23 Hours of Darshan

After 23 Hours… Darshan Ends

Amma leaves after 23 hours on stage – end of AmritaVarsham50

Amma joined Her children in the Amritavarsham50 stadium on 27 September at 9:30 a.m. After an award ceremony, some speeches and cultural programmes, She began giving darshan.

It wasn’t until 8:00 a.m. the next morning that Amma left the stage—23 hours later, 19 of it spent in giving darshan without a break.

Even though it was Amma’s birthday, it was She who gave the most—the supreme gift of Herself.

When Amma finally stood up, after that marathon darshan session, there was a beautiful silence. She looked around the stadium at the thousands upon thousands of Her children who still surrounded Her. She raised Her hands in one last pranam, and walked off the stage.

Amritavarsham50 was over.

Dr. Saleha Mahmood Abedin

Dr. Saleha Mahmood Abedin, Sociologist, Muslim Scholar and Director of Institute for Muslim Minority Affairs, London

“We want complimentality, we want to be recognized as women, we want to be different.” —Dr. Saleha Mahmood Abedin

“Men and Women as ‘Two Wings of a Bird’”

“I begin in the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

“Distinguished guests, as well as our benevolent hostess, Amma, whose birthday we are here to celebrate and use that occasion to mark the celebration of women in our societies and in the world…. All of the distinguished and very patient guests and listeners: ‘May peace and blessings of God be on you all.’

“I have been asked to speak on the subject of ‘Men and Women as “Two Wings of a Bird.”’ I found that a very interesting formulation in terms of words of the age old controversy about the role of men and women in society. In other words, the recently raging gender wars.

“Interestingly enough, all of our religious traditions have always recognized the differences between men and women. There was never a problem in addressing that issue.
“Today, however, perhaps as a result of a backlash of the intensification and calcification and often misrepresentation of religious teachings and cultural practices, that women continue to be discriminated against in almost all societies and at almost all times as the world tended to be, what is called in sociology and anthropology, a more patriarchal society, and was dominated by men. However, the role of women has always been crucial and central even to the perpetuation of patriarchy. We would not have had the patriarchal system but for the devotion, the commitment of the women who raised those men in their laps and inculcated the values. It is the women who are the bearers of tradition and the carers and nurturers of our values and our traditions.

“Islam has recognized the role of women and has glorified, in fact, the role of women. The most glorified woman in the Koran is Mary, the Mother of Jesus. No other Muslim woman is mentioned, but Mary is glorified in her role as a mother. Motherhood is a position of grace, as well as of dignity, as well as of honour.

“Once, one of the early disciples of the Prophet approached him and asked him, ‘Who in this world besides God should I be obedient to or respectful of, or caring for, or be responsible to?’ The Prophet replied, ‘It is your mother.’ And he said, ‘Well, after my mother, who?’ He said, ‘Your mother.’ He again repeated, ‘And after my mother?’ He said, ‘Your mother.’ And after the third time, when he asked again, ‘And after my mother?’ He said, ‘It’s your father.’ So there is the position of the woman as the honoured position.

“Unfortunately, Muslim women themselves—as women in all other faith traditions—have either been deprived, or deprived themselves, of the knowledge and the information that will empower them and that will enable them to know and realize the importance they have and they exercise in society and the family. This is more a process of lack of information rather than, perhaps, a deliberate conspiracy on the part of men. I don’t blame men as much as I would put women responsible, in a sense, for their own plight.

“I was involved in the discussions relating to the Beijing Conference where the issue of the gender and male/female differences had become quite hot. And there were positions taken by very enthusiastic sisters who were, indeed, reacting to the suppression of women, which is unquestioned in all societies. And still they put forward the agenda that there are no differences between men and women, that men and women are equal, they are the same and so on. The famous phrase from the American feminist Bella Abzug, ‘Biology is not destiny,’ was used as an argument to promote the total absolute equality of women. What we tried to promote—and I’m so glad to hear from all of the other panellists this morning, who were saying the same thing—‘We want complimentality, we want to be recognized as women, we want to be different.’

“It is illogical, if not defying the reality of Nature and the reality of biology, to say we are the same. We are made differently. We have different biological constructions; we have different roles; we compliment each other. We want equity rather than equality. We want to be treated as women. We want to have maternity leaves—men don’t need that, we do, we bear children in our wombs, we are different. So to go ahead and say we are the same and we should have by 2015—one of the UN objectives—half of all jobs be occupied by women, I think, that is unfair to women. Let us have the choice. Let us want to stay home and make babies for a period in our lives and, when we want to, we can go back to work. As one writer said it very effectively, she said, ‘All this force on me that I should be working and I should be getting indebted with loans and doing businesses and being responsible for myself and suffer the way our men are suffering in terms of debt and in terms of economic responsibility…. And, at the same time, I maintain the responsibilities for running a household and bearing children and so on.’ She said, ‘This is pressure on me, this is force on me…’ And she said that, ‘If I am conscripted, I shall not serve.’ This is another imposition of slavery on women, on making us responsible for ourselves.

“In Islam, women are not responsible economically for themselves. The economic responsibility for them and for their children fall on their fathers or their husbands, or their brothers, or the male relatives who provide their income for the family. So men and women compliment each other. We should ask for equality of opportunity only, but not insist on equal number of people in the same number of jobs because that would force us into labour force.

“And we have seen the consequences of working mothers and latchkey kids who develop all kinds of problems. And the world is returning again to the concept of the family raising their children together, so they realize the importance of fathers and mothers in the lives of their children and they focus on their families once again, now that the Industrial Revolution and the economic boom has taken its toll on our lives and on our societies, generating so many social and economic problems for us. They recognize that we need men back in the homes; they need women back in the homes, not in the workplaces. And the most advanced of societies, even in the Western world, are recognizing now, implementing new laws of what they call ‘paternity leaves’ in addition to maternity leaves and motherhood is now being given credit. Whereas, in the general approach of some of our sisters from the feminist perspective, motherhood was always presented as a problem, or as a burden on women, as an interruption of their careers, as an interruption of their jobs and so on.

“So I think if we go back to all of our religious traditions—whether it’s Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam—they all have important place for the role of women and mother in society. And we should recognize that as the principle on which we expand again the involvement of religion in our daily lives. I’m glad to see that religion again is becoming the in-thing to do. It’s no longer something that people shied away from. We are being forced to address ourselves to the issues of spirituality, of faith, of religion and how we find our sources of strength and of guidance from those fundamental principles.

“If we go back to Islam, we will learn that the differences between men and women are not differences of quality. They are the same in terms of their humanity. Everywhere in the Koran there is a constant address to men as well as to women. It’s not addressed to men alone. It constantly says, ‘Men of faith, women of faith,’ ‘Men who believe, women who believe,’ ‘Men who practice, women who practice.’ Continuously, women are addressed as well as men are addressed. So it is not that we ignore, or Islam ignores women; women are recognized. And there are many fundamental rights that Muslim women have, if we went back to Islam, which are not known even to us as Muslim women, that if we went back to that, we would have, in fact, not just equality, but superiority to men in many ways.

“We have, for example, the famous, or infamous, instance of two witnesses of women and one witness for a man. In case of witnesses, men have to be always two men to be witness. But in case of a woman’s witness—for example, witnessing the birth of a child, which might determine, for example, the heredity principle as to who is the oldest child—the witness of one woman, the birth attendant, is enough. In no case the witness of one man is enough. So the woman is given an honour that’s completely forgotten by the fact that, in cases of business, two women’s witnesses are required and then they say, ‘Oh, Islam denigrates women.’ But they don’t come back and finish their sentence, because in some cases only one woman is necessary; in no cases only one man is necessary. So we need to educate ourselves and see what we have and we will find that it will strengthen us, it will strengthen the societies, it will move forward our agenda to improve our lives and ourselves in this increasing difficult world.

