Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Vimala Thakar (1923-2009)

Vimala means 'stainless'.

Most people have never heard of her -- She was an Indian follower and teacher of the way. According to her, she started teaching meditation around the world after meeting and at the pleading of Jiddu Krishnamurthy. Krishnamurthy was an iconoclast and had a strong dislike for religion, hierarchy and organizations but apparently she was the only person he asked to teach and "set [people] on fire".

"She was a small woman with big warm eyes but she sat with mountain like stillness". People who met Vimala Ma said things like "The most powerful woman I've ever met." Not that such a claim has a meaning or needs to be true for someone to inspire us, but a magazine article had once said, "She is the most awakened woman alive".

Today I learnt that she passed away on March 11th of this year. Although they didn't actively pursue the path for very long, both my parents had attended meditation camps that she led. My mother felt deeply connected to her especially during my birth and I have met her multiple times during my childhood - each meeting left deep impressions. I don't really know why but it feels my relationship with her was even deeper than reasons I can come up with - at the very least she had a huge role in bringing me to the cushion. The photograph above is how she looked when I last met her in 1997. I had just started meditating at the time with another group.

She traveled around the world in 70s and 80s to lead meditation groups and you can find information about her in many languages. I wanted to share links to some insightful and inspiring articles in English about this extraordinary woman, who had always wanted to stay away from publicity:

1. 16 hours a day in a cave: Heroic and yet natural inclination to meditate for long hours
2. An interview and her portrait (On inner conflicts of practitioners, importance of sangha)
3. Spirituality and Social Action (From "Can enlightenment save the world")
4. Talks and book extracts

We will recite Heart Sutra to honor and celebrate her life at this Saturday sit.



  1. It is remarkable that you actually met her! Her insights are very direct and crystal clear. I can usre see myslef in her discussion of divided consciousness. thanks for the post.

    Gassho, Joe

  2. Thanks Joe -- I also saw myself in that discussion on inner divisions. In the same article, however, she also says that we are not dishonest -- we just need to keep practicing (she used the phrase "Self educating" often but what she meant was practice). I posted some more links today. Thanks for reading!