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Amma, the Love that Transforms: Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Inauguration of Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences

Inaugural speech of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the occasion

Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, His Excellency the Governor of Kerala Justice Sukhdev Singh Kang and other distinguished guests on the dais, sisters and brothers,

Keralathile priyapetta sahodarisahodaranmare,
ningalkente sneham niranja koopu kai.
കേരളത്തിലെ പ്രിയപ്പെട്ട സഹോദരി സഹോദരന്മാരെ,
നിങ്ങള്ക്കെന്റെ സ്നേഹം നിറഞ്ഞ കൂപ്പുകൈ

My dear brothers and sisters of Kerala, please accept my affectionate greetings.

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This is my first visit to your beautiful state after my government assumed office in New Delhi. I am happy that my first official program itself has an auspicious and humanitarian ring around it.

I am indeed honoured to inaugurate the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre here in Kochi today. My sense of being honoured is greatly enhanced by the fact that this institute bears the name of Mata Amritanandamayi Deviji.

“Amrita” means that which is deathless. This has been the subject of perennial quest for philosophers and medical practitioners alike. In India, however, our sages evolved a holistic concept of life that erased the boundary of death.

The secret of achieving this was the healthy way of living — with health itself understood in its physical, biological, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions. Our medical science was evolved on the foundation of this understanding.

Today, more and more thinking people in India and the world over are veering around to this understanding of life and health. This is thanks to the tireless efforts of modern-day sages like Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, who is affectionately called “Amma” by millions of Her devotees.

When Amma shared Her ideas regarding the 21st Century at the Interfaith Conference on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of the United Nations, She called the coming century the Age of Meditation. {news}

Her message was bold: She appealed to our technological world to take a 180-degree turn and go within and explore the inner world over the next few years. This can happen only if the new generation becomes convinced that the inner transformation of the individual is the only lasting solution to the modern world’s social problems.

The world today needs solid proof that our human values are useful, that such qualities as compassion, selflessness, renunciation and humility have the power to create a great and prosperous society. Amma’s work in the field of spiritualism as well as social service provides us with the much-needed proof.

That is why I call this a historic event. She is showing us the value of the right combination of spiritual ideas and practical wisdom. She has already performed the most intricate heart operation on thousands of young men and women, removing the blockages of indifference and allowing the free flow of love.

She has been able to motivate a young band of educated professional men and women to work selflessly and with great dedication for the betterment of society, as the path that will lead them towards Self-Realization.

In this hospital, we find the best medical facilities available anywhere in the world and a dedicated team of expert doctors from various countries joining hands to keep the hearts of the least among the poor and meek going strong.

Amma is the source of spiritual inspiration and practical guidance for this magnificent project. This multi-specialty hospital is truly the pride of Kerala. It is a tribute to Amma’s grand and noble vision.

But it is equally a tribute to the dedicated and selfless labour of thousands of people from all over the globe who came together to transform a grand vision into reality. I extend my heart congratulations to all of them.

For many centuries, India stood as an ideal for the world in material riches, scientific thought and spiritual values. However, the motivating force for growth today has changed. Now it is to create a maximum material benefit even at the cost of health and human happiness.

Even though many nations are flourishing materially, the quality of life has generally deteriorated. This has happened in India, too. Over the past hundred years, our material comforts may have multiplied a thousand fold. However, along with this, mental stress and worries have greatly increased.

The health profile of today’s India present’s a unique paradox. On the one hand, the basic healthcare needs of the majority are generally neglected. Even those diseases that lend themselves to easy preventative care — such as diarrhoea, blindness, etc. — have assumed chronic dimensions. This is especially so in urban slums and rural, hilly and remote areas.

On the other hand, more and more people among India’s rich classes are beginning to suffer from health problems that are similar to those prevailing in the rich nations of the world. In the global consumerist culture we are now living in, every new means to satisfy one desire gives birth to 10 new desires.

Our society is required to effectively address the health problems of both classes at the national, local and personal levels. As far as my government is concerned, we have stated in the National Agenda for Governance that social infrastructure development will receive a high priority. Healthcare being a vital area of the country’s social infrastructure, our policies and programs will adequately reflect our concern for creating a healthy society.

Today I do not wish to speak in detail about what the government intends to do in this area. I would, however, like to emphasize that the critical factor that makes a difference between a successful health policy and an unsuccessful one is not financial resources.

