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"Sahaja yoga is the most difficult of the yogas, because there is nothing more difficult than to be sahaja -- effortless, natural and spontaneous. What is the meaning of sahaja? Sahaja means: let whatever happens happen, don't resist it. Of course, it is the best, but it is also very difficult. Because nothing is more difficult for man than to be natural..."

Osho, In Search of the Miraculous Vol 1 [ch 8, 5 May pm]

Nirmala Srivastava (née Nirmala Salve, more widely known as Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi) is the founder of Sahaja Yoga. She was born on March 21, 1923 in Chindawara, India to Christian parents, Prasad and Cornelia Salve. Her parents named her Nirmala, which means "immaculate."

Nirmala Srivastava passed her childhood years in the family house in Nagpur. In her youth she stayed in the ashram of Mahatma Gandhi. Like her parents, she was involved in the Indian independence movement; as a young woman she was a youth leader, and participated in the Quit India Movement. She also studied at the Christian Medical College in Ludhiana and the Balakram Medical College in Lahore.

Shortly before India achieved independence in 1947, Nirmala married Chandrika Prasad Srivastava. They have two daughters, Kalpana Srivastava and Sadhana Varma. 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 Film Censor Board.

Sahaja Yoga

In 1970 Nirmala Srivastava  visited a meditation camp in Nargol that was presided over by Rajneesh (later known as Osho). She "was shocked to see him loot people under the guise of spirituality"  and said that he was mesmerizing people. The camp ran from the 2nd to the 5th May 1970, and Rajneesh led sessions in an early form of dynamic meditation, discoursed on Kundalini and other matters, and answered a question about 'Sahaja Yoga'. Judith Coney writes that Nirmala Srivastava can be seen in a video of the camp. Sudhir Kakar wrote that Nirmala Srivastava was "closely associated" with Rajneesh in her "apprenticeship years". Nirmala Srivastava said that she had also visited Muktananda and that Rajneesh was 'very much after' her. Interviewed in the movie "Nirmala Devi: Freedom and Liberation", Nirmala Srivastava said that these supposed spiritual people were greedy and promiscuous rather than spiritual and that this caused her to give up hopes and begin searching within herself.

Nirmala Srivastava says that while in Nargol, on May 5, 1970, she witnessed the rising of the Primordial Kundalini. Later she described the experience as follows: "I saw my kundalini rising very fast like a telescope opening out and it was a beautiful color that you see when the iron is heated up, a red rose color, but extremely cooling and soothing." She has stated that the potential for all humanity to gain spiritual self awareness was realized at this time, which she characterizes as a "historical process of en-masse self-realization and inner transformation". Soon after she founded Sahaja Yoga in Mumbai.

In 1972 Nirmala Srivastava sailed to the U.S. and warned against false gurus. 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 on seven London hippies who became the first Western Sahaja Yogis. In 1979 Nirmala Srivastava declared herself to be the complete incarnation of the Adi (Primordial) Shakti or Holy Spirit to her devotees. She has also claimed to be Maitreya and the Mahdi. Nirmala Srivastava has been described as "a simple Indian housewife... with a motherly and compassionate personality".

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.

Until 2004, during her travels, Nirmala Srivastava gave numerous public lectures, pujas, and interviews to newspapers, television and radio. In 2004 the official website of Sahaja Yoga announced that Nirmala Srivastava had completed her work. She continues to give talks to her devotees and allows them to offer her puja.