The rainbow

31July,2001 Amritapuri

Ordinarily, there is not even a single cubic foot of empty space near Mother.

There is something so delicious about being as close as possible to Mother that if there WERE a cubic foot of space, someone would fill it.

But on Tuesday when Mother finished satsang and began to share lunch with Her children, there was a space near Her. It was on the men’s side, and it would have accommodated one young man nicely.

It remained empty throughout lunch. The young man who was always there in the past has passed away. He met his end in a car accident just as Mother’s last foreign tour began; Amit no longer sits right at Mother’s side, cracking jokes, imitating people, flashing his infectious smiles.

Was it thinking of him that made Mother bury Her Face in Her Hands while the ashramites chanted the fifteenth chapter of the Gita before lunch? Was it contemplating the suffering of the other three young men who had survived the accident, Sudeep and Virapan and Eswar, that called forth the tears that She had to wipe away before She led the blessing over the food? Those three men were sitting near Mother and near the empty space for Amit. Sudeep, with his neck in a brace; Virapan, once robust and stocky, now slimmer; and Eshwar, still smiling though he’s missing two front teeth. They spent the summer in the hospital, and are now able to come out and about on occasion. So of course they came for lunch with Mother.

Mother wanted to see Her healing sons eating. But one wasn’t. Sudeep, whose cervical bone was badly damaged in the accident, cannot chew his food well; he planned to take it back to his room, where a helper would mash it for him.

No! Isn’t She his Mother? She took his plate and mixed the rice and curry with Her Hand, just as any mother prepares her baby’s food. She mixed it the way She used to do on the North India Tour, when She would put a big vessel of rice and curry on Her lap and then mash it all together and form small balls which She would place into the mouths of Her children as they came for Her prasad. But this time She kept on mixing much longer than usual: mashing, squeezing, making of the firm food something softer so that Sudeep could swallow it.

Then She handed the plate back to him, cleaned Her Hand, and before eating took a little curry that had been kept for Her and poured it onto the empty place on the floor – Amit’s place. As if he were there. Perhaps, in some way, he was.

Perhaps in some way all Her children who have gone before were there. When She prayed for Amit, and for the three suffering boys, She was also remembering all Her children who suffer, or who have passed away. The libation, too, must have been for all those who have left this life.

Earlier, before lunch, Mother had talked about the departed son who had come to the ashram as a young boy. She had reminded people of how he was always so free and playful, bringing laughter and joy whenever he came into a room. She had talked about how loving and caring he was: if someone in the ashram was sad, he would go to Mother to tell Her, urging Her to pay that person some extra attention. She had praised his lack of jealousy, his warmth, his cheerfulness.

“Amit was like a rainbow. In his life he gave joy to others.”

A rainbow is there only for a short time, but how much joy we feel when we see it!

On the 25th July Amma had planted a small sapling at the ashram premises in memory of Amit. A sapling* which Amma said would grow into a shade-giving tree, under which many could sit and meditate. A tree which would bear fruits for others.

*Hindus usually cremate their dead. It is the local custom to plant a coconut sapling (or any other fruit giving tree) where the body has been cremated. If that is not possible, a little of the ashes and a piece of the bone from the body of the deceased are buried in a convenient place, and a sapling is planted at this spot in memory of the departed. In the course of time, the sapling will grow into a tree and bear fruit. The fruit and the tree itself will benefit many. This, it is believed, will confer merit to the departed soul.

The real thing

30July 2001,Amritapuri

Mother has been home barely a week, after Her six-week Japan/USA tour. Already She must have hugged nearly twenty thousand people. The very first day She was home – the sort of day when most of us would want to rest, unpack, get over jet lag, She came out and embraced many who had gathered to welcome Her home. In fact, for Her first two days at home the ashram was so crowded with visitors that it was only on the third day that She could offer darshan to the ashram residents.

Despite heavy rains, the ashram premises were teeming with devotees on both Saturday and Sunday, and Amma was out among Her children almost all the time: Saturday’s darshan drew a large crowd, of course, and Saturday evening’s bhajan saw the hall full. By Sunday the island’s roads near the ashram were lined on both sides with private cars, tourist vehicles, and buses, and all the parking lots were overflowing.

