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Mark Matousek Interview - The Mystery of Mother Meera

In this interview, Mark Matousek discusses his latest book Mother of the Unseen World, an intimate portrait that includes exclusive new interviews with Mother Meera & describes his personal experience in her presence. Mark Matousek is the bestselling author of several titles which have received high praise from the likes of Ram Dass, Ophah Winfrey, Mark Nepo, Joan Halifax, and Ken Wilber. Mark Matousek will be speaking and signing at Banyen Books on Thursday, March 1.

Why did you write this book on Mother Meera?

Mark Matousek: Serendipity. I met Mother Meera for the first time in 1985 and wrote about her in my first memoir, Sex Death Enlightenment. But it wasn’t until a chance meeting 30 years later that the time was finally right. I was talking to an old friend who had just returned from having Mother’s darshan in Germany. She was telling me about the life-changing experience she had there and asked me the same question: why hadn’t I written about her in greater depth? Though Andrew Harvey had published Hidden Journey, a memoir that detailed his relationship with Mother, no one had done a book focused entirely on her, on telling her story. I felt called to the task. Meeting Mother had radically altered my understanding of spiritual life, opened my eyes to a world of possibilities that I, as a cynical New York atheist, had never even considered before. I wanted to explore what that meant – and who this phenomenal woman is – for other doubters like myself.

Banyen: So who is Mother Meera? What do we need to know about her?

Mark Matousek: Mother was born Kamala Reddy, an illiterate farm girl in the south of India in 1960. From the time she was very young, she began having intense experiences of altered consciousness that terrified her family. She would slip into seeming unconsciousness for days at a time. Sometimes her body went cold, other times she ran a high fever and her body would shake uncontrollably. At the age of six, she had her first experience of samadhi; later, when her spiritual nature was discovered by her employer (her parents farmed her out as a servant at age eight), she began to talk about her spiritual experiences for the first time. She described being instructed in vision by various “lights,” journeying in other dimensions, and having the ability to communicate telepathically, at a distance. At the age of eight, she appeared to her guardian, Mr. Reddy, while he was traveling in a city 500 miles away. “How could you come so far?” he asked her upon returning home. “There are other ways of traveling,” she told him. Eventually, her employer left his wife and family and devoted himself to helping Kamala – who later became known as Mother Meera – with her work in the world.

Banyen: What is that work?

Mark Matousek: In the culture from which she comes, Mother Meera is recognized as an “avatar,” a direct descent of divine consciousness into human form. Asked about her identity, which she doesn’t like to talk about, she says, “Before coming here, I knew who I was. There has never been any separation between me and my divine identity.” According to Mother Meera, there are several avatars in the world today. Each avatar incarnates with a particular mission when spirituality declines and humanity needs God’s help. Her particular job is to offer darshan, a silent blessing during which she places her fingertips on the head of the visitor then looks directly into their eyes. During darshan, Mother Meera tells us, she uses the “Paramatman” (God) Light to untie energetic knots in the body and quicken her visitor’s spiritual growth.

Banyen: Is darshan something that a person can feel?

Mark Matousek: This is entirely subjective. People have wildly different experiences with Mother. Some people weep, others see different colored lights. Some feel blissful and serene, others are plunged into their own shadow, overwhelmed by shame, guilt, fear, even anger: whatever needs to be brought out and healed. It’s extraordinary to witness the diversity of reactions. There is no such thing as a good or bad darshan (any more than there’s a good or bad meditation session). Whatever arises is food for growth and insight. Mother recommends against comparing our experience to others since each of us is different and our path and needs are purely our own.

Banyen: How is Mother Meera different from other gurus on the scene?

Mark Matousek: Mother Meera is not a guru. She has no dogma, offers darshan free of charge, makes no demands on her visitors, and welcomes seekers from all religions to come “now and then when they need my help,” asking for nothing in return. I’ve seen rabbis, priests, imams, and roshis from all parts of the world traveling to receive her blessing, alongside seekers from all religions. What’s more, she has zero interest in the trappings of guru-dom and avoids the spotlight in every way. Even after giving my book her blessing, Mother held off giving me an interview for over a year; she would rather do anything but talk about herself. Asked what she sees when she looks in the mirror, she said, “What I see doesn’t interest me.” Her humility and simplicity are completely unique. Nowhere else on the planet will you find a spiritual personality of her stature hauling bags of cement, hammering shingles on the roof, repairing plumbing, tearing down walls. She loves engineering, construction, project planning, and getting her hands dirty. Yet even when you’re with her outside of darshan, that same quiet power, like a great silence, emanates from her being. It’s extraordinary and collapses all divisions between holy and unholy, sacred and profane, material and spiritual. Through example, Mother shows us the falsity of such boundaries, and that God is present in all things great and small.

Banyen: What did you learn from doing this book?

Mark Matousek: How hard it is to write about a mystic, for one thing (laughs). And how little we understand about reality. I glimpsed this the first time I met Mother Meera; I knew in my heart and bones that she was something other, then proceeded to have a series of completely unexpected experiences, which I detail in the book, that showed me how little I understood about things. I went from being someone who thought he knew a lot to a man aware that he knew almost nothing. This was humbling and awakening, and doing this book took me deeper into this unknowing, this release of concepts and rules about God. That’s why I called it Mother of the Unseen World. All mystics point us to this unseen world, regardless of their tradition or terminology. That is why, in Mother Meera’s culture – and many others as well – they’re known as “divine incarnations.” In the lives of the truly great masters and mystics, we see that God can indeed take form and move among us; in fact, what we learn is that, as Aurobindo said, everything here is nothing but the divine. Avatars and saints prove this, no matter how doubtful we might be.

Banyen: So you're no longer an atheist, I take it?

Mark Matousek: I don’t know what to call myself. I’m someone who has witnessed wonders that I cannot deny. I’ve experiences things I can’t deny, and chose not to close my eyes or withdraw from the mystery. Rilke has a famous passage where he calls this the only courage we need: to have courage for the most miraculous and mysterious that we come across. How we respond to the unknown, the intimations of immortality, the openings to the mystic, determines the quality of our lives on this planet. Do we choose to be narrow-minded flat earthers refusing to admit that they might be wrong? Or do we proceed, skeptically, cautiously, with open eyes, to allow ourselves to be surprised. I chose this second path – or it chose me – because the other way seemed cowardly, a sort of willful ignorance. I have no idea who Mother Meera is. I call her a “phenomenon,” and like all unusual phenomena, she deserves to be met with an open mind. With curiosity. With interest. The rest is out of our hands. That’s what I tried to communicate in this book. Don’t trust me, I’m saying to the reader when meeting whatever phenomena they encounter on their spiritual path. Find out for yourself.

Mark Matousek is the author of Mother of the Unseen World: The Mystery of Mother Meera. Mark will be speaking at Banyen on Thursday, March 1st.

Interview content © February 24, 2018 Banyen Books & Sound