Visit to Japan

29 May 2000, Tokyo

For the tenth year, Amma’s Japanese devotees welcomed her to Japan, with great reverence and love. Devotees came from the farthest corners of the country; some had even driven for two days to meet Amma for the first time.

Characteristic of their culture, Mother’s Japanese children expressed their devotion through hard work and dedicated attention to the very last detail concerning Amma’s programmes. With Mother as the unifying factor, the language barrier presented no obstacle between the Japanese and foreign devotees. The language of the heart and the feeling of oneness in being Mother’s children transcended all limitations of words.

In a society where emotional display is uncommon, it was striking to see so many people emerge from Mother’s arms with tears streaming down their faces, visibly moved by the experience.

This is what a few of them had to say about their meeting with Amma:

“I heard about Amma’s unlimited love from a friend. I then read one of Amma’s books, which strongly reconfirmed my direction in life. Meeting Amma today gave me great happiness and bliss.”
A 51-year-old woman meeting Amma for the first time

“I understood that God’s heart is not a heart that wants love; it is a heart that never stops loving.”
A 27-year-old man who was meeting Amma for the 4th time

“The moment I saw Amma, I could feel the beauty of her loving energy, and the meditative, peaceful atmosphere around her. Just seeing her was wonderful, but actually receiving Her darshan was an experience that cannot be put into words.”
A 33-year-old woman meeting Amma for the first time

Baby Ram settles into his new home

Like all babies, Ram is endearing himself to the hearts of his Amritapuri family, from whom he is receiving continuous vibrations of affection, if not actual hugs. “Is he eating, sleeping, taking his bath, is he happy??”, they ask.

According to his keepers, he is progressing well, although they would like him to eat a little more. He is learning to open his mouth and take food on his tongue and to recognize different tastes. Jaggery balls, bananas, leaves, sugarcane, iddalis (rice cakes) are all taken with relish and his happiness is evident as he moves in a dance like way, flapping his ears and stretching out his trunk to tap the hands of visitors. At times he even tries balancing on two legs and once he seemed to be trying to do a headstand. At 8.30am, after his first bath, his head, ears, legs and back are anointed with three stripes of sacred ash and kumkum; he looks very beautiful indeed. Later in the morning, he leaves his pen beside the temple to visit Amma’s garden where he takes his second bath from a large bucket of water, spraying himself happily like a child. His new keeper Br. Benny sleeps close to him every night so that he does not feel lonely or cry. If left alone Ram cries in a way that sounds very much like a human crying.

Now that his character training has begun in earnest, only Benny, and his trainer Kunjen will be allowed to touch him. His trainer, Kunjen is 65 years old and has trained five baby elephants before. He has forty years of experience as a mahout and was previously based at the famous Guruvayur Krishna Temple, which has fifty elephants. He says, “It’s very easy to love babies but they have to have correct care. Ram is not always going to be a baby”. Amma has instructed everyone not to touch Ram anymore so that he can develop a strong bond with his keeper and trainer and his character can be molded. Ram is perfectly formed; he carries 15 out of the 18 signs that indicate a good elephant, and the remaining three will become evident later when his tusks grow and he attains his full stature.

Amma leaves for Japan

24 May 2000, Amritapuri

Amma left for Her summer tour of Japan and the United States on the 24th of May. It was a sunny morning, and visitors and ashram residents stood in the garden beneath Her room waiting for a last glimpse of their beloved Amma. Shortly before 11 a.m., radiant in Her white sari, She descended the steps and immediately went to Ram who was tethered to the tree beside Her room. Looking beautiful with his black body decorated with the auspicious markings of ash and kumkum, he received Amma tenderly as She fed him with bananas. But suddenly he became very restless. Amma said he was sad, and called to him, loudly “Son, Ram! Ram, Ram,” to console him. Those who were standing close to Ram were touched, watching the tears rolling from his eyes. The brahmachari looking after Ram also tried to console him, caressing his swaying head, saying that Amma would be back soon.

