of thousands across India even though she received virtually no formal education. Still today, her teachings on indifference, spiritual growth, and universal unity show us a path towards freedom and happiness. Sivananda Saraswati, the prominent Hindu guru who founded the Divine Life Society, described Anandamayi Ma perfectly when he said that she is “the most perfect flower the Indian soil has produced.”
Anandamayi Ma Profile:
Birth: April 30th, 1896
Death: August 27th, 1982 (aged 86)
Spiritual Role: Hindu Saint & Spiritual Teacher
Focused On: Self-Realization & Devotion to God
The Life of Anandamayi Ma:
On April 30th, 1896, a devoutly religious Hindu family welcomed a young girl into the world who displayed an unusual godlike aura at the very moment of her birth. As dawn broke on that April day, Bipinbihari Bhattacharya and Mokshada Sundari Devi welcomed their newborn child into their family and decided to name her Nirmala Sundari. For the father, who was revered for his renderings of devotional songs in their home village of Kheora, Bengal, and the mother, who was a peaceful and gentle woman, it came with great surprise that Nirmala didn’t let out a single cry of sorrow like most newborns, but rather remained in a state of serenity and peace. Ironically enough, the very name the Bengali family gave to her, Nirmala Sundari, translates to mean ‘Immaculate, Beautiful One’.
Throughout Nirmala’s childhood, who is now commonly known as Anandamayi Ma, she remained in this naturally blissful state regardless of the things happening around her. Because of this unchanging pure and happy go-lucky demeanor, the girl’s parents questioned if she was affected by some sort of mental deficiency and only sent her to school for two years. Even though this would be the only formal education the child would ever receive, Nirmala would soon have prominent members of the Hindu community relying on her to answer live’s most important questions.
In keeping with ritual traditions of the times, Nirmala was married in 1908, at the age of 12, to Ramani Mohan Chakrabarti, a man she would later rename Bholanath. After their marriage, Nirmala would spend the following five years living at her brother-in-law’s house, where she similarly remained indifferent to the positives and negatives of life. It was during this time, that a devoutly religious neighbor, who was considered by many to be insane, began bowing to Nirmala in reverence while addressing her as ‘Ma’.
It wasn’t until Nirmala was 17-years-old when she went to live with her husband in the city of Ashtagram. Although Bholanath had initially hoped to raise a family with his new wife, the couple would forever remain celibate as Nirmala’s body would take on deathly qualities whenever thoughts of sexuality arose to him. For this reason, and because of her unchanging state of ecstatic joy, Bholanath began seeing her as a divine child of God, and years later would follow in her footsteps as one of her loyal devotees.
Although she seemed to have an unusual sense of purity and divinity to others, Nirmala’s full spiritual aptitude wouldn’t develop until moving to the city of Bajitpur with her husband in 1918. It was during the couple’s six years in Bajitpur when Nirmala began spontaneously carrying out a variety of yogic behaviors as if she were an actress in a spiritual play. While sitting in her room at night, an inner voice would enrich her with ancient Sanskrit mantras that she had never heard and her body would go into highly advanced Hatha yoga postures that take years to learn.
On one occasion, it is said that as Nirmala passed a Muslim tomb, she immediately began reciting portions of the Quran and began performing a traditional Muslim prayer.
It was also in Bajitpur, in 1922, when Nirmala had one of her most important spiritually transcending experiences. It is said that at midnight, on the full moon night of August, Nirmala performed her own spiritual initiation, playing the role of both guru and disciple, as religious rites were spontaneously revealed to her. She would later describe these spontaneous actions as a direct expression of God. Of her spiritual initiation, she said:
As the master (guru) I revealed the mantra; as the disciple (shishya) I accepted it and started to recite it.”
Around 1924 was the time that Nirmala would officially become known as Anandamayi Ma. After her husband took a job tending gardens in the city of Dhaka, word began to spread of a spiritually intoxicated woman spontaneously performing mystical acts. Two years after moving to Dhaka, with a growing number followers, Nirmala was able to give up her householder responsibilities and fully devote herself to spiritual practices. It was during the early years of her blossoming nationwide fame that a close disciple named Bhaiji began calling her Anandamayi Ma, or ‘Bliss Permeated Mother’. Amongst other local Bengalis, who similarly revered her, she was referred to as ‘Manush Kali’ or ‘Living Kali’.
