Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu:
May Peace & Happiness Prevail

Amma has chosen some peace mantras for daily chanting by her devotees and disciples. One of those invocations is Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. Although this mantra does not appear in any of the existent Veda sakhas [Vedic branches], it is an expression of the universal spirit that we find therein1. Let’s take a look at what context it appears in and what meaning it carries. The sloka as a whole reads as follows:

svasti prajabhyah: pari-palayantham
nyayeana margena mahim maheesah:
go-brahmanebhya: shubamasthu nityam
lokah: samasthah: sukhino bhavanthu

May there be well being to the people; may the kings rule the earth along the right path;
May the cattle and the preceptors of culture and wisdom  have well being forever;
May all the beings in all the worlds become happy;
Peace, peace and peace be everywhere!

The sloka is an invocation for harmony and blessings for all of creation. In ancient days the social structure and form of government differed from ours in many ways, that is why we need not take the literal meaning of this sloka, but the essence.

For peace and harmony to prevail, the kings–i.e. the politicians and leaders–should have a healthy approach towards their subjects and govern according to principles of dharma. This, we sadly note, is very rare indeed in today’s world where power and wealth seem to be the prime motivation for the ruling elite. Nevertheless, the ideal remains as it is, and as Amma’s teachings are personally influencing countless politicians all over the world, there might yet be light at the end of the tunnel.

Brahmin is one who has either realised his oneness with Brahman, the Absolute, or one who has dedicted his life to the pursuit of that realization. Such selfless people are the enlightened thinkers who provide society with a healthy understanding of life. They give guidance to all sections of society, including the political leadership. A Brahmin can also mean a brilliant intellectual who is using his talents to selflessly serve society. Thus for a stable and bright society, it is essential that these Brahmins are healthy. The sage who gave voice to this mantra obviously does not assert Brahmin-hood as a hereditary vocation as found today.

There are many examples in history to demonstrate that Brahmin-hood is an inner quality not dependent on the social status that prevails upon one’s birth. We need only to look back to the great sage Veda Vyasa, also known as Krishna Dvaipayana because he had a dark complexion and was born on an island. He was born to a fisherwoman but possessed one of the greatest minds of all times and is universally accepted as a great rishi. He codified the Vedas and composed original works that are famed all over the world for their exquisite spiritual content. Among them are popular works like the Mahabharata and Srimad Bhagavatam, as well as profound treatises on the Ultimate Reality like the Brahma Sutras. In spite of his humble origins, Sage Vyasa is one of the most revered among the plethora of India’s spiritual giants.

Amma was born in a community of fisher folk. She was educated only up until the fourth standard and speaks only her mother tongue. Also, most striking of all, she has never studied the scriptures. Yet their wisdom flows from her lips unceasingly, rendering the most abstract truths in simple ways that most anyone can understand. Who would then deny Amma’s Brahmin-hood? Amma is directing the world with her wisdom, speaking to large audiences throughout the world, even at the United Nations.

Now, one might wonder about the cattle in this prayer, saying to one’s self: “What on earth have I, a city-dwelling modern person, to do with cattle? Shouldn’t I rather be praying that my BMW stays in good condition?” We need not be too literal-minded. The ancients didn’t use language in such a one-dimensional way as we do. If we contemplate deeply on the meaning of any given mantra, it is likely that it will reveal more and more layers of meaning. “Cattle” signifies nourishment and abundance in general. In ancient time cattle served as a sort of bank account. The number of cattle a person had was the measure of his wealth. Also, the milk was the primary source of livelihood for a large portion of society. Milk and milk products such as ghee comprised the majority of the offerings made into the sacrificial fires used in formal ritual worship. Thus cows are mentioned in many ancient texts as a symbol of plenty. It can be taken symbolically, like “the daily bread.”

In today’s society, such a prayer, if taken literally, has also a special irony, for cattle ranches around the world have become breeding grounds for diseases like the mad-cow epidemic. When cattle and the rest of the animal kingdom are devoid of well being, humanity will also suffer. Thus harmony between humans and the rest of creation is also stressed in this prayer. Actually cow can be taken as representative of the entire animal kingdom. The Sanskrit word for cattle is “go,” which is a most profound Vedic symbol and has many subtle spiritual meanings. Two such secondary meanings are “earth” and “mother,” and as such the sloka could also be a prayer for the welfare of Mother Earth. So we need not be worried that God will send a herd of cattle charging through our living room when we pray thus.

The most important aspect of the mantra is that the sage does not pray only for his clan or nation but for the whole world or, more precisely, all the worlds2. This, as Amma tells us and shows us, is the correct way to pray. Instead of asking for something for our self, Amma advises us to pray for the whole creation. Praying for the welfare of all sentient beings–all humans, all animals, all plants—our mind becomes more expansive. Through such prayer we slowly can go beyond our limited egocentric concepts of self to identify with the entire creation, recognising its true nature to be none other than our own. And as we too are part of the world, we also are benefited from the blessings of the prayer.

Amma’s whole life is a constant endeavour to bring happiness to as many beings as possible. Her life verily is this prayer in action. She is showing us the correct attitude by which not only to pray but also by which to live vedas.

While chanting Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu next time, let us try to feel deeply for all living beings, and make a resolve to live in this selfless spirit.

May peace and harmony prevail.

1 Many of the original 1008 branches of the Vedas have been lost. It is possible that this mantra was in one of those lost branches. If not, it surely took birth from or around a Realized Master.

2 According to the traditional view, there are 14 worlds, or planes of existence–six figuratively above us and seven figuratively below. Bhuh is the earthly plane. Above it in ascending order are Bhuvah, Svah, Mahar, Jana, Tapa and Satya (also known as Brahma-loka); below in descending order are Atala, Vitala, Satala, Rasaatala, Talaatala, Mahaatala and Patala. These are generally divided into three zones: heaven (svarga), earth (prithvi) and the netherworld (patala). That is why one frequently comes across the expressions in the scriptures like “the lord of the three worlds.” If one refuses to accept that there are 14 worlds, they can consider the reference to multiple worlds as meaning the infinite perspectives of this world, as percieved by all the animals, plants and humans.

Asatoma Ma Sadgamaya

Meaning  of  the mantra ‘Asatoma Ma Sadgamaya’

asato ma sadgamaya
tamaso ma jyotirgamaya
mrtyorma amrtam gamaya
om shanti shanti shanti.

Lead me from the asat to the sat.
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from death to immortality
Om Peace Peace Peace.

(Brhadaranyaka Upanishad — I.iii.28)

This is true prayer—the seeker’s admission of his sense of limitedness and his heartfelt cry for assistance in transcendence. It is not a prayer for the things of the world. It is not a pray for food, shelter, health, partnership, riches, success, fame, glory or even for heaven1. One who recites these three mantras has realized that such things are full of holes, soaked in pain and, even in abundance, will forever leave him wanting. It is in this full understanding that one turns to this prayer. The essence of each of these three mantras is the same: “O, Guru, help me free myself from my sundry misunderstandings regarding myself, the universe and God and bless me with true knowledge.”

It is in this spirit that people throughout the world are regularly chanting these mantras, and in which they are chanted twice daily at Amma’s ashrams—both at the conclusion of the morning arcana and after the evening arati.

The first line—asato ma sadgamaya—means, “Lead me from the asat to the sat.” In fact, it is best to not translate sat (nor its negative counterpart asat) for, as with many Sanskrit words, sat has many meanings and not only are most of them applicable here, their deliberate combined import provides a depth that no one of them could hold independently. These co-applicable meanings include: existence, reality and truth. (Co-applicable meanings for asat being: non-existence, non-reality and untruth.)

We often speak of religion or philosophy as a search for Truth. But only in India’s philosophy of Advaita Vedanta has the concept of “truth” been so meticulously and successfully dissected. According to Advaita, for something to be considered true in the ultimate sense, it must be true not just at one given moment, but always be true—true in all three periods of time: the past, present and future. In fact, Advaita goes one step further. It says if something does not exist in all three periods of time that it does not truly exist, it is not ultimately real. Thus, truth, existence and reality are one and the same. That reality, Vedanta says, is what we call God.

The universe and its things are in a constant state of change. The planets are in constant motion, their positions in relation to each other and the other astral bodies are in continuous flux. The seasons similarly are ever-shifting. Scientifically, we can easily understand that our bodies (and the cells within them) come into existence, are born and then go through periods of growth, sustenance, deterioration and death. In fact these six modifications are part-and-parcel of everything in creation. On the level of emotions, we move back and forth between happiness, sorrow and anger. Even our intellectual convictions rarely stay fixed for very long. So, according to Vedanta, we cannot call this world ultimately real. It is not ultimately true. Ultimately, it does not exist. It seems real etc. but it is not. Such a thing is called asat.

