Swami Bhashyananda

His Mission...Our History

Mother's Trust began as an idea long before 1991, the year it was incorporated.

In 1973, a young Eva Schroeder (later to become Gauribrata Puri Devi, head sannyasini of Mother's Trust / Mother's Place, Sri Sri Sarada Mata Ashram) met Swami Bhashyananda in Chicago. From the first, the Swami saw something in the earnest newcomer; he felt and clearly expressed his belief that she would dedicate her life to spirituality and the service of women.

For ten years Eva was closely involved with the center's development. The Swami would often speak to her about Gauri Ma, the great ascetic Mother and first sannyasini disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. It was Gauri Ma who started the Sri Sri Saradeshwari Ashram in response to Sri Ramakrishna's request that she work for the benefit of the women of Calcutta. Swami Bhashyananda's interest in Gauri Ma, the historic woman disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, was keen. To make her me and efforts better known, Swamiji requested some of his close devotees, including Indra Makhija of Chicago, to make a translation of a biography of Gauri Ma originally written in Marathi. It would be many years before the task was completed; but finally, in 1994, Mother's Trust published a new English version of Gauri Ma's life. This book is available through Mother's Trust. For information, tapas@motherstrust.org.

In 1982, Eva Schroeder came with Swami Bhashyananda to Vivekananda Monastery and Retreat Center in Ganges, Michigan. At that time, he remarked that he had completed the task of building a monastery for Swami Vivekananda, telling Eva, "Now you must enter the gates of Ganges and establish an monastic order and ashram for women." Within a few years, a house, just down the street from the monastery was purchased. This dwelling place, named "Durga Dham," became the nexus for the women's work. Then, Swamiji told Gauribrata to leave the men's shrine at the monastery, where she had worshipped for years, and to establish a women's shrine on the new property. Shortly thereafter, a kutir (meditation hut) was built, and Gauribrata and other women devotees performed worship and practiced austerities there. Swami Bhashyananda often visited the new shrine and expressed his approval of the women's efforts. This is how Mother's Trust began.

1987 was truly a watershed year in our history. Another trip was made to India, something Swami Bhashyananda and devotees of the Chicago and Ganges centers did every few years. For Eva, and the growing women's effort, this trip was far-reaching in it's effects. After spending time in various Indian centers of the Ramakrishna Mission, Swami Bhashyananda sent Eva and several others to Calcutta. One day, their host in that city took them to see Mother Theresa's ashram. On the way, they became lost in a tangle of small, busy Calcutta streets. During this interlude they noticed some sannyasinis ahead, and someone innocently inquired, "Who are they?" Their host replied, "Oh, those are sannyasinis of the Sri Sri Saradeshwari Ashram - Gauri Ma's ashram." This was the ashram which Swami Bhashyananda had so frequently mentioned that had been founded in 1895 by Sannyasini Gauri Mata Puri Devi (Gauri Ma). This caught Eva's attention, and they immediately stopped to see this very special ashram. In a profound moment, Eva opened the door of the car, stepped out and looked up at the doors of the ashram, becoming the first westerner to enter its portals.

Spiritual life has moments of depth and clarity, when the soul taps the depths and feels a nearness to something greater than itself. For most, these moments are the goal, the reason for taking to a higher life in the first place. For others, there is an addtional something - a call to do some work or task. At times, it bubbles to the surface of consciousness, inspired by an outside event or an interior thought. For Eva, such a moment had arrived. When she beheld those ashram doors she felt as if she knew the place. Strange emotions flooded in upon her. Within moments, Eva, and those with her, found themselves in the ashram's school house adjacent to the main ashram building. A carpet had been hastily unrolled ,and a woman in a chair was brought in reverentially. The woman was Sannyasini Subrata Puri Devi, a deeply spiritual renunciate and, at that time, the head of the Sri Sri Saradeshwari Ashram. Eva approached her and embraced her, resting her head lovingly upon Subrata Puri Ma's lap. That meeting went without a spoken word. But in that silence much transpired - a profound connection was made.

The connection manifested that day, between a daughter of the west and the Mothers of that ashram, was deep and profound. Eva experienced the wonderful loving presence of Sri Sri Ma, and, in that state, affirmed her life's work. The sannyasinis of Gauri Ma's ashram felt, as they later told, that some wondrous event had occurred-the fulfillment of something long sought. The roots of Mother's Trust / Mother's Place lay deeply in the history of Sri Sri Saradeshwari Ashram. The long anticipated offspring of this Indian ashram had come; the American link had finally been realized.

