Trust began as an idea long before 1991, the year it was incorporated.
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.
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 life 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 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.
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
a 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.
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.
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 nuns there had been waiting for someone to come for many years.
When Gauri Ma, beloved Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, founder of the Sri Sri Saradeshwari Ashram for women and girls, established at Sri Ramakrishna's behest in 1895, when this great women ascetic left this world in 1938, she remarked to those who were present, that she would come again, as a white person from the West. "She will know where the secret and sacred objects are kept at the ashram. Thus you will know it is I".
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.
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.
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.
to India, as instructed, and recieved sannyas from the Saradeshwari
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.