Boat Race: The Jayanthi Jalotsovam

The villages of Vallikavu and Parayakadavu were transported into a grand mood of gaiety and festivity when the Amritamayi Jalotsov boat race was celebrated to commemorate the birthday of Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. On Monday, 18th September, the race was held for the third consecutive year on the Kayamkulam backwaters. Vallam Kali (water festival) is a sport art form unique to Kerala, a land of many rivers and waterways.

In this holy water festival, Alappadan Chundan emerged as the winner of the coveted Amritamayi Trophy of the year.

Distributing the trophies of Amritamayi Jalotsov and congratulating the winners, Amma said that more than who won, what is important is the spirit of effort and unity. ‘A real festival is born when enthusiasm is combined with good samskara (culture),’ said Amma, who reminded everyone that the real beauty of society lies in the harmony of hearts.

About 13 racing boats of various types from different parts of South Kerala participated in the event. Before the race commenced, there was a spectacular procession of diverse boats accompanied by traditional music.
The race started at the Sri. Krishna Swami Temple in Allapaad and ended at the special pavilion constructed at M.A. Math for the occasion. The competition began with nine snake boats; popularly known as the ‘kings of the waterways’, these exquisitely shaped boats rowed to the rhythm of the vanchippattu (traditional boat songs).

Shri. O. Rajagopal, Union Minister of State for Railways and Parliamentary Affairs, began the festival with prayers for divine grace and then by hoisting the flag. Shri. V.C. Kabir, Minister for Health and Sports, then formally inaugurated the jalotsav by lighting a lamp. He expressed his happiness that through Amma’s inspiration, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math is integrating spiritual principles with charitable activities in multiple fields for the welfare of humanity.

Shri. E. Chandrashekaran Nair, Minister for Food and Tourism, who presided over the function, lauded the wide ranging humanitarian service projects of the Math. He observed that with the opening of Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi, other hospitals in the private sector have been compelled to reduce their medical charges; medical treatment in the private sector has come within the reach of the poor. He said that surgeries which previously cost four to five lakhs of rupees are being performed today for just 60,000-70,000 rupees, just because of AIMS.

Shri. N.K. Premachandran, MP, eloquently praised Amma’s magnanimity in caring for the poor and downtrodden. He praised Amma’s guiding the M.A. Math to give importance to the concerns of common people and the stark realities of mundane life instead of confining itself merely to the spiritual field.

kalipujaf

What is Kali Puja

Kali Pujas take place on the veranda of the Kalari at Amritapuri, which is prepared with exquisitely coloured drawings, made with coloured powders. The diagram represents the peetham (seat) of the goddess who is symbolically present in the form of a tall lamp standing in the centre.

Kali is the compassionate Mother in Her fierce aspect. Her wrath, which destroys negative tendencies, is limitless and so too is Her Love. For Her sincere devotees, Kali is the most loving and protective aspect of the Divine.

kalipuja

Union with the Supreme Self is attained when the obstacle of our judgmental mind is removed. This judgmental mind includes our desires and selfishness (ego). The Kali Puja is performed to remind us that even unpleasant events are a blessing, if we can only learn the lesson inherent in them. When we do understand, our sense of duality diminishes, and we come closer to the Self. The puja is communal and many residents attend.

The central aspect of the puja is the symbolic offering to God of the five elements of creation. Our body is composed from these five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. The puja symbolises the surrender of the devotee to the Lord. Each element is represented by a material symbol, such as flowers, lamps, etc.

These are offered at the foot of the lamp. The desire of the devotee to offer his or her surrender is effected by these symbolic offerings. While the offerings are being made, all the attendants chant the holy names of Kali.

The puja starts with a worship of the Guru and of Ganesha, the symbolic remover of obstacles. The puja ends when the pujari gives the offerings, sanctified by the puja, to the devotees. The flame (symbolic of Consciousness) and sweet pudding (symbolic of union with God) are offered to the devotees.

