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Everybody in the Hare Krishna Movement in Sri Lanka knows that Srimadi Nandaranee Devi is a devotee of Lord Krishna and channels all her energies and time to serve The Lord. But only a few know that she gave up her studies in chartered accountancy and a teaching job due to her love for spirituality and eagerness to learn the truths in life. Fondly known as Mathaji among devotes of Sri Sri Radhakrishna Temple in Kotahena, she has dedicated her life to propagate the teachings in the Baghavad Gita, a book which she says offers teachings in a scientific manner.

“A scientist uses the theory he has acquired to do experiments, but he needs matter for his research. He can’t produce this matter and has to get it from somewhere. He doesn’t understand that this matter is made available to him by God,” says Mathaji as she begins an interview with Nation at her office in Sri Sri Radhakrishna Temple where she functions as Secretary of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) Sri Lanka.

Srimadi Nandaranee Devi (Fondly known as Mathaji)
Srimadi Nandaranee Devi (Fondly known as Mathaji)

A graduate from the University of Peradeniya and a resident of Jaffna, she was overcome by a immense liking for the Hare Movement when some devotees visited the house she was residing in Kotahena, during the time she was an accountancy student. Naturally inclined towards being a spiritual person, she undertook work of the Hare Krishan Movement and took a decision to be a devotee when she was just 28 years old.

She began her religious studies from the first lesson of Lord Krishna which is ‘you are not your body, but all that there is for you to connect yourself with is the soul’. “It’s not difficult to practise the four basic precepts which are to abstain from meat eating, intoxicating yourself, having illicit sex and gambling. When you can do this, you are on the path to liberation,” she explains.

She said a Krishna conscious devotee might not look any different from a layman. But, she said that a devotee, through his actions, will show that he is very kind and a person who has completely surrendered himself to Lord Krishna. “When you surrender yourself to Lord Krishna, he offers everything that you need to live. It’s like becoming the son of a rich father,” she smiles.

Mathaji reminds this writer about the three qualities of the material world which are, good (Satva), passion (Rajas) and ignorance (Tamas). To work towards Satva one needs to pursue four factors which are truth, cleanliness, mercifulness and austerity. It is then only that a person can fulfill the role of the human birth which is to find liberation.

She doesn’t agree with the term unite with God, but says, “The perfect definition of fulfilling the role of a human being is to surrender to God.”

Quoting lessons from the scriptures, she reflects on how people worship Deities like Siva, Vishnu and Brahma and said these were expansions of Krishna. “Worshipping Siva can lead you to Lord Krishna,” she says as she talks about the statues (moorthis) used in worship.

Mathaji states that in this dark era for humans (Kali yuga) it is hard to find a bona fide spiritual master. “An authentic spiritual teacher will strictly quote from the scriptures and not relate from personal experience,” she affirms.

She says there will always be different religions at any given moment of time in history because of the mode of karma. “All the different religions should have one conclusion and that is to reach God,” she says. Her message to the society is, “follow the scriptures, chant the holy verse (Hare Krishna Maha Mantra) and read the Baghavad Gita. Then there won’t be any discrepancy in this world.”