Chapter 15: 1982 – August, Cheltenham and the West Country

Recollections - Book by Sahaja Yogis

A beaming smile of great beauty

I remember us going to Cowley Manor, near Cheltenham, at the end of July, in the summer of 1982, to set up the seminar, and feeling a little nervous, having never done anything like that before, but as ever Mother made it very easy for us. I don’t think the people at the manor knew what had hit them when we all arrived as they had never witnessed anything like it before and probably not since!

I shall never forget Shri Mataji saying we must have a havan and before we knew it Sahaja Yogis were running about picking up anything they could find that could be used for a havan: things like a barbecue to contain the fire. When the management saw what was happening, they were none too pleased. When they asked us what we were doing we told them we were doing a havan.

‘Under no circumstances,’ they said, were we to light a fire. I remember thinking ‘Oh no! What will Mother say?’ So plucking up courage I approached Mother and gave Her the news.

‘We must have a havan,’ She said, in a nice but slightly forceful way. ‘Go and tell them.’ Gulp, I thought, this is it! For the first time in my life I was going to have to assert myself. This would not have bothered a lot of people, but for me it seemed like a mountain to climb. I went to meet the manager and took some other Sahaja Yogis with me for moral support.

‘This havan is a very important ceremony for us. Could you possibly let us use an isolated area where we could safely have a small fire?’ I said. The voices of several Sahaja Yogis rang out with similar sentiments.

‘OK,’ the manager said. I was absolutely dumbfounded. I could not believe they had changed their minds so easily. With joy-filled hearts we made our way back to Shri Mataji and gave Her the news. A beaming smile of great beauty that filled my heart shone on Mother’s face and in Her eyes. She lifted Her Vishuddhi finger and waved it in my direction.

‘See,’ She said, with a laugh in Her voice. It was a great lesson for me, for which I am eternally grateful, as it was a turning point in my life. We really can move mountains, if only we have faith.

Alan Henderson

I was hovering about in the hall

When we were expecting our second child, there was a seminar at the source of the River Thames at Cowley Manor in 1982. Because I was very pregnant — it was July or August and the child was due in September — they put me in the next room to Shri Mataji. Rosie Lyons was very pregnant as well and she was in the next room.

The next morning Shri Mataji was there, and there was a Sahaja Yogini looking after Mother, and I was hovering about in the hall first thing in the morning. I was still in my nightclothes with a dressing gown and Mother asked who was out in the passage.

‘A pregnant Sahaja Yogini,’ someone said.

‘I wasn’t sure if it was you or Rosie,’ Shri Mataji said, and called me in. She started working on my Left Swadishthan and Left Vishuddhi. She worked on me for forty minutes and said that it would help my delivery. Innocent was born on the 16th September and the birth took forty minutes from start to finish.

Maureen Rossi

The breath of the pure spirit

I received my self realisation at a small programme in Reading. The first collective event I ever went to was a seminar near Cheltenham, at Cowley Manor. During the afternoon Shri Mataji lay down in the reception area of the hotel and asked a few of the yoginis around Her to place one hand onto one of Her chakras and the other hand to the ether. I was asked to place my hand on the Left Swadishthan, and was told this was clearing the whole of the left side, while Shri Mataji worked out something in the collective consciousness. As I did so, I became aware of the most profound and beautiful perfume of roses and a feeling of depth beyond measure. Someone explained to me later that the fragrance of the roses was that of the Devi.

A puja was performed the next day at this seminar. As I was very new and did not know what a puja was, I was asked to sit at the back. I could not see what was happening at the front, but I began to feel an incredible wind blowing from the room. It became so strong that I thought that my hair must surely be blowing back in this breeze. It was not so, however, and everything around me was still. I knew that this wind was the vibrations from Shri Mataji Herself, and yet it was so powerful, I felt as though it would blow until we would be but the breath of the pure spirit.

Gill Woltron

I remember just how awed I felt

‘I reveal Myself with all My powers,’ Shri Mataji said at that puja in Cowley Manor in July 1982. She had obviously made that weekend to really reveal something about Herself, which was, ‘I’ve come to tell you who I really am. I am the Adi Shakti.’ I remember just how awed I felt.

