|Noyen Ma's selfless
and unassuming service to Baba and the ashram is legendary in Ramanathpur and among the
devotees. Her childlike innocent nature made her beloved of all, and her work seemed never
With Buri Ma gone and Joya Ma unable to be at the ashram full time she now shoulders the day to day operation of the ashram.
as told to Premananda
I first met Noyen Ma in 1974, when I was 28, and was told by Baba to look at her as a mother, and I did. Nowadays the Indian disciples call her "Noyen-dee," which means Sister Noyen. Perhaps because she was a very attractive women, Baba had asked that her hair be cut every month. She was innocent, earnest and childlike in her nature then, as she is now.
On that first visit I made to Baba's ashram I remember lying on my mat at night, falling asleep, hearing these frightening moans coming from Noyen's room. It was Noyen's voice. She was crying out in her sleep sounds of agony and fear. It would go on for a good while. I could not imagine why this would be going on. Was she awake or asleep? What was so painful?
I guess at that time it was just one more very strange thing in a long line of very strange and marvelous occurrences, and my mind was so fixed on Baba's every thought and mood and deed that I did not inquire into it. Nor could I. I was still learning Kindergarten Bengali then, though I could tell at times that some joking was going on about Noyen's moaning at night.
Noyen had a wonderful sense of intimacy, as if she were really your own sister or mother, and a mischievous sense of conspiracy, as if all the most important things must be said with a whisper, and a look around. One such conspiracy, for example, was the smuggling of the occasional dried tobacco leaf to Buri Ma, who would chew it and get enjoyment. This was something, according to Noyen's whispers and giggles that Baba should not see. This was secret stuff, but she was laughing at the secrecy, because nothing escaped Baba in any case.
It was not until much later that I finally learned Noyen's story. First she took me to her home village, to show me where she had grown up, and to meet her mother and family. It was a village of weavers, and nearly every house and hut had a loom in operation. It was a very surreal experience because the looms all made this clickety-clack sound, fairly loud. And as you walked along the trails through the village you heard this clattering collective sound everywhere. No matter where you were in this village there was this constant sound all through the day. And I was kind of enchanted by this, and said so to a few of the family, that it sounded kind of nice, and they laughed knowingly and said "If you stay here all the time it drives you crazy!"
Then one day I got Mr. Muncie to sit down with Noyen so she could tell her story on tape. This was after several days of he and I convincing her it was a good thing to do. She was not sure whether she should reveal what happened on tape. Maybe Baba had indicated to her not to tell others about her inner experiences. I argued that even if Baba had said so, it meant while he was alive, to help her sadhana. But now (I said to her in Bengali) her story could be an inspiration for others to have faith in Baba. Mr. Muncie convinced her it would be okay. So she told her simple story.
In her younger days she had been doing the work of a weaver at her family's looms. I believe she was married and her husband died, I don't remember the details of that. But she came down with a mysterious malady. It began to happen that she started to have recurring nightmares which were terrifying. She would feel that this person was coming toward her, but it was some kind of shadow person, because when you looked to see who it was, there was just emptiness there; yet it was a being. And so she would moan and cry out with fear and suffering.
She was taken to all the doctors. But they could not understand what was wrong. If this happened in the West it would be called "mental illness" and she would be given psychotropic drugs to make it stop. But it did not stop, and the parents were in despair. Then somehow they got word that there was a holy man in Ramanathpur who had great healing powers, a "Baba," who worshipped the Mother Kali. So they set out by foot to make the daylong trek, a journey of great difficulty as the monsoon had turned the land into deep sticky mud.
So Noyen first met Baba in this way. Baba assured the parents that everything would be okay, but that it would take some time. He instructed them to visit again. After a few visits Baba told the parents that Noyen should come and stay at the ashram, that he would "take her on," so to speak, and that the mental malady would pass away. In this Baba was assuming her whole karmic burden, she said later. If she stayed at the ashram she would be okay.
At the ashram her terrifying visions continued, the shadow being coming toward her. Moaning in her sleep and calling out to the Mother, sometimes for hours. At times, Baba would wake her and take her to the hedge near the trail by the ashram and break off a branch. Then he would fix her attention and start hitting her over the head with the branch. Not very hard, not enough to hurting, but slapping her with this branch of leaves. Then he would take her back and give her the branch and tell her to put it under her pillow while she slept. This would cure the visions, at least for that night.
Then the visions ended, in an episode which I must clarify from the tape or notes. I do not recall the details, but Baba said something to the effect that he would get the visions to stop, but before he did, did she want to SEE the shadow being? Did she want to know? And this was the most secret part of her story, which she was not sure if she should tell. In any case, she chose to see what was the real form of the shadow being, and she did.