It is true that the Government needs to allocate more resources to this sector, especially to strengthening primary and preventative healthcare. But, frankly, the main problem is not money but management.

Are we using the existing resources most efficiently? Are the results properly monitored? Are the national, state and local-level goals being achieved in the stipulated time? Are periodic corrective measure taken if found necessary? Does our public healthcare system place the patients and people at the centre of its concerns?

These are the questions I would like to ask our health administrators to constantly ask themselves and find satisfactory answers. But these are also the questions that I would like our healthcare practitioners in the private sector to address. We cannot think of the public healthcare system and the private healthcare system to have divergent objectives. The two must supplement and complement each other.

This is where I see a unique model for both the public and private healthcare systems in the hospital project inspired by Her Holiness Amma. What makes this an exemplary model is the missing link of “seva” or the spirit of service.

When all our institutions, including hospitals and primary health centres, begin to work with the spirit of service, India will greatly gain in esteem not only in the eyes of Indians, but also in the eyes of the world. We should, therefore, be grateful to Amma for spreading the message of service.

Amma’s emphasis on compassionate service is also visible in the other scheme that I have the honour of inaugurating. Today the keys to the first 5,000 houses for the homeless are being distributed here, and I am sure that Amma will accomplish Her target of 25,000 houses within the next five years. As a Member of Parliament, I am also a homeless person. I keep on moving from one house to another, knowing not when a permanent house will be allotted to me.

I am told that all the ashram residents and household devotees of Amma have been actively involved in the construction of these houses for the poor. Their pure love, which is not limited to any particular community or religion, has made these houses into true temples of love. The most valuable dividend these projects declare is the inner joy and sense of satisfaction shared by everyone associated with them.

Here, again, there is a lesson for us in the government and in the private sector. My government has set the goal of facilitating construction of 20 lakh new housing units each year. This, however, is not the responsibility of government agencies alone. If we work with the sense of dedication and determination that volunteers here have shown in their housing project, I am sure that we will easily reach the ultimate goal of “Housing for All” in the next 10 years.

In this, my first official visit to Kerala, I cannot but express my happiness and appreciation at the many marvellous achievements of your state, especially in the fields of health, education, arts and culture. The entire country should learn from Kerala’s outstanding success in eradicating illiteracy, especially female illiteracy, greatly reducing infant mortality and improving mother and child health.

All this could not have been possible without a long tradition of progressivism and social reform. In the past, the great masters like Adi Sankaracharya, Chattambi Swami and Narayana Guru have sown the seeds of social reformation through spiritual means in this holy land known after Parasurama. In Amma, we find those seeds sprouting, growing and spreading their branches far and wide aspiring to touch the stars.

The years to come, I believe, will certainly witness a momentous transformation brought about by Amma in the socio-economic scenario of Kerala and perhaps in the whole nation. That will be the fulfilment of my participation in today’s function.

I appeal to all my countrymen to preserve and further strengthen our sense of unity and self-confidence. Let us all work with discipline, dedication and patriotism in our respective spheres of life. In the short run, we should be prepared to face some hardships. I have no doubt however that India will overcome the present challenges and emerge as a more prosperous, vibrant and stronger nation whose voice will be duly heard in the international arena.

I seek the blessings of Mataji and thank you very much indeed. Namaskar.

Amrita Hospital, a Temple of Compassion

Excerpts from Swami Amritaswarupananda’s welcome speech during the inaugural function of Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences.

It is a blessed occasion of fulfilment for all of us who are gathered here. For hundreds of devotees and disciples, who with selfless love have dedicated their time and effort at the Lotus Feet of Amma, this is a moment of supreme satisfaction. Over 5,000 destitute people are gathered among us here today, overjoyed at the prospect of starting a fresh phase of life in the new houses that have been provided for them by Amma (through the Amrita Kuteeram housing scheme). And today many hearts are blossoming with new hope and trust at the sight of this magnificent multi-super-specialty hospital, with its highly advanced medial equipment and a team of experts from all over the world, waiting to serve the poorest of the poor with love and compassion.

This miracle has been accomplished through the combined efforts of many people who were inexperienced and not professionals in the true sense of the word. But when Amma’s blessings flowed through the pure hearts and hands of these ordinary people, something extraordinary was created.

When reflecting on Amma’s humanitarian projects and activities, we should also be aware of the subtle yet powerful changes that Amma brings about in the hearts of people. Amma not only provides food and shelter to those in need, but also gives them the strength to stand on their own feet, to be free and self-reliant. They develop a sense of meaning and purpose of life, and they also feel the protection of divine grace in every area of their lives.

Not only is Amma instilling faith in Her children, but She is healing the entire planet through Her infinite love. Amma is teaching us to communicate with one another in a new language of selfless love and compassion, which cuts across all national and religious barriers.

There are many great musicians who are able to bring forth wonderful music from a violin or flute. But Amma’s transforming love can bring forth divine music from the hardened hearts of those living in today’s materialistic and selfish world.

Amma has laid the foundation for a new society in which a dedicated group of young men and women, who, content with the barest minimum of material necessitates, have found contentment by joyously working day and night to bring hope and relief to those in need.

Today, our beloved Prime Minister, Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee,{news} is dedicating this hospital, which is consecrated by Amma, to the public. More than a hospital, it will surely be a temple of compassion.

May my words, along with your aspirations be fragrant flowers offered at the Lotus Feet of Amma.

Brahmacharya, the student life

Brahmacharis are spiritual disciples who take the vow of brahmacharya and wear the yellow robe as a sign of belonging to a spiritual order. ‘Brahmachari’ means one who abides in Brahman (the Absolute Reality), or one who lives for realising Brahman.

The formal initiation into Brahmacharya involves the donning of yellow robes and the acceptance of new names suffixed with Chaitanya (consciousness). The yellow colour of the robes indicate the beginning of the flame of renunciation, which the brahmacharis are supposed to nurture and nourish.

The brahmacharis undergo regular classes on scriptural texts like the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavatam, Ramayana etc. The subtle spiritual truths hidden in these texts are brought to light in these classes. This enables the students to have a true perspective about spiritual life. The classes are conducted by Sannyasis and senior brahmacharis of the Ashram.

The brahmacharis are also taught to chant Vedic mantras in the traditional manner. Eminent Sannyasis from other ashrams and reputed scholars also conduct classes for the benefit of the ashram residents. They are also taught to do ritual worship like pujas and homas. The spiritual and material benefits accruing from the performance of these rituals are explained in depth in these classes. After learning the theoretical aspects in class, the brahmacharis conduct homas guided by seniors.

After mastering the art of performing homas and pujas the brahmacharis conduct the same in the Brahmasthanam temples and, upon request, in the homes of devotee.

Ceremony

The Brahmacharya Initiation ceremony involves fasting, shaving one’s head except for a tuft of hair (by the male brahmacharis), performance of a Ganapati Homa, receiving yellow robes, the sacred thread and a new name from Amma.

After donning the yellow robes, the brahmacharis are given new names by Amma. Amma puts the sacred thread across the shoulders of a brahmachari.

After a day of fasting, the newly initiated brahmacharis sit down for their meal, served by senior sannyasis. They themselves cook this first meal, after obtaining the food items by begging, in accordance with the ancient tradition of renunciates.

After receiving formal initiation into Brahmacharya, many of the brahmacharis serve in various branch ashrams or by going on tours to various parts of India and the world. Thus they spread Amma’s message of Love and Compassion. Some of them are put in charge of the various institutions run by the Math, providing a means for devotees, living away from Amma, to stay in touch with Her, the ashram and spiritual life.

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Even Sannyasi’s breath should be for the good of others

Amma’s message during the Sannyasa Initiation

In October 1989, on Vijaya dashami day, in a solemn atmosphere of devotion and joy, amidst the chanting of Vedic mantras and puja, one of Mother’s sons, who was known as Balu when he first came to Mother in 1979 and later became Brahmachari Amritatma Chaitanya, was ceremoniously initiated in Sannyasa. Mother gave him the name of Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri.

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Another Sannyasi, a devotee of Mother’s by the name of Swami Dhruvananda, performed the traditional fire ceremony and other rituals. The rites of initiation began the previous night. Mother was present throughout the ceremony, showering her blessings and giving advice and instruction. The ceremony was complete by the break of dawn the next day.

Speaking to the assembled devotees, Mother said, “Today Mother is happy because she could dedicate a son for the good of the world. Now that he has been given Sannyasa, he has become the son of the world. Hereafter, he is not my son. Today the Lord has given me the good fortune to dedicate one son to the world. At this moment Mother remembers his father and mother and salutes them also. Children, all of you pray for this son.

