India is a land where spiritual masters and mystics have blossomed from time to time, sharing their spiritual experience and knowledge for the benefit of all. They have explored a variety of spiritual, religious and philosophical dimensions to unravel the meaning of existence and significance of life. This book throws light on a rarely-studied aspect of Indian spirituality, its women mystic.
The work is an account of the life of a master mystic, Shiva Yogini Amma, a woman who traversed new realms of experience in her spiritual quest. It is a record of her birth to her attaining the nirvikalpa samadhi and after, and her teachings. It details the process of her spiritual realization; a unique experience exploring spiritual states with a foreknowledge and mastery. It explains her understanding of spiritual concepts relating to form and formlessness, maya, reality. It deals with her method of using the body and mind to attain the goals of the spirit.
Based on one of her first woman disciples, Satyananda Yogini’s recollections, the account elaborates on life in Shiva Yogini Amma’s asrama.It examines her growth as a samnyasin by delving into her daily activities, trances, interactions with disciples, and her teachings, particularly yoga instructions, to learners.
The book will be useful to all those interested in spirituality or in studying it as a subject.
A post- graduate in economics, Nitya Menon studied Vedanta under Swamini Sharadapriyananda. She has travelled across India in her wish to learn from spiritual masters. Among such masters are Swami chinmayananda, Swami Ramakrishnananda of Cuddaph, Nitya Chaiyanya Yati, Jiddu Krishnamurthi, U.G.Krishnamurthi and Shiva yogini Amma herself. She has been inspired by sri Aurobindo and the Mother in whom she has found total spiritual synthesis. At present, she teaches the Indian spiritual tradition to seekers.
I had heard of Shiva Yogini Amma from Dr. P. K. Gopalakrishnan who was her disciples a few years before I had the good fortune to meet her. My interest in the meeting was whetted by Dr. Kesavan Nair, my teacher and a distinguished surgeon, who told me of his witnessing her samadhi when her radial pulse became impalpable for several minutes. I remember reaching Ooragam one evening in the company of Gopalakrishnan after a long car journey. As we were ushered in, I found her attired in sack cloth, head shaven and with eyes that were radiant. She greeted us warmly with her famous and child-like laughter and remarked “well, Sukshmananda, (her name for Gopalakrishnan), why do you have a veil of worry on your face?” Gopalakrishnan muttered something about the topsy-turvy world around us, whereupon she replied “Sukshmananda, you are looking at five years down the road but look beyond at five hundred years, the scales would drop from your eyes and you would see a new light and a different world.” That remark made an immediate and profound impression on me. She put me at ease and talked for over an hour, mostly on the grave illnesses which had marred her childhood and the intense spiritual experiences which had sustained her through varied trials. I remember her stress on japa as the most effective sadhana for ordinary people like us. By constant practice, siva pancakasari, she assured us, would resonate within the body like the peal of a bell in a closed building and provide the unchanging background guide and support for all our activities whatever they may be and wherever we may be. She spoke from the depth of experience on profound religious truths which have echoed and re-echoed in our country for thousands of years but her language was simple and manner utterly friendly. I saw her again in a trance during the consecration of the massive kaislasa pratistha in Ooragam. I was in her presence for the last time during the consecration of the veda vyasa pitham where she had made the concrete idol of vyasa with her own hands. Born to a fisherwoman, vyasa was a spiritual colossus who codified the Vedas and gave us the immortal Mahabharata. India built few memorials to him but Yogini Amma repaired the omission and foresaw that the age of vyasa would dawn in the fullness of time and bring glad tidings for the world.
Smt. Nitya deserves our thanks for collecting authentic information on Yogini Amma’s life from her close associates and writing this valuable book on the life and teachings of a great mystic who lived among us not long ago and left behind an imperishable heritage of compassion and holiness. The author has written lucidly and fortified her writing with thoughtful quotations from Aurobindo on mystical experience and from Thirumanthiram on the Saivaite tradition. In her free rendering of the “Honeyed Hymn” She has admirably captured the essence of Yogini Amma’s teachings which will save us from fear as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
I hope “The Master Mystic – The Life of Shiva Yogini Amma” would enjoy a wide readership.
There is a definite human type, which insists on going beyond the difficult and hostile circumstances that it encounters. People of this type succeed in transforming their lives, in spite of immense opposition into an ideal that a later humanity tries to emulate but ends up merely imitating. The lives of saints, sagas, prophets, messiahs, mystics and masters the world over are an evidence of this inner impulsion to realize the Absolute Reality, and a signal to fellow travelers that journey to the transcendent would not be in vain.
