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"If you want to overcome duality,
accept life as it is...
go beyond the attachment to both joy and sorrow."
Vanamali is another name for Lord Krishna. It means "the wearer of a garland of wild flowers." Mata Devi Vanamali is a great devotee of Lord Krishna. She hails from the small pilgrim town called Guruvayoor in Kerala. This town is famous for its temple of Krishna. The idol of Krishna in this town is said to have been worshipped by Lord Krishna himself and by his parents. A lot of miraculous properties are attached to it. Mataji's family members consider themselves to be vassals of the Lord of Guruvayoor.
Mataji has an M.A Honours degree in philosophy from the University of Madras. She passed out with a first rank and was also a gold medalist. Her professor was T.M.P. Mahadevan who is famous for his books on Advaita Vedanta.
Mataji attended one of the first TM courses, which were run in India at the centre called Nandi Hills near Bangalore. She started a TM centre in the town called Trissur for about ten years. In fact she was the first to teach TM to prisoners in the state prison near Trissur called Viyur jail, which was meant for habituals. Weekly sessions were taken for them and she even started a re-habilitation program. Some were set up in teashops and some were employed in the weaving centre that was started for them. It was at this time that she went to the Andaman Islands to review the jails there and give a program on TM.
Ten years after starting this, Mataji left for the Himalayas. The urge to get away from all that she had known and all that spelt security and comfort to her was too pressing to be ignored. She worked for a year in the Vivekananda School for tribals in Arunachal Pradesh in North India, but this was not what she was after. She wanted to discover the gems, which she felt sure lay deep within the great scriptures of Hinduism. She wanted to find a Guru who would help her in this and allow her to come face to face with Krishna. Though she was deeply grateful to Maharishi for all that he had done for her, her thirst to find a Guru with whom she could communicate and get personal advice was too strong. Karma yoga was not the answer. So she left and went on a pilgrimage all over the Himalayas in the biting cold of winter and at last reached Rishikesh — a holy town on the banks of the Ganga famed for the number of yogis who lived there. After many trials Lord Vanamali found the perfect spot for her to set up an Ashram. Her cousin Mohan took leave from his job in order to help her in this noble enterprise and eventually gave up his promising career and settled down at the Ashram.
Her thirst for a Guru was still not satiated. In this city of gurus, she could find no one who could satisfy her. Night and day her heart cried out to the Lord to send her a Guru. One day the Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti — Sri Jayendra Saraswati happened to walk past the ashram. In those days His Holiness used to walk barefoot everywhere. He was on his way to the famous pilgrim spots of Badrinath and Kedarnath and was camping in Rishikesh for a few days. He was walking to the bridge known as Lakshman Jhula when he passed the ashram.
Mataji had been associated with the Kanchipuram Mutt previously and had even gone to Kanchipuram in order to get the blessings of the Paramacharya, who was the Guru of Sri Jayendra Saraswati, before she came to Rishikesh. At that time she had met both the pontiffs and got their blessings. Now when she heard that he was passing by, she ran after him for no obvious reason. Kneeling on the road before him, she begged him to visit Vanamali Ashram. He asked her what the name of the ashram was. When he heard the magic word "Vanamali", he immediately agreed. On his way back from Lakshman Jhula, he came to the ashram and went to the meditation hall and was quite charmed by everything he saw. He was staying at the Dayananda Ashram at that time and Mataji would go there daily for his puja.