VIJOYA MATA, a Self-Realization Fellowship minister and faithful disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda for more than forty years, passed away on April 2, 1992, at the age of ninety. Mukti Mata conducted the memorial service for Vijoya Mata on April 8, 1992, at Self-Realization Fellowship International Headquarters. Following are extracts from that service.
This is a time of mixed feelings for all of us. There is sadness because we can no longer enjoy the physical presence of our dear Vijoya Mata. At the same time, we rejoice with her in her limitless joy, for her soul is now free from the bodily suffering she had to bear these past few years—a burden she bore with her usual courage, will power, and indomitable strength.
Vijoya Mata* [*”Vijoya Mata” is a monastic name given to her when she took her final vows in November 1957. “Vijoya” means “victory” or “she who conquers.” “Mata” means “mother.” ] was born in Wisconsin on November 3, 1901. Her parents were from Norway, and she inherited the hardiness and strength of her people. Her faith in God began at a very young age. If she was ever moody or upset about something, her mother would hold her on her lap and say, “What’s the matter, honey? Don’t you know you will always be taken care of?” These words were her anchor throughout life—her faith that she was taken care of by the Divine Mother Herself.
Vijoya Mata met Paramahansa Yogananda when she was living in Phoenix; and soon after decided to become a nun in the Self-Realization monastic order, entering the SRF ashram in Encinitas on August 31, 1949.
Encinitas Cafe Menu, SRF magazine 1949
When Master visited Encinitas, he would write encouraging messages to the nucleus of disciples who managed the restaurant that was a part of the SRF ashram at that time: Meera Mata, Vijoya Mata, and others. In one of those messages he wrote: “It is the spirit with which you serve that is most important. God is our goal. We are all working for Him and the Great Ones who declare Him. Please keep that high ideal and serve all impartially, as if you were serving God who is present in all. To serve people with smiles and good food is to serve God.”
Vijoya Ma took all this quite literally. She treated everyone with equal courtesy and respect, and never turned anyone away—even if she wasn’t sure they could pay for their meal, and even if it meant opening the restaurant again late at night after cleaning up.
One time she asked Master what she could do to hasten her spiritual evolution. He thought for a moment, and then said: “Serve SRF with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul.” And this is just what she did.
On November 19, 1949, Paramahansaji wrote to her: “I have been very glad ever since you came. None can come unto me unless the Heavenly Father draweth her. I know He has sent you here and I accept you as a disciple of the Order. We seek truth in various ways in the beginning, but then when God sends a guru, there your seeking ends. So go on in this work with all your heart and your will with perfect faith and you will reach your goal ….Keep in tune and I will be able to do much for you through the Father.”
Following her years of service in Encinitas, Vijoya Ma served at the Hollywood Ashram Center; and then here at Mt. Washington, where for many years she was the main hostess and counselor. She knew how to listen and was genuinely, deeply concerned for the welfare of those who came to her for counseling. She loved people, and people loved her in return. She enjoyed being with people, but it wasn’t just being with the people; she wanted to do something for them. She wanted to serve them.
She loved whatever work she did, and as a result she was good at everything. Nothing was too great or too small. Even when she was finally unable to do anything but trim and fold old cloths for maintenance use, she performed her little assignment with the same care and loving attention with which she would host Master’s guests. One of my last memories of her is of her standing in the kitchen—and it was no longer so easy for her to walk—busily and enthusiastically scrubbing pots and pans! Nothing escaped Vijoya Ma’s attention. For her, there were no half-measures in the field of activity.
During a period of convalescence, she wrote to some of the other nuns: “I hope you have some work for me to do ….I am getting back more finger dexterity, but I still can’t do much typing—at least on the machine I have. I think what I have to do is to go back to basic typing lessons. We have such books here, I’m sure.” She was then in her mid-eighties!
Our beloved president, Sri Daya Mata, wrote a fitting tribute to Vijoya Ma, in which she said: “We cannot think of her without seeing her bright smile, her dedication in doing good for Master. She was his ambassador of love, sowing seeds of kindness in all whom she met. Through the many, many years here, she served with such faithful love and willingness. These qualities and many others she expressed with quiet dignity, and in doing so, she leaves with us a lasting impression of true spirituality and of what it means to be an exemplary disciple of our blessed Master ….I urge you all to follow her example, so that your lives may reflect, as did hers, the sublime love and wisdom of our Guru.”
Vijoya Mata had a truly beautiful attitude toward the body and its sufferings. Many years ago, when she was undergoing some difficulty, she wrote to Gurudeva: “You asked me if I had a fear of any disease, and I said to you that I did not….lf there is something wrong I will do what is necessary; and however it turns out, will accept the consequences. I am not afraid of pain. I am not afraid of death ….If there should be something seriously wrong, please, dear Sir, don’t take it on yourself. I don’t want to cause you more pain and suffering than you have already had.* I know you will give me the strength to bear it. That is all I ask. Meanwhile, I am having a wonderful time. I am under the wings of God—what more can anyone ask?”
May these beautiful words remind us all of our true nature. For we are not physical bodies; rather, we are immortal, blissful souls made in the image of God. From Him we have come and back to Him we will go one day. Our beloved Vijoya Ma is free again in Him. She receives and benefits from our loving thoughts; so let us continue sending to her our goodwill, our eternal friendship, and our love. May the blessings of God ever encompass her; and draw each one of us as well to the realization of our own divinity in God.
* In helping to lift the karmic load of disciples, a guru sometimes works out on his own body some of their karma. In his compassionate love, Paramahansaji in this way lightened the burden of many a disciple. Having observed this, Vijoya Mata hastened to assure the Master she did not want any of her share of suffering transferred to him.
SRF magazine, Summer 1992