Amma — Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi
Many people wonder how a little girl from a simple South Indian village came to be known throughout the world as “Amma, the Mother of All.” Motherhood, in its ultimate sense, has nothing to do with bearing a child, but with love, compassion and selflessness. It lies in totally giving one’s self to others.
If we look at Amma’s life, this is what we see—someone who has offered her every thought, word and deed for the benefit of others. Giving is the essence. It’s just that when the homeless come crying for shelter and Amma gives them a house, we call her a “humanitarian.” And when the sorrowful come crying for emotional solace and she gives them love, we call her a “mother.” And when those thirsty for spiritual knowledge come earnestly seeking and she gives them wisdom, we call her a “guru.” This attitude of selflessly serving all creation, knowing others to be extensions of one’s own self, Amma refers to as vishwa matrutvam—universal motherhood. And it is to this pinnacle of human existence that Amma is trying to awaken the world through her life, teachings and darshan [divine embrace].
Questions about the nature of the soul, the universe and God; about dharma, love and family life; about meditation and other spiritual practices…. Amma has been clearing the doubts of sincere seekers on such subtle subjects since her youth. She never had a guru nor studied the Vedas, yet she speaks on the truths expressed within the scriptures with wisdom, clarity and true insight. Hers is not an academic knowledge, but the knowledge of one who is ever-established in the Ultimate Reality. It is for this reason that Amma’s simple childhood home has become the spiritual home to thousands—an ashram where aspirants from around the world reside in order to imbibe Amma’s wisdom and realize the Truth that is their real nature. The seeker is instructed as per his level—from the child to the sannyasi [monk].
My Dream:- A vision of a world in which women and men progress together, a world in which all men respect the fact that, like the two wings of a bird, women and men are of equal value. – Amma
Seeing the whole world as an extension of her own self, Amma is ever ready to forego her own body’s needs in order to bring a smile to someone’s face, wipe their tears or to simply listen to their sorrows. The sweet manner in which she laughs and jokes with people, shares in their success and failure has endeared millions to her throughout the world. In fact, many see Amma as their lifelong confidant and friend. Giving darshan in this manner is verily Amma’s life—day after day, week after week, year after year. In fact, Amma has been doing so since she was just 17 years old, and she has been known to sit embracing people continuously for as long as 22 hours. Amma is able to make such a personal sacrifice because in her arms people feel safe, feel comforted, loved, feel that finally they’ve found someone who knows them through and through. And with that feeling they get the strength to move forward in life, and this, Amma feels, is infinitely more important than her physical needs. Be they young or old, sick or healthy, rich or poor—everyone receives the same unconditional love. Amma turns no one away. The atheist has just as much a place with Amma as the devotee.
My Desire: Everyone in the world should be able to sleep without fear, at least for one night. Everyone should be able to eat to his fill, at least for one day. There should be at least one day when hospitals see no one admitted due to violence. – Amma
For Amma, Advaita [non-dualism] is not a mere philosophy, but something to be lived. As such, Amma’s every thought, word and deed resound with that greatest of truths: Everything within and without is divine. Accordingly, Amma oversees a massive matrix of humanitarian activities. Hospitals for the sick, homes for the homeless, disaster relief, orphanages, hospices, free pensions, suicide-prevention, employment programs… the list is endless. Influenced by Amma’s example and experiencing her pure love, thousands upon thousands of people from around the world have been inspired to take up a life of service—giving whatever time or money they can spare in order to help others. It is the seed of love Amma has planted within them beginning to sprout that has brought this about. This has been Amma’s vision from the beginning. Amma says, “In today’s world, people experience two types of poverty: the poverty caused by lack of food, clothing and shelter, and the poverty caused by lack of love and compassion. Of these two, the second type needs to be considered first—because, if we have love and compassion in our hearts, then we will wholeheartedly serve those who suffer from lack of food, clothing and shelter.” This is the secret behind the success of Amma’s charitable mission and how its expansion seems to be constant and without end. And the brilliance of Amma’s grand scheme is that not only are the downtrodden uplifted but also the volunteers, as the selflessness of their actions purifies their minds, helping them to gradually progress along the spiritual path. Amma’s charitable social services cross all barriers of nationality, race, caste and religion, and have drawn the attention of the world community. In 2005, Amma’s organization, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, was given special consultative status by the United Nations.
It’s better get worn out than rust away. – Amma
Humanitarian, Mother, Friend, Guru, God…people see her differently. Amma has offered herself to the world. In reality, Amma is beyond all such roles, knowing her true nature to be the true nature of us all—the blissful divine consciousness that pervades this universe. But out of her infinite compassion, Amma comes down to the level of whoever is standing before her—the poor, the lonely, the seeker—in order to give what is desired, what is needed. It was for this purpose alone that Amma was born and for this alone that Amma lives today. In fact, Amma has said that she wishes to be lovingly caressing someone, consoling them and wiping their tears even when she breathes her last.
Jan Kounen, renowned French Filmmaker, ParisI feel rejuvenated after meeting Amma. She gives me tremendous energy through her darshan, which helps me remain focused and also adds value to my work and life
Jim Lauderdale, Grammy Award winnerI’ve never met anyone like Amma—someone who has such a great impact on people’s lives for the good and for humanity. I am hard-pressed to think of someone who is doing more for mankind and the environment.
—Jim Lauderdale Grammy Award-winning Country and Bluegrass artist 30 June 2008 — Addison, Texas, USA
Sri. Khushwant Singh, Author and journalistIn all my life I have not met a warmer personality than Her [Amma]. Even an agnostic like me had great difficulty in holding back my tears.