Mother came out early Sunday morning, arriving for darshan at ten minutes to ten, and staying until shortly after two. Then, again early, She was already in the large new outdoor auditorium at the south end of the temple before a quarter to five, for satsang, bhajans and then Devi Bhava. Count the hours, then, till seven-thirty the next morning – it comes to almost fifteen consecutive hours that She remained there with the eleven or twelve thousand who had come to welcome Amma back home.

This amazing degree of availability to Her children is, to many people, a sign that Amma is “the Real Thing”. A young man in Boston last month expressed the idea well. He described his long search for his Guru, for a true Mahatma. He had read books, searched the Internet, and done his own travelling in India, home of the Great Souls. He said that when he met Amma, while it was Her overflowing love that first drew his heart to Her, it was the fact that She spends almost all of Her waking hours with her devotees that was a deciding factor for him.

“The True Gurus,” he said, “rarely indulge in peaceful privacy. They are almost always WITH their devotees. After all, They have come for them, haven’t They?”

Show behind the ‘Today’s Show’

10 July 2001, New York

“Judith, why am I crying?”

It was the voice of a camera person who had been filming the Today Show’s interview of Amma and Judith Cornell, author of Mother’s new biography, “Amma: Healing the Heart of the World”. She had just been hugged by Amma.

Judith answered succinctly: “That’s no ordinary hug.”

The interview had ended. The cameras had stopped rolling, Mother had stood up, and proceeded-as is usual with Her-to hug anyone within reach. That turned out to be virtually everyone in the studio: producers, studio crew, reporters, representatives from the publishing company and timekeepers.

Todays show
Todays show
Todays show

Before all this, Amma had been giving darshan outside the Rockefeller Center, the open plaza where the Today Show cameras outside the studio provide special moments during the popular TV news program. People surround the shooting area, and hold placards with their names or hometowns or favourite causes emblazoned on them, hoping the TV cameras might turn from the main event and zoom in on them, sending their images out to the world. On this day, one placard read, “Amma, We Love You!”

It was Tuesday morning, the 10th of July. Near the onlookers was something rather unusual: a small woman in white, seated on a chair and hugging people. Some of the bystanders moved over closer to see what this strange behaviour was all about.

“Who is She?” asked a Brooklyn accent near the crowd-restraining barricades. “They call her the “Hugging Saint,” answered one of the people just inside. “Come on-get a hug!”

Children, old people, men, women, and one lucky dog in the arms of his owner approached Amma there at one of the busiest crossroads of America, and She did as She always does everywhere around the world: She smiled into their eyes, held them close, murmured “Darling Daughter” or “Son, son,” and stroked their backs-well, in the case of the dog She patted his head and kissed him!

The Today Show, one of the most widely watched daily news programs in America, is known for being on the cutting edge, introducing new ideas, new writings and new people, to the general American public. For millions of people across the nation, this morning’s show would have been their first glimpse of Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. Curiosity aroused, they would have learned more a few minutes later when She and the author of the new biography were interviewed on the air.

From Judith Cornell’s answer to a question about her original scepticism about Amma, they would have learned how convincing Judith found the simple fact that year after year, day after day, and hour after hour, Mother keeps on hugging. Tens of thousands of people. Tirelessly. All over the world. They would have heard reference to Mother’s charitable activities like pensions for widows, homes for the homeless, orphanages and hospitals.

When the questioner turned to ask Mother what She had seen and understood about the nature of what’s happening in America, and the needs in this country for the kind of compassion that She is teaching, the viewers would have heard Her answer (translated by Swami Amritaswarupananda): “All over the world, people have an intense longing to experience pure love. They are in search of that, but they are not getting it. Each one is becoming an object in the other person’s hand.”

To open up their hearts, Amma goes all over the world, hugging. To judge by what people receiving those hugs say-people like the woman who asked “Why am I crying?”-one would have to conclude that She is having-to say the least-some success. As Cornell put it when asked about miracles attributed to Amma: “The greatest miracle is Her Love and compassion to millions around the world.”

That Love, that compassion, comes through no ordinary hug.

On Guru: Amma says

On Guru: Amma says

“Satsang and spiritual books have the power to turn our minds towards good thoughts. That alone, however, will not enable us to go forward with steady steps. Ordinary physicians will examine the patient and prescribe medicines. But if an operation is required, one has to see a surgeon. Likewise, to rid our minds of all the dirt, and to progress towards the ultimate goal, we have to take refuge in a Guru.”

amma-meditate-guru

Question: “Isn’t it slavery when one follows the Guru blindly?”

Amma: “My son, to know the Truth, we have to get rid of the sense of ‘I’. It is hard to achieve this just by doing sadhana on one’s own. To eliminate the ego, it is essential to do spiritual
practice under the guidance of a Guru. When we bow down before the Guru, we are not bowing to that individual, but to the ideal in Him. We do it so that we may also attain to His level.

“We can rise only through humility. The seed contains the tree within it, but if it is content to lie in a storeroom somewhere, it will be eaten by mice. Only by going under the soil will its true form emerge. When you push the button down, the umbrella unfolds; it is then able to protect one from the rain.

“Because we respected and obeyed our parents, elders, and teachers, we grew and gained knowledge. They nurtured good qualities and good behaviour in us. In the same way,
obedience to the Guru elevates the disciple to a more expansive, higher plane.

“It is to become the King of kings later, that the disciple takes on the role of a servant now. We put a fence around a little mango tree; we nurture it and raise it, so we can get the sweet fruit later. The disciple shows reverence to the Guru and obeys him, in order to reach the Truth that the Guru represents.

“When we board a plane, they ask us to fasten our seat belts, not to show off their power over us, but for our own safety. In the same way, the guru asks the disciple to obey certain rules,
and to practice restraint, only to elevate him. He does this only to protect the disciple from the dangers that may befall him. The guru knows that the disciple’s ego-driven impulses will cause danger to him and to others. The road is for the use of vehicles; but if you drive your car any way you please, accidents are sure to happen. That is why we are asked to obey the rules of the road. Don’t we obey the policeman who directs the traffic at intersections? We prevent many accidents by doing so.

“When our sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ are about to destroy us, we are saved by following the Satguru’s advice. He gives us the training needed to avoid such circumstances later. The very
proximity of the Guru gives us strength.

“The guru is the embodiment of selflessness. We are able to learn what truth, dharma (righteousness), renunciation, and love mean because the Guru is a living embodiment of those
qualities. The Guru is the very life of those qualities. By obeying and emulating him, those qualities take root in us. Obedience to the Guru is not slavery. The Guru’s aim is only the safety of the disciple. He truly shows us the path. A true Guru will never see his disciple as his slave. He is filled with love for the disciple. He wants to see the disciple succeed, even if it means hardship for himself. The true Guru is indeed like a mother.

“Guru and God are there within everyone. But in the beginning, an external Guru is necessary. After a certain stage is reached, one can grasp the essential principles from every object
and thereby progress. Until a boy becomes aware of his goal, he studies his lessons out of fear of his parents and teachers. Once he becomes conscious of his goal, he studies on his own accord, foregoing sleep and enjoyments like going to the movies. The fear and reverence toward his parents which he had until then was not a weakness. Children, when the awareness of the Goal dawns, the Guru aspect within also awakens.”

Question: “Amma, who is greater, God or the guru?”

Mother: “In principle, God and the Guru are the same. But we may say that the Guru is higher than God. The Guru’s grace is something unique. If the Guru wants, he can remove the effect of God’s displeasure. But even God cannot remove the sin that comes from dishonouring the Guru.

When you realise God, you can say that you and God are the same. But even then, you cannot say that you are the same as the Guru. It is the Guru who initiated the disciple with the
mantra that led to Self-realization. It is the path shown by the Guru that led the disciple to the goal. The Guru will always have that special status. Even after realising the Truth, the disciple will stand before the Guru with great humility.”

The Guru Principle

Na Guroradhikam Tattvam
Na Guroradhikam tapah
Tattvajnanat param nasti
Tasmai Sri Gurave namah.

– Guru Gita

If we read the lives of the great saints and spiritual seekers, we will see that, to many of them, the word “Guru” signifies the summum bonum of spiritual attainments and the divine grace responsible for it. It is not difficult to see why the Guru commands such undying devotion in an aspirant’s life. It is only through the constant guidance and support of the Guru that the seekers manages to rend asunder the veil of Maya.

It is not easy to find an accurate translation to convey the meaning of the word “Guru”. Though it has often been imperfectly translated to mean “teacher” or “acharya”, its real import is vastly different from such a limited interpretation.

The Guru Gita describes the meaning of the word “Guru” as such: “The syllable ‘Gu’ is darkness, and the syllable, ‘Ru’ is said to be light. There is no doubt that the Guru is indeed the Supreme Knowledge that swallows the darkness of ignorance. ‘Gu’ represents the principles such as Maya, and ‘Ru’ is the Supreme Knowledge that destroys that Maya. The syllable ‘Ru’ is that without form. The Guru is said to be the one who bestows the state beyond attributes (and form).”

Rabindranath Tagore gives a very beautiful explanation of the term “Guru”. He says that an embodied soul or Jiva wanders through hundreds of thousands of births in different bodies, searching for the way to attain its own true state of the eternal Supreme Self. Through its struggles, it achieves consecutively higher and higher states of evolution. Finally at one stage due to the intensity of man’s longing to reach his goal of perfection, a miracle happens: the inner soul of man which was driving him towards his real nature, separates itself and assuming a form guides him to the goal. In our tradition, such a guide is known as a Guru.

From this wonderful explanation, we can see who the Guru is to the seeker. The Guru is none other than our own true Self who has come to guide our steps towards Realisation.

The Guru knows the disciple intimately and prescribes such sadhana or spiritual practices as will exactly suit his temperament. With tender care and attentiveness of a mother, the Guru creates all the situations and circumstances necessary for the growth of the seeker.

It is said that the Guru is more compassionate than God Himself. This is because the Guru, who is God-realized and who lives in unbroken communion with the Supreme Truth, chooses out of compassion for the world to take birth and lead us to the goal..

Importance of the Guru

The Vedas and Shastras declare that it is impossible for anyone to achieve Self-Realization without the help of a Satguru. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna enjoins upon Arjuna,

Tadviddhi pranipatena pariprashnena sevaya
Upadekshayanti te jnanam jnaninah tattva-darshinah.

‘If you wish to know the truth of the Paramatman you must seek such Masters who have an awareness of it themselves. Learn from them by surrendering unto them, by devoted service and by right questioning. Thus will you come to know the Supreme Truth.’

Even if, through determined effort and ruthless self-examination or devotional practices, a seeker does have the vision of God, the final attainment of realising God as one’s own Self and as the Self in all beings can be accomplished only through the Grace of a Satguru. Only those in whom the inner Guru is awakened by virtue of one’s past samskara (latent inherited tendencies) can gain God realisation without the assistance of a Guru. The story of Namdev, the great saint of Maharashtra, illustrates this.

Namdev had, even in his childhood, received the vision of God and used to consider the Lord to be his own friend. He used to be able to freely see and speak to his beloved Vitthal. As he grew up into a youth, his exalted state of devotion made people look upon him as a saint. He was slowly becoming egoistic, though unaware of it. Then one day, to his surprise, his beloved Lord asked him to attend a religious festival at a nearby village. When Namdev reached the place, he found a congregation of people, which included the great saint Jnaneshwar, his brothers and sister, and many great Mahatmas who were all realised souls. Nobody recognised or paid any attention to Namdev and he took his place in the crowd.

When everybody was seated Jnaneshwar asked another saint Gora Kumbhar who was a potter by profession, to check and see if the “pots” assembled there were “baked” or not. So Gora Kumbhar tapped with his stick, the head of each person in the assembly. They all sat without moving except Namdev. When Gora came up to him and tapped him with the stick, Namdev sprang to his feet and cried out angrily, “How dare you hit me with this stick? Don’t you know who I am? Hearing this Gora turned around and said to Jnaneshwar, “All are baked except this one.” The whole assembly burst into laughter and Namdev felt terribly humiliated.

Then Muktabai, the sister of Jnaneshwar stepped forward and said to Namdev, “How can one without a Guru have a place in this congregation of saints?” Namdev quietly left the place and went back to his Lord Vitthal. “O! Lord,” he asked “How could you allow me to be insulted so?” The Lord replied, “Namdev, you are most dear to me. But it is true that a man does not attain perfection except through the Grace of a Guru.” The Lord then directed Namdev to Vishobha Kechar, a true Master, through whose Grace he attained enlightenment… so the story goes.

Thus it is seen that even the exalted state of God-vision does not fructify into true realisation without the Satguru’s touch of Grace..

Devotion to the Guru

The true shishya (disciple) considers his Guru to be God Himself. The Guru Gita says that devotion to the Guru is one of the highest virtues of a seeker and cannot be obtained by those
whose minds are impure or unfit for it. The shishya is protected by his Guru from all the dangers that he may face in both his worldly and spiritual life. It is said that even if God is angry with one, the Guru can save him, but if the Guru is displeased with one, then even God cannot shield him. But the greatness of the Guru is such that he never loses patience with the erring disciple.

The relationship between the Guru and sishya is the most unique of all human relationships. Its beauty has to be experienced to be understood. The shishya should have unswerving
devotion and unshakeable faith in the Guru. Realising that the Guru does everything for the welfare of the disciple, the seeker should strive to cultivate complete obedience to the Guru. He should completely surrender himself at the feet of his Guru and serve him with humility and devotion. The grace of the Guru will spontaneously flow to such a disciple. A disciple should never find fault with his Guru. It is said that the deep faith that the disciple has towards his Guru will itself help him attain the goal.

The Guru’s Compassion

The Guru is even more eager than the disciple for the latter’s enlightenment. The Guru works untiringly to help the shishya to overcome his ego and attain liberation. Therefore the
shishya is forever indebted to his Guru for leading him to his goal. The scriptures say that when one realises the Supreme Truth, he realises he can say that he and God are one. But even then a disciple can never claim that he and his Guru are one. Even to a Realised soul, his Guru is always greater than himself.

The shishya opens himself to the grace of the Guru when he has completely surrendered to the Guru.

Such self-surrender means that the shishya has no will other than that of his Master. His only wish is to please his Guru through his thought, actions and speech. The sincere disciple serves his Guru with deep faith, humility and implicit obedience to the wishes of the Guru.

Disciple is on a journey; Guru resting in his abode of the Self

Amma’s Guru Purnima Message 5 July 2001

“Darling Children,

“All my children must be celebrating Guru Purnima today. Didn’t you celebrate a similar Guru Purnima last year? Since that day until today, there must have been many lessons to reflect upon and imbibe. And there has been enough time also. There are innumerable lessons in the book of life, lessons that can never be exhausted. ‘Have I learnt well the lessons that need to be learnt? Do I know all there is to know?’ Guru Purnima reminds us to make such inquiries and answer them.

“The Guru is an embodiment of all the knowledge contained in the great book of life. The Guru-shishya (Master-disciple) relationship is the stream in which the depth of that knowledge and the sweetness of love commingle.

“The disciple is on a journey in search of supreme knowledge. The Satguru (Self-realized Master), on the other hand, has completed the journey and is serene and unruffled, resting in the abode of the Self. He or She is aware that the beloved disciple may falter and stumble, overpowered by the challenges thrown up by the mind and testing circumstances. To prevent this, the Guru will shower on the disciple rays of unmotivated love and causeless compassion, for the Guru loves the disciple like his or her own child. Holding this son or daughter by the hand, the Guru leads the way, offering both support and protection.

“The mind is inadequate for and incapable of measuring the depth of the Guru-shishya relationship. An unsullied heart is required for that.