The seeker giving voice to this prayer has come to understand the finite nature of all the objects of the world, and he wants the Guru to guide him from the asat to the sat. He is fed up with depending on things that are not real. Why? Because just as the sandcastle is always washed away by the tide, dependence on the asat always ends in pain. Sat is our True Self—the blissful consciousness that ever was, is and ever will be. Being beyond time, this consciousness can never be washed away by the time’s tides. In fact, sat is there as the essential part of all of the asat objects. It is a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff, as it were.

When speaking about the ultimate reality, Sages say it is of the nature of sat-cit-ananda: pure existence, pure consciousness and pure bliss.

The second line—tamaso ma jyotirgamaya—means “Lead me from darkness to light.” When the Vedas refer to darkness and light, they mean ignorance and knowledge, respectfully. This is so because ignorance, like darkness, obscures true understanding. And in the same way that the only remedy for darkness is light, the only remedy for ignorance is knowledge. The knowledge spoken of here is again the knowledge of one’s true nature.

Currently, in the darkness of our ignorance, we believe ourselves to be bound and limited (otherwise we would not be reciting these mantras in the first place). But the Guru and the scriptures are telling us that, in truth, we are not, never will be and never have been bound. Eternally we sat-cit-ananda. The only thing that can remove our ignorance regarding our true nature is a spiritual education at the hands of a True Master like Amma. At the culmination of such an education, light floods the room, as it were; darkness vanishes.

The third line —mrtyorma amrtam gamaya—means: “Lead me from death to immortality.” This should not be taken as a prayer to live endless years in heaven or on earth. It is a prayer to the Guru for assistance in realizing the truth that “I was never born, nor can ever die, as I am not the body, mind and intellect, but the eternal, blissful consciousness that serves as the substratum of all creation.”

It is important to remember that, with all these mantras, the leading is not a physical leading. The Atma is not something far away that we have to make a pilgrimage to, nor is it something we need to transform ourselves into. Atma means “self.” We don’t need to transform our self into our self. Nor do we need to travel to it. We are it. The journey is a journey of knowledge. It is journey from what we misunderstand to be our self to what truly is our self. What the mantras really means is “Lead me to the understanding that I am not the limited body, mind and intellect, but am, was and always will be that eternal, absolute, blissful consciousness that serves as their substratum.”

Once, when discussing these mantras, Amma said the first step in attaining the knowledge for which one is praying when they chant these mantras is satsang: listening to spiritual talks, reading spiritual books and being in the company of spiritual seekers and, of most importantly, spiritual masters. “We need to continuously be fed by the knowledge that our true nature is the Atma and not the body mind and intellect,” Amma said. Through satsang, our attachment to the asat gradually lessens. “Slowly as you understand that everything in the world—all worldly relationship, all worldly things—are ever-changing an impermanent, your attitude towards the world changes. We gain detachment.” As we become more and more detached, our desires also naturally decrease, because we know that the things of the world are impermanent and cannot bring us lasting happiness. As the desires decrease, the mind becomes less and less agitated. It obtains serenity, stillness, peace. Then, with this stilled, subtle, penetrating mind we can finally come to realize our true nature.

* * * * * * * * * *

1 In Vedanta, heaven—or rather heavens—are accepted as part of the lower reality. Unlike in other religions, going to heaven is not the professed to be the ultimate goal of life. According to Vedanta, heaven can be likened to a vacation resort. After death, if one has done enough good deeds in life, one can go to heaven for a very long time. But eventually he will have to return to the earthly plane when we ran out of a. Thus even though one may be in heaven, he is still bound and mired in ignorance to his true nature. [As it says in the Bhagavad-Gita:
From Brahma Loka to the lowest world,
all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place O Arjuna.
But one who comes to me, O son of Kunti,
never takes birth again. (Gita 8:16)
The human goal according Vedanta is Self-realization. The Atma is the ultimate reality. When one realizes his true nature, he attains spiritual fulfillment in this life itself. Then, upon death, he does not go to any heavenly abode but simply merges into the supreme reality.

Shanti Mantras

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti: meaning of the shanti mantras

The mantras chanted in Amma’s ashrams at the end of arati and archana are called shanti mantras1. Therefore to conclude each one, “shanti,” which means “peace,” is chanted three times. As a spiritual aspirant, one chants shanti in desire for the occurrence of circumstances conducive to a spiritual education. But these mantras can be chanted for peace in a general sense as well. Shanti is chanted thrice not for emphasis but because disturbances are of three distinct categories. In Sanskrit, these are referred to as adhi-daivikam, adhi-bhautikam and adhyatmikam.

Adhi-daivikam literally means “mental disturbances that come from God”—i.e. things that are utterly beyond our control: hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, etc. We have no control over these types of disturbances. So when we say the first shanti, we are praying, “O God, may we be protected from these obstacles that are beyond our control.”

Adhi-bhautikam literally means “disturbances that come from the world.” That means anything stemming from the world around us—mosquitoes, noisy neighbors, barking dogs, the phone ringing, family arguments. As opposed to the first category, we have some control over this second category of disturbances. We can use mosquito repellent, we can call the police on our neighbors, we can turn off the phone, we can leave the place altogether, etc. So this shanti means, “O God, may we be protected from the people and surroundings.”

The third type of disturbance is the most powerful and, at the same time, the only one over which we have total control. Adhyatmikam means “disturbances stemming from the self.” For one who is still identified with the ego, the people, places and things of this world stimulate one of two reactions in the mind—attachment or aversion. Whether we physical see someone we consider our enemy as we walk down the street or remember him during meditation, the mental turbulence that results is the same. Lust, jealousy, anger, sorrow, hatred destroy our peace. During meditation, pleasant memories also distract us. Hearing the sound of a jet plane flying overhead may mentally carry us off to a fabulous holiday we once took. Only after 10 minutes of daydreaming do we realize we have lost focus on our object of meditation.

In fact, Amma says that the ego is the only true obstacle to mental peace. This third shanti is therefore the most important one, because even if we are free from outside disturbances, if the inner realm is not calm we will never know peace. Conversely, once we have found inner peace, no external force can ever disturb us. So chanting this third shanti is akin to praying, “O God, please remove all the inner obstacles.”

There is one more element to the three-fold chanting of “shanti,” and that is the silence that follows each repetition. If chanted properly, this silence is the emphasis: shanti… shanti…. shanti….

This silence is representative of true peace, the peace of an Enlightened One like Amma. For the spiritual seeker, peace is the goal. For an Enlightened One peace has been realized as his very nature. To have be have equipoise in every situation in life verily is realization.


Lord Ganesha: his birth story, symbolism meaning and practice

The birth of Ganesha

One day Goddess Parvati was at home on Mt.Kailash preparing for a bath. As she didn’t want to be disturbed, she told Nandi, her husband Shiva’s Bull, to guard the door and let no one pass. Nandi faithfully took his post, intending to carry out Parvati’s wishes. But, when Shiva came home and naturally wanted to come inside, Nandi had to let him pass, being loyal first to Shiva. Parvati was angry at this slight, but even more than this, at the fact that she had no one as loyal to Herself as Nandi was to Shiva. So, taking the turmeric paste (for bathing) from her body and breathing life into it, she created Ganesha, declaring him to be her own loyal son.

The next time Parvati wished to bathe, she posted Ganesha on guard duty at the door. In due course, Shiva came home, only to find this strange boy telling him he couldn’t enter his own house! Furious, Shiva ordered his army to destroy the boy, but they all failed! Such power did Ganesha possess, being the son of Devi Herself!

This surprised Shiva. Seeing that this was no ordinary boy, the usually peaceful Shiva decided he would have to fight him, and in his divine fury severed Ganesha’s head, killing him instantly. When Parvati learned of this, she was so enraged and insulted that she decided to destroy the entire Creation! Lord Brahma, being the Creator, naturally had his issues with this, and pleaded that she reconsider her drastic plan. She said she would, but only if two conditions were met: one, that Ganesha be brought back to life, and two, that he be forever worshipped before all the other gods.

Shiva, having cooled down by this time, and realizing his mistake, agreed to Parvati’s conditions. He sent Brahma out with orders to bring back the head of the first creature he crosses that is laying with its head facing North. Brahma soon returned with the head of a strong and powerful elephant, which Shiva placed onto Ganesha’s body. Breathing new life into him, he declared Ganesha to be his own son as well, and gave him the status of being foremost among the gods, and leader of all the ganas (classes of beings), Ganapati.