“As a demographer, I know, if nothing else, it’s a pressure of numbers, population explosion and that has all these consequences of poverty, of lack of education and so on. So we’ve got to focus on those issues. We’ve go to raise our children right; we’ve got to discipline them right; we’ve got to inculcate the proper values of love and compassion and of understanding and tolerance. There is diversity in this world. And Islam is one religion that has never degraded or denied diversity; it has celebrated diversity. There are verses in the Koran that say, ‘We have intentionally made you into races and nations and people so that you get to know one each other.’ God says, ‘If I wanted to I could make you all one people. But my intention was to make you different and to keep you different.’ So there is never any effort to homogenize the world. The only thing that keeps us all on one platform, all of us here and everywhere, is the platform of humanity. We are all children of God, we all come from Him and we will all return to Him. So we are equal with men and only in sharing the burden with men on the basis of equity and complimentality, we can do the variety of things that we are obligated to do in these very challenging and difficult times.

“I am only one speaker away from your lunch and I don’t want to hold you further in this very hot but a very blissful and peaceful day. Thank you very much for having me here.”

Shri. Joseph Pulikkunnel

Shri. Joseph Pulikkunnel, Director, Indian Institute of Christian Studies, Christian reformer

“It is commonly believed that in Semitic religions, the male dominance is a divine dictate. This is not the case.” —Joseph Pulikkunnel

“Adopting Universal Motherhood: An Opportunity for Men”

“Pranams to Amma, who has transformed Herself into the amrita [nectar] of love and compassion for the world through Her actions. Though She was poor by birth, Amma has liberated the materially and spiritually poor with Her compassionate touch. Though She did not have an opportunity to get an education when young, She has made the whole world a vidyalayam [educational institute], teaching them the lesson of love. To that Mother, I offer pranams befitting a Guru.

“I humbly request you not to clap your hands whatever be the provocation because that may rob of that time, and lunch is nearing.
“Brothers and sisters, Motherhood is the total concept of creation, protection and love. It is an expression of all that is good in human existence. It elevates women to the sublime heights. In the concept of Motherhood, sex disappears as an identity factor. Motherhood is an all-embracing spiritual ideal overriding biological reality of humans. The distinction between a man and woman is biological, social and mundane. The dominance of man over woman is a sociological phenomena and due to historical reasons. Authority structure in any society is a reflection of the challenges that a society is called to face. During the tribal and agricultural period, and even in the early industrial period, muscle power was all-important for livelihood and survival. Naturally, this brought about the rise of male power in tribal and agricultural and industrial society.

“In all ancient societies, religion was an important factor in the social life of people. The understanding of the Supreme Being by a people tended to be production of the social system wherein they lived. Today, there are two main families of religions in the world. They are Semitic religions—which comprise Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions—and the Indian religions. It is commonly believed that in Semitic religions, the male dominance is a divine dictate and women are degraded in society on religious reasons. If one delves deep into the scriptures of these religions and interprets it in the historic context of the establishment of these religions, one may find that this is not the case.

“In the ancient tribal system, man was the leader of the tribe. Old Testament Bible narrates the history of Jews during the tribal period, wherein muscle power was all-important for survival. Naturally, man became dominant in that period of history. In the later part of Jewish history, women are found engaged in the affairs of the State. Judith and Ester occupied the centre stage in the Jewish history during the Persian occupation, 5th century B.C. Judith, having killed the Persian general, and Ester, by destroying the Persian plot to exterminate Jews, came to be accepted as the saviours of Jews. The entry of women in Jewish history shows a developed change of human status in society. There was no provision from Jehovah against women entering into political life of the nation. Recently, Israel had a woman prime minister.

“By the time of Jesus, founder of Christianity, the Jews were again a settled people in Israel. Jesus’ social intervention edified the women. He violated the then Jewish social rules and included women in his [group] though it invited acrimony from the contemporary society. [Three women are] explicitly shown at the foot of the cross and at the tomb on the day of resurrection. While all His male disciples fled at His capture, women stuck fast to Him till the end.

“Koran, the basic scripture of Islam, also takes a very lenient view of women compared with the contemporary society. Mohammed, the Prophet of Islam was born and brought up in the Arab tribal system where women were treated as a sex commodity and a liability. But Koran openly declared the equality of human beings. Any social reform has to be viewed in the background of the contemporary social reality. When we look at the reform brought about by the Prophet on the status of women in Arabia, it is amazing. It was a great change towards creating an egalitarian society in the Arab tribal system. The divorce rules he enacted are comparable to the modern law. But the unequal treatment now measured out to women in Christian and Muslim society is a product of imperial Christianity and imperial Islam.

“Christianity became a part of the Roman Empire by the 4th century. The male-dominated Roman society distorted the Christian social thought. Imperial Roman laws became the law of Christianity as common law. Likewise, Islam became an imperial power under the Arab Empire. The male-dominated imperial power structure degraded women in spite of the Koran-ic rules. Even today, in many Islamic countries, personal laws paraded as Muslim shariat [Islamic law] are a product of a male-dominated imperial system.

“Wherever the patriarchal family system became dominant, God is a male. The Goddess concept in such a religious milieu became rare. Wherever Goddesses are a part of the celestial demography, the importance of women in society was usually accepted. The concept of Goddess in the celestial demography is unique in all Eastern religions. Goddess in Eastern religions is a symbol of fertility, protection and love. No civilization in the world developed Goddess worship so elaborately as in India.

“In Keno Upanishad, the ancient scripture of India, there is a narration of the appearance of Brahman, the unqualified Supreme Being, before the devas, gods, in the form of an unidentified spirit, a yeksham. The devas could not identify this spirit, and they sought the help of Agni, the God of Fire, and Vayu, the God of Air, the most powerful of gods. They challenged the spirit but failed. Then they sought the help of Indra, the presiding god, but he also could not identify the spirit. Finally, he sought the help of Uma, the daughter of the Himalayas and the spouse of Siva, and she identified the spirit as the Brahman.

“In this short narration, Keno Upanishad points to the innate power of women to decipher the unknown even where the others fail. I am happy that Amma could decipher the Brahman as love and point out to the world that this is really Brahman, not the Supreme Being dwelling in heaven.

“Human thought process is usually and traditionally reflected in the religious concepts. In Indian tradition, the God manifests as arthanaarisvara, half-man and half-woman. This points to the equality of man and woman in heavenly demography as visualized by human intelligence of the Indian Rishis. The concept of the supreme is a production of man’s social living and social need. In most of the ancient Eastern religions, goddesses are equal to the gods, sometimes goddess become more important than man. Human civilization has past the tribal, agricultural and industrial periods and enter cybernetic era of human history. In the democratic society, muscle power has been pushed to the background, and brainpower becomes the tool. Naturally, the woman has a very important and equal role to play in modern society. Fatherhood and motherhood concepts have to be integrated in the religious and social thought process, and the world should move along the footprints of arthanaarisvara. Amma—whom we felicitate here as a symbol of Motherhood—by karma [action] has shown the way for humanity in Her address in Geneva.

“Thank you.”

Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan

Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, Founder and Former Academic Director, Indira Gandhi National Centre of the Arts, New Delhi, India

“We want the principle of complimentality and not of competition. The principle of being different, the principle of being one-not-complete-without-the-other and the principle of the mother.” – Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan

“Reverence or Exploitation: Portrayals of Women in Classical Art & Modern Media”

“Amma, everything has been said. My colleagues who spoke here, they’ve invoked the earth. They’ve invoked the waters and the rivers. They’ve invoked Nature. They’ve invoked man – positive and negative. They have gone through the scriptures – Vedic, Upanishadic, Brahmanical, mythical, Judi, Christian and all. And all the powers have been both invoked and put before You as offering to Your Lotus Feet. What do I say at this moment then in words, when in words all that, perhaps, this universe and this world of ours, of men and women, have made and unmade?

“Amma, you carry that spirit of the Nature that was spoken about by Linda [Evans]. You carry that spirit of suffering and injustice and peace of which Ms. [Yolanda] King spoke about, and the equalization of balances that Najma Heptulla spoke about.
“And all those women from the Chandogya and the other Upanishads, and Shekhinah [Jewish concept of divine feminine, as discussed earlier by Rabbi Leah Novick] and all else.

