Dipa Ma (March 25, 1911 - September 1989) was born Nani Bala Barua in a small village named Chittagong in East Bengal (currently, Bangladesh), moving to join her husband in Burma when she was 16.
After her husband died in 1957, and her only surviving child, daughter Dipa, was seven years old, Nani "Dipa Ma", was drowning in sorrow and at the lowest point in her life. One day a doctor said to her, "You know, you're actually going to die of a broken heart unless you do something about the state of your mind."
Because she was living in Burma, a Buddhist country, he suggested that she learn how to meditate. It was then she had a dream in which the Buddha appeared to her as a luminous presence and softly chanted a verse from the Dhammapada:
"Clinging to what is dear brings sorrow, Clinging to what is dear brings fear. To one who is entirely free from endearment, There is no sorrow or fear."
Dipa Ma understood the Buddha's advice as a call to master Vipassana meditation, attaining the first stage of enlightenment at the age of 53.
In 1963, due to her impeccable morality and her powers of concentration, she was chosen to study the siddhis or spiritual powers with her teacher, also a family friend, the Indian master Anagarika Munindra, a senior student of Mahasi Sayadaw. These practices included dematerialization, body-doubling, cooking food without fire, mind-reading, visitation of the various realms of heaven and hell, time travel, and knowledge of past lives. Upon mastery she dropped them, as instructed in the eastern tradition.
"My worldly concerns are not a hindrance, because whatever I do, the meditation is there. It never really leaves me. Even when I'm talking, I'm meditating. When I'm eating or thinking about my daughter, that doesn't hinder the meditation."
"Women can go more quickly and deeper in the practice of Vipassana than men because because your minds are more supple. Women's tendency to be more emotional is not a hindrance to practice." Softness of mind, Dipa Ma explained, is what brings more emotion, more movement. This is something to be witnessed, not identified with.
Dipa-Ma's 10 Lessons to Live By
1. Choose one meditation practice and stick with it. If you want to progress in meditation stay with one technique.
2. Meditate every day. Practice now. Don't think you will do more later.
3. Any situation is workable. Each of us has enormous power. It can be used to help ourselves and help others.
4. Practice patience. Patience is one of the most important virtues for developing mindfulness and concentration.
5. Free your mind. Your mind is all stories.
6. Cool the fire of emotions. Anger is a fire.
7. Have fun along the way. I am quite happy. If you come to meditate you will also be happy.
8. Simplify. Live simply. A very simple life is good for every thing. Too much luxury is a hindrance to practice.
9. Cultivate the spirit of blessing. If you bless those around you this will inspire you to be attentive in every moment.
10. It's a circular journey. Meditation integrates the whole person