Shri Mataji, Founder of Sahaja Yoga

Birth and Childhood

Nirmala Salve was born on March 21, 1923 to a Christian family in Chhindvara, India. Her parents were Prasad and Cornelia Salve. Seeing the beauty of their child, they called her Nirmala, which means “immaculate.”
India had been under British rule for nearly 200 years. Her parents played an important role in India’s liberation movement. Her father was a member of the Constituent Assembly of India and helped write the first constitution. He was a renowned scholar, master of 14 languages, and translated the Koran into Marathi. Her mother was the first woman in India to receive an Honors Degree in Mathematics.
As a child, Nirmala lived with her parents in the ashram of Mahatma Gandhi. He saw the wisdom of this child and sought her advice on spiritual matters, affectionately calling her Nepali.
Shri Mataji was a youth leader during the campaign to free India of British rule. In the 1942 Quit India Movement announced by Gandhi, she was arrested and put in jail along with other freedom fighters. Her activities led to expulsion from school.
During the tensions which arose during Partition, when British India split into India and Pakistan, Shri Mataji showed again and again her vision for a world without religious and political fanaticism.

Sahaja Yoga Begins

Shortly before India achieved independence, Nirmala Salve married C.P. Srivastava, a distinguished civil servant. When Lal Bahadur Shastri became Prime Minister of India in 1964, he asked Mr. Srivastava to be his personal secretary.
On May 5, 1970, on a beach at Nargol (about 90 miles from Mumbai), Mrs. Srivastava entered a state of profound meditation. Now she would devote her life to teaching people how to feel the same inner peace and silence she had experienced.
Mrs. Srivastava worked with a small number of people at first. She took no money. She only wanted to help people discover their own potential. People who she taught to meditate became more compassionate, generous and forgiving. She became known as “Shri Mataji” (Mother).
Shri Mataji called the state of meditation “thoughtless awareness” — awareness without distracting thoughts, opinions or reactions. She named this new method “Sahaja Yoga.”
Mr. Srivastava was Secretary General of the United Nations International Maritime Organization for 16 years. The IMO headquarters are in London, England, so the Srivastavas moved to London in 1974. There, Shri Mataji taught Western seekers how to achieve balance and wisdom.

Around the World

The tradition in India was that self transformation was a long process. Following Shri Mataji’s instructions, it was easy to meditate. When people noticed results within a few minutes, they were quite astonished. They learned they could easily (“Sahaja”) give the experience to others.
Shri Mataji traveled around the world to teach Sahaja Yoga. She personally taught hundreds of thousands of people how to meditate. She traveled to the U.S. several times and held public programs in several cities, including Houston, Los Angeles, and New York. In her presence, tens of thousands of people attained “Atma Sakshatkar” or self-realization. She last visited New Jersey in July 2005. She passed away on Wednesday, February 23, 2011.
Shri Mataji insisted that you could not pay for self-knowledge and inner peace, so Sahaja Yoga has always been taught free of charge.
In person, Shri Mataji put everyone at ease with her kindness and good humor. Even one glance from her, and you felt as if she knew everything about you. You felt with complete certainty that she fully accepted and loved you.
Shri Mataji dedicated her life to reclaiming the role of women in humanity’s spiritual evolution and to bringing peace, fulfillment and self-knowledge to every human being.