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Updated on July 13, 2016

Guru Purnima Celebrated on July 19th

What is a guru? A guru is a spiritual teacher. The guru is a person who gets you to expand your horizons and to think outside the box. According to Kahil Gibran, a teacher is someone who encourages the knowledge which is dawning within yourself. The best disciple is the one who asks the most challenging questions and struggles to understand and live the answers to the questions. Arjuna was a great disciple because he asked profound questions, struggled to understand and live the answers. On the battleground Arjuna and Krishna discussed questions so profound that centuries later we are still trying to live and understand the answers to the questions.

Every year near Guru Purnima I celebrate in writing the life of a great female guru. In 1857 Gauri Ma, whose birth name was Mridani, was born in Sibpur, Howrah, India. Girbala, her mother, had a very vivid and astounding dream right before her birth. The Divine Mother Kali smiled and handed to her a baby "accepted by her in gratitude as a divine gift." It seems as though this child was destined to be a great being who manifested aspects of the Divine Mother.

She was educated in Anglican schools. Her uncle predicted she would be a great yogini. She was ten years old when she met a stranger who initiated her. He told her that the next time he would see her she would be right by the Ganges River. She saw him again when she was 25 years old by the Ganges River as he had predicted.

The stranger was a very famous guru and divine soul, Rama Krishna. He was the one who encouraged her to open an all female ashram. In August of 1886 Rama Krishna left the Earth plane. In 1895 she opened this all female ashram when she was 40 years old. The ashram was named after Rama Krishna's wife, Sarada Devi, a teacher in her rite. This all female ashram, Saradeshvari Ashram, focused on the plight of Indian women and girls. It housed a girls' school, a female ashram and a refuge for widows and women seeking help in improving their lives.

Durga Ma and Sarada Devi were instrumental in helping her develop this very successful enterprise. In 1911 the ashram moved to Kolkata. In 1924 an addition was built. In 1950 Durga Ma purchased additional land for a girls' school. Gauri Ma encouraged married women as well as single women to receive instruction and take part in ashram life.

The traditional role as wife and mother was just one of the options she encouraged. She wanted to expand the possibilities for women in all walks of life. When she was a child, she received a special Krishna Stone, which was a symbol of her marriage to Lord Krishna. She never had a human husband. Although her family wanted her to marry, she refused. Her destiny was with being a guru and a leader of an ashram. Her uncle was right. She did become a great yogini and reformer. She opened up possibilities for a more expanded role of women in India. She possessed a lot of charisma and along with Durga Ma and Sarada Devi instituted a unique institution: an all female ashram. She went house to house meeting families in order to get enough girls to sign up for the girls' school. She taught the lessons found in the Gita at the ashram and school.

Many people think most gurus are men, but India has many local female gurus. Some female gurus are well known, such as Mother Meera and Ammachi Ma (Amma). Of course, our mother is our first guru. The truth is we have gurus who teach us every day of our lives. On Guru Purnima I will honor my own guru, Pandit Munelal Maharaj, as well as other great gurus like Gauri Ma. On March 1, 1938 the great female guru left the Earth Plane. Her ashram and school continues today by the help of great women worldwide.




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