Meaning of the story of  Ganesh

At first glance, this story just seems like a nice tale that we might tell our children, or a myth without any real substance. But, it’s true mystical meaning is veiled. It is explained thus:

Parvati is a form of Devi, the Parashakti (Supreme Energy). In the human body She resides in the Muladhara chakra as the Kundalini shakti. It is said that when we purify ourselves, ridding ourselves of the impurities that bind us, then the Lord automatically comes. This is why Shiva, the Supreme Lord, came unannounced as Parvati was bathing.

Nandi, Shiva’s bull, who Parvati first sent to guard the door represents the divine temperment. Nandi is so devoted to Shiva that his every thought is directed to Him, and he is able to easily recognize the Lord when He arrives. This shows that the attitude of the spiritual aspirant is what gains access to Devi’s (the kundalini shakti’s) abode. One must first develop this attitude of the devotee before hoping to become qualified for the highest treasure of spiritual attainment, which Devi alone grants.

After Nandi permitted Shiva to enter, Parvati took the turmeric paste from Her own body, and with it created Ganesha.. Yellow is the color associated with the Muladhara chakra, where the kundalini resides, and Ganesha is the deity who guards this chakra. Devi needed to create Ganesha, who represents the earthbound awareness, as a shield to protect the divine secret from unripe minds. It is when this awareness begins to turn away from things of the world, and toward the Divine, as Nandi had, that the great secret is revealed.

Shiva is the Lord and Supreme Teacher. Ganesha here represents the ego-bound Jiva. When the Lord comes, the Jiva, surrounded as it is with the murky cloud of ego, usually doesn’t recognize Him, and maybe even ends up arguing or fighting with Him! Therefore, it is the duty of the Lord, in the form of the Guru, to cut off the head of our ego! So powerful is this ego however, that at first the Guru’s instructions may not work, as Shiva’s armies failed to subdue Ganesha. It often requires a tougher approach, but, eventually the compassionate Guru, in His wisdom finds a way.

Devi threatened to destroy the whole Creation after learning of Ganesha’s demise. This indicates that when the ego thus dies, the liberated Jiva loses interest in its temporary physical vehicle, the body, and begins to merge into the Supreme. The physical world is here represented by Devi. This impermanent and changeable creation is a form of Devi, to which this body belongs; the unchanging Absolute is Shiva, to which belongs the Soul. When the ego dies, the external world, which depends on the ego for its existence, disappears along with it. It is said that if we want to know the secrets of this world, which is a manifestation of Devi, then we must first receive the blessings of Ganesha.

Shiva restoring life to Ganesha, and replacing his head with an elephant’s, means that before we can leave the body, the Lord first replaces our small ego with a “big”, or universal ego. This doesn’t mean that we become more egoistic. On the contrary, we no longer identify with the limited individual self, but rather with the large universal Self. In this way, our life is renewed, becoming one that can truly benefit Creation. It is however only a functional ego, like the one Krishna and Buddha kept. It is like a thin string tying the liberated Consciousness to our world, solely for our benefit.

Ganesha is given dominion over the Ganas, which is a general term denoting all classes of beings, ranging from insects, animals and humans to the subtle and celestial beings. These various beings all contribute to the government of the Creation; everything from natural forces like storms and earthquakes, to the elemental qualities like fire and water, to functioning of the body’s organs and processes. If we don’t honor the Ganas, then our every action is a form of thievery, as it is unsanctioned. Therefore, instead of propitiating each Gana in order to receive their blessings, we bow to their Lord, Sri Ganesha. By receiving His grace, we receive the grace of all. He removes any potential obstacles and enables our endeavors to succeed.

Such is the greatness of Sri Ganesha! Jai Ganesha!


Arati of Amma

Ārati symbolizes surrender—the final relinquishment of the ego to God. Just as the camphor used in the ritual dissolves into nothingness, so too should the individual will merge in the divine will, so too should we make an offering of the only thing that is truly ours to give—the ego. Only when we give up our erroneous concepts of “I” and “mine” will our worship truly be complete and will we receive the ultimate prasād—the awakening of divine love in our heart.

The Sanskrit word ārati literally means “cessation” or “coming to an end.” This is because it is typically the final act in a ritual worship. At Amritapuri, ārati is performed both at the conclusion of the morning arcana and at the conclusion of the evening bhajans. The later ārati is accompanied by the singing of a special composition written by Amma’s disciples years ago. This song is also referred to as “Ārati.”


om jaya jaya jagad jananī vande amrtānandamayī
mangala ārati mātah bhavāni amrtānandamayi
mātā amrtānandamayī

[Om. Victory! Victory! Prostrations to the Jagad Janani, the embodiment of immortal bliss.
Auspicious ārati to Mātā Bhavāni, Amrtānandamayi.
Mātā Amrtānandamayi.]

The ārati is begun with the chanting of Om. Om is Brahman, the Absolute, pure consciousness that is everyone’s true nature.

The song next proclaims Amma’s victory and offers prostrations at her feet. Amma’s victory is the victory of every Satguru—the victory of true knowledge over ignorance. Just as in the presence of sunlight, darkness stands no chance, so too for one who has surrendered at the feet of a Satguru the days of Self-ignorance are numbered. This victory is also the victory of dharma [righteousness] over adharma [unrighteousness], as Amma is redirecting the course of the world, leading mankind back to the path of truth, compassion, selflessness and other noble virtues.

In this first verse, Amma is referred to by three names: Mātā Amritānandamayi, Jagad Janani, and Mātā Bhavāni.

Mātā Amritānandamayi, of course, is the name given to Amma by her disciples. It literally means “the mother who is the embodiment of immortal bliss.” Mrtu means “death,” and a-mrta, therefore, means “deathless.” Amma’s name points not only to her true nature, but also to the true nature of us all. The only difference being that Amma is fully aware of being immortal bliss, whereas the majority of mankind either believes his nature to be just the opposite—one of suffering and mortality—or, at best, only has an intellectual understanding of his true nature. Mātā means mother. Amma believes that the only thing that can truly help today’s world—both in terms of providing a proper role model and of bestowing the love and compassion for which people are starving—is a Mother. Thus, for the benefit of the world, Amma has assumed the bhāva [mode, feeling, role] of the Divine Mother. We can also look at Amma’s name as pointing to the fact that only through following the teachings of a Satguru like Amma is it possible for a disciple to awaken to his true nature; thus for the disciple the guru is “the mother” of immortal bliss.

Jagad Janani means “mother of the world.” This can be looked at in two different ways. First, as Amma has chosen to assume the bhāva of a mother, she therefore sees every person, plant and animal in creation as her child. Just as an ordinary mother lives to love and nurture her biological children, so too Amma is concerned with the welfare of society at large. From another perspective, Brahman, in its conditioned form, is considered both the intelligent and material cause—”the mother”—of the universe.

Similarly, bhava means “being, existing, living.” Mātā Bhavāni therefore means “the mother of existence.”


jana mana nija sukha-dāyini mātā amrtānandamayī
mangala kārini vande janani amrtānandamayi
mātā amrtānandamayī

[The mother who bestows eternal happiness upon mankind, Amritānandamayi
Prostrations to the cause of auspiciousness, the Mother, Amritānandamayi.
Mātā Amritānandamayi.]

In this verse, prostrations are offered to jana mana nija sukha-dāyini mātā: “the mother who bestows eternal happiness upon mankind.” Happiness is man’s true nature—not the limited happiness that comes and goes with the attainments and losses of life, but the immortal bliss born out the sense of completeness that comes from realising our oneness with the Divine. As Amma is guiding her disciples and devotees towards this realisation, the song says that she is bestowing eternal happiness upon them.

Mangala kārini means “she who causes auspiciousness.” A mahātma like Amma is said to be a wish-fulfilling tree, one who can obtain for his devotees any boons they desire. Also, when one becomes a devotee of a mahātma, the mahātma takes upon himself much of the devotee’s negative karma, reducing his suffering. And serving a mahātma brings not only mental refinement but also material prosperity. How many devotees tell stories of Amma helping them gain employment, get promotions, arrange marriages, bringing children and grandchildren, etc.

