My First Meetings with Anandamayi Ma, February, 1959
by Swami Kriyananda
originally published in Ananda Varta, October 1983
The following is based on a long letter I wrote — but never completed — to the SRF monks in Los Angeles, on notes that I made after each meeting with the Mother, and on accounts contributed by Mohini Chakravarty, an SRF/YSS devotee. ~Swami Kriyananda
Sri Daya Mata and her party, consisting of Ananda Mata, Sister Revati, and myself, had been visiting Sri Yukteswar’s seaside hermitage in Puri. On about February 9th, we returned to the YSS Baranagar ashram, outside Calcutta, where we were living. Soon after our arrival, we learned that, during our absence, Anandamayi Ma had come to Calcutta.
What a thrill! Paramhansa Yogananda’s beautiful account of Her in Autobiography of a Yogi had inspired all of us, his disciples, with Her example of divine love, with Her ecstatic absorption in God’s inﬁnite Bliss. One of our greatest hopes in coming to India had been that we would have the opportunity of meeting Her. Now Divine Mother had brought Her figuratively to our door- step! We looked forward with keen anticipation to meeting Her.
My own eagerness, however, was not unmixed with a certain anxiety. On Friday of that week I. was scheduled to fly to Madras to lecture at the SRF/YSS center there. Would I be able to see the Mother before then? It all depended on whether I could find someone to take me to Her, as I had no way of getting there on my own.
On Wednesday evening, February 11th, the four of us were sitting with two or three Indian friends around the dining room table. Talk turned (inevitably!) to Anandamayi Ma, and to our prospects for visiting Her. “But,” we lamented, “we’ve no idea where She’s staying !”
“It must be in Agarpara,” said Mohini Chakravarty, one of the friends who were present. “That’s where She stays when She comes to Calcutta.”
“Do you know how to get there ?” I asked.
“Yes, I could take you.”
“At what time does She generally see people ?”
“At about this time.”
This was not an opportunity to let slip away! I said, “Why don’t we go there right away ?”
My proposal was a bit sudden for the others in our party, but Mohini agreed to accompany me, and minutes later we were on our way.
I meditated as we drove through the darkness. A peculiar joy ﬁlled me. Did the Blissful Mother already know we were coming ? Was She blessing me before I even met Her?
“Mohini,” I said, “please don’t tell the Mother who I am (that is to say, a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, who was of course well-known to the Mother’s devotees.) I don’t want the formality of an introduction. Let me just slip quietly into the back of the room and sit there in meditation. That will be a sufficient joy for me.”
I wanted a spiritual, not a social, contact with the Mother. Also, I felt timid at the thought of representing Master before such an exalted Being, unworthy disciple as I am. Better just to come in and sit unnoticed.
I saw Her ﬁrst through a series of french doors which run the length of one wall of the assembly hall. At once, and every time I saw Her again during the days to come — even in semi-darkness, when I couldn’t distinguish Her features — I understood anew the meaning of Master’s words when he wrote of the blessing that ﬂows from the mere sight of a saint. There was no mistaking it. I was beholding a truly divine Being.
I slipped quietly into the room and sat cross- legged on the floor at the back. There must have been about 150 people present. The Mother was speaking and laughing amiably. Her voice, as pure and bell-like as a little girls, thrilled my heart. I closed my eyes in meditation. Soon I began to lose myself in inner peace and devotion.
After a time, the congregation stood up. The meeting had obviously come to an end. I couldn’t bring myself to move or to open my eyes, but the people around me began talking, so I assumed that the Mother had left the room.
I hadn’t wanted to be introduced to Her, but now that She had retired I thought a little sadly, “It would have been nice to exchange just a glance with Her — even a loving smile!” But She was gone now. And who was I, anyway, to expect any favours? I contented myself with the inner blessing I knew I’d received.
I continued meditating for several minutes. Then Mohini tapped me on the arm.
“I am going to inquire if the Mother can be persuaded graciously to come out again and meet you.”
“No!” I exclaimed, “please don’t! It would be too much of an imposition. Her evening with the public is over. Who am I to deserve special favours?”
But Mohini lovingly disregarded my reluctance. (He knew what I really wanted!) Approaching one of the Mother’s devotees, he made his request. Presently word came back that She would see me. I went and stood by the door of Her room, my heart beating with a mixture of dread and joy.
As I stood there, Sri Anil Ganguli, a devotee of the Mother, sounded a note of mock warning: “Beware of the cobra’s poison. Once you get it into your system, you may never be able to get it out again!”
Presently She came out. Sweetly she asked where I had come from, how long I had been in India, and a few questions of a general nature. I told Her that I am a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, adding that, thanks to Him, all of us in his ashrams in America felt great love for Her.
