A visit to Hounslow ashram
We were in London in 1987, and had been trying without success to get an appointment with Shri Mataji. She had asked us to see Her and report on our visit to Sierra Leone. However, the circumstances relayed back to us indicated that Shri Mataji had so many people on Her list to see that it would probably not happen. While living in Hounslow ashram, around 10.30 in the morning I answered the phone.
‘Shri Mataji here,’ Wow! Kristie was stunned into speechlessness, but managed to reply something coherent.
‘I am coming around to Hounslow to look in the attic at some saris I have stored there, and I will be there for lunch,’ She said.
Panic! What to give Shri Mataji to eat? Coming from Australia this was a big deal for me, however, Marylin Leate came to the rescue. The English were used to Shri Mataji’s menu, so off we went to the shops to buy lamb cutlets. Marylin said Mother liked them in mint and vinegar. So yes, we prepared a feast for the people living in the ashram, and then word got out and other yogis started to arrive. Shri Mother enjoyed Her lunch.
‘What’s wrong with South Africa?’ She then asked us.
‘I don’t know what’s wrong with South Africa Mother, but West Africa is very good,’ Peter replied.
With that Peter produced photographs of the West African yogis and their children. Shri Mataji was keen to learn the story of the yogis there, and the land that we had purchased to build an ashram on.
‘How much did all this cost you?’ She asked.
‘$1000, USA,’ we replied.
‘Go and get the money,’ Mother said to a leader who was with Her.
‘No Mother,’ we said.
‘You Australians!’ She replied.
Kristie then asked if could Patrick Sherrif, one of the Sahaja Yogis from Sierra Leone, come to England for a puja.
‘Yes,’ She nodded and said.
How wonderful this play was that was being worked out, and Shri Mataji never got to look in the attic for the saris. The lunch went until late afternoon.
A bliss casualty
In 1987, the year I received the gift of self realisation from Shri Mataji, something slipped in my lower back, trapping a nerve and causing me to walk around with a bit of a limp. After the Thursday night programme in Hampstead we received a message that Shri Mataji was arriving at Hounslow Ashram and we were allowed to receive Her.
I’m not sure exactly how, but suddenly I found myself in front of Shri Mataji discussing my back issue. She asked me to sit down with my back towards Her and placed Her Foot on my right Swadishthan area for some time while She worked on other issues. This was an extraordinary experience for me as I felt the millions of molecules that constituted my physical body were dancing with joy at the streams of divine nectar that pulsed from Shri Mataji’s Foot into my being. After She had finished working on me I got up.
‘Look at his face, he is a bliss casualty!’ Mother joked. I can assure you, I definitely was!
Now your love has taken form
Practically everyone had arrived by the Friday evening for the Guru Puja weekend, 16th July 1987, and the main item on everyone’s agenda was preparing the house of Shudy Camps for Shri Mataji’s arrival, and preparing the stage for puja. During the week there were at least fifty people working on the house, and this swelled to 700 by Friday, and work continued right until the last minute. At the same time, a number of large marquees were being erected in the garden. The men slept in one and the ladies and babies in another. The stage was beautifully decorated, overhung by a cloth in white and green colours as backdrop, with a gold-embossed disk at the centre. The backdrop was a splendid painting of the parting of the waters in the Red Sea.
On Saturday the main concern was the preparation of the house. People had been working night and day for several days previously, and it seemed as though the work would never end. Marble arrived from Italy for the main staircase on Thursday evening, and had been set by the time Shri Mataji arrived. As the sun was setting on Saturday evening, all the Sahaja Yogis made their way to the front of the house to await the arrival of our Divine Mother. We could still see the people working away inside the house to make the final preparations and arrange Shri Mataji’s bedroom. A group of younger Sahaja Yogis made their way to the end of the driveway to lead Her car to the front door by dancing in procession, as in India. The rest of us waited, some holding flags of the countries represented.