The first ashram to be built in Anandamayi’s name was completed in 1929, and although many seers, saints, and mystics of the Hindu tradition prefer to call one place home, this wasn’t to be for Anandamayi Ma. In 1932, she left the state of Bengal and wandered throughout India for the next 50 years. During her travels, Anandamayi was able to open up many ashrams that offered women a chance to pursue a celibate spiritual life. It was also during this time, that many miracles and illness-curing acts were attributed to the Bliss Permeated Mother. She was beloved by all for her intoxicating presence, including famed Hindus such as Mahatma Gandhi and Paramahansa Yogananda, until she passed at the age of 86 in 1982, and will forever be celebrated throughout India as one of the culture’s most adored spiritual figures.
3 of Her Most Important Teachings:
Even though Anandamayi Ma never attained what is considered to be an appropriate amount of formal education, her inborn spiritual wisdom attracted thousands of seekers. For the intellectual and impoverished classes alike, the woman who referred to herself as ‘a unlettered little child’ offered intuitive insights into the oldest kept secrets of Hinduism.
Freedom is Found in Indifference:
According to Hindu theology, individuals can obtain true spiritual freedom and happiness by developing indifference towards the impermanent positives and negatives that come with worldly existence. Perhaps there is not a better real life example of a person who lived this truth than that of Anandamayi Ma. From the moment she was born until her last breath, Ma displayed complete indifference towards both the positives experiences, emotions, and objects that many strive for, and the negatives situations, feelings, and things that people try to avoid. Once, when Anandamayi was a child and her mother became seriously ill, visitors questioned why the girl remained calm, happy, and bliss-filled. This natural tendency to remain indifferent toward all situations remained with Ma throughout her life, and she regularly talked about the importance of not clinging to impermanent joys and sorrows. Due to the forever changing characteristic of ourselves and the world at large, it would be impossible to find fulfillment by striving to create a life of only positives. Anandamayi Ma told us:
Do not be satisfied with fragmentary happiness, which is invariably interrupted by shocks and blows of fate; but become complete, and having attained to perfection, be yourself.”
Prioritize Your Spiritual Growth:
Because of the spiritually blissful feelings that she continuously lived with, Anandamayi Ma told her disciples to prioritize their spiritual development and relationship with God above all else. For those who believe in the mysticism of Hinduism, Anandamayi Ma was a Goddess sent to show the joy one can experience when fully committing themselves to spiritual practice. Through her own experiences, Ma came to believe that true peace, happiness, and freedom were only attainable by turning inward and aspiring for self-realization. She also regularly talked about the importance of acting with the outmost morality, as she believed the only actions worthy of performing are the one’s that kindle man’s divine nature. Additionally, the Bliss Permeated Mother talked about the importance of continuously asking one’s self ‘Who am I?‘ and emphasized the importance of uncovering your true self in this lifetime. She is quoted as saying:
How many lives are frittered away, age after age, in endless coming and going. Find out who you are!”
God is Everywhere, In Everything:
For centuries upon centuries, believers in the Hindu faith have operated under the assumption that underneath one’s conditioned minds is a part of the self that is intimately connected to the world at large. The popular Hindu greeting of Namaste illuminates this truth, as it translates to mean ‘The divine in me respects and honors the divine in you.’ Anandamayi Ma regularly discussed this notion and talked about how Brahman, Hindu’s overarching God-like source of creation, is not only the creator of ourselves, the world, and the universe, but also is who we, the earth, and the cosmos actually are. For this reason, Hindus strive to release the Atman, or soul, or part of Brahman, into the greater field of universal consciousness. For Anandamayi Ma, and all other Hindu sages, it was clear to see how God permeates everything at all times. Ma told us:
Look at a tree: from one seed arises a huge tree; from it comes numerous seeds, each one of which in its turn grows into a tree. No two fruits are alike. Yet it is one life that throbs in every particle of the tree. So, it is the same Atman everywhere.”
- “Whether you worship Christ, Krishna, Kali or Allah, you actually worship the one Light that is also in you, since It pervades all things.”
- “When the mind is full of worldly desires, it is their very nature to confuse the mind. Withdraw the mind from outer things and turn it inwards.”
- “Precious gems are profoundly buried in the earth and can only be extracted at the expense of great labor.”