Amma moved towards the waiting car, and giving some last minute instructions to some brahmacharis and brahmacharinis, She asked all Her children to give their blessings for the tour. She raised Her hands, palms joined, above Her head and with this final salutation, calling, “Children, children,” disappeared from view into the car. The driver carefully edged his way through the tight throng of residents who lined the route hoping to catch yet another glimpse of Amma as She passed by.

Before boarding Her flight, Amma gave darshan for an hour to devotees who had gathered to bid Her farewell. Now, the ashram wears a desolate look after Her departure. This was evident in even the newest member of the family, Ram. He did not have proper food for the next 2 days.

Pain and Palliative Care

The Pain and Palliative Care Department is a totally charitable service dedicated to giving comfort and care to patients suffering from terminal cancer. Although 75% of cancer patients suffer a lot of pain, most of this pain is manageable with proper medicines and care. Anyone can attend the outpatient clinic. The service is free of charge and receives donated drugs. Patients with diseases other than cancer are also welcome. A first session with the doctor often takes up two hours to completely identify all the patient’s problems. More than 50% of patients are very poor with serious family and financial worries. They often conceal their feelings at first because nobody ever really bothered to listen to them before.

Dr. Ajitha and Dr. Sanjeev are devotees of Amma, a husband and wife team who has been  working in the field of home care in the villages of Northern Kerala. At AIMS, they ask for a bare minimum salary — just enough for their livelihood — and are dedicated to giving a charitable service under the umbrella of the AIMS infrastructure.

Every morning they visit patients in their homes to care for the sick person and also to educate the family members about the medical aspects of the disease so that they also can apply dressings and administer drugs correctly. Above all, they help the family with all the social and emotional problems they face.

It is very unusual in India for doctors to visit patients in their homes, yet they travel up to 30 kilometres for some home visits.

Dr. Ajitha: “Ultimately the way to pain management is through relaxation. But to achieve relaxation we have to account for many factors. We use a fourfold approach that acknowledges the physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of the patient’s circumstances. If we can relax the physical body to the maximum extent possible through drugs and by adopting different positions for lying and sitting, then gradually we can introduce other ideas like mental relaxation techniques to deepen the process. If the patient is accompanied by a relative or a friend who also understands the process, the patient finds it easier.

“Our first task is to listen to the patient and learn from them. This in itself will help the patient as often they have been left for months or years without proper care or being able to express themselves. Patients become very depressed. Their condition, especially if they suffer disfiguring head and face cancers, makes them isolate themselves, even from their children. They become withdrawn, angry, and aggressive and it may take several visits before they will open up and cry with us. Then we can tell them about the disease, what to expect, what food to eat, what medicines to take. They can also discuss with us the things they want to achieve before they die.

“Relatives feel it is easier with our support. They learn to keep a positive attitude. Although the situation they face everyday may seem daunting, through faith and spiritual counselling we help them.” Recently a third doctor, Dr. Krishna Kumari, joined the team. They are assisted by three nurses and two social workers. Amrita Yuva Dharma Dhara volunteers frequently provide part-time help. Home visits are conducted within a 30 km range of AIMS hospital.

Often the patients are deeply moved by the care they receive from the AIMS team. One 65-year-old man began to weep when the doctor sat with him. “How can I thank you?” he said between tears. The doctor had no words. He simply took Pavitran’s hand in his own and softly stroked it. The man was in the final stages of his illness and only a few days to live.

“One thing we are able to do by coming out to these homes,” says Asha, “is to educate the families about the disease. Many families are afraid that the cancer is contagious and are hesitant to get too close to the patient. Then they see us, and our lack of fear helps them overcome their own.

“Also, if we show them how to clean a wound in the hospital, or how to change a dressing, the family may still be intimidated to do it when they return home. However, when they see us do it in their home, they feel more at ease and develop more confidence that they too can do it.”

Amrita Kripa Charitable Hospital

The Amrita Kripa charitable hospital is located on the beach road alongside the ashram in Amritapuri was started in 1996. It serves the coastal villagers free in consultations, procedures, lab works, and medicines.

