Our every need is taken care of

Have you wondered how the more than 100,000 devotees will find sanitary facilities during Amritavarsham50? Read on.

Each night after bhajans, 150 or so devotees crowd around the stairway to Amma’s room to delight in Her feeding of Ram, the ashram elephant. Tonight Amma showed Her design skills as well, with strict attention to detail. After feeding Ram, Amma sat on the floor and was invisible to all but the persons nearest to Her. Those few who could see Her reported back to those who craned their necks to find out what in the world was going on. Finally, the words trickled back. Our beloved Amma was designing and making the prototype privacy curtain for the 1,000 pit toilets that will be provided to the 100,000 plus devotees who attend the Celebrations in Cochin.

For about an hour, Amma hand-stitched plastic cement bags together, instructing workers that they must sew the seams together facing the same way so that one side of the privacy curtain will lay flat. In this way, Amma said that the curtains will be “beautiful” for the devotees. She also kept measuring the height of the sewn bags, making sure that the final curtain would be high enough to provide privacy for the tallest person. The final design will lead to eight-foot-high, smoothly surfaced walls.

More than 3,000 bags have been collected for this purpose, but this is not enough. More must be found. As bhajans were sung tonight, a team of workers washed the bags. When Amma was told that the bags were too wet to sew, She just declared that this was not a problem and that it could be done.

Beginning at 10:30 tonight, volunteers will be doing sewing seva for our Amma and for the attendees of Amritavarsham50.

Who could possibly say that Amma does not provide for our every need?

—Triguna Besse

Teaching Ram

As a frequent visitor to Amritapuri, I have often watched my beloved Amma feed the elephant Ram after bhajans everyday. It is such a joy to watch the spontaneous and innocent interactions between the Mother of the Universe and Her elephant son.

Nevertheless I have sometimes wondered why Amma spends so much time on this simple activity. After all, anyone can feed Ram. Can’t Amma rest during that time? Or perhaps attend to the more important tasks of Her institutions so that She can get to bed early?

It is said that it is impossible for us to understand the ways of a mahatma with our limited intellects. Amma, as our Guru, teaches us in so many ways.
Through the simple stories She narrates again and again in Her satsangs, and especially through the examples of Her own actions. Could it be that this seemingly simple task of feeding Ram is also another means for Amma to teach us? This thought came to mind as I watched Amma with Ram recently one day…

Ram, in his carelessness, or maybe eagerness to get the food from Amma’s hand, had let most of it fall on the ground. As he tried to grab at Amma for more food, She told him to pick it up from the ground and eat that first. But Ram didn’t listen. He tried to reach for the bananas kept some distance away. Amma did not relent either. She sternly repeated that first he was to eat the food he had thrown down, only then would he get any more food. Finally, seeing no other alternative, Ram started picking at the food on the ground.

Amma stood by Ram’s side, quietly and intently watching him, as he swept up with his trunk, morsel by morsel, the food he had thrown down. Amma looked on, the very embodiment of supreme patience, as She waited for Her child to correct his mistake. Only after Ram put the last morsel into his mouth, did Amma smile and reward him with more food.

Watching this episode, suddenly I saw reflected in it the exact image of how Amma guides us also. She instructs us, but if we don’t listen to Her, She may scold us. We may still not listen, but yet she waits patiently, relentlessly. Finally, perhaps seeing no other alternatives, we finally proceed to do the right thing, and She stands by our side the entire time, looking on. No matter how many mistakes we make, She doesn’t once give up on us. Rather She waits patiently for us to learn and imbibe our lessons. And when we do, She is there to reward our efforts with much Grace.

It is said that all of a mahatma’s actions have deep meanings. It is possible that there are many beautiful lessons to be learnt from watching Amma’s leelas with Ram. And it is also possible that Amma simply takes the time to feed Her pachoderm child everyday so that Her human children may experience intimate and fun-filled moments with Her. In the early days, when the crowds were smaller, such moments were many. But today thousands come for Amma’s darshan, and the ashram runs many big institutions, so such times are rare.

But, wait! That’s not exactly right. Because, somehow, amidst the ever-growing whirlwind of responsibilities and activities, Amma yet manages to create precious moments just like this, that let us know She is still, and always, our caring and attentive Mother first and foremost.

After all, Amma does make the time to feed Ram everyday.

-Anju Bist

How to live a family life

“A bird sits on the dry twig of a tree and eats a piece of fruit it has found somewhere. It knows that the twig may break at any moment; so it is very alert as it sits on the twig. You should understand that this world is like that. Everything may be lost at any moment. You should remember that, children. Be sure to hold on to the truth that only God is everlasting. Then there will be no reason for sorrow.”

~

“They have to stand in fire without getting burnt — that is the life of a householder. Without shoes, they have to walk over thorns without getting wounded — shoes being freedom from worldly ties. The householders don’t have that freedom.”

~

“Family life is not meant to take us away from God, but to bring us closer to Him. Use it for that purpose, children, without worrying unnecessarily.”

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“If sadhana (spiritual practices) is done regularly, the spiritual and worldly aspects of life can be maintained side by side, in perfect harmony. To achieve this, you have to perform your actions with the awareness that the goal of life is to attain liberation. This will save you.”

~

“It is a great thing to be able to call out to God in the midst of all the family prarabdha (results of past karmas manifesting in this life). Many of Amma’s householder children meditate and do japa and archana regularly at home. Many of them have taken a vow that they will not eat or sleep before doing archana. Amma’s heart overflows with love when She thinks of them.”

