by Uma Ahuja
This inspiring account shared soon after the author’s visit to Sri Sarada Math may strike a familiar chord.
My aunt, Pratibha Puri, and I visited Sri Sarada Math in late October. My aunt, who lives in Delhi, is well known to many of the nuns and they were so happy to have her there. What a blessing it is to be able to go and stay there, as it does not happen without Mother’s Will. I feel very grateful to Pravrajika Shraddhapranaji for letting us come then because everyone was extremely busy with the Sister Nivedita Girls’ School Centenary celebrations. There were many guests staying at the Math at this time.
This was my second trip to Dakshineswar. It amazes me how in such a crowded and busy city there is a Math which is so peaceful. It seems like all the bustle and mundane daily strife stops at the gate and walls of the Math. When I enter those gates, a certain peace seems to surround me. Even the chatter of my mind seems to slow down. I feel that nothing can touch me, as if I am totally protected. It is like going to your Mother’s house. She greets you with so much unconditional love. This is the feeling I got when I saw Pravrajika Shraddhapranaji. She personified Mother with all her love and gentle care. All the nuns were so loving and considerate. Each would greet us with smiles of welcome.
President Mataji had just returned from a trip and was unwell, yet she graciously gave us darshan twice during our trip. Her smiling face is hard to forget. Even though she was tired, she answered my questions with love.
I would also wait eagerly each day to have an interview with Revered Pravrajika Shraddhapranaji. And she never disappointed me. I know how busy she is, yet she met with us several times. My mind was full of questions and she answered each one patiently with love. I know I asked her some questions again and again and yet she was like Mother, full of concern for me. How can I ever forget those precious moments in her company?
I was not able to meet Pravrajika Amalapranaji when she toured California on her last trip. However I had heard tapes of her talks and had a great desire to meet her in person. I mentioned this to Pravrajika Shraddhapranaji. She arranged for us to meet. I felt the greatest joy to be in Amalapranaji’s presence. Her smile stays in my mind. I asked her many questions and she sat there looking at me with so much love and answered them at great length. Those few moments are so special for me. She really made me believe that if I wanted to I could find God in this lifetime. Seeing the radiant faces of all the nuns around me, I believed her.
Archana and Ambika, American devotees from Sacramento, were also staying at the Math. I met them for the first time, but felt like I was meeting family. I relished the moments we spent talking on the patio outside our rooms overlooking the Ganges. It gave me a warm feeling to know that they would be near me in California and that we had shared something wonderful together.
I think of attending the early morning prayers and arati with all the nuns. Recalling the nun conducting the early morning prayers, her radiant face stays with me. Something funny happened to me there. During the early morning meditation in the temple, I would hear all kinds of noises while I was sitting there. I would hear the birds, the cows, dogs and even loud music! But none of this would bother me. Even all that sounded just right! Yes, the temple is like a sanctuary surrounded by the daily life. Nothing from the outside angers you here.
I just loved the food in the Math. And they do feed you very well. The nuns said that the food was simple but it tasted absolutely delicious to me. I know I cannot prepare those dishes here. I cannot get that very important ingre- dient called Love which they use in all of their prepara- tions. I cannot buy that in any store.
On the last day, we went to the Kali temple. This time I saw things from a different perspective. On our first trip the Pravrajika who accompanied us had very graciously talked to us about Thakur’s experiences at the temple. During this visit I kept remembering the incidents she had related to us, which made everything become so real. Also, I had read Usha Harding’s book on Mother Kali, which relates so many things which make going to the temple meaningful. We sat in Thakur’s room for a while. It was so crowded that there was not much room or quiet. Yet, I saw people sitting there so peacefully, totally unaffected by any- thing. I hoped that I would be like that someday.
It is hard to put into words the feelings I experienced in the Math. It is like an oasis in a desert. It is true what is said about holy company. It forces you to make a better person of yourself. It gives you confidence. I take it as Mother’s blessing to be able to visit there. My many many thanks to Her. My sincere gratitude to Her.