Rooftop satsang

14 January, 2004, Madurai

“What is the cause of the modern day’s cultural degeneration?”

As they gathered on the rooftop of Amma’s Madurai ashram, those traveling on the Dakshina Bharata Yatra were all asked this question by Amma, thus beginning this evening’s unplanned Satsang. As Amma sat, Her easy smile lightened everyone’s spirit as always. Saying She wanted to hear Her children discuss a spiritual topic with humor and wit, Amma asked the above question, upon which emerged responses of every texture and color.

The first response touched on the idea that, due to our lack of faith in and adherence to the scriptures, we no longer have the proper foundation for knowing our true spiritual nature and are thus led into a destructively ignorant way of life. The next speaker was less philosophical. He simply answered by saying, “This is Kali Yuga”, it’s only natural that things be like this!” Amma laughed, saying that it’s not enough to just state this without explaining how it is that this Kali Yuga came about, and asked him not to try to escape with too easy an answer. She reminded that the Four Yugas — Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali — all take place within us.

The next speaker offered a beautiful spiritual song as her answer, with lyrics describing a harmonious vision of life, ‘about a people who know how to live; where their words and their deeds are simple and pure, and their love they most willingly give.’ Another offered a more revolutionary angle, commenting on the social ills of the world as being mainly the result of political greed. Yet another devotee half-jokingly described the main western religion as having become football (soccer), wherein, just like an orthodox religion, the fans (devotees) gather together regularly to concentrate on a single team (deity) and chant slogans (prayers) in unison. Also, just like Amma’s devotees, the ‘football-ians’ will spend long hours, sometimes all day, queuing for tickets (darshan tokens), or forgo sleep just to watch a game on television… and even tend to dress alike! “Only, they’re really just men chasing around a ball of pig-skin in a field.” Like this, a wide assortment of answers was given.

Amma responded to this last answer by saying that She accepts everything, even football, since everything in this world is God. “There’s nothing wrong with it.”, She said, laughing. “But whatever the ‘faith’, the real question to ask is how it is benefiting others. Is it helping to uplift the downtrodden? Is it instilling morals and culture in society? And most importantly, is it expanding our consciousness towards being more loving and serving others?” Amma then reminded that ours is the religion of Love, and that, rather than philosophy or political speeches, this Love is the only thing that will be able to truly counter the ills of our modern world.

– dass

Amma in Kanya Kumari, giving boons

11 January, 2004 – Kanya Kumari

The stone idol of the Virgin Goddess Kanya Kumari Devi in Her temple at the southernmost tip of the blessed land of Bharata is standing in meditation, facing north and longing for Oneness with Lord Shiva in Mount Kailash. This longing of the Goddess for spiritual Union is expressed in its fulfillment with the mantra, Om Shiva-Shaktyaikya-Rupinyai Namah — Salutations to the Embodiment of Shiva and Shakti.

The virtual human form of Kanya Kumari, Amma, blessed this ancient holy city by the touch of Her Feet on January 11 th . A program was arranged on the sprawling and peaceful 100-acre campus of the famous Vivekananda Kendra, by the confluence of three seas: the Bay of Bengal in the East that carries with it the memory of Sri Ramakrishna & Sri Sharada Ma; the Indian Ocean to the South; and the Arabian Sea that washes the shores of Amritapuri.

In the evening when Amma arrived on stage, Her diamond nose-stud was shining as if brighter than ever, reminiscent of Her Oneness with Goddess Kanya Kumari, whose nose-stud’s radiance is said to have served as a light-house to travelling ships. Amma gave sweet smiles to Her eager children for a while before She closed Her eyes and sat in Self-absorption. The hosts sang the famous patriotic song Vande Mataram, which salutes the land of Bharata as the Mother . Amma appeared to be the embodiment of that very Mother awaited by Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Sri Bamkim Chanda, the author of Vande Mataram , and the other pioneers who initiated the spiritual renaissance of India.

