(2 Jul '01)
“It means so much to me to see you here!”
A young woman was shaking Daniel’s hand in the lobby of the Wyndham Hotel in Chicago, while strains of “Sri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama” reverberated from the nearby ballroom where Mother sat giving darshan.
“I can’t tell you how good it feels to find you coming here to see Mother,” another passer-by stepped up to say.
“Your presence here gives an important message,” said another person.
Not one of these three knew Daniel, but all shared such enthusiasm. Why? Who is this “Daniel”?
He is the brother of one of Amma’s long-time devotees from the Dallas area. It is his first visit to Amma. This is a familiar story. How come so many strangers are so pleased to see this particular new son of Amma?
It is because Daniel, clad in the traditional hooded, brown robes, is in fact Father Daniel Chowning, a Discalced Carmelite. That is, he is a monk and a Roman Catholic priest.
For people from the Christian tradition, and specifically the Roman Catholic tradition, it is a joy to see someone like Daniel, whose commitment to his religion is unquestionable and whose openness to Amma is apparent. Mother wants to strengthen our spirituality on the foundations we already have.
So Father Daniel has come to meet Amma and to have Her darshan, recognising God’s love in yet another one of the many guises God is free to choose.
Before coming to meet Mother, Daniel had mentioned to his sister Ruth Ann (or, as Mother calls her, Vidya) that he liked the rudraksha beads so many devotees used for malas. So what did she do? She asked one of the malamakers to make a special mala for Daniel, not the familiar one with a hundred and eight beads and a Guru bead, but prayer beads of his own tradition: a rosary of three beads, a large bead, and then five sets of ten beads set apart by larger single beads. All rudrakshas. And hanging at the end, a crucifix
Just as many devotees take their malas to Mother for blessing. Daniel took his rudraksha rosary to Amma. She kissed it and put it around his neck. Daniel then moved to the side of the stage where he sat quietly, praying in his own way; in expressing his reverence for the Divine Feminine, he was apparently quite at ease though the environment was new. It seemed more than mere coincidence that at that very time, in the background, there were the soft strains of “Daya Karo Mata” (a bhajan that calls upon the Divine Mother for compassion).
Later that same night, Daniel availed himself of yet more of the abundance God was letting flow: he approached Amma for a mantra. Pulling his head close to Her right side so that She could whisper the Sanskrit words into his ear in the ancient Vedic manner, She initiated this Christian son. He was asked, before he reached Her side, what focus he would like for his mantra. Jesus Christ? Mary? For of course Mother gives mantras from all the religious traditions, and would gladly give him a Christian mantra. He said, “I feel completely confident in my own Christian faith. My mantra can come from any tradition. I would like Mother to choose the mantra She finds best for me.” She did.
The next day, Daniel headed home to his monastery in Holy Hill, Wisconsin. Built in a place long considered sacred by native Americans, the Carmelite site is dedicated to the Divine Mother.
And today, Holy Hill has a new blessing: the presence of one of Amma’s children, supported in his own faith and drawn into the all-inclusive embrace of Amma.