(adapted slightly from “Anandamayi Ma: Her Life, Her Wisdom” By Richard Lannoy)
One afternoon, after taking their midday meal, a small group of companions set out by car for Lucknow. After they had passed Unnao, a lady sitting bundled up in the back of the car in gauzy white robes exclaimed, “Look, Didi, what a lovely little village!”
Didi looked indifferently at the passing view. In all directions stretched the same unchanging expanse of farmland, dotted here and there with clusters of trees and the mud huts of villages. It was a typical scene in the monotonously vast Gangetic valley.
Their car swept on, raising a cloud of dust in its wake; with the sun high in the sky the scene was shadow-less and almost devoid of color. “Weren’t those trees beautiful,” the lady in the back persisted as the car sped on.
“Come on then,” replied Didi patiently, “lets go back and look at them.”
“But the car has already taken us some distance away,” responded the other with some hesitation.
“Never mind,” Didi put in, “let’s go back, driver, please!”
When the car had returned most of the way, it turned off the road and bumped down the track between fields. Silhouetted against the vast horizon, a distant peasant went about his work. The car came to a halt at the edge of the village. The lady who spotted the trees got out of the car and set off at great speed in their direction. Without turning towards the other members of the party, she commanded them: “Bring the basket of fruit and all the garlands that are in the car.” Didi did as she was bidden, carrying them all in her arms as she ran to catch up. There was a pond beside a large house with tiled roof and smoothly molded mud walls. Beside the pond stood two young trees, one a banyan, the other a margosa, growing side by side.
By this time villagers began to collect, curious to know what brought so unusual a vehicle as a motorcar to their rustic dwellings. The woman in the cotton robes of dazzling whiteness cut a striking figure amidst the dun-colored surroundings, the dun colored garments of the villagers and several dun colored dogs. Her fine jet-black hair fanned out over her shoulders and her pale skin was as faintly lined as the delicate grasses silhouetted against a whitewashed wall nearby. She looked about her with keenly alert eyes; a smile came to her lips as she gazed intently at the two trees. Around her a hush fell, the gathering crowd of villagers astonished by the commanding presence of the stranger. She approached the two trees and started caressing their branches and trunks with great affection. Pressing her forehead again and again to their trunks she said in soft but clearly audible tones: “Well, well, so you have brought this body here to see you.” Everybody looked at the trees with blank incomprehension, there being nothing to distinguish them from countless others dotting the plain. The woman, nevertheless, seemed to hold everyone in silent thrall.
“What is the name of your village?” she enquired.
“Bhawanipur,” was the reply.
“Who planted these two trees?”
“Dwarka,” someone offered.
“Is the owner of this land at home?”
“No, but his wife is over there.”
The group of visitors, who were now being watched with intense curiosity by a cluster of children, turned and saw the owner’s wife approaching. Addressing the woman with sweetness of tone and expression, the visitor in white told her: “Take good care of these two trees and worship them. It will be for your good.”
Then she took garlands from Didi and decorated the trees with them and distributed all the fruit from the basket to the incredulous villagers. Without the faintest notion of who she was, they all assumed postures of deferential respect towards her, as if they perceived her to be of exalted station. Yet they could instantly recognize her as one of themselves, a simple woman, simply dressed and accustomed to village ways. She moved easily among them, but paid tender attention to the numerous children while at the same time encompassing one and all within her friendly and attentive gaze.
She turned back whence she came, closely followed by the crowd, who were now smiling with awkward pleasure, yet still dismayed by the inexplicable attention conferred on them and on a couple of trees by a bunch of total strangers.
“Margosa and banyan — Hari and Hara!” exclaimed the lady.
“Now you’ve given these trees the names of gods,” Didi declared in wonder.
Then the lady in white asked them: “Do you repeat God’s name? Even though you may not be able to do so daily, at any rate now and again perform puja (worship) and sing kirtana, or religious songs, under the boughs of those trees.” Then she turned to her companions. “How extraordinary!” she observed, “those trees were pulling this body towards them as people might. The car was carrying us away from them, but it was just as if they caught hold of the shoulders of this body and dragged it back in their direction. This kind of thing has never happened before.”
As the visitors got back into the car, one of the villagers diffidently inquired of the driver who was the great lady who had referred to herself as ‘this body’?
“Anandamayi Ma of Bengal. Remember this visit well, for she is a holy person and she never does anything without meaning.”
For more information about Sri Anandamayi Ma visit this link: http://www.anandamayi.org/ASHRAM/a1.htm