The residents of Amritapuri, including 3000 hostel students of the Amrita University, and the devotee visitors to the ashram also take the benefit of the hospital.

The doctors see about 200 patients daily.
On Sudays there are specialist consulations in different areas which benefits more than 400 patients. In all about 7000 patients a month visit the hospital.

Specialists in gynaecology, endocrinology, urology, neurology,ophthalmology, dermatology, ENT, dental, and   psychatry attend regularly.

The hospital has an ICU and an emergency room equipped for cardiac arrests and asthma attacks and other basic emergency procedures and a small lab for blood and urine tests.

The most common serious ailments are asthma, hypertensive blood pressure, diabetes, tuberculosis, acidic peptic disease, skin diseases and eye problems. The damp climate, allergies, high salt and high cholesterol levels aggravate many problems.

Two doctors, two house surgeons from AIMS, two trained nurses and three nursing assistants are in attendance. Up to ten patients stay in the ward at any given time, including elderly ashramites, peacefully passing their last years with the kind attention and care.

The brahmachari Dr. Ragavendra has been serving Amma since 1998 says that serving in an ashram hospital is a wonderful opportunity to combine spiritual practice with the joy of social service. “We have to see patients very quickly, because of the volume of people waiting, there is no limit really to the time we could spend.

Sometimes a seemingly fit person has come to us, sent straight from the darshan hall by Amma herself. When we examine them and run a test we find there is a disease or big problem.”

“But being Amma’s ashram we also get many really hopeless cases, sent by doctors or social workers who have heard of Amma, and send the people here as a last resort. Some come from very far away. We see many tragedies here. We never know when someone might receive that grace of a cure. It does happen. Even in the most hopeless cases we tell the person to chant mantras. The faith gives them the strength to undergo the mental stress of their condition.”

Ram’s arrival

On May 15th, 2000, a baby elephant, the gift of a devotee, arrived in Amritapuri. The little one had traveled for 5 days by ship and truck from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands where he was born. He was just 15 months old. His mother from Bihar and father from Kerala worked in the forests. According to the experts, Ram is perfectly formed. There are 18 signs which define a good elephant. Ram already has fifteen of these and as he grows the last 3 should appear.

Ram steps out of truck, released from the confines of the truck and despite his leg chain he ran along the path to the ashram where he received a welcome bath and met his new family.

Indian Hindu temples traditionally keep elephants because they are said to have a positive influence on the divine power that permeates the temple environment. To welcome the special newcomer a ceremonial puja was arranged on the steps of the temple.

The ashram residents crowded into every corner to watch and wait for Amma who was expected to arrive at 1 p.m. to name the baby and give him his first ashram food.

The ashram astrologer performed the rite of consecration of the food. He then blessed the baby, who after his bath was now draped in a bright red cloth. He received the tripundra markings and wearing a bright brass bell waited just outside the ashram gates.

Amma arrived fresh and radiant despite having given Devi Bhava to 10,000 people the previous night until 8am in the morning.

The little one entered the ashram amidst a throng of excited residents. He walked sedately and with dignity, directly to Amma.

Amma showered the baby with flowers of blessing and fed him with bananas. Amma stood close to his side and called into his ear, Ram, Ram, Ram… Then to everyone’s delight, seeing how free the little one was with Amma. As She was lovingly feeding him bananas one by one, he snatched the whole bunch from Her hands, and as She gave him a huge ball of jaggery, he threw it on the ground, not recognizing it as sweet ball!

Amma shared with the donors the joy of the new arrival. Ram was then taken to his shelter for rest. Ram is  just 4 feet high and really really endearing.

A Devi Bhava Night

14 May 2000, Amritapuri

Since this was scheduled as the last darshan before Mother’s two-month tour of Japan and the USA, the crowd was immense: more than 12,000 darshan tokens were given out, and the entire gathering of devotees was estimated at 15,000 to 20,000. Only a few thousand at a time can fit into the current temple hall, so all ashram buildings and grounds were “carpeted” with devotees.