The bhajans this evening seemed to soar high, as Amma sang, among other songs, ‘ Devi Jaganmata’,  which has the line, ” Mari kumari Amma, enakkum vanduvaram taruvai” , which means, “O, Mother of Kanya Kumari, come, give us a boon!” Earlier at the inauguration of Amma’s program, Dr. P. Parameswaran, Director of the Vivekananda Kendra, observed Amma as one who is transforming Bharata into the spiritual world leader. Several spiritual and political heads also participated in the function.

Amma’s program started on the evening of the 11 th and ended around 9:30 am the following day. When Amma arose from Her darshan seat, the shoulder of Her white sari had turned dark from the faces of Her children that She had hugged all night. The end of darshan was only the beginning of yet another celebration: the birthday of Swami Vivekananda. Amma performed puja before his image, lighting the sacred lamp and leading the gathering in the chanting of shanti mantras. Afterwards, Swami Amritaswarupananda led the senior swamis of the Ashram to the Samadhi Sthal of Swami Vivekananda, where they garlanded his statue as a mark of reverence to him and his high ideals of spirituality and selfless service.

The day’s program was as symbolic as the confluence of the three seas. It was a coming together of three divine Energies: Swami Vivekananda, Kanya Kumari and the Consciousness in Human form with the name of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi.

Those devotees and ashramites who were fortunate enough to visit this very same Kanya Kumari 18 years ago in a small group with Amma, now stood witnessing Amma give the same love to the tens of thousands that had gathered from nearby towns and villages.

The symbolism of Kanya Kumari Devi’s nose-ring serving as the guiding light for those at sea seems all the more meaningful when we watch Amma guiding us, lost as we are in the sea of ignorant worldliness. Every hug She gives is like a flash of light, reminding us of the right direction home.

— tulasi

Proclaim to All

11 January, 2004 – Kanya Kumari

Just a few hours after Amma hugged Her last Thiruvananthapuram child, the first fully loaded bus set out for the next stop on the 2004 Dakshina Bharata Yatra — the holy city of Kanya Kumari.

This famous pilgrimage centre is located at the southernmost tip of the Indian sub-continent, where the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean mingle their waters. Kanya Kumari has been home to many Mahatmas, like the avadhuta Mayiamma, who Amma met here many years back (which is described in Amma’s biography, and footage of which can be found in the ‘Vintage Scenes’ video). It’s also home to the famous Kanya Kumari Devi Temple and the Swami Vivekananda Memorial Monument, which occupies a small island just a few hundred meters off the coast.

Amma’s programs were to be held at the Vivekananda Kendra, situated right on the beach and enjoying a spectacular view of the Vivekananda island shrine. Both the president and vice-president of this respected cultural organization, which is dedicated to the upliftment of Indian society via the spiritual teachings of Sw. Vivekananda, are devotees of Amma, and were special guests at the Amritavarsham50 Celebrations in Kochi this past Fall. Sister Nivedita, the organization’s vice-president, granted an inspiring interview just before Amma’s Jubilee, and its president, Shri. Parameshwaran, was a speaker on both the Interfaith and Women’s Summit panels during the Birthday event. This evening’s program gave Mr. Parameshwaran the opportunity to speak once more.

“Parvati Devi is in Kanya Kumari, just as Shiva is in Kailash. Devi is looking north and Shiva is looking south.” Mt. Kailash as the abode of Shiva in the Himalayas, which borders India to the north, and Parvati in the form of Kanya Kumari Devi in the south, and together they cast over India their protective grace, like a divine sentinel gazing over the breadth of the land.

“It took three days of intense tapas in Kanya Kumari where his monument stands today, before Sw. Vivekananda had his famous vision of how to spread India’s spiritual message of peace. But now, to this place the greatest Tapasvini has come!”

He then spoke about India’s President APJ Abdul Kalam’s PURA vision, and its ideas regarding various connectivities — social, economic, technological, etc. President Kalam had presented his ideas to Amma some time back, who in turn asked, “What about spiritual connectivity?” She said that without this, the other connectivities wouldn’t work. The President responded favorably to this idea, and included it into his overall concept. Parameshwaran continued, “Amma is the Powerhouse of that connectivity, connecting the whole world. How blessed we are to sit at the Feet of Amma, to listen to Her bhajans and immortal words.”

One of the members of Parliament from Tamil Nadu, Mr. Pon Radhakrishnan was also here to welcome Amma. He said, “I am seeing that India is awakening through Amma. India will become the Jagat Guru (World Teacher) and leading Light, and Amma is the Parashakti.”

After the talks, Amma came out to give satsang, opening in a soft voice with Her oft heard mantra, “Shivane, Shivane, Shivane…” She then led bhajans and sat giving darshan until 8:30 the following morning, as the early sun’s golden rays flooded the hall with a fresh brilliance. Amma hugged over 32,000 people this night. Afterwards, as 12 January is Vivekananda Jayanti, the Vivekananda Kendra made the request to Amma that She might light the sacred lamp to commemorate the occasion. Amma readily agreed.

Standing up from Her darshan seat, Amma turned to the lamp behind Her on the stage. Still in Her sari with its stained shoulder, Amma lit the wicks and led the chanting of “Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu” (may all beings in all worlds be happy). Then, in Her ever-unpredictable mystery, Amma entered into samadhi on stage as She stood, with Her hands forming sacred mudras. In the utter stillness that followed, one sensed the holy fullness of the moment.

“I don’t see into the future, nor do I care to see. But one vision I see clear as life before me, that ancient Mother has awakened once more, sitting on Her throne – rejuvenated more glorious than ever. Proclaim Her to all the world with the voice of peace and benediction.” – thus declared Swami Vivekananda in January of 1897.

Isn’t this vision unfolding before us?

– dass

Selflessness transforms

10-11 January, 2004 – Thiruvananthapuram

The three days of Thiruvananthapuram programs were attended by huge crowds, as always, and enjoyed the standard Brahmasthanam Festival fare — dawn to dusk archanas, planetary pujas each day to Mars, Rahu and Saturn respectively, and of course Amma’s divine satsang, bhajans and darshan.

Thiruvananthapuram is the capital city of Kerala, and so, in addition to the usual throngs of devotees, one naturally sees a high concentration of government officials, corporate leaders and similar VIP’s. A long-time devotee of Amma and prominent guest at the Amritavarsham50 Celebrations in Kochi this past September, the Hon. Chief Minister of Kerala Shri A.K. Antony, came for Amma’s darshan. Also present for Amma’s blessings and divine counsel were the Minister of Agriculture, Smt. K. R. Gauri, another Amritavarsham50 VIP, and the Royal Family of Thiruvananthapuram.

Chief Minister Antony spoke with Amma for a long time, and offered to donate land from the Kerala Government for building of free housing for the poor, under the M.A. Math’s Amrita Kuteeram project. Amma also discussed a plan with Agriculture Minister Smt. K R Gauri to use 30 acres of land near the Amritapuri ashram as a test site to develop medicinal plant cultivation and train people in new managing skills, all of which will be designed to modernize and rejuvenate Kerala’s agricultural technologies.

The local devotees really expressed their devotion, both in how they welcomed Amma so full of emotion, as well as in how dedicated they were in performing the immense task of coordinating all the seva for the huge programs. This willingness to spend three long days and nights sweating in the high temperature of both the sun and of the combined body heat of so many thousands, often forgoing food and sleep in the service of Amma, is always an incredibly inspiring sight. Many of the local devotees are affluent citizens with high profile careers in this major Kerala city. Yet here one can find these same people humbly and happily serving food to everyone from poor villagers to foreign devotees, or standing for hours in the hot and dusty aisles coordinating the darshan lines, in one way or another contributing their effort and attention to the smooth flow of these extremely crowded events.

Why would they or anyone do such things?

Meet Amma once with an open heart, and the question itself evaporates. Her absolute selflessness transforms us, and we gradually begin to experience the actual bliss that comes from serving others with real humility and love.

Teaching the above ideal through Her incomparable example, Amma gave darshan until 4.45 am this morning, embracing approximately 25,000 people in the past 24 hours.

– suchetas

Flower shower-Pushpa varsham

7 January, 2004 — Amritapuri/Thiruvananthapuram

The first bus full of brahmacharis left Amritapuri late last night for Thiruvananthapuram, the first stop on Amma’s annual South India Tour. After arriving at the local ashram by 1:15 am, there was still the unloading of the bookstall and kitchen supplies to complete, which wasn’t over until 4 am. By 8 am it was back to work, setting up the sound system, unpacking boxes, sweeping and mopping the dorms, all in preparation for Amma and the rest of the tour staff and passengers, who are expected sometime in the early evening. This is the type of schedule one must simply adapt to on Amma’s tours.

Meanwhile, Amma was still in Amritapuri. She came down Her stairs to leave for the first leg of the Yatra at 5 pm, and of course there was a crowd waiting, as always. As Amma made Her way to Her car, She paused and looked up. At the top of the main temple building’s spiral staircase stood a lone resident of the ashram, one of those not coming on the tour. It would be three weeks before she would see Her beloved Amma again, and naturally she was sad. Amma took this moment to look directly up at her, lingering with Her gaze. Falling into Amma’s line of sight at this time were also the three eagles that always seem to know when Amma is out. They came like everyone else – to see Amma off and wish Her a good trip.

Arriving at Her Thiruvananthapuram ashram by 8.30 pm Amma was received with open, outstretched arms. As Amma entered the temple hall, the crowd surged to get closer, and was held back by the valiant efforts of the local Assistant Police Commissioner, A.K. Venugopal, and his security team, who were able to somehow keep things from going totally overboard. It was then with a fervent enthusiasm that the traditional garland was draped around Amma’s neck, despite the fact that the devotee doing the honors was being jostled to and fro by the waves of bodies around him. Still, he was one-pointed, and succeeded.

It took quite a while for Amma to transverse the short distance from the entrance to Her room, because She was too busy being present with Her children, stopping to ask after their health and happiness, answer a question, stroke a face, wipe away a tear, and of course hug one, then two…

Amma finally made it to the next floor, where Her room had been arranged. As She came to the balcony which overlooks the center of the hall, the devotees below erupted in a united cry: “Amma! Amma!” Wall to wall with outstretched arms, the room undulated with a single upward prayer. Amma couldn’t resist. She stood, eyes brimming with the divine love that only Amma can give, and showered flower petals over them all. It was a beautiful moment

Then, to our surprise Amma back-tracked toward the stairway, and began receiving devotees, who were streaming up the steps. One, two.fifty. Amma didn’t even sit down. Standing the whole time, She comforted Her darling children, embracing them and giving out prasad, completely forgetful of Herself.

Finally, almost an hour after She walked through the ashram entrance, Amma was in Her room.

– dass

An Eagle’s Alert

7 January, 2004 — Amritapuri

There they were, as always. Whether it’s a Devi Bhava or festival day, a Brahmasthanam Temple installation or, as in this case, simply Amma preparing to leave for the South India Tour, if Amma is out and about you can bet they are too: three eagles, circling directly above.

Known commonly as “Krishna Parunthu” in India, these three members of the species were particularly punctual, seeming to know Amma’s schedule better than the rest of us! We never really know exactly when, or even if, Amma will decide to leave Her room, at any time or for any reason. Amma can be very unpredictable. But, like clockwork, these eagles seem to know. Maybe they receive an email alert, SMS on mobile or messenger pop-up directly from Amma — “ONS, Amma’s departure in ten seconds!.. : ) ”

Hmm. maybe if we paid more attention to their flight patterns .?

Amma has even commented on them. During the Amritavarsham50 celebrations, Native American Tewa Dancers performed the “Eagle Dance” for Her. Afterward they came for Amma’s darshan, and in the course of their conversation Amma mentioned to them, “There are always three eagles flying above during the Brahmasthanam Temple installations.” Also, during this past Sri Krishna Jayanthi, while the children played the traditional Uriyadi pot-breaking game, Amma spent a long moment staring up into the sky; She was watching three eagles performing their own version of the ‘Eagle Dance”, perhaps the original one, as they slowly circled and swooped clockwise, remaining visible for the duration of Amma’s presence.

The eagle has played a very important role in Amma’s early life as well. Amma has told that when She had been turned out of Her house and used to spend Her days and nights meditating on the beach, often forgetful of food or sleep, it was the animals who would look after Her needs. One of these was an eagle who would drop a fish into Amma’s lap whenever Amma felt hungry.

Eagles are considered sacred birds in most cultures. Native Americans revere them, and the eagles plays a prominent symbolic role in Indian and Tibetan cultures well, where it’s known as ‘Garuda’. The Garuda is also said to be the vehicle of Vishnu, of whom Avatars like Sri Rama and Sri Krishna are embodiments. Even America has the bald eagle as its national bird.

It’s impossible to know if they’re the same three eagles every time, or if they come in shifts. maybe some type of aerial darshan token system is used. Either way, these blessed birds have more than proven their faithfulness.

– dass

First Devi Bhava of the New Year

4 January 2004 — Amritapuri

As the large wooden doors rolled open and the sacred verses chanted, the many thousands present received a dense blast of the scent of flowers and camphor. As always this was mixed with another mysterious, divine fragrance that penetrates deeper, beyond the senses…

Before us appeared the heart-bursting vision of Amma in Devi Bhava, wearing a deep orange and gold sari. Amma sat, majesty incarnate, to continue receiving the unending stream of Her children.

Amma had come to the stage before 5 pm. After giving satsang, singing bhajans and giving darshan for over 17 hours, Amma finally stood at 10:15 am the following morning, with the conch shell trumpeting, the bell ringing and everyone singing “Vagadishvari Sarade.” Everyone cleared the stage except for about 15 people, to whom Amma gave new spiritual names, before finally stepping forward to shower flower petals upon as many who could get within range.

Kartika puja for the New Year

3 January 2004 — Amritapuri

After bhajans ended this evening and Amma returned to Her room, many made their way to the kalari for the monthly Karthika Puja.

In addition to the annual birthday observed in the West, which is based on the sun’s position, a monthly birthday is also traditionally observed in India that is based on the moon’s. Karthika is the nakshatra (constellation) in which the moon was transiting at the time of Amma’s birth, and so each time the moon returns to this spot in the heavens, approximately every 28 days, is considered a birthday.

While a beautiful song was offered, followed by the chanting of Amma’s 108 Names, the 108 Names of Devi, and the Mahishasuramardini slokas, the ashram pujaris performed the Kali Puja. Sitting in the center of a large yantra, drawn on the temple’s floor out of colored rice powder, and decorated with sacred flowers and other traditional symbolic items, stood a tall, garlanded oil lamp. Smaller replicas surrounded it, each with four wicks burning. The room danced by the light of the many flames and swam in the fragrance of the incense, all adding to the purified and peaceful atmosphere.

As the puja ended with the closing peace mantras, everyone queued for darshan of the sanctum sanctorum, and to receive sweet prasad. A blessed way to begin the year!


Another New Year with Amma

1 January, 2004

Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. This is the prayer that is chanted in Amritapuri, and by Amma’s devotees around the world, as the clock strikes midnight each New Year’s Day. The collective effect of many thousands one-pointedly chanting this powerful prayer for the peace and happiness of all beings everywhere serves to help purify the atmosphere, contributing positive vibrations to a world all too accustomed to its own negativity.