The fact is we, the Sahaja Yogis, had forgotten all the puja things. On the Sunday morning we had the puja, but there was no proper silver there, and just one or two flowers. There was no amrit; we didn’t know any names; we couldn’t sing aarti, anything, and because the people had forgotten the puja stuff, the plates and silverware, we had to make do with very, very elementary things and yet She was telling us She was Shri Adi Shakti, who had come for all Her children with all Her powers this time to give us ordinary people this state. She tried to bring us up, instead of coming down to our level.

Ray Harris

We formed a circle

At the Cheltenham seminar Shri Mataji asked me to put my hand under Her left Foot and everyone had to form a circle with the last person holding their hand out of the window.

Derek Ferguson

This will clear England out

‘Now, this will clear England out.’ She said, and the Thames has been very vibrated. It was a very polluted river then but since then it has cleared out.

Anonymous English Sahaja Yogi

It became a much nicer place

On the day after the puja, there were just a few of us still there and She took us up to the Seven Springs, the source of the River Thames, above Cheltenham. Shri Mataji took Her shoes off and went down to where there was some water on the stones.

It wasn’t flowing much and there were flies around the place. We all put our feet into the water of the springs, but it was very cold. Then when Shri Mataji put Her Feet in, the water started to flow and all the flies went away and it became a much nicer place. The actual water level rose up once Shri Mataji’s Feet were in it.

John Watkinson

Editor’s note: Shri Mataji explained that the Seven Springs, the source of the Thames, is the Kundalini of England, and that Thames is for tamasa, which, of course, is the left side and London, through which the Thames runs, is the city of the moon – Luna. On another occasion She said that Shri Adi Guru Dattatreya did tapasya on the banks of the Thames, where London now is.

She amplified the points I had made

It’s 1982 and there’s a public programme at the Friend’s Meeting House in Cheltenham. It’s a hot summer’s night and the programme is so well attended that people are spilling out onto the pavement. This, together with the heat and something about the bare, undecorated room, lends the occasion an atmosphere which seems almost biblical. I give an introduction, briefly covering a number of points, and then Shri Mataji arrives. Without even sitting down, She introduces Sahaja Yoga in an exceptionally maternal, energetic manner. But what strikes me most is that although Her arrival came after my own talk had finished, She takes every one of the points I had made and amplifies them, while the one point I had almost made but then decided not to – to do with Jung’s assertion that a form of collective consciousness was the next step for mankind – She makes Herself.

Chris Greaves

A sari for a puja

After a couple of years, in 1982, the yogis and the Exeter centre were doing very well. We felt that if Shri Mataji had a puja in the area it would greatly improve the vibrations and enable even more people to join the collective. We mentioned this to Shri Mataji and She said that maybe She would come.

I went to Southall* to buy a sari for Shri Mataji to have it ready just in case She decided to have the puja. I entered the sari shop and saw Shri Mataji standing at the counter surrounded by a few Sahaja Yogis!

‘Hello,’ said Shri Mataji, ‘why are you here?’

‘I have come to buy a sari for the puja in Exeter,’ I dared to reply.

‘Shri Mataji, now You have to have a puja in Exeter,’ somebody said jokingly.

‘I will choose a sari for the puja,’ Mother said, smiling and feeling my heart with indescribable joy. From that moment the ball of events just started to roll very fast. Four days or so prior to the puja I got a message from David Prole, who had been working very hard, arranging TV interviews for Shri Mataji all over England. He said that BBC South West in Plymouth wanted to do an interview on the day of the puja, to be broadcasted later on during prime viewing time.

Grazyna Anslow

*Editor’s note: Southall is a large suburb of London where Shri Mataji occasionally went shopping. It is some distance from where She lived. The statistical chance of meeting Her unexpectedly in a shop there would be minimal.

No crazy people

In the summer of 1982 Shri Mataji visited the West Country of the UK, namely Bristol and Exeter. Mother did a public programme in Bristol. Originally She was to come the previous weekend. A lot of posters had been put up and some advertising had been done on the local radio. Then Mother had to cancel, but the Bristol people went on with the programme all the same. Quite a few people came and got their realisation, but a lot of them were a bit crazy or very critical.

The next week Shri Mataji was able to come, and although hardly any publicity had been done compared to the first programme, far more people came and no crazy ones. It was as if they had all come and then gone away again the first week.

