Shri Mataji's Bid for the Nobel Peace Prize

Simon Dicon

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi - the guru and self-proclaimed Goddess of Sahaja Yoga - was a nominee for the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize. The story of her bid begins with a small group of Sahaja Yogis travelling to Scandinavia to present the nomination. Apparently they were not well received at first but, after some under-the-table bandhans (a Sahaja Yoga technique), the situation turned in their favour and the nomination was accepted. This auspicious beginning suggested that the Divine was with them and augured well for the future success of the project.

In early 1996 the Sahaja Yogis sent out information on the "prestigious Nobel Peace Prize" in the belief that keeping their "attention on the awarding of this honour" could swing the result. In addition, the whole armoury of Sahaja Yoga techniques was employed including bandhans, shoe-beating and special pujas (worship of Shri Mataji) in order to induce a favourable decision from the Nobel Committee.

During Shri Mataji's March 1996 tour of Asia, she complained that another candidate - President Li of Taiwan - was not really for democracy and should not have been nominated. She told the Taiwanese Sahaja Yogis to collect data to support this and report it to the Nobel Committee. It is notable that Shri Mataji's campaigning against 'unsuitable' Nobel nominees was limited to the year when she was a nominee herself. Later that month, Li Tun-Hui was re-elected by popular vote in the first-ever direct presidential elections in Taiwan.

According to the same report of Shri Mataji's 1996 Asia tour, she let it be known that the Nobel Peace Prize candidate list was very short that year, and that she had a very good chance of winning it. I have checked with the Norwegian Nobel Institute whether the number of candidates was less than usual and they replied that there were "125 nominations in 1996, quite as expected."

The report on the same Asia tour in the international Sahaja Yoga newsletter states that Shri Mataji 'observed' that she was "short listed". Most of the work of the Nobel Committee goes into reviewing the qualifications of the candidates on the short list of those which it has found most suitable. It is impossible to check Shri Mataji's claim as the short list is only made available after 50 years. However, the Norwegian Nobel Institute has informed me that "No one, except the laureate of course, is told they are on the short list." If Shri Mataji really was given information that she was on the short list, then it was a breach of the statutes of the Nobel Foundation. However, given Shri Mataji's ignorance about the number of nominees, this seems unlikely. Nevertheless, Shri Mataji's claim has been accepted as factual by her trusting followers and official Sahaja Yoga advertising now says that Shri Mataji "made the short list for the Nobel Peace Prize."

At the time of Guru Puja in July 1996, a senior Sahaja Yogi suggested to Shri Mataji that, if she won the Nobel Peace Prize and moved to America, it would "change the face of Sahaja Yoga in America forever." The official report continues, "Shri Mataji stated that when She receives the Nobel Prize we will see what can be done!" Clearly there was more to be gained than the prize money of 7.4 million Swedish kronor ($1,200,000) and Shri Mataji was confident of victory. As the announcement drew near, the Sahaja Yogis intensified their barrage of Sahaja Yoga techniques in a final effort to precipitate the desired outcome.

Shri Mataji's confidence was misplaced. On 11 October the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1996 to Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and Josť Ramos-Horta "for their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor ... [and] their sustained and self-sacrificing contributions for a small but oppressed people." The Roman Catholic Bishop Belo hailed the award as "a victory for East Timorese".

Many Sahaja Yogis were mystified. However, it was soon put around that Shri Mataji was one of the final 3 from which the winner was chosen. This would imply a further breach of the statutes of the Nobel Foundation which hold that there must be no mention "of the contents of discussions relating to choices of candidates for the various awards". However, the Norwegian Nobel Institute have assured me that "There is no final list of 3." Thus the evidence suggests that this story, that was passed around at the national leader level and presumably originated with Shri Mataji, was as baseless as Shri Mataji's claims to having been short listed.