“However, there is something that I still want to invoke here as offering because You come to us with that power, that power that is Nature’s power, Nature’s power, and which man, in his egoism, in his arrogance has assaulted first Mother Earth, Mother of Mothers, the sustainer which is invoked in the prithvi sukta of the Athar Veda. An embodiment that disfunctioning because we have assaulted the pancabhutas [five great elements] as we have assaulted the pancindriyas [five senses]. And in this, if in Your blessings as of today bring back that restoration of balance, it will be the beginning of renewal.

“Mridula [Sinha] very brightly and rightly referred to that Your birthday coincides with the Navaratri [Nine Nights festival in celebration of the Divine Mother], and whether in that part or this part of India, this is that moment of the woman’s seed under the Earth to come out as energy, and that is why it is known as garbi [a symbol of the Divine Mother women dance around during the Navaratra Festival]. However, what have we done with this? These myths and these rituals that stood for both symbolism and functionality at the social level, we have trivialized them. We have made them into entertainment. We have made them into commodity of what today, if I may say, in the arts is the garba [the Navaratri dance itself] and so on. These profound messages that were contained at the social level. While at the mythical level we speak of Saraswati and Vak [Vak Devi, Goddess of Speech] and the rivers and we shall be celebrating Durgapuja [Navarati], and, as in Kerala, which I have known for years, and this is my home country for 50 years. I have walked every village and hamlet, and Devi temples here, and in the Mudyeatu Tradition, when Kali becomes somebody who is the antagonist of Tarkasur [a Puranic demon], we should invoke these and in the very nature of invoking these images which belong to this tradition, we shall also have the dysfunction of our social life, which was outlined by both the predecessors, my previous speakers.

“Whether we go back to Manu or we go back to the Kautilia Artha Shastra or we go back to those laws that we have been fighting, that is the civil court and all those laws which have become the shackles, and that is the third dysfunction – I hope Amma Your blessings and Your social action in transformation will bring about which no legal action, per se, that is the de-jury action, will not make it, it is Your transformation agency, agency of that woman power.

“There is the question of what kind of instead of the great motherhood that we have been, that we have been thinking in terms of the woman and, which is being articulated by previous speakers, of equality; we don’t want competition. In this, or in earlier civilizations in the world, women was primary, going back to the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Syria and everywhere else and including this country, we are different and we want the principle of complimentality and not of competition. The principle of being different, the principle of being one-not-complete-without-the-other and the principle of the mother and the other, because the mother is the only one who understands herself and goes out to the other to understand the other. Which is the beginning of altruism, which is the beginning of that selflessness which all of mothers are conversant in. And therefore, Mother, on behalf of these 10 speakers and more, allow me to offer You my pranam: shat shat pranam, shat shat jiivemasaradah shattam. O Devi, Sarvabhutesu.”

Smt. Mridula Sinha

Smt. Mridula Sinha, Chairperson, Central Social Welfare Board, India

“When Brahma created the world, he was worried who would look after the world. Then he created a mother. So we have to treat them as special.” -Mridula Sinha

“Old Abuses, New Solutions”

“My pranam to our Amma and all sisters and brothers who have come to attend this Love Conference, Conference of Love.

“We all know that we have come to render our pranam to Amma and to take vow, to take vow to change the world. We all know that day after tomorrow is the 50th birthday of Amma. We have to celebrate in a different way, and we are standing on the bank of Arab Sagar, Arab Ocean.

“I came yesterday, and I am seeing the gathering, the people, and my heart says that this gathering, this ocean is Mother Ocean. So can we take a vow, can we change the name of Arab Sagar [Arabian Sea], can we rename the sagar into Mother Sagar? “Because day after tomorrow, the birth of an idea, an old idea, old Indian idea in a new concept of the growth of Motherhood. The birth will be of an idea. We have got the vibrations, the touch of Amma, why you have not to preserve, to restore, the vibration to touch of Amma. You have to spread it. You have to mix your love also in that, and we have to spread it.

“This is a coincidence – day after tomorrow India will begin to celebrate Navaratri, Matripuja for nine days. And we all know that in India itself, there are so many nursing homes, where everyday the girl-child are not allowed to be born. So the change of idea, the change of message, we have to begin with, from that day only. You know I write something and I am the chairperson of Central Social Welfare Board, so my organization is for promoting volunteerism. We all have gathered here voluntarily, so this is also an ocean of voluntary workers. You have come voluntarily. So this idea also, to treat our girl-child as mother, the symbol of embodiment of motherhood, we should spread this idea all over the world.

“We have studied the problems, the abuses, of the society, and we have come to know that the mindset of the people should be changed. Every volunteer worker, every religious worker should change the mind-set of the people. The time has come when we have to change.

“In our society when the girl-child is born, nobody sings songs. I come from Bihar, when the male child is born, everybody will sing the song:

“khilaade bhabhee halvaa betaa huaa hai
pehnaade bhabhee kanganaa betaa huaa hai”

“‘Brother’s wife, treat me with halvaa [a sweet dish] because a son has been born [to you]. Brother’s wife, treat me with an ornament because a son has been born [to you].’

“Nobody will sing [when a girl is born]: khilaade bhabhee halvaa betaa huaa hai.

“So I have given a call: sing a song when the girl child is born.

“And I am very happy to report you that the ladies have started singing the song. I have given a call.

“When I met Amma 10 years before, I have gone through all the literatures and I have given a call on 10th of December, the Human Rights Day: treat every woman as manaavi, human being; and every village should have maanavi samaan bhoj [feast in honour of women]. You should treat your girl also as a maanavi. She is also human being. Start from that point, and people are changing. It is a good sign; now the people are listening to us. And I think now we have got together here, that things will change.

“I am a writer of Hindi, I write in Hindi, I have said:

“‘Let the mother be born. Let the girl-child, the mother, live. Let this not stop. Give them education, give them everything. And when she will become a human being [an adult], she will give everything she has been given.’

“Men and women are not equal. Our boys and girls are not equal. I always say, ‘Don’t go for equality.’ Women are giving everything. Birth of a child, love, affection, everything. We are giving, so our hands are upper hands, and we are desiring for equality. How can it be possible? We are not equal, men and women. Women are not underdeveloped men. So when we are going to have the path of development, we should treat women as a special creature of Brahma.

“There is an ancient anecdote: When Brahma created the world, he was worried who would look after the world. Then he created mother. This is an anecdote. So we have to treat them as special, visesh.

“When I asked our Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayeeji to give a message for a woman souvenir, he gave his message and he writes in Hindi but I would like to say in English only: ‘All those who are out to render women into men in the name of equality deserve ridicule. Women must remain women, made of flesh and bone as they are. They should not be trivialised as puppets, not looked upon as fairies, alienated from the soil of the land. Woman by nature is mother.’ So this is the message of Prime Minister of India. He’s also thinking in terms of Amma. So when the politicians and the mother, like Amma, will think in a same way, the change will come and we are hoping for the change.

“The one ocean is born from the Ganga, Yamuna and Kaveri.
The one human ocean is born from the daughters of daughters of daughters…
This human ocean is ever-increasing with waves rising and falling.
The girl-children are being educated, growing up,
making progress step by step.

“Thank you very much for inviting me. Falling down at Amma’s feet and praying, I want to assure you that in times to come the idea of Universal Motherhood that Amma has raised and is promoting, with the help of voluntary organisations and society in general – is so great that it will engulf a whole ocean. I end this talk of mine assuring you that I will contribute my drop-like effort to this oceanic endeavour of Amma.”

Dr. Poornima Advani

Dr. Poornima Advani, Chairperson, National Commission for Women

“Let us resolve, over here, that we would never take money for the marriage of our sons, that we would never give money for the marriage of our daughters.” —Dr. Poornima Advani

“Altering the Image of Women in the Minds of Abusers”

“I bow down to the Mother of Universal Motherhood, the Mother of Universal Love, the Mother of Universal Language.