Suddenly the setting sun broke out from behind a bank of cloud to cast a brilliant ruddy light on the façade of the house, and Shri Mataji was there. After leaving Her car and waving to the assembled Sahaja Yogis, She went into the house and made Her way upstairs to Her bedroom, where we could see the workers doing namaste to Her. Then Shri Mataji came to the window, and for a long, silent minute or two stood there, Her hands joined in namaste, Her head bowed, and Her eyes closed, towards us. Then She opened Her eyes, leaned on the windowsill, and slowly looked at all of us, smiling, Her glance moving throughout the assembly. It was a wonderful moment. Later She commented on the pink colour of the sky at that moment, saying that it was Shri Mahalakshmi’s colour; Shri Mahalakshmi was showing Her contentment. We all moved to the back of the house, where after a few minutes Shri Mataji appeared again.
‘Now your love has taken form,’ I heard Her say.
The next day, Sunday, was puja day. During the puja Shri Mataji talked about the older forms of yoga, in which either one renounced all things to go and sit at the feet of the guru, or one lived a normal life at the end of which one renounced one’s property – Sankhya Yoga. During the puja itself, Shri Mataji was presented with a trident and a wooden shepherd’s crook. At the end of the puja the vibrations were very strong, and Shri Mataji told us as She was leaving that we should all remain sitting there in meditation to absorb the vibrations.
The best gift of all
A man called Patrick Sheriff from Sierra Leone was sponsored by the English to come to Guru Puja in 1987, and he was looked after by the English for six weeks in the UK. He brought with him pictures of a mud brick ashram that was being built in Sierra Leone. When he went to Mother after the puja, She was so delighted to see these photographs, and made the comment that we can bring Her all the riches, gold, silver but to see the photos of an ashram going up in a farfetched place like Sierra Leone was the best gift of all.
Following my time in Sierra Leone I went to Austria and Shri Mataji spoke to me. She asked me to tell Her a couple of stories about Sierra Leone. One was when Patrick had got his realisation in 1985
‘My fingers are talking,’ he had said. I told Shri Mataji about the following day, when I took a photo of Her to him and asked Patrick who the lady in the photo was.
‘It is very simple, God is our Father, Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and this lady is the wife of God,’ he said. So Mother was very pleased.
‘Feel the vibrations,’ She said.
‘What is Sierra Leone?’ I asked Shri Mataji. She said that it is a ductless gland and a remote control. So obviously Sierra Leone had to be treated for some other parts of the Virata to work out.
At Shudy Camps, Shri Mataji explained that in the past five English scholars had justified the slavery of the people of Africa and also apartheid, citing very racist reasons. Shri Mataji said apartheid came because of these five scholars. When scholars from the UK write it circulates because it is the heart pumping through the system and Shri Mataji pointed out that Shri Saraswati is the sister of Shri Shiva, and the situation was very offensive, that the country that is the home of his sister was put into slavery.
At one time Shri Mataji said She could not save the world while apartheid stood. A year or two after that it came tumbling down thanks to Mandela. Shri Mataji said that Shri Saraswati resides in Africa and She is the sister of Lord Shiva. Due to the fact that the British had done this work and put Africa into strife, Shri Saraswati would then be quite distressed with them. So the responsibility falls on England to redeem the situation by helping Africa. Shri Mother advised that if we organised that the English do some work in Africa, Shri Shiva would be pleased and the heart will be warmer, and the UK will get warmer. And the whole world will benefit.
Shri Mataji talked about music
In the evening there was a sitar concert by Debu Choudhuri, who had come all the way from Delhi for the occasion. He played two ragas, and finished with a third, Rag Swanandeshwari, which he had composed some years before at Shri Mataji’s request. Afterwards Shri Mataji talked to us about music, how in Western music certain developments such as in the field of harmony had been made, ‘which was a good thing’, but that modern music was completely degenerate, even much Indian music. The old ragas had been directly inspired by the unconscious. She described the difference between the Karnatic music from South India, which uses microtones (shrutis), and the Hindustani from Northern India, and talked about how many great Indian musicians had played before Her and had such respect for Her.
After the musical recital came the dramatic performance, prepared by the English. This presented the different incarnations of the Shri Adi Guru, with music from a sort of rock group, and a son-et-lumière. Shri Mataji much enjoyed the production, and at the end, when some of the girls finished with a graceful dance, She showed the girls how to dance together the opening of the Sahasrara, holding their saris high above their heads to produce the effect of petals.
