Two hundred people quietly trickled into the 19th Century Club on a Friday afternoon in early May and waited for Mother Meera to enter the room. Some were devotees of the Avatar. Some came because a friend had invited them, and they wanted to see if anything would happen when Mother touched them.

Many eyes were closed in meditation. Most in the gathering were between 30 and 55 years old, white and healthy looking-like they ate vegetarian often. There was no music to help set the mood. Only silence. There were no religious symbols, only an overstuffed white chair on the stage … and people waiting in silence.

A man on the stage motioned for the assembly to rise as an attractive 46-year-old Indian woman, dressed in a blue and gold sari, walked with downcast eyes and without fanfare from the back of the room to the chair on the stage. Adilakshmi, her secretary and spokesperson, followed and seated herself to Mother Meera’s left.

The crowd advanced on their knees in a line down the aisle, slowly proceeding towards the stage where they would receive “darshan” from the divine mother. Each person would in turn kneel before the Mother and bow his or her head. She would place her fingers on both sides of their heads for about six seconds, after which they would gaze into her eyes for another six seconds. When Mother Meera lowered her eyes, they would stand, and the next person in line would repeat the procedure.

The Avatar’s affect never changed during the two hours required to give darshan to everyone who wanted it. Neither did people show much emotion as they returned to their seats.

Who is Mother Meera?

Her book, Answers Part I, states she was born in 1960 in a village in southern India, named Chandapelle. Already at the age of three, she would report “going to various lights.” She says she has known from birth that she is an Avatar, i.e. an “incarnation of the Divine come to Earth to help her creatures.”

God and the Avatar are in one way the same and another way different. The Avatar comes from God and has the power and Light of God. But we can differentiate because the Avatar has a human body while God has no form and yet all forms. Each Avatar is a manifestation of a part of the Divine, of Paramatman. (pp. 40-41)

Jesus was an Avatar. So was the Virgin Mary and Krishna.

What is ‘darshan’?

To a first-time observer, darshan can look and feel very much like communion in a Christian church. Joy Messick, who traveled all the way from Ann Arbor to be with Mother Meera and who has received darshan from her over a hundred times, said that when Mother touches her head, she feels the presence of God, “kind of surrounded by silence. I think God talks in silence,” she said.

Messick, who was raised a Lutheran, never felt that kind of thing in any church she had attended. What Mother Meera did for her is to make God feel real and present in her life.

“She brings hope and another way of operating,” Messick said. “It’s heart-related. She forces you to sit with yourself and listen to your own heart. In her I have seen the feminine face of God.”

Milijana, an Oak Park resident who grew up in the Orthodox Church in Bosnia, remembered the first time she received darshan from Mother Meera. Milijana traveled all the way to Thalheim, Germany, where the Avatar lives with her German husband. “I was desperate for something,” she said. “I needed real healing, the kind humans can’t give. The first time I looked in her eyes, my body felt electric and there were tears streaming my face. There was so much love. I felt immense love.”

A devotee is quoted in Adilakshi’s book, The Mother, as saying, “No words can describe those eyes, both dark and filled up with the whole universe of light. Love was looking at me. A volcano woke up within me … and then time stopped.” (p. 123)

Mother Meera herself says that in darshan she is bringing down what she calls Paramatman Light to her devotees. “Paramatman,” she wrote, “is infinite Light and is the source of all, of being, knowledge, bliss, of peace, of each atman, each soul.” (Answers, Part I, p. 18)

A postmodern evangelist?

Mother Meera grew up a Hindu and sees reality through Hindu metaphysical eyes. Her writing is sprinkled with terms like Brahma, Shiva, karma, shakti, Lakshmi, nirvana, puja, sadhana, and Vishnu.

When asked if she wanted to begin a new religion, she replied, “No. The Divine is the sea. All religions are rivers leading to the sea.” (Answers, Part I, p. 13)

She teaches that all religions are valid pathways to God and that religious people should follow their faith without hating people from other religions.

In significant ways, Mother Meera’s growing popularity can be seen as a sign that postmodern attitudes are taking hold in our culture. According to Wikipedia, postmodernism is characterized by:

1) Obsolescence of the metanarrative apparatus of legitimation.

In simpler terms, it means that people are increasingly not looking to only one grand myth or set of doctrines or philosophical system to explain ultimate reality.

Messick said, “I was raised Lutheran, but I find dogmas too small to fit God into. People want to put God in little boxes.” Likewise, Milijana kept using phrases like “my understanding” and “to me” and “not that it’s the truth or that she says that it is the truth, but for me …”

2) Subjective knowledge, and not objective knowledge is the dominant form of discourse.

You won’t hear devotees of Mother Meera getting into arguments about doctrinal truth, because truth is subjective. In a sense, the heart is more important than the head.

Messick told a story about a business acquaintance who, in effect, introduced her to Mother Meera. She noticed one day that he seemed to have gone through a personality transformation. He had been a very intellectual person, very head-oriented, but that day he was a different person. It was because of his encounter with Mother Meera.

Adilakshmi recounts the testimony of a devotee who explained his devotion to the Avatar in metaphors like “bathe in her presence,” “descent of divine love,” “love vibrations” and “entering her atmosphere.” (p. 103)

3) Disillusionment with the promises of the Enlightenment and the progress of science.

“How many times I have seen it!” wrote Adilakshmi in Answers, Part I. “People come in here with so many questions but just sitting with Ma sweeps everything from their minds. They come with questions and they go away with peace.” (p. 123)

A page later in the same book, Mother Meera wrote, “The mind is useful. Train it to be awake. Train it to be lit up with the spirit. Make it a servant and not a master.” (pp. 124-125)

Milijana had been to therapists, classes and workshops to try to find the key to removing what she called the “angst” in her life, but she found that she always “hit a ceiling” with anything derived from human wisdom or knowledge. “I needed real healing,” she said. “Humans couldn’t take me there. The beauty of it [darshan and meditation] is that there is no ceiling.”

To learn more, go to www.mothermeeraashram.org or Google “Mother Meera.”

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Tom Holmes

Tom's been writing about religion – broadly defined – for years in the Journal. Tom's experience as a retired minister and his curiosity about matters of faith will make for an always insightful exploration...