Linda Williams

Curried quail

There was a time when Shri Mataji spent the summer on a realisation tour. The tour started in the West Country with a public programme in Bristol. Mother travelled to Bristol from Paddington Station on a British Rail train. She wore a beautiful pink and purple silk sari that day, and was brimming with joy as the train pulled from the platform. The train trundled through the outer suburbs of London and into the English countryside and was soon clattering beside the gracefully sloping pale green Wiltshire downs under a promising early summer sky that mixed blue with soft billowing sunlit clouds. My sister Danya and I, being students, and having the time to do so, were fortunate enough to follow Shri Mataji on much of this tour.

On the train we ended up sitting close to Shri Mataji. Danya I believe may have been looking after Mother’s grandchildren at the time, so sat with Shri Mataji. I somehow managed to find a seat (which I think someone vacated) opposite to where Mother sat just across the aisle from their four seater configuration, with table in between. Some stories have already been written of Shri Mataji’s amazing cooking, Her ability to delight the taste buds and provide hearty replenishing food whether She was preparing to feed three hundred people, or thirty or just three. Her recipes were always most delicious.

‘Have you eaten? Not yet? You must eat. It is lunch time now,’ Shri Mataji said with a smile when we had been on the train about an hour and a half.

She reached into a bag and brought out some small packages, wrapped in silver foil and passed them out. I carefully pealed away the wrapping. Inside it looked like a tikka masala preparation.

‘Curried quail’ Shri Mataji said, ‘I think you will like it.’

I did not realise how hungry I was, and sank my teeth in gladly to this delicacy, prepared by Her hand. It was just so delicious, and strangely enough thirty years later I can feel my mouth watering just describing it. After this very tasty and unexpected picnic with Shri Mataji on the train, in no time, it seemed our journey came to an end. Shri Mataji always enjoyed looking out the window at the shapes, colours and forms of Her creation when traveling and I remember Her expressing pleasure at the landscape we passed through.

Caleb Williams

She just puts you right

The first time I ever spoke to Shri Mataji was in Bristol. I was living in the ashram in Bristol and Mother had come to Bristol to do a public programme. All the other people had been in Sahaja Yoga much longer than me and had already had contact with Shri Mataji. So I was the new boy and the other people were in and out of Mother’s room. I didn’t know how to approach Her at all.

One morning, we were sitting down in the meditation room, which was just underneath the room where Shri Mataji was sleeping. I remember seeing all the people going in and out of Mother’s room and thinking, ‘I must just go into meditation and be close to Her that way,’ but nevertheless there was a great desire to be with Her physically, which was a bit different. There was this debate going on in my head. Then one of the people who was with Shri Mataji came down.

‘Mother wants to see Robert. Who’s Robert?’ someone said. I leapt up and rushed upstairs and knocked on the door.

‘Come in,’ She said.

I opened the door and I hadn’t really thought about what I was doing at all. I was so excited about being called up to see Shri Mataji. I opened the door and this room was a beautiful peach and cream colour. It had been painted that colour and the bed sheets were all that colour, too. There was a big window and Mother was sitting on the bed, very relaxed. I had this beautiful vision of Her, a lot of light and these beautiful, soft colours. I couldn’t breathe for a moment. I was so overwhelmed by the whole thing. Mother just looked at me.

‘It’s all right, it’s all right,’ She said, or something like that, and just smiled.

That smile – I had this block in my chest, in my Centre Heart and with that smile She just melted this block. Not only that, it was like She had concentrated in that moment on a kind of deep-rooted, long standing insecurity within me. At that moment it disappeared and never returned, She just cut it away. It always reminds me of those pictures of the Goddess on the tiger having terrible battles with the demons, yet She is smiling in those pictures, as if She is totally unperturbed by the bloodshed and horror going on around Her. She just smiled at me, but in smiling, She was fighting a battle.

Shri Mataji invited me in and asked me to sit down and I expected Her to talk about the cosmos or the universe or the meaning of life. Instead She just asked me questions like, ‘What are you studying? How old are you? Do you like Bristol? What do you think of people who live here?’ She asked me about my parents and maybe even about my favourite food and I was totally blissful. I could feel these incredibly beautiful vibrations and afterwards understood that with Her conversation She had touched every hurting point inside me and soothed it.