“Pray for him to gain strength. From now onwards he is not Amritatma Chaitanya, but Amritaswarupananda Puri. Mother (who is not herself a Sannyasini) has not gone against the traditional scriptural injunctions by giving him Sannyasa. It is in the “Puri” order that Sannyasa was given to him (by another Sannyasi). Many have asked Mother if it would not have been enough if she had given Sannyasa to him?”

“But Mother would never cause a disturbance to the tradition of the ancient sages. Mother will not act against the tradition. Mother had a desire that a humble devotee should give the ochre cloth to Amritatma. Otherwise the ego ‘I am Brahman, I am Perfect,’will develop in him. Such thoughts will not be there if it is a devotee who gives the cloth, is it not so?

“Mother wanted to give Sannyasa through a Swami from the Ramakrishna Order. Mother had said long before that a Swami from that order who is a devotee will come here when it is time. It was at that time that Swami Dhruvananda came. His Guru was one among Sri Ramakrishna’s direct disciples. He came and did the fire ceremony.

“Yesterday this son performed all the funeral rites both for himself and his relatives. He took leave of his father and mother. He did all the rites that are performed when one dies. All forms of bondage were given up. Hereafter, he is your son, the son of the world. All the duties that one has towards trees, creepers, plants, animals, birds, and all other creatures were eliminated. He performed the fire ceremony praying, ‘Make me introverted, lead me to effulgence, spiritual splendour, brilliance, lead me to the Light,’ and accepted ochre cloth as a symbol of sacrificing even his own body to the fire. The name Amritaswarupananda was also given. Thus, today is a good day, children. All of you pray, ‘Grant this son strength to give peace and tranquillity to everyone in this world. Make him a benefactor of the world.’

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Even a Sannyasi’s breath should be for the good of others

“Even a Sannyasi’s breath should be for the good of others. It is said that he should not even breathe for his own comfort. The whole body has been sacrificed in the Fire of Knowledge. Ochre is the colour of fire. Now he is of the nature of the Self. We are all that eternal Self. He should worship everyone seeing them as Devi or the form of God. It is through human beings that God should be served. Now he doesn’t have a particular God. This son should serve the people seeing them as God. His remaining life is to serve them. That is the action that he should do hereafter; to live dedicating his life to them who are verily the forms of God. This son doesn’t have a realisation or penance higher than that. All that is over. He should serve everyone seeing them as God. His duty towards God is compassion towards the poor and needy.

“Other than that, however much penance you do, there is no benefit. Perfection can be gained only through those actions performed while thinking of God. Permission to leave the country cannot be gained without a passport. This passport of Realisation should be gained through service. Nothing can be gained without a passport. Now Mother has given more importance to service. With each breath you children have the thought, ‘Amma, Amma’. Because of that, Mother has the conviction that you can serve everyone seeing them as God.

“Children, all of you now pray two minutes for this son. Now he is not a son, but Swami Amritaswarupananda. ‘O God, let him not become a malefactor for anyone in this world. Let him not bring any insult to the great Sannyasa tradition. May he have the mental equipoise to see everyone as God and serve them selflessly.”
he was able to complete the funeral rites without help.

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Shankaracharya’s four Sannyasa orders

We have to be thankful to Shankaracharya because Sanatana Dharma, the all-encompassing eternal code of life contained in the Vedas, still flows as the dynamic force underlying and unifying popular Hinduism. It is a monumental testimony to his life and works that this remains so.

The very fact that Hinduism is still a dynamic and all-encompassing religion stands as ample testimony to the deeds of Adi Shankaracharya.

One of His invaluable contributions towards this, after the Bhashya -commentary-, was the reordering and restructuring of the ancient Sannyasa order.

During his travels across the length and breadth of India, he established four maths (ashrams) to unify the scattered and diverse groups of Sannyasis. These four maths were established, about 700 AD, in four different corners of India. He selected four of his senior most disciples to head each of these maths.  Each of these maths was assigned the task of maintaining and preserving for posterity, one of the four Vedas

Shankaracharya reorganised all the Sannyasis in India into ten main groups known as the Dasanami Tradition*. These orders are also allocated to different maths.

Historical and literary evidences also exist which prove that the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt at Kanceepuram, in Tamil Nadu, was also founded by Shankaracharya.