~

“Real gain is from the Self alone. Only enquiry into the Self is of eternal value, and that is what gives peace. We should know That as the true bliss. What happiness is there in worrying about the family? You should move forward considering everything as ordained by Him. If one does so, peace will be gained.”

~

Spiritual practices for householders

“My children, slowly try to change your life. Out of 30 days in a month, at least spend two days for your spiritual development. Try to change your bad habits by gradually replacing them with good thoughts and actions. Every day before going to bed, recollect the day’s activities and try to discriminate between the good and bad. Repent on the bad thoughts and actions. Make a strong determination to abstain from them the following day. The next day, do the same. Before going to bed, make a comparative study of the actions which you did that day and the previous day and see the differences. Pray to the Lord to bestow enough mental strength to fight against the negative tendencies. Surrender everything at His feet. Have compassion for ailing humanity. Do charity for righteous purposes. Real charity or renunciation is giving up your dearest things. Actually, it is said that the mind should be offered to the Supreme. But the mind is immersed in money and other such worldly possessions. So offering money for righteous things is equal to offering our mind. Such actions will make your mind more and more expansive. Expansiveness is God. Let not your wealth be used only for fulfilling your desires and those of your family members. Let at least a small portion of it be used for the benefit of the world, which in turn will purify you.”

~

“Householders should observe a vow of silence once a week. They should try to get up early in the morning. It is good if they have a regular routine. That will help them to discipline themselves. Until yesterday you were leading a life devoid of spiritual ideals. To get rid of the old habits and replace them with new ones, a regular timetable will be very helpful.”

~

“If once a week is not practical, at least two days a month should be spent in an ashram atmosphere, immersed in japa and meditation and doing service. Remembering God is the real foundation of life. In due course we can free ourselves from all bonds, just as a snake sheds its skin; and merge in God.”

~

“Any spare time you have after work should be spent reading spiritual books like the ‘Gita’ and the ‘Ramayana,’ or the biographies of the mahatmas (great souls), or collections of their teachings, instead of going to the movies or engaging in other forms of ordinary entertainment. Don’t waste any opportunity to participate in satsangs. Share with your friends the things you hear in satsangs, thus bringing mental peace to them as well. Observe brahmacharya (celibacy) at least two or three days a week. That is essential if you are to get the proper benefit from your sadhana (spiritual practices). There is not just one wife/husband — the eyes, nose, tongue, ears, and the skin are all our “wives/husbands.” We have to control our attachment to them also; then we can know the real essence within us.”

~

“In the morning, chant the holy name for at least ten minutes after your bath. Meditate at least for a little while. Do the same in the evening.”

~

“One cannot live without being active in some way, whether physically, mentally, or intellectually. Everyone is constantly engaged in some form of action; this is an unchangeable law of Nature. No one becomes pure and selfless overnight; it involves time and concentrated effort coupled with tremendous patience and love. Do your actions in the world, without forgetting that your final goal in life is to break out of all bondage and limitations. Always remember that you have a higher goal to attain. Simply do what needs to be done; but at the same time, don’t miss the opportunities you come across to perform unselfish actions. You will then gradually gain mental purity and devotion. As you proceed with diligence, you will attain more clarity of mind and a deeper understanding. This will finally lead you to the state of perfection, the state of Self-realization.”

~

Ganesha Visarjan: the immersion ceremony

6 September 2003 — Amritapuri

Amidst the rousing melodies of a nadaswaram and takil, the Sri Ganesha Murthi which has received daily worship in the Kalari for over a week was brought to the base of the temple steps this evening. There the crowds gathered for this final ceremony of the Ganesha Chaturthi Festival to join in honor of the beloved Remover of Obstacles, as the ashram pujaris offered fruits and flowers, incense and the arati flame. Even Ram, the ashram elephant who just 7 days earlier received our worship as the embodiment of Ganesha, was on hand with a trunkful of fresh green bamboo stalks.

Many people made coin offerings to Ganesha before waving a coconut around their head three times and offering it at His feet, seeking His blessings. After bhajans and arati were performed, Sri Ganesha was carefully lifted onto his chariot. With the musicians leading the way, He was taken to Amma’s parents’ house, where they reverently offered the arati flame as well.

Ganesha was then led in a procession across the ashram grounds, and out through the back gate toward the ocean. There were many schoolchildren on hand today as well, due to the holiday weekend, and the innocence and enthusiasm of the bhajans that they sang the entire way added greatly to the celebratory spirit. Overflowing onto the road that runs along the beach, hundreds of devotees accompanied Ganesha, and the local residents that live along the way all came out to receive His darshan as He passed by.

Finally, the procession arrived at the chosen spot on the beach, and Ganesha was brought to the tide’s edge. About 20 men joined in and braved the waves, carrying Ganesha into the Arabian Sea, where He was to become one with Her. This immersion ceremony symbolises the form (physical existence) returning to the Formless (spiritual existence). Its purpose is to teach that all forms of God, including human beings, have both their beginning and end in the one Formless Absolute. In this light, the worship of God’s form actually serves as a bridge, helping us to reach that state of Infinite Awareness. Just as Ganesha today merged with Mother Ocean, so too is our consciousness destined to merge into the Ocean of Supreme Consciousness.

This is why for Her devotees, Amma, being the embodiment of this Supreme Consciousness, is naturally both our beginning and our end.