I came out of the room and it seemed that She hadn’t wanted to say anything in particular. I wondered why She had wanted to speak to me. She didn’t ask me to do anything, She just spoke to me. But I was in a state of complete bliss and I’d been totally cured of anything that might have been wrong at that moment. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had with Shri Mataji. It indicates how She operates. She is totally the master. She never tells you what to do. She is never overt. She doesn’t have to be.

She just put you right, even without saying anything to you.

Robert Hunter

The West Country

The south west is a very ancient part of the UK. Its landscapes are made up from patchwork fields and narrow country lanes bordered with thick, shaggy dark green hedge-rows. Iron-age hill-forts punctuate the horizon, there are stone circles from druidic times, and pretty market towns, with many medieval buildings, castles and ruins dotted around.

At one point during Her visit to the West Country, Shri Mataji mentioned Christ to us and said He had also visited this part of the UK 2,000 years before. I think She said this was when He was with His uncle, a sailor who traded in tin with miners in Cornwall. This of course is an old legend which is also alluded to in the verses of William Blake’s Jerusalem , ‘And did those feet in ancient times walk upon England’s mountains green/and was the Holy Lamb of God on England’s pleasant pastures seen?’ Shri Mataji also mentioned the chalk carving of a large white horse on a Wiltshire hillside describing it as a Shri Kalki symbol from the collective unconscious. It was so nice to feel the way She enjoyed that part of the England, and to witness Her ‘countenance Divine shining forth upon our clouded hills’.

Another moment from Shri Mataji’s time in the West Country I remember was being with Her and Linda Williams , as Shri Mataji was looking at exhibition of art works on paper by British pop artist Patrick Caulfield. In his works objects are always banded in a thick, dark outline, and surrounding spaces filled in with bright colour. Some of the images were of landscapes.

‘Oh, this is Patrick Caulfield, he’s very well known. Do You like him, Mother?’ I remember Linda saying, as we wandered through the gallery space.

‘There is something there, I would say, but sometimes I wonder if these people really ‘see’, really see what the great thing is, Nature, that they are painting,’ Shri Mataji replied diplomatically.

Caleb Williams

That amazing day

Shri Mataji decided to have a public programme in Exeter after the interview in Plymouth. It was such a busy day for Our Holy Mother. The puja was scheduled for 12.00 o’clock and Shri Mataji had to travel from Bristol. It was the Devi Puja, which lasted for just over an hour. I knew that some things have been omitted during the puja and started feeling a bit worried about it, but at the end of it Shri Mataji looked very sternly at me.

‘It was a good puja,’ She said, kindly putting my mind at rest. After the puja Shri Mataji with David and Patricia Prole and other yogis went to Plymouth for the TV interview. Apparently the director and the producer welcomed Mother very respectfully on the steps of the studio and later on, along with the rest on the crew, they both received their realisation.

The public programme in the evening was at 7.30 pm. One man who walked in at the beginning of the talk and Shri Mataji stopped and asked him how he was feeling.

‘Very well,’ he replied, and could not stop grinning. Later on he told us that he was eating his fish and chips supper when the TV interview came on. Suddenly he was blown away. He rushed out to try to find the hall where the meeting was.

After the public programme Shri Mataji went back to Bristol and spent Her time clearing and vibrating some areas of Bristol right to the early hours of the morning. Just like all the English Sahaja Yogis today, the future generations will be so grateful to Mother for that amazing day when Her love reached every corner of the West Country.

Grazyna Anslow

Shri Mataji talked to the deaf man through his Sahasrara

In the public programme in Exeter Shri Mataji got off the stage and to work on all the new people. There was a man who was deaf when Shri Mataji started to work on him and She cupped Her right hand then placed it on his Sahasrara, then talked to him through his Sahasrara. He said he could hear Her talking to him, and it was very moving. My eyes were welling up with tears to see a deaf man start to hear again.

We went to someone’s house in Exeter to watch the TV interview live as it was broadcast.

