Shree Nirmala Srivastava (21 March 1923 – 23 February 2011), also known as Shree Mataji Nirmala Devi, was the founder of Sahaja Yoga, a meditation technique and new religious movement. She claimed to have been born in a fully realised state and spent her life working for peace by developing and promoting a simple technique through which people can achieve their own self-realization. Shri Mataji never charged for her instruction in Sahaja Yoga which is now practised and taught for free in over 140 countries.
Nirmala Srivastava was born in Chindawara, Madhya Pradesh, India to Hindu father & Christian mother Prasad and Cornelia Salve. Her parents named her Nirmala, which means “immaculate”. She said that she was born self-realised. Her father, a scholar of fourteen languages, translated the Koran into Marathi, and her mother was the first woman in India to receive an honours degree in mathematics.Nirmala Srivastava descended from the royalShalivahana/Satavahana dynasty. Former union minister N.K.P.Salve was her brother and lawyer Harish Salve is her nephew.The Salve surname is one of a number included in the Satavahana Maratha clan.
Nirmala Srivastava passed her childhood years in the family house in Nagpur. In her youth she stayed in the ashram of Mahatma Gandhi. Like her parents, she was involved with the struggle for Indian independence and, as a youth leader when a young woman, was jailed for participating in the Quit India Movement in 1942. Taking responsibility for her younger siblings and living a spartan lifestyle during this period infused the feeling of self-sacrifice for the wider good.She studied at the Christian Medical College in Ludhiana and the Balakram Medical College in Lahore.
Shortly before India achieved independence in 1947, Shri Mataji married Chandrika Prasad Srivastava,
a high-ranking Indian civil servant who later served Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri as Joint Secretary, and was bestowed an honorary KCMG by Elizabeth II. They had two daughters, Kalpana Srivastava and Sadhana Varma. In 1961, Nirmala Srivastava launched the “Youth Society for Films” to infuse national, social and moral values in young people. She was also a member of the Central Board of Film Certification.
Nirmala Srivastava was known to have been concerned with the damage being done to society by ‘false gurus’ and because of this visited a meditation camp inNargol that was presided over by Rajneesh (later known as Osho). She said that she “was shocked to see him loot people under the guise of spirituality” and said that he was mesmerising people. The camp ran from 2 May to 5 May 1970, and Rajneesh led sessions in an early form of dynamic meditation, discoursed onkundalini and other matters, and answered a question about sahaja yoga.
Nirmala Srivastava said that while in Nargol, on 5 May 1970, she witnessed the rising of the Primordial Kundalini. Later she described the experience as follows: “I saw my kundalini rising very fast like a telescope opening out and it was a beautiful color that you see when the iron is heated up, a red rose color, but extremely cooling and soothing.” She stated that the potential for all humanity to gain spiritual self-awareness was realised at this time, which she characterises as a “historical process of en-masse self-realization and inner transformation”. Soon after she founded Sahaja Yoga in Mumbai.
In The Power of Intention, Wayne Dyer summarises Shri Mataji’s message as follows:
Connect to the power that created you to know the meaning of life.
You are beyond the body and mind—the greatest truth is that you are the spirit.
One has to know the spirit to know the truth.
Meditation is the only way to grow. The growth of awareness takes place in the silence of thoughtless awareness.
In 1972 Nirmala Srivastava sailed to the US and warned against false gurus. In 1974 Chandrika Prasad Srivastava was elected to serve as the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency based in London, serving a record 4 successive 4-year terms as Secretary-General from 1974 to 1989. After moving to London with her husband, Nirmala Srivastava worked with seven London hippies who became the first Western Sahaja Yogis. In 1979 Nirmala Srivastava declared herself to be the complete incarnation of the Adi (Primordial) Shakti or Holy Spirit to her devotees.She has also claimed to be Maitreya and the Mahdi.Nirmala Srivastava has been described as “a simple Indian housewife… with a motherly and compassionate personality”.
In 1980 Nirmala Srivastava first toured Europe spreading Sahaja Yoga and in 1981 she toured Malaysia, Australia and North America – many other countries were to follow. In 1989, after the lifting of the Iron Curtain, Nirmala Srivastava began visiting Eastern Europe where Sahaja Yoga spread quickly. In 1995, Nirmala Srivastava was awarded an honorary doctorate in Cognitive and Parapsychological Sciences by the Ecological University of Bucharest, Romania.Also in 1995, Nirmala Srivastava gave a speech at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. In 1997 Claes Nobel, the founder of United Earth, spoke in strong support of Shri Mataji and Sahaja Yoga which he described as a reference point for determining right from wrong. He said he was very comfortable with Shri Mataji and her teachings quoting “you shall know the tree by its fruit” and described Sahaja Yogis as ambassadors for the earth.
Nirmala established the International Sahaja Yoga Health and Research Centre in Mumbai in 1996. Its website says that practitioners from all over the world visit to use Sahaja Yoga methods to achieve better meditations; also that the technique is studied for its curing effects of various illnesses. In 2003 a charity house for the rehabilitation of destitute women was set up in Delhi (the Vishwa Nirmala Prem Ashram). The Shri P.K. Salve Kala Pratishthan in Nagpur was set up as an international music school in the same year by Nirmala, to promote classical music and fine art.
Until 2004, during her travels, Nirmala Srivastava gave numerous public lectures, pujas, and interviews to newspapers, television and radio. In 2004 the official website of Sahaja Yoga announced that Nirmala Srivastava had completed her work.She continued to give talks to her devotees and allowed them to offer her puja.
Nirmala Srivastava spoke on a number of occasions about the evils of alcohol. In Australia in October 2007 she spoke at length about the problems associated with alcohol, both in relation to society, its effects upon people and the dangers it poses to the family.