But there is also a deeper meaning to this name for Amma. The Upanishads say that the Self is śāntam, śivam, advaitam: peaceful, auspicious and non-dual. Currently we think in terms of auspicious and inauspicious because we fail to recognise the divinity that in truth is the essential nature of every aspect of the world around us. In our superficial assessment of creation, we label some things as good and others as bad, but in truth everything—the so-called auspicious and so-called inauspicious alike—are nothing but God. It is only our thoughts—which are based upon our preconceived notions—that colour things as auspicious and inauspicious. The Guru removes the scales from our eyes, as it were, allowing us to see this truth for ourselves, and thus is credited as “the cause of auspiciousness.”


sakalāgama-nigamādisucarite amrtānandamayī
nikhilāmayahara jananī vande amrtānandamayi
mātā amrtānandamayī

[The one explained in all the Āgamas, Nigamas and other scriptures, Amritānandamayi.
Prostrations to the mother who completely destroys all sorrows, Amritānandamayi.
Mātā Amritānandamayi.]

In this ārati, Nigama means śruti, “that which is heard,” the Vedas, the eternal scriptural mantras that were revealed to the Rishis in their meditations millennia ago. These mantras are said to have originated with God himself and have been handed down since through an unbroken succession of gurus and disciples. These can be further divided into two sections—one dealing with rituals and one dealing with knowledge of the Absolute. Āgama in this ārati means smrti, the scriptures written by Rishis in order to elaborate on the sruti. (Examples include the 18 major purānas—Vishnu Purāna, Srīmad Bhagavatam, etc.—and itihāsas—Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata, the latter of which includes the Bhagavad Gīta).

Amma is said to be the one explained in the Āgamas and Nigamas, etc. By “etc,” the arati means all other scriptures. This includes the sutra literature, such as the Brahmasutra, which support the reasoning of the sruti and smrti using logic, as well as prakaranam, the innumerable texts written by various ācāryas in the guru-disciple parampara. Thus the song is saying that Amma is one with the Truth that all these texts proclaim together with one voice. “Etc” also includes scriptures from Tantra. (From the viewpoint of Tantra, which has text such as Rudra Āgama and Śiva Āgama, Āgama is considered sruti, as it was received directly from Lord Śiva.)

Amma is then referred to as nikhila-āmaya-hara janani, “the mother who completely destroys suffering.” In spirituality there is only one source of suffering: the disease of ignorance—ignorance of the fact that our true nature is the eternal, non-dual blissful consciousness that pervades all creation. Though the disease is one, it has many symptoms, a series of delusions, the sum total of which can be called samsāra.

When one is ignorant of his true nature, the door is left wide open for the first delusion: “I am the body, the mind and intellect.” When one believes himself to be this three-fold contraption, he fails to experience his innate happiness, which awakens the desire in him to attain happiness from the objects of the world. Engaging in activities to obtain this happiness, the delusion “I am the doer” also manifests. Once one believes himself to be the doer, he also believes himself to be the enjoyer/sufferer of the fruits of his actions. This leads only to sorrow—the pain of the struggle to obtain the objects, the pain of the struggle to maintain objects and the pain that comes after their inevitable loss. Thus a viscous cycle of ignorance-desire-action has been created. And until one stops and looks back to their Self for happiness, one will never escape. The only cure for this cyclical disease is the medicine of knowledge, and the only doctor who can administer it correctly is the Guru. Once the disease is cured, all the symptoms go away.

Removing our suffering is Amma’s sole reason for taking birth. Teaching the world about the nature of the world and the mind, Amma is leading mankind from a life steeped in misery to one of peace and happiness. And in Amma’s presence, we get a taste of true happiness. Due to her grace, we are able to temporarily forget about our sorrows and experience the bliss the overflows from her.


prema-rasāmrta-varshini mātā amrtānandamayī
prema bhakti sandāyini mātā amrtānandamayi
mātā amrtānandamayī

[The mother who rains forth love, which is of the nature of immortality, Amritānandamayi.
The mother who bestows love and devotion, Amrtānandamayi.
Mātā Amrtānandamayi.]

Here, Amma is said to be “the mother who rains forth love, which is of the essence of immortality.” Amma is also said to be “the mother who bestows prema [divine, unconditional love] and bhakti [devotion].” The idea is that love and devotion are awakened by Amma herself. Part of Amma’s greatness is that she does not reserve herself for uttama adhikaris [top disciples] only. She is available to one and all. As such, she pulls people up from an utterly worldly existence and puts them on the path to realizing the Self. How many stories are there of people whom had no interest in spiritual life, but then after receiving Amma’s darshan dedicated their life to imbibing her teachings and selflessly serving the world? Out of her compassion, Amma plants the seed of bhakti within those who come to her, waters them and brings them to full flower.


śama-dama-dāyini mana-laya kārini amrtānandamayī
satatam mama hrdi vasatām devì amrtānandamayi
mātā amrtānandamayī

[The bestower of mental and sense control, the cause of the dissolution of the mind, Amritānandamayi.
Devi, please always dwell in my heart, Amrtānandamayi.
Mātā Amrtānandamayi.]

Just as Amma cultivates bhakti and prema in her devotees, she also helps them to acquire other qualifications that the scriptures say a disciple needs. Though the song only mentions śama and dama, we can take these two as representative of the entire sādhana catushtayam, the four-fold qualifications one needs to be an ideal student of a Guru.

Śama means mental mastery—a peaceful, poised, tranquil and stress-free mind. Dama is control over the sense organs—the eyes, the ears, the skin, the tongue and the nose. One must be able to intelligently choose what his senses take in and what they turn away from. The sense organs are the gateways connecting our mind with the outside world. Nothing potentially disturbing should be allowed to enter the mind of a spiritual aspirant, particularly in the early stages of his spiritual practices.

Amma is also called mana-laya-kārini: “the cause of mental dissolution.” In reality, the mind is not the sentient entity that we believe it to be. As Amma says, “It is nothing but a flow of thoughts.” When one gets concentration in meditation, the flow stops and one experiences what is known as mana-laya, a temporary dissolution of the mind. At times like these we will get a taste of the bliss that is our true nature. A mahātma’s mind is so peaceful that the peace overflows, as it were, and pervades the surrounding area. Thus many find it very easy to attain deep meditation in their presence.

The ārati then requests Amma to live in our hearts. Amma herself says, “I have no particular place to dwell; I reside in your heart.” Though the pure consciousness that is our true nature is in fact all-pervading, while we are living in this body, our particular plug-point, as it were, is in the heart or mind. Thus the scriptures say that God, or consciousness, is “realised in the heart.” This can also be taken as a request that Amma never allow us to feel separate from her, and that we become so steeped in her teachings of dharma, love, compassion and selflessness that they inform our every thought, word and deed.


patitodhāra nirantara hrdaye amrtānandamayī
paramahamsa pada nilaye devī amrtānandamayi
mātā amrtānandamayī

[The one whose heart’s eternal desire is to uplift the fallen.
The goddess who resides in the state of a paramahamsa, Amritānandamayi.
Mātā Amritānandamayi.]

For the sake of mankind Amma has taken the self-imposed desire of uplifting those suffering materially and spiritually. Unlike the desires of man, which enslave him, the desires of a mahatma are self-chosen. In truth, mahātmas like Amma have nothing to attain, so established they are in their fundamental oneness with the Absolute. Yet they chose to act for the benefit of the world. As Śrī Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gīta: “In all the three worlds, I have nothing to attain, but still I perform actions for the benefit of the world.” From the pinnacle of ultimate knowledge where the mahātmas revel, it can be said that this world is an illusion and does not even exist. Yet out of their infinite compassion, realized ones like Amma come down to our level in order to lift us up to their height. This can also be looked at from the perspective of dharma. Whenever mankind becomes mired in selfishness and unrighteousness, a mahātma like Amma takes birth in order to set the world back on course. Śrī Krishna says as much to Arjuna the Gīta. In fact, Amma’s whole life is dedicated to lifting up those whose happiness has fallen. How many tears has Amma wiped over the years! Her darshan itself is only a manifestation of her desire to make others happy.

Amma is then said to reside in the state of a paramahamsa. Another name for a mahātma, paramahamsa literally means “supreme swan.” The meaning is taken from the myth that swans have the ability extract only the milk from a mixture of milk and water. Similarly, a mahātma is one who has the supreme discrimination to be able to extract the essential nature of the world, Brahman, from the unessential, the eternally shifting and ultimately pointless names and forms.


he jananī jani marana nivārini amrtānandamayī
he śrita jana paripālini jayatām amrtānandamayì
mātā amrtānandamayī

[O mother who puts a stop to the cycle of birth and death, Amritanāndamayi.
O Mother, may you who protects those who seek refuge, be victorious, Amritānandamayi.
Mātā Amrtānandamayi.]

