5 December 2006 — Amritapuri
Question & Answer with Amma
Amma’s children throughout the world know the bliss that wells up in their hearts when Amma’s eyes find theirs. Gazing into that infinity of compassion, the mind stops, grows tender as a flower and one is overcome with love. In that love, the conviction of the Mother-child bond shines like the sun. The devotee or disciple knows Amma to be his very own, and he to be hers. Then there are the times when, regardless of how often one places himself in front of Amma, it is as if she does not even see him. A feeling of being lost in the crowd creeps in and, along with it, perhaps doubt in the person’s relationship with Amma.
One brahmachari, frustrated with this seemingly endless cycle of love and loss, and desiring to transcend it, put forth the following questions to Amma last Tuesday: “When I think of the moments when Amma has talked to me or looked at me, I feel so much of Amma’s love. But when Amma doesn’t express her love outwardly to me, I don’t feel any love inside. If my love wavers in this manner, am I not, in fact, selfishly loving my self. How to develop unconditional love?”
After reading the questions, Amma began searching the crowd for its author. Finally her eyes found him: “Hey, you get over here!” Amma playfully ordered him. The brahmachari got up from his seat and came before Amma, sitting at her feet. Amma gazed down at him for some time and then began speaking to all the disciples and devotees surrounding her: “When Amma isn’t looking at him, he is not remembering the times that Amma has looked at him in the past,” Amma lamented. She then raised a question: “When we come back home after praying at a temple, we remember the image of the god installed there, don’t we? So if you can remember what you’ve seen in the temple, why can’t you remember Amma? Only remembering Amma when she looks at you—that’s not correct.” Amma stopped speaking for a moment and then asked, “One look of Amma is enough. Isn’t it?”
Amma then turned to the question wherein the brahmachari speculated that in his “loving” and “not loving” Amma he was really just selfishly loving himself. “Everyone should love himself—not the body, but the Self. Only when the shell of the ego is broken, will the tree come forth. Know your Self.”
Amma then quoted some of the maha-vakyas, the great statements of the Upanishads, like aham brahmasmi [“I am Brahman”] and tat tvam asi [“That you are”]. “To know one’s Self, we contemplate on such sentences. Then you come to know Amma as not different from your own Self. In fact, there is nothing to reject, only to accept. What we need is this attitude of acceptance. We need to say ‘Yes’ to ‘yes’ and say ‘No’ to ‘no.’ When we say ‘No,’ duality appears and we start rejecting. You should see the good in everything.”
Amma then went on to explain how much life has changed in recent years. Amma said that until recently, Indian society had many restrictions in place that, although they may seem severe by today’s standards, were very useful for people desiring to gain mastery over the senses and mind. “Today’s world is like living in a supermarket,” Amma said. “Everything is available. It is like putting sugar on the tongue and telling yourself not to salivate. It is very difficult. Living in the midst of such a world, we are trying to obtain some amount of vairagya [dispassion]. If we live in a supermarket, we may have desire for the objects within it. If we don’t have money, we will steal in order to eat. We may have the understanding, but because of the power of the vasana [mental tendency], we can slip and fall.”
Amma then said that one method of transcending the temptations of the world is to sit in solitude and remember the Guru’s words, his actions, his face, his smile, the way he has looked at us, etc… Amma said that, in fact, this is a shortcut to forgetting one’s body consciousness.
“If we have a friend who is a very good person, we will naturally begin to imitate him. Likewise, by contemplating on the Guru, we will begin to imbibe his qualities. When we become purnam [eternally full and complete] like the Guru, there will no longer be any distinctions such as ‘inside’ and ‘outside.’ When you transcend duality, there is nothing to reject. When you understand that there is nothing but your own Self everywhere, what is there to reject? Whatever is inside is the same outside—isn’t it? You see your Atma in everything—isn’t it so? The Guru is not dvaitam [duality]. The Guru is advaitam [non-duality]. The Guru is the Atma [Self]. ”
Amma then began to speak about how essential a Guru is in the life of a spiritual aspirant. She likened spiritual aspirants to seeds that need the proper conditions in order to sprout forth. Living under a Realized Master, Amma said, brings these proper conditions. “Good qualities are there within us, but we don’t have the necessary circumstances to develop those qualities,” Amma said. “The conditions in the world are not conducive for our minds to grow. The mind is traveling outside through our senses. The presence of the Guru is like getting the proper weather. Even if the seed is good, if the weather is not appropriate it will not sprout.” Amma said that spiritual aspirants living in the world without a Guru are like seeds that need shade trying to sprout under the full heat of the sun.