Three years later, in 1989, another significant turning point occurred which affected the history and development of Mother's Trust / Mother's Place. It was Swami Bhashyananda who had foreseen and guided the effort to establish Mother's Trust. Through many years he protected its "childhood" and guided its development along with his devotees' development. Swamiji had always supported Eva's connection with the Saradeshwari Ashram, and time and again, he arranged travel expenses for her to return to Calcutta. 1989 brought another such occasion. Eva was to return to Sri Sri Saradeshwari Ashram, this time with Swami Bhashyananda and Swami Tapasananda. A flight was arranged, tickets were purchased - but it was not to be. Swami Bhashyananda, our beloved spiritual friend and mentor, experienced a debilitating stroke just at this time.

The flight was to leave on a Sunday evening at 6pm. Eva recieved a phone call from the hospital in Chicago and Swami Bhashyananda ordered her to eneter into the plane alone and not to return until the work he had started so long ago was fruitful. He said that even if she were to recieve a telegram that he had passed away, she did not have permission to return until this work that he had started was complete. This was a difficult time for all, and especially for Eva. Without the support of Yogabrata (then Jean Judd), Shakti (Sharon Henry), Indra Makhija and the tremendous dedication of Swamis Tapasananda and Atmalokananda in seeing Swami Bhashyananda's work completed, Eva could not have found the necessary strength to carry on alone.

Eva proceeded to India, as instructed, and recieved sannyas from the Saradeshwari Ashram. Earlier that year, sannyas had been given to several candidates, and Subrata Ma had reserved one cloth for her western daughter whom she felt would be coming soon. By the time Eva came, Subrata Ma had become ill, and though the ceremony was performed by Bandana Ma, the sannyasa cloth was given by Subrata Puri Devi. Eva Schroeder was then given the name by which we all know her, Sannyasini Gauribrata Puri Devi, a name which honors her life's resemblance to that of Gauri Ma. When Gauribrata returned to Ganges, Michigan, Swami Bhashyananda expressed his approval of her new name.

In 1990, Swami Bhashyananda recommended that Gauribrata perform the Panchatapa ceremony to help with the stress and strain of her life circumstances at that time. The ceremony had a profound effect upon Garuibrata. She now felt certain that an ashram would come with the blessings of Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Sri Ma. As a result, within a few years, a 15 acre plot of land was purchased next door to Durga Mata Bhavan (previously known as Durga Dham).

The next year saw a new head swami come from India to help run the Vedanta Society in Chicago and the Vivekananda Monastery and Retreat Center in Ganges. It became clear in a short time that the women's work-until then a part of the monastery - could no longer remain a part of that facility and organization. Consequently, upon the advice of a senior and respected swami of the Ramakrishna Order, Mother's Trust / Mother's Place was incorporated as a separate entity.

In November 1991, two nuns from Mother's Trust received brahmacharya vows from the Sri Sri Saradeshwari Ashram. This was also the year that the Temple to Holy Mother, Sri Sarada Devi, in Ganges, Michigan began having regular programs and activities for its devotees. On the anniversary celebration of Sri Sri Ma's birthday, a shrine was dedicated within the temple structure. It was shortly after this event that regular public services began in the new shrine, culminating in this historic Inauguration of the Temple to Holy Mother, Sri Sarada Devi.

In January, 1994, upon the hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Sri Sri Saradeshwari Ashram, a number of devotees of Mother's Trust proceeded to India for that celebration.

Another trip to the Sri Sri Saradeshwari Ashram was undertaken the following year. It was then, in 1995, that Mother's Trust / Mother's Place received its second name - "Sri Sri Sarada Mata Ashram." Many of those present at the ceremony experienced what others had related about the Sri Sri Saradeshwari Ashram - its pervasively loving atmosphere - as if Holy Mother herself still lived, such love was there! Like a time-capsule reopened, bits of Mother's love - far away from their time and place of origin-once again were liberated and pervaded the atmosphere of her new shrine and ashram. Having been blessed and wonderfully supported by Sri Sri Mata Ashram in Calcutta, fostered by Gauri Ma, and mothered for long years by Durga Ma and Subrata Ma, Sri Sri Sarada Mata Ashram now offers a precious treasure.

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