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By Johannes Helmold
I have had many teachers in my life in an academic sense, a personal sense, and a spiritual sense. To me, the most important teacher in my life has been a spiritual teacher: Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi. Even though I did not see her in person that many times and did not speak with her directly often, she has been perhaps the strongest influence on my life.
Shri Mataji is the founder of Sahaja Yoga Meditation, which started in 1970 in India. It focuses on rising an inner energy within us in order to be in the state of the present moment instead of the past or the future. Now this meditation practice is present within most countries of the world, and there are perhaps more than a million practitioners. Directly and/or indirectly, Shri Mataji’s teachings have taught me to be a better human being and to be happy each day, despite negative circumstances.
I came in contact with Shri Mataji’s teaching when I was around 8 years old. My mother had been going to Sahaja Yoga Meditation classes for a while, and I came along one time. I remember the state of meditation or serenity I got into, and noticed that the other children around me were making fun of the meditation, while I was sitting still. This made me feel like I was more inclined towards meditation than other children my age.
I saw Shri Mataji a few times throughout those early years, but I did not consider her my teacher or practiced meditation seriously until I was around 19 years of age. At that time of my life, I was depressed and felt like nothing had worked out in my favor. I then remembered about Shri Mataji and her Sahaja Yoga Meditation, and felt I should give it a try again, as other activities and religious practices did not seem to change my circumstances.
My intuition was correct, as within one month of practicing meditation under Shri Mataji’s guidance, I had given up taking my medications for my psychological issues and was feeling much more sane. I also made new friends and became more interested in music and writing poetry—activities that I have had an interest in since childhood.
But Shri Mataji’s teachings in person, and available by video and audio, are not simply lectures. For me, just watching how she acted (she has passed away) contributed to my character development. As they say, teachers teach not only through words, by also by example. In addition, her speeches were more in the form of meditations than intellectual lectures. Many times, she would say something to get someone out of his or her mental conditionings. Therefore, many quotes from her are directed towards specific people or groups of people. She has even mentioned that her words should be taken as a hypothesis rather than fact—that blind faith is a negative quality of human beings. Furthermore, her primary teaching was that we are not this body, this mind, or emotions, but the pure spirit. In light of this, we need to become our own masters, and to not rely on her solely, or anyone else, for spiritual guidance and evolution. The goal of Sahaja Yoga Meditation is to become your own master, rather than a person that is subservient to a teacher.
In this way, there is a lot of freedom and leeway in her teachings. Not only are her words supposed to be considered a hypothesis, but also we should take it upon ourselves to be our own teachers. I believe this is the best form of teaching, as guidance in order to become self-reliant is better than guidance in order to become dependent on others for spiritual sustenance. In addition, I admire Shri Mataji for synthesizing the religions I have loved since my childhood: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and many more. She has taken and understood the essence of each major religion, and made a meditation that is universal. In fact, she advised those who are practicing any religion that they need not give up their religious status in order to practice Sahaja Yoga Meditation. On top of all this, she has been a great mother-figure in my life, with her words and presence providing me with a mother-son type of relationship that rivals the relationship I have with my birth mother.
It is difficult to deny the influence Shri Mataji has had on my life. Her teachings have rid me of depression, have made me advance in my creativity, have shown me how to be peaceful each day, have demonstrated the connection between all religions, and have provided me with a lifelong mother-son relationship. Besides being my favorite teacher, she is also the most important person in my life overall.
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