India Place Math names Acharya Veda Sampradaya
East Jagannath Govardhana Padmapada Rig Veda Vanam, Aranyam
West Dwaraka Sharada Hastamalaka Sama Veda Tirtha, Ashrama
North Badrinath Jyotir Trotaka Atharva Veda Giri, Parvata, Sagara
South Shringeri Shringeri Sureshwara Yajur Veda Saraswati, Bharati, Puri

The Puri Sannyasa Tradition

The Sannyasis of Mata Amritanandamayi Math belong to the Puri Sannyasa tradition. According to the tradition set forth by Adi Shankaracharya, the Puri Sannyasa tradition is characterised by the following – formal allegiance to the Shringeri Math

first Acharya (teacher) to be Sureswara
follow the Bhurivara Sampradaya (customs)
traditional Kshetra (Temple) – Rameshwar
traditional Deva (God) – Adi Varaha (The incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of a boar)
traditional Devi (Goddess) – Kamakshi (Sharada)
traditional Veda – Yajur Veda
traditional Upanishad – Kathopanishad
traditional Mahavakya (statement revealing the nature of Absolute Reality ) – Aham Brahmasmi
traditional Tirtha (Holy River) – Tungabhadra
traditional Gotra (descent or lineage) – Bhaveshavar Rishi


*The Dasanami Tradition
Giri – one who lives on a hill, Parvata – one who lives on a mountain
Sagara – one who lives near the sea, Vanam – one who lives in the forest
Aranya – one who lives in the jungle, Ashrama – one who lives in a hermitage
Saraswati – one who is well learned, Tirtha – one who lives near a site with sacred waters
Puri – one who dwells in a town, Bharati – one who is without bondage

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Why an Ashram have to run hospitals?

Message Amma gave in the souvenir during the inauguration of AIMS, Super specialty hospital in Kochi, Kerala in 1998.

Darling children,

Some of Amma’s children may doubt, “What need does an ashram have to run hospitals?” Children, didn’t the Lord incarnate as Dhanvantara Moorthi? Thus, He showed through His own example that medicine and treatment are very relevant. The shastras also tell that it is important to sustain the body. This seems to be correct if we also examine the history of Mahatmas who have lived until now.

Sri Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi and Swami Vivekananda all underwent treatment when they fell ill. They did not refrain from treatment, saying, “I am Brahman, not the body.”

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Since it is the nature of the body to become sick, it’s important to preserve the body by undergoing the required treatment. We can make fire only if there is firewood. Likewise, in order to know the Atma, it is necessary to preserve the instrument. Therefore hospitals and treatment are not contradictory to or incompatible with spirituality. All those are helpful in maintaining the body, which is a means to know the Self.

There are a lot of children who stay in the ashram who were inspired by meeting Amma. They are both Western and Indian. Among them, there are those that have been doctors. They want to stay with Amma. And Amma wanted to give them an opportunity to engage in selfless service to the world. How many people are there who can meditate 24 hours a day? Very few. That being so, what will the remaining majority do after their initial meditation hours? If one sits idle, a lot of unwanted thoughts will crop up in the mind. These thoughts are also a form of action. In such a situation, if they do some service with their hands and feet it will benefit them as well as the world.

There may be people who say, “We desire only liberation, we do not need any treatment. If we die out of sickness, let it be.” Amma would say that to attain liberation, it requires the grace of the Lord. In order to receive grace one should have mental purity, there is need for desireless service. One becomes deserving for grace only through selfless, unmotivated actions. To do such selfless actions, one needs to have a body. To maintain the body, it is necessary to take treatment at the time of illness.

Jnana (knowledge) and bhakti (devotion) are two sides of a coin. But nishkama karma (desireless action) is the seal on that coin. A coin becomes valuable only if there is a seal on it. Devotion and action are the two wings of a bird and knowledge is its tail. Only if these three are there, can it soar up to the heights.

Jnana (knowledge) and bhakti (devotion) are two sides of a coin. But nishkama karma (desireless action) is the seal on that coin. A coin becomes valuable only if there is a seal on it.  – Amma

In the olden days, disciples used to engage in service activities while living in gurukulas. They did not look upon it merely as action, but as a service to their Guru. In fact, action performed in dedication to the Guru is not action. It is real meditation. It is usually said that a disciple should serve the ashram considering it as the body of the Guru. Thereafter, he should be able to love and serve the whole world looking upon it as the body of the Guru. That is true meditation. The unbroken remembrance of that principle itself is meditation.