Here Amma is proclaimed as jani marana nivārini: “the one who puts an end to the cycle of birth and death.” The scriptures point out that the cycle of ignorance-desire-action is, in fact, not limited to this life alone, but extends to other lives as well, leading to a continuum of birth and death. When we attain a desired object in our attempts for happiness, the attainment temporarily stills our agitated mind, resulting in the feeling of joy. But it is short-lived and is soon covered up again with the agitations caused by new desires. We are left only with its memory. However, the mind wants that tiny bit of joy back, and so we again strive to attain that object, and thus an infinite chain is created. Amma and the scriptures say that the desires that remain with us at the time of our death dictate our next birth. This leads to a seemingly endless cycle of birth and death. Only when we surrender at the feet of a Satguru will this cycle be broken. The Satguru destroys our ignorance of our true nature with knowledge. We then come to know that we are ever complete and full, and stop looking for happiness in the outside world. Thus the vāsanas, or tendencies, accumulated over lifetimes of seeking (and seeming to acquire) happiness from the outside world, are finally burnt away. They become like fried seeds, unable to sprout forth into future births.


sura jana pūjita jaya jagadambā amrtānandamayī
sahaja samādhi sudhanye devì amrtānandamayì
mātā amrtānandamayī

[The one who is worshipped by the gods! Victory to Jagadamba! Amritānandamayi
O blessed goddess who is established in sahaja samādhi, Amritānandamayi.
Mātā Amrtānandamayi.]

In this final verse, it is said that Amma is worshipped by the gods themselves. She is also referred to as Jagadamba, “the mother of all creation, and said to reside in the state of sahaja samādhi.

The scriptures say that if one acquires enough merit through various actions it is possible to be born as a deva, or demigod, in their next life. Sura is another name for deva. Spiritual aspirants are not supposed to be interested in such attainments as, however subtle and high such attainments may seem to us, they still fall within the scope of unreality, and pale in comparison to the bliss of the Self. They are also temporary. When the merit that transformed us into the god is used up, we have to come back to the earthly plane. When a prime minister or a president’s term in office comes to an end, he often suffers from depression. Imagine then the depression that would result from losing your term as a divine being with all the heavenly pleasures at your disposal! The gods of such worlds know that the attainment of a Satguru, who has realised his True Nature, is in fact much higher than theirs; therefore they are said to worship Amma.

The gods worship Amma because she is established in sahaja-samādhi. There are several different types of samādhi mentioned in the scriptures, and no other term has caused more confusion in the minds of spiritual aspirants. Samādhi is a term from the yoga scriptures that has to do with meditation. It is the eighth step of Sage Patanjali’s eight-limbed system of yoga, and it means absorption in meditation.

The main two types of samādhi are nirvikalpa and savikalpa (without and with division). In nirvikalpa samadhi, one becomes completely absorbed in the object of meditation, verily becoming one with it. All distinction between mediator and object of meditation fall away. In savikalpaka samādhi, a division remains wherein the meditator still considers himself as separate from the object of meditation. These mental states may last for a few minutes, a few hours or a few days.

Sahaja samādhi means total, natural and effortless absorption in the Supreme Truth that everything inside and out is nothing but Brahman. One who abides in sahaja samādhi may “demonstrate” nirvikalpa or savikalpa samādhi to inspire his disciples in their meditation practices. But whether such a one is meditating, walking, talking, eating or sleeping, the Supreme Truth that they are “amrtānandamaya” never leaves them. As Amma says, “One who is established in this state sees the Divine principle in everything. Everywhere he perceives only pure consciousness, free from the taint of maya. Just as a sculptor sees in a stone only the image that can be chiselled from it, mahātmas see in everything only the all-pervading Divinity.” Sahaja samādhi is verily Self-realisation, and this is the samādhi in which Amma ever abides.


Sri Krishna, Amma & the cow

Symbolism of the cow

Due to the wise example and guidance of India’s ancient Rishis (Seers), who established the habit of honouring all aspects of life, cows, through their symbiotic relationship with people, were naturally given a high place in Indian culture. This high status was reinforced and high-lighted with the advent of Sri Krishna and His leelas, and is again receiving attention from Amma and Her teachings.

Amma Herself has always spoken in the highest regard for cows, making sure that the ashram cows are always lovingly cared for. Perhaps this is partly due to a remarkable relationship Amma had with one cow in particular, when She was young.

There was a time when She had been turned out by Her family, due to their intolerance of the inexplicable behaviour arising from Her profound mystical experiences. During that period, Amma would endure long stretches of time without eating or drinking anything, so absorbed was She in Her samadhi. One day a cow showed up, and stood nearby, waiting until Amma regained normal awareness. When Amma opened her eyes, this cow then moved close and allowed Amma to drink milk directly from her udders. The cow did this each day, and it soon became known that this cow had been selflessly walking over seven kilometers each way, just to feed Amma, and this even before feeding her own calf! All out of a deep universal sympathy she and Amma somehow shared.

From this it can be seen that cows are rightly honoured as a form of the Mother. Consider that this gentle creature offers such an abundance, despite taking so little. To begin with, cow’s milk and its by-products are taken as food in all parts of the world. In fact, many of us were raised on cow’s milk as a substitute for our own mother’s milk! And milk in turn can become so many things —cheese, butter, curd, cream, ghee, yogurt– much of which is used in a ceremonial context as well, such as pada puja and abhishekam. Even the waste products of a cow are beneficial. Cow-dung makes a superior manure, and the ash derived from burning dried cow dung is used in a sacred symbolic context. And both cow-dung ash, and cow urine are utilized for certain medicinal properties they possess.

Sri Krishna also has a special connection with the divine bovine. Growing up in Brindavan, Sri Krishna was known as Gopala, which means one who looks after the cow, and it was during his daily tending to the cows in the field that some of His most unforgettable leelas were unfolded. What’s more, his most dedicated devotees were the gopis, or cowherd girls, who in their simple purity and innocence could easily see the divinity within this mischievous and mysterious blue-hued boy, who ran and sang and played and danced with them in the open fields, mesmerizing all with his flute-song.

Something else Sri Krishna is famous for is being an incorrigible butter-thief. He used to absolutely love butter and ghee (both gifts of the sacred cow), and would go to any lengths to partake of their sweetness. The small fact that they usually didn’t’t belong to Him never seemed to matter much at all! In fact, He seemed as interested in the act of stealing, as in that which He stole! But it wasn’t out of any uncontrollable craving, or criminal leanings that He did this, for Sri Krishna was beyond desires and negative tendencies. What we cannot afford to forget is that each and every action of divine beings such as Krishna or Amma, are always pregnant with deep spiritual meaning. But, we need subtlety of mind to perceive them.

Amma says, “The gopis were always thinking about their hoarded butter. By stealing it, Krishna diverted their attention to Him.” Thus the significance of stealing the butter is that the Lord will finally steal our minds.

May we all be so blessed.

Meenakshi & Kannagi of Madurai

Meenakshi & Kannagi: Madurai’s Women of Power & Grace

Sthala Puranas of Bharat

According to the legend, on the day the Madurai was to be named, Lord Shiva blessed the land and its people while divine nectar showered from his dreadlocked hair. The city hence came to be known as “Madhurapuri”—the City of Divine Nectar.

Perhaps the two most famous legends associated with Madurai are those of Kannagi and Meenakshi—the first a woman who ascended to the status of a goddess, the second a goddess who’s legend has become one with the history of the city’s people.

Madurai is centred on its 2,500-year-old Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple1; the city’s streets and thoroughfares expand out from there, one after another, in a concentric fashion, as if like a lotus flower.

The legend of Meenakshi Devi

The legend of Goddess Meenakshi begins with her father, Emperor Malayadwaja Pandyan, the successor to Madurai’s founder Kulasekhara Pandyan.

For years, Malayadwaja and his consort Kanchanmala were unable to conceive any children. In attempts to beget a child, Malaydwaja conducted many Vedic homas [rituals involving a fire pit]. Finally, in the middle of one such ritual, a three-year-old girl with three breasts2 emerged from the homa flames and sat on Kanchanmala’s lap. The girl in fact was Goddess Parvati, who had taken birth as Kanchanmala’s daughter in response to a prayer of hers in her past life.

In fact, Malayadwaja was a bit sad that he was not blessed with a son. But suddenly he heard a disembodied voice tell him that he should name the girl “Tatātakai” and to raise her as if she was were a son. The voice ensured Malayadwaja that Tatātakai’s third breast would be absorbed back into her body when she first cast her eyes on the man who would become her husband—Lord Shiva.