The Kali Puja is very effective in removing the obstacles to progress on the spiritual path. This puja is conducted every month in the Kalari on ‘”Kartika” days—the birth star of Amma—and at special requests on other days.

Preparations for Amma’s birthday

For weeks now, preparations for Amma’s birthday celebrations have dominated the landscape at Amritapuri, as the ashram gears up for the big event. In every corner of the ashram and at any hour of the day, one finds extensive work taking place. Temporary thatched roofs are being raised throughout the grounds to protect the crowds from both sun and rain. The entire temple building is being repainted, inside and out: not only the walls and doors, but also the domes and Krishna Himself on the chariot are being given new life in a whole new set of colours.

This year, the Onam holiday takes place just before Amma’s birthday celebrations, so devotees who are free from their responsibilities have a chance to spend more time in Amma’s divine presence. Daily, devotees are reaching Amritapuri in large numbers: volunteers and families with children are coming early to help with the preparations in whatever way they can. Some help in the kitchen, some with the construction work, and others with the cleaning and general preparations.

The construction of the enormous new program hall is almost complete. Its high, white ceiling and open sides give a sense of spaciousness. With its 40,000 square feet, it is the largest hall in south India, without a single pillar in the middle as a central support for the structure-there is nothing to obstruct one’s view of the stage!

50,000 Expected

Every year Amma’s birthday programs draw enormous crowds from all over India and the world. Fifty thousand people are expected this year. In Kerala, posters and banners can be seen in major towns and along the highways. Extra ferryboats are being organized so that 200 people can reach the ashram across the backwaters at one time. Many people coming to Amritapuri are beneficiaries of Amma’s charitable programs. Under the third phase of Amma’s Amrita kuteeram free housing scheme, 5,000 people will receive houses on this occasion. Another 10,000 beneficiaries will receive pensions under Amma’s Amrita Nidhi pension scheme.

Six tons of rice and six tons of vegetables will be cooked for Amma’s birthday luncheon. Just to cook the rice, 25 people will work non-stop from 2:00 AM through the day. Food will be served from 10:00 AM onwards, until the last person is served. Fifty thousand laddus (an Indian sweet) are being prepared for Mother to give as prasad.

The Boat Race

To honour Amma on Her Birthday, the local fishing community organizes an annual boat race on the backwaters by the Ashram. The popular boat races of Kerala are traditionally associated with religious festivals and draw huge crowds. There will be 16 boats participating in this prestigious event, which includes Kerala’s highest ranking teams. Each of the boats holds 120 athletes, rowing as one to the rhythm of bhajans

Amma and Ram

15 September 2000, Amritapuri

There is a new ritual being carried out every evening at Amritapuri. After bhajans, Ram, the baby elephant, is brought by his trainers to Mother’s steps, where he waits for Her to come and play with him. He has learned quickly that Mother is the Source of sweetness: sweet biscuits and bananas, and sweet caresses.

Mother comes down the spiral steps from the temple, and Ram is standing, facing Her as She walks across the yard. She draws abreast of him, calls out, ‘Ram!’ and stretches Her hand towards his trunk, which is already reaching towards Her. More like a puppy than an elephant, he follows Her to the steps leading up to Her room. There She turns and, taking a few biscuits from a tray held for Her every day by a different lucky person, She holds them out to Ram, who grabs them with his trunk and stuffs them into his mouth. He then immediately stretches out his trunk for more.

And there is plenty more: biscuits, bananas, sometimes vadas. But Amma is not only the feeding Ram. She is training him, too! For example, She decided it would be fun to feed him biscuits straight from Her own mouth. She held a couple of biscuits between Her lips and waited for him to take them. Despite the fact that he was face-to-face with Her, he didn’t seem to see them! Instead, his trunk went searching for Her hands. She hid them behind Her back. He reached around to find them.