— Sri. Khushwant Singh, Author and journalist Amritapuri Visitor’s Diary, Amritapuri, 1993
Dr. Steven C. RockefellerWhen I think of Amma and her life of devotion and service, I see a shining example for all of us of the spirit of reverence, compassion and care.
Sharon Stone, World renowned actressAmma has embraced 26 million people. But she has done this as an action not only of giving, but as an action of example. I welcome this saint, this angel, this person of active goodness.
—Sharon Stone World renowned actress, Paris, 12 October 2007
Dr. Stephen Dunnett., PhD Professor and provost for international education State University of New York, BuffaloAmma has been a leader in expanding educational opportunity in India, particularly through the establishment of Amrita University, which in its first 15 years has become one of the most distinguished private universities in India. - May 2010
—Dr. Stephen Dunnett. PhD Professor and provost for international education State University of New York, Buffalo. May 2010
Sri. N.V.R. Nathan, Director, IILM Institute for Higher EducationWhat I have seen Amma doing is way beyond what most are able to achieve in such a short time. She is actually touching the heart of the people. She is able to make everyone realise that it is one’s duty to work for humanity.
- Sri. N.V.R. Nathan Director, IILM Institute for Higher Education during Amritavarsham50, Kochi, 26 September 2003
Dr. Madhavan Nair, Chairman of ISROA type of force emanates from Her. I think it cannot be defined by our analysis. A type of force emanates from Her. I think it cannot be defined by our analysis.
—Dr. Madhavan Nair, Chairman of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), at Amma’s Bangalore Ashram, 21 February 2004
Dr. Jane Goodall, world-renowned primatologistI believe that She [Amma] stands here in front of us, God’s love in a human body.
—Dr. Jane Goodall, world-renowned primatologist while giving Gandhi-King Award for Non-violence to Amma, Geneva, 7 October 2002
Dr. Timothy Conway, author of Women of Power & GraceShe [Amma] is one of the most glorious lights to appear in the history of religion. Just her stamina—embracing these millions of people one by one, day after day, without a break, all over the world—is some kind of divine gift. No mere human resources could accomplish this.
—Dr. Timothy Conway, Ph.D., author of Women of Power & Grace
Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate ChangeAmma is truly such an enormous fountain of energy and love and compassion. I think if all of us were to get even a fraction of it within our own beings, there would be only joy in the whole world… Whatever little I can do with her inspiration, I will strive my best to accomplish it. -
- Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 while Dr. Pachauri served as IPCC Chairman).
Doug E Fresh, Hip-hop American legendHer energy is just incredible. I picked up youthful, bright, exciting energy. She is endlessly just giving, giving, giving. I think a lot of people need to feel her energy because it will make a difference in their life.
—Doug E Fresh Hip-hop American legend New York, July 2009
Dr. K.S. Fathima Beevi, Syndicate Member, Mahatma Gandhi UniversityWhen we go to Amma for darshan, we forget what is happening around us. When Amma hugs us, we feel it to be something special that we have never got from anyone else. Her love, smile, kiss and the way She talks to us are things I cannot describe. Her love is forever.”
—Dr. K.S. Fathima Beevi , Lecturer, Government College, Tripunithura, Kerala Syndicate Member, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala, during Amritavarsham50, Kochi, 25 September 2003
Alice Walker, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for FictionAmma presents the kind of leadership we need for our planet to survive. This is the most heroic person I’ve probably ever met. Because she is sitting there hugging people. This is the most heroic thing that any of us could do now. Because shooting each other is not heroic. The most heroic is caring, and she does that.
- Alice Walker, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Andrew Cohen, spiritual teacher and founder of the magazine What is EnlightenmentFor me Amma is the ideal. She is the yardstick. She is the measurement to which all of us [must hold ourselves], whether we are beginners on the spiritual path or matured seekers. She always shows that you can give more love, show more compassion. Amma is the greatest living saint on this planet. I met many Masters, but in Amma I see a combination of unconditional love and ferocious determination and an indomitable spirit. Her example is peerless. - Barcelona, 13 July 2004 For me Amma is the ideal. She is the yardstick. She is the measurement to which all of us [must hold ourselves], whether we are beginners on the spiritual path or matured seekers. She always shows that you can give more love, show more compassion. Amma is the greatest living saint on this planet. I met many Masters, but in Amma I see a combination of unconditional love and ferocious determination and an indomitable spirit. Her example is peerless. - Barcelona, 13 July 2004
- Andrew Cohen, spiritual teacher and founder of the magazine What is Enlightenment? Barcelona, 13 July 2004
Sri. Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director, Dainik JagranAmma is playing a transformative and inspirational role to help people cross a lot of barriers of religion and caste so they can be spiritually uplifted. - Kochi, 25 September 2003
—Sri. Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director, Dainik Jagran, a leading Hindi daily newspaper, during Amritavarsham50, Kochi, 25 September 2003
Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, Indian classical dancerAmma symbolises the truth and beauty of life.
—Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, Indian classical dancer, during Amritavarsham50 Kochi, Kerala, 24 September 2003
Dr. Deepak Chopra, author of Ageless BodyAmma is the embodiment of pure love. Her presence heals.
— Dr. Deepak Chopra, M.D. author of Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old 2004 Barcelona
Dr. D.N. Srivastava, Senior Scientist Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, MumbaiA society having only the government system, no matter how powerful and sincere, cannot survive for long without the solid base provided by spirituality. One plausible solution is to evolve a new universal religion. Now, only a vague outline can be speculated. Fortunately to have a glimpse of a sage of that universal religion, we have not to wait for some distant future. Sri Mata Amritanandamayi’s life and work is a living example of universal love and service.
— Dr. D.N. Srivastava, Senior Scientist Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai