Mataji Krishnabai

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Mother Krishnabai
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Born(1903-09-20)20 September 1903
Haliyal, Karnataka, India
Died12 February 1989(1989-02-12) (aged 85)
Kanhangad, Kerala, India

Mother Krishnabai or Mataji Krishnabai (1903–1989) is an Indian saint. She was the foremost disciple of Swami Ramdas of Anandashram, Kanhangad.


Early life

Mother or Mataji Krishnabai was born in Haliyal, Karnataka, on 20 September 1903 to Nadgar Venkat Rao and Indirabai.[1] Krishnabai's father died in 1914, leaving the family in abject poverty.[2] When she was slightly more than twelve, Krishnabai was given in marriage to Laxman Rao Kalle, a wealthy young lawyer. She joined Laxman Rao in Bombay, where he lived with his brother Rama Rao. The marriage was a happy one, and the couple had two boys, Ganesh and Narayan.[3][4]


When Krishnabai was 20, her husband died suddenly. She was inconsolable, especially because she had been visiting her mother in Bhatkal at the time and was thus unable to take care of Laxman Rao during his last illness. She was also pregnant, but when her maternal relatives tried to force her to stay back in Bhatkal after her husband's death, her distress and anxiety caused a premature delivery. The baby-girl did not survive. Back in Bombay, she fretted over the promise she had given her husband in their last conversation: inexplicably – for Laxman Rao had been in apparent good health at the time – he had insisted that she promise to remain faithful to him all her life. Terrified that she would not be able to remain chaste in a society where widows were routinely victimized,[5] and clinging to the popular belief that a wife who died within one year of her husband's death would be considered to have died while he was alive, Krishnabai decided to commit suicide by overdosing on opium. While awaiting her death after taking the opium, she had a vision of Samarth Ramdas, a well-known 17th-century saint of Maharashtra. The suicide attempt was unsuccessful; her brother-in-law, who was a doctor, managed to save her life. Following her suicide attempt, her husband's family encouraged her to visit saints and be initiated into the practice of chanting mantras. Despite her intense efforts to follow these gurus, including famous saints like Siddharudha Swami, Anandashram Swami, and Chandekar Maharaj, Krishnabai was unable to find peace of mind.[6]

Meeting with Swami Ramdas

In 1928, the saint Swami Ramdas (not to be confused with Samarth Ramdas) decided to construct a small ashram after years of wandering all over India. He picked Kasargod in Kerala for the site, and friends helped him set up an ashram--which he named 'Anandashram'--in a secluded place near the Payashwini river. Four days after the inauguration of Anandashram, Krishnabai arrived in Kasargod with her sister-in-law Sundari, who belonged to Kasargod, and had decided to spend a year in Kasargod with her family while her husband Rama Rao was completing a degree in England. Krishnabai, who had continued to stay with her brother-in-law's family after her husband's death, had decided to accompany her sister-in-law to Kasargod. Krishnabai's children also accompanied them.[7]

Upon meeting Swami Ramdas in Kasargod, Krishnabai was convinced that he was the guru who would give her the ultimate experience of God. Swami Ramdas asked her to chant the mantra "Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram" all the time, look at all beings as forms of God, and consider all actions as service to God.[8] This she did with great intensity. When she had to return to Bombay with her family, she realized that she would be able to reach the final stage of her spiritual practice only in the presence of her guru. She therefore left her family, including her children, to return to Kasargod, where she started staying in Swami Ramdas's ashram. Mataji chose to address Swami Ramdas as 'Papa,' having picked up the habit from Swami Ramdas's daughter, who lived near Anandashram; she saw no difference between her 'Papa' and the God who was the object of her spiritual practice. [9]

Sadhana (spiritual practice)

