Interview with the French “Afrique Magazine”
Afrique Magazine: The Indians call her ‘The Great Mother’ and see her as a saint; At a very young age she used to write Mahatma Gandhi’s prayers. She’s been living in London since 1975 where her husband is general secretary of IMCO. She has founded yoga centres in India and in several countries in Europe: England, Switzerland, France, Italy.
Shri Mataji Devi is what we usually call a ‘guru’ which is a rather rare status for a woman. People she says mainly would be more balanced and would have a better life if they could get connected with the supreme principle within each of us. How can we reach this spontaneous connection with the divine, this Self-realisation? Thanks to her method of course! A sort of meditation, regular but easy and accessible to everyone and which is supposed to purify the energies of the body and soothe mental activities: peace ‘coming from the heart’ would settle down this way because the divine has always been with us.
Is it a daring claim and a simplistic method ? Or the strength of a faith which can only bear its fruits? In any case, the disciples of Sahaja Yoga seem more and more; there would be tens of thousands of them in Europe alone… In July 1989, Shri Mataji has held two lectures in Paris in front of several hundred people. But she has confided to us in private.
Afrique Magazine: Do you think you were born with a spiritual gift?
Shri Mataji: I was born in a rich Protestant family. I received a religious and cosmopolitan education. My mother was a mathematician and my father could speak 14 languages. He translated Koran in Hindi. They both found out about my vocation very soon. Mahatma Gandhi also realised it when I was 7.
Afrique Magazine: Did you know Mahatma Gandhi very well?
Shri Mataji: Yes, he was a very nice man. He was a friend of the family. When I met him for the first time, he felt my spiritual capacities and became attached to me. We had religious discussions regularly. When I was at school, I got involved into the non-violent struggle against British presence in India. My parents and myself were imprisoned and tortured. Gandhi said: “When we are free, you’ll be able to start”.
Afrique Magazine: To start?…
Shri Mataji: My spiritual teaching. I gave my first lecture in Bombay in 1969.
Afrique Magazine: But independence happened in 1947?
Shri Mataji: I got married that year. Then, I looked after my family. I waited for my children to be older to start public life.
Afrique Magazine: What is your teaching about?
Shri Mataji: I teach Sahaja Yoga, the 21st century yoga. The practice which is very simple, connects you with the divine. You sit comfortably in a peaceful place with palms of the hands upwards. You can concentrate on any object (on a candle or on my photograph which transmits my energy as if I were next to you). Keep your attention on top of your head. The feeling of a cool breeze on the palms of your hands and top of your head is the sign of your Self-realisation. This connection with the divine must be firmly established. One can feel it once and then it may disappear. For that, a regular practice is needed.
Afrique Magazine: Do you consider yourself as a guru?
Shri Mataji: If you like. I do not have any concept about myself. Mankind is going through a decisive stage in its evolution. We are at the beginning of a new era and there are many false gurus and negative forces. The guru must be interested in only one thing: to make you meet the divine. All the sects are dangerous tricks for the psyche.
Afrique Magazine: Your lectures are free.
Shri Mataji: Self-realisation is an inherent right for everyone just like breathing; we cannot pay for it. [Editor’s note: A voluntary monthly contribution of 200 francs from the members to Sahaja centres covers the cost of hiring halls for programs].
Afrique Magazine: What do you think of established religions?
Shri Mataji: They are like flowers that men have cut and which have withered now. The mollahs and the priests want to talk only about the Last Judgement and Apocalypse. But Buddha and Jesus-Christ stand there in the narrow door (she shows her forehead). They are compassion and forgiveness. If you forgive, you will be surprised to see how much you live in the present. In my lectures I use ‘Our Father’ as well as the concepts of Hinduism or Koran.
Afrique Magazine: You have created centres in many parts of the world. Italy has just elected you as “Personality of the year”. You have just come back from South America… What about Africa?
Shri Mataji: We have contacts there. But there are a lot of false gurus brought mostly by Indians. They practice black magic. I hope to go there next year.
Interview by Catherine Brousse for “Afrique Magazine”.