A woman recalled that on a flight from India to the United States, the plane suddenly encountered an air pocket. Drinks and other objects flew up to the ceiling as the plane dived downward, before leveling off. Shocked, the woman cried out in fear. Another woman sitting across the aisle gently reached out, touched her hand comfortingly, and said, “Buddha's daughters are fearless.
The woman who spoke those words of trust to the frightened passenger was Dipa Ma, a lay Buddhist meditation teacher who had a lot of experience with fear and her ability to overcome it.
Born on March 25, 1911 in a village in Bangladesh, her name was Nani Bala Barau. His family regularly practiced Buddhist rituals and celebrated festivals. Although her family does not practice meditation, Nani has nevertheless developed a deep interest in Buddhism. Following the traditional path of most girls in Bangladesh, Nani got married when she was 12 years old. Fortunately, her husband, Rajani Ranjan Barua, an engineer twice her age, was a caring, sensitive and attentive partner. A week after their marriage, Rajani left to take up a post in Burma. His wife stayed with her in-laws.
Two years later, Nani was able to join her husband in Rangoon, where they hoped to start a family. Unfortunately, there were fertility issues and she lost two babies before giving birth to a girl, whom she named Dipa, meaning "light". Eventually, Nani simply became known as Dipa Ma or "Mother of Light".
Tragically, in 1957, Dipa Ma's beloved husband died suddenly. The loss was devastating and the ensuing grief almost unbearable. She spent months confined to a bed suffering from the strain and stress of bereavement, barely able to provide for herself and her daughter. After exhausting all medical alternatives, a doctor strongly suggested that Dipa Ma practice meditation. Intuitively, she felt drawn to the suggestion and arranged for a neighbor to look after her daughter so she could attend a meditation retreat at a Buddhist monastery in Rangoon.
After receiving basic training in vipasanna meditation, Dipa Ma began to sit with others, finding that she had a natural affinity for the practice of meditation. One day, as she was leaving the meditation hall, she was unaware that a dog in the hallway was rushing at her, clenching its jaws around her leg. Incredibly, Dipa Ma felt no pain, which she attributed to the lingering effect of meditation on her body and mind. Some monks were able to separate Dipa Ma from the dog, and she was sent to an urgent care center for rabies treatment.
Returning home to recuperate, Dipa Ma began to consider becoming a Buddhist nun. However, as a single mother, she recognized her responsibility to her daughter and decided that her spiritual life should be led as the head of the family. It was an amazing decision as she had no role model for following the spiritual path in this way. She established a daily practice at home, studying with various teachers. She became increasingly proficient in her practice as well as in teaching others.
In 1967, the Burmese government ordered all foreign nationals to leave the country. Although her Buddhist monk friends assured her that they could get an exemption for her to stay in the country, Dipa Ma opted to go to Calcutta (now Kolkata), where her daughter would have better access to opportunities. social and educational. In Calcutta, she found a tiny one-room apartment for herself and her daughter. It was located above a metal grinding shop, had no running water, and only a charcoal burner on the floor and a bathroom they shared with another family.
Before long, women in Calcutta started approaching Dipa Ma for teaching meditation, and soon she was busy teaching housewives. Gradually, women began to refer to Dipa Ma as the "patron saint of householders". While teaching women, Dipa Ma demonstrated that living as wives and mothers was not an obstacle to meditation and the spiritual path. In fact, she often reminded them, “Being a wife, being a mother, those were my first teachers. Dipa Ma offered them encouragement in their practice and words of wisdom like these:
“Whenever I have time alone, I always turn my mind inward. »
“You don't need anything to be happy. »
“Everything is fresh and new all the time. Every moment is new.
“Live simply. A very simple life is good for everything. You will find no pleasure in abundance.
“When I travel, shop or do anything, I always do it mindfully. I know these are things I have to do, but they are not problems. On the other hand, I don't spend time chatting, sightseeing, or doing anything that I don't consider necessary in life.
Eventually, Dipa Ma had a steady stream of visitors, both male and female, to her modest living quarters, all seeking meditation instruction. Visitors even came from other countries. In the early 1980s, several Westerners who had studied with Dipa Ma invited her to teach at the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts. At her home in Calcutta, Dipa Ma was usually busy teaching from early morning until late at night. When her daughter urged her mother to reduce her availability, Dipa Ma simply replied, “They are hungry for Dharma, so let them come. »
Dipa Ma died on September 1, 1989, at the age of 78. After his death, Sharon Salzberg, one of his Western students, recalled: "Many times I hear his voice whispering to me, challenging me to stretch out to find what I am really capable of, especially in terms of love and compassion. She was an incredible model of kindness, the type that is born out of great suffering and consistent, constant remembrance of what's truly important.
Her influence and example were tremendous, and all the more extraordinary because she started out as a simple godly mother who needed something to help her through her grief at losing her partner. Today, his aura of reverence can sometimes cloud his very human and relatable story. She would be the first to insist, rightly, that she was like all of us.
Dipa Ma's Words of Wisdom
Bless those around you. If you bless those around you, it will inspire you to be mindful in every moment.
If your life is in trouble, practice the practices of metta, benevolence.
Human beings will never solve all their problems.
The first thing is to love yourself. You cannot progress through self-doubt and self-hatred. You can only progress through self-love.
Thoughts of the past and the future waste your time.
This problem you are having is not a problem at all. It's because you think "it's mine," ou « I have something to solve." Don't think that way and then there will be no problem.
You can do whatever you want to do. It's only your thought that you can't do it that's holding you back.
Meditation is always possible, at any time. You cannot separate meditation from life.
Whatever your beliefs, ask yourself, “Are you sure? " Who says? " " Why not? »
There is nothing to cling to in this world. ask yourself, « What can I take with me when I die?
Train now! Don't think you'll do more later.
Each of us has enormous power. It can be used to help us and help others.
Patience is one of the most important virtues for developing mindfulness and concentration.
What is your intention ? In any action, physical, verbal or mental, the Buddha valued intention. Know your intention in every action.
Meditation integrates the whole person.