Housing Colony in Durgapur, West Bengal

The Mata Amritanandamayi Math first began trying to initiate projects in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, in 1998. But various obstacles always arose. But as the saying goes, ‘if you keep knocking, the door will open; even if it’s not the targeted one’. In a similar manner, though the Math was focusing on Kolkata, things started coming up in Durgapur, West Bengal’s foremost industrial city, located 175 kms from the capital.

Around the year 2000, the Math applied to the communist Bengal government for an allotment of land for an Amrita Kuteeram housing colony. In 2001, after many meetings, the government allotted the land at free of cost for the housing colony. Thus began a new chapter of Amma’s mission, in West Bengal.

Amma wanted to start free homes right away, but then in January 2001, the Bhuj earthquake struck, and the relief efforts there took priority. Construction of the school started in 2002 December, the construction of first 108 free homes was well in progress. The beneficiaries were identified jointly by the District Authority and the Math, and comprised of people from the lowest strata of society.

The citizens of Durgapur and the surrounding areas showed their gratefulness, support and devotion to Amma by arranging a thunderous reception for Her on 17th March 2003 at the Amritavidyalayam site. More than 30,000 people attended the function, many of whom had to walk great distances to come and have Amma’s darshan. During that evening’s darshan programme, the keys of the houses to the first few beneficiaries were handed over be Sri Bansa Gopal Chowdhury, the Honorable Minister for C&SSJ, Government of West Bengal. This was the first time in history that a minister from a communist party shared a stage with Amma in West Bengal.

Durgapur means “City of Goddess Durga,” and Amma, who is Durga personified, has come to reside in this town and in the hearts of the people who live there.

The purpose of the prayer is to realise oneness

Question: Amma, in Your ashram, do You accord the greatest importance to devotion? When I watch the prayers and bhajans, it appears like a show to me.

Amma: Son, imagine that you have a sweetheart. If you were talking to her, would it seem like a show to you? You can never feel so, if you really love someone, even though it may seem like a show to others. Whether the lover speaks to his sweetheart or she speaks to him, it makes them both blissful — they never feel dissatisfied.

No matter how many hours they may go on talking, they are never bored by it. It is the same with the experience we derive from prayer. For us it could never be a show. Our prayers are an expression of our relationship with God and our closeness to Him, they are the conversations we have with our Sweetheart who dwells within us.

You are the Atman (Self). Your true nature is bliss. You don’t ever deserve sorrow. You are not the jivatman (individual soul), you are the Paramatman (the Supreme Self). That is the inner meaning of prayer. Prayers are not empty words.

Prayers and other devotional practices can be found in every religion. In Islam, for example, prayer is very important; and namaz (prostrations) is also a part of their practices. In Christianity prayer is vitally important. They pray before the form of Christ and before lighted candles. Prayer also has a significant place in Buddhism and Hinduism. In all of these religions the Guru-disciple relationship exists as well. Furthermore, we see prophets and Gurus appearing in our midst from time to time who are revered almost as much as God. Aren’t these different expressions of devotion? Those who have assimilated the scriptures contemplate Vedantic truths, and thus move forward on the spiritual path. However, even this is possible only because they have pure devotion towards the scriptures and their masters.

Son, real devotion is to behold God in everyone and to love and respect everyone. You should cultivate such an attitude. We should elevate our minds so that we may see the Divine in everything.

We do not think of God as someone dwelling in the heavens. God is the all-pervading Consciousness. To know Him and to experience Him is the purpose of our lives. The aim of shravana (hearing the scriptural truths), manana (contemplating on those truths), and nididhyasans (total assimilation of those truths) is to understand the nature of the Supreme Self or God. Devotion is a form of spiritual practice that leads to that experience.

It is not easy to turn the mind, which has been wandering hither and thither for a long time, inward. Those who have studied the scriptures may prefer the path of “neti, neti” (not this, not this), rejecting everything except the Self. A lot of people, however, are unable to learn the scriptures, yet also have the right to realise the true nature of the Self. For them, devotion to God is the means. Some patients can take injections, but there are others who are allergic to them. In a similar way, Amma prescribes different spiritual practices to different people depending on their samskaras (their nature inherited from this and previous lives). We cannot say that one particular path is given prominence in this ashram. All we can say is that everything is aimed towards the good of the people.

The two banks of a river appear to be separate only because the river is filled with water. When the water dries up only a single continuous stretch of sand remains — everything is one. So, too, it is because of our individuality, our individual consciousness, that there appears to be you and me. Once the individuality is gone, everything is one and the same — whole and perfect. Through both the “neti, neti” path and the path of devotion, we reach the same experience of the Self.