After bhajans, the stage was decorated with large traditional vessels (para) full to overflowing with the following five items: paddy, husked rice, puffed rice, jaggery and banana. The central one graced with tall stalks of coconut flower buds (chotta). Oil lamps added lustre to the festive scene.

Shortly after 7:00 in the evening, the doors opened to reveal Amma in the bhava of the Divine Mother. For the next twelve hours, She sat there, embracing each of Her children, laughing and smiling at them. She fed over fifty babies their first rice in the traditional annaprash ceremony, and initiated nearly three hundred devotees with mantras. In all the ways we know so well, Amma was being the presence of Divine Motherly Love among us.

It was after 7:30 Monday morning when Mother rose from Her seat, moved to the front edge of the stage, and showered the devotees with sacred flower petals. Stepping back into the inner temple, She stood gazing out at the thousands of Her children who had waited through the night for this moment. Even though Bhava Darshan had stretched through the night into the next morning, there were still too many to fit into the temple. Those deprived of Mother’s physical proximity had the consolation of the closed circuit TVs, with the added benefit of beautiful close-up views of Mother. Where in close-ups they could see the pinpoints of light that always dance, sparkling, in Her eyes just before She finally closes them.

At precisely 7:45 on Monday morning, 15th May, 2000, the temple doors closed and the shanti mantras were chanted.

Only by fostering motherhood can our culture be sustained

Question: How can Amma, who has never give birth, be considered to be a Mother?

Amma: Children, the mother is a symboll of selflessness. A mother knows the heart of her child — she knows its feelings. Her whole life is dedicated to the well being of her child. A mother doesn’t look upon the mistakes of her child as stemming from the ego. She forgives him for every mistake, knowing that he has done it out of ignorance. That is what motherhood is about. And that is what Amma’s life is about. Amma looks upon everyone as Her own child.

Indian children are taught from early childhood that their mother is God; that she is the embodiment of God. In our culture, motherhood is regarded as the consummation of womanhood. Every man looks upon every woman, except his wife, as a mother; and a woman addresses all elderly women as “mother.” Such is the exalted position accorded to the mother in Indian society. Of course, this outlook has suffered a certain decline, owing to the influences of other cultures.

You ask how Amma can be a mother without having conceived a child? But doesn’t the engineer who has designed the engine of an airplane know more than the pilot about that engine?

Motherhood is innate in all women. This quality should become predominant in every woman. Just as darkness is dispelled by the rays of the sun, all undesirables tendencies in a woman are dispelled by her motherly love. Love, selflessness and self-sacrifice are the hallmarks of motherhood. Only by fostering these noble qualities in people can our culture be sustained. Amma feels that Her present course will help in this direction.

The mere fact that a woman has given birth to a child doesn’t necessarily make her a mother, unless the mother within her is awakened. In the same way, a woman who has developed the mother aspect in all its fullness within herself, is no less a mother than a woman who has given birth to a baby. Also, do we not look upon our motherland, mother tongue and Mother Earth as mothers?

Question: Mother, why are you helping people the way you do? Is it done for any special purpose?

Amma: Amma has only one desire: that Her life should be like an incense stick. An incense stick spreads fragrance to others as it burns itself out. Similarly, Amma wants to benefit the world by dedicating every moment of Her life to others. Amma doesn’t see the goal as being different from the means. The stream of Amma’s life flows according to the Divine Will.

Meditating, Playing and Teaching

5 May 2000, Amritapuri

At midday the temple bell rang three times, letting everyone know that Amma was about to come for meditation. From all directions, ashramites and visitors flocked to the temple hall to await Her arrival. Within a few minutes Amma entered. She sat down and, closing Her eyes, began to meditate. Some of those around Her meditated with their eyes closed; other were simply gazing at Her.