Malaydwaja obeyed the divine command. He named Tatātakai his successor and taught her the art of war. After Malayadwaja’s death, Tatātakai ascended to the throne. She was the beloved of the people and came to be known as “Meenakshi”—the one with fish-like eyes3. Meenakshi embarked on a dig-vijaya, a military campaign of victory across the length and breadth of India. After numerous victories on earth, Meenakshi attacked Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. She defeated all the soldiers and generals of the Lord. Seeing this, Shiva himself came to fight the undaunted queen. But as soon as Meenakshi saw the Lord, the prophecy of her youth bore fruit: she instantly fell in love with him and her third breast went back inside her body.

Shiva directed Meenakshi to return to her home city, promising her that he would join her in eight days as her bridegroom. And this is exactly what happened. They were married in Madurai with Lord Vishnu himself giving away Meenakshi to Shiva. Meenakshi Kalyanam—the marriage of Meenakshi with Shiva—is celebrated annually to this day.

According to the sthala purana—Tiruvilayadal Puranam, written by Paranjothi Munivar in the 16th century—Meenakshi and Lord Shiva ruled over the city of Madurai for a long time in the form of mortals.

(Emporer Sundara Pandya being considered to be Lord Shiva. His son, Ugra Pandya, considered to be Lord Subrahmanya.) The 64 miracles of Lord Shiva that are enumerated in this later-day Tamil purana are taken from the Sanskrit Halasya Mahatmyam.

The story of Kannagi

In fact, the Madurai that we know today is not the Madurai of ancient times, for it is said that the entire city was once destroyed in an all-consuming fire. The story behind that fire is told in the 5,270-lined epic poem Cilappatikaram [“The Story of the Jewelled Anklets”] written by a Jain monk by the name of Ilango Atikal in the 5th century C.E. According to the author of the poem, it is a story about the importance for kings following dharma, the glory of a chaste woman and the effects of past-life karma.

Although Cilappatikaram was written only 1,500 years ago; the story itself is much older. The poet-monk only learned of the story when visiting the countryside near the Periyaru River with his brother, Senkuttuvan, a Chera King. On the banks of the river, villagers told the king and Ilango the story of Kannagi, a woman with a single breast who sat down under a tree and did austerities for 15 days, without food or water, until she died. The villagers worshipped Kannagi as the Goddess of Chastity, and her story so inspired the king that he asked his brother to immortalize it in poetry for the benefit of mankind.

Rather than retell the story, here are lines extracted from the translation by Professor A.L. Basham from the original Tamil.

Kovalan, the son of a wealthy merchant in Kaverippattinam, married Kannagi, the lovely daughter of another merchant. For some time they lived together happily, until, at a festival at the royal court, Kovalan met the dancer Madavi and fell in love with her. He bought her favours and in his infatuation forgot Kannagi and his home.

Gradually he spent all his wealth on the dancer. At last he was penniless, and returned repentantly to his uncomplaining wife. Their only fortune was a precious pair of anklets, which she gave to him willingly. With these as their capital they decided to go to the great city of Madurai, where Kovalan hoped to recoup his fortunes by trade.

On their arrival at Madurai, they found shelter in a cottage, and Kovalan went to the market to sell one of Kannagi’s anklets. But the queen of Nedunjeliyan, the king of the Pandyas, had just been robbed of a similar anklet by a wicked court jeweller.

The jeweller happened to see Kovalan with Kannagi’s anklet, and immediately seized it and informed the king. Guards were sent to apprehend Kovalan, who was then killed on the king’s orders. When the news was brought to Kannagi, she went out into the town, with her eyes ablaze with anger, carrying the remaining anklet in her hand as proof of her husband’s innocence. [The city caught ablaze from the fire in her eyes.]

At last the patron goddess of the city [Meenakshi] interceded with Kannagi, and she agreed to withdraw her curse, and the fire abated. Weak with loss of blood from her self-amputated breast, Kannagi struggled to a hill outside the city4, where after a few days she died, and was reunited with Kovalan in Heaven. Meanwhile the news of her death spread throughout the Tamil Land. She was deified, temples were raised and festivals held in her honour, and she became the patron goddess of wifely loyalty and chastity.

“Chaste women of Madurai, listen to me!
Today my sorrows cannot be matched.
Things which should never have happened have befallen me.
How can I bear this injustice?”…

All the folk of the rich city of Madurai
saw her, and were moved by her grief and affliction.
In wonder and sorrow they cried:
“Wrong that cannot be undone has been done to this lady!
Our King’s straight sceptre is bent!
What can this mean?

“Lost is the glory of the King Over Kings,
the Lord of the Umbrella and Spear!
A new and a mighty goddess
has come before us,
in her hand a golden anklet!
What can this mean?

“This woman afflicted and weeping
from her lovely dark-stained eyes
is as though filled with godhead!
What can this mean?”

Thus, raising loud accusing voices,
the people of Madurai befriended and comforted her,
and among the tumultuous throng
some showed her her husband’s body.
She, the golden vine, beheld him,
but her he could not see. …

Then the red-rayed sun folded his fiery arms
and hid behind the great mountain,
and the wide world
was veiled in darkness.
But he saw not the agony of her grief
as she mourned in sorrow and wrath. …

“Are there women here? Are there women
who could bear such wrong
done to their wedded lords?
Are there women here? Are there such women?
“Are there good men here? Are there good men
who cherish their children
and guard them with care?
Are there men here? Are there such men?

“Is there a God here? Is there a God
in this city of Madurai, where the sword of a king
has slain an innocent man?
Is there a God here? Is there a God?”

Lamenting thus she clasped her husband’s breast,
and it seemed that he rose to his feet and said,
“The full-moon of your face has faded,”
and he stroked her face with his hands.
She fell to the ground, sobbing and crying,
and clasped her Lord’s feet with her bangled hands;
and he left behind his human form
and went, surrounded by the gods.

“I will not join my lord
till my great wrath is appeased!
I will see the cruel king,
and ask for his explanation!”
And she stood on her feet,
her large eyes full of tears,
and, wiping her eyes,
she went to the gate of the palace.

Then came a cry from the gate:
“Ho, Gatekeeper! Ho, Gatekeeper!
Ho, Gatekeeper of the King who has lost wisdom,
whose evil heart has swerved from justice!
Tell the King that a woman with an anklet,
an anklet from a pair of tinkling anklets,
a woman who has lost her husband,
is waiting at the gate.”

And the gatekeeper went to the King and said:
“A woman waits at the gate.
She is not Korravai, goddess of victory,
with triumphant spear in her hand. …
Filled with anger, boiling with rage,
a woman who has lost her husband,
an anklet of gold in her hand,
is waiting at the gate.”

Kannagi was then admitted to the King’s presence.

“Cruel King, this I must say. …
My Lord Kovalan came
to Madurai to earn wealth,
and today you have slain him
as he sold my anklet.”
“Lady, said the king,
it is kingly justice
to put to death
an arrant thief.”

Then Kannagi showed her anklet to the king.
On comparing it very carefully with the remaining anklet of the pair
belonging to the Queen, he realised that Kovalan had been innocent.

When he saw it the parasol fell from his head
and the sceptre trembled in his hand.
“I am no king,” he said,
who have heeded the words of the goldsmith.

“I am the thief. For the first time
I have failed to protect my people.
Now may I die!”
[And he fell to the ground, dead.]

Kannagi said to the Queen:

“If I have always been true to my husband
I will not suffer this city to flourish,
but I will destroy it as the King is destroyed!
Soon you will see that my words are true!”

And with these words she left the palace,
and cried out through the city, “Men and women
of great Madurai of the four temples,
listen! Listen you gods in heaven!
“Listen to me, you holy sages!
I curse the capital of the king
who so cruelly wronged
my beloved lord!”
With her own hand she tore the left breast from her body.
Thrice she surveyed the city of Madurai,
calling her curse in bitter agony.
Then she flung her fair breast on the scented street. …

And the burning mouth of the Sire-god opened
as the gods who guarded the city closed their doors.
The high priest, the astrologer and the judges,
the treasurer and the learned councillors,
the palace servants and the maids,
stood silent and still as painted pictures.

The elephant-riders and horsemen,
the charioteers and the foot-soldiers
with their terrible swords, all fled from the fire
which raged at the gate of the royal palace. …

And the street of the sellers of grain,
the street of the chariots, with its bright-coloured garlands,
and the four quarters of the four classes
were filled with confusion and flamed like a forest on fire. …

In the street of the singing girls
where so often the tabor had sounded
with the sweet gentle flute and the tremulous harp,
the dancers, whose halls were destroyed, cried out:
“Whence comes this woman! Whose daughter is she?
A single woman, who has lost her husband,
has conquered the evil King with her anklet,
and has destroyed our city with fire!”



