Today it is not uncommon for westerners to come to India for spiritual inspiration. Even big-wigs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have come. Yet this was not the case in 1935, when a 29 year old woman embarked on the long journey from Austria to India and never went back till she died 50 years later. Atmananda, who was called Blanca in her youth in Vienna, came because of Jiddu Krishnamurthi. Later, she was fascinated by Anandamayi Ma and became her disciple. I met Atmananda in 1980 in the surroundings of Anandamayi Ma in Dehradun and stayed in touch with her till she died.
Atmananda was already above 70, had her head shaven and wore a saffron cotton sari, a sign that she had renounced worldly desires.
A small cottage was her domicile and khichdi her usual meal. And as I found a place nearby, where I used to stay frequently during the early 1980s, we became good friends and had long, for me very inspiring talks. In spite of her age, Atmananda was aware, interested, open minded and knew for each topic an appropriate comment by Anandamayi Ma or other sages like Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda or Ramana Maharshi.
Atmananda was Jewish. Her grandmother died in a concentration camp, and her father managed to escape to the USA, yet survived only for a few months after his arrival there. However, there was no bitterness, when she recounted this to me, a German.
Already as a teenager she was fascinated by Jiddu Krishnamurthi and finally taught English for full 18 years in his school in Varanasi. By the side, she gave piano concerts for All India Radio.
Occasionally she heard the name of Anandamayi Ma. Yet she was not particularly interested. She rather would have liked to meet Ramana Maharshi, the sage from Tiruvannamalai in South India. But during the Second World War, as a national from an enemy country, she was not allowed to travel there.
Then an Englishman, Lewis Thompson, came to her school in Varanasi. She, as the only other foreigner, was asked to look after him. The newcomer was seriously in search of truth….
…. Sorry, in the contract for my book I had agreed to truncate those articles on my blog which are covered in my book. There is a chapter on Atmananda in my book, so please, if you want to know more, read my book “Thank you India”.
Here are the links to buy it at Garuda Prakashan, the publisher. It will also be soon on Amazon.
The price for one book is Rs 499 in India (first link).
There is also an offer for a gift pack of 5 copies for Rs 1875, which means one book comes to Rs 375.(second link)