The “neti, neti” path can be explained with an illustration: A child is bringing medicine to his father who is bedridden. When he reaches the door to his father’s room, the power supply fails. He is in the dark and he cannot see a thing. The boy fumbles along the wall and touches the door. “Not this,” he murmurs and enters the room. He stumbles against the table and says, “Not this.” He touches his father’s bed and says, “Not this.” Then finally his hand reaches his father. “Oh, yes!” he exclaims. “It’s my father.” In this way, by rejecting everything that is not his father, he reaches his father. The path of devotion is also similar to this. A true devotees attention is only on God. God is all he cares about. He doesn’t accept anything other than his Beloved. His only thought is, “My God, my God…” Finally through, his single-pointed devotion, he attains his beloved God.

Some people contemplate, “I am not the body; I am not the mind; I am not the intellect — I am the pure Self.” Constantly seeking the Self, they reject the body, mind, etc., as the cause of all sorrows. Others hold that they belong to God and want only Him; they perceive that God is everything, and they seek that God alone. They, too, attain the same experience of this Self. This is the only difference between the two paths.

Whichever spiritual path we are on, our aim is to cultivate an eye that sees everything as the form of God. This should become our very existence. We should be able to know and experience that everything is God alone. That is true devotion. When we see only God in everything, we forget our individual self. Our individuality dissolves and vanishes.

Through devotion we are not seeking a God who sits somewhere beyond the sky. Instead we learn to perceive God in everything. A true devotee doesn’t wander about in search of God. God shines within his own heart, for he doesn’t behold anything as being separate from God. The purpose of his prayer is only to realise that oneness. Through our prayers we are glorifying the Supreme Truth. What is needed is to uplift the mind from the plane of the body to the plane of the Self. A hundred-watt bulb in a smoky kitchen doesn’t give the radiance of even a zero-watt bulb because it has been covered by soot over a long period of time. If we wipe the soot away, the bulb will once again shine with its full brilliance. Likewise, sadhana is the process of removing the impurities within us. By removing the covering that is blocking our innate divinity, the infinite divine power will become our direct experience; we will realize that we are not born to grieve or to suffer, but that we are the very embodiment of bliss. However, it doesn’t benefit us to merely prattle about it. Sadhana is imperative. Everyone has the innate capacity to swim, we have to enter the water and practice relentlessly. In the same way, devotion and prayer are the means by which we awaken the latent divinity within us.

apj abdul kalam

Donation from the President of India

The President of India donates 10 months Salary for Amma’s Charitable activities

The President of India Bharata Ratna Shri. Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam contributed Rs 500,000/- towards Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s Charitable activities at Rameswaram. He expressed his desire to donate his ten months salary to Amma’s charities during Her visit to the Rashtrapati Bhavan on 10th March 2003.

In a letter sent to Mata Amritanandamayi, the President says, “Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s mission of education, health-care and rural development in an integrated way always inspires me. I wish to give my ten month’s salary to the work of the Math at Rameswaram.”

How to look after children

Amma’s teaching on how to look after our children “When your children indulge in mischief, explain things to them lovingly. Childhood is the foundation of life. If we don’t pay attention to our children and show them love and affection, they may go astray. Parents should remember to be especially loving towards their children when they are very young, just as you would water a tender, young plant. Once the children are grown and have found jobs, the parents should entrust them with the family responsibilities, and retire to an ashram life and do sadhana (spiritual practices) in solitude. Purify the mind through service. It is unwise to cling to your home and children until your last breath. When the children are grown up, the desire to see your grandchildren and to help with their upbringing will become strong. All living beings on earth manage to grow and survive, don’t they? They are not waiting for help. Leave your children in God’s hands. That is what loving parents should do. That is true love.”

~

“In most families today, there is both a father and a mother. With the correct understanding about family life, and about life as a whole, they can play their parts properly. The mother can try to impart in the child virtues like love, patience and forbearance, and the father can lovingly prevent the child from doing things which would do harm to society, his family and his own life. The father can teach him obedience and respect for others. In some cases, a single parent becomes both the father and mother. It is possible if one tries. In all cases, the parents are the first ones to set an example, to show their children how they want them to be. If a good example isn’t set, it is an impossible task to raise children properly. A father can also be a good mother and a mother can also be a good father. But this balance cannot be attained unless one does proper sadhana (spiritual practices).”

