Last days in Kankal

The next day I went to visit Drove who had not left as yet but was quite sick and awaiting his flight back to Europe. He did not look good at all. A very yellow complexion. He wanted to be outside on the ghats and so we took two cots and placed them there on the first steps, their legs in the water and we sat on the straw talking about meditation and he telling me about his experiences.

He was a good student and before leaving we meditated sitting right there on the River Ganges with the soft sound of the water around and below us and in the distance every so often, bits of prayers in Sanskrit chanted by some priest doing his devotions came floating in the soft breeze towards us. In the end, it began to rain and after bringing in the cots, I said good bye to Drove.
One day I know we will all meet again.

Back in Kankal,there were prayers and hymns sung in the temple and Ma was there. The hymns were in Sanskrit and very beautiful and I still remember the chorus which went somewhat like “Namaste,Namaste Nmaste Namo Namaha”

They were honoring the Mother. I was lucky to have a place in the hall where I could see her and although she was still lying on her back I could see her face, a picture of serenity.

One of the priests offered the lights and afterwards it ended and she was taken out and back to her room. It was on Monday 10th May 1982. and in the evening, the darshan was very special.

Ma was leaving the next day for her ashram in Dera Dhun and many devotees had come from far to see her. the place was packed. We were outside and Ma was on a sort of deck so that we could see her.

At the end of the prayers, I recognized the swami who offered the arti lights. It was Swami Chidananda. He was in charge of the Shivananda Ashram in Rishikesh. they called him the “St Francis of India.

After the prayers, one of the swamis came and asked everyone to leave in silence. Ma had gone into ‘samadhi’ (deep meditation)

The air was thick with a peaceful silence as we walked away.

It was the last time I saw her.

She left next day for Dera Dhun where she passed over

“She had stopped taking food for many months. The attending girls could give her a few drops of water only at odd moments. Sri Ma spent her last days at Kishenpur Ashram. She made no farewells apart from saying “Sivaya namah” on the night of the 25th; this mantra is indicative of the final dissolution of worldly bondages. She became Unmanifest on Friday evening of August 27th, 1982 around 8 P.M. Kankhal at the foothill of the Himalayas is holy land. All monastic orders have their Head Quarters at Hardwar.
By a consensus of opinion the entire body of the Mahatmas came together to assume charge of Sri Ma’s physical remains. The highest honour was given to her; a procession of thousands escorted the vehicle carrying her body from Dehra Dun to Kankhal. The Mahanirvani Akhadha arranged for the last rites of Samadhi. As Sri Ma had said she did belong to everybody and so everybody participated in bidding farewell to the human body which had sustained their beloved Ma for 86 years. Sri Ma came at a time when India as well as the world passed through many crises. She remained as one of the people, throughout it, imparting hope and solace and upholding the age old ideals of our tradition through overwhelming impacts of alien influences. She fully understood the existential implications of the present age of technology and by her way of being in the world put it in a correct perspective for those who wished to see beyond it. That God is as much present in the world given over to scientific research as in the age of mythology we may say is the “Message” conveyed by her sojourn on earth.” (

Outside on the little street I met Steve, the guy from California. “Rolph, did you see Swami Chidananda. we spoke about him a few days ago?”  “yes, I would like to meet him” I said and he said “Look, he’s just a short distance ahead and we can catch up and talk to him” “Really,” I asked,  “yes follow me” he said and soon we were at his side.
“Swamiji, theres a Franciscan monk who wants to talk to you”. “A Franciscan monk?. where is he” he said and Steven answered “Right here Swamiji!” and he pointed to me.

(A Note about Swami Chidananda)
Swami Chidananda first heard about Sri Ma, when in the presence of his guru Swami Sivananda he heard a Bengali Professor related a story about Sri Ma. He was not a Swami at that time but was very much interested in what he heard. In a talk given on 9th December 1990 at Massabielle near Paris he related the story.

“Three or four years later an occasion came when I found myself in the holy city of Kashi or Varanasi and there I came to know there was a big ashram of Ma in the holy city and that Ma was actually present there in the Ashram. This was in the month of February in the year 1948.