When She showed him that they were empty, he kept pushing his nose into first the left, then the right hand. She took his trunk in Her hands and led it up to the biscuits held between Her lips…Ah! At last! He got them! It took him perhaps three or four days of this guidance, but finally he had learned that biscuits come from three places: two hands and one mouth. Now he readily searches all three alternatives!

We have all seen how Mother plays with little children at darshan: She takes a toffee and offers it to the child, who then reaches out for it. But She moves it a bit out of reach, so that the child has to stretch a little further. The toffee then moves up, and the child’s hand reaches up…to the left… down… up again. Everyone laughs, and just before the child is too frustrated, Mother relents-often popping the unwrapped sweet straight into the little mouth! Ram is a bit too big for Her lap, but She plays essentially the same game with him, holding out a biscuit, then pulling it back, or to the side. She stretches up on tiptoe, and his trunk reaches up high, only to have Her move the biscuits down and to the side! And then the moment comes when Mother relents: She bends down under the trunk and pops the biscuits straight into his wide open mouth! After the little play session, Mother takes Ram’s trunk in Her hands, raises its tip to Her face and kisses it. ‘Ram, po (go)!’ She says then, dismissing him, and his trainers lead him back to his quarters.

Preparations for Amma’s birthday

14 September 2000, Amritapuri

The ashram is buzzing with activity, as preparations are being made for Amma’s birthday celebrations next month. Dust has been flying everywhere as the central ashram building, housing the temple and offices, and which provides accommodation to many, is being readied for a fresh coat of paint. The ‘dining hall’ at the rear, is steadily being transformed into a major hall – the plan is to hold large programs, like Devi Bhava (which, now regularly sees about 10,000 devotees every Sunday), there.

Mother, the centre of all this activity, meanwhile, goes on doing what She always does: meeting the residents three days a week for meditation and satsang, and giving darshan to the public the other four days of the week. And when She is not outside, She is in Her room, attending to mountains of letters from all over the world, giving guidelines and directives on the running of the branch ashrams and the myriad charitable activities, and meeting with individuals.

Playing with Ram

In the midst of all this activity when can She find time to enjoy Baby Ram, the ashram’s new little elephant? At the end of bhajans each night, when the residents and devotees remain in the prayer hall for arati, Mother is having Her daily rendezvous with Ram. His mahouts bring him to the foot of Her steps, and there She feeds him bananas and biscuits, calling him by name, stroking his trunk, trying to convince him to settle for kisses and caresses. Sometimes She will hold out a biscuit to him, and as his trunk stretches out for it, She will move it away, just out of reach. She goes on like this, teasing and tantalising him, and of course in the end relenting and popping the morsel straight into his mouth, or else letting him grab it with his trunk and feed himself. Showing his appreciation, he will occasionally prostrate, or reach out to ‘kiss’ Her Face with his trunk; mostly, however, that appendage is busily searching wherever She is hiding Her Hands, whether behind Her back or high above Her Head, looking for another bite of food! When all the titbits are finished and Mother has let Ram sweep the tray with his trunk for the last crumbs, She says, ‘Ram, now go back’. She then turns, climbs the steps to Her room, and perhaps at the top turns to watch him being led away, back to his enclosure.

Three values form the mantra for a successful life

(From Amma’s benedictory address on the occasion of her 44th birthday celebration)

Children, all of you have gathered together here with enthusiasm and patience. If you are able to maintain this enthusiasm and patience throughout your life, total success will be yours; for patience and enthusiasm are the foundations of success. In some people we can behold enthusiasm, however, they lack patience. Some other people have patience, but they lack enthusiasm.

Amongst the youth, 90 percent are enthusiastic, however they seldom display patience. They jump at anything and everything, but they fail to attain their goal, as they lack patience.

On the other hand, the elderly people, say those above 60 and 70, are endowed with patience. They have learnt patience and discrimination through their experiences in life. But they are devoid of enthusiasm. They say that their bodies have lost vigour, so they are unable to carry on with things as they wish.