“Five minutes ago when I got Her divine hug, it transgressed the need of any language. It was a love which knew no language except the language of love.

“I bow down to all of you. The Saints and Sages here of Bharat…. the devotees of Amma, the torchbearers of love…. I bow down to my mother who is in the audience today. I bring greetings to you from the National Commission for Women, which is the apex body in the country with a mandate to safeguard and uphold the constitutional and legal rights of women.
“I welcome you to the territory which is the world’s largest democracy, the territory where the constitution has mandated equality, the territory where Gandhiji spoke of equality between men and women, the territory where Swami Vivekananda said that men and women are ‘two wings of the same bird,’ and the territory where Amma has known the real potential to transform and is on the route of transforming each one of us who are present here today.

“I have no written text. I did not want to be enslaved to the written word, so you will permit me some ad-hoc thoughts. The subject of my speech is ‘Alternating the Image of Women in the Mind of Abusers: Alternative Treatment of Prisoners and Route to Transformation.’

“From the Constitutional mandate of equality to the grassroots reality of equality, till now we live in a world of inequality, but to that grassroots perseverance towards equality what is needed is the divine teachings of what Amma has told us.

“While talking of the image of women and the word abusers, what comes to my mind is the need to change the minds of the families. While we talk of Universal Motherhood, let us not forget that girl-child in whom there is the divine presence. And if we decide to selectivity eliminate the girl before she’s born, if we decide to abort her before she’s born and deny her the right to life, it is a shame on all of us.

“I plead over here, first with the abusers of the unborn child, to go on the pathway of Amma’s teachings. Amma has said that there is no logic to love. If you bring logic in love, it cannot be love. There is no logic to love; you cannot analyze love. Love is a feeling, a deep feeling; you cannot see love. I plead to the sea of humanity, this sea who are sitting in the umbrella of love: love that girl-child, identify her as our own. She is the pride of the future world. And shower on her Universal Motherhood as Amma does.

“While talking of abusers in the prison, the population of abusers in the prison is very small. The population of abusers outside the prison is too large.

“We are living in a place where, at times, the first gate of the criminal-justice system refuses to open even F.I.R.s [First Information Reports] are difficult to lodge. We are living in a place where the conviction rate is only four percent, despite such a high crime rate. I plead with all of you, those who are present here, those who are blessed to ensure that we go out into the world and look into the abusers of womanhood, the abusers of the young girl. We have a penal court, the Indian penal court is quite a reflection of the Victorian penal court as it existed because it was drafted by Lord Macaulay Anderson. But what do we have there: dowry debt, dowry, cruelty, ear-teasing, outraging modesty. Look at the terms, look at the shameful terms. I would plead with all of you here today, who are the torchbearers of peace, to draft under Amma’s blessings a universal moral code, which shall remove from the world the need for any penal code.

“Let us resolve, over here, that we would never take money for the marriage of our sons, that we would never give money for the marriage of our daughters. There is a new kind of crime which says we will not take dowry or give dowry, but we want marriage to be in accordance with our status. I don’t know the meaning of ‘status.’ Status is linked to material riches, status needs to be linked to moral riches. I would like my brother and sister to be married to the one who’s morally rich with Amma’s blessings, not to the material riches in the world.

“When we think of abusers, when we think of the abused, let us think of those who are the victims of the tyrannies of globalisation without providing them social security. Let us think of the fisherwomen in the country. Let us think of the domestic workers. Let us think of the construction workers. Let us think of the handloom-weavers. Let us think of the plantation growers. Let us think of the bamboo-planters. They are all our sisters.

“It is important that policies which are discussed within the territory or outside our territory need to take into consideration the needs and the heartbeats of each one of these persons—and if we don’t look to that, we don’t care. We need to care.

“Look at what is happening in the movies. We see the villains, the vamp and the violence. I congratulate the persons who are making a movie on Amma’s life! I want to see more movies on the lives of devotees of Amma. From violence, villains and vamps, we need to proceed to devotion, divinity and dedication.

“We are talking about law-abusers, but let us also bear in mind it is important that the law-protectors should never become law-abusers. While talking of alternative treatment to prisoners, I remember in the old days there was the retributive theory of punishment, which was stoning, flogging. It is good that these are words which are relics of the past. But even today we are more focused on the deterrent theory of punishment. We need to progress now from the deterrent theory of punishment to the reformative theory of punishment. And in the reformative theory, the first necessity is meditation.

“What is needed to put the abusers on the path of transformation is not only food for the body but food for the mind and food for the soul. And this is where teachings of Amma are most powerful for mental empowerment, and once a person is mentally empowered, that only can lead to economic empowerment or any other kind of empowerment.

“What is the route to transformation? In one word it is ‘you.’ You, dear men and women who are sitting here, are the route to transformation. You are the ones who are blessed. Blessed is the one who knows his or her Guru. And if the Guru is also a ‘ma,’ the result is Amma.

“It is important whatever be the environment around us, that we must convert it into a reformative pathway, and that is the only route to transformation of the abusers in our society. We are today in the land of Kerala. Don’t forget Kerala is the land of the palm trees, the trees which are across the salty sea shore but the fruit is as sweet as ever. Let us all ensure that even in a salty seashore we can bring out sweet fruit—the sweet water of the coconut, the sweetness, the care, the concern within the hearts of each one. At the same time, don’t forget the shell of the coconut—the courage, the conviction and the strength of the exterior.

“What is needed today is a new memorandum of understanding. Many M.O.U.s have been signed, but I think we need to today, sign a new memorandum of understanding, an understanding with none else except our inner soul, except our inner Atma [Self]. Amma has said, ‘Forget what ought to be forgotten, embrace life with a renewed vigour.’ The renewed vigour should lead us to a path to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots. And this gap between the have and the have-nots can be bridged with the path of love, with the path of care, with the path of concern.

“We are living in a world today where there is trafficking of young girls. It is so pitiful; it is so shameful. Amma has been very concerned about the trafficking of young girls and has been trying to bring about a global equation to ensure that we can reduce such a pathology from our global order.

“We need to take stock of the pathetic struggle of our tribal women across the country. It is extremely important that we take out some space and time from our busy schedules and look into the lives of the have-nots and give them what is their concern.

“Sorry, time up.

“But as my time is up, let us all look up also and ensure that the victims of violence fall within our balance sheet of concern. The victim of violence before she’s born, the victim of violence after birth, and the victim of violence when she is a divine soul but we call her a widow, and we ill-treat her.

“I was reading Amma’s statement that, ‘The only answer is that we have to call to Him, but call to Him in a manner that he should listen to you.’ Yes, lets all join our hands at this moment and pray that we can really call to Him to bring out a new social order, a social order of love, compassion and peace, where true equality helps to, between men and women, bring about a change in the image of the women in the mind of the abuser.

“I look to all of you for bringing a social transformation under Amma’s leadership. Jai Hind! God bless you.”

Swamini Niranjanananda

Swamini Niranjanananda, Resident Acharya, Chinmaya Mission International Foundation

“We have to go back to the state of the Vedic Age, where women were considered as a person and not a chattel of men.” —Sw. Niranjanananda

“Reinstating Women’s Roles in Religion”

“om brahmanandam paramasukhadam
kevalam jnaanamurtiim
dandvatitam gaganasadrusham
tat-tvam-ashyadi laksyam
ekam-nityam vimalam achalam sarvadhi saksi bhutam
bhavatitam trigunarahitam
sadgurum tam namaami
sadgurum tam namaami”

“yaa devi sarva bhuuteshu daya rupena samsthitaa
namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo namaha”

“At the outset, I want to express my happiness and gratitude in being part of this mega event of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. That I am called upon to talk on the Indian ideal of womanhood, the role of women in religion through the ages, adds to my happiness, as it is a theme very dear to my heart.
“Ancient Indians considered the human being as a combination of both the masculine and feminine principles. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, it is said that in the beginning there was only the Cosmic Being, who was something like a neutral point where the ultimate principles of the male and the female lay united, as it were. This unified being divided himself into two—as the male and female, or the ying and yang, as the Chinese tradition would say it. They are complimentary to each other and, hence, must reach the ultimate goal of life, not by competing with each other, not by imitating each other, but by complimenting the qualities of each other.