~

The parents are the first gurus

“The parents are the two gurus which the children see from birth until they come into contact with the world. If the seed of love is not sown at home, it cannot sprout or blossom.”

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“Children express what is taught to them and what they have experienced while growing up. Therefore, you should be very careful and cautious for your children’s sake. Be careful about what you say. Be careful about what you do, because each word that you utter and each deed you perform creates a deep impression in your child’s mind. It goes deep into his heart because those are the first things that he sees and hears. They are the first impressions indelibly imprinted upon his or her mind.”

~

“Parents should always set an example for their children in words and deeds. They are their children’s first teachers. Remember that by fighting and arguing with each other in front of your children, you are setting a bad example and spoiling their future as well. If you cannot straighten out your own difficulties, that is your problem, but why should you create problems in your children’s lives too?”

~

“Parents should be very careful when they deal with their children. Don’t give whatever they ask. They have no discrimination. If you do not use your discrimination when you fulfil their wishes, you are leading them to destruction. When you nourish their body, don’t forget to nourish their minds by disciplining them properly. Give some physical work to your children as well. Let them sweat and toil a little every day. Otherwise, they will become lazy and good for nothing. Give them a chance to know the value of work.”

~

“The first thing parents should attend to is the character of their children. They should teach them good behaviour, and this means instructing them in spiritual matters. The parents should tell their children stories that teach moral principles, and they should train them to do japa and meditation. By doing sadhana (spiritual practices), the intelligence and memory of the child will greatly improve. They will also be well behaved. They will progress spiritually and will also be materially successful in life.

~


Teach your children love and patience

“Children will not have an opportunity to learn patience and love from anybody else if they do not learn these qualities from their parents.”

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“Children, a mother must have great patience in bringing up her children. A mother has to put into effect the moulding of the child’s character. The child learns his first lessons of love and patience through his mother. A mother must be patient – patient like the earth.”

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“A father is just as deeply involved in rearing the children as the mother. A father, too, must have patience.”

~


Discipline with love, not fear

“Creating fear and respect in order to teach obedience cannot be called disciplining, which is what we like to call it. True, constructive disciplining takes place when love is allowed to blossom. If love is absent, any reverence or respect will be based on fear.”

~

“The other day a family came to see Amma. They had a seven-year-old son. He was sitting on Amma’s lap, and just to make him happy and to make him talk, Amma asked him several questions: his name, what grade he was in, about his friends, the games he liked, etc. Each time he was about to answer a question, the boy would first look at his father, as if asking permission to speak. The boy would answer each question only after being given his father’s consent. When Amma asked what his name was, he immediately looked at his father. Only when his father said, ‘Tell Amma your name,’ did the boy dare say his name. The boy was afraid to speak. You cannot even call this respect — it is plain fear. If you threaten a child saying, ‘Obey, or I will punish you,’ you don’t know how much harm you are doing. The child closes up and cannot express himself. He will carry this fear within him throughout his life. He may become a wealthy man, highly educated, holding a top position in society, but the fear will still be there, deep within him, and it will make his personal life a living hell.”

~

If parents really love their children…

“Mothers will say that they love their children. In fact, do they? If they love, why are they not loving the children of the neighbouring houses? Therefore, what they really love is “mine.” Mother would say that even the birth of a child is accidental which occurred during the course of the parents’ effort to satisfy their lust and other selfish motives. If the parents really love their children, they should make their children understand and assimilate spiritual truths which would give mental strength and control in order to confront the challenges of life, instead of throwing them into this world without giving proper spiritual education and forcing them to lead the same kind of life as themselves.”

~

Your children are not your real companions

“The children whom you rear are not your real companions. Once the daughter is married, her mother’s place is second to her husband’s. For the husband as well, the wife comes first and then only his mother. All of them will get off at their respective bus stops along the road of life. Therefore, everything should be entrusted to one’s beloved deity. Your children also belong to God. What power does a servant have in the master’s house? He will be satisfied with whatever is given by the master. The master makes the decisions and asks the servant to execute them. He has no right to question. Similarly, we are the servants and God is the Master. He is the one who gives the remuneration, the fruit; so let us work sincerely and be content with what He, the Master, gives. The real Self, the essence, should be known. Children, all power belongs to God, not to us. We are puppets in His hands. If we work with the attitude of surrender, He will protect us.”

