Anandamayi Ma, a “Bliss-Permeated Mother” was a Bengali mystic of a unique quality. Always surrounded by an aura of joy and divine bliss, she seemed to be out of this world to anybody who came in contact with her. Though eventually a sort of spiritual movement formed around her, she was never engaged in any formal teaching, and didn’t speak of herself as a guru. Around her everything was just happening spontaneously, she kept on saying that she has no personal will whatsoever and all her words and actions are just the Divine manifesting itself through her.
Anandamayi was born in a poor brahmin family in a village in what is now Bangladesh. Both of her parents were very religious, her father was a well-known devotional singer, and through him she got introduces to kirtan, devotional songs, that took her to the state of bliss for hours. From her childhood she had always been calm and joyful, she was unaffected by the outer events to such an extent that people were even doubting her mental abilities. She had just 2 years of education. In the age of 13 she got married, which was normal for rural Bengal of those times, and moved to her husband’s family house. Despite being engaged daily in hard physical work she always remained peaceful and cheerful, which again made her surrounding think she was retarded. A withdrawn meditative state, that was usual for her since childhood, with years was growing deeper and deeper. At the age of 18 she started living with her husband. She was an very beautiful woman, but whenever her husband would even think of sex, her body started showing signs of death. Soon he came to realize his wife was not an ordinary woman. Later he became her disciple and was initiated by her as a monk. By the age of about 22 Anandamayi started performing regular spiritual practice, or rather that practice was happening to her spontaneously. Her states of trance became regular, she was sitting and lying absorbed in bliss for hours and days, sometimes she was laughing and crying for hours, rolling on the ground or going around as being moved by some force. At the age of 26 she enacted her own spiritual iniciation, the details of the ritual came to her in a vision. Later she said she was the guru and the disciple at the same time. Her states started interfering with her daily work, and finally she set up a small temple and fully devoted herself to spiritual practice. Bt that time many already noticed her unusual state, people started coming for spiritual guidance or just to be in her presence. One of her early disciples offered to call her Anandamayi Ma, he created a first ashram (spiritual hermitage) for her. During her life her devotees made many ashrams for her, but she was not bound to them and mostly stayed outside. Her husband liked pilgrimages, and they spend more and more time out of the house traveling. After a few years they left the house for good, and since then Anandamayi was always moving, mostly in the North India. Her popularity grew, whenever she moved, people were gathering around her, many were traveling with her. This spontaneous movement continued till the end of her life.
Anandamayi Ma never prepared any talks or revised what she had said. Her talks were difficult to translate and even transcribe, because she used to speak very fast, and often used the wordplay typical for Bengali language. She never initiated disciples and refused to be called a guru. She welcomed people of all religions, and didn’t teach a particular spiritual practice, saying “all paths are mine”, and “I have no particular path”. The central idea of her teachings is simple – the search for the divine is the only meaningful thing in life. When one puts all his effort for this search, God, of the Self, will be revealed. Anandamayi never followed any particular method of meditation, everything was happening naturally to her, all spiritual practices occurred to her in a form of a game. “The intense desire for God-realization is itself the way to it.” Whichever way of practice one chooses, it is only one’s dedication and strong desire that gives results, and not the method as such. “Who am I? With this attitude let the mind stand back as a witness. Search after your Self. Sit immersed in meditation, still, steady and fully concentrated… Twenty-four hours abide in the awareness of the Presence of God… Let your thoughts dwell constantly in the Supreme Reality, let your mind be absorbed in That.”
Anandamayi Ma was not really a teacher, but a mystic. She had difficulties translating what was revealed to her into language, especially because she never had a guru and never engaged in any form of spiritual practice. She was teaching with her presence rather that with words, but whatever she has achieved has left with her. She arrived, but couldn’t show the way to others.