Dadi Janki had the ability to awaken a profound innate pure peace within everyone around her, faces beamed, and hearts melted, but Dadi took no credit, she claimed God was working through her. For over 100 years, God was Dadi’s teacher, parent, beloved, child and sole companion, and she worked tirelessly for world peace. On March 27, 2020, at the age of 104, Dadi passed away. This is her story.

Born Janki Samtani in Pakistan, 1916, she was later given the name Dadi, meaning elder sister. Her devout Hindu parents regularly attended spiritual gatherings, and she recalls experiencing a strong connection to God as young as two and became drawn to a life of spirituality. As a teen she attended a spiritual class conducted by a woman, which was extremely rare. Dadi knew this was her path, and in 1937, aged 21, she joined the female-led spiritual movement, becoming one of the founding members of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University.

After Partition, the Brahma Kumaris (BKs) moved to India, where more women began sharing spiritual knowledge throughout the country. Then in 1974, aged 58, speaking no English and with no formal education, Dadi was sent to London to open the first BK centre outside India.

In a tiny flat in North West London, Dadi teamed up with young English-speaking Sister Jayanti, a novice BK. She became Dadi’s interpreter and together they offered courses in Raja Yoga, an open-eyed meditation that focuses on the inner self, the soul, and offers answers to fundamental questions about life.

As in India, Dadi insisted Raja Yoga should be free and accessible to everyone. Voluntary donations were accepted, but no one was obliged to donate. Dadi, like all BKs, never took a penny for herself, had no possessions other than a handful of simple white cotton saris and one pair of slippers, she lived modestly and ate simple vegetarian food, cooked from scratch in God’s remembrance. A small group of regular meditators emerged, but Dadi’s vision was greater. Every soul had a right to inner peace, to God’s love and a better world, the message needed to go further.

In 1986, during the United Nations (UN) International Year of Peace, Dadi aged 70, launched the BKs first international project. A Million Minutes of Peace Appeal collected not money from people, but minutes of peace, and became the UN’s largest non-fundraising project that year. Two years later, Dadi launched Global Co-Operation for a Better World, collecting people’s visions for positive change in over 120 countries, many of those visions became reality. In 1992 Dadi’s contribution to peace was formerly recognised, and she became one of ten Keepers of Wisdom, a group of eminent spiritual leaders who assemble at large UN gatherings to provide spiritual perspective on critical global issues.

In 1995, approaching 80, Dadi opened the first Inner Space shop in London’s Regent Street, later moving to Covent Garden. Her vision was to provide a small quiet room that would offer an oasis of calm to busy city workers, with a range of free talks and courses that would appeal to anyone. It pioneered events for businesses and multinational organisations, paving the way for another 11 Inner Space’s to be opened in other major cities around the UK.

Throughout her life, Dadi mystified doctors by overcoming debilitating illnesses. Believing modern health care coupled with a daily spiritual practise was key to her survival. This concept inspired the launch of the Janki Foundation in 1997. A UK charity promoting spirituality in healthcare, it now supports activities in over 30 countries, including Global Hospital in Mount Abu, India.

In 2003 she was one of the religious leaders joining HRH Prince Charles launch Respect: It’s About Time. In his opening Prince Charles said “The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University has become a strong ally of one of my principal charities, The Prince’s Trust.

Celebrating the life and work of Dadi Janki
Celebrating the life and work of Dadi Janki

By the time Dadi was 90, she had overseen the construction of Global Co-Operation House in London, the BK’s international headquarters outside India, acquired Retreat Centres in Oxford and West Sussex and inspired the opening of a multitude of BK centres in over 120 countries across every continent. Courses, conferences and retreats were now available to individuals, in areas of business, education, healthcare and prisons, as well as religious and political leaders, all free of charge. The Brahma Kumaris had become a global organisation, one of the UK’s top 200 charities and was considered by many, to be the largest female led spiritual organisation in the world.

In 2007, aged 91, Dadi Janki became the administrative head of the Brahma Kumaris, yet despite being at the top of an international organisation, nothing was in her name and she took no credit for anything, she was merely the instrument, in fact she removed the words ‘I’ and ‘my’ from her vocabulary.

Despite her age and illnesses, Dadi continued to travel the world well into her late 90s, often outpacing people decades younger. Dadi may have physically left this world, but her legacy lives on.

“If you can write, do wonders for the world with your pen. If you can speak, bring hope to the world with your words. If you can heal, care for the world with your heart. And if you can lead, nurture and serve the world. Seeing you, those around you will be influenced and inspired to care.”

Dadi Janki

This article was compiled by Inner Space, Covent Garden

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