“In a society where male dominance is predominate, the womanly qualities of love, kindness, tenderness, unselfishness and forgiveness are overlooked. Man’s qualities are basically that of the head, while that of the woman spring from the heart. An ideal society is one where men also have lot of feminine qualities, and where women are partners both in the secular and sacred lives of their men. Manu, the great lawmaker, declared:

“yatra naaryas tu pujyante ramante tatra devataah”

“‘Where women are worshiped, there God lives,’ says Manu.

“In Saundarya Lahari, Adi Shankara also gives expression to same view that without the shakti power, the gods are unable to perform any of their functions. That is why probably all the Hindu gods have wives—not one, sometimes two. That is only a symbolism, not that they have to be married and all that. The idea is that without the power of maya-shakti, even Paramatman [Supreme Self] cannot function in this world. Just as without an equipment, even electricity can not give us all the comforts that we are enjoying today, similarly, shakti is very important for the manifestation of the Lord. Hence, woman’s power is really immeasurable.

“Though, nowadays, she is misused and ill-treated, still Amma has taught us now that woman is the heart behind this universe. The first book of humanity is considered to be the Rig-Veda. We get a glimpse of the power and influence of the woman and her spiritual greatness in the scintillating hymns of this great human document. The most important thing is, 27 of the hymns of the Rig-Veda were written by women. And, today, women are not supposed to read the Vedas, but women had written the Vedas in those ancient times.

“The spirit,” says an authority of repute, “of the religion in India, intuitive, brooding, waiting has much of the feminine in it.” The Rig-Veda presents the picture of a woman as an equal of man in both secular and spiritual spheres. No difference was made between a boy and a girl, as was done in later periods. Both of them were sent to Gurukulam [education through Guru; literally “Guru’s family”] for education and both were invested with the sacred thread before the starting of the studies.

“Child marriage was unknown during the Vedic period as every child had to finish his or her studies. Marriage was a sacrament and not something that can be broken at will. Two mature and educated individuals entering the state of marriage is beautifully explained in the hymns. The bride enters the house of her husband to be its queen, Griha Lakshmi and the Sahadharmacharini, to be the partner in the performance of Vedic rituals of her husband. She was also well versed in the Vedic lore and hence could conduct the sacrifices of fire. In the absence of her husband, she could even conduct all the rituals. Motherhood was glorified and a hymn blesses the new bride in the touching words: ‘May you give birth to 10 children and grow to the position of looking upon your husband as the 11th.’ In other words, by the time you have reached such a stage that your husband becomes so dependent on you that he looks upon you as his mother, which happens very often in our houses.

“The Rig Vedic expression ‘jaiyedastham,’ ‘the wife is the home,’ shows the domestic life and sentiment centred around the women. The Vedic woman enjoyed great freedom, even the freedom of choosing her own husband. In the pursuit of knowledge and virtue, in music and arts, in the performance of rituals, in the composition of hymns—nay, even in the harder fields of war and statecraft, we find the Vedic woman as a companion and helpmate of man. Friends, it is this state of women that we have to bring back because in the middle, women’s position all over the world have deteriorated to such an extent that she has become either a plaything of men or, even, though we say she is free, free for what is the question. Is it not? So we have to go back to the state of the Vedic Age, where women were considered as a person and not a chattel of men.

“In the Vedic period, there were many woman who chose to remain unmarried—though marriage was no impediment for spiritual pursuit—and devoted themselves to the pursuit of Truth just like their male counterparts. They were known as Brahmavaadinis, or woman seers. Gargi Vachaknavi, Apala and Maitreyi are some of the well-known Sages of these years. They were also many woman scholars of even very difficult subjects like grammar and mimaamsa, who themselves were teachers of great repute. There were also many woman ascetics who attained the perfection and reached the Absolute. In the later periods of Indian history, the position of woman deteriorated due to various reasons like exposure to other cultures who always held the view that women were inferior to men. But Upanishadic thought viewed woman exactly as it viewed man, as a person with a destiny. The search for this destiny makes her a pilgrim in search of worldly excellence and spiritual realization.

“In all ages of our history, we meet such noble characters as Kunti, Draupadi, Savithri, Sita, Damayanti, Ubhaya Bharathi, Mira and, in later times, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s wife, Sarada Mani Devi—only India can produce a Sarada Mani Devi or an Amritanandamayi Devi. That is the truth.

“While the Semitic cultures considered Godhead as father, we in India from time immemorial, even before prehistoric times, God was worshipped as Mother. In the Mohenjodaro Civilization, we see the idol of Mother Goddess, which, more or less, continued through these thousands of years until now. Probably, now India is the only country in the world where God is worshipped as Mother.

“In the Taittiriya Upanishad it is said: matr-devo bhavaa pitr-devo bhavaa aacharya-devo bhavaa atithi-devo bhavaa.[‘May the mother be God to thee, may father be God to you, may the teacher be God to you, may the guest be God to you.’] So, the Mother comes first in the Upanishad.

“There is another verse from Manu, which I like to quote:

“upaadhyaayaan dasha-acaarya
aacaryaanaam shatam pitaa
sahasram tu pitrn
maataa gauravena-atiricyate”

“‘From the point of view of reverence due, a teacher is 10-fold superior to a mere lecture. A father, a 100-fold to a teacher. And a mother, a 1,000-fold to a father.’

“That is the statues given to women in this country.

“Motherhood is the highest relationship, for the love of the Mother has no selfishness in it. She is ready to sacrifice, she is an embodiment of sacrifice, unselfishness, and she will do anything for the welfare of her children. It is possible that there are bad sons, but never a bad mother. Our Upanishads say that, ‘Mother should be the first in your worship.’

“Now says Swami Vivekananda, ‘Still, on this sacred soil of India, this land of Sita and Savithri, among women may be found such character, such spirit of service, such affection, such compassion, contentment, and reverence, as I could not find anywhere else in the world.’ To the true Indian, woman is mother first and mother last.

“Our Pujya Gurudev, Swami Chinmayananda, used to say, ‘In our country, everything noble is called mother, like Mother India, Mother Ganges, Mother Earth, and Go-Mata, Mother Sruti, etc. She is the living embodiment of the divine mother.’ The power behind the universe is the perennial beats of a mother’s heart of compassion, of love, of fearlessness, of unselfishness. When a woman attains self-transcendence from a biological and social level and finds expression in the ideal of motherhood, the barriers of nation, family, race, creed and gender are all broken, and she assumes a universal aspect. See, we always think that merely by studying or education that we can become free. That is not the truth. Education of ordinary type, only adds to our ego. It is when you transcend that, that you attain that superior state of Motherhood, our Amma is a standing example for that, that She has transcended Her womanly biological nature and has become the Universal Mother to millions of people.

“Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi, Amma, whose Golden Jubilee Birthday we are celebrating, is a glorious example of such Universal Motherhood. Her life itself is a lesson on Universal Motherhood, as She took Her painful steps from a neglected childhood to become Amma to millions of devotees and admirers around the world. Tirelessly, She travels to the nooks and corners of the world, bringing consolation and hope to the weary hearts of the people yearning for love. She sees no difference between man and woman, between nations, between castes, and between religions. It is this unity vision that made Her open the doors of Her temples to women priests. In fact, She finds no difference: if a man can worship God, women can also worship God—there is no difference at all. But it is sad to say that throughout the world women are considered unfit to worship in the temples. She is breaking that rule in Her own temples, I heard, and I am very happy about it.

“Even in the highly sophisticated countries of the West, women are not allowed to become priests, but I think times are changing, and people like Amma are giving an impetus to this change to bring about social revolution, as it were.