‘Ap Ki Shadi Ke Liye…’

7 March 2003,Jaipur

During Amma’s Jaipur programmes, a man approached Amma for darshan. He was feeling sad almost to the point of desperation: he was a 44-year-old bachelor, and his greatest desire was to get married. He did not say anything to Amma, but She whispered into his ear in his native language of Hindi, “ap ki shanti ke liye ma sankalp karengi.” (Amma has given a Divine resolve for your peace of mind.) But what the man heard was, “ap ki shadi ke liye…” He thought that Amma said she would make a sankalpa (Divine resolve) for his marriage. That very evening, at the programme itself, he met a lady.

Three days later, the same man came for darshan in Delhi, where he asked Amma if She would conduct his wedding. She agreed, and before the conclusion of the Delhi programmes, he was married, his greatest desire met, his greatest worry put to rest.

She Knows the reason

3 March 2003, enroute to Baroda from Mumbai, North India Tour

The setting sun turned the sky to dusk as the five ashram buses rolled along. The tour was beginning its fifth week, and our next destination was Baroda. It had been a long day of travel, with many hours remaining before we would reach our accommodation, and we were all eager for our sunset bhajan practice with Amma. But, when or where would She stop? It was getting late-why such a long delay? Some more time passed before the vehicles slowed to a halt, and our excitement grew. Are we stopping for bhajans now? Where is Amma?

Then came the surprising announcement: Amma had indeed decided on a place to rest, and this place was located half an hour away-back the same way we had come! Slowly, the buses turned around and we settled into our seats once more, holding our patience just a little while longer…. Many of us thought to ourselves, “It’s a twenty-hour drive to Baroda! Why would Amma have us turn around and go back, losing more time? Surely this must be a very special place that Amma is taking us to!”

Eventually we arrived at our designated meeting area, and as we quickly exited the bus many of us looked around in bewilderment. Normally, our travel stops are located in some quiet nature setting: in rolling green fields, or in a beautiful forest clearing, or perhaps by a river or lake. But this spot was of no such beauty. We had come upon, of all things, a busy and noisy factory area, dusty truck stop, just off the main highway!

I stared in disbelief at the row of unkempt buildings that lined the lot. Large vehicles were parked nearby, and there were piles of sand a few feet away. Workmen walked about busily, and the noise of loud voices, honking horns and machinery filled the air. Trucks roared past on the main road within walking distance. And here in the midst of all this din and activity was our beloved Amma, a serene smile gracing Her face as She sat in Her chair and gave satsang to the large crowd who gathered around Her…. I, too, watched Amma intently, taking in Her Divine beauty until I felt a tap on my shoulder. A deep voice called my name.

I turned around, and to my utter surprise and amazement I saw an old acquaintance, Anil, who was a rickshaw driver hailing all the way from Trivandrum!

I first met Anil almost ten years ago, during Amma’s Trivandrum Brahmasthanam programmes. Whenever I needed to go into town, Anil was always willing to take me, and always with a smile. He, too, was a devotee of Amma. Every year following that first time, whenever Amma came to Trivandrum I would always see Anil, who would also remember me and go out of his way to say a friendly hello. More recently, I had run into him by chance when he brought his family to Amritapuri for Amma’s darshan.

And now here we stood together, thousands of kilometers away from Kerala, at almost the opposite end of the country in the northern state of Gujarat! What was the likelihood that we would ever meet each other here, at a truck stop in a land of a billion people? I asked Anil how he happened to be here.

He explained, “I needed to earn more money. Things are very hard for me right now. Someone had offered me a job in this place, so I stopped driving the rickshaw and decided to come. My family is still in Trivandrum. I am working in the auto repair shop, right there.” He pointed to a small building nearby.

“I had heard that Amma was coming to Baroda, and so I prayed and prayed, ‘Oh Amma, please come and visit me here!’ And She did! When I saw the buses coming, I couldn’t believe it!” Anil burst out in a joyous laughter.

Looking around me once again, I had to wonder: we were truly in the middle of nowhere. There had been no apparent reason for Amma to stop here, and every apparent reason not to…

It was not long before Anil said goodbye and moved closer to Amma. As he stood watching Her and listening to Her words, his beaming smile touched my heart deeply. Anil’s fellow workers also drew forward, and he spoke to them as well. Perhaps he was telling them of this “strange coincidence.”

Later that night, as we all climbed back into the bus to continue our journey, I heard many remarks of speculation from our tour group: “Why did Amma choose that place? Why didn’t She go somewhere that was more peaceful?” I don’t think I will ever know why for certain, but in my heart one small answer was made clear: The Guru responds to a call from the heart. And somewhere in a small, industrial area in North India, one innocent devotee will have a memory to treasure for the rest of his life.

— Indu