My heart just ripped open
The first time I came to Shudy Camps was for Guru Puja 1987. A group of Austrians came by plane, and we were picked up from the airport by coach, and travelled through the night to Shudy Camps. We arrived there tired, but when we got there the atmosphere was absolutely electrifying. There was this mansion, in the middle of the night, in the quiet countryside, and absolutely every window was lit, and people were working on the house. It was magical; even though there was all this activity, there was this wonderful glow of sweet calm and serenity. My heart just ripped open, and I completely fell in love with it all.
Everybody worked to finish the renovation work on the house until the very last minute. Shri Mataji arrived at the front of the house in the car, and the sky just burst with this most amazing sunset, everything lit with a soft glow. Mother got out of the car and looked around and said that this must be the New Jerusalem.
She slowly proceeded towards the house and Her rooms, talking to people, and accepting flowers, and while She was taking Her time, upstairs the work was still going on. Shri Mataji was at the bottom of the landing, and they were still laying the carpet at the top of the stairs! Of course Shri Mataji’s timing was perfect as always, and when She reached Her rooms everything was ready.
A custody issue
At Shudy Camps, in 1987, a Sahaja Yogi asked Shri Mataji whether She could help him with his personal situation. He was contemplating suing his ex-wife for custody of their son. Shri Mataji said She would help.
Before the details of the case were related to Shri Mataji, She explained to him that in English law the custody of a young child is usually decided in favour of the mother, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Shri Mataji then enquired whether the mother was unfit or addicted to drugs or mentally unwell. The Sahaja Yogi said that she was not, but that she had always had custody of the child, and now it should be his turn to have custody.
‘When was the last time you sent money for the child?’ Shri Mataji asked. The Sahaja Yogi could not remember. Then She asked, ‘When was the last time you visited the child?’ Again the Sahaja Yogi could not remember. Then Shri Mataji said, ‘Do you think the child would rather live with you than with his mother?’ The Sahaja Yogi said he had no idea.
Now Shri Mataji was ready to give advice.
‘I think I can help you,’ She said. ‘Give up completely the idea of suing your ex-wife for custody of the child. You will save yourself a lot of grief, and a lot of time and money.’
The Sahaja Yogi felt very despondent that Shri Mataji had not given him the answer he wanted to hear, and sat in a corner of the room.
‘Are you still sulking?’ Shri Mataji told him, ‘Can’t you see that it is not fair to remove a small child from the mother?’ But still he was not uplifted, so She tried another angle. ‘If you lose the case, your reputation as a good father and a caring person will be destroyed, even your reputation as a good Sahaja Yogi would be affected because it is clear that you neglected your child, isn’t it? Do you feel comfortable dragging down the name of Sahaja Yoga to the courts?’
At last this Sahaja Yogi realised that Shri Mataji had the welfare of all concerned in mind and he too was being helped, and a big smile appeared on his face.
It is very important to wear an undershirt
It was August 1987, Shri Vishnumaya Puja in New York. We were meditating on the grass outside the house where Shri Mataji was staying. She asked us to come inside and we were all in a small room with Shri Mataji. She asked my father to massage Her Feet. She didn’t say anything to me until we were about to leave.
‘Beta (son), why are you not wearing an undershirt? It is very important to wear an undershirt.’ I had just taken off my undershirt before I went in, because I was perspiring! She said it is very important for your centre heart.
Shri Mataji at the Shri Vishnumaya Puja
Shri Mataji was very concerned
In America, at the New Rochelle ashram, New York, I used to have to go down when Shri Mataji came, and baby sit for the children of the people living there, or make the tea or something. One time I was asked to put a hot water bottle into Shri Mataji’s bed. She was sitting alone in Her room and She had just come back from a public programme. She asked me what I thought about it.
‘I thought it was wonderful,’ I said, or something like that.
‘This city (or maybe country) was completely abandoned,’ She replied. She was obviously very concerned that it would work out.
Another time, at the Shri Vishnumaya Puja in Connecticut, I was looking after the Kalbermatten children, and everyone was busy getting everything ready. We were walking along to the road and a car drew up with Shri Mataji in it. She corrected all the yogis, because our attention was not on Her, and we were not there to receive Her. We were all into planning, in our ego and into getting the puja hall ready.