“In fact, I personally feel that women are stronger than men. What women can tolerate: the misuse to which they are put, the heavy work they are subjected to, the bearing she’s born to bear, not only children, but bear the various types of difficulties to which she is put to by this society, by the family by everyone. But she is born for that type of sacrifice, and hence she is greater. ‘Woman,’ the word contains ‘man.’ but ‘man’ doesn’t contain ‘woman.’ Is it not?

“I would like to go on talking on this. It is a very dear topic, but time is constraint is there.

“Amma has become a real Mother to all the people in the world. Without becoming a mother biologically, She has become the Mother of the Universe, and in Her love for the suffering and the downtrodden people She has opened so many charitable institutions to help people. Let us all make a vow on this auspicious day of Her 50th Birthday, that the greatest Guru-dakshina [offering] that we can give to Mother is to carry out the work that She has envisaged and help Her in all ways to bring up this country, this nation, to the pristine glory that it enjoyed in the Vedic period. That, indeed, is Vedanta in its highest sense.

“Without studying Vedanta, She has done what Vedanta asks for in the highest sense, which again is Her glory. One Mata Amritanandamayi, I feel, can bring about the integration of the people of the world in a deeper sense than any number of organizations like the UN. Love is the greatest conqueror. We can conquer the whole world with love. That which we cannot conquer with mighty weapons, with atom bombs with whatever—love is the greatest conquer.

“To a warring world, Her message, as well as that of India’s, is a clarion call. If the world is to survive, men and women must develop the qualities of a mother’s heart, giving up their projects of hatred and selfishness. Let us expand our hearts in love, in unselfishness, in forgiveness—let us expand. This expansion of consciousness will help us to embrace the whole world in a spirit of true service.

“In conclusion, wishing Mother a long life, so that the people in the world will be benefited more and more. That She lives, in Tamil we say ‘pallandu pallandu,’ for many many, many years let Her live, let Her bring peace and joy to the world around Her, and let Her be the centre point from which we all derive the strength to be true women in this world.

“In conclusion, let me thank full-heartedly Amma and the organisers who extended to me this wonderful opportunity of sharing my thoughts with such an august gathering. Let me also thank all of you for your patient hearing. Thank you. Hari Om.”

Prof. Mangalam Srinivasan

Prof. Mangalam Srinivasan, Special Advisor, John F. Kennedy School of Government

“Amartya Sen tells us: ‘The effects of inequality impoverish women as well as men.'” —Prof. Mangalam Srinivasan

“Women in the Workplace: Increased Visibility Is Not Enough”

“Pujya Sri Ammaji, the Honourable Assembly, swamijis, and religious preceptors, assembly and the colleagues. I am going to start this with a quotation; it’s actually a description, in 1905 a Muslim woman born in a high-class Bengali family brought up in UP wrote, as her dream, called Sultana’s Dream. Her guide in that book asked the question:

“‘”Where are the men?” I asked her.’

“‘”In their proper places, where they ought to be.”‘

“This was written by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, with no disrespect intended for men, but it reflected the state of our society at that time.
“There are many of my friends here, honourable Najma Heptulla and Yolanda Scott King, whose mother I had the opportunity to nominate as the Ambassador to India, and quite by accident, three days before I came here, I found a letter among my files in which Mrs. Scott Coretta King, Martin Luther King’s wife, wrote this letter to me: ‘Dear Mrs. Srinivasan, I wanted to let you know how much I thank you for nominating me for being the Ambassador to India. You know how much the influence of Gandhi affected the life of my husband and his works. It would be, indeed, a great honour to serve in an ambassadorial relationship to India….’ But she goes on to say she would not at that time accept that if it were offered to her because she was concentrating on the [King] Center for Conflict Resolutions and Non-violence [sic]. I would like to simply read some, in terms of the time that is allotted to me.

“With esteem I offer my pranams to Pujya Sri Ammaji, as I begin my thoughts on what eminent achievements may lay ahead for those who have already distinguished themselves by their work, service and commitments to producing wealth, technology, education, health and happiness for the service of humanity. In striving to achieve these goals or higher order of ideals—whether they are welfare, peace, freedom, dignity or Self-realization—dreams are essential. Dreaming alone will not be a sufficient condition for the achievement of any goal. As one of our famed film producers, Ishmael Merchant, would tell us, ‘In order to get anywhere in life you have to make everybody believe in your dreams.’ Sounds simple enough. The arts, science and business of selling dreams require unique sensibilities and stamina.

“Women have come to their own place in some areas of work—for that matter, to every other place. Hopefully with confidence to give and take and, even more importantly, to stand up for what really matters, what truly defines her as a woman—namely, her humanity. Attiya Dawood, a young Pakistani woman poet, a Sindhi poet who’s translation I am reading, declared:

“‘For bread and home
She has refused to accept
a life doled out as charity.
Her reins
She has tried to snatch away
from the hands of others.
Considering herself to be human
She has demanded the right to choose.
She wants to live.”

“When the chains have been shattered, a new reality of what is possible is no longer caged in ideologies of man versus woman, the manager versus worker, the old versus young and the affluent versus the deprived. The achieved woman is more than a mentor; she is a powerful change agent. Lest we might forget, let’s remember what Amartya Sen tells us: ‘The effects of inequality impoverish women as well as men.’ The special responsibility then involves that the women leaders create a critical mass of leaders to usher in change.

“While great strides have been made, by leaps and bounds beyond our dreams, a vast majority of us remain not far from where we had started, and some even in retrograde. Women in many cases are still being viewed as dinner companions, often personal issues against women show up in their work-related evaluations. Just a few years ago, a women entrepreneur was told that she would be better off starting a restaurant rather than going around trying to raise venture capital for her start up company. I am going from here to the CEO Conference, and I am going to raise this issue. This particular woman recovered and went on to win big, but not before breaking down.

“Many of us have known great support from our families, and we face our second shifts at home with a lot of help either from our families or by contracting hired help, where again we subject other women to what we would not tolerate for ourselves. The higher order of concern for our children, aging parents, familial tranquillity, and community obligations, no doubt, suffer when women are trying to perform high-wire acts. But should this not be the concern of the couple and not just the sacred duty set aside for women alone? Should not society owe women the opportunity to excel in whatever their choice of vocation, whether at home, in society, or in the wide world? Societies where a degree of robust and sustained achievements had paved the way for informed citizenry, caring and emotionally secure civil society and ecologically designed sectors bestowing health, wealth and fulfilment, women have made major contributions by their work, insights and, most of all, by their leadership. The gender equality paves the way for a huge qualitative leap in the lives of nations.

“I was privileged, in the early ’80s, to host in my home, the world’s first woman cosmonaut, Valentina Tershkova, scientist, at that time the highest-ranking women member of the Polit Bureau of the erstwhile Soviet Union. As she sat in my kitchen savouring my culinary productions, she was telling us about her space travel:

“‘From my Soyuz, I watched the little blue planet floating in the cosmos, and I was overcome with motherly instincts. I looked at our earth as a mother looks at her tiny baby, helpless but completely trusting that the Mother would protect and nurture. Compassion and love overwhelmed me. When I returned to the earth, I touched the Siberian soil with love and gratitude!’

“One of India’s strongest advocates for women’s freedom and progress in every aspect of life, including religion is Swami Rangathananda, the president of Ramakrishna Mission. He is a repository of every branch of knowledge: scientific, sacred and secular. His analytical and rational approaches to knowledge make him one of the greatest thinkers of our times. And he often, with great respect, quotes Betty Friedan, especially a quotation from her second book, The Second Stage, from where Swamiji quotes the following:

“‘The second stage has to transcend the battle for equal power in institutions. The second stage will restructure institutions and transform the nature of power itself. Those of us who have struggled against prejudices of various kinds know that new clothes on old skeletons do not render institutions efficient in delivering equity and fairness.’

“Our prime minister has asked us not to tell him that we are super-achievers, we are super rich, super powerful, super IT [information technology], etc. etc. He said, ‘Tell me that all our girl children are going to school.’ Mahatma Gandhi declared that he was uncompromising and irrational on the question of women’s rights and felt that women should not suffer any constraints not suffered by men. Women’s health and her position in society and at home and in the work place leave much to be desired.

