Feeling the heat in Palakkad

25-27 April 2002,Palakkad Brahmasthanam Festival

“My children must be suffering – both from the heat outside and the heat inside,” said Amma in one of Her morning satsangs in Palakkad. During the three-day Brahmasthanam Festival there (April 25-27), the temperature was consistently reaching 43 degrees Celsius – the earth was scorched, the lakes were dry, there rarely was any wind.

Located in the middle of Kerala’s eastern border, Palakkad is the state’s hottest district – a condition intensified in the pre-monsoon season. Still in that harsh climate, the local volunteers and Amma’s tour group worked continuously – chopping vegetables, cooking meals, manning the bookstalls. How could they do otherwise, with Amma in their midst embracing an average of 14,000 people a day.

“It’s so hot,” said Shakti, an 11-year-old boy from Palakkad who lives with Amma in Amritapuri. “Even under the fan, you don’t get any relief.”

“Amma did Kerala tours this time of year some years back,” said Henry, a renunciate from Holland. “We used to call it the Hell Tour.”

However, John, a brahmachari who works in the kitchen boiling rice, said the heat isn’t really a problem. “It doesn’t bother us,” he said. “You feel the ‘heat of the heat.’ It makes us feel like we are doing something. It’s inspiring.”

Indeed, the temperature must have made many aware of the nature of their work – karma yoga, the burning away of karmas through selfless actions. It is through selfless actions such as the work done in that unrelenting Palakkad heat, that the devotees can cool the inner heat that Amma spoke of in Her satsang – the heat of the restless, troubled, worried mind.

And there were moments of respite – somewhere around 4:00 in the morning, when Amma often would be finishing darshan. With the sun a few hours from rising, a slight breeze would push across the ashram compound and caress those just finishing their day’s work. Perhaps this was Nature’s sympathetic imitation of the drama of life, the reward awaiting those who work selflessly through the high heat of the day.

Come running when the bell rings

14 April 2002,Amritapuri

On 13th April, Saturday, Amma made a surprise visit to the prayer hall at 5:00 a.m., as the morning archana was about to begin, to take the attendance of the ashramites taking part in the morning chanting. Later in the afternoon Amma came unannounced for the meditation. Normally, before Amma comes for meditation, the bell rings and the ashramites have to reach the hall immediately for meditation. After some time Amma comes down to sit with Her children. That day, on hearing the bell ringing for meditation many of the ashram residents thought that they could leisurely reach the hall as Amma will be arriving only some time later. But, to their great surprise, when they reached the hall, Amma was already there. She asked for the bell to be rung only after She was seated. Hence, She could catch the latecomers red handed.

After everyone arrived, Amma explained how She had been observing the ashram residents all morning. She also said that when the temple bell rings, everyone should come to the prayer hall immediately and not wait until Amma arrives.

Perhaps Amma was giving the residents a warning that if they are not alert, they might soon miss something special.

On April 14th, the Vishu day, the Kerala New Year, thousands of devotees had gathered in the old temple hall for Amma’s darshan. But Amma suddenly started walking to the new hall, and the bell ringing just moments before She was to dance!

Devotees have been blessed to see Amma dance twice this year, first on the Onam day in August and then on the Krishna Jayanti day (Sri Krishna’s birthday) in September. So this time, many of the 7,000 people in attendance seemed to know what to expect, because when Amma stood at the front of the stage, immediately a round of applause spread through the crowd.

“Imagine yourselves as Sri Krishna,” Amma said, “or think of yourself as a gopi dancing with Sri Krishna.” And with that the opening strains of the bhajan “Bolo Bolo Gokula Bala” began to issue forth from the harmonium. Amma closed Her eyes and a mirthful smile appeared on Her face. She began singing the bhajan, playing the cymbals and swaying blissfully to its tune. Soon She was engrossed in a totally sublime realm.

The crowd below Amma joined in the dancing and all were ecstatically clapping hands, their eyes fixed on the radiant image of Amma, lost to this world in Her precious and graceful dance.

As the tempo of the song reached the peak, Amma sat on the floor and was deep in meditation. For the next five minutes it seemed as if no one were breathing; the silence was so palpable. And then Amma opened Her eyes, took Her seat on Her peetham and started giving darshan.

When the bell rings, you should come running.

Fireworks meditation

13 April 2002,Vishu Eve, Amritapuri

Amma had finished playing with Ram; normally, She would go up Her steps to Her room.

This night was different.

Instead, suddenly She made Her way to the front steps of the temple. It seems the computer students from the ashrams’ Institute had arranged a special fireworks display for the night before Vishu (New Year’s day in Kerala.)

So there She sat, surrounded first by the few who had trailed Her from the Ram playtime, but then by more and more, until probably two or three thousand residents and devotees had gathered on the steps, in the small “cupolas”, beside the lions, near the front gate and the bookstall and the banyan tree, and on the roofs and verandas of the brahmacharinis’ quarters and the flats.

Hissssss……BANG!”

Everyone jumped.

Everyone?

Maybe not Mother.

You watch closely:

“Hissssss…..BANG!”

You jump; She doesn’t seem to. But She laughs, shoves the shoulder of someone sitting near Her.

“Hissssss…BANG!!

BANG!!

BANG!!”

You know the first BANG!! is coming, from the hiss, and you are ready this time, and don’t jump. But the next two bangs are surprises. You jump. Did Mother? Her eyes are dancing; Her face is glowing in the light from the sparklers that She and some children near Her are holding. But She seems to be simply sitting there, rock-solid.

Is it your imagination?

“BANG!!”

No hiss this time, and no preparation-you jump. But Mother is leaning over close to one of the devotees, saying something that seems to be serious. Even though this particular BANG wasn’t specifically expected, it didn’t seem to have startled Her nor to have taken Her attention away from what She was engaged in.

Maybe one of the times you were jumping Mother was too, so you can’t be certain She was never startled on this firecrackers night. But all those times you saw Her NOT jumping might have stirred a memory of one of the examples She so often gives:

Mother says that if we know fireworks will go off nearby, we’re prepared, and not shocked when they do. Similarly with life: if we understand the nature of life-that it is never all pleasant and easy: there are both good times and bad, gains and losses, joys and suffering-then when the hard times come, we won’t be rocked. We can face anything life brings with equanimity.

Even if Mother did jump once or twice during the fireworks display, you can safely bet that She is never rocked by anything in life. She knows what life brings-ups and downs—and has no expectations to be shattered.