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SHREE MAA OF KAMAKHYA TEMPLE
Guru Purnima 2013
On July 22nd Guru Purnima will be celebrated to honor our gurus. Hindus offer prayers and artee to their own spiritual teachers (gurus) on this day. My guru, Pandit Munelal Maharaj, will be conducting a tour of India on this day.
A few years ago I first read about Shree Maa of Kamakhya Temple in a book on female saints of India entitled, Daughters of the Goddess, written by Linda Johnsen. Ms. Johnsen is most well known for her book, Idiot's Guide to Hinduism, where she explains the basics of the tradition. She has a very interesting and engaging writing style and has motivated me to study the lives of female saints and gurus.
What impresses me about Shree Maa is that she is so real and down-to-earth. She explains the true understanding of the guru. This is what I have always experienced when connecting with my guru. Maa says the guru helps you find the Guru within. A guru is a mentor who lights your way to self-realization. An excellent guru, in fact, brings out the knowledge which is dawning within yourself. If you exceed the guru in some aspect, then you know you have an excellent guru. He or she is happy when you excel at something. As an enlightened person, the guru is not obsessed with their ego and only wants your success and happiness on your spiritual path.
What kind of person is Shree Maa? She was born at the time of an earthquake in Assam, India. Because the earthquake records were destroyed, we do not know exactly the date of her birth. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, her associate who explains her teachings, says she could have been born between 1938 and 1948, or possibly before.
She was born into a very wealthy family who descended from the Bengali mystic, Ramprasad Sen. Her aunt, Renuka Sen, was a well-known poet, friend and inspiration of Rabindranath Tagore. Maa had every material advantage and lived in a beautiful mansion with many servants. She meditated frequently and was inspired by the Bengali saint and mystic, Sri Parmahamsa Rama Krishna, her guru, who left the Earth many years before her birth.
At 16 she wandered into the woods surrounding Assam, meditating into samadhi (communion with God). Her family frantically searched for her all over India.
For a number of years, she wandered from temple to forest to homes worshipping the Divine Mother. She read from the Chandi, a sacred text on Mother Durga, performed pujas and sang bhajans. In 1980 in Bakrewar, West Bengal, she met Swami Stayananda Saraswati at a temple. From that time forward, they traveled together teaching about the Mother and conducting pujas. He has written several books on pujas and on Shree Maa and her philosophy. To find out more about these books go to www.shreemaa.org.
In 1984 she received a vision of her guru, Rama Krishna, instructing her to go to America to teach with Swami Satyananda Sarswati. They eventually established a temple in 1987 in Martinez, CA called Devi Mandir. Eventually thousands came to the temple to meet her and the swami. Unlike many gurus she waited on devotees who visited the temple. She cooked, cleaned and made you feel right at home while at the temple. In 1994 she returned to India with the swami after doing a 1000 pujas to the Mother.
This story about Maa in Daughters of the Goddess I found very interesting. One day she entered Vishvanath Temple with a group of devotees from the United States and India. This temple is located in Benares (Varnasi) and is considered to be one of the most sacred temples in Hinduism. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and located on the Ganges River. Some of the brahmins greeted the group with shouts of, "Non-Hindus not allowed!" Maa's group explained that many of them have been practicing Hinduism for over 20 years. Unfortunately, they were barred by this group. One of the brahmins disagreed with their actions and pleaded that all should be welcomed. He was the smart one!
Maa left the temple and said, "Mother has never placed a curse. Today I place a curse. The brahmins will be destroyed. Mother will be established in the temple. We are all one. May everyone see that we are all one. May there be no hatred anywhere."
Word spread about what happened at the temple in Benares. Many protested the actions of the brahmins. A week afterwards the priests called to say that the group was welcomed now and they were reconsidering their policy on non-Hindus entering the temple.
This shows the power of the Mother aspect in the world. It is evident Maa understands what love is about. Devi does not care about your nationality, religion or racial group. It is humans who want to make those divisions and separations. Maa just had to speak up and say "no" to such craziness. These rituals and sacred places are meant for all of us to visit and experience.
Maa is a great example of the value of collaboration. She uses her abilities of intuitive knowledge, homemaking and social skills. Swami Satyananda is the intellectual communicator of the spoken and written word. We need both types in this world to achieve the best outcome. They have a synergy together which can not be accomplished by working alone. I personally have benefited greatly when I collaborate with people in various ways. When we collaborate we definitely achieve a better outcome than doing something alone.
Gurus are all over the world. Any person can teach you many aspects and lessons in life. My first guru was my mother who always looked beyond the surface. She did not care what religion a person practiced. She was more impressed with how a person treated others.
I remember a dream I had two years before Pandit Munelal became my guru. He came to me in a dream and taught me for a couple of hours. We had a dialogue back and forth. Then he showed me the place where he lived with his wife and children. It was a beautiful, lush homestead with many trees surrounding water. Two years later, on Earth Day, he posted a video of Trinidad while he sang a beautiful bhajan. The video of Trinidad was just like the dream. On this Guru Purnima I honor my own guru and great gurus like Shree Maa. May we all find the Guru within!
JAI SHREE MAA! JAI SHRI PANDIT MUNELAL! JAI SHRI GURU PURNIMA!