“Sometime back, I read a newspaper caption about the state of human health in poor countries: ‘The real killers are poverty, ignorance, fear and corruption. Disease just administers the coup de grace.’

“Here we face the biggest obligation to humanity. As mothers and nurturers, and now with our emerging roles in the wealth and power sectors, we can make the biggest difference long-awaited. With the arrival of women in global corporations, in the words of Peter Drucker, ‘Clearly, the most important economic instrument (my addition: social instrument as well) the global company requires new structures (to me that means: ‘more women’) new methods of integration and new relationships.’ Sri. Amma has given us instructions that we think constructively, so we go to work in the positive outcomes we take from here. In that spirit, I offer two challenges, which I hope we will consider:

“The first challenge is self-directed to us women: Even while we grieve and rage over past injustices, we must recognize that blame-game does not get us anywhere. We will remember the words of the guide who tells Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain in 1905: ‘You have neglected the duty you owe to yourselves (she is talking to women), and you have lost your natural rights by shutting your eyes to your own interests.’ So we will begin our work here. The first order of business then is to have the strength and stamina, acquire knowledge and seek wisdom, and know our work by its purposes. After all, it is not know-how but know-what by which we determine the purpose behind why we do what we do. We have been chartmakers, researchers, paper presenters, but we know to conceptualise. Therefore, we know to manipulate better human futures.

“The second challenge is to this inspired, dedicated and committed Summit and to the august body of achievers of tomorrow’s CEO Summit to set up a unique venture that will help great women achieve great women power where ideas will be valued in the creation of great human futures. Of course, we will turn down no good ideas just because they come from men! As Swami Ranganathaji would exclaim, ‘What a beautiful idea that is!’

“I will personally lead the effort, and with the blessings of Sri Amma, our Gurus and well-wishers and through exemplary commitment and relentless work, we will deliver—please take note.

“The revolutionary poet Subramania Bharati anticipated the new women of India and envisioned the women and men of India would:

“‘Harness the floods of Bengal
To raise crops elsewhere.
Unearth gold and deep mine raw material.
Make umbrellas–also ploughs.
Weave burlap and draw wires.
Assemble carts, coaches and flying machines.
Build mighty ships tall and proud.
Measure the high heavens and also the ocean’s depths…”

“And he is emphatic when he declared, that the women and men of India:

“‘…Shall reach the Moon
Research and traverse the Cosmos.’”

“The translation is mine.

“And that prophecy came to pass in the form of Kalpana Chawla, among others, from a small place near where Krishna gave the world the Bhagavad-Gita. In Kalpana, the ‘American Promise’ and the ‘Indian Dream’ came together. Even as she was consigned to something sublime among the rising suns, I remembered, another occasion, when John Dobson—a distinguished astronomer, founder of the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers and a profound student of Vedanta—quoted the following verse from a homeless woman:

“‘The silver haze across the night is a billion suns.
And one amongst that haze is ours,
one belongs to you and me, and one belongs to you and me.’”

“I offer my many thanks for your patience and indulgence. I end my thought offerings with pranams to Sri Amma, the sadhus here, the assembly and all my colleagues. Thank you very much.”

Shri. P. Parameshwaran

Shri. P. Parameshwaran, Director, Bharatiya Vichara Kendra, Kerala, India


“To worship God as Mother is the easiest and the most natural thing in the world.” Shri. P. Parameshwaran

“Motherhood: The Mother & The Child of Spirituality”

“Most beloved Amma…. Respected chairperson of this session, Dr. Najma Heptulla…. Ms. Yolanda King…. My fellow speakers on the dais… And my dear sisters and brothers…. And the most revered swamijis and sannyasins among the audience….

“The subject given to me for today’s speech is ‘Motherhood: the Mother and the Child of Spirituality.’ I shall confine my talk within the time limit prescribed.

“yaa devi sarvabhuuteshu matrurupena samsthitaa
namastasyai-namastasyai-namastasyai namonama”

“‘Salutations to Thee, O Devi, who is present in every being as mother!
Salutations, salutations, salutations to Thee!’

“To worship God as Mother is the easiest and the most natural thing in the world. It is the most spontaneous expression of the human mind. The umbilical cord that unites the child to the mother is a symbolic representation of the spiritual affinity of the child and the mother. The mother is the feeder, the sustainer and the saviour of the child. Father comes later in life. Their relationship also is secondary. Mother is loved and even taken for granted, whereas father is respected from a distance and, more often than not, feared. Even to approach the father, the child seeks the mother’s help.

“The earliest concept of God must have been that of the mother – the Divine Mother, as she is the embodiment of love, she is also the embodiment of power and strength, the adi-shakti [primordial power]. The child sitting in the lap of the mother challenges the whole world. Worship of God as the Mother was common to all ‘pagan’ religions. In India, the tradition continues uninterrupted. God is considered Mother, and mother is looked upon verily as God. The practice of matrupuja [worship of mother] is prevalent among the unsophisticated people of India. Matru devo bhavah, ‘Let the Mother be a Goddess to you’ is a Vedic injunction. There is a practice of offering worship to young girls, looking upon them as female manifestation of the divine on a certain day of the Hindu calendar.

“Mother’s love is spontaneous and unconditional. Whether the child, the son or the daughter, reciprocates or not, mother’s love flows in an unbroken stream. There is a beautiful stanza by Sri Shankaracharya:

“kuputro jaayeta kvacidapi kumaataa na bhavati”

“‘Bad sons may be born, but there can never be a bad mother.’

“Every other love can be conditional, motivated, impure, but mother’s love is pure and unconditional because it is basically spiritual. There is nothing comparable. Therefore, in the Hindu tradition, motherhood is the highest ideal that a women can aspire for. The highest is the mother. Once a woman appears in various roles – the daughter, the wife, the mother, etc., but the highest is the mother. Once a woman attains motherhood, she reaches the height of her fulfilment. Even the husband is expected the show reverence to her. Physical, or carnal, desire is transmuted into spiritual love. A real mother develops the sentiments of pure love, unconditional compassion and the attitude of service not only to her physical offspring but to one and all. She becomes the mother of all. It is this high spiritual quality which every woman is expected to cultivate in practice. Motherhood and spiritual enlightenment become synonymous. They are fused into one sublime sentiment.

“Similarly, as one evolves spiritually, he or she unconsciously develops the maternal temperament. The less evolved a person, the more body conscious and the more selfish he or she is. The more evolved a person is, his body consciousness gets reduced. His identification with others increases and he becomes more and more unselfish. Qualities of aggression, assertion and aggrandisement diminish and qualities of caring and sharing, giving and suffering increase. It is this evolution we call as spirituality. Figuratively speaking, it is evolution from the masculine qualities to the feminine qualities. Spiritual evolution attains its highest when one reaches the perfection of feminine qualities – namely, absolute motherhood. The outcome is gentleness, love, affection, even self-sacrifice.

“According to Sri Shankaracharya, this aspect of the Divine Mother is also the most potent and powerful. Here, Dr. Fathima Beevi, quoted the sentence from Saundari Lahari, this sloka by Sri Shankaracharya: how Shiva is incapable even to move without the support of Shakti.

“Mother’s love knows no barriers because, real spirituality is infinite and universal. Love cannot remain a mere emotion or a sentiment. Its nature is such that it breaks all barriers and flows out in acts of service. Wherever there is suffering, instinctively mother’s love reaches out into those areas in whichever form that is most appropriate. Mother’s love does not even discriminate between the wicked and the good, or the deserving and the undeserving. These are distinctions made by human thinking. Mother sees far beyond. Whether one is a saint or a sinner is not of great importance to mother’s love. Probably the sinner and the wicked draw out the mother’s love more than the good and the holy because it is the sinner and the wicked, the socially ostracized and the downtrodden, that need Her care and compassion.

