Roses and Thorns

9 – 11 October 2000, Zurich

After leaving Helsinki, Mother reached Zurich on Sunday evening, October 8. Her stop in Switzerland was for 3 days. The programs were held in Dietikon one of Zurich’s suburbs and the hall was near the main highway to Bern, making it easy to reach from other cities in Europe.

The morning programs were crowded like always. It is unbelievable how Amma’s presence magically transforms a cold hall into a place of Love and Peace. The evening programs drew even bigger crowds and ended after 4:30 AM. Amma gave plenty of time, love and attention to everyone coming for darshan. The local newspaper ‘Tagi’ published a nice article about Mother.

During the second day’s evening program, Amma called a resident in the Amritapuri ashram travelling with Her, and asked her to sing and than tell a story. The resident related that recently in the ashram it was noticed that the roses which were grown by the brahmacharis were always in beautiful bloom, while those grown by the brahmacharinis (female disciples) barely had any flowers and developed many thorns. This had become a source of nice jokes and teasing at the ashram, and now the question was put to the audience on why this was happening to the roses. The obvious answer was that the roses cared for by the boys, received better attention, and were treated with love. But Mother was waiting for other answers -jokes …and they came. Someone said that the roses cared for by the girls did not bear flowers, because as soon as they blossomed they were plucked and offered at Amma’s feet! The girls felt momentarily satisfied, but one more answer flashed: ‘It is said that one should offer his negativities to the guru. This is what the boys were doing by offering the thorns of their roses to Amma. This way their flowers were always beautiful and fragrant. By offering the flowers and keeping the thorns, the girls had sickly and thorny rose plants!’ Amma and everyone enjoyed a good laugh.

Deepavali – the festival of Lights

India is a land of festivals where you will see at least one major festival each month. Deepavali (or Diwali) which literally means “rows of lamps” is one of the four main festivals of India. Throughout the world all Hindus celebrate Deepavali or Diwali with great pomp and enthusiasm.

The celebration of Diwali lasts six days, beginning on the 12th day of the month of Kartik (as per the North Indian lunar calendar). The day before Diwali, in order to evoke the grace of God, women fast. It is not that God wants you to go hungry or takes pleasure in your suffering – the principle is that you gain only by giving up. That evening, devotees worship Gomata (the cow) and her calf and feed them special food. Women pray for the welfare of the entire family. This holy day is called Vasubaras.

The first official day of Diwali falls on the 13th of Kartik. People set about cleaning houses and shops, and decorating doorsteps and courtyards with rangoli or multi-coloured designs. They purchase gold ornaments, new vessels, clothes, and other such items. Devotees arise early in the morning before sunrise and take oil baths. If possible, they wear new clothes. In the evening, people worship coins representing wealth. Families decorate houses and courtyards with lanterns giving a warm glow to the night. This day of celebration is called Dhantrayodashi or Dhanteras.

The second day is called Naraka Chaturdashi. People take an oil bath in the early morning and then in the night they light lamps and burn firecrackers. People visit their relatives and friends, exchanging love and sweets.

On the third day, people worship Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. People decorate their houses with lit lamps and lanterns to welcome Lakshmi to their home and hearts. On this day businessmen close old accounts and open new accounts. The earth is lit up by lamps and the skies are coloured by the multi-hued lights of fireworks.

In North India, the Govardhana Puja occurs on the fourth day of Diwali. Devotees in the North build large mounds made of cow dung, symbolising Govardhana – the mountain that Krishna lifted up with his finger to save the villagers of Vrindavan from rain – and decorate and worship them. North Indians observe this day as Annakoot, or the mountain of food.

The fifth day of the festival called Bhaiyya Dooj celebrates unique and fun customs. Every man dines in his sister’s house, and, in return, presents her with gifts. North India calls it Yama Dwitiya. Thousands of brothers and sisters join hands and have a sacred bath in the river Yamuna.

The Legends

The scriptures mention the divinity called Dhanvantari emerging from the churning of the ocean holding a kalash (pot) filled with Amrit (ambrosia). Due to the fact that Dhanvantari, who revealed the science of Ayurveda to the world, first manifested on this day, all over India, doctors following the Ayurvedic system of medicine organise joyful celebrations during the annual Dhanvantari festival.

Naraka Chaturdashi
There is a legend about a king of Prag-Jyotishpur, named Narakasura. He was a powerful king who misused power to harass his subjects. Sri Krishna destroyed this oppressive asura king on this day. Unjustly imprisoned people celebrated their freedom with friends and family. The citizens celebrated their deliverance from Narkasura’s reign by lighting lamps.

Sri Rama
Deepavali falls on a no-moon day – in fact the darkest day of the year. The illuminations and fireworks, joy and festivities, are to signify the victory of divine forces over the powers of darkness. On Deepavali day, triumphant Sri Rama is said to have returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana, the asura king of Lanka.

Goddess Lakshmi Devi
The Puranas say that it was on this day that Goddess Lakshmi, who emerged from the churning of the ocean of milk (Ksheera Sagara), married Lord Vishnu, the repository of all divine qualities.

Govardhana Puja
In order to shelter the gopis and gopas and their cows from the torrential rains sent by Indra, Krishna lifted a hill near Mathura called Govardhana with his finger and sheltered all the people for a period of seven days under it. By then Indra saw Krishna’s greatness and asked him for forgiveness.

Bhaiyya Dooj
The river Yamuna and Yama, the God of Death, were brother and sister. As they grew up they went their different ways. On this day Yama supposedly visited his sister Yamuna, who in her joy at seeing her brother after such a long interlude set up a feast for him. Pleased, Yama granted her a boon. He declared that every man that receives a tilak or vermilion mark on the forehead from his sister and presents her with lovely gifts on this day would attain higher worlds.

The message of Deepavali
The traditional name of India is Bharata and Indians are Bharatias – or ‘those who revel in light’. During the night of Deepavali the myriad little clay lamps (diyas) seem to silently send forth message of Deepavali: “Come, let us remove darkness from the face of the earth.”

The dharma of fire is the same wherever it is: in a poor man’s house, in a rich man’s house, in America, in Antarctica, or in the Himalayas. It gives light and heat. The flame always points upwards. Even if we keep the lamp upside down, the flame will burn upwards. The message is that our mind should be focused on the Atman, the Self wherever we are. The lamps remind us of our dharma to realise our divine nature.

“The Self is pure consicousness which is self-luminous. The cognition of all objects arises from the light of pure Consciousness.” -says Bhrihadaranyaka Upanishad

One lamp can light several others. You can even light another 1000 lamps, and still the flame and the light of the first lamp will remain as it is. By becoming manifold, the light looses nothing. The lights of Deepavali represent Brahman and creation. It conveys the message of the mantra:

“Purnamada Purnamidam Purnaat Purnamudachyate
Purnasya Purnamadaya Purnamevasishyate”

The rows of lamps teach yet another important lesson of unity. The light that shines forth from the Sun, the moon, the stars, and fire is all the same. To see and recognise that one light, the light of consciousness, which is manifesting and pulsating in and through all of creation is the goal of life. Thus, recognising all of creation to be an expression of your true Self, spread the light of love and compassion.

The lights of Deepavali are displayed at the entrance doors, by the walls of houses, in the streets and lanes. This means that the inner spiritual light of the individual must be reflected outside. It should benefit society. Passers-by may thereby be prevented from stumbling on their way to reach their destination.

Feeding empty stomachs, lighting blown-out diyas and bringing light to those whose lives are in darkness is the true spirit of Deepavali. This is true prayer.

Patience leads to Love

6 – 7 October 2000, Helsinki,

We were a total of 40 devotees receiving Amma at the airport. When She arrived, She gave us a long beautiful darshan. Although all the travelling group was tired after 48 hours of travel, Amma was fresh like a rose – as always. We felt Amma’s visit this year stronger than ever. We had prepared Mother’s room with ‘Navaratri’ in mind. The right flowers with right colours were put near Her bed. There were flowers all over the house.

Mother met the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament, Mrs. Riitta Uosukainen, on the day of the first program. The meeting was intimate although there were journalists and photographs present. Amma said, amongst other things, how much a person who holds a high position and has an understanding heart can influence and help others. Uosukainen was clearly impressed by how Amma is awakening goodness in the heart of people. Upon leaving, Uosukainen said that she had to give up all her prejudices before ‘such a person who is so expansive and has such a power of love’.

The hall, began to fill from early in the morning. A total of 4000 people attended the first day’s program. In spite of that, Amma gave long darshans to everybody, and was very gentle and cherished the devotees in all kinds of ways all the time. Amma was enormously sweet during the Devi Bhava darshan. Many were amazed when She spoke to them in Finnish or called them by their name. The hall was decorated beautifully with three huge mandapas (of Shiva, Kali and Shri Krishna). Combined with the windows they gave an impression of a temple with pillars. There were lotus flowers, made of plastic, paper, wood, etc. all over.