She was literally caring for my health
I was having a period of illness and fatigue and generally low energy. I had tried a lot of different things, but was still having trouble and getting sick a lot. At one point, Shri Mataji was visiting, and She opened Her own medicine kit and took out some medicines and prescribed for me on the spot what I needed for this sort of lethargy. She took the medicine from Her own kit and gave it to me to use and it was great.
She was literally caring for my health with Her own medicine.
Sahaja culture and personal details
When I was still new to Sahaja Yoga, Shri Mataji always had a way of verifying for me that She was with me all the time. When I would be in Her presence, She would sometimes comment about something that She only could have known if She were inside me. I had been in Sahaja Yoga about a year and a half and one day at my work place, which was Chemical Bank in those days, I got a telephone call from Shri Mataji Herself. It was really a shock when you get a phone call from the Adi Shakti!
‘Why not try to get your relationship back together again with your husband? He has the vibrations of a seeker, and if he got into Sahaja Yoga your children would get into Sahaja Yoga, and what more could a mother want?’ She said. How did Shri Mataji know I was divorced and in great agony about this? I had never discussed it with Her out loud. I was utterly flabbergasted and yet overwhelmingly happy to have the opportunity to try and redeem myself. She gave me some strategies for how to communicate with my ex-husband. I went to live in Washington for about six months, but my husband didn’t want anything to do with it. Nevertheless it transformed all of us. After about six months Shri Mataji said that I had given my ex a chance, my children had forgiven me, and I needed to come back to New York.
That telephone conversation came when Shri Mataji came on a surprise visit with Sir CP, who came to attend a fortieth birthday celebrations of the United Nations. Shri Mataji decided to join him at the last moment, and we didn’t get the call that She was coming until She reached there. They were booked into an international hotel near the UN. We had a tiny ashram out in New Jersey, at Bergenfield.
All the yogis came, from Boston, Maine and Ohio, and Shri Mataji would come out of the ashram and sit in the one comfortable chair we had. She must have spoken to us for ten hours on Sahaja Yoga culture almost in a chat form. The house was filled with yogis sitting at Her Lotus Feet with such awe. She spoke about Sahaja Yoga culture and we had a little puja in the basement and She talked about personal details with us: career suggestions, ashram suggestions, and we would get involved, marriages and so on. Shri Mataji looked over all the marriage applications, and when She came to mine She looked at me.
‘Carolyn Vance, I would like to marry you Myself!’ She said. I was in my forties and everyone else was much younger so I hadn’t taken this marriage business too seriously. She was just trying to say something nice!
The kindest of the kind
Another time, I was still a new yogi and was beginning to realise more fully the horror of the problems in America. Shri Mataji had come to New York and as we were so few I had gotten the chance to ride with Her in the back seat of Her car.
‘Don’t feel so responsible for America,’ She said to me after a long silence. ‘You weren’t here for all your lives, you know.’
I immediately relaxed and felt the joy. Shri Mataji knows exactly what our worries or obstacles are and She removes them instantly. She is the kindest of the kindest. Her grace is the most gracious. Her love and compassion make it impossible for anyone to feel anything but joy when one is in Her physical presence.
Shri Mataji’s divine attention
Shri Mataji gave us a great deal of support and advice about establishing ashrams. She was accustomed to changing Her place of residence about once a year — usually in order to better accommodate Sir CP’s diplomatic needs. She said the good part about moving often is that it stops our habits from getting too entrenched.
Nearly every year, Shri Mataji would help us reorganize our ashram situation in New York. In Her talks to all of us, She would try to raise our awareness of the important role the ashram played for new people — how they would be learning about the culture of Sahaja Yoga from us and how important ashrams were for our own individual ascent, as we dealt with our own ego reactions and could learn to transcend the material, and know the importance of love.
At one point, She said there are a certain minimum number of yogis needed in the ashram to be able to solve the problems easily. At that time, the number was eight. The highest joy of all the experiences of ashram living was the fact that the divine attention was on us all the time.
The divine diplomat
Shri Mataji especially liked to shop in New York City. We set out from the ashram and it was quite a long drive into town, so first we went to a Chinese restaurant and had lunch and had a huge table.