“Spirituality grows with motherhood and motherhood generates the sense of spirituality. Here, in Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, we have the embodiment of both Motherhood and spirituality mingled in one single human presence, which embraces the entire globe as it is without any discrimination, in one single sweep of unbounded love and limitless acts of compassion and service.

“yaa devi sarva bhuuteshu matrurupena samsthitaa
namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namonamaha.”

Rabbi Leah Novick

Rabbi Leah Novick, Pathfinder of the Jewish Renewal Movement

“Amma has taken me to the next stage which is to experience Shekhinah in the heart and through the heart.” —Rabbi Leah Novick

“The Feminine Face of God: Nurturing its Reflection in Men and Women”

“hachneeseyni tachat knafeich
va’t’ hee lee l aim v achot
v’y’hee chee kaich miklat roshi
kach tefilatai ha nidachot”

“‘Shelter me under your wings (and)
Be my Mother, my Sister
May your bosom be a nest for my head (and)
The place for receiving my prayers.’

“This is a poem from Chaim Nachman Bialik who lived in the late 18th century and wrote in Hebrew. And it’s evidence I believe that no matter how patriarchal a tradition seems, we never forget God the Mother.
“For centuries, Jews have been praying to come under the protection of the Shekhinah, the Divine Mother. Our ancestors, Abraham and Sarah, also the ancestors of Islam, welcomed new souls into her winged protection; and our traditional prayer for the dead, the kadish, asks that the compassionate deity shelter the departed one under the Shekhinah’s wings.

“Shekhinah is defined by our commentators as “she who dwells within, within the heart.” In the Torah, God says to us: ta asu lee mikdash v shachanti b tocham. ‘If you will make a sanctuary for me, I will come and dwell within you.’ So, Shekhinah, according to our sages, is God’s immanence; the ‘Divine Presence’ that we can feel and experience in the body, relate to here on earth, and find in Nature, because She rests also on the rocks, on the plants and flowers and, of course, on the animals as well as us.

“When the ancient Israelites were nomadic, that experience of Shekhinah in Nature was very dramatic. She appeared first as the Oceanic Birth Mother when they went through the Red Sea. Not in the Cecil B. DeMille version but hopefully in their hearts. She then guided them through the desert with ‘Seven Clouds of Glory,’ probably what rests over Mount Shasta. She then warmed them at night with ‘Pillars of Fire,’ and She feed them magical food referred to as manna, a kind of spiritual tofu.

“When we became more sophisticated, instead of carrying her everywhere in an arc, we had to build a huge Temple in Jerusalem. The Talmud says that when the temple was completed, the Shekhinah lived there, and all of its walls were lined with love—very much our experience when we go somewhere where Amma stays for awhile. But our temples were destroyed, we were dispersed and our Prophets, particularly the Prophet Jeremiah, saw the Divine Mother garbed in a heavy black robe, sitting at the Western Wall and weeping for Her children. With unconditional love, She left Her usual dwelling place. Although, of course, She is ubiquitous and lives everywhere, but the foundation myth is that She followed us into exile, particularly in Persia. And that She became available to us and to all human beings everywhere in the world.

“And I would like to emphasize that even though our Shekhinah is sort of ethno-particular or particular to our civilization, just as Lakshmi, Saraswati, Durga and so on are particular to the Vedic tradition, they are available to all.

“Our Sages taught in the Talmud that the Shekhinah rests on whoever comes together to study and pray. In our tradition it’s the menyon of 10 but even in the Talmud, the rabbis say any place the people gather to study and pray, the Shekhinah will rest on them. She comes to all those who give charity, even the person who gives one coin to a beggar and She lives with those who extend hospitality, especially to strangers.

“Conversely—and remember this was written between the 5th and the 7th century—the Talmud says, ‘Violence, rape and incest forced the Shekhinah to leave the earth and ascend to the seven heavens,’ for She always has that option. Just as Amma makes the sacrifice of being here on earth with us, our rabbis taught that we have to pray for the Shekhinah to want to be with us on earth.

“Despite all these beautiful teachings, Jewish women remained second-class citizens who were not allowed to sign contracts, initiate divorce proceedings or serve as witnesses in religious courts. They had few ritual obligations, mostly those connected with home ritual, and they were excluded from religious leadership. There were a few of them that got to study formally, but the formal study tended to be male and, over the years, the Shekhinah became the province of elite scholars; and in that process, became increasingly abstract and philosophical.

“The Kabbalistic mystics saw visions of a beautiful, young Shekhinah in full glory with lots of emeralds and diamonds and rubies and they re-opened the gateway to the Divine Mother. Mostly in the 17th and 18th century, they began to speak of her as the ‘Sabbath Queen,’ which is a tradition maintained all over the world by Jews and they described her specific places on the ‘Tree of Life’ with both literature and poetry.

“At the same time, their wives and daughters who they were considered the Shekhinah’s representatives, were not allowed to raise their voices in sacred song. The sound of a woman’s voice in Judaism was considered lascivious. Women provided the labour for important ceremonial life, but were not counted in the public prayer quorums or called to the Torah until recently. They had an intimate relationship with the divine; but their wisdom as healers, herbalists, midwives and nurturers was not taught formally and, unfortunately, most of their teachings were not published.

“Great Masters, like the Chasidic Masters, the miracle workers of Eastern Europe, had great respect for women’s insights and also taught their congregations, their followers, their devotees, that the most important thing we can do is to pray to bring the Shekhinah back to earth. However that devotional path was lost for the last few hundred years with the advent of modernity, and the impact of the European holocaust. Twentieth-century women like myself, despite a very elaborate Jewish education, came to adulthood with no awareness of the Cosmic Jewish Mother. We may have had jokes about the dysfunctional Jewish mother but we didn’t have much insight about the submerged and un-taught Great Mother.

“With the resurgence of feminism in the 1970s, and the influence of the larger Goddess Movement, many of us went looking for the feminine face of God. Many had visions and dreams, and we turned inward as other groups of women did to rediscover the Goddess in ourselves. Women’s New Moon groups emerged, and the struggle for the ordination of women rabbis and cantors. We’ve been getting ordained in the liberal movement since the ’70s and in the conservative movement since the mid-’80s. And the influx of women, mostly very young women, brought a great deal of energy and artistic creativity. Women now can become bat mitzvah [Jewish ceremony wherein a girl is accepted as a woman and a responsible member of the religious community] at 12 years old, and women can be prayer leaders and so on. The feminine voice of God, what we call the bat kol in Hebrew, was heard again and began to permeate Jewish culture, opening people’s hearts.

“And the thing that has been the most encouraging for me in all of this history is seeing in a period less than 30 years, how the North American and British Jewish community, have truly opened their hearts to the women leaders and that process has begun in Israel and in Europe as well. The ’70s brought a lot of political action within Jewish life. And much of that in the secular political area.

“Amma has reminded us, particularly in the UN speech, of how much remains to be done, and that is true in all of the religious traditions.

“In general, religious leaders that incorporate the divine feminine in their services and in their public discourse remain the minority. Male liturgical language and old images are still the norm. And the possibilities for teaching children and youth about the divine feminine are still in their infancy. And we have been very blessed, and continue to be blessed, that Mother has emerged during this later part of the 20th century and travels around the world, showering us with Her unconditional love, as She continues to do here.

“Our presence is a testimonial to the universal and eternal nature of that love and the divine presence that Amma embodies. I am especially grateful that Amma has given me the gift of direct experience of the Divine Mother. For myself, it has been 13 blissful years, and this June in San Ramon I celebrated my bat-mitzvah with Amma. Thirteen amazing and miraculous years. And I am so grateful that I have been helped to go beyond the texts. For me, it was very important to rediscover the Shekhinah in the traditional texts, in the traditional commentaries. I write about Jewish women who are like bodhisattvas [a Buddhist term indicating one who has achieved enlightenment], and there was a desperate search to be able to bring this reality through the text. But Amma has taken me to the next stage which is to experience Shekhinah in the heart and through the heart. So I thank Her from the bottom of my heart, and I thank you.”