The ashram residents and visitors sat chanting the sacred mantra around Amma’s chair in the large hall, and Amma joined them just before midnight. Then, leading the prayer while the world entered the new year, Amma gave us the priceless blessing of inaugurating this year in a most auspicious way — by praying for the welfare of others.

Amma was quick to remind us, however, that although the numbers of the year are changing, if we don’t change internally, then there is no real meaning in saying it’s a ‘new’ year. Amma said that the real change has to take place within us, by uprooting our latent negativities and cultivating positive qualities. This in turn will have the natural effect of changing the world for the better.

Amma asked Her children to offer their thoughts on how we can contribute to the upliftment of the world in this New Year. Many heartfelt responses were given, but most shared a common element: that we all strive to practice Amma’s teachings on Love, Compassion and Selflessness, as this is the surest way to peace and happiness for all. One devotee asked that we all be as willing to serve each other as we are to serve Amma, and another added to this saying that his wish is to learn to see Amma in all, so that he doesn’t have to always come to Amritapuri for Amma’s darshan!

Many devotees shared touching personal stories. One person from Mumbai told how he had been meaning to come see Amma for many years, but never did. He had planned to spend this New Year as always with friends, but at the last minute had an insight into the meaningless of that type of ‘ happiness’ and felt a deep urge to seek the source of true peace. So, he immediately caught a train and came to Amritapuri to see Amma — without luggage or even changing his clothes!

Another devotee from Calcutta drew laughs and applause as he took the mic, saying, “I’m sorry, but I’ll be taking up a lot of Amma’s time now, because the chance to speak directly to Amma in this way is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” He told how his family had been trying to get him to meet Amma for a long time, but he persistently declared to them that, ‘That’s your thing, not mine!” But, this past year when Amma visited his family’s home, they finally persuaded him to at least come just to see Amma. He hesitantly agreed, but said that when Amma stepped out of the car and Her eyes met his, he felt a deep surge of love and ended up staying for the whole three days that Amma was there, unable to tear himself away! Now, he said, he had the great blessing of speaking directly with Amma, and tearfully pleaded, “Amma, never leave this child alone! Always be with me, Amma!”

One devotee said that she thought the quickest way toward world peace was for more people to meet Amma, and a young girl approached and explained that this was her first time meeting Amma, saying it was a major turning point for her and she was now dedicated to the spiritual life. Another young girl who had just met Amma for the first time this day came up and spoke a few words, taking the mic nervously. She said that before today, she was too shy even to speak to two people at once… and now she was addressing Amma and a crowd of hundreds! She said that she didn’t know how she was able to, and that it was Amma’s grace that gave her the courage. Her mother then spoke, saying that she was so happy to see her daughter speaking so confidently, and attributed it to her faith in Amma. She prayed that this faith and devotion last forever in her daughter’s heart.

One of Amma’s engineering college student said that he made so many mistakes in the past year, and prayed that he may not repeat them. Amma really liked this simple but wise answer and clapped happily. Two other devotees spontaneously offered songs to Amma, and many others offered tearful expressions of gratitude, one after another declaring that it is by living the life that Amma is teaching that we can find true lasting peace and happiness. After listening to all of Her children, Amma enjoined everyone to chant the Mahishasuramardini slokas to the great Goddess of protection, Durga.

In Amma’s New Year message, Amma called upon us to pray for suffering humanity, particularly the victims of the recent devastating earthquake in Iran. Amma said that we should send our heartfelt prayers to the survivors, that their wounds, inner as well as outer, be healed quickly, and for those that have passed on, that their souls may rest in peace.

With such intimate guidance from a great spiritual Master like Amma, we have only to listen to Her words with our heart and live Her words with a simple faith. Then will each moment be new, all bliss be ours, and an enduring peace be upon the earth.

Happy New Year to all of Amma’s children, from Amritapuri!