“The Guru is the ultimate experience,” Amma said. “The external Guru has become the Guru through direct experience of the Divine. So what we are following is not the external form but the experience in which the Guru is eternally established. The Guru is like an astronaut who has actually visited the moon, as apposed to someone who has merely studied about the moon. The Guru shares his experience and we experience it through him. We attain many lifetimes of progress just by sitting at the feet of the Guru. In his presence we are able to do this without going through those many years of spiritual practices. Then in just one lifetime we can attain [the totality of his experience].
Amma then said that in order to awaken the inner Guru, we need to follow the guidance of the outer Guru. “The presence of a Guru, his guidance and the proper climactic conditions are necessary for a spiritual aspirant,” Amma said. “We need to contemplate on the experiences we gain being in the Guru’s presence. The Guru is the scripture. The Guru is a jnani [“one who knows,” i.e. a Realized Master]. Anything less is just book knowledge. It is like the difference between hearing about someone playing a drum and really listening to someone play a drum. The book is talking about beating the drum. The Guru is really beating the drum—isn’t it? The Guru is someone living advaita; so follow him.”
Amma said that if one only loves the Guru when the Guru is looking at him or talking to him, then he, indeed, is merely loving his own ego. “Real love is when you make the bond with the Atma,” Amma said. “You may say, ‘Amma, you are my mother, you are my mother,’ but then when a situation comes, you start saying, ‘Oh, Amma is like this…. Amma is like that… Why is she not looking at me? Why is she not talking to me?'” With a mischievously smile on her face, Amma then said, “If I give you a test, then everyone’s true face will emerge.”
Amma stressed the importance of overcoming one’s likes and dislikes, mentioning how the brahmachari who asked the question had agreed to do seva outside Amritapuri even though his heart is ever longing to be with Amma. “We are here to overcome our likes and dislikes,” Amma said. “Then, there will be no individuality. The Bhagavad-Gita says the same thing. Amma may ask you to do something that you don’t like, but often you only do what you like. You will come back to me and say, ‘I can’t do it!’ or ‘I can only do the other thing.’ So, ultimately, you end up only doing what you like. The likes and dislike are not transcended, nor one’s individuality.”
Pointing down at the brahmachari who had asked the question, Amma said, “When he goes outside, he is always thinking of Amma. Like a fish out of water, he wants to come back to Amritapuri. Such should be our craving to know God. That much yearning is required.” Amma then told everyone that the reason she wasn’t showing the brahmachari love was so that he would think it was better to be outside the Ashram, where Amma had sent him.
It was the compassion of the mother bird, pecking the fledgling out of the nest.
Amma concluded by telling everyone that they should become brave like a lions, but with hearts as soft as butter. “You should have soft words and nice interactions with people,” she said.
Indeed, Amma said, in loving Amma her disciples and devotees are simply loving their own Atma, their own Self. “You are that Self even now, but currently you are in a state of forgetfulness. You are gaining awareness. The abilities are there within you. You just need the right weather conditions for those qualities to bloom. He [the Brahmachari who asked the question] says, when Amma is not looking at him he doesn’t feel love. That type of love Amma doesn’t want. It shouldn’t be ‘I love you,’ but ‘I am love.’ Everything has to become sweet. When a fly falls into jaggery [liquid palm-leaf sugar], it also becomes sweet. When there is love, everything becomes sweet. Everywhere one looks, one sees sweetness, sweetness, sweetness.”