Everyone knows the story of the disciple who laid himself down in the Guru’s paddy field in order to prevent the water from entering the field through a fissure in the ridge. The disciple did not consider the field as just a field. He was ready to sacrifice his own life to protect the harvest. Such an action cannot be called just an action. It is a moment when one forgets oneself. It is the peak of meditation. In the olden days, it was the disciples who did all the work in the gurukulas. They used to bring firewood from the forest; they used to tend to the cows. For them, each action was a sadhana, not mere action. For them it was meditation and service to the Guru.

There are hundreds of educated and experienced children who have come to join the ashram. How will it be possible for all of them to sit and meditate for the whole time? It is far better to engage in some activities beneficial to the world rather than sitting idle and polluting the mind with unnecessary thoughts. Each one can do service to his or her capability while continuing mantra japa. That will benefit oneself as well as the world. That brings mental purity and through this one progresses towards the goal. Nobody can attain the goal without putting forth effort. Whether it is spirituality or materialism, effort is unavoidable. What fulfils the effort and makes it sweet is the grace of God. And it is the selfless attitude that makes one deserving to receive the grace of God.

While engaged in selfless service, some of my children may fear, “Oh, I don’t get even a moment to think about the Lord because of all this work. All my time is lost on these activities. Will my life be wasted?” and so on. Children, one who does desireless service need not wander anywhere in search of God. The real temple of God is in the heart of one who is engaged in unmotivated service.

That is how so many institutions have come up in this ashram. A few children who were experienced in the education field joined here. They started educational institutions. Those who have studied computer science started computer institutes. The children with engineering degrees began constructing buildings for the ashram. And when children who were doctors joined here, the ashram began to run hospitals. These activities are not just work for them, but part of their sadhana. It is meditation and service to the Guru. Amma would say that even the breath of one who serves the world, forgetting oneself, is beneficial in every way.

A few Vedantins would say that action, through service to the world, will lead to new vasanas (tendencies). It is just an argument of the lazy. The Lord says in the Gita, “O Arjuna, in the three worlds, I do not have any necessity to engage in action. Yet I continue to engage in action.” Performing action without attachment, with the attitude of “He, not I, is the doer, and I am merely an instrument” does not bind one. It leads only to liberation. Everywhere in the Gita, self-effort is given utmost importance.

Even the Vedantins who say, “I am Brahman, what need is there for me to engage in action?” seek treatment when they become sick. They want their meals ready exactly by 12 o’clock. They want their mattresses ready by 10 in the evening. If such services are required by them, why don’t they think that such service is needed for the world also? If one has the attitude that everything is the non-dual Self, then one has nothing to reject but accepts everything. Desire-lessness is the true measure of spiritual greatness.

If one has the attitude that everything is the non-dual Self, then one has nothing to reject but accepts everything. Desire-lessness is the true measure of spiritual greatness.  – Amma

Some others say, “Sannyasins should retire to the Himalayas.” Children, selfless service to the world is the beginning of Self-inquiry. That is also the culmination of it. Our duty towards God is our compassion to the poor and suffering. Our greatest obligation in this world is to serve our fellow beings. God does not require anything from us. He is ever full. The sun doesn’t require the light of a candle. God is the sustainer of the whole world. He is the embodiment of love and compassion. We can grow only if we imbibe that love and compassion. A sannyasi strives to love without attachment and to serve without expectation. He gives up the burden of selfishness and accepts the burden of serving the world.

Only if we love and serve the entire creation can we become a fit vessel for His grace. Engaging in meditation without purifying the mind through desireless service is fruitless, like pouring milk into an unclean vessel. But we often forget this truth. We forget our obligation to serve the suffering people. We go to temples, circumambulate the temple, repeating the names of the Lord; however, we drive away invalids stretching out their hand for a morsel of food. Children, real worship of the Lord is the compassion we extend towards the suffering.