But let us look at a small child. The child has both enthusiasm and patience. A baby tries to stand up on its legs, but falls down. However immediately it strives to get up. Again it falls. It never gives up the effort and tries repeatedly to get up again. Owing to its sustained effort, never giving up enthusiasm and patience, it finally emerges successful. What gives the child this ability to withstand all failures and strive again and again is its awareness that its mother is there to protect it from all possible dangers. The child is aware that the mother is there to take care of it in case of any injury. As the mother is by its side, the child has the optimistic faith that success is assured. Thus patience, enthusiasm and optimistic faith — these three form the mantra for a successful life.

In every field we can observe those who have faith emerging successful while those who are lacking faith succumb to failure. A certain shoe company sent two of their representatives to a particular village. Within a few days of his arrival the first person set a message to the company: “The natives of this village are uncivilised aboriginals; they have no knowledge at all about anything called footwear. Therefore it is impossible to find a market here for our shoes and hence I am returning at once.” However, the second person sent a message to the company as follows: “This village is inhabited by aboriginals and they are totally ignorant about the use of sandals. They are always walking barefoot in the filth and mud. Hence there is a wide scope for our sandals to find a very good market here. So immediately send one truckload of sandals.” The second person, who displayed optimistic faith, proved himself a successful man.

God is always with us. He is there to lend us help in all trials and crises. If we have this faith we will have the enthusiasm and energy to surmount all impediments and move forward. If there is staunch faith, optimism will never leave us.

Great souls such as Lord Sri Rama, Lord Krishna, Jesus Christ and Mohammed Nabi had to confront countless trials and challenges. But they were not enervated by any of these. Without being disheartened by adversities, they advanced forward. As a result, victory was always theirs. When Amma says this, some of you may think, “Oh, they are all great Incarnations, they have the capacity for such great achievements. How can they be compared to ordinary people like us?” Amma would answer that we are not ordinary people; we have extraordinary powers. There is innate, infinite power in us. It is now dormant. We have to awaken it — that alone is required. If so, success is certainly ours.

Today our bodies have grown but out minds have not. If our minds are to expand and embrace the whole universe, we have to become like a small child. We have to awaken the child that is within us. Only a child will be able to grow. Today we are egoistic. Unless this proud “I” goes, we cannot achieve anything. The small “I” should go and the universal “I” should prevail.

Devotion to God means reverence to all beings. It is not mere prayers. God is not a person who sits beyond the sky. He is within each one of us. It is this awareness that we should cultivate. The most important factor for fostering this awareness is humility. We should learn to be like beginners. A beginner is not egoistic, and hence learns everything fast. However, to cultivate this humility we have to give up one thing — we have to give up our ego and egoism. It is this ego that blocks everything good. When we forswear this ego automatically, we ensure our success in every field.

More than all the effort on our part, it is the grace of God that is paramount importance. What blocks the grace is our ego. Therefore we have to eliminate this ego through any means. Once we get rid of this ego, greatness will be ours.

During interviews for selecting candidates for employment, it is not always the case that those who have answered al the questions correctly are selected. Often times, candidates who have not scored high in such tests are selected for the post. It is because something in those candidates made a favourable impression on the selection board. Something in them melted the hearts of the interviewers. This factor is the grace of God. If we are to receive this grace we have to perform good, selfless actions. We always demand, “Give me this. Give me that.” But we forget to say “thank you” in all situations. Instead of considering what gain we will get from others, we have to be concerned what we can give to others. This is the attitude that we should cultivate.

Once a person paid a visit to his friend’s home. As he stood in front of the palatial house enjoying its beauty, the friend came out and visited him. The visitor inquired of his friend, “Who all are staying in the house.”

“Just me.”

“You alone! Is it your house?”

“Yes.”

“How did you acquire the money to build such an excellent house and at such a young age?”

“I didn’t build it; my elder brother built it for me. He has a lot of money.”

The visitor stood a while without saying anything. Guessing what he would be thinking, his friends said, “I know what you are thinking. You are thinking how nice it would be if only you too had a brother like mine. Am I not right?”