Most of Shri Mataji’s shopping had so much purpose – a training for us, and it was also for the resources of the world and the shopkeepers. Once She found a particular shop She liked in Chinatown. It was so small that the whole group of yogis accompanying Her couldn’t fit inside. We took turns watching Her selections and hearing Her comments about the art and craftsmanship of the items — small to massive cloisonné urns, ceramic horses and other figurines, jade flowers, horses, rings, etc. She would look at them, and after about ten of these, the shop keepers closed the shop to other customers. They got Shri Mataji a chair, brought Her some tea and got us some Coca Colas.
The husband and wife, the Chinese shop owners, were delighted to have such a generous patron and felt they indeed had an honoured guest. She would have them explain how the items were made, what part of China they came from. They were deeply knowledgeable and involved in the fine art, culture and literature of China and were proud to tell us about the craftsmanship that went into these items. They also had a bookstore that imported Chinese literature. So now we could see how the divine diplomat was working to improve our relations with China.
The same process kept happening with each group of items until the entire lot was removed. Finally, the shopkeepers ran out of items and had to bring in more from the small storage space in the back and She bought those too. With each group of selections, I was more and more awestruck at Her generosity. These were gifts Shri Mataji was selecting for Her family and the yogis.
The vibrations inside the tiny shop became stronger and stronger until it felt like a puja. In this magical environment, the bargaining began. The shopkeepers were extraordinarily respectful and also very generous so Shri Mataji received an excellent discount. She would not bargain, but the shopkeepers loved Her so much that the discounts were amazing. We also made some really good friends, and every shopping trip I went on with Shri Mataji was like a training ground on the Laxshmi tattwa. She would be lecturing a little and pointing things out and hoping we would get the point of what She was saying. After the purchase was made and the prices all agreed on – by the time they got to that stage they all loved Shri Mataji so much that bargaining wasn’t even necessary.
Before we could leave the shop, some logistic issues had to be worked out. Being still a new yogi, I thought it would be impossible to get this huge inventory to India without the normal gross amount of red tape. How to get these very large and plentiful items overseas to India? All the yogis began looking at one another with furrowed brows, but Shri Mahalakshmi smoothly took over and organized everything in such a simple way that She removed our headaches before we even got them.
Any time She was shopping, She was constantly teaching us — about generosity, about appreciation for handcrafted items, about another country’s culture, about how shopping for things that we can give others shows our love, how it helps to change the economy, about discretion, about handling money.
Art history lessons from Shri Saraswati
In the course of living in New York City, and Shri Mataji visiting there a number of times, we would go out with Her on various shopping experiences. To call it shopping was like calling the ocean a big body of water – it doesn’t quite describe it. In many cases, Shri Mataji was buying gifts for people in other countries, and She would pick out gifts for hundreds of people. They were all appropriate, and very aesthetic. But the main thing about these excursions with Her was aesthetics.
I had a background in Fine Art, and Shri Mataji would take us to shops that had a gallery quality, such as carpet shops, sculptures and glassware. She would examine them critically, vibrationally and from the point of view of aesthetics. We were with Shri Saraswati, getting art history lessons – telling us about the origin of silk, carpets, bronze sculptures, carvings of wood and stone, and what part of the world they came from. Shri Mataji had a great deal of knowledge about the people involved in this. When She looked at an object and felt the vibrations She was able to see a direct line to the creative spirit of the individual who had made it, to that creativity, and all this in some shop in a busy corner of New York City. It was a transformative experience.
Shri Mataji uses art and beauty to transform things through vibrations. It is not just that things are superficially beautiful, but the way She arranges Her homes – the way She arranges the aesthetics, the way She directs the visual, the textural, the colour and even the materials that Her homes are built with. They are all built with a sense of harmony and the correct materials. Sometimes She would use styles that you wouldn’t think would work together; wooden screens from Rajasthan with stone work from another area. They would work together marvellously well. She would take classical European Italian Baroque decorative images and patterns and use them together with those of the east. There was always an amazing balance, such as one sees in the Sistine Chapel.
Part of Her role on this earth was to bring back the Shri Saraswati principle, a sense of aesthetics, of taste. She did it in art, music, dress, and architecture. Meanwhile She raised the Kundalini of the whole world, a pretty amazing undertaking!