Both Mataji Krishnabai and Swami Ramdas have described her spiritual training in detail. Swami Ramdas focussed on freeing Krishnabai from her attachment to the person of her guru, Ramdas, as well as to ritual worship, reading religious texts and other forms of normative religiosity. Instead, she was told to chant the Ram mantra continuously, view all creatures as God, and dedicate all her actions to God. He discouraged her from performing traditional religious austerities such as giving up food and sleep; he remarks with some satisfaction: "Throughout her Sadhana period Ramdas never allowed her to fast and torture her body."[10] He also advised her to watch her thoughts and actions very carefully. In her autobiography, Krishnabai says: "You [Swami Ramdas] also told me to bring into my mind what I did from morn till eve, with whom I talked and what thoughts arose in my mind. Then, if anybody asked me a question I would tell him all that happened from morning till that time. At this people used to get tired of me and would not talk to me at all. Thereafter I did not go into the past and so it became easy for me to take my mind forward until it was lost in you."[11]

When Krishnabai began experiencing long periods of complete mental blankness, Swami Ramdas asked her to sit down and meditate. She soon experienced the state of nirvikalpa samadhi, which she describes thus: "About the experience I had at that time nothing could be said except that I had indescribable bliss. How did this happen? What is all this? Even for these thoughts the mind was not there as it had dissolved in your [God's] Eternal Being. How long I remained in this state on that night I did not know. When I came out of it, that is, to the awareness of the external world, I felt: 'I am the universe and also beyond it.'"[12]

However, one final stage remained, the state of sahaja samadhi. In Mataji Krishnabai's own words: "I felt like sitting in that static state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi for longer hours instead of coming to the consciousness of the external world. But, our Beloved Papa, the Mother, made me come down as Nirvikalpa was not the final experience. I had to maintain that experience even while active in the world. For that a little more Sadhana was necessary. Gradually by the guidance and grace of Sadguru Beloved Papa, I got established in the Sahaja."[13]

Anandashram, Kanhangad

Soon after her experience of nirvikalpa samadhi, unknown assailants attempted to physically assault Mataji Krishnabai. This prompted Swami Ramdas to abandon the Ashram in Kasargod. In 1931, a new Anandashram was founded on the Pilikunji hills in Kanhangad.[14] After Swami Ramdas's death in 1963, Mataji presided over the ashram until her own mahasamadhi in 1989.[15] (Also see Anandashram main page.)

Guru's Grace

Mother Krishnabai's only literary work is her autobiography Guru's Grace. She narrated it in the Konkani language to Srimati Ganga, who transcribed it into Kannada.[16] Swami Ramdas, who had himself authored several books, completed translating the text into English by 15 July 1963. This was his last literary effort; he died exactly ten days later on 25 July 1963. Guru's Grace is, according to one scholar, "a somewhat unusual autobiography, set out rather in the style of the Confessions of St. Augustine: it is addressed entirely to her Papa Ramdas, and all the characters of her past life who appear in it are considered as merely manifestations of Papa as the supreme and universal Spirit, the changeless and infinite Soul of all."[17]


Mataji Krishnabai never wished to become a 'teacher' or 'guru.' In a passage in Guru's Grace, she describes how the sight of a sanyasini, or female ascetic, being garlanded and worshipped by devotees made Krishnabai pray to her guru that when she got the ultimate inner experience of God, it shouldn't be externally visible in any way.[18] She always insisted she was not a 'guru,' preferring to call herself the child of her 'Papa.' When asked if she couldn't bless those who pray to her, she replied, "You forget that I am only a child of Papa. I never wished that I should be given the powers to teach or bless people."[19] She spent most of her time in the Ashram kitchen, feeding and serving Ashram visitors.[20] Yet especially after Swami Ramdas's passing, she would often share with spiritual seekers her own experience of the spiritual path. Sometimes she would teach through stories from the lives of saints or from the scriptures.[21] But her most important teachings she shared through her acts of selfless love and generosity to all beings.[22][23]

She did not differentiate between religious traditions, as her remarks to Paul, a Christian devotee, indicate: "Papa wanted me to look upon the Guru as the omnipresent, omniscient, Nirguna Nirvikar Being. Papa taught me that Guru was as vast, limitless and formless as the emptiness all around me. You pour water into the emptiness, it will not get wet; you set fire to it, it will not burn; such a universal one is the Guru, call him Papa or Christ."[24]

Relationship with Other Saints and Spiritual Traditions

Mataji Krishnabai's explicit acceptance of V. Ganesan, the grandnephew of Sri Ramana Maharshi, as her disciple had far-reaching implications for Sri Ramana Ashram of Thiruvannamalai; see Ganesan's account of his encounter with Mataji Krishnabai in his book Meeting with Sages and Saints[25] and also here.