At this She smiled appreciatively, then added quietly, “There is no love except the love of God. Without His love, it is not possible to love people.”
This answer, and the way She uttered it, so thrilled me thatI could make no reply, but only smiled happily.
After a few moments, She asked me when I was planning to return to America. I replied, “We’ll all be going back to our ashram in April.”
“Our ashram? Can you tell me where your ashram is, that you must go back to it?”
With a smile of appreciation, I corrected myself. “This body is my ashram, because it is here I sit for meditation.”
“No. Why your body ? Your body is temporary. Ashram is everywhere. It cannot be limited.
“In a spiritual sense,” She continued, “the meaning of the word, ashram, is, ‘ar shram noy’ — cessation from all compulsory activity. In this effortless divine state, all is perceived as one.
“In another sense, ashram refers to the four stages of life [brahmacharya, grihasta, vanaprastha, and sannyasa]. But the Divine can be known in all of these states, So these, too, are all one.” Everything is one — all one.” (That last word, “one,” she uttered in English, laughing merrily at Her own use of a foreign word.)
Mohini said, “Brother Kriyananda asked me on our way here to let him just come in quietly and meditate, and not to tell you who he is.”
The Mother, gazing at me quietly and affectionately, replied, “But I saw him come in, even though he was unannounced, I was watching him meditate.
“What do you mean, however, by the expression, ‘Who he is’? Who is he, indeed, anyway? Who is anybody? This little girl [the Mother, I learned, generally referred to Herself in this way] forgets Herself so much She can’t even remember who she is supposed to be! Occasionally, someone who has been close to this body for years will be sitting nearby, and I Will ask, “Where is So-and- so ?”, calling this person by name. Sometimes people are disappointed when I don’t recognize them, but it is because I don’t use this mind as others do. I am led by kheyala – by moods!” (Again She used the English word, moods, and laughed happily. By ‘moods’, however, She didn’t mean that She is moody in the ordinary, human sense. But just as human moods are irrational and unpredictable, so the kheyala is above reason and is not dependent upon the logical pro- cess for its perceptions and decisions. Kheyala may sometimes seem whimsical to the limited intellect, but it never is.)
The Mother mentioned that the following day was the festival of Saraswati puja (worship). Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of learning and music. The Mother urged me, if I could, to attend the function.
Mohini then told Her that I could sing a few devotional songs in Bengali. She replied, “That is very nice. But it may not be possible to listen to them tomorrow. We shall certainly be able to hear them the following day.”
“But,” remonstrated Mohini, “our brother’s difficulty is that he is scheduled to leave for Madras on Friday morning.”
Impulsively I intruded, “I am supposed to leave then. But I am seriously considering postponing the journey.”
Everyone, including the Mother, laughed appreciativelv. Sri Ganguli remarked, “Aha! What did I say ? The cobra poison has begun to take effect!” Everyone laughed again.
Mohini then relayed the wish of Daya Mata to meet the Mother privately. Because the Mother had not yet met Daya Ma, she somehow got the impression that it was I who wanted the appoint- ment.
“Father,” She replied, “you know I do not like to bind myself with appointments. Once I make a promise, I must keep it regardless of all other considerations. Please speak to Swami Paramananda downstairs and ask him to make the appoint- ment for me.”
She rose to leave. With a full heart I thanked Her in Bengali for having come out again especially to see me.
The Mother smiled. “ ‘Thank you’ is too formal,” She remarked. (In Bengali the expression is used less frequently than in English, and has a formal ring to it : ‘dhanvawad’.) “Will you thank your own self?” When I looked puzzled as to what I might offer as an alternative, She addressed Mohini: “Ask him, would he thank his own mother?”
“Yes,” I replied after Mohini’s translation, “in English it is customary to show appreciation in this way, even to our loved ones,”
The Mother, smiling, then conceded, “Well, if it is customary with you it is all right.”
Lovingly She gave me a ﬂower and a tangerine, upon which I said with a smile, “Now — what can I say to you? Must I accept these in silence?”
She replied with a gentle laugh, “Say what you want. It is all the same.”
I thanked Her in English. (I guess I’m just too much of a Westerner!) Then, with a full heart, I said how happy I was to have met Her. As She turned to go, I touched Her feet lovingly. (Later I was to learn that it is strictly against the ashram rules for anyone to touch Her feet. But no one, least of all the Mother Herself, corrected me for my unwitting breach of etiquette.)
My heart was full. Eagerly I looked forward to the following day, when I planned to urge the rest of our group to come, too; and attend Saraswati puja at the ashram.