The Italian government proclaims Shri Mataji as the Personality of the Year.
Shri Mataji was born as Nirmala Srivastava on the 21st of March 1923, in Chhindwara, India. Her family descended from the royal Shalivahana dynasty, and she was raised Christian following her forefathers’ decision to convert from Hinduism, in light of the cruel treatment of widowed women. Shri Mataji's father was a lawyer and scientist, fluent in 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.
Shri Mataji's parents also actively participated in the struggle for India's independence from British occupation and were both jailed several times for their involvement. As a child, Shri Mataji often visited the ashram of Mahatma Gandhi, discussing with him the means to bring about social and spiritual liberation. In 1942, Shri Mataji, as a teenager, was detained and tortured by British soldiers for participating in the liberation movement. This was, however, considered a necessary sacrifice - so strong was the conviction that the internal liberation of people could come only after the country's liberation from foreign rule.
In 1947, Shri Mataji married a young political figure, Chandrika Prasad, later known as Sir CP, with whom she had two daughters. Shri Mataji was a housewife and raised the daughters as Sir CP helped develop the newly liberated country, moving up the political ladder and serving in various posts in the state hierarchy. However, Shri Mataji always remembered her true destiny - the search of a method for the spiritual enlightenment of humanity.
When are you finally going to start your spiritual work? Now you are free, and you have to start.Mahatma Gandhi
Shri Mataji always knew that the meaning of her life was to find a way to teach the truth of meditation to as many people as possible. She knew that only through the inner transformation of every person can the whole of 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 enrichment. After attending a lecture of one of such pseudo-teachers, she saw how he manipulated people and was 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 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. At that moment she was brought into a state of total serenity and knew that this was the answer to what so many were searching for. Thus on the 5th of May 1970, she discovered the method to achieve 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."
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; since ancient times, through years of dedication and labour, only the most worthy yogis had managed to achieve such awakening.
However, the presence of Shri Mataji and her patient work on people seemed to be the catalyst for this process. All of her students reached this state of inner freedom and lightness, and also felt a cool breeze on the palms and above the head. It is because of the 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.”
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.
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 it affects the mind and physical 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. Especially significant was that Shri Mataji had found the key to this system: a nourishing female energy, known as ‘Kundalini’ in the ancient Indian writings. Shri Mataji studied human behaviour and its influence on this energy and subtle system. She saw how unbalanced behaviour could lead to physical, mental and 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 the kundalini and give people an understanding of spirituality through self-realisation.
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 in the treatment and prevention of various disorders, including hypertension, asthma, and ADD. 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 stabilisation of blood pressure, reduction in stress levels, and strengthening of the immune system, and studies of further effects are ongoing.
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
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 a deep respect for the life and work of Shri Mataji, describing Sahaja Yoga as 'a reference point for determining right from wrong.'
On bestowing honorary membership of the Petrovskaya Academy of Arts and Science in St Petersburg, a distinction only ever received by 12 people, including Einstein, the institution praised Shri Mataji 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.
Some notable moments in the life of Shri Mataji:
The Italian government proclaims Shri Mataji as the Personality of the Year.
Succeeding Shri Mataji’s meeting with the Minister for Health of the USSR, Sahaja Yoga receives full government support, including funding of scientific research.
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.
Shri Mataji is welcomed at the airport by the Mayor of Brasilia, who presents her with the key to the city and sponsors all of her programs.
26th September is declared ‘Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi Day’. Shri Mataji is offered a police escort for a parade in her honour.
On behalf of the people of Canada, the Premier of the Province of British Columbia, Mr Mike Harcourt, extends a letter of welcome to Shri Mataji.
Granted an Honorary Doctorate in Cognitive Science by Prof D Drime, head of the Ecological University Bucharest.
The Chinese government invites Shri Mataji to be an official guest speaker at the 4th UN Conference on Women.
Shri Mataji addresses the ‘World Philosophers Meet ‘96 - A Parliament of Science, Religion and Philosophy’, where she is celebrated for the establishment of Sahaja Yoga.
Honorarium read into the Congressional Record by Congressman Eliot Engle, who commends Shri Mataji for her dedicated and tireless work for humanity.
The Italian government awards Shri Mataji with honorary citizenship, succeeded by the presentation of the foundation stone for the ‘Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi World Foundation of Sahaja Yoga’ in Cabella Ligure.
Shri Mataji established kindergartens and schools, medical centers and homes for the disadvantaged, art 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 and the power to change our world from the very root of society by starting with the individual is the true legacy of Shri Mataji's life.
"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 has 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.
Shri Mataji's vision was not to create any organisations - her message is focused on the person, on the inner "I". Shri Mataji noted that only the dedication 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, there is only the 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 strive for and achieve higher goals than mere material success or power. "We must reach peace inside," she said.