Mataji Krishnabai appears to have had a special link with the celebrated Bengali saint Anandamayi Ma. Mataji Krishnabai had been severely ill the night Anandamayi Ma passed away. According to Orianne Aymard,

"[T]he health crisis of Mother Krishnabai ... was said to have been directly related to [Anandamayi] Mā’s departure, as this Western man, a long-time devotee of Mā, explained:

Swami Ramdas’s grandson said to us a story. Mother Krishnabai was very sick the night when Mā passed away, in ’82. Then, she said something: “One half of my strength has left this world. Tomorrow, you will come to know.” The next day, they could read in the newspapers the departure of Mā Ānandamayī."[26]


  1. Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. Anandashram. p. 91. ISBN 9780949971227.
  2. Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. Anandashram. p. 96. ISBN 9780949971227.
  3. Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. Anandashram. p. 103-105. ISBN 9780949971227.
  4. Satchidananda, Swami (1991). Vishwamātā Krishnābāi: Some Glimpses. Anandashram. p. 1-3. ISBN 978-93-88315-27-2.
  5. Bhat, Vignesh M (2004). Reddy, Adinarayana (ed.). "Status of Indian Widows: Historical Account and Contemporary Scenario". Problems of Widows in India: 22–41. ISBN 9788176254793.
  6. Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. Anandashram. p. 13-15. ISBN 9780949971227.
  7. Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. Anandashram. p. 29. ISBN 9780949971227.
  8. Satchidananda, Swami (1991). Vishwamātā Krishnābāi: Some Glimpses. Anandashram. p. 2. ISBN 978-93-88315-27-2.
  9. Satchidananda, Swami (1991). Vishwamātā Krishnābāi: Some Glimpses. Anandashram. p. 4. ISBN 978-93-88315-27-2.
  10. Ramdas, Swami (1932). Krishna Bai. Kanhangad: Anandashram. p. 35. ISBN 978-93-88315-28-9.
  11. Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. Anandashram. p. 49. ISBN 9780949971227.
  12. Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. Anandashram. p. 76. ISBN 9780949971227.
  13. Satchidananda, Swami (1991). Vishwamātā Krishnābāi: Some Glimpses. Anandashram. p. 120. ISBN 978-93-88315-27-2.
  14. Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. Anandashram. p. 79-81. ISBN 9780949971227.
  15. "Mother Krishnabai, 1903-1989". Anandashram. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  16. Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. Kanhangad: Anandashram. p. Foreward, not paginated. ISBN 9780949971227.
  17. Mitchiner, John (1981). "Three Contemporary Indian Mystics: Ānandamayī, Krishnabai and Rajneesh". Religious Traditions: A New Journal in the Study of Religion / Journal of Studies in the Bhagavadgita. 4 (1): 44–45.
  18. Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. Anandashram. p. 63. ISBN 9780949971227.
  19. Satchidananda, Swami (1991). Vishwamātā Krishnābāi: Some Glimpses. p. 51-52. ISBN 978-93-88315-27-2.
  20. Satchidananda, Swami (1991). Vishwamātā Krishnābāi: Some Glimpses. Anandashram. p. 13. ISBN 978-93-88315-27-2.
  21. Satchidananda, Swami. Vishwamātā Krishnābāi: Some Glimpses. p. Chapter 9. ISBN 978-93-88315-27-2.
  22. Satchidananda, Swami (1991). Vishwamātā Krishnābāi: Some Glimpses. Anandashram. p. Chapters 12-16. ISBN 978-93-88315-27-2.
  23. Ramdas, Swami (1932). Krishna Bai. 52-78: Anandashram. ISBN 978-93-88315-28-9.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  24. Shuddhananda, Swami (1996). With the Divine Mother, Vol 1 (2001 ed.). Anandashram. p. 62. ISBN 978-93-88315-05-0.
  25. Ganesan, V. (2017). Meetings with Sages and Saints (PDF). p. 115-16.
  26. Aymard, Orianne (2014). When a Goddess Dies: Worshipping Mā Ānandamayī after Her Death. Oxford University Press. p. 119-120. ISBN 9780199368624.

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