After some time, Amma got up and led the ashramites in turning around in a circle on the spot where they were standing. Amma asked us to imagine that we were circumambulating the form of God that is most dear to us, each time we made a turn. Amma then sat down to meditate again, and she advised people to stand up or walk if they feel sleepy during meditation. As the meditation was about to resume, it seemed that everyone wanted to keep their eyes open and enjoy the sight of Amma sitting in front of them.

Feeling Her children’s hearts, Amma started a game called antakshari In this game, each team sings a bhajan starting with the last syllable of the bhajan sung by the preceding team. The game goes on until one team is unable to come up with a song. Today’s game had the brahmacharis and the brahmacharinis in opposing teams, with Amma as the referee. She started the game by singing ‘Anandamrita Roopini Amme’. Amma clapped Her hands joyfully and sang with both groups. Everyone joined in whole-heartedly, and soon the game turned into a real bhajan session.

After singing for more than half an hour, Amma suddenly asked, “What is devotion?”
A swami sitting near Her answered: “Sitting near Amma and just looking at Her is devotion!”

When the answer didn’t satisfy Amma, he added, “To surrender to Amma is devotion. Where there is no ‘I’ only ‘You’ – that is devotion.” Amma considered this for a moment and then asked, “How do we remove the ego?” A brahmachari replied, “The ego is removed when our every action is performed as worship of God.”

Amma asked, “How does one get to that state?” A devotee replied, “By loving God with all our heart and soul.”

Amma was not satisfied and She repeated, “Yes, but how does one get there?” A western resident said, “Well, I don’t really know about these things, but I have faith that if we serve selflessly, Amma will lead us to the goal of prema bhakti [the highest form of love and devotion].”

Amma seemed quite pleased with the innocence and humility of the answers. The discussion concluded with the idea that pure devotion is nurtured by unshakable faith.

Learn to live happily

Question: Is it possible to experience supreme bliss living in the world?

Amma: Certainly. It is to be experienced while you are still in the body. It is not something to be attained after death.

Like the mind and body, spirituality and worldliness are two facets of life. They cannot exist totally separated from each other. Spirituality is the science that teaches us how to live a blissful life in the material world.

There are two types of learning. One type of learning is about how we really ought to live. In order to live in peace and happiness, we have to study — that is spirituality. It is the study of the mind.

When you buy a machine, you also receive an instruction book. If you operate the machine according to the instructions, it won’t get damaged. In a similar way, spirituality gives you clear instructions on how you should live. By following those instructions, you will be free from sorrow. When you are travelling to a new place, you won’t feel any worry or tension if you have a reliable map. Similarly, if you use the principles of spirituality as a guide and live your life accordingly, you won’t be overwhelmed by any crises. Spirituality is the practical science of life. It teaches us the nature of the world, how to understand life and live in the best way possible.

We get into the water so that we can come out fresh and clean. We do not intend to remain in the water forever. Similarly, living a householder’s life is only a means by which to remove the obstacles on the path to God. Once you take up the life of a householder, you should move forward understanding the real purpose of life. Your life shouldn’t end where you began. You should free yourself from all bonds and realize God.

The attitude of “mine” is the cause of all bondage. Living a family life should be seen as an opportunity to liberate us from this attitude. We say, “my wife, my child, my mother and father,” etc. But are they really “mine?” If they were “mine,” they would always remain with us and follow us, even in death. Only by living with this awareness will we be able to awaken spiritually. It doesn’t mean that we should relinquish all of our responsibilities. It is our duty to carry out all of our responsibilities, and to do so with joy. At the same time, we should be careful so that we do not too get attached to them.

There is a difference between the attitude of a person who is appearing for a job interview and a person who is reporting for work for the first time. The person who is about to be interviewed will be worried about what sort of questions he will be asked, whether he will be able to answer them properly and if he will finally get the job. His mind will be tense. For the other person who is reporting for work, it is quite different, because he has already been chosen. He will feel a certain happiness. We will also experience a certain joy in our lives, once we understand the principles of spirituality, because then there is no reason to feel tense or worried. If you know that a firecracker is about to explode, you won’t be startled when it goes off. When you understand the nature of the world, you won’t be overwhelmed by trifles.