1 Amma was taken to this temple as a young girl by her father. According to Suganandan Acchan, Amma went into samadhi and the temple priest came before her and performed arati.

2  This could be symbolic in the same way as the third eye—as a symbol of spiritual wisdom, the milk of spiritual knowledge.

3 Indicates the beauty of the eyes. In Lalita Sahasranama, mantra 18 refers to Devi as “She whose eyes possess the lustre of the fish that move about in the stream of beauty flowing from her face. [vaktra lakshmi parivaga calan minabha locana.] According to Indian mythology, a fish is also supposed to hatch its eggs by staring at them intently. Thus, Devi’s glance is supposed to bring about a spiritual rebirth.

4 In fact, Amma herself has said that Kannagi did her tapas in Kodungallor, the city in Kerala, where the Ashram built its first Brahmasthanam Temple.

time line of Sri Krishna's life

The life of Sri Krishna

sri-krishnaIn 3228 BCE in Mathura, India, a child was born who was destined to reshape the spiritual and temporal destiny of mankind—Sri Krishna. In his 125 years of life, Sri Krishna made an indelible impression upon mankind’s collective consciousness—re-educating the world about devotion and dharma as well as the ultimate reality. His life was a model for people in days past, the modern world and surely for those in ages to come. Seeing Krishna as a perfect personification of divinity, to this day hundreds of millions of people pray to him, chant his names, meditate on his form and try to put his teachings into practice. His life has inspired a treasure house of poetry, music, painting, sculpture and other fine arts. As Amma says, “His glory is unsurpassable. His story is a source of joy and inspiration for people from all walks of life.”

A child, a brother, a charioteer, a warrior, a disciple, a guru, a cowherd, a messenger, the beloved of the gopis… Throughout his life, Krishna enacted so many roles—the whole time never forgetting that they were just that, roles, and that his true nature was eternal, ever blissful consciousness. In this way, he was able to remain detached and thus perform flawlessly, never allowing the smile to fall from his face. This, Amma says, is perhaps his greatest teaching.

“There have been very few who have been able to rejoice both in victory and in defeat,” Amma says. “Sri Krishna is one who celebrated both life and death. That is why he was always able to give a big smile. He took birth with a smile on his face, lived with a smile, and left his body with a smile. The message that he conveyed through his life is that we should make life full of laughter.”

Krishna’s life was so full, it would be impossible to recount it all here. It is told primarily through Srimad Bhagavatam, Garga Samhita, Visnu Purana, Brahmavaivarta Purana, Mahabharata, Harivamsa and several other puranas. However, here are some of the broad strokes.

Krishna, in fact, took birth in a prison cell. A sage had told his egoistic uncle, King Kamsa, that he would be killed by his sister Devaki’s child. So Kamsa imprisoned Devaki and had each child she bore murdered. However, Devaki, and her husband, Vasudeva, finally were able to sneak one child off to safety. This was Sri Krishna. They sent Krishna off to Vraja, where he was raised by a foster mother, Yasoda. It was in Vrindavan, one of the villages of Vraja, that Krishna won the hearts of the gopis, the cowherds of the village. “By spending all his time with the gopis of Vrindavan—playing with them, joking with them, stealing their butter and milk, etc—what he actually was doing was stealing their hearts,” Amma says. It is from this that Krishna was given the name “Chitta Chora” [one who steals the mind].

Kamsa sent many assassins to kill Krishna, but none of them were able to do so. And in the end, Krishna returned to Mathura and killed Kamsa, restoring dharma to the land.


In fact, Krishna never returned to Vrindavan. The pain of separation was unbearable for the gopis. It drove their minds into a fever pitch, wherein their every thought was of Krishna. Through this, their minds were purified and they slowly became able to see their Beloved in all things: in the trees, in the rivers, in the mountains, in the sky, in all people, and animals—even in their own selves. This was the realization that Krishna had intended to bring about within them from the very beginning.

The devotional fervor Krishna created in the gopis is perhaps best exemplified by the rasa-leela dance, wherein each of hundreds of gopis perceived the eight-year-old Krishna to be dancing with them alone. Amma says, “The rasa-leela did not take place on the ordinary plane of the senses, the way people today interpret it. During the rasa-leela the gopis experienced the beatitude of the jivatma merging in the Paramatma. Because of their divine love, the Lord appeared to each of the gopis. With his power, he blessed each gopi with a vision of the Self.”

Radha is said to have been the most devoted of the gopis. Theirs was the highest love—a love to inspire mankind forward on the path to God. Amma has even said: “Krishna’s lifting of the Govardhana Mountain as a child was not the real miracle; the real miracle was the gopis’ love for Krishna.”

The next major role in Krishna’s life was as a friend to the Pandavas, five devoted and dharmic brothers whose kingdom was usurped by their 100 half-brothers, the egoistic and adharmic Kauravas. In the eventual war between the two, Krishna served as the charioteer of the Pandava Arjuna. And it was also to Arjuna that he advised the 701 verses of The Bhagavad-Gita (the centerpiece of The Mahabharata). It is the Gita that stands as Krishna’s most important gift to the world. In fact, some people believe that the whole purpose of Krishna’s birth was to deliver this “Song of the Divine.” It comprises Krishna’s advice to Arjuna on the cusp of the Mahabharata War. The Gita delivers the essence of spirituality in a way that the common man can understand. As the great Swami Chinmayananda often said, “With the Gita, Sri Krishna took the knowledge of the Upanishads down from the Himalayas and into the marketplace.” Here was a true handbook for life delivered by the Lord himself. Amma herself says, “One studies the Gita to become Krishna.”

“Lord Krishna’s teachings are suitable for everyone,” Amma says. “He didn’t come just for the sake of a particular section of society. He showed everyone—even prostitutes, robbers and murderers—the path toward spiritual progress. He urges us to live according to our true dharma, to remain steadfast in it, and thus advance in life toward the ultimate goal.”


Krishna’s instructions were not just for monks. He advised everyone to his capacity. His instruction to Arjuna, in fact, was to remain in the world, performing his dharma. “His life was a perfect example of how to remain unscorched in the midst of worldly fire,” Amma says. “It is like keeping a piece of chocolate on your tongue without salivating. … He shows how to succeed in life while remaining in the midst of obstacles. The Lord doesn’t advise us to turn away from our relationships in order to attain Self-realization. He explains that we should be free from all attachments while still maintaining loving relationships and upholding our family responsibilities.”

Lord Krishna left his physical form at 125 at the hands of a hunter. But he died as he was born and as he lived—with a beatific smile upon his face. In fact it is said that his final act was to bless the hunter who had accidentally shot him. Such was his love.

Amma says, “Throughout his life, Lord Krishna had to face different crises that arose like waves, one after the other. Even then, not once was his countenance clouded by sorrow. He faced every difficulty under the sun, but there was no place for sorrow in Sri Krishna’s presence. He was the embodiment of bliss. In his company everyone rejoiced, forgetting all else. In his presence they tasted the bliss of the Self. Even now, after all this time, doesn’t the mere thought of him fill us with bliss?”


Timeline of  Sri Krishna’s life

Age Incidents

Birth Appearance at midnite of Sravana, Rohini star, Ashtami of Krishna paksha (July 19/20), year 3228 BCE to Devaki
taken by Vasudeva from Mathura to Nanda and Yasoda in Gokula
Garga muni performs the naming ceremony and names the baby as Krishna.
till age 3 lived in Gokula
killed Putana, Sakatasura, Trinivarta demons
from 3-6 moved to Vrindavana
killed Bakasura, Aghasura, Dhenuka
moved to Nandagrama
from 7-10 Brahma steals and returns cowherd boys
Govardhana puja & lifted mount Govardhanplayed rasa-lila with the gopis
invited to Mathura for wrestling match
killed Canura and Balarama killed Mustika
killed Kamsa and Balarama killed his brothers
from 10-28 lived in Mathura
Intiated with into chanting Gayatri by Gargamuni
Instructed with Balarama in the sixty four arts by Sandipani Muni
Protects Mathura from many demons
from 29-83 establishes kingdom in Dwaraka
marriage to Rukmini and 7 others
rescues 16,100 princesses from the kingdom of Narakasura
161,080 childrens born to Krishna
from 84-125 delivers Bhagavad-Gita at Kurukshetra Battle (3138 BCE)
saves King Pariksit in the womb
instructs Uddhava Gita
at 125 Swargarohana – leaving the body on February 18th 3102 BCE

Navaratri, 9 nights of Devi

Among the popular festivals celebrated in India, Navaratri is among the longest.


