Remembering Dadi Janki

22 April 2020
Remembering Dadi Janki
Dear URI global community, 
Dadi Janki, world spiritual leader and head of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization, passed away March 27, 2020. Dadi was 104 years old. Dadi's spiritual dedication and wisdom is passed on in the life of the Brahma Kumaris organization. The Reverend Charles Gibbs, founding executive director of URI, wrote this remembrance of Dadi. During his years at URI, Charles remembers Dadi asking him to join her in "God-empowered service." May Dadi's energy of love and service continue to flow among us. Thank you, Charles, for this heartfelt remembrance.
With gratitude,
Sally Mahé
URI Senior Consultant

Remembering Dadi Janki

1916 - 2020

A Remembrance by the Reverend Charles Gibbs

18 April 2020

Dadi Janki was a holy woman.

I met her in the fall of 1996, only a few months after I began my work as URI’s founding executive director. To be in her presence was to be bathed in the seemingly limitless spiritual light she radiated, even as I sensed she was as solid and deeply rooted as a mountain; and to be beguiled by the playful, mischievous, little-girl energy that sparkled in her eyes.

One of my commitments, as I moved into international interfaith work, was to experience another tradition from the inside out. So I became a student of Sister Chandru Desai, leader of the Brahma Kumaris in San Francisco, and through her met Dadi Janki. For those who don’t know, the Brahma Kumaris are a global spiritual movement, founded in India in 1937 by a retired jeweler, Brahma Baba, after a series of visions that told him that the positive future of India and the world rested not with the fathers and sons, but with the mothers and daughters. At age twenty-one, Dadi Janki became one of the Brahma Kumaris’ founding members and, ultimately, their spiritual leader.

Distinguished by her deep spirituality and charismatic leadership, she was instrumental in founding Brahma Kumaris centers in many parts of India. In 1974, five years after Brahma Baba’s passing, Dadi responded to an inner call to help plant the first Brahma Kumaris centers outside India. At fifty-eight and speaking no English, she chose to leave India and the Brahma Kumaris community that had been her home for thirty-seven years to emigrate to the UK, knowing Britain’s immigration laws would prevent her from returning to India for several years.

Since then, for a quarter-century, she had been an indefatigable, spirit-filled missionary for the Brahma Kumaris, helping to establish Brahma Kumaris centers in every part of the world. Though small in physical stature, she instantly became and, even after her recent passing on 27 March 2020 after 104 years on Earth, remains a spiritual giant and a bright light in my life.

Over the twenty-three years I knew Dadi, I met her in many parts of the world -- the U.S., the U.K., India, Spain, Australia. Each meeting was memorable in its own way, but a meeting at the Brahma Kumaris’ Global Cooperation House in London remains most vivid. Word came that there would be a surprise celebration of Dadi’s birthday. Her second birthday -- not the day she entered the world, but the day she returned from near death with a deep pact for service with God.

In December about five years before I met her, Dadi contracted double pneumonia at the Brahma Kumaris center in remote Mt. Abu, India. Near death, she was taken to the hospital a lengthy drive away in Ahmedabad. Still near death on New Year’s Eve, she insisted that she would join the Brahma Kumaris on Mt. Abu from her hospital room meditating all night to bring in the New Year. Even though those gathered around her were concerned that she was far too weak, she would not change her mind -- deeply-rooted as a mountain. 

Hour after hour, she meditated. Hour by hour, she grew stronger. In the morning, she walked out of the hospital and returned to Mt. Abu. She once shared with me that in her meditation she had told God that she was ready to come home. She was also willing to stay on Earth if there was work God still wanted her to do. If I stay, she said to God, you have to help me. She did. And God did.

From that New Year’s Eve, Dadi regarded December 31st as her birthday, understanding that God had given her a second life that night so she could continue in service. That day in London, Dadi asked me to join her in celebrating a new birthday. To join her, in my own way through my work, in God-empowered service. It was easy that day to say, yes. Easy to let myself carried on the wings of divine energy she channeled and to commit to channeling that energy in deeper and deeper ways myself. In my own imperfect way, I’ve continued that commitment from that day to this. And continued to celebrate the birthday Dadi Janki and I share.

Thank you, Dadi.

Read Dadi Janki's obituary in the PDF below.