Derek Ferguson

The talk was so deep

We went straight to the TV studios in Plymouth for a half hour chat show programme on TV South West, then went back to someone’s house in Exeter to watch the TV interview live with Mother as it was broadcast. Shri Mataji and the interviewer were sitting around the table and the talk was so deep that the interviewer couldn’t understand it; he was stunned. Mother spoke like a puja talk.

Derek Ferguson


While we were in Exeter Halley’s Comet was spotted far out in the solar system. Mother explained that the reason why comets were, in the old days, considered to bring bad fortune was because the long period ones come from right outside the solar system and brought a different form of vibrations with them, which would help people transform. But because most people do not want to transform, this input of new vibrations could cause a problem.

After the puja Shri Mataji went in Her car down to Plymouth, to do a radio programme. It was another hour’s drive. Only one person phoned up from the programme, but he later got his realisation and became a very good Sahaja Yogi. Mother, in Her love and boundless energy and compassion, had gone all the way there for just the one person.

Linda Williams

How many humans could be that selfless?

It had been a long day for Shri Mataji in Exeter, in 1982, and, after that, we all still had the drive back to Bristol, to the flat where we were spending the night. Mother took the wife of the flat owner, and her husband came with me in my car. We set off ahead of Mother’s car and assumed we would get to Bristol some time before Her. We were going along the motorway in the pitch dark and were just passing a services place, when there was a dreadful noise from under the car and we ground to a halt.

We phoned up the Automobile Association and waited for maybe a couple of hours before the breakdown truck arrived. The flat owner, with me, discovered to his horror that he had the only key to the flat, which meant Shri Mataji could not get into the house when She arrived back in Bristol. We didn’t even want to think about how awful this was, especially when Mother was so tired after such a long day. Unable to contact anyone, we piled into the breakdown truck, car on the back, set off to Bristol and finally arrived just before dawn.

Shri Mataji had waited in the car outside the flat, waiting for us to return for a long time, and then had finally gone to the student flat of some young Sahaja Yogis for what was left of the night. When we saw Her the next morning, we just did not know how to apologize, but Shri Mataji smiled sweetly and told us that it was necessary for Her to have spent some hours outside the flat in the dark of the night. The flat was in a former rectory and was surrounded by a large piece of grass with a children’s playground in it. The wife of the flat owner was in the early stages of pregnancy with her first child.

Shri Mataji explained that the playground was an old churchyard and that there were a lot of dead souls hanging around. She wanted to clear them out before the baby, who would be a born realised soul, would come into the world because it would not be good for the baby to have those dead spirits hanging around where they lived. So Shri Mataji had inconvenienced Herself to such an enormous extent, after such an incredibly long day, to do yet another kind and loving act for a baby who was yet to come.

How many humans could be that selfless?

Linda Williams

A multi-faceted incident

An incident occurred during Shri Mataji’s third visit to Bristol, in 1982. We had a flat in a former vicarage, on St Andrew’s Road, Montpelier. It was the second morning of Her stay, and we drove down to Exeter for a puja and a public programme. In Exeter about a dozen of us performed a puja to Shri Mataji. She gave a TV interview and then in the evening held a public programme. Afterwards, we returned to Bristol.

My wife travelled with Shri Mataji in one car. I went back in another. The only problem was that we had just the one key to our flat, and it was in my pocket. This shouldn’t have mattered, had the car I was travelling in not broken down. Fortunately this happened just as we were coming to a service station. We called the AA (Automobile Association) and made ourselves comfortable. But these were the days before mobile phones, and there was no way we could let my wife know what had happened. The AA man took a good while to arrive; he decided to tow the car back to Bristol, and a long, slow journey homeward ensued.

Meanwhile, Shri Mataji, my wife Ruth and the others arrived at our flat but could not get in. They parked in the car park outside the building and waited. Time went by. Shri Mataji let them try Her keys in the door, but none of them fitted. Eventually She suggested that they go to get a drink somewhere. By now it was one in the morning and everywhere was shut. They drove around for some time and finally found a street vendor. They drank hot chocolate out of plastic cups, then returned to our flat. Still no sign of us.

They continued to wait. Shri Mataji slept for a while. Of course, they could have gone to a hotel, but this was never Shri Mataji’s practice; She preferred to be with Her children. A further hour or two went by, and then as a last resort Ruth proposed that they go to another flat a mile or two away, where some Sahaja Yogis lived. It was a basement flat with a tiny kitchen and an even smaller toilet. We had lived there for a few months before moving to the Old Vicarage, and it had hardly seemed a proper place to bring the Adi Shakti.

