Sai Baba – Upasani Baba – Godavari Mataji
SATI GODAVARI MATAJI
A SHORT APPRECIATION
In 1941 Sati Godavari Mataji assumed the mantle of her Guru Shri Upasani Baba Maharaj with the strength, simplicity and dignity of a realized being. When she ascended the ‘Gadi’ of spiritual eminence, Mataji was only 26 years old. In the freshness of youth, Mataji had a rare and ethereal beauty of face and form. Today, though she looks deceptively frail and simple, there is a quiet radiance and strength, the strength and radiance of immaculate purity stored up in her. The life eternal flows through her spirit, mind and body, cleansing healing and restoring all those look up to her as the manifestation of Shakti. Soft spoken and gentle, with nothing spectacular about her personality and preaching, Mataji nevertheless encloses in her frail form a dynamic fulfillment of God as Mother.
Tantric philosophy gives great importance to the Shakti aspect of the creator. This aspect is represented in Bharat in the forms of Durga, Chandi, Tara, Kali, Bhuvneshwari and Jagatdhari. According to this branch of philosophy, Shakti represents the manifested aspect of the Divine, where God, is looked upon as personified Divine Mother. To this school of thought we owe the evolution and development of the whole concept of Shakti wherein God asserts himself more powerfully as a female presence. It is maintained that God can become infinitely more lovable, approachable and intimate if He chooses to manifest as Mother. Even at the ordinary human level the mother is looked upon as the embodiment of perfect love. There is scarcely a person who has not, to a greater or lesser degree, experienced the peerless purity of a mother’s heart and the sacrifices she alone is capable of making for her children. There is almost an instinctive and universal turning to the mother’s love as providing a solace for all suffering. Consequently, when the Divine manifests as Mother, that being becomes ever more powerful and irresistible. When Godavari Mataji was born on 24th December 1914, another para-shakti was created in this land. It is no wonder that in his last years Shri Upasani Baba should have told many bhaktas who were about to prostrate themselves before him: “Do not bow to me, worship her, for she is the supreme Shakti and her very darshan will wash away the sins and impurities of men and women”. This was indeed a magnificent tribute of the Guru to one who recognized as his supreme successor.
Godavari Mataji was born on the 24th of December 1914 at the virginal hour just 23 – 1/2 minutes after sunrise, when night meets the day in the unspeakable serenity of dawn. Her parents, like the parents of many Avatars were pious and God-fearing. Godavari’s mother Ramabai had an extraordinary vision which gave clear indication of her daughter’s exalted destiny. One night, while Ramabai was sleeping between her two infant daughters, she suddenly saw a white and unearthly glow fill the whole room with its dazzling radiance. Out of this strange luminosity a lovely apparition appeared, dressed in pure white. his ethereal form came up to them and caressed both the girls and then bending down whispered something in the child Godavari’s ears. Ramabai woke up with a strange elation and conviction that this was not just a dream, but an actual vision. She felt that the radiant visitation was no less than a Goddess who had come down to bless her elder daughter.
This early and portentous sign heralding an unusual destiny was further strengthened by Godavari’s extraordinary qualities, even as a child. Pre-occupied and sensitive, mother took delight in creating for herself with her child’s imagination images of Gods from pieces of stones, and then showed a premature inclination to be absorbed in worship and adoration of these symbols of her creation. Moreover, she had a magic touch, and the food that she touched seemed to grow in abundance. Indeed her touch would unlock, as it were, the Divine storehouse of unlimited resources. The child Godavari’s prodigious memory was another of her assets. She had an amazingly retentive memory which enabled her to recite any poem or passage that was read out to her only once. Another notable feature of Mataji’s early childhood was her instinctive attraction to all holy men, and the reciprocal affection and interest she immediately provoked in the hearts of great Yogis and Mahatmas who probably recognized in this young child great dimensions of spiritual realization. In fact one of these great ones even went so far as to tell her parents: “This daughter of yours is not an ordinary soul. One day she will meet a great Yogi through whom she will realize her exalted status and lead hundreds of souls to their goals”. Indeed the prophecy has been abundantly fulfilled. The full moon day in February 1924 was the starting point, for, it was on that day that Godavari Mataji went to Sakori at the tender age of ten. She was taken there as a visitor, but she recognized in the holy soil of the Sthan her own spiritual abode, and stayed their for the rest of her life as a devotee and disciple, and later as the presiding Mother of the Kanya Kumari Sthan.
The moment of meeting between Shri Upasani Baba and the child Godavari was filled with ecstasy for both of them. The Master recognized his completion in her who stood before him, looking at him with her child’s gaze of acceptance, and she even at that age, from some ineluctable stillness of her mature self, knew that she confronted her Guru, the one who would be the medium for releasing the imprisoned splendor of her true identity.