Like the other festivals of India, Navaratri is rich in meaning. At one level, Navaratri signifies the progress of a spiritual aspirant. During this spiritual journey, the aspirant has to pass three stages personified by Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Then, he or she enters into the realm of the infinite, wherein one realises one’s Self. Navaratri, which literally means ‘nine nights,’ dedicates three days each to worshipping the Divine in the forms of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The tenth day, though, is the most important; it is known as Vijayadashami, the ‘tenth day of victory.’

The reason behind the worshipping of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati lies rooted in the philosophy that the attributeless absolute can only be known through the world of attributes—the journey is from the known to the unknown. Hence it is said that Shiva, who symbolises pure consciousness, can only be known through Shakti, who represents divine energy. That is why people worship Shakti, also known as Devi, in Her various manifestations.

Inner Meaning of Navaratri Worship

The different stages of spiritual progress are reflected in the sequence of celebrations during Navaratri. During the first three days, Durga is worshipped. She personifies that aspect of shakti which destroys our negative tendencies. The process of trying to control our senses is akin to a war for the mind which resists all attempts at control. So the stories in the Puranas symbolically depict Devi in the form of Durga as waging war and destroying the asuras.

However, getting temporary relief from the clutches of vasanas does not guarantee permanent liberation from them. The seeds of the vasanas will remain within in latent form. Therefore, we should supplant them with positive qualities. The Bhagavad Gita refers to these qualities as daivi-sampat, literally “Divine wealth”. Correspondingly, we worship Lakshmi during the next three days. Lakshmi is not just the giver of gross wealth or prosperity; She is the Mother who gives according to the needs of Her children.

Only one endowed with daivi-sampat is fit to receive the knowledge of the Supreme. Accordingly, the last three days of Navaratri are dedicated to worshipping Saraswati, the embodiment of Knowledge. She is depicted as wearing a pure-white sari, which symbolises the illumination of the Supreme Truth.

The tenth day is Vijaya Dashami, or the festival of victory, symbolising the moment when Truth dawns within.

Thus, the significance of each stage of worship has clear parallels in the different stages of sadhana (spiritual practices): first, negative tendencies need to be controlled; second, virtues need to be ingrained; third, after gaining the necessary mental purity, spiritual knowledge needs to be acquired. Only then will the sadhak (spiritual aspirant) attain spiritual illumination. It is significant that Vijaya Dashami is considered auspicious for mantra initiation; advanced spiritual aspirants are also initiated into Sannyasa (vow of renunciation) on this day.

Significance of Navaratri

However, Navaratri is not only significant for spiritual aspirants; it has a message for those who lead a worldly life as well. They should invoke Durga’s help to surmount obstacles, pray to Lakshmi to bestow peace and prosperity, and contemplate upon Saraswati in order to gain knowledge. These three ingredients are just as necessary for a full and complete worldly life. In reality, when we pray like this, we are but invoking the Shakti that is within ourselves.

Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are not different entities, but different facets of the singular Divinity.

Some of the spiritual practices associated with Navaratri include fruit and milk fasts, japa (mantra chanting), chanting of hymns dedicated to Devi in Her different forms, prayer, meditation and recitation of sacred texts including the Devi Mahatmya, Sri Lalita Sahasranama and the Durga Saptashati.

Ayudha Puja

The ninth day is also the day of the Ayudha Puja. The Ayudha Puja is a worship of whatever implements one may use in one’s livelihood. On the preceding evening, it is traditional to place these implements on an altar to the Divine. If one can make a conscious effort to see the divine in the tools and objects one uses each day, it will help one to see one’s work as an offering to God. It will also help one to maintain constant remembrance of the divine. (In India it is customary for one to prostrate before the tools one will use before starting one’s work each day; this is an expression of gratitude to God for helping one to fulfil one’s duties.)

Children traditionally place their study books and writing implements on the altar. On this day, no work or study is done, that one might spend the day in contemplation of the Divine.

Saraswati Puja and Vidyarambham

The tenth day is called Vijaya Dashami. Devotees perform a Saraswati Puja (Vidyarambham)to invoke the blessings of Saraswati.  Some devotees also perform pujas dedicated to Durga to mark Her victory over the demon, Mahishasura.

Vidyarambham literally means to begin the acquisition of knowledge, and for the very young, it is just that: an initiation into learning. For those who have already begun to acquire knowledge, it is a reminder that only one who can maintain a beginner’s mind will be able to learn. As Amma says, “We should always have the attitude of a beginner.”

On Vijaya Dashami, Amma initiates babies/children into the world of alphabets. The ceremony involves tracing each letter of the alphabet of a mantra (Hari Sree Ganapataye Namah) in a plate of rice or even in sand on the ground. Traditionally, the writing was alternately done on the tongue with a gold dipped in honey.

Its a good day to start first lessons on scriptures, music and instruments like tabla, harmonium, veena, violin etc.

At another level, Navaratri also highlights the principles elucidated by the Ramayana. This is hinted at in the other name by which Vijayadashami is known in India, Dussehra.


Gita Jayanti and the Bhagavad Gita

Gita Jayanti marks the anniversary of the day Lord Krishna gave his immortal message to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The Bhagavad Gita is an exquisite discourse given to Arjuna by Lord Krishna, at the moment when Arjuna faced the most difficult situation of his life. Arjuna was a warrior of high repute; he had power and fame; he was endowed with all the qualities necessary for a man of his position, but when he faced the real challenge of his life, he was unable to meet it on his own. Recognising his own limitations as a human being, he surrendered to Lord Krishna. The Lord gave him instructions on how to live an inspired life, and how to deal with situations in life. It is a profound spiritual teaching, a guide to the Truth. In the Gita, the Lord teaches Arjuna about the immortality of the soul, the nature of the world and the Consciousness illuminating everything.

The message of the Gita is not to make us passive idealists, but to help us be active and courageous in life.

As Amma says, “It is a celestial song that awakens the sleeping soul.”

Lord Krishna says:
Arjuna, your sorrow is sheer delusion.
Wise men do not grieve
For the dead nor for the living.
If you think that this Self can kill
Or think that it can be killed,
You do not well understand
Reality’s subtle ways.

He also teaches:

You have a right to your actions,
But never to your action’s fruits.
Act for the action’s sake.
And do not be attached to inaction.
Self-possessed, resolute, act
Without any thought of results,
Open to success or failure.

The Bhagavad Gita forms a part of the ancient epic poem the Mahabharata, written by Sage Vyasa. The Mahabharata is the longest poem ever written; it is eight times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined! It is the story of the Great War between the Pandavas, who were on the side of Dharma (righteousness) and the Kauravas, who, though relatives of the Pandavas, were an Adharmic or unrighteous people. Sri Krishna first tried to counsel the Kauravas on the right course of action. When they refused to listen, the Lord generously offered the whole land to the Kauravas, save one house for the Pandavas to live in. It was only when the Kauravas swore that they would not give one blade of grass to the Pandavas, that Sri Krishna advised the Pandavas to go to war. He knew that if the Kauravas were allowed to rule, the whole country would be plunged into adharma, chaos, and destruction.

The teaching of the Gita takes place right in the middle of the battlefield, between the two armies, just as the war is about to begin. In the Gita, Lord Krishna teaches that spirituality is something we have to live in our day-to-day life – it is for everyone, and is especially applicable to all who want to live life to its fullest potential.

In his doubt and confusion, Arjuna reached a state of helplessness. He sought Sri Krishna’s guidance and help. It was then that God poured forth His message. When the disciplehood awakened in Arjuna, he became a vessel fit enough to receive spiritual knowledge, and the Lord could correct his attitude. Amma says that it is only when we have surrender that God can shower His Grace upon us.

Arjuna was transformed by the teaching that Krishna gave him. Sri Krishna did not change the external situation, but changed the mental attitude of Arjuna. In the battle that followed, Krishna proved that he was a living example of what he had just taught. He was the only one on the battlefield without any weapons, and yet there was a radiant smile on his face throughout. At the end the Pandavas emerged victorious, symbolising the victory of dharma over adharma.

The Gita is one of the most beautiful pieces of philosophy ever written. It shines as the beacon light of knowledge, inspiring millions to tread the path of Dharma.

About the Gita, Mahatma Gandhi said: “The Gita has been my mother. I lost my mother when I was young, but I never felt the absence of a mother, because I had the Gita with me.”