Showing us how to spot beauty
Another amazing incident was when Shri Mataji paid a surprise visit to New York. She was staying in a hotel with Sir CP in Manhattan. My job was there, so at lunchtime I came down from my office and got ready to go to Shri Mataji’s hotel. I thought I’d wait outside Her window to get some vibrations. I headed for the revolving door of my building, but who should come through it but Shri Mataji.
‘I came to get you,’ She said, and took me by the arm.
She said we should go and find another Sahaja Yogini who was working a few blocks away. There were two or three men with us, so we all went over to the other lady’s building. We went up in the elevator to her office and she was also overcome with shock, surprise and joy.
Then we walked up and down Fifth Avenue looking at things in the stores, handmade things, embroidery on a towel, a piece of artwork. It was Shri Laxshmi training – showing us how to be able to spot beauty. Shri Mataji wanted to rid us of right-sidedness, especially when we were conducting programmes for Her.
Shri Mataji knew exactly what to do and when to do it
Shri Mataji had one of the Sahaja Yogis clean up Her rings, and She was leaving for California.
‘What is this community we are coming to?’ She asked we got on the road. I explained that this was a Hasidim Jewish community and they generally deal in diamonds and/or electronics. As I finished saying the word ‘diamonds,’ Shri Mataji turned to my wife.
‘Where are My rings?’ She asked, and we had to go back and pick up Her rings in the flat.
It so happened that Shri Mataji explained to us later that the way we were going, we would have got to the airport sooner than the yogis but with this little delay, by the time we had got back and picked up the rings the traffic had built up. So when we got to the airport, all the yogis had time to get there to greet Her.
She knew exactly what to do and when to do it, so sweetly.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way
After a puja in California in 1987, a group of yogis were sitting in a living room in Los Angeles, and Shri Mataji was talking and laughing with us. I was holding my daughter Adya, who was under one year old, and had recently been gifted with her new name from Shri Mataji. Adya seemed very restless and wouldn’t sit still, having just learned how to crawl. I let her go for a moment, only to look up and see her make a beeline for Shri Mataji. Once she arrived at Mother’s Feet, she sat down, and then proceeded to behave so sweetly and quietly, as long as she could sit at Mother’s lotus Feet. However often I got up and brought her back, the first opportunity she had, she quietly got up and went back to Shri Mataji’s Feet again.
Mother thought this was very sweet, and leant down and stroked her hair, and was very happy to let her sit there. I went into the kitchen to get Mother something to eat, and when I came back I noticed that She was wearing a shawl exactly like mine. I was so pleased and thought, ‘Oh I have a shawl exactly like that one.’
The next thing I knew was my sister came up to me and whispered in my ear.
‘Shri Mataji was getting cold, and She asked for a shawl, and I saw yours nicely folded on your luggage, so that is the one I gave to Her.’ I was amazed, because there was my daughter sitting at Her Feet, and Shri Adi Shakti wearing my shawl – and drinking Diet Coke. It was such a nice gift.
The baby at Shri Mataji’s holy Feet
Look at my watch
One time in Los Angeles, a large group of people assembled to see Shri Mataji off as She departed the city. We were waiting near the departure gate. The person next to me pointed to her watch.
‘Oh look, it’s five minutes until the flight and Shri Mataji’s not here,’ She said.
‘That’s interesting. The flight is expected to leave on time,’ I added.
Within a minute or so, we saw Shri Mataji coming. She was walking down the hallway, greeting the crowd of yogis, which had grown. As Shri Mataji walked, She stopped and spoke to individuals, one at a time and spoke for some time to each person, never rushed. I didn’t count the people, but it had to be at least thirty. She also accepted the flowers from many people, graciously and slowly. Then She got on the flight and it took off. The person who showed me the time before Shri Mataji arrived pulled me to the side.
‘Heidi, come here. Look at my watch,’ she said. It was five minutes later.
‘Oh my!’ we said together. We smiled, because there was no way all that could happen in five minutes.
Meeting my guru
A couple of months after receiving my self realisation, in the summer of 1987, I met Shri Mataji for the first time at the Lakewood house ashram in San Diego. The leader at the time introduced me to Her.
‘I know who he is,’ She interrupted him, waving Her hand while She did so.
During our brief conversation She commented that I looked like an Indian.