Godavari Mataji’s unique out pouring of devotion to her Guru, and the many incredible hardship she suffered with great fortitude and humility in the service of the Master are inspiring examples of what a true sadhana means. As a matter of fact, she suffered calculable hardships and persecution due to the petty jealousies of some women at the Ashram. These women resented Baba’s exalted opinion of this young disciple, and because they could not transcend their own lower natures, they resented mother’s innate purity, and did their best to break it by pouring on her all the scorn and contumely they could viciously devise. But Mother towered over all these difficulties. Her sensitive spirit knew that it was only through the conquest of such fierce ordeals that she could ascend to the heights which her Guru expected and demanded of her.
Not that the mother needed a sadhana to find herself; she was born in liberation, and her birth and apparent efforts were just a leela of her manifested divinity to serve as an example and inspiration to others. Her early life is a moving saga of surrender and devotion which cannot fail to inspire those who seek salvation through the path of Para Bhakti. But, once when asked by a devotee when exactly she had obtained that bliss which is inseparable from self-realization, Godavari Mataji blurted out in a declaration of unguarded spontaneity: “When! there never was a moment when I did not have it!”
Today, Godavari Mataji is perhaps the greatest living apostle of the path of Devotion. She advocates the practice of God-adoration in any way suitable to the temperament and caliber of the aspirant. ‘Japa Siddhi’, according to Mother, has been given to us as a special and easy method of attainment in this difficult Yuga. Mother lays great stress on the powers of the Mantra Shastra, and she usually initiates deserving sadhakas by giving them appropriate Names or Mantras. Those who have been blessed with such initiation by Mataji, know the powerful impact of these mantras on their inner lives and perceptions. Herself the personification of purity, the Mother lays great stress on the gradual cleansing of one’s thoughts, motives and actions. She gives tremendous push to those who seek her Grace for spiritual progress, but at the same time she enjoins on the sadhakas the necessity of persistent effort. Guru’s Grace does not operate until it is drawn down by the persistent hunger and effort. Mataji says: “The highest state man can aspire to is that of God, and to attain it, he has to exert himself. By self-effort man becomes God. Effort can make even God descend on earth, or those of the earth attain heaven”.
Though nurtured in almost monastic traditions of ascetic living, Mataji has had the courage and the vision to reject all formal manifestations of austerities. She has ushered in an era of gracious living, where ‘tyag’, according to her, is to be practiced to control one’s inner life, thoughts and desires.
To look well-groomed and attractive, and to live with beauty, without getting attached in moha, is Godavari Mataji’s way of life. Not for her the arid philosophy of frugal living. The Divine Beloved is the king of Kings, avows Mother, so why go to him in mortification, in ugliness and woe! Thus Godavari Mataji has met the challenges of progress by re-affirming old intuitions in new ventures, in the comprehensive outlook of religion tempered with love. Broad-minded and progressive, indulgent to the minor frailties of her bhaktas, Mataji can none-the-less be exacting in the demands she makes on her disciples. Her demands are almost always for the bhakta’s genuine love, faith and loyalty to the chosen Ishta. The rest will be taken care of is Mataji’s assurance. This adoration of God in his supreme personality gets for the bhakta, not only the knowledge of the nirguna aspect of the Divine, but also brings him the bliss and ecstasy of a union with the personal aspect of God as Ishwara.
Herself a true votary of Beauty, both in its visual and subtler creations, Mother favours ritualism. She strongly advises against a scornful attitude of these humbler methods of worship. On the contrary, Mother encourages the performance of poojas, and maintains that to worship and adorn idols with flowers, jewels and sandal paste is an outlet of man’s primitive aesthetical impulse.
The Kanya Kumari Sthan has sometimes been the target of an unenlightened criticism. It is said that the Ashram and its inmates do nothing in way of social service. But each Avatar has his or her own unique way of spreading the Light. Godavari Mataji feels that the most pressing need of this Yuga is to fashion self-realized Souls. The purpose of saints like Godavari Mataji, Shri Upasani Baba and Shri Sai Baba is two-fold Not only do they uphold dharma, but they make men and women conscious of their own latent Divinity and help them to find it.
Sati Godavari Mataji is a living Incarnation. In a secluded corner of India, in the remote village of Sakori, Mataji is pre-occupied with the Herculean task of creating and maintaining such conditions as may usher in the birth of a greater India.
We offer our humble homage and tribute to this splendid parampara of radiant Gurus — Shri Sai Baba, Shri Upasani Baba and Godavari Mataji. In their vigorous Bhakti cult there is also a touch of mysticism which lifts their teachings to the stature of a redeeming Gospel.