“Children, Amma always says that the present moment is the most important. This is because the Guru-shishya relationship can be cemented only here and now, at the present moment. The beauty of the Self and supreme love emanating from the august presence of the Guru are available only here and now. Guru Purnima expresses the yearning of the mind that thirsts to drink in that beauty and love.

“Just as the radiance of the full moon transforms night into day, the presence of the Guru dispels the darkness within the disciple’s heart. The Guru elevates the disciple to the state of supreme bliss by giving him the strength and discrimination to transcend the limitations of the mind. And the disciple, understanding the Guru’s infinite compassion, offers himself or herself completely at the feet of the Master in utter gratitude, knowing that he or she can never repay the debt to the Master. Guru Purnima symbolises this poignant relationship.

“The disciple who has totally surrendered himself or herself thinks ‘I am nothing, I am nobody. You are everything.’ The disciple-hood awakens in one who has this attitude of humility, and the Guru’s grace flows into such a person. May my children develop the maturity of mind and humility to deserve and receive that Grace.”

At home in the arms of the Divine Mother

Chicago,2July 2001

“It means so much to me to see you here!”

A young woman was shaking Daniel’s hand in the lobby of the Wyndham Hotel in Chicago, while strains of “Sri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama” reverberated from the nearby ballroom where Mother sat giving darshan.

“I can’t tell you how good it feels to find you coming here to see Mother,” another passer-by stepped up to say.

“Your presence here gives an important message,” said another person.

Not one of these three knew Daniel, but all shared such enthusiasm. Why? Who is this “Daniel”?

He is the brother of one of Amma’s long-time devotees from the Dallas area. It is his first visit to Amma. This is a familiar story. How come so many strangers are so pleased to see this particular new son of Amma?

It is because Daniel, clad in the traditional hooded, brown robes, is in fact Father Daniel Chowning, a Discalced Carmelite. That is, he is a monk and a Roman Catholic priest.

For people from the Christian tradition, and specifically the Roman Catholic tradition, it is a joy to see someone like Daniel, whose commitment to his religion is unquestionable and whose openness to Amma is apparent. Mother wants to strengthen our spirituality on the foundations we already have.

So Father Daniel has come to meet Amma and to have Her darshan, recognising God’s love in yet another one of the many guises God is free to choose.

Before coming to meet Mother, Daniel had mentioned to his sister Ruth Ann (or, as Mother calls her, Vidya) that he liked the rudraksha beads so many devotees used for malas. So what did she do? She asked one of the malamakers to make a special mala for Daniel, not the familiar one with a hundred and eight beads and a Guru bead, but prayer beads of his own tradition: a rosary of three beads, a large bead, and then five sets of ten beads set apart by larger single beads. All rudrakshas. And hanging at the end, a crucifix

Just as many devotees take their malas to Mother for blessing. Daniel took his rudraksha rosary to Amma. She kissed it and put it around his neck. Daniel then moved to the side of the stage where he sat quietly, praying in his own way; in expressing his reverence for the Divine Feminine, he was apparently quite at ease though the environment was new. It seemed more than mere coincidence that at that very time, in the background, there were the soft strains of “Daya Karo Mata” (a bhajan that calls upon the Divine Mother for compassion).

Later that same night, Daniel availed himself of yet more of the abundance God was letting flow: he approached Amma for a mantra. Pulling his head close to Her right side so that She could whisper the Sanskrit words into his ear in the ancient Vedic manner, She initiated this Christian son. He was asked, before he reached Her side, what focus he would like for his mantra. Jesus Christ? Mary? For of course Mother gives mantras from all the religious traditions, and would gladly give him a Christian mantra. He said, “I feel completely confident in my own Christian faith. My mantra can come from any tradition. I would like Mother to choose the mantra She finds best for me.” She did.

The next day, Daniel headed home to his monastery in Holy Hill, Wisconsin. Built in a place long considered sacred by native Americans, the Carmelite site is dedicated to the Divine Mother.

And today, Holy Hill has a new blessing: the presence of one of Amma’s children, supported in his own faith and drawn into the all-inclusive embrace of Amma.