Some of the Sahaja Yogis blamed the failure of their Sahaja Yoga methods on themselves. One internal document states: "obviously, the desire wasn't strong enough." Others saw the problem elsewhere. Writing in a 1997 issue of the international Sahaja Yoga newsletter, a senior Sahaja Yogi lamented Shri Mataji's failure to win the prize saying that her victory would have restored "the credibility of the prize itself which, in the past, was misled in recognizing as spiritual leaders some political agitators or ecclesiastic buffoons."

Nobel Peace Prize laureates other than Josť Ramos-Horta who were agitators for political freedoms include Nelson Mandela (1993), Aung San Suu Kyi (1991), Amnesty International (1977) and Martin Luther King (1964). A Nobel Peace Prize laureate other than Bishop Belo who held ecclesiastic office was Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984). When Shri Mataji was still in the running, and the Sahaja Yogis were trying to swing the result by keeping their "attention on the awarding of this honour", they circulated a list of past winners of the "prestigious Nobel Peace Prize" that included the above laureates as well as Mikhail Gorbachev (1990), the Dalai Lama (1989), Lech Walesa (1983), Andrei Sakharov (1975), Linus Pauling (1962), Dag Hammerskjold (1961) and Willy Brandt (1961).

A week after the announcement of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, the Sahaja Yogis gathered at Shri Mataji's Italian palace to worship her as the Goddess Durga who kills her foes with the many weapons she holds in her many hands. According to an internal Sahaja Yoga report on this 'Navaratri Puja', "The winners of the Nobel Prize are today criticized. Even the people who selected them are being attacked." The truth is that the Nobel Committee's decisions have frequently been criticised ever since the first prize was divided in 1901.

In 1996 it was not only the Sahaja Yogis who were reproachful. Indonesia, who had occupied East Timor in 1975 and carried out numerous gross human rights violations, expressed "regret" over the decision and refused to attend either a reception with Norwegian royalty or the Nobel ceremony itself. Indonesia accused Ramos-Horta of "inciting and manipulating the people of East Timor" and reportedly warned Belo to temper his remarks or face exile or other repercussions. The exiled Ramos-Horta dismissed the criticism saying: "I'm as guilty of inciting my people as the Dalai Lama is guilty of inciting the people of Tibet, I am as guilty as Nelson Mandela of inciting the people of South Africa. If that is our guilt, our collective guilt, I accept that."

During the first half of 1998 Indonesia was reeling from economic collapse. Not only were there the usual gross violations of human rights in Aceh, Irian Jaya and East Timor - but there were months of orchestrated anti-Chinese raping, pillaging and murder. On 2 May 1998 an official Sahaja Yoga newsletter wrote of Indonesia: "What the western press overlooks is the pure grace and friendliness ... of the people of this country." By the grace of the Indonesian military and their militias, the 1996 Navaratri Puja proclamation - that the winners and selectors of the Peace Award were being criticised and attacked - proved to be prophetic.

Bishop Belo had accepted the prize in the name of the "voiceless people" of East Timor who, on 30 August 1999, voted resoundingly for independence. The subsequent slaughter of hundreds of East Timorese by the Indonesian military and their militias shocked the world. It probably occurred to some Sahaja Yogis that the people who had collectively usurped Shri Mataji's prize were receiving retribution, perhaps at the hands of an angry or jealous deity. As an Australian Sahaja Yogi once wrote of Shri Mataji, "All deities always attend to Her and do not tolerate even the slightest disrespect to Her. They may show some restraint in Her presence out of modesty and love for Her but beyond a certain limit they may act, in which case punishment is inescapable." Shri Mataji usually blames the victims of any disaster, whether it be caused by nature (eg an earthquake or flood) or by man (eg the holocaust). This may seem far-fetched to the non-Sahaja Yogi reader so supporting evidence is provided on 2 webpages:

Western governments were slow to intervene to stop the carnage in East Timor. They would have been slower had their not been such public outcry, orchestrated in part by groups such as Amnesty International. Fortunately international support for the East Timorese had been strengthened by the award of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize to Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and Josť Ramos-Horta.


parent nodeSahaja Yoga page


this page uploaded 20 December1999