The life of Shiva Yogini Amma, Parapur Amma, Ooragatha Amma or simply Amma as she was called, is a testimony to this unusual human type. She used her early life with disease, as a condition given to her for god realization and in an orthodox social culture that of pre-partitioned India she earned the respect and reverence of all, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or gender. When articles on her amazing life appeared in the Kerala newspapers she put a full stop to it saying in the language characteristics to her extraordinary type that she did not wish to be talked about or advertised. Amma did not let anybody write about her and told her disciples and close associates that if such a need was felt, they could write about her life only twelve and a half years after her mahasamadhi.
Now it is almost twenty-four years since left her body and it was certainly in an unusual way that this book came about. I had met Amma in 1978 and the memory of the two meetings lingered on. Last Year on the way back from Guruvayoor, I stopped by to pay respects at Amma’s Shrine. Amma’s first woman disciple Satyananda Yogini asked me, “Don’t you think it is time that you should write about our satguru, Amma? Don’t you owe it to humanity that they learn to discern? So many people want to be aware of the spiritual dimension of life; her life was such an example of transcendence.” Tears flowed down her eyes. She wiped them with the tip of her saffron upper cloth and said,” In these days when spiritual and religious lives of people are subject to advertisements, when gurus are busy offerings spirituality as a mean to temporarily pacify anxieties, fears and other frustrations, don’t you think it is compassion to share Amma’s life so that they are on the right path of Self-knowledge and perform actions oriented to attain it. Would you not call that dharma?”
I took the reversed samnyasini’s would as an adesa, command from Amma and decided I would put together a short record which perhaps may invite the more gifted among us to investigate and write more comprehensively on the remarkable life and teachings of this great master and mystic. Since very few from the time of Amma’s life are alive and since the strict cloister rules do not allow women to interact with male inmates this book is based mostly on recorded interviews with satyananda Yogini, Shobhananda Yogini, Amma’s sister Devaki, the managing Trustee Shankinni Master’s records of Amma’s day-to-day activities, and interviews with her nephews. I have considered the writing of this book a very sacred task which has on it Amma’s sanction and therefore I have been extra careful not to bring into it any kind of exaggeration for mere effect. The book would have been impossible but for the details from Satyananda Yogini, whom we call endearingly Vilasini chichi. She has been the one who was with Amma from the very beginning, her neighbor and later on her first bhava Samadhi and every single state of altered consciousness thereafter that Amma experienced. Sections of the manuscript have been read and approved by Swami Haridas and Sri Mohan Menon. I owe gratitude to many of my friends for help in various directions especially their encouragement and support. Grateful acknowledgements are offered to Mrs. Sita Shivarao, Kamlesh Suri, Shivamala, Latha Misra, Joshna Shukla, Rama Sreenivasan, Raka, Premanandan, Rukmani Kumanramangalam, Ajoy Chakravarthy and Lata Gopalkrishnan.
I am very aware that this book would only interest those who are desirous to know more about different mystics and look up to them for inspiration and guidance. What makes Shiva Yogini Amma’s life fascinating is that she lived the immortality of her essential being right here in this world of mortality and attained yogic siddhis, transforming the difficulties in her life as occasions given to her to work out her spiritual evolution.
She was a Master Mystic. It not spirituality all about mastery? Mastery over matter, over life, over mind? Is it not more than escaping the fetters imposed by the adjuncts of the body, life, mind and the intellect? Is it not all about transcending the conditionings of these three apparatus, adjuncts that limit the splendor of the spiritual essence that we are? Is not spirituality all about manifesting more and more the spirit within us? Sometimes Yogini Amma would make statements like,” You know this universe, brahmanda, does not exit, it is just an ideation. It only has substance in your samkalpa.”
Yet to each of her devotees who were still fascinated by the gods, devas, she revealed the forms of gods. Amazing examples of space-Time discontinuities happened at Amma’s asrama. Some disciples and devotees fascinated by what is called deva-vidya in the Hindu tradition are happily caught up in the experience of gods. However, Satyananda Yogini, Shobhananda Yogini, The living inmates of the women’s asrama tell you clearly,
Amma has told us over again, form is only the first step of ascent on the spiritual path; aim at the formless, you have to go beyond forms to the formless, it is brahma-vidya that you should aspire for. The record of her life traces her journey through form to the formless, which culminated in the ultimate spiritual experience of what is termed Indian Yogic tradition as nirvikalpa Samadhi , and her life after the Samadhi, which she lived, poised in the immortal otherness which the best among us talk a lot about but would give anything to experience.
Brahma Sutras (81)
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