Shree Maa was born into one of the most extraordinary families in India, which included both extremely wealthy businessmen and highly advanced yogis. Her family was descended from Ramprasad Sen, the famous Bengali poet, whose songs are still popular throughout the Northeast of India.
From her earliest years, her only desire was to meditate and to merge her own being into God. Her spiritual radiance was such that as a young child, when local fishermen saw her walking along the beach, they would leap out of their boats with an attitude of great faith and prayer, and would race up the sand to ask this young goddess for her blessings.
Inspired by the 19th century Bengali mystic, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Shree Maa left her family’s home for the forests and foothills of Kamakhya, and performed sadhana in the regions of the State of Assam and in the Himalayan foothills in India. She sat most of the time in one asana in the silence of deep meditation, speaking very little. She ate practically nothing, only sandal paste mixed with water, Tulsi leaves, and occasional juice fed to her by disciples and devotees.
Because of her intense tapasya, her body weight reduced to little more than 60 pounds. People who saw her in samadhi for hours and days at a time called her the Goddess of the Mountain, The Goddess of the River, or simply Shree Maa, the Respected Holy Mother.
After several years, she began to roam throughout India, visiting temples, forests, fields, and homes, conducting pujas and archana (offering) to the Divine Mother, and reading from the Chandi Path, one of the most frequently recited scriptures in India describing the Divine Mother Durga’s manifestations on Earth.
During her journey through India, she also began to sing. Sometimes she would sing bhajans all night, and devotees, filled with bhakti, would gather to be in the presence of this holy woman whose voice can melt stone, whose entire life is worship.
In 1980, in a small temple in Bakreswar, West Bengal, Shree Maa met Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Swamiji immediately recognized her as the embodiment of the Goddess he had been actively worshiping for so long.
The two traveled together throughout India, sharing dharma, even when, due to cultural clashes and unrest, their own lives were at risk. It was in the early 1980s that Shree Maa, in communion with her guru, Ramakrishna, was instructed to move to America to share divine love and to teach the meaning of dharma.
In 1984, with no capital and few possessions, Shree Maa and Swamiji left the shores of India for the West Coast of the United States. Shunning self-promotion and publicity, they lived a very simple life dedicated to daily worship, preferring to own little and to offer all to God.
They have established temples to the Divine Mother in every place they have visited around the world. Together, they have undertaken the Sahasra Chandi Yajna at least four times, each a three year fire ceremony and worship of the Goddess, without setting foot outside from the humble temple grounds that they established. The temples have contained numerous beautiful murtis, statues fashioned from clay by Maa and Swami’s own hands, depicting the forms of the Gods and Goddesses described in the Chaṇḍī worship.
Shree Maa has given programs around the world, sharing her songs, stories, and giving loving blessings for all who have attended. She, herself, has been the subject of numerous magazine and newspaper articles and several biographies have been written about her. She is also featured in many other books, as well as TV and radio appearances. Even with all this recognition, she remains as a humble servant to her children, who she blesses with her teachings, her cooking, her art, and her many various talents.
As word of Shree Maa’s presence in the San Francisco Bay area spread, thousands of seekers found their way to the humble grounds of the Devi Mandir. Her realization is an example, an inspiration, a gift. Her bhava comes from pure intuitive experience. Her message transcends all boundaries and religions as she builds bridges across continents, cultures, and creeds
Born and educated in America, Swami Satyananda Saraswati worked in managerial positions for major corporations before beginning to travel the world in the mid 1960s.
During his travels, he worked in many countries, studied philosophy and history, and became proficient in numerous languages.
As a young explorer, he journeyed throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, and India. While in India, Swami Satyananda traveled an unbeaten path into India’s interior and remained there for fifteen years, walking across the length and breadth of the Himalayas. Wherever Swamiji went, he would learn the local systems of worship, becoming proficient in numerous Indian languages, including Bengali, Hindi, Pahari and Urdu. He also became fluent in, and developed a deep passion for, Sanskrit.
He knew the mountain pathways and the local Indian cultures. He understood Sanskrit and the local Indian languages. With this as his foundation, the verses of his Sanskrit translations come alive with colorful experience. He translates with a universal understanding and application, which can only come from an international citizen, who has traveled on every continent and in more countries than we can count.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s translations from Sanskrit have been translated into English, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, French, German, Nederlands, and Portuguese. Swamiji’s original texts and translations convey inspiration, joy, and the Love of one who has enjoyed the experience of spiritual fellowship around the world.
Swami Satyananda’s Sadhana
Swamiji was initiated into the worship of Chaṇḍī and the sacred fire ceremony, the yajña, as his primary system of sadhana, by his Guru in 1971. He practiced worship and meditation, and undertook many forms of tapasya and great austerities.
He practiced the recitation of the Chaṇḍī Path in the snows of the Himalayas and in the hot springs of Bakreshwar. He attained to asana siddhi, the ability to sit beyond heat and cold for long periods of time. Swamiji has performed the Sahasra Chandi Yajna (a thousand day worship of Chaṇḍī, without leaving the temple premises) seven times – four times in India and three times in America – for a total of 21 years.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s teachings combine an intellectual understanding with strong devotion. His gift of weaving jñana (wisdom) with bhakti (devotion) provides a spring-board for a devotee’s spiritual practices. He teaches an aspirant to move from the intellectual contemplation of the “whys” and “hows” of creating a discipline, to the practical applications of actually sitting for recitation of the Sanskrit texts. He clearly explains how to sit, how to breathe, how to become one with the Guru and one with the Goddess.
Swamiji has dedicated most of his life to worship. Like a master craftsman, Swami Satyananda utilizes all the tools of chanting: mantra, pranayama and asana. With focused attention and profound respect, he transforms every effort into an offering of love and surrender. Every breath, every shloka, every offering, brings him closer into the presence of the Divine Mother.
His selfless love is visible in all of his actions. He is generous beyond measure and has a truly divine sense of humor. He inspires by example. To see Swami Satyananda Saraswati perform puja creates a desire in the blessed observer to also worship the Divine. To hear Swamiji chant filled with the bhava of inspired enthusiasm, creates a desire in us to learn the mantras. To watch him, sparks a desire to experience that same depth of absorption.
It is even more extraordinary that he is able to maintain the same bhava (emotional attitude) in all of his actions. Whether he is performing a puja, chanting at the altar, tirelessly working at the computer, chopping wood for the homa, or helping in maintenance at the ashram, he maintains that same loving attitude. This is because, for Swamiji, all actions are offerings to the Beloved Mother.
His deep love, his intuitive understanding, and his spiritual experience, are evident in every scripture he has translated. In Sanskrit, his books encompass the totality of Hindu and Vedic Philosophy. He has written books on Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Ganesh, and the Nine Planets, as well as Vedic Philosophy, History, Astrology, Spiritual Business, and biographies of the great saints and sadhus.
Swami Satyananda brings to life every character within the scriptures with such intensity, that we begin to realize that these very same characters exist within us. He empowers us to learn how we can purify ourselves until we realize our own Divinity!
Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s website includes articles and books in Français, Deutsch, Nederlands, Hindī, Italiano, Marāṭhī, Português, Español, Tamiḻ, and Fārsi.
ॐ ऐं ह्रीं क्लीं चामुण्डायै विच्चे
oṃ aiṃ hrīṃ klīṃ cāmuṇḍāyai vicce