Shri Mataji - The Founder of Sahaja Yoga Meditation | We Meditate

Shri Mataji

The Founder

The founder of Sahaja Yoga

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi discovered a unique method of meditation "Sahaja Yoga", which allows one to achieve inner enlightenment, and reveals the true potential of mankind. Shri Mataji devoted her entire life to the development and dissemination of this method, and today hundreds of thousands of people around the world practice Sahaja Yoga.

The great master of yoga

Shri Mataji showed that within each person there is a motherly spiritual energy called "Kundalini", the awakening of which leads a person to a state of spontaneous meditation. Unlike many ancient teachers who were only able to share this experience with a few individuals, Shri Mataji could raise the Kundalini in thousands of people, which was previously considered impossible.

It is the opportunity to awaken this inner spiritual energy that distinguishes Sahaja Yoga from other methods of meditation. It is an extraordinary living experience which allows us to touch the very essence of ourselves, to uncover our very best qualities and to achieve a state of complete peace and satisfaction.

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Social Work

A life dedicated to humanity

Shri Mataji not only founded and spread the method of Sahaja Yoga far across the world, but also created many non-profit organizations in various fields of public life.

From a centre for destitute women and orphans and international schools with comprehensive and balanced education, to health centres using the methods of Sahaja Yoga and academies teaching classical arts - the list of Shri Mataji’s achievements is striking in its diversity.


Life among great people

Right from the beginning, Shri Mataji was always surrounded by outstanding people. Her parents were scholars and political activists who played an important role in the liberation movement of India, seeking independence of their country together with Mahatma Gandhi, who noticed the extraordinary potential of the young Shri Mataji and consulted her on spiritual issues.

Throughout her life, Shri Mataji was often in the circle of prominent political and public figures. Her husband, Sir Chandrika Prasad Srivastava, started out as a young officer in the Indian Civil Service but soon rose through the ranks to become Private Secretary to the Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri. Later, he was appointed Secretary General of the United Nations International Maritime Organisation in London, and served in this post for four successive terms. For his relentless dedication to public service and exceptional achievements, he was awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II, the first Indian to receive such honour after India gained independence.

Early Years

Shri Mataji was born on the 21st of March, 1923 in Chhindwara, India under the name of Nirmala Srivastava, into a truly unique family. Descended from the royal Shalivahana dynasty of India, she was raised Christian following her forefathers’ decision to convert from Hinduism in light of the cruel treatment of widows. Her parents were highly educated; her father a lawyer and scientist, fluently speaking 14 languages ​​and famous for translating the Qur'an into Hindi, and her mother was the first woman in India to receive an honors degree in mathematics.

The parents of Shri Mataji also actively participated in the struggle for India's independence from British occupation, both jailed several times for their involvement. Shri Mataji herself often visited the ashram of Mahatma Gandhi as a child, discussing with him means to bring about social and spiritual liberation. In 1942, Shri Mataji, as a teenager, was even detained and tortured by British soldiers for participating in the liberation movement. However, this was considered a necessary sacrifice - so much was the conviction that the internal liberation of people can come only after the country's liberation from foreign rule.

Young Shri Mataji with her family
Shri Mataji with family, second from the left, middle row. In the middle - Shri Mataji’s parents.

In 1947, Shri Mataji married a young political figure, Chandrika Prasad, later known as Sir CP, with whom she had two daughters. They led a family life in India, and Shri Mataji was a housewife and raised the daughters while Sir CP helped develop the newly liberated country and moved up the political ladder, serving in various posts in the state hierarchy. However, Shri Mataji always remembered her true destiny - the search for a method for the spiritual enlightenment of mankind.

When are you finally going to start your spiritual work? Now you are free, and you have to start.

Mahatma Gandhi
in a conversation with Shri Mataji, the day before he was assasinated

The founding of ‘Sahaja Yoga’

Shri Mataji always knew that the meaning of her life was to find a way to teach as many people as possible the truth of meditation, because only through the inner transformation of every person can the whole society become harmonious.

She also saw how many people try to learn the truth, and how many so-called "gurus" use this pure impulse for their own enrichment. After attending a lecture of one of such pseudo-teachers, she saw how he manipulated people, and was absolutely disgusted by this attitude. Shri Mataji spent the whole of that night on a beach in Nargol, West India, contemplating this dilemma. She knew that in order for people to reach a higher awareness of themselves they must be able to go beyond their minds and be connected to their subtle being.

Deep in meditation she felt her Kundalini rise within her, moving along her spine through all her chakras until it pierced the final chakra, the Sahasrara, at the limbic area at the top of her head. In this moment she was brought into state of total serenity, and knew that this was the answer to what so many were searching for. Thus on the 5th May, 1970, she discovered the method of achieving the state of meditation, which she later called "Sahaja Yoga", which in Sanskrit means "spontaneous union".

