Question: Amma, you went through a lot of suffering in your childhood. When you see people suffering, do you remember those days?
Amma: Is there anyone who hasn’t suffered in his life? It is true that Amma had to go through many hardships in Her childhood. But she didn’t think of it as suffering. Amma’s mother, Dayamanti, fell ill and was unable to attend to the household chores. In those circumstances, Amma thought that if She took care of Her family, even if Her education had to be discontinued, it would allow her siblings to continue their schooling. Thus She stopped going to school and took upon Herself the whole burden of the domestic duties. She had to cook for the family, prepare tiffin boxes for Her brothers and sisters before they went to school, look after Her sick mother, do all the laundry, fetch grass for the cows, and look after all the goats, cows, ducks, and poultry. In this way She had to toil from four o’clock in the morning until midnight. It was through Her work that She came to know about the suffering and despair that exists in the world. For example, She had to visit about 50 houses everyday to collect tapioca peels for the cows. In one house everyone had more than enough food to eat, while in the neighbouring house, everyone was starving and the children were lying on the floor, weak and exhausted from lack of food. In one house, Amma heard the children praying for the longevity of their parents, while at the same time, the old woman in the house next door was neglected by her grown up children and had only stories of despair to tell. She would say, Look! No one cares about me! They throw me some food now and then as if I were a dog. No one washes my clothes. They just curse me and turn their backs on me.”
That woman had worked all her grownup life for the sake of her children. Her health had deteriorated because of all her hard work; and now, when she was old, emaciated and bedridden, no one bothered to take care of her. There was no one to give her a glass of water when she was thirsty. Amma brought her food from home and fed her many times.
Many elderly people are neglected in this way. Their sons and daughters, who as children prayed that their parents would live forever, now, when they are grownup and have families of their own to take care of, look upon their parents as a burden and a nuisance. They long to get rid of their aged parents, for they loved them only for as long as they could gain something from them. If someone has a cow, they love that cow because it gives them milk. But as soon as the cow stops giving milk, they get rid of it.
It was by observing these things that Amma came to understand that all worldly love is rooted in selfishness; people love each other only for the sake of their own selfish gains.
There was a pond close to Amma’s parental home. Amma would bring the aged grandmothers in the neighbourhood to this pond, where She bathed them and washed their clothes. She would also fetch food from home and feed the starving children. Her father didn’t like any of this. He scolded Her saying, “Why do you bring all these filthy urchins with runny noses here and give them things from the house?”
Thus it was through witnessing the suffering and the hardships people had to face that Amma learned about the nature of worldly life.
When poor people get sick, they visit government hospitals. They have to wait for hours in a queue to register their names. When they have finally been examined by a doctor and given a prescription, they have to worry about where to find the money to buy medicines. Amma has met many people in that situation. Most of the people in this neighbourhood can barely make two ends meet with the little they manage to earn each day. If they get sick or bedridden, they have no money for food or medicine. Amma as seen people who were writhing with pain but had no money for painkillers. Just one tablet would have sufficed to ease their pain, but they couldn’t afford it. Because of this they had to spend the whole day in extreme pain.
Amma has also seen a lot of children worrying because they didn’t have enough money to buy the paper on which to write their exams. She has seen people sewing buttons on their shirts with thorns. Thus Amma has seen and heard and experienced the suffering and hardships that people have to undergo in their lives. This knowledge prompted Her to look within. Everything in the world became Her Guru. Even a tiny ant was Her Guru.
Because Amma shared the sorrows and suffering of the poor when She was a child, She is now able to understand people’s pain and suffering, without them having to explain anything. Quite a lot of these people come to see Amma every day.
If Amma’s wealthy children made up their minds, they could alleviate the suffering of these people to a great extent. Amma would like to urge Her wealthy children to be compassionate and serve the people who are poor and suffering.