THE DIVINE LIFE OF ANANDAMAYI MA
BY MARCIA HAMELIN | BEGINNER | HEART ADVICE
Born fully awake and by her own testimony, a manifestation in response to prayers for a female incarnation of the Eternal One, Anandamayi Ma’s life was absolutely divine.
Anandamayi Ma, whose name translates to “Bliss Permeated Mother”, is an avatar, a direct emanation of wisdom and compassion. She is best known for her habitual state of divine joy and the atmosphere of utter bliss that surrounded her.
Also referred to as “Ma”, dressed in spotless white, her darshan (the sight & blessings of a holy person) revealed her mesmerizing spiritual eminence of simplicity and gentleness. She was one of the most influential spiritual leaders of our time. Through her teachings of oneness, she guided the hearts of humble villagers and renowned figures alike, inspiring her followers to lead a life of humble service.
Although she had little formal education, Ma was a direct embodiment of enlightened wisdom, through which she was able to impart even the subtlest of teachings to thousands of followers from all walks of life. Her teachings were playful and deeply moving, while being ultimately grounded in Love & Truth.
“For one who knows me, I am one with him; for one who wants to know me, I am very near to him; and for one who does not know me, I am a beggar before him” – Anandamayi Ma
A DIVINE LIFE
At each stage of her life, Ma spontaneously manifested as a perfect embodiment of divinity while fulfilling her particular role in the world.
Ma was born in a small village called Kheora (present-day Bangladesh) on April 30, 1896 to a prestigious, but non-affluent Brahmin household.
In her early life, Ma often experienced ecstatic and trance like states, both spontaneous and induced by religious ritual and ceremony. Seeing the One in All, she was a living embodiment of the divine, serving her family and those around her in the village.
At the age of 13, she was married to her husband, Bholanath (as he was later known). Ma’s overflowing happy disposition caused her new husband and family some concern, but later it became apparent to them that she was an extraordinary being. Her husband would later turn to her for spiritual counsel as his guru (spiritual teacher).
Ma was not contained to any particular spiritual or religious tradition. With no outer guru, spiritual training, or formal initiation, Ma was known for her yogic powers and ecstatic states.
Ma often moved through a wide variety of psychic and spiritual states. She believed her chaotic and blissful states of being were indeed the divine being expressed through her. One evening, she even spontaneously initiated herself, as she heard the chanting of Vedic mantras inwardly, much in the same way as the ancient Rishis of India once did.
A WANDERING GODDESS
Ma spent the greater part of her life wandering and traveling throughout India, staying no longer than two weeks in one place. As her devotees grew into the thousands, they began building shrines and ashrams in her name. At times, she refused to stay in the ashrams her devotees provided for her, choosing to wander freely through the villages, forests and mountains of North India instead.
Led only by the needs of her devotees and her inner heart, she traveled from place to place, providing comfort, guidance and love to all. As a part of her all-encompassing message, she welcomed all faiths as true pathways to God, and never saw any fundamental difference between the spiritual traditions of the world.
THE TEACHINGS OF ANADAMAYI MA
LIFE AND Spirituality ARE ONE
Ma’s teachings emphasized detachment from the material world and had a great focus on the development of devotion.
She encouraged her followers to serve others and to see the One in All.
Never having worldly attachments, Ma objectified the body, often referring to it as “this body did this” or “this body went there”. She maintained that her spiritual-self has always been, and always will be. When Paramahansa Yogananda met Anandamayi Ma and asked her about her life, she answered:
“Before I came on this earth Father, I was the same. I grew into womanhood but still I was the same. When the family in which I had been born made arrangements to have this body married, I was the same. And Father, in front of you now, I am the same. Even afterwards, though the dance of creation changed around me in the halls of eternity, I shall be the same.”
Ma’s central message is this: Life and spirituality are One. All that you do to maintain your life; your everyday work and play, as well as all your attempts to earn a living, should be done with sincerity, love and devotion. Ma’s wisdom imparted a firm conviction that true living means virtually perfecting one’s spiritual existence to be in tune with the universe. To bring about this synthesis, spirituality should be made as natural and easy as taking our food and drink when we are hungry and thirsty.
Ma sought the Divine in everything she did. She aimed to serve the formless Divine through form.
“This body has lived with father, mother, husband, and all. This body has served the husband, so you may call it a wife. It has prepared dishes for all, so you may call it a cook. It has done all sorts of scrubbing and menial work, so you can call it a servant, but if you look at the thing from another standpoint, you will realize that this body has served none but God, for when I served my father, mother, husband, others, I simply considered them as other manifestations of the almighty, and served them as such. When I sat down to prepare food, I did in spirit of Divine service. Hence, I was not quite worldly, though always engaged in household affairs. I had but one ideal: to serve all as God, to do everything for the sake of God.”
Ma stood on the edge of several traditions, and in the midst of none. Yet, she emanated awareness of doctrinal differences between religions and spoke with authority on all aspects of life and enlightenment. With no formal training, or experience with any outer guru that could have exerted influence over her life, and without any reclusive withdrawal from the world, Ma’s life was exceptionally unique.
Ma influenced and enhanced the spirituality of thousands who came to see her throughout her long life, before leaving her physical body at the age of 86 in 1982. She continues to bless us with her grace, as her message of love continues to inspire us and guide us to eternal Truth. In essence, Ma’s wisdom imparts that each and every one of us is Divine, and that our Divine purpose is to see the One in everything and everyone, while being of service without any expectations in return.
“Without cause or reason His compassion, His grace are pouring forth at every instant.”
“One of God’s Name is Love. He Himself resides within all, at every moment, everywhere.”
― Anandamayi Ma