The Widening Circle

On the 27th of May 1964, India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, passed away. Sir C.P. was in the UK attending a shipping conference. On Tuesday, June 2, news came that Lal Bahadur Shastri had been elected as the new leader of the Congress Party and would soon be made India’s second prime minister.

Shri Mataji introducing guests to Lal Bahadur Shastri in MumbaiBy the time Sir C.P. returned to Mumbai from the UK, the newspapers carried stories that Mr. Shastri had been taken ill. Shri Mataji urged her husband to go to New Delhi immediately to offer his services to Mr. Shastri. She felt strongly that as Lal Bahadur Shastri had confidence in her husband, it was his duty to assist him in whatever way possible.

A few days later, while attending a meeting in New Delhi, Sir C.P. was able to visit the recovering Mr. Shastri. It was during this fortuitous meeting that Lal Bahadur Shastri requested Shri Mataji’s husband to become Joint Secretary to the Prime Minister, working by his side in the service of the Indian nation.

In his biography Lal Bahadur Shastri, a Life of Truth in Politics, Sir C.P. recalled, “When we both visited Prime Minister Shastri, he often talked to her about saints and sages and about religion and spirituality, fields in which she had great knowledge, he even encouraged Nirmala to join the Indian Congress Party. However, Nirmala was more inclined towards spirituality and not inclined to politics.”

Over the years, while her husband was busy with affairs of state, Shri Mataji was a very silent social worker. She collected money for a sanatorium near Chandrapur in Maharashtra. She became president of a society called 'Friends of the Blind.' In Meerut, she started a refugee home, a home for invalids, and assisted with a large leper home. 

In October 1969, Shri Mataji’s first daughter, Kalpana, was married to Prabhat Shrivastav, in Mumbai. In early October of 1970, Shri Mataji’s own mother fell seriously ill. She returned from a trip abroad to see her mother and surprisingly found her in a cheerful mood. Her mother asked her if she had found what her father wanted her to find. So Shri Mataji told her that she had found the method of en masse realization. On Sunday, October 11th, 1970, her mother, Cornelia Karuna Salve, passed away in Nagpur.

Shri Mataji with daughter Kalpana, upon her marriage   Shri Mataji, Sir CP and son-in-law Prabhat at Prabhat and Kalpana's wedding

Soon after, Shri Mataji was invited for an inaugural Air India flight to Paris, after which she traveled to Tehran to visit her younger brother H.P. Salve, who was posted there by the airline. [1]
While spending time with her, H.P. gradually became aware that something had changed within his elder sister. In fact, by then she had about 12 followers in India who had become interested in Shri Mataji as a teacher and guru.

After revealing to her brother that on Tuesday, the 5th of  May 1970, she had indeed experienced a powerful transformation, Shri Mataji expressed a desire to give self-realization to a few friends of his who were spiritually inclined. On their return to Tehran from a sightseeing trip to Shiraz, H.P. Salve rang a few friends and arranged a dinner-cum-spiritual meeting with Shri Mataji. The next day about 20 friends, some from the press, came to his house for dinner, and more significantly, their spiritual awakening. 

As H.P. Salve recalled, “One gentleman, a Dr. Divan, after receiving his self-realization seemed to be emitting
sandalwood fragrance from the top of his head. I was quite surprised as to how Shri Mataji could transmit such fragrance into somebody’s body by sitting at such a distance. Meanwhile a Parsi lady who came only on crutches, since she had acute arthritis, when she went, after her self-realization, she went without crutches and was seen driving her car the next day.”

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mystical. It is the source of all true art and science.
Albert Einstein
The following day leading English papers in Tehran printed the event as news and they said there were witnesses to what had happened, after which many people flocked to see Shri Mataji. As her brother put it, “Her popularity was so much that when she first came to Tehran I was introducing her as my sister, but when she left, I was being introduced as her brother.” Before long, H.P. Salve would come to be addressed as Babamama, an affectionate term for "mother's brother."

1. ^ H. P. Salve, 'My Memoirs' New Delhi: Life Eternal Trust, 2000