“I felt at that moment whatever energy was there above suddenly entered within me like a cool breeze from every direction. I saw the whole thing open and a big torrential rain of breeze started flowing through my head all over. I felt I was lost now, I was no more. It is only the grace that was there. I saw it completely happening to me."

From Nirmala to ‘Shri Mataji’

Soon Shri Mataji began to teach this new method to a few close individuals in India, awakening their Kundalinis to give them ‘Self-Realisation’. This was a difficult process as since ancient times only the most worthy yogis had managed to achieve such awakening through years of dedication and labour.

However, the presence of Shri Mataji and her patient work on people seemed to be the catalyst for this process, and after a while her students reached this amazing state of inner freedom and lightness, and also felt a cool breeze on the palms and above the head. It is because of this effect of Shri Mataji's presence and her tirelessly loving and selfless work on people that her students gave her the name "Shri Mataji", which literally means "respected holy mother.”

Spreading the Word

Sharing the experience

The method of meditation discovered by Shri Mataji began to spread around the world after she and her family moved to London. Starting with her first students whom Shri Mataji literally sheltered in her home in London, she gave them their Self Realisation, taught them the basics of meditation and gradually rebuilt their shattered subtle bodies.

Before long she was giving television and radio interviews, and holding lectures in public halls across the country. Afterwards she would always spend a lot of time giving individual attention to the audience and patiently answering their questions . Shri Mataji never charged any money for these lectures, nor for the experience of Self Realisation, insisting that it is the birthright of every individual.


The global vision

From the 1980s onwards, Shri Mataji began to travel the world to bring her knowledge to all who wished to receive it. Starting with Europe, North America and Australia and later moving on to Eastern Europe, South America, Asia and the Pacific region, she tirelessly taught Sahaja Yoga to all who were interested.

In 1990 alone, Shri Mataji attended more than 200 official events in 26 countries, and had many more informal meetings in between. Whether it was a speech in the main hall of a capital city, or an informal conversation in a villager’s home, every talk and experience was of equal importance to her.

Her vision was global, and, traveling and meeting people around the world, she sought to realise it. This vision was to change the world for the better, giving each person, regardless of race, religion or circumstance a method by which they can achieve inner transformation and become their true self.

Inner development as the foundation of a healthy society

Shri Mataji, in her lectures and conversations, paid attention to many aspects of a person's life, saying that the inner state enlightened by the practice of meditation must find an outward manifestation in all spheres of human life.


Enlightened Education

Shri Mataji paid special attention to the creation of a solid foundation for the development of the individual, thereby emphasising the importance of preschool education. She noted that education should not only ensure the intellectual and emotional development of children, but also lay the foundations of morality and spirituality.

In order to form worthy behaviour of children and a sense of self-respect, Shri Mataji attached great importance to discipline, a discipline based on love and respect. "It is our duty to see that our children are growing into great people. Greater than ourselves." said Shri Mataji. "They must take care of this world."

Realising her vision in practice, Shri Mataji created an education system based on Sahaja Yoga. The training involves mastering a complex curriculum and regular meditation classes. Meditation helps students improve their attention and motivation, and develops a sense of self-confidence, allows them to understand themselves, to establish harmony within.

Young people from different countries successfully develop, receive a decent education and build up a harmonious relationship with friends in schools organised by Shri Mataji in India, Italy, Canada, Austria, the US, the Czech Republic and Australia.

The Arts

Pure Creativity

Throughout her life, Shri Mataji devoted much time and energy to the development of the arts. She saw art not only as one of the main means of self-expression, but also as a way of supporting world cultures. In particular, Shri Mataji sought to preserve the rich artistic traditions of India, rooted in antiquity, and she actively promoted the dissemination of the cultural heritage of India around the world.

In 2003, Shri Mataji together with her brother founded an Academy of Arts in Maharashtra (India). Students from different countries come to the academy to study Indian classical music, dance and painting in a quiet Indian village. Shri Mataji personally supervised the architectural project of the Academy building, as well as the creation of other institutions with humanitarian goals. One such project is the Nirmala Prem Center in Delhi (India) for orphans.

Over the years, Shri Mataji has patronised some of the most famous representatives of classical Indian music and dance, inviting them to perform at various concerts and programs. Those performers who performed in her presence described this experience as a turning point in their creative path. Many noted that Shri Mataji's strong creative energy greatly inspired them to deepen the mastery of performance, to realise their potential.

Shri Mataji's efforts in the development of art included active support of the theatre. She inspired a group of talented theatre performers to unite and create the "Theatre of Eternal Values". Formed in 1993 in Ghent (Belgium), the association continues touring around the world and plays the works of great playwrights (W. Blake, W. Shakespeare, L. Tolstoy), touching on the themes of spirituality, self-development and inspiring their viewers.

