I am sending out the following to a few of my friends, Bengali-Americans, who haven’t heard of Sri Anandamayi Ma. I think they’ll be open to her.
I’m grateful we read her before I went to law school.
It was reported that various Indian philosophers and scholars said to the Bengali mystic Sri Anandamayi Ma: “We have studied dry scriptures. But, we now see before us, a living embodiment of all that is contained in our holy books of wisdom.”
Sri Anandamayi Ma passed from this life in 1982. Even though we no longer have the opportunity of darshan of her “living embodiment,” we still can learn something from Joseph Fitzgerald’s The Essential Sri Anandamayi Ma: Life and Teachings of a 20th Century Indian Saint. Given the pace of our lives, the intense pressures to achieve success, and our nagging sense of being frequently adrift, an acquaintance with Ma is a step toward sanity.
First, we can ponder reflections from Ma’s biographer, Alexander Lipski, like the following…
I felt as though I was mentally stripped naked. It seemed to me that she could see into the innermost recesses of my mind. I asked her to tell me what the chief obstacles on my spiritual path were. In response she revealed to me some glaring shortcomings of which I had been hitherto totally unaware. What She said was in no way flattering, in fact, painful, but Anandamayi Ma said it so compassionately, although firmly, that I did not feel condemned. I realized what true loving detachment was.
To those who seek perfection She suggests self-perfection; to those in search of a revolution, self-revolution; and to those suffering from alienation she offers oneness with the very source of their being.
She herself, just as the Buddha, is concerned with getting at the root of all suffering, to eliminate it once and for all.
She is totally devoid of fear and anger.
Like the Divine Mother, She can be exceedingly compassionate at one time and seemingly cruel at another, whatever approach is deemed necessary to free Her charges from delusion.
Next, we can reflect on some of her teachings to her devotees…
How dare anyone assume that the infinite Lord would provide only one path of salvation?
To find fault with others creates obstacles for everyone all around: for him who criticizes, for him who is blamed, as well as for those who listen to the criticism.
One of the greatest obstacles on the path back to God is our ego.
The purer your thinking, the finer will be your work.
The study of the Scriptures and similar texts –provided it does not become an obsession—can be an aid towards the grasping of Truth. So long as what has been read has not become one’s own experience, that is to say, has not been assimilated into one’s own being, it has not fulfilled its purpose. A seed that is merely held in the hand cannot germinate: it must develop into a plant and bear fruit in order to reveal its full possibilities.
From one point of view one may call one’s guru every person from whom one has learnt something, no matter how little. But the real guru is He whose teaching helps one toward Self-realization.
Through japa, meditation, the perusal of the Scriptures, and similar practices, one progresses towards the goal. Hence man should bind himself and, fixing his gaze on the One, advance along the path. Whatever ties, bonds, or restraints he imposes on himself, should have for aim the supreme goal of life. With untrammeled energy one must forge ahead towards the discovery of one’s own Self.
Last, Fitzgerald’s beautiful book is full of photos of Sri Anandamayi Ma over the course of her long life. One photograph of her was chanced upon by a European such that the woman decided to go straight to India to see Ma in the flesh. Pass on Netflix–This is a book to return to again and again, for inspiration, guidance, and challenge.
–from novel-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris