Guru Purnima - July 14th
Pandit Rajmani says, "There are thousands of lady saints in India. You think because there are no books about them, they do not exist." Hindu temples often have more female devotees than male devotees at their services and performing service in the community. There are many intelligent, articulate women on the executive boards of mandirs. Yet some people only think of men when they think of Hindu Gurus or Swamis. From time to time I have an opportunity to present a katha at my mandir. The appreciation I get is very wonderful. Women love seeing other women presenting an intellectual discourse. I love it when I see women MCs, priests, teachers, Swamis and speakers. It's another sister up there giving their prospective and life experiences. We have some unique experiences as females which contribute so much to our spiritual communities. I do love to speak to women in various traditions about their experiences because they share our sisterhood, too.
Guru Purnima is celebrated on July 14th this year, and I would like to present the story of a well-known woman guru, Gurumayi Swami Chidvilasananda who upholds the Siddha Yoga lineage established by Bhagwan Nityananda. Her Guru, Swami Muktananda, was a disciple of Nityananda.
Gurumayi (Guru Mother) was born as Malti Shetty in Mumbai, India on June 24, 1955. Her father was a Mumbai restaurateur and both of her parents were devotees of Swami Muktananda in the 1950's. At the age of five she was brought to the Gurudev Siddha Peeth Ashram in Ganeshpuri. She was initiated by Muktananda at the age of 14 and moved there to receive training as a yoga student. She became his official English language translator and traveled on 3 world tours with him. On May 3, 1982 she was initiated as a sannyasin into the Saraswati order as a monastic where she received her monastic and spiritual name as a successor along with her brother, Subhash, also known as Mahamandaleshwar Nityananda. Muktananda left the Earth plane a few months later. On November 10, 1986 she became the sole guru head of Siddha Yoga. From 1982 to 1986 her brother served in a co-guru role in the organization. She renamed the South Fallsburg, NY Ashram Shree Muktananda Ashram to honor her guru. In 1992 she incorporated the PRASAD Project in the USA, which is an NGO affiliated with the United Nations. In 1997 she started the Muktabodha Indological Research Institute and its publishing entity, Agama Press. She has published many books on yoga and discipleship.
She is responsible for more than 600 Siddha Yoga Centers in 52 countries. She emphasizes practical, every day life and serving humanity. She chants and performs Kirtan, too. She says, "We are not trying to conquer the world or convert people. There is only one thing we want to do--keep spreading that love as much as possible. Let us spread that one thing which is so sweet, so tender, and so tangible, a love that is pure and that can take us where we really want to go--to the heart, where God dwells." This is a really great goal of any spiritual teacher to spread, teach and live love. She travels all over the world spreading this beautiful message. She also visits the homes of devotees who put white flags on their doorsteps and porches when she visits. Her ashrams are physically beautiful, but she promotes seva or service at the ashrams and has developed many social service/charitiable activities in the communities where the ashrams are located. In Ganeshpuri, India she has fed and clothed many of the poor. Medical volunteers from the West tour Maharashtra and offer free exams, medicine and eye surgery. Siddha Yoga is about spreading wealth around, not amassing it. Many affluent devotees in the USA donate money towards her social service projects. She is well known also as one of the few teachers "who has taken a stand against the sexual abuse of women disciples. A high ranking swami whose sexual adventures were compromising his role as teacher was asked to step down," according to Linda Johnsen in Daughters of the Goddess. This is a sad situation for some women. It is good to talk about these situations and how we can prevent them in the first place. This is the power of the sisterhood all women share with each other. We have common experiences and with compassion we help others who have gone through the same experiences. I thank all the women who empower other women in these situations. I thank the men of courage who speak up against this abuse. We must provide an atmosphere where this does not happen. If it happens we must stop it.
She is a living example of what is great in womankind. She is truly an upholder of the Siddha Yoga hertiage and service to humanity. This blog is for all the yoga sisters and brothers on the path. May you all be like Gurumayi Chidvilasananda. She is a Yogini of Love and Truth.
JAI SHRI GURUMAYI CHIDVILASANADA! JAI SHRI GURU PURNIMA!