The coverage of Amma’s programs by the media was a real breakthrough. More than 10 newspapers wrote about the visit. Also TV 1 (the main TV channel in the country) talked about the event in the news. ‘Apu’ and ‘Anna’, two weekly magazines, wrote good articles. There was also a very good article in the evening newspaper ‘Iltasanomat’ about Riitta Uosukainen’s meeting Amma.

Amma continued to shower Her Finnish children with love, until Her departure time at the airport. She gave long darshans and prasad. Everyone was so much intoxicated by Her presence and energy, that many stayed at the airport for a long time after She had left. Some stayed there for more than an hour.

Here are some excerpts from Amma’s conversation with Mrs. Riitta Uosukainen, Spokesperson of the Finnish Parliament

“If you have patience, then you’ll also have love. Patience leads to love. If you forcefully open the petals of a bud, you won’t be able to enjoy its beauty and fragrance. Only when it blossoms by following its natural course, will the beauty and fragrance of a flower unfold. Today people live to work rather than work for a living.

They have forgotten their true goal in life. Subsequently they have forgotten their dharma. There is no communication between hearts, there is no sharing. Having lost contact with other’s hearts, we become totally isolated. But in truth we are not isolated islands, we are links that form one chain.”

“The heart does not talk, it is the intellect that does all the talking. All dealings are at the intellectual level. We have become like machines; our very lives have become mechanical. Life has lost its naturalness – like a garland of plastic flowers. There is no heart in life anymore. Only when hearts come together does true life blossom. Amma doesn’t say that the approach of the intellect is not necessary; it is also necessary. But the intellect is like a pair of scissors – it can only cut. Whilst the heart is like a needle and thread – it mends, it brings together. Both the scissors and the needle are required; with the scissors you cut, with the needle you stitch – This is how you can make a garland or clothes….”

“Changing the world is like trying to straighten a dog’s tail. However much you may try, you won’t succeed. But although the tail won’t straighten, if you keep trying every day, at least you will put on some muscle. Similarly, even though it is difficult to make a change, our effort to do so in itself brings positive results. It will help us change. Without waiting for others to change, if we change ourselves first, that will make a difference. Instead of worrying about results, focus on doing our best in what we are engaged in.”

Darshan to the Snakes

4 October 2000, Colombo

Amma & PythonEn route to Finland, the first stop before the European portion of Mother’s winter tour was a layover in Colombo, Sri Lanka. That’s where the snakes had darshan!
The members of the tour group had gathered at the beach and were waiting for Amma to come to meditate with Her, when suddenly a man with a huge boa constrictor casually slung around his neck shows up.

Of course, the travellers gathered close to watch while he stretched the snake out, stroked it, and offered it to various people to hold (only a few were ready for that experience!). “Will Mother come before he’s gone?”

Yes, there She came, walking from the hotel. She approached the group on the beach, and people parted so that She stood face-to-face with the boa. Not a moment’s hesitation: She held out Her hands, and welcomed the snake into her embrace with no less enthusiasm than She displays towards any of Her other children. She let it slide into a comfortable position over Her shoulders.

Casually it slithered the front portion of its body along Her outstretched arm. Someone standing in that direction stepped back rather more quickly than usual. Next the snake owner opened a basket on the sand, and called forth a small cobra. This snake raised its hood in response. Mother gazed at it lovingly, then slowly started walking towards the seashore.

As Amma left the snakes, there was a look of compassion on Her face. Perhaps it was only my imagination, but I thought She must be thinking, “Freedom! All my children love freedom! And these live in baskets!” I remembered some birds brought for Mother’s darshan a few months ago, and how She held them on Her wrist, let them hop onto Her head, kissed them and let them peck at Her lips and even Her teeth! Then, too, everyone was fascinated with Mother’s play with the animals, but here also Her compassion came forth. She said, “People normally keep pets because they have a liking for them. They love to possess it. But they do not think about the animal’s suffering while it lives in a cage. They too want freedom! Someone on the spiritual path should look inside for love.” She said that life in a cage (which cannot be unlike life in a basket) is sad, because it is without freedom. Maybe She was thinking of how we too are captive to our senses, to our likes and dislikes, to anger, greed, jealousy… To be free we should look within, dive deep into ourselves.

And so another unplanned event with Mother became a chance for reflecting on Her teachings. She played with the snakes, as She had done with the birds, but that soft gaze of compassion, evident as She turned away from the snakes reminded us that no part of creation is beyond Her notice, Her care, Her understanding.