His friend said, “No, I am thinking that if I had been as wealthy as your brother, I too would have been able to build houses for others.”

Children, this is the attitude we should have — the eagerness to give. Only one who gives will be able to receive; and the giver gains peace of mind as well.

The atmosphere around us is filled with vibrations. Thoughts are also vibrations. That is why it is said that every thought we think and every word we utter should be with due discrimination. A tortoise hatches its eggs by the power of thoughts. A fish hatches its eggs by gazing at them. These prove that our thoughts have immense power. If we abuse a person for a wrong not committed by him, it may hurt him very much. He may lament unknowingly: “Oh, God! I didn’t do anything and still they are abusing me.” The sorrowful vibration emanating from him will affect us. Our aura will absorb these vibrations and will darken, like smoke particles preventing light from reaching the mirror. Just as the accumulated smoke particles prevent light from reaching the mirror, the darkened aura will prevent us from receiving the grace of God. That is why we are asked to shun bad thoughts and cultivate divine ones. By cultivating Godly thoughts we will become like God. Some people imagine that they will strive to become good after others have become good. That is like hoping to take a bath in the sea after all the waves have subsided.

We should never miss any opportunity to do good for others. We should never think that since they have not done any good for us, we too will not do any good for them. Compassion should grow in our mind through every thought. Compassion should shine forth in our every thought, word and deed.

Onam festival with Amma

9 September 2000, Amritapuri

Onam is a festival of sharing. On the tenth and last day of Onam, all the people of Kerala enjoy a great feast. Even though traditionally people stay at home and celebrate with their families, many of Amma’s children came to spend this holy day at Amma’s abode, feeling Amritapuri to be their real home.

On Sunday, Mother came out early so that She could give darshan to as many devotees as possible before the feast began. On Her way to the temple, Amma fed Ram, the ashram’s baby elephant, some bananas. He approached her like all devotees on this auspicious day: freshly bathed, wearing his best clothes-a bright yellow cloth on his back!

At 11:00, without a moment’s break or even a drink of water, Amma moved from giving darshan in the temple to serving food in the new darshan hall. In only one and a half hours, 5,000 people were served. When the queue was finished and it seemed that all had received prasad, Amma surprised everyone as She waited, patiently, for more of Her children to come.

Some devotees were crossing the backwaters, fervently praying that they would arrive in time. Amma stayed until the last of Her children had received prasad, even though there was very little time before the start of the bhajans that preceded the Devi Bhava darshan.

Entire life should be full of happiness

Today is Tiru Onam; it’s a day of celebration, enthusiasm and joy. It’s a day when even the most sorrowful tries to forget his sorrows. Right remembrance is the remembrance in forgetting. While operating on a patient, if the doctor is thinking about his wife and children, the operation will not be successful. Or if the doctor is thinking about his patient when he comes home from work and his children run to him calling out, “Father, Father,” he wouldn’t be a good father.

So also he won’t be a good husband, if he is not able to give attention to his wife when she wants to talk to him about her problems. One should be able to fix one’s attention on the work he is doing. A good doctor forgets about his home when he is in the hospital and forgets about the hospital when he is in his home. Success in one’s work and happiness in one’s life depends upon one’s ability to forget what is not relevant at the moment.

Is it enough that we rejoice only on Tiru Onam? No, our entire life should be full of happiness. If we rejoice only on one day and remain sorrowful on all the rest, we won’t be able to really be happy even on that one day. Children, think about this.

All the 365 days in a year have to be filled with happiness and joy. The whole life should become a festival. Spirituality shows the way to such lasting happiness. It calls for surrender, total surrender to the Paramatman. Truly Mahabali exemplified that surrender in his life. He was born an Asura. However he was able to offer himself — his ego — to the Supreme Self. The only thing that the Lord asks from us is surrender. God is the all-merciful one who with outstretched hands is ever waiting to receive our ego. That is the dakshina (offering) he expects from us. And what Mahabali offered him was verily that. If we are not prepared to offer Him our ego, He will somehow extract it from us, for that is the only way we can become happy. When we offer ourselves to the Paramatman, our mind and intellect become purified, our sorrows come to an end and our entire life becomes a festival.