Suppose you need some money and are thinking about asking a friend for help. You know that he may give you the money, but on the other hand, chances are that he won’t. If he feels generous and decides to help you, you could get more than you expected; but he could also turn his back on you and even pretend he doesn’t know you. So anything is possible. If you are aware of all these possibilities beforehand, you won’t feel overly surprised or disappointed. If he should happen to give you more than you expected, you won’t feel overjoyed, nor will you go to pieces if he doesn’t care to even look at you.

A person who has learned how to swim will rejoice in the waves of the sea, whereas a person who can’t swim will drown in the same situation. A person who understands the principles of spirituality is like someone who knows how to swim — for him, every moment is blissful. He confronts every obstacle with a smile; nothing can unsettle him. Look at the life of Sri Krishna. Even when his kith and kin, the Yadavas, were fighting amongst themselves, the smile on Krishna’s lips never faded. That smile didn’t fade even when he held discussions with the Kauravas as an envoy of the Pandavas. When he acted as Arjuna’s charioteer during the war, a beautiful smile lit his lips. And when Gandhari cursed him, he still smiled. Krishna’s whole life was a big smile. And our lives can be the same, if we allow spirituality into our lives. Then life will be full of joy.

Life should be like a picnic outing. If we see a beautiful site, a pretty house or a flower on the way, we look at it and enjoy it. We look at all the sites but we do not linger there; we simply move on. When it’s time to return, no matter how beautiful the things around us are, we leave them behind and return home, because reaching home is more important than anything. In the same way, in whatever style we may live in this world, we shouldn’t forget our real home to which we must return — we shouldn’t forget our goal. No matter how many beautiful sites we see on our way through life, there is only one place which we can call our own, and where we can rest — and that is our original abode, our true Self.

There was once an old man who had four grown sons. His sons asked him to divide his property and give them each a plot. They wanted to build separate homes on that land. They said, “We will look after you. There are four of us; you can stay with each of us for three months during the year. You will be happy that way.” When the four sons suggested this, their father was happy. And so the property was divided. The family house and the adjoining plot was given to the oldest son, and the other three were given their share of land on which they each built a house. After the division, the father began to stay with the eldest son. For the first few days it was like a festival. But the family’s enthusiasm in looking after the old man soon diminished. As the days went by, the faces of his son and daughter-in-law darkened.

It was difficult for the father, but somehow he forced himself to stay for a month until he felt that they were about to turn him out. He then left and went to stay with his second son. His second son and his wife also showed some enthusiasm in the beginning, but they soon changed, and he was forced to leave after only fifteen days. He then went to his third son, but ended up staying there for only then days because they really didn’t want him there. And so he went to stay with his youngest son. After only five days he discovered that they were about to throw him out. And so he left and spent the rest of his life wandering about without a place to live.

In the beginning, the father had hoped that his children would look after him, but that turned out to be a vain expectation. After barely two months, he had been abandoned by his whole family.

We should understand that this is what so-called human love is often like. A cow is loved for the sake of the milk it gives. When it no longer produces any milk, it is sold to the slaughterhouse. If we have the expectation that certain people will eventually look after us, it will only lead to sorrow. We should carry out our duties without any expectations, and when the time is right, we should turn to our true path, the spiritual path. This doesn’t mean that we should give up all our responsibilities. We have to fulfill our dharma. It is, for example, the duty of parents to take care of their children, but once the children have grown up and can take care of themselves, the parents shouldn’t continue to be attached to them and expect their children to look after them. We should understand the real Goal and move forward on our homeward journey. What is the use of being stuck where we are, saying, “my children,” or “my grandchildren?”

“A bird that is resting on a dry, fragile twig is always ready to fly up, because it knows that the twig could break at any moment. In the same way, even if we live in this world doing all types of actions, we should always be alert, ready to fly to the world of the Self, knowing that nothing in this world is eternal. If we truly understand this, nothing can bind us or make us sorrowful.