Nirmala Srivastava

Nirmala Srivastava
Born (1923-03-21)21 March 1923
Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh, India
Died 23 February 2011(2011-02-23) (aged 87)
Genoa, Italy
Known for Sahaja Yoga

Nirmala Srivastava (née Nirmala Salve) (21 March 1923 – 23 February 2011), also known as Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, is the founder of Sahaja Yoga, a 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 in a 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.[1][2]

Early life

Shri Mataji was 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".[3][4] She said that she was born self-realised.[5] 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.[2] Shri Mataji descended from the royal Shalivahana/Satavahana dynasty.[5] 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.

Shri Mataji passed her childhood years in the family house in Nagpur.[6] In her youth she stayed in the ashram of Mahatma Gandhi.[3][7] 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.[3][8][9] Taking responsibility for her younger siblings and living a spartan lifestyle during this period infused the feeling of self-sacrifice for the wider good.[10] She studied at the Christian Medical College in Ludhiana and the Balakram Medical College in Lahore.[6]

Shortly before India achieved independence in 1947, Shri Mataji married Chandrika Prasad Srivastava,[8] 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.[11] They had two daughters, Kalpana Srivastava[12] and Sadhana Varma.[13] 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.[6]

Sahaja Yoga

Nirmala Srivastava was known to have been concerned with the damage being done to society by 'false gurus'[14] and because of this visited a meditation camp in Nargol 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"[15] and said that he was mesmerising people.[16] The camp ran from 2 May to 5 May 1970, and Rajneesh led sessions in an early form of dynamic meditation, discoursed on kundalini and other matters, and answered a question about sahaja yoga.[17]

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."[18] 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:

  • 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.[1]

Spreading of Sahaja Yoga

In 1972 Mrs. Nirmala Srivastava sailed to the US and warned against false gurus.[6] 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.[6] In 1979 Nirmala Srivastava declared herself to be the complete incarnation of the Adi (Primordial) Shakti or Holy Spirit to her devotees.[19][20] She has also claimed to be Maitreya and the Mahdi.[21] Nirmala Srivastava has been described as "a simple Indian housewife... with a motherly and compassionate personality".[22]

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.[6] In 1989, after the lifting of the Iron Curtain, Nirmala Srivastava began visiting Eastern Europe where Sahaja Yoga spread quickly.[6] Also in 1995, Nirmala Srivastava gave a speech at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.[23][24] 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.[25]

Later work

Shri Mataji 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.[26] In 2003 a charity house for the rehabilitation of destitute women was set up in Delhi (the Vishwa Nirmala Prem Ashram).[27] 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.[2][28]

Until 2004, during her travels, Shri Mataji gave numerous public lectures, pujas, and interviews to newspapers, television and radio. In 2004 the official website of Sahaja Yoga announced that Shri Mataji had completed her work and Sahaja Yoga centers exist in almost every country of the world.[29] She continued to give talks to her devotees[30] and allowed them to offer her puja.[31]

Shri Mataji spoke on a number of occasions about the evils of alcohol.[32] 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.[33]

Honors and recognition

  • Italy, 1986. Declared "Personality of the Year" by the Italian Government.[34]
  • New York, 1990-1994. Invited by the United Nations for four consecutive years to speak about the ways and means to achieve world peace.[35]
  • St. Peterburg, Russia, 1993. Appointed as Honorary Member of the Petrovskaya Academy of Art and Science.[36]
  • Romania, 1995. Awarded Honorary Doctorate in Cognitive Science by head of the Ecological University Bucharest.[37]
  • China, 1995. Official guest of the Chinese Government to speak at the United Nations International Women's Conference.[38]
  • Pune, India, 1996. On the occasion of the 700th Anniversary of Saint Gyaneshwara, Shri Mataji addressed the "World Philosophers Meet '96 - A Parliament of Science, Religion and Philosophy" at Maharashtra Institute of Technology.[39]
  • London, 1997. Mr. Claes Nobel, grandnephew of Alfred Nobel, chairman of United Earth, honored the life and work of Shri Mataji in a public speech at the Royal Albert Hall.[40]
  • A road in Navi Mumbai, near the Sahaja Yoga Health and Research Center, was named in honor of Shri Mataji.[41]
  • Cabella Ligure, Italy, 2006. Shri Mataji was awarded honorary Italian citizenship.[42]
  • Cabella Ligure, Italy, 2009. Bhajan Sopori and his son Abhay Sopori composed raag Nirmalkauns in honor of Shri Mataji.[43]


