I began recording Mother’s Calling years ago, before my beloved Teacher and Spiritual Mother, Shri Siddhi Ma left Her body. She gave me the seva (service) of chanting whenever I was in Her presence, and this recording was from its inception meant to be an offering to Her. I remember sitting with my friend Krishna Das many years ago now, when he first showed me a picture of Siddhi Ma, saying, “If you want to meet a real saint, you should meet Her.” I am ever grateful for that moment.
Soon after seeing that picture I found myself on a plane to India. It was a journey that would completely alter my life. When I arrived in Kainchi Dham (Neem Karoli Baba's ashram in the foothills of Himalayas) I felt like I was truly home. This is where I first heard the phrase I would come to cherish, “Mother’s Calling”, which meant Siddhi Ma was calling me for darshan.
Meeting Siddhi Ma for the first time was like falling in love thousands of times over. She was dressed as She always was, in a white sari, with Her head covered. She was gorgeous to me – older, and with a vast presence. Only love. I never wanted to leave Her. And in truth I always wish I were with Her. Sitting with Her cleared the cobwebs from my cluttered brain, reminding me of who I truly am, in the best way possible. It is hard to describe what it is like to be in the presence of someone who loves you unconditionally, without attachment; someone who wants nothing from you; expects nothing from you. Siddhi Ma had the ability to see people, really see them, with all of their imperfections, and loved everyone equally and fully, wanting only what was best for each of us. She was and is unconditional love incarnate.
I went to Kainchi Dham for the first time in 1998, for a festival called Durga Puja, also known as Navaratri. It is nine days to worship and celebrate the goddess. During this time a fire ceremony is performed in the yagna shala, in the back of the ashram. At night after the formal puja is finished the women gather in the yagna shala to sing and dance. This is a ladies only celebration (although men often hang around outside and watch). I loved watching these women, who worked so hard all day, just let loose. I loved being a part of it – welcomed in and asked to dance, to join in. There was an abundance of joy and light on those evenings, and plenty of laughter.
In India (at least in traditional culture), the women and men tend to do things separately. There are so many ways in which women are controlled. In the temples in India women are not allowed to dance in front of men. The men often break into dance, but the women are reserved, modest, almost hidden. So to see them dance was a real treat. I remember Krishna Das used to talk about how much he loved it when the Mas (mothers) sang together, how sweet the bhav (mood) was. I felt a strong bond with the female devotees in Kainchi Dham, and all over India. It was a special satsang for me.
I remember being at a temple in the South of India with Siddhi Ma; it was just a few of the Mas and me there, along with a manager from Kainchi. One day some of the Mas were going on a trip to see another temple and Siddhi Ma gave them a big, dramatic send off. I remember thinking, “What’s the big deal? They are only going on a day trip.” Later Siddhi Ma (who always seemed to know my thoughts) called me into her room and told me how special this trip was for these women. She said they work all day every day for their families and almost never get time to do the things they want to do (like going to temples). I was at the time a single woman from America with no children, and I had no concept of living a life in which I couldn’t do what I wanted, when I wanted. I was quite humbled.
Since that first trip I have treasured my time spent in the company of the Mas. They have always welcomed me, and made me feel at home. When I began to embark on this recording I realized I wanted to have only women’s voices on the album, to recreate that feeling of singing with the Mas in India. When women come together to practice in this way, there is a special power and sweetness, a deep connection to the Divine Mother.
I dedicate this recording to the lotus feet of the Mother, my Mother, Shri Siddhi Ma.
Shri Ma Jaya Ma Jaya Jaya Ma.