Mataji Nirmala Devi

Last Updated on September 22, 2020

Nirmala Srivastava  also known as Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, was the founder of Sahaja Yoga, a simple meditation technique. She said “You cannot know the meaning of your life until you’re connected to the power that created you”. She claimed to have been born fully realised and spent her life working for peace by developing and promoting a simple technique through which people can achieve their own self-realization.

File:Nirmala Srivastava.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Born21 March 1923
Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh, India
Died23 February 2011 (aged 87)
Genoa, Italy
Known forSahaja Yoga

Early life

Born in Chindawara, Madhya Pradesh, India to a Hindu father and a 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. Shri Mataji descended from the royal Shalivahana/Satavahana dynasty. The former union minister N.K.P. Salve was her brother and the lawyer Harish Salve is her nephew. The Salve surname is one of a number included in the Satavahana Maratha clan.

She 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.

Sahaja Yoga

She said that while in Nargol, on 5 May 1970, she witnessed the rising of the primordial kundalini. Later she described the experience: “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.

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi temple in Naddi

In The Power of Intention, Wayne Dyer summarises her message as follows:

  • 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.

Spreading of Sahaja Yoga

In 1972 she sailed to the US and warned against false gurus. In 1974 her husband 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 him, she 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 primordial (adi) 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 she 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, she began visiting Eastern Europe where Sahaja Yoga spread quickly. Also in 1995, she 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 her and of Sahaja Yoga, which he described as a reference point for determining right from wrong. He said he was very comfortable with her and her teachings quoting “you shall know the tree by its fruit” and described Sahaja Yogis as ambassadors for the earth.

Besides of numerous public talks during her travels, Nirmala Srivastasva also published books about Sahaja Yoga as meditation technik and as a spiritual path among others: – Meta Modern Era.Ritana Book 1996. ISBN 9788185250199 – The Journey Within. The Final Steps to Self Realization. Edited by Richard Payment. 2012 Nirmala Intellectual Property Corporation. Divine Cool Breeze Books. ISBN 978-1-387-540167

Later work

Nirmala Srivastava in her last years

She 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). She set up the Shri P.K. Salve Kala Pratishthan in Nagpur as an international music school in the same year, to promote classical music and fine art.

Until 2004, during her travels, she gave numerous public lectures, pujas, and interviews to newspapers, television and radio. In 2004 her official website announced that she had completed her work and Sahaja Yoga centers exist in almost every country of the world. She continued to give talks to her devotees and allowed them to offer her puja.

She spoke on several occasions about the harms of drinking alcohol and that many people were cured from addiction when they got their self realization through Sahaja Yoga.

Honors and recognition

  • Italy, 1986. Declared “Personality of the Year” by the Italian Government.
  • New York, 1990-1994. Invited by the United Nations for four consecutive years to speak about means to achieve world peace.
  • St. Peterburg, Russia, 1993. Appointed as honorary member of the Petrovskaya Academy of Art and Science.
  • Romania, 1995. Awarded honorary doctorate in cognitive science by the Ecological University Bucharest.
  • China, 1995. Official guest of the Chinese Government to speak at the United Nations International Women’s Conference.
  • Pune, India, 1996. On the occasion of the 700th Anniversary of Saint Gyaneshwara, she addressed the “World Philosophers Meet ’96 – A Parliament of Science, Religion and Philosophy” at Maharashtra Institute of Technology.
  • London, 1997. Claes Nobel, grandnephew of Alfred Nobel, chairman of United Earth, honoured her life and work in a public speech at the Royal Albert Hall.
  • A road in Navi Mumbai, near the Sahaja Yoga Health and Research Center, was named in her honor.
  • Cabella Ligure, Italy, 2006. She was awarded honorary Italian citizenship.
  • Cabella Ligure, Italy, 2009. Bhajan Sopori and his son Abhay Sopori composed the raag Nirmalkauns in her honour.