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Prof M Sivaramakrishna
Magazine : Mother of All
Language : English
Volume Number : 8
Month : October
Issue Number : 4
Year : 2009

Anne Bencroft is one of the most original explorers of what is nowadays called “Women’s Spirituality”. Of course, there may not be something puzzling about classifying spirituality, gender wise. However, the subject is fascinating and is a lively study of women mystics of the twentieth century, Anne Bencroft identified some special qualities or aspects of women saints. She calls these women saints “weavers of wisdom”. And telling about what she found especially in them, Bencroft says:

I came to find that women (although there must be many exceptions) are naturally at ease within themselves, that they find within their own integrated mind-body-spirit, a sustaining core of harmony and love, which many men look for in the heavens. Women tend to see all things around them as revelatory, revealing totality and completeness and a numinous quality.

Explaining this quality, Anne says:

To see things in this way, a certain attention has to be given, which women are good at. It is not the kind of attention with which one acquires knowledge, but rather that which happens when one lets go of all concepts and becomes open to what is there. Then what occurs is not so much as understanding as a ‘being at one with’, even a ‘being taken up by’, a clarity of expression and liberation which at the same time seems to be the very deepest sort of relationship.”1

Of course, this is a description. The embodiment of these aspects which mark women “saints” is our Mother. A concrete manifestation of women’s spirituality as identified here. Look at these qualities: naturally at ease within oneself; being at one with an integrated body-mind-spirit therein; a core of harmony and love; all things. around seen as containing, reflecting totality and completeness; attention-free from all mind-generated ideas; clear expression and liberation; deepest relationship.

Don’t we find that this is – almost miraculously – a composite pen-portrait of the qualities which make Mother a luminous woman-saint (‘saint’ is the word I cited from Bencroft, please don’t think I am belittling Mother)? By being a Mother of all, she brought to women’s spirituality a wholeness, a completeness and, above all, a naturalness which certainly points to her being a unique ‘weaver of wisdom’.

What are the strands of the garment that Mother weaves wisely? First, what is wisdom? I was tempted to look at Dictionary for the meaning. But then that would be to ‘fit’ Mother into the belt of a definition by an author good at defining things, but wholly unacquainted with their experience. Can’t we draw clues from Mother’s life itself? This is, I feel, the only way. Look at one example:. A woman devotee asked Mother: “they say that one should not do japa’ during the times of menses? And they also say that something special offering a sacrifice has to be done, if one does the ‘japa’ during that period. What is that sacrifice, or expiation (offering to offset the effects of something sacrilegious)?”2

Here are fascinating text and context, specifically feminine. Both are women. Gender immediately comes to the mind. And it is concerned with an attitude towards ‘japan’ which has no apparent relation to gender bias. What is juxtaposed is the view reported by the woman devotee which is a convention, not a rigid rule. But then conventions strangle our actions leading to worry. (In fact, the root meaning of the word ‘worry’ is “to strangle”, “to choke”). The problem here would be not to reject conventions outright, but to show a natural reason for neutralizing its stranglehold. That is what Mother does:

“In my view, you can do it at all times, when you annul (ahuthi) the mind itself, why some other ahuti? Isn’t everything mind-based? Though we can stop uttering (the mantra) outwardly, we can’t stop the mind from uttering it. Can we?” Drawing attention to herself, Mother says further:

“Simply because you cannot see Mother, since you are away from her, does her form [image] cease to be in your mind? After all, Mantras mean a garland of letters, don’t they? Select some letters, create the thought-base and gently utter it in the ears – it becomes a mantra. It acquires holiness. What he gives is a mere word (maata, in Telugu) but by your meditation (manana), it becomes a mantra. Manana itself is mantra.3

This process of liberating, freeing a convention from its limitations, issuing from too much reliance on the literal interpretation of tradition, is what we describe here by the word wisdom. Wisdom is contextualizing a tradition in consonance with experience, so that the essence, the kernel of the spirit comes alive and the husk is removed, naturally.

This quality is much more evident in Mother because she is at ease with herself. She is the Creatrix, The Cosmic Being who knows naturally, the nature of her children. For, in her there is what Anne Bancroft describes as the “integrated body-mind-spirit.” This, again, is illustrated by a thematically parallel incident to the above. Broadly, this is the core which “sustains harmony and love.”

Now, the second incident: This is entitled “The trouble that japan brought (230 35 )”. This is the context of a girl, aged 14 years, subject to losing body consciousness – falling into a fit as a result of reciting Hanuman Chalisa, eleven (11) times, as advised by someone. As and when she starts and completes the recitation, she began losing outer consciousness. She remained in that state for three to four hours. She was brought to Mother for advice.

At this stage of comprehending the story, I felt, to confess, a definite sense of unease. I assumed that such a case is concerned with mind-body imbalance rather than any visitation of Hanuman, the deity on whom the girl focused her mantras and japa. I, therefore, wondered “how does Mother respond?” It has to do with a God immensely popular and a text (chalisa) the most favorite one. It apparently concerns the body and mind as also the spirit. No wonder the person who brought the girl to Amma says:

“However much we tried, we couldn’t prevent her from falling into a trance. However, they couldn’t prevent her from falling. It was impossible. Her father is overcome by fear and anxiety.”4 He now asks Amma point blank:

“We have done all that humans can do. She has the darshan of Anjaneya when she does japa. Do you want her To continue like this? Or, would you give some advice, some guidelines? You are, Mother, omniscient, all-knowing. Please tell us about the girl’s future. We are curious to hear it.”5

The weaver of wisdom – infinite wisdom that Mother is, perhaps, amused. This is our guess. But what she actually did is: ‘Mother didn’t respond immediately.’ And all those present ‘looked at her, filled with curiosity and anxiety.’

Let us now, recall, the contexts this incident involves. Incidentally, Anne Bancroft used the words “body-mind-spirit.” And these should be in harmony and with love. The second incident is, I guess, a subtle kind of the phenomenon of if I can put it tentatively now – both spirituality and spirit visitation. “Spirit” certainly is a positive word, but it also has the connotation of an Evil Spirit. This can be ruled out for one obvious reason, at this stage: the deity invoked is Anjaneya, traditionally the Incarnate Terror for all such spirit phenomenon. In fact, there cannot be any of the kind of fits that the girl experienced, in his Presence.

I am sure you are inclined to think that I am, wantonly, making a clear simple event an unnecessarily complicated one. Can’t we simply conclude that Mother received the girl with affection and that means the trouble is over? We can. But then in Mother’s web of creation, Maya has a very important role to play. In fact, scriptures do tell us about Mahamaya: the Cosmic Deluder.

 But our century has thrown all spirits overboard. So the ambience needs that Mother should appear rational. Rather, as is her nature, natural. It is here that she has to show us a much needed balance between the love of such spirit phenomena and her own overwhelming spirit of love. She cannot dismiss or displace Hanuman and place herself there in his position. How to harmonize them? And harmony is the characteristic nature of Mother.

Let us, in the meanwhile, savor the Kalakanda of her love – until we resume our narrative, with the firm faith that she is the Shakti that energizes all that exists without privileging anything in her domain.

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