  1. 1 2 Wayne Dyer, "The Power of Intention", p56-57, Hay House, 2004
  2. 1 2 3 "Sahaja Yoga founder Nirmala Devi is dead". Indian Express. Express News Service. 25 February 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 H.P. Salve, My memoirs (New Delhi: LET, 2000), chapter 1
  4. "Origin and Meaning of the Name Nirmala". Retrieved March 1, 2011.
  5. 1 2
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Biography at Archived 4 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. 1 2 H.P. Salve, My memoirs (New Delhi: LET, 2000), chapter 4
  8. A message for one and all, The Hindu, 7 April 2003
  9. "Burke's Peerage". 8 July 1920. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  10. "Portraits of former IMO Secretaries-General unveiled". 21 June 2005. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  11. Rommel Varma; Sadhana Varma. Ascent to the Divine: Himalaya Kailasa-Manasarovar in Scripture, Art and Thought ISBN 978-2-88169-001-3
  12. About Shri Mataji Archived 8 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Canadian website. "Corruption and hypocrisy in the religions, and false Gurus' (mainly from India) tantric teachings also contributed to attacking the morality and innocence of society"
  13. About Shri Mataji Archived 8 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Canadian website. "She eventually consented to visit a seminar of a professor of philosophy called Rajneesh, in Nargol on May 4th, 1970."
  14. Mathur, Rakesh (1990) "The Russians' Love for Yoga" Archived 28 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Hinduism Today Vol 12(10) p7 "I was shocked because he was mesmerizing people".
  15. Osho, In Search of the Miraculous Vol 1 Archived 19 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine. "Sahaja yoga is the most difficult of the yogas, because there is nothing more difficult than to be sahaja – effortless, natural and spontaneous. What is the meaning of sahaja? Sahaja means: let whatever happens happen, don't resist it. Of course, it is the best, but it is also very difficult. Because nothing is more difficult for man than to be natural..." [ch 8, 5 May pm]
  16. Gregoire de Kalbermatten, The Advent (daisyamerica: 2003)
  17. Thirumoolar. "Adi Sakthi". Sahaja Yoga-Tamil Nadu. Archived from the original on 6 March 2009. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  18. Guru Puja. 2 December 1979. Dollis Hill Ashram, London, UK "But today it is the day I declare I am the One who have to save the humanity. I declare I am the One who is Adi Shakti [Holy Spirit] – who is the Mother of all Mothers, who is the Primordial Mother, the Shakti [power] of the Desire of God – who has incarnated on this Earth to give meaning to itself, to this creation, to human beings, and I am sure that through My Love and Patience and My Powers I am going to achieve it. I was the One who was born again and again. But now I have come in My complete Form and with complete Powers."
  19. Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama Bin Laden 2005 by Timothy R. Furnish & Michael Rubin, p165 "currently there is a woman named Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, born a Christian in Maharashtra, India, claiming to be the Mahdi, Maitreya (a Buddhist messianic figure), and Comforter (Christian terminology for the Holy Spirit), as well as a Hindu divine Avatar. Needless to say, her following in the Muslim world is at best limited."
  20. Sahaja Yoga Meditation Archived 8 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. "Beijing Talk – Self Realization through Sahaja Yoga". 13 September 1995. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  22. "Annex I Attendance". Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  23. "3.7.97 Claes Nobel speech, Royal Albert Hall, London on Vimeo". Vimeo. 3 July 1997. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  24. "Sahaja Yoga and Health Center". Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  25. Arshiya Khanna (16 November 2006). "A New Childhood" (Editorial). Times of India. Retrieved 4 November 2007.
  26. "Shri P.K. Salve Kala Pratishthan". PKS Academy. Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  27. We Want The World To Know... "Shri Mataji has completed Her work"
  28. "Sunday 23rd March. ''You have to forgive'' – Easter Puja Talk". Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  29. Shri Mataji allowed to offer Her puja on the occasion of Buddha Purnima Archived 20 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine. (20 May 2008)
  30. "Saturday 17th May. ''Will power and the menace called Alcohol''". Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  31. "October 13, 2007. Shri Mataji spoke at length about the problems associated with alcohol". Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  32. Rome, Marcus. "Yogi shared teachings at no cost". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  33. "A Selection of Awards and Recognitions". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  34. "International Scientific Conference, St. Peterburg". 00:15:46. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  35. "Medical Conference, Ecological University of Bucharest". 55:17. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  36. "Fourth World Conference On Women, Beijing, China". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  37. "Public Program at Maharashtra Institute of Technology". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  38. "Tribute To Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi By Claes Nobel". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  39. "Awards and Achievements". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  40. "Cittadinanza onoraria, Il Secolo XIX" (in Italian). Il Secolo XIX. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  41. "Nirmalkauns (Pandit Bhajan Abhay Sopori) in honor of Shri Mataji". 0:14-3:03. Retrieved 3 March 2017.


  • Mataji Shri Nirmala Devi, Meta Modern Era (New Delhi: Ritana Books, 1997) ISBN 81-86650-05-9
  • Pullar, Philippa (1984) The Shortest Journey, ISBN 0-04-291018-8
  • Kakar, Sudhir (1984) Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions, ISBN 0-226-42279-8
  • Coney, Judith (1999) Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement, (London: Curzon Press) ISBN 0-7007-1061-2
  • H.P.Salve [Nirmala Srivastava's brother], My memoirs (New Delhi: LET Books, 2000)
  • Gregoire de Kalbermatten, The Advent (Bombay, 1979: reprint: New York: daisyamerica, 2002) ISBN 1-932406-00-X
  • Gregoire de Kalbermatten, The Third Advent (New York: daisyamerica, 2003; Melbourne: Penguin Australia, 2004; Delhi: Penguin India, 2004) ISBN 1-932406-07-7
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