Once a man wandered everywhere in search of God. Nowhere could he see the Lord. Finally, exhausted he sat beneath a tree. He happened to see a husband and wife pass by him in total joy. Seeing the joy in their faces, he wanted to know where they were going. He followed them and reached a colony of lepers. This couple cleansed the wounds of the lepers and applied medicine to them. They served the food they had brought. They consoled them with loving words. Seeing all this the man in search of God could not contain his joy. He cried out, “I have seen God! I have seen God!” Hearing him, others thought that he was mad. “Where is the God that you have seen?” they asked him. The man replied, “Where there is compassion, God is there. God dwells in the hearts of the compassionate. Children, consoling the sorrowful is a sadhana greater than meditation. Meditation is as invaluable as gold. However, if one has compassion for his fellow beings, it is like gold with fragrance. Its value and greatness is beyond all words. Therefore, my children, enter into the midst of the suffering and sorrowful.

However, even as you serve them, try to give them good samskaras also. It is not enough to give good food to the hungry. Even when the hunger is appeased, after sometime, one will again feel hungry. Therefore, you should teach them spiritual principles. Make them understand the nature of the world and the purpose of human life. If so, in all circumstances they will learn to lead their lives in happiness and contentment. Only then will your service become complete.

Today, everyone is interested in looking at those who are higher than them. Yet they are unconcerned about the plight of these who are less fortunate than them. Amma remembers a story: There was a woman who worked as a maid in a rich man’s house. She was a widow and her only daughter was handicapped. The woman would bring her daughter along when she went to work. The rich man also had a daughter. This girl loved the maid’s daughter very much. She would shower her with love, telling stories and giving her delicious edibles. The father didn’t like this at all. Everyday, he would scold his daughter, “Daughter, you should not play with that handicapped, dirty girl. Why do you spend so much time with her?” His daughter wouldn’t answer. The father thought it was because she didn’t have a playmate that she mixed with the servant’s daughter. He brought the daughter of his friend to the house. His daughter greeted the new child and was friendly with her. However, she continued to spend a lot of time with the servant’s daughter, showering her with love as before. Then the father asked, “Daughter, don’t you like the friend who I’ve brought for you?” The daughter said, “I liker the girl you brought for me, but may I tell you one thing? Even if I don’t love the girl you brought, there are many others who are ready to love her. On the other hand, if I don’t love this girl, who else will love her? She has no other relative.”

Children, we should cultivate a heart filled with compassion. We should thirst to serve the suffering people. In any circumstance, we should have the readiness to engage in service for the good of the world. – Amma

Children, this should be the attitude that we have. We should love the poor and suffering whole-heartedly. We should uplift them, going down to their level. That is our obligation to God.

Some of you may ask, “If selfless service is so great, what is the need for meditation and tapas (austerities)?” Children, if an ordinary man is like an electrical post, a tapasvi is like a transformer. One can acquire immense power through tapas. It is like conserving energy, constructing a dam over a river with nine tributaries. However, one should be ready to dedicate even the power acquired through tapas for the good of the world. One should be prepared to sacrifice everything, like an incense stick which spreads out its fragrance around the world while burning itself out. God’s grace will definitely flow to such an expansive heart.

Children, we should cultivate a heart filled with compassion. We should thirst to serve the suffering people. In any circumstance, we should have the readiness to engage in service for the good of the world.

Many people meditate in order that the third eye will open after the two eyes that see the world go blind. Such a thing will never happen. We can never close our eyes to the world in the name of spirituality. Self-Realization is the ability to see ourselves in all beings, even while our two eyes are wide open. We should be able to love and serve others, seeing ourselves in them. That is the fulfilment of spiritual practice.

Discussion & Study groups

Before Amma left for the US tour She spoke to the ashramites about ashram dharma and asked everyone to form study groups and to discuss in depth the meaning of the scriptures for everyday life.

A plethora of classes is in full swing, and everywhere one goes, one can hear chanting or scriptural discussions at almost all times of the day. Householders, brahmacahrinis and western residents have all formed study groups.

The householders meet three times a day, sometimes in the temple, to discuss the Lalitha Sahasranama and the Bhagavatam. The classes are very animated and the temple prayer hall seems to come to life during their discussions. The westerners have chosen to study ‘surrender’, and the brahamacharis and brahamacharinis have split into small groups to discuss spiritual books of their choice. One person or team brings together different renderings on one topic, e.g. what Amma says about sraddha and what the Bhagavad Gita says. They correlate all the points and at the end the group has a much clearer understanding than if they had studied alone.

“The highlights for everyone are the formal classes on Vedanta, Carnatic Music and the Dharma of a Disciple. They provide the fuel for our discussions, which become very deep and make us all much wiser,” said one participant.