It’s not every day that you meet a saint. If ever. So, when you do, you feel a mix of disbelief and a sense of urgency to ask the right questions.
“I meditate, I practice mindfulness. And yet when I leave my house and get on a crowded train, I feel negative feelings all over again,” remarks Robert Harris, author and radio personality. His cheeky yet honest comment is pointed towards Keiko Aikawa, known widely as Yogmata (meaning Yoga Mother in Hindi). At the panel discussion about yoga and mindfulness at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan (FCCJ), Harris follows up that remark with a question for the yogi master: “Do you ever experience negative emotions?” Yogmata simply smiles and says no.
“I’ve achieved enlightenment and I’m at peace,” she explains. “But I do experience a lot of emotions every day. I wish and pray for world peace constantly; I want happiness for all. And I take care of my health to empower everyone.”
Yogmata Keiko Aikawa is the first woman and non-Indian in history to achieve the status of Siddha Master or Himalayan Samadhi Yogi. She’s also one of only two Siddha Masters in the world who it’s currently possible to meet in public. She is also a bona fide Himalayan saint who has achieved supreme Samadhi, a state of human consciousness that transcends the physical and the mental boundaries to achieve oneness with God. It’s an ascetic practice that is dangerous and has resulted in fatalities before. Yogmata has demonstrated Samadhi 18 times in public between 1991 and 2007 to promote world peace and give proof of truth throughout India.
The Humble Yoga Beginnings of a Himalayan Saint
An interest in overall physical and mental wellbeing led Aikawa to take up yoga in her teens. In the 1960s, thanks to the Hippie movement, yoga was gaining popularity not only in the west but in Japan as well. Aikawa, however, went beyond the surface, taking trips to Tibet and India, learning to become a yoga instructor and founding her own yoga school in the 1970s in Tokyo. She also designed her own yoga method, the Aikawa method.
She never aimed to become a master or a saint, but a meeting with one changed her life forever. Aikawa was often invited to TV shows in Japan about yoga and that’s how she met Pilot Baba, a prominent Himalayan saint. She became his assistant. When he invited her to go to the Himalayas and train she said yes without a hint of hesitation.
“I didn’t think, worry or prepare much,” Aikawa told a room of journalists at the FCCJ. “It just felt right. Besides, I was single, so no attachments. I was the youngest child of many. No one in my family really tried to stop me,” she says with a smile.
In a story resembling a Marvel movie plot, Aikawa was whisked away from everything she was doing in Tokyo. She hiked the world’s tallest mountain range unprepared, in sneakers. There, she met Great Saint Hari Baba, who became her mentor. He guided her through rigorous ascetic training at altitudes over 5,000 meters, until she reached the final stages of Samadhi enlightenment.
In addition to becoming a Siddha Master and a saint, Aikawa has also received the prestigious title of Mahamandaleshwar (the Supreme Master of the Universe) from Juna Akhara, the largest spiritual austerities association in India.
Live, Pray, Love
A day in the life of the Yoga Mother starts early with prayer and meditation. She mostly eats vegan food and fills her days with doing work to help others. She writes, teaches, does radio and TV shows as well as housework whenever she can. “Helping people is what makes me happy,” she tells us.
“I never really wanted to become a housewife. My father died when I was young, so maybe all I ever wanted was to transcend death,” Aikawa explains when I ask about her life path.
Aikawa has dedicated her life to helping others, spending most of her time in Japan and India, with occasional work trips to the US. She founded her own NPO, the Yogmata Foundation, donating to hospitals and ashrams. The Indian Government recognized her work and she met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She also gave keynote speeches at the UN in 2016 and 2017.
Currently, Aikawa is staying in Japan longer and more frequently, because the Covid-19 pandemic has made travel very difficult.
“If you worry too much, you age your inner self unnaturally,” Aikawa says. Her words of caution are on the topic of the rise of stress and anxiety today. She notes that even Western psychology has turned to the methods and techniques of mindfulness, that are useful even without the religious element.
Aikawa regularly teaches and does Himalayan secret meditation, including mindfulness. “Everyone has cosmic love inside of them,” she tells us. The goal is to find it within yourself, achieve balance and calm.
“As if peeling an onion, you need to find what’s inside your mind, to reach your soul and your true self.”
In a short meditation and mindfulness session, the Yoga Mother guides everyone in the room with her soothing voice. Later, she lightly touches people on the head, giving a blessing. And before we part ways, her PR team offers everyone cake. It’s in honor of her birthday that was a few days prior.
It’s not every day that you meet a saint. But if or when you do, it’s undoubtedly something to write (home) about.
In Japan, you can see Yogmata every Friday on BS-TBS TV show, Wonderful Tomorrow and hear her every Sunday on TBS Radio in the show Message to Happiness.
She’s also on InterFM Radio, Himalayan Voice – Time for Listening Meditation on the last Saturday of every month.
Her books in English are available for purchase online too.