Nellie Hart, Rest in Peace
July 21, 1916  - July 15, 2007

In Honor Of Nellie Hart


July 21, 1916 - July 15, 2007

A remarkable woman, a remarkable life - these words are barely adequate to describe Nellie Mager Hart, the first American disciple of Prahlad Chandra Brahmachari.  She was the root of the tree for us; her devotion to Baba began a chain of events which brought about the beginnings of the American satsang.

Our Guru gave Nellie the name Brahmamayi, and her nature was as profound as her name. She was steadfast in meditation and reflection right up until the end of her life in July 2007, just shy of her 91st birthday.

I will leave it to others to provide more information about her story; her work as a nurse and stewardess in the early days of commercial trans-Atlantic flight, her work with Mother Theresa, and her strength as a wife, mother, and grandmother.  But I will tell what I know: that Brahmamayi was an unshakable pillar of contemplation, resolve, and realization, for whom the absolute truth was the highest ideal.



Baba with Premamayi (Athena Kouzan) at left and Brahmamayi (Nellie Hart) at right.

Remembering Nellie
by Premananda

The passing of Nellie Hart has been a touching thing, even from afar, for I am completely convinced she had conquered death long ago in the deep silences of her non-dual meditations. She knew.

She had thrown away so many veils already, she knew she was not a person at all, but the life of the consciousness that was going on through her mind. Just as when doing all kinds of activities she was always alert, and alert to details, so she was aware of a meditation that was not scheduled, but was going on ALL THE TIME. That is why I loved being with her for endless coffee and smokes and discussion of the highest spiritual kind we knew, trying to fuse Sri Ramakrishna with Sri Nisargadatta for example, searching for the absolute. The non-thing "thing" which cannot be named.

When I was suffering from Grave's disease she decided to take me to Hawaii to recover for 2 or 3 weeks. She had always wanted me to see the island where she had lived for good number of years. And indeed I got to go right inside that very house myself and look at it (Other relatives live there now I think). It was wonderful of course, with a mountain nearby.

Oh! What a saving grace that trip was. I only weighed about 99 pounds, was skeletal from being metabolized to near death by an excess of thyroid hormone. The medicine (six big tablets a day) was just starting to take effect. At least I no longer felt like I was being squeezed by a giant sized fist.

But Hawaii had a big effect on me and spending every day in serious metaphysical discussions with Nellie also had a big effect. I began to feel an ecstasy arising as the life force hormone settled back to its correct value. The sensation was of being physically reborn, coming back from death, and our monk-like daily spiritual concentration and coffee was just the right medicine for this coming back to life. The life force! And Nellie could go all day! She was relentless in pursuit of our discussions. If I only had a tape of that!

Later we arranged a trip to go to the Big Island to see the volcano, Kiluea, and the "firepit" of the volcano, Halemaumau, said to be the mouth of the mother godess Pele. To Pele we would make our offering on behalf of Baba and in his name, because the plan to bring him there never happened. To pick up the tickets I rode a loaned bike to another town with glorious views all along the way, a fairly long ride. With my body chemistry coming back toward life I had an intoxicating feeling of youth again.

I got a bottle and put some vodka in it, and them some raw meat. Pele (like Kali) likes  alcohol and meat. Also put into the bottle were two betel nuts from Baba's fire, both partially burned, and a piece of Baba's hair. It seemed a fitting offering for the Goddess in his name.

This may have been taken when Nellie Hart first introduced Athena Kouzan to Baba, I don't know. It kind of looks like the right time period and "oldness." It must have been in the 60s.

Athena Kouzan (Premamayi), Sri Prahlad Chanda, Nellie Hart (Brahmamayi, and Joyama

We were on a little tour at first, having flown to the Big Island, but Nellie had arranged for us to have our own hired cab for the whole afternoon. We set out to make our offering to Pele at Kiluea's fire pit, Halemaumau. The driver was a young guy, a true son of Hawaii, and at first he took our talk of "Pele" to be typical haole (white man's) disrespect. Gradually, with side glances to me, Nellie guided the conversation in various ways to eventually win him around and realize that our desire to make an offering to the mother goddess was sincere. After that, he welcomed us completely as if we were family. In fact, later he took us to meet his family at some kind of farm in the countryside.

Before the fire pit we stopped to look at giant flows of black lava all hardened into rock now, swirling in its shapes, organic living shapes. Suddenly Nellie, looking at a particular lava shape with the driver, made a kind of surprise exclamation, as if she had suddenly noticed something.

"It's very.. organic, alive, almost .."

She stopped. She seemed a little embarrassed, perhaps remembering that this taxi driver was still almost a perfect stranger. The driver saved her.

"You mean, erotic?"

"Yes," Nellie said, glad that he had said it and not left it to her. With this bit of freedom established they discussed the erotic aspects of the lava shapes a bit further. The driver was beginning to enjoy us now very much. His humdrum workday was turning out to be interesting and fun.

Later I found myself walking across a desolate but exciting landscape with Nellie and the driver and our little offerings. Smoke was coming out of the ground from little places here and there, "smoke" which had a very strong odor of sulphur. Eventually we came to the fire pit. I looked down.

For some reason that first glance into the fire pit, an actual giant pit, with smokey stuff going on at the far bottom, that glance and image got burned into my brain in an intense way. Even weeks later just remembering it would invoke again this sense of a vision, a mouth of the earth mother, Halemaumau, the fire pit of power, Pele, the fearsome and magnificent. The life force itself.

With Nellie's subtle supervision we made our offering to Pele, sitting at the cliff at the edge of the deep hole in the ground. I said some words about how Baba had wanted to go to Hawaii and visit Nellie, and visit this site, but that he could not, and that in his name we make this offering from Baba to Pele. I think I named the items out loud, the partially burned betel nuts from Baba's sacrificial fire, the small lock of his hair, the meat and alcohol, perhaps there was a small picture. Nellie and I said some mantras and then I threw the offering into Halemaumau, the fire pit of the Mother, in Baba's name. Later that night whenever I remembered looking into the fire pit, this odd feeling came over me, the vision of... something.

I really got healed on that adventure with Nellie in Hawaii, physically and mentally. We stayed at her son David's apartment in Kaneohe and David was a real prince of a host to me, making me feel as if I were part of his own family. If was a friend of his mother, then I was okay as far David was concerned. Oddly enough it was David Hart, on this healing and spiritual trip for me, introduced me to computers and programming. He set up his son's little game system (very early, primitive) and showed me how it worked. That night I wrote my first several programs in BASIC. From that trip to Hawaii forward it was all computer programming for a long a time. So this trip to Hawaii, Nellie's gift to me, turned out to be a turning point in many ways.

All who knew her loved her dearly, because of how she was. And long talks with her were great adventures into the heart of meditation, and the self inquiry, and the great questions. You would always feel she was somehow more your own mother than your own mother. You could confide anything to her, you could be honest, she might get testy if you were not honest. She was dead serious about getting to the truth, and to the sensing of the absolute.

Bill Morgan

Editor's NOTE! : This is an open invitation to anyone anywhere who ever had met Nellie to put your own feelings here. And if you have any memories of times you were with Nellie, please share your memories with the rest of us here. (If you would prefer to be anonymous just let me know. Send your thoughts and feeling here (Premanada Email).

It was Baba's disciple Srinivasan who first took Nellie to meet Baba in Calcutta. Later she went to Baba's Ramanathpur ashram. Here is Srinivasan with Baba.



Ashes Scattered in Great Lake

Son David scatters the ashes on the lake as Nellie requested