I was staying with an old monk in Varanasi and I requested him to take me to the ashram of Ma. At that time Ma was having performed a very very great spiritual yagna or certain sacrament for the welfare of the world and peace. She had initiated the repetition of a very important mantra several millions of times. It was in the form of repetition of the famous sacred Gayatri mantra, Om bhur bhuvar svah tat savitur varenyam; Bhargo devasya dheemahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat.

The mantra was being repeated by one hundred Brahmin pandits. Day after day, day after day this repetition was going on. It actually took more than 2 and a half years to complete and it was in progress when I first met Ma.

It was an interesting revelation to me at that time. I thought Ma would give darshan as a high personality perhaps sitting on a special seat. But I found her sitting upon the floor giving instructions regarding yagna .

I bowed down to her and an old monk said “He comes from Rishikesh and he is a disciple of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh”.

The moment she heard the name of Sivananda she immediately put up her hands and asked me

“How is Pitaji? How is Father?”

To Sri Sri Ma everyone was father and everyone was mother. Because her consciousness was that of a little girl. She never felt that she was a grown-up lady or woman. The Pure Consciousness of that of a child.

Blessed are they who are innocent and pure of heart for theirs is the Kingdom of God. Suffer the little children to come unto me.

I did not understand who she was referring to and the monk with me said she is referring to your guru Swami Sivananda.

My darshan of Ma in her own ashram in Varanasi was the first event in a long series of a cherished dream I had ever since I first heard of her several years back.

Ma is a curious mixture of Absolute lost in the Cosmic Being. Everything is happening by the Divine Will but at the same time accompanying it paradoxically by intense pragmatism and practicality in the field of activity

Her advent was to bring about a wide awakening in the inner spirit of present day man. It was to bring about a great spiritual wave that would lift mankind’s life to a higher level. Her one admonishment is God is the One Great Reality and to know him and to experience him is the sole purpose of human existence, and a life that does not strive to attain this experience is no life at all, is useless. Therefore do not throw away this precious human life but be up and doing in order to know and attain that. This was her constant message. “ (

Spiritual Masters: Swami Chidananda

by Bergen Vermette | March 12, 2011 at 7:41am | 0 commentsOne of the most esteemed spiritual masters featured in the upcoming “Awakening to Your Highest Self” virtual celebration is the great Indian saint, Swami Chidananda. Fondly known as the Saint Francis of the Himalayas, Chidananda was one of the top disciples of the great Swami Sivananda, founder of the Divine Life Society. Born in 1916 as the eldest son in a South Indian Brahmin family, by age nine he was already reading classic yogic texts. During his college years the young Chidananda immersed himself in the teachings of the modern Indian saints such as Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, and Ramana Maharshi. Then after encountering Swami Sivananda’s Teachings in 1943, he joined the ashram and dedicated the rest of his life to supporting his work.
To tell us more about Swami Chidananda, his student and long-time resident of the Sivananda Ashram, Bill Eilers (Swami Atmaswarupananda), will join Andrew Cohen for the upcoming virtual celebration, “Awakening to Your Highest Self: Tales of Transformation from 25 Spiritual Luminaries”.

In the December 2008 issue of EnlightenNext Magazine, editor in chief, Andrew Cohen, had this to say about his first meeting with Swami Chidananda:

I was fresh on the path and full of energy for spiritual practice, and I’ll never forget the effect that the swami’s words had on my understanding of the place that meditation should take in one’s life.

In the talk that day he made it absolutley clear that when one engages in spiritual practice in earnest, one’s entire day revolves not around outer duties and concerns but around the commitment to interior development – one’s daily effort to become more conscious.

First he quoted Tennyson: “Men may come and men may go, but I’ll go on forever.” He paused. “Step by step. Step by step.” Then to my surprise, he boldly declared, “When someone asks you what you do, you should say,” and he raised his voice, “I MEDITATE!” Then lowering his voice to a whisper, he continued, “And… I also Live.”

I’ll always remember that moment, because it felt as if he was giving me permission to wholeheartedly give myself to my own growing passion for spiritual enlightenment in a culture that doesn’t admit that such a thing really exists. Even though he was never my guru, as a seeker I made the effort to spend time in his company whenever I could. It always had the effect of humbling me deeply and inspiring me to have courage and be willing to take risks in order to make real progress.”

In the next blog, I will tell you about my meeting with this saint.


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