Dadi Janki – A Loving Farewell
Dadi Janki passed away at around 2:00 am on March 27th 2020 at the ripe old age of 104! The cause of death was a heart attack. She lived a purposeful life filled with many achievements.
Dadi simply means elder sister. And more than any other title we can attribute to Dadi, I would say that she has engraved an important and special place, deep within all our hearts as a loving mother.
Dadi was born in 1916 in the state of Sindh, a province in northern India that became part of Pakistan after the 1947 partition. It was clear from an early age that Dadi was called to a spiritual life. At age 19, while walking with her father in her hometown of Hyderabad, in Sindh, Dadi and her father met Dada Lekhraj, a highly respected Sindhi jeweller whom she had known since childhood. Later Dadi described that encounter as a moment that changed her life. She said that as Dada approached, his image dissolved into a field of light and she felt transported beyond the physical world into a timeless dimension and felt enwrapped in pure love. Dadi requested to go to the spiritual gatherings Dada had begun holding in his home, she felt certain that he was somehow connected with the truth she had been seeking.
But Indian tradition required that young women should be married according to a choice made by their parents, and this was her fate. Newly married, her husband refused her requests to visit the gathering and study the spiritual teachings. She was made a virtual prisoner in her home.
Eventually Dadi’s father realized that he had made a terrible mistake in getting his daughter married off, and so he helped her escape to Karachi where the community had moved in 1939. In Karachi, Dada Lekhraj and a small community were meditating together and learning spiritual knowledge that explained the soul, God and time. This became Dadi’s lifetime study for the remaining 80 years of her life. Later this community was to become known as the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University.
Let me be clear from the outset that Dadi was not a guru! If we followed it was not as a disciple, but as a child would follow a mother’s guidance or as a student following the teacher’s advice. We call her a leader, but she led with her heart and she led by example more than anything else. As a leader she won our hearts. And so she became the queen of our hearts.
After the 1947 partition of India, the group moved from Karachi to Mt Abu, Rajasthan. During this period centres began sprouting up all over India. At the age of 59 Dadi was asked to go to London. Generally, at this age anyone would be thinking of retiring, plus she was in charge of multiple, successful, service centres. Yet, in 1974 Dadi took up the challenge to develop and expand the service in England and abroad.
With a tiny Air India bag and two sets of clothes and knowing only a few words of English, she moved to a small flat, which at that time was in a poor part of London. Today that same flat is in Greater London and considered prime property. The room would be a classroom by day and bedroom at night. A door and a few bricks became her makeshift bed. But most importantly Dadi continued her full timetable which she followed in India, and this gave her great joy and inner contentment.
Very quickly, she met a handful of young westerners who would become lifelong supporters of the work of the movement outside India. These avid students went on to open similar centres in Australia, Greece, Brazil etc., and are still serving as senior teachers today. Word of the teachings gradually spread across the UK, and then through-out the world, where the Spiritual University now has a presence in about 130 countries.
Those who studied with Dadi Janki during the years in which the movement underwent such massive expansion, can still remember her relentless drive and her sheer force of will-power. Dadi had great determination and resolve. She had that pure desire that souls should be able to transform and enrich their lives by developing a pure and close relationship with God. Dadi’s own life was an inspiration to others to follow her example in study, remembrance of God, and service.
Dadi developed real love for those she met abroad, commenting on their honesty, sincerity and openness. And they developed a deep love for her wisdom, courage, and enduring friendship that lasted the rest of her life.
In 1978 scientists at the Medical and Science Research Institute at the University of Texas, USA, examined the brain patterns of Dadi Janki. As a result she was described as the ‘most stable mind in the world…’ where her mental state remained completely undisturbed… whilst undergoing the various tests at the Institute.
Dadi was also tireless, accepting invitations to speak in city after city. In 1983 Dadi spoke at the United Nations, where the Brahma Kumaris became a non-governmental organization with general consultative status working with the United Nations. Then in 1992, Dadi became one of the Keepers of Wisdom at the Rio Earth Summit.
During the late 90’s Dadi inspired all the centres in the Middle East. It was Dadi’s vision that every country should have a lighthouse such as the centres we have at present, where anyone from any background, colour or faith can come and sit, be at peace and be at one with God.
Dadi gave equal time and love to those leading ordinary lives and to the scientists, prime ministers and well-known people who came to know and appreciate her. Robin Gibb of the popular British singing group, the Bee Gees, wrote a song in her honour. Robin called this song “Mother of Love”, which he performed at the Wembley Arena in 2006.
In 2007, Dadi Prakashmani, the then head of the Brahma Kumaris, passed on, and Dadi Janki was called back to India to lead the organization. At the time Dadi was 91! For the next 13 years, she regularly addressed groups of 20,000 or more at the Mt Abu headquarters. She took her last international trip in 2019, when she travelled from Dubai to Nairobi, then onto London and New York.
Her health began to fail in February of this year. Finally, her small body, fragile since childhood, was taken to the Global Hospital, in Mt Abu, where a heart attack saw the close of her life of service.
Normally, an invitation would have gone out to tens of thousands of Brahma Kumaris and their friends and contacts to come to India for a final farewell. But with the current international lockdown, her life was celebrated in a small simple ceremony in the ‘home’ to which she had come to live in 1950. Dadi had stated many times in her classes that she did not want a penny spent on her funeral, and we wondered how that could be for someone who was so loved and cherished. But Dadi managed to orchestrate it all so well and get her wish fulfilled and this was the perfect ending for one who had devoted herself to simplicity and truth.
As a person Dadi was very self-disciplined. She not only mastered her own heart, but she mastered her senses and her mind. She inspired others to transform their lives in a very beautiful and positive way.
Dadi would make a practice firm for herself before telling others. Dadi cared and shared. Dadi inspired us and brought out the best in each one of us. She always looked at our specialities and not our weaknesses. Dadi could always see the potential and goodness in each soul, and it was with this vision that she spoke to us. This was one of the ways that Dadi would help us to grow, because Dadi believed in us. She had trust in us and it was her pure vision for us that enabled us to grow into those visions and to become better people.
I knew Dadi from the age of 8 or 9, when I would visit the centre with my parents. All I ever saw in Dadi was love and more love. She believed in me when I was a teenager and since then encouraged me to give lectures. Whilst being in one country, one day I told Dadi that I was getting bored, and Dadi told me to write articles to pass the time. That was the inspiration for my writing. She guided every bit of my journey. I am who I am today because of Dadi… and because Dadi had faith in me.
I remember saying to Dadi many times, what will we do when you are gone? We will miss you so much! And Dadi would reply: Who is looking after you now? And she would point upwards… towards God… and this is what I am reminded of now… That is the only connection that matters the most… our connection with God. He is looking after all of us.
Dadi had a tremendous love for God, and she wanted everyone to have that same personal loving experience and connection with the One Divine. Dadi’s whole life was lived as one who was an up-lifter. She helped souls transform their lives in a way that they could be both peaceful, happy and fulfilled.
It’s Time… for us to wish a loving farewell to our dearest Dadi as she takes her onward journey.
© ‘It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK