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Swami Parameshwaranada won't tell you his name before he met Sai Maa, but he can describe how it felt to meet his mentor 20 years ago. "It was just this huge attraction and love," says the man who would eventually quit his Manhattan job as a management consultant to become a monk. "I couldn't stop laughing and smiling. The first thing I asked [Sai Maa] was, 'Can I hug you?' "
This Friday, which is Valentine's Day, it's possible for Miamians to have the same transformative experience. Sai Maa is the first woman ever inducted into the 5,000-year-old Vishnu Saint Society. In Miami, she'll hold a four-day event at the Hilton Miami Downtown called "Living a Passionate Life," where participants will be able to eschew the traditional trappings of the romantic holiday and instead go on a date with their own souls.
"There is something missing in our everyday life that is not kids, money, husband, wife. Something really, really deep inside oneself," says Sai Maa.
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The 60-year-old also known as "Her Holiness" was born in Mauritius, an island nation off the coast of Africa. She moved to France at age 21, married a research scientist, and had two kids. While practicing homeopathic medicine, she was also active in politics, serving on the Bordeaux City Council for years. (She is now divorced and living in Crestone, Colorado.) While in France, Sai Maa met her future teacher, Sathya Sai Baba. It's unclear how they crossed paths.
"A sort of inner crisis happens from which we speak to the universe — to God or whatever it is — until you say, 'Ahhhh, I want to meet a master who has what I'm looking for,'" she says. "And then it happens."
Now Sai Maa purports to be the master you're looking for. The first event of the weekend is called Darshan. It is a free teaser in which, she says, "each person will be in that moment with the prescience of the divine." When pushed for particulars, she says simply: "There will be music. I may speak to you. In a long line, they will wait."
Asked what service she provides, she is similarly vague. "Just love, give light, love people with no condition," she says. "I just simply be myself." Although the Darshan meet-and-greet is free, classes for the rest of the weekend cost $795 total.
Disciple Swami stresses that Sai Maa isn't a cult figure. "It's not about following Maa or being dependent on Maa," he says. "It's about feeling that love and realizing the love within ourselves in the presence of Maa."