Shri Mataji (Nirmala Srivastava)
Nirmala Srivastava (March 21, 1923 – February 23, 2011), also known as Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, is the founder of Sahaja Yoga.
She spent her life working for peace by developing and promoting a simple technique through which people can achieve their own self-realization. Shri Mataji never charged for her instruction in Sahaja Yoga which is now practiced and taught for free in over 140 countries.
Nirmala Srivastava was born in Chindawara, India to Hindu father and Christian mother – Prasad and Cornelia Salve. 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. Nirmala Srivastava descended from the royal Shalivahana/Satavahana dynasty. Former union minister N.K.P.Salve was her brother and lawyer Harish Salve is her nephew. The Salve surname is one of a number included in the Satavahana Maratha clan.
In her youth Nirmala 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. 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.
Seeing people’s sufferings, she started Sahaja Yoga movement in 1970 giving mass self-realization and thus showing the way for people’s and world’s improvement and development.
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.
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. In 1989, after the lifting of the Iron Curtain, Nirmala Srivastava began visiting Eastern Europe where Sahaja Yoga spread quickly. In 1995, Nirmala Srivastava was awarded an honorary doctorate in Cognitive and Parapsychological Sciences by the Ecological University of Bucharest, Romania. Also in 1995, Nirmala Srivastava 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 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.
Nirmala established the International Sahaja Yoga Health and Research Centre in Mumbai in 1996. In 2003 a charity house for the rehabilitation of destitute women was set up in Delhi (the Vishwa Nirmala Prem Ashram). The Shri P.K. Salve Kala Pratishthanin Nagpur was set up as an international music school in the same year by Nirmala, to promote classical music and fine art.
For the great services to mankind in the name of spiritual revival and for peacemaking activity The Organization of the United Nations awarded Nirmala Srivastava a Medal for Peace in 1989.
Until 2004, during her travels, Nirmala Srivastava gave numerous public lectures and interviews to newspapers, television and radio.