Holistic approach to health

Shri Mataji studied medicine for several years until the political events connected with the independence movement of India forced her to leave school. Being brought up in a tradition that recognised the connection between spirituality and health, Shri Mataji devoted herself to studying meditation and observing how meditation affects the mind and body of a person.

During the study of meditation, Shri Mataji discovered the subtle energy system of the chakras (nerve plexuses) and channels (sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems). This subtle system determines our physical and emotional state. But it is especially significant that Shri Mataji found the key to this system: a nourishing female energy, called in the ancient Indian writings as ‘Kundalini’. Shri Mataji studied human behaviour and its influence on this energy and subtle system. She saw how unbalanced behaviour can lead to physical, mental or emotional extremes, which in turn leads to a deterioration in health.

"This Kundalini, when She passes through these six centers, She enlightens those centers, nourishes those centers and integrates them - so in totality you are all right. It's not like, that one part of the body is treated, another part is neglected - in totality, in the whole balance. And She puts you in the central path of balance."

Shri Mataji emphasised that although Sahaja Yoga improves health, its goal is not to cure, but to awaken this energy and give people an understanding of spirituality through self-realisation.

Shri Mataji giving a lecture on the subtle system

Dr. Ramesh Manocha, general practitioner and researcher at the Department of Natural Therapy of the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney, Australia, cites convincing results of the positive influence of Sahaja Yoga meditation on the treatment and prevention of various disorders, including hypertension, asthma, and attention deficit disorder . According to Dr. Manocha, the silence of the mind, established during meditation, is associated with a unique character of physiological activity. He notes that among the many methods of meditation and relaxation, meditation by the method of Sahaja Yoga has proved effective in terms of therapeutic treatment.

In 1996, Shri Mataji founded the Sahaja Yoga International Research Wellness Center in Belapur, near Mumbai, India. The clinic is now accepting patients from all over the world. Diagnosis and treatment involve the use of Sahaja Yoga methods in addition to Ayurvedic medical practices. Compared with traditional Western medicine, the use of meditation in treatment leads to a significant reduction in stress level, stabilisation of blood pressure, and strengthening of the immune system, and studies of the further effects are ongoing.

Recognition around the world

Throughout the 41 years Shri Mataji spent spreading Sahaja Yoga, she received numerous awards, nominations and accolades from state leaders and notable institutions around the world.

“A source of hope for humanity”

Claes Nobel, Grand-Nephew of Alfred Nobel
Public speech at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 1997

In 1996, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 1997 she received personal recognition from Claes Nobel, the grand-nephew of Alfred Nobel. In a public speech at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Nobel spoke with deep respect of the life and work of Shri Mataji, describing Sahaja Yoga as ‘a reference point for determining right from wrong’.

Bestowing honorary membership of the Petrovskaya Academy of Arts and Science in St Petersburg on Shri Mataji, a distinction only ever received by 12 people, including Einstein, the institution praised her with the words ‘You are even higher than science’. It is this profound respect and admiration from representatives of all sectors of society which highlights the value of Shri Mataji’s teachings just as much as any award, if not more.

Some outstanding moments in the life of Shri Mataji:

Italy, 1986

The Italian government proclaims Shri Mataji as the Personality of the Year.

Moscow, Russia, 1989

Succeeding Shri Mataji’s meeting with the Minister for Health of the USSR, Sahaja Yoga receives full government support, including funding of scientific research.

St. Petersburg, Russia, 1993

Elected as an honorary member of the Petrovsky Academy of Arts and Science. Shri Mataji opens the International Conference on Medicine and Self-knowledge, which subsequently becomes an annual conference.

Her Legacy

Shri Mataji established kindergartens and schools, medical centers and homes for the disadvantaged, arts academies and social projects, but her legacy is something far greater than all of these. No monument or non-governmental organisation can demonstrate the true legacy of Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, it is above all these things.

What Shri Mataji has given to our world is not a philosophy, doctrine or concept. It is an extraordinary transformative experience - Self-realisation. Recognition of one's spiritual essence is the true legacy of Shri Mataji, and has the power to change our world from the very root of society: the individual.

"Prepare them so that they can solve their problems, that's what I should do ... You must be doctors to yourself. You must be a guru to yourself. "

Her work led to the creation of a dynamically developing international community, bringing together practitioners of Sahaja Yoga in more than 95 countries. All of them are united by the desire for spiritual transformation and the creation of an opportunity for global change.

The vision of Shri Mataji was not to create any organisations - her message is focused on the person, on the inner "I". Shri Mataji noted that only the faithfulness to universal spiritual values ​​can solve the global problems of mankind. She also insisted on the freedom of the individual: in Sahaja Yoga there are no dogmas or prescriptions, but there is only an inner awareness of what is beneficial for spiritual development.

By initiating profound personal changes through the awakening of Kundalini and meditation, Shri Mataji taught people how to achieve higher goals than mere material success or power. "We must reach peace inside," she said.

Shri Mataji in Belgium