01/31/1958 — 12/07/2010
Nayaswami Maria (Maria Warner) spent her entire adult life serving at Ananda Village and Ananda centers in Seattle and Assisi, Italy. She left the body on December 7, 2010, inspiring many with her inner freedom and strength.
Born in the Soviet Union in 1958, Maria lost both of her parents while still a teenager. She and her older sister, Bella, were able to immigrate as refugees to the United States in 1979 with the intention of seeking the freedom to live a spiritual life. In 1980 she and Bella moved to Ananda Village, becoming disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda.
Maria spent the last 30 years of her life serving her Guru in various ways: at Ananda Assisi, at Ananda Seattle, on Swami Kriyananda’s personal staff at Crystal Hermitage, as a Lightbearer and teacher, and as the driving force and creative energy behind ananda.org for the years from 2005-2010.
With no background in website development, Maria taught herself this skill through seeking out the training she needed. Under her direction, ananda.org emerged as the single most important tool that Ananda has for serving people at a distance. In 2009 she and her husband, Devarshi, the head of Ananda’s Kriya Ministry, took Nayaswami Vows.
Over the last ten years of her life, Maria survived two serious bouts with cancer involving major surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Still she continued to serve whole-heartedly. Once when she came into work during the middle of radiation treatment, someone said to her, “Maria, you don’t have to come in to work.” She replied, “You don’t understand, I must come in to work. It’s what gives me the strength to fight this battle.”
In February 2010, Maria gave a beautiful talk during Inner Renewal Week at The Expanding Light in which she told the story about a humble Indian squirrel, who asked Lord Rama what he could do in the great battle of the Ramayana. After telling the story, she said:
“I really want to be a part of this great work that’s happening, but what can I do? I can serve God all day long, day in and day out, year in and year out, until my breath leaves my body — in samadhi or in death, whichever comes first — in the hope that at the end of it, my Guru will take me up in his arms and say, ‘Well done!’ And I can see in all your eyes that I am not alone.”
The video of that talk can be viewed here:
Maria first realized that she had a brain tumor while helping to lead a Kriya Retreat at Ananda’s Dallas center. In spite of experiencing headaches and extreme dizziness, she gave the Sunday Service talk that Devarshi said was the most beautiful and inspiring he’d ever heard her give. When she told Devarshi that she knew she had a brain tumor, thinking more of consoling him than of her own needs, she said to him, “Don’t worry. I’m free.”
Within a few days, she was unable to walk or open her eyes. As Devarshi was taking her in a wheelchair to get a brain scan, she could feel his concern for her, and said to him kindly but strongly, “Detach yourself, control the reactive process, live the teachings.” (Controlling the reactive process is how the Kriya Yogi is able to rise above the extreme ups and downs of human emotions and become one with God as divine bliss.)
After being medically diagnosed with brain cancer, she spent the following three weeks consciously disconnecting from any involvement with the world, and going deep within to commune with God. During this time, there was constantly a vibration of great peace and sanctity around her.
In a talk given during Maria’s final days, Swami Kriyananda said of Maria:
“I have seen her change over the years — she had cancer of the breast years ago, and she had chemotherapy and went through a great deal of pain because of that — and now she’s reached a point of maturity where nothing can touch her.”
“It is so thrilling to see people reach that point of understanding, where death itself is welcome — it doesn’t matter. You know that you have accomplished what you needed to accomplish, you know that you are who you want to be, and with all of this, you’ll see that underlying all of life, there is bliss.
“At the end of it all — when you’ve gone through it all, at the end of this long trail, seeking who you really are — you’ll understand that it was well worth it. Every saint who has ever found God said that it was well worth it.”
Nayaswami Maria’s last words, spoken a few hours before she died, were “Aum Guru.” At the very end, while Nayaswamis Devarshi, Jyotish and Devi meditated and prayed by her side, she took a few deep breaths, relaxed, and her soul slipped from her body into the arms of her Guru. We are sure Master greeted her with the words: “Well done.”
1. Being blessed with Devarshi by Swami Kriyananda
2. Holding a Western Tanager
3. Chanting in Dallas, soon after she realized her life was near completion