It is said that we can be happy only if there is tyaga (renunciation) in our life. Often we do small acts of tyaga in our lives. Those who are fond of cricket are prepared to bear the rain and sun for its sake. Parents are ready to forego their work and sleep in order to look after their sick child. There are so many such small small acts of tyaga in our life that we willingly undergo for the sake of something we consider important. We derive a sense of satisfaction and joy from them. Now in order that we experience the supreme ever-lasting joy, there is a need for the supreme tyaga — the sacrifice of our ego.

The happiness that we derive from small acts of tyaga is short-lived. Perhaps you remember a story that you might have studied in the first or second grade in school. A lump of soil and a dry leaf went out to play in the fields. When they were engaged in play, suddenly the wind began to blow. The lump of soil was sorry to see the suffering of the dry leaf. Out of compassion it stood over the dry leaf and protected it from the wind. After the wind was gone, they continued with their play. After sometime there was rain. This time, the dry leaf protected the lump of soil by shielding it from the rain. However after some time rain and wind came simultaneously. What was the result? The dry leaf was blown away and the lump of soil was washed away.

Our lives are like this when we depend on others. Of course, we are able to obtain some consolation and happiness from them for some time. However when a calamity overtakes our life, none can save us. Then only God can save us. Only the surrender to the Supreme Self will be our sole refuge. Infact surrender to God is the only guarantee for our protection. Self surrender to the Supreme Self — that’s the only way how we can remain blissful in all our lives.

Amma returning after the UN summit

1 September 2000, Amritapuri

When Amma’s plane landed at the Cochin Airport, local news reporters were awaiting Her arrival from the U.N. Summit in New York.

Question: How did you feel speaking in Malayalam to a foreign audience (this is the first time that someone is speaking in Malayalam in the U.N. General Assembly)?

Amma: I never felt any difference. Just like I am talking to you, I was talking to them.

Question [by a woman reporter]: We are happy that Amma spoke up for women while She was at the U.N.

Amma: In many nations, women are oppressed; they don’t even have the basic freedoms of life. In God’s creation, women and men are equal. They should have equal freedom. In the West, women are coping with oppression by acting like men – they cut their hair, smoke cigarettes and drink – thinking that this will make them equal to men in society. But men are also unhappy with their lot in life, and try to become more like women. But both are reaching nowhere.
Women should invoke the positive masculine qualities and men should invoke feminine qualities. Every individual should have both courage and compassion. Women give birth to men. Because she’s a creator, if she loses patience, the harmony of the world will be lost. Now Indians have started imitating the West. Amma is happy if Indian women gain the courage of Western women, but still maintain their motherly qualities. If the heart is lost, the culture is lost.

Villagers welcome with celebration

En route from the airport to Amritapuri, Amma was received by thousands of people as her car inched along the roads full of well-wishers. In the local villages and along the seaside road to the Ashram, every household irrespective of their religion or caste honoured Amma in the traditional way – by lighting oil lamps, burning incense and waving camphor in front of their homes.  Many offered garlands to Her and showered her with flowers. Others . As Amma’s car approached, they offered incense, flowers and light to her, rushing to Her window to have a glimpse of Amma’s enchanting smile and to touch her. Others stood with folded palms, in reverence and love, in front of their houses. Enthusiastic cheers and firecrackers announced Her progress. Amma spent almost four hours driving the last seven Kilometres, taking time to give prasad to everyone she passed. The enthusiasm and joy of the crowd reflected the pride they felt in what they thought of as an invaluable contribution to presenting the glory of their ancient culture in front of the world. The respect and honour that Amma received from such an august world body also added to their joy.