‘Yes, why not?’ Shri Mataji said, so they drove there and woke up a very surprised – and sleepy – yogi. Nothing had been prepared and there wasn’t even a bed in the only bedroom, so Shri Mataji slept on a mattress on the floor. Ruth and Janet, another Sahaja Yogini who had been in Shri Mataji’s car, slept in the corridor outside, while the men who were present slept in the sitting room.

Mother asked to be woken at eight in the morning, so Ruth and Janet went into Her room where She was still asleep. They knelt down on the floor, uncertain what to do – and promptly fell back asleep themselves! By the time they woke again, Shri Mataji was also awake. She asked them where they had spent the night.

‘Oh, but you should have slept in here with Me,’ She said when they told Her. Ruth apologised for the wholly unsuitable arrangements, but Mother only asked ‘What’s wrong? I’ve had a lovely bed to sleep on and everything’s fine. There’s nothing to apologise for.’ She told Ruth to go and ring the Old Vicarage and see what had happened to us, at which point Ruth learned of our breakdown on the motorway. Then we all met up in order to see our Mother off to London.

There were further aspects to this. Next door to the Old Vicarage and its car park was a public garden which included a children’s playground. Although there was very little outward sign of it, this garden had formerly been a graveyard attached to a church which had long since been pulled down. What was more, although we didn’t know it at the time, we were soon to have our first child. Hence the long wait in the car at night enabled Shri Mataji to clear the little park of dead souls etc.

Chris Greaves

The Vishuddhi of England

We went back to Bristol from Exeter in the night after the programmes and puja and when we got near the house where we were staying in Bristol, Shri Mataji wanted a Polaroid camera, to take an instant passport photo for Her passport, but no one had one. So I mentioned that there was a machine at the bus station. She said we should go there and when we arrived at the station it was closed, but the doors were open, so the driver drove in and parked the car, and waited for us. Then I took Shri Mataji to the two photo machines, one for colour and one for black and white. She sat down and had Her photo taken in both machines and when they came out Shri Mataji was looking like a young girl. I looked in amazement so She read my mind, and said that She was Mahamaya, in that She could look as She wanted to. Also no one saw us there and challenged us; it was as if we were invisible.

When Shri Mataji was staying in Bristol, She saw one of William Blake’s paintings, the Ancient of Days, and said that the picture was Christ in the Agnya chakra, pushing down the ego, and the white hair was the Sahasrara.

Sketch of the William Blake painting

The Vishuddhi of England

When I was at that house I saw a picture on the wall that was an old map of Bristol, from the 1800’s, and Shri Mataji could see all the chakra points of the town on the map, which we went round to visit. Years later it was found out that the coach station that we visited was the Vishuddhi of the UK, in that Bristol itself is the Vishuddhi. I came from Jamaica, which is part of the Vishuddhi. Shri Mataji engineered the whole thing so She could sit down and vibrate the actual point of the Vishuddhi, and even now, when you go to that coach station, the vibrations are still there.

Derek Ferguson

Just wash My Feet, sing My aarti, finished

In the summer of 1982 and we went on a tour of Reading, Bristol, Exeter and the West Country. Shri Mataji had a puja with about a dozen of us, in a little hall in Exeter. Some of the yogis had come from London. They had a book of Vedic puja hymns and we got it all out, ready to start chanting.

‘What are you doing?’ said Shri Mataji.

‘These are the Vedic prayers.’

‘You don’t need all that,’ Shri Mataji said. ‘Just wash My Feet, sing My aarti, finished.’

Ray Harris

Vibrated water

After the Cheltenham seminar, which I had arranged, but did not get to because my kids had measles, we went to Exeter and had a beautiful puja. Shri Mataji asked us to bring water to Her from the different rivers of the UK for Her to vibrate, so while I was driving there I stopped at the Seven Springs, the source of the Thames, which was on the way, and scooped up a jar of water. I did not know that Shri Mataji had put Her Feet in the springs after the seminar a little time before.

‘But this water is already vibrated!’ She said, when I offered the water to Her after the puja.

Linda Williams