Arni Narendran – India
The Life and Altruism of Wanda Dynowska – Uma Devi –Tenzin Chodon
(30 June 1888 – 20 March 1971)
The Mystic Journey of a Polish Theosophist
In the sacred mountains of Arunachala, the abode of Lord Shiva, near the holy town of Thiruvannamalai, in South India, lived a sage by the name of Ramana Maharishi. One morning, after sitting in silence with the sage amongst many other Truth seekers, a young Polish lady approached the sage with a question about her dream in which she had a vision of Shiva. She asked the sage how she could retain her blissful vision for eternity. The Maharishi told her that a vision can never be eternal, therefore she should ask herself, who am I? One cannot see God and still retain once individuality. The seer and the seen unite into one being. There is no cogniser, no cognition nor the cognized. All merge into one Supreme Shiv. This was the sage whom Carl Jung described as the whitest patch in a white cloth of spirituality.
The young lady was Wanda Dynowska who came to India in 1935. The death of marshal Jose Pilsudski the nationalist leader and unifier of modern-day Poland, triggered the departure from her country. She had held him in high esteem and his death had disillusioned her. She traveled to India on a soul-searching mission. Born to Catholic parents in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1888, Wanda was drawn to the Bhagawad Gita, the Koran and other spiritual books at a young age. This drew her to Theosophy and particularly to Annie Besant who fought for the downtrodden, women emancipation and self-determination for colonized nations. In 1917 and 1918 she worked for the development of the Theosophical Society in Poland. She translated Alcyone’s (J. Krishnamurti) At the feet of the Master into Polish. After Poland regained its independence on 11th November 1918, she organized a Theosophical congress with the help of French Theosophists.
While in India she stayed at the headquarters of the TS in Adyar and made frequent trips to the Ramana Ashram. She was a bridge between Poland and India exchanging the richness of their cultures with publications and translations of over 100 books, including the Bhagawad Gita, the teachings of Ramana Maharishi, which attracted many Poles to come to the Ramana Ashram.
As part of a Polish – Indian Library project, she corroborated with Maurice Frydman, a Polish Jew. He was a fellow Theosophist who went by the name of Bharatananda. As part of the project she translated many Polish works ranging from Kochanowiski to the underground Polish poetry popular during World War II. The books were translated into many languages such as, Hindi, English and Tamil. She became a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi who christened her with an Indian name of “Uma Devi”. She helped the Mahatma as a secret courier carrying letters to him. Gandhi was under the watchful eyes of English secret agents. She raised resources for Polish refugees through the local Maharajas, and set up schools for them imparting Montessori education. In September 2019 a memorial was installed in honor of the 5,000 Polish refugees who sought shelter in the town of Kholapur in Maharastra.
She was a spiritual seeker donning many hats. She went to north India to study Kashmir Saivism, with Swami Lakshmanjoo in Ishwar Ashram, a distinctly variant school from that of Tamil Shaivism. Shaivism was at its peak in southern India by the patronage of the Chola Emperors in the 10th century.
Her meeting with the His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in 1956, was a turning point in her life, and drew her to a new Path. The Dalai Lama rechristened Uma Devi as ‘Tenzin Chordon’ after she started to embrace Buddhism. Always drawn to working for refugees, she settled down in the town of Bylakuppe near Mysore, the largest settlement of Tibetan refugees. The settlement is larger than that of Dharamshala in northern India. Dharamshala is the seat of the exiled spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Buddhist pontiff described her as a determined strong-willed person with a frail body. When her end came in 1971, she requested a Catholic burial, and her tombstone is a glaring memory of her unsung epitaph:
“Here lies a Universal Soul - a Polish Theosophist- Born a Catholic, embraced Hinduism and settled for a service in practical Buddhist altruism. She left behind a footprint which was deeply etched in the sands of time”
This East European Yogi was indeed an epitome of Light and Compassion. She opened the doors of Inner Light in both India and her native Poland.
*Ramana Hridayam – Face Book Page
*Enlightened Soul- A documentary film produced by Sujata Sett and directed by Tanmay Das screened at the Rastrapathy Bhawan, Home of the President of India, New Delhi, and at the Theosophical Society, Adyar in the presence of Tim Boyd. Also screened at Polish and Kolkotta film festival.
*Cosmopolitaneview.com /June 25, 2013
*Wanda Dynowska – A Biography by Kazimierz Takarsi.
*Theosophical history – Journal of Research Vol III July 1994- Ed Professor James Santucci
*Vogue-16 November 2016 – The Polish Women with an Indian Name
* A spiritual and sensitive Soul –The Hindu, Chennai, 29, September 2016.