Maa, Shree

Maa, Shree
(1950– )
   teacher of bhakti yoga
   After spending her childhood and early adult years meditating and worshipping virtually in solitude, Shree Maa emerged in the 1980s as a teacher and religious singer in India. In 1984 she founded the Devi Mandir temple in California and began spreading her teachings through worldwide tours and music recordings.
   Shree Maa was born in Assam in northeastern India around 1950. Although no records exist for her name and date of birth, she reportedly was born in the year a great earthquake shook the region. She is from a family, that included businessmen as well as advanced yogis and is a descendant of the 18th-century Bengali poet-saint and KALI devotee Ramprasad Sen. She received her early education from her grandmother, whose attentiveness to worship in daily activities made a great impression upon her. She spent much of her childhood in meditation at the local temple and in the family shrine room.
   In her early teens, Shree Maa spent many hours in solitude and worship, both at home and in the nearby caves of the Himalayas. She knew as a child that the 19th-century priest of Kali, Sri RAMAKRISHNA, would be her personal GURU. In high school and college she continued to live introspectively and to worship in seclusion, show-ing little interest in family and social gatherings. After completing college she left home and trav-eled to KAMAKHYA, the famous pilgrimage site in the foothills of the HIMALAYAS. She spent the next eight years wandering in the area living the life of an ascetic. Villagers always found her in deep meditation. She spoke very little and ate only basil leaves and sandal water. Devotees claimed that she reached SAMADHI, the highest state of conscious-ness, and gave her the name Shree Maa, Respected Holy Mother.
   Breaking her solitude in the late 1970s, Shree Maa began worshipping in temples and sing-ing publicly, exposure that drew an increasing audience of devotees. In 1980, at a temple in Bakreswar, West Bengal, Shree Maa met Swami Satyananda Saraswati, an American-born trav-eler who had been studying under a number of gurus in India since the 1960s. The two traveled together throughout India, performing religious rituals wherever they were invited.
   In the early 1980s, Shree Maa received divine instruction from Sri Ramakrishna to move to America and teach the meaning of DHARMA, the path of righteousness. In 1984, with few possessions and almost no money she and Swami Satyananda M
   Saraswati arrived in California. Refusing to adver-tise or promote their presence, the two established a temple, Devi Mandir, in Martinez, California, and undertook the CHANDI YAJNA, a three-year fire ceremony. As word spread, people traveled from around the world to worship at the temple. In the early 1990s as a regular congregation formed, Devi Mandir moved to Napa Valley, California.
   Since 1992, Shree Maa and Swami Satyananda have traveled much of the world offering pro-grams and teachings of devotion and inspiration, while maintaining Devi Mandir. Shree Maa has recorded compositions inspired by Ramprasad and has produced several instructional videos demonstrating systems of worship. Following the tradition of Ramakrishna, she encourages worship and devotion in all places, insisting that all action can be a service to the divine.
   Further reading: Linda Johnsen, Daughters of the God-dess: The Women Saints of India (St. Paul, Minn.: Yes International, 1994); Shree Maa and Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Shree Maa: The Guru and the Goddess (Napa, Calif.: Devi Mandir, 1996); Swami Satyananda Saras-wati, Shree Maa: The Life of a Saint (Napa, Calif.: Devi Mandir, 1997).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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