The Parliament of the World’s Religions
Keynote Address By Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi Devi
July 13, 2004, Barcelona, Spain
Amma bows down to everyone here, who are embodiments of pure love and the Supreme Consciousness. The effort and self-sacrifice of those who are capable of organizing such an enormous event is beyond words. Amma simply bows down in front of such selflessness.
Our God-given abilities are a treasure, meant for ourselves as well as for the entire world. This wealth should not be misused, creating a burden for us and for the world. The greatest tragedy in life is not death; the greatest tragedy takes place when our talents and capabilities are underutilized and allowed to rust while we are living. When we use the wealth obtained from nature, it diminishes; but when we use the wealth of our inner capabilities, it increases.
But, are we using our abilities properly? What has always been the aim of humanity? Where has human society always yearned to reach? Has it not always been everyone’s goal to obtain as much happiness and contentment as possible in both our personal lives and in society? But where do we stand today? Most of us move from one mistake to another, which only makes our problems worse.
Every country has tried increasing its power in politics, the military, weaponry, economics, science and technology. Is there anything we have yet to test and explore? We are all so focused on those areas. Having tried these methods for so long, have we achieved any real peace or contentment? No. Time has proven that these methods alone cannot secure us contentment. Only if spiritual power with which we have never before experimented grows alongside all those different areas, can we attain the peace and contentment we are seeking.
In reality, there is only one difference between people in wealthy countries and poor countries: while people in wealthy countries are crying in air-conditioned rooms and palatial mansions, the people of poor countries are crying on the dirt floors of their huts.
In any case, one thing is clear: people, who once hoped to smile and be happy, are now shedding tears in many parts of the world. Sorrow and suffering are becoming the hallmark of many countries. It is senseless to blame all this on religion alone. A major cause of these problems is the interpretation people have given to religion and spirituality.
In short, today we search externally for the causes and solutions to all the problems of the world. In our haste, we forget the greatest truth of all that the source of all problems is to be found within the human mind. We forget that the world will become good only if the mind of the individual becomes good. So, along with an understanding of the outer world, it is essential that we also come to know the inner world.
There was once a function to inaugurate a new supercomputer. After the inauguration, the participants were told that they could ask the supercomputer any question and it would come up with the answer in seconds. Everyone did their best to ask the computer the most complicated questions relating to science, history, geography, and so on. As soon as each question was posed, the answer would pop up on the screen. Then, a child stood up and asked the supercomputer a simple question: “Hello, Supercomputer. How are you today?” The screen remained blank for a long time and there was no response! The computer could come up with answers to questions about everything except itself.
Most of us live in a state similar to that of the computer. Along with our understanding of the outside world, we should also develop our knowledge about our inner world.
When our telephone is out of order, we call the telephone company to repair it; when our cable TV fails to receive programs clearly, the cable company helps us; and when our Internet connection is not working, the Internet company fixes it. In a similar way, spirituality is the means to restore our inner connection with the Divine. The science of spirituality puts the ëremote controlí of our mind back into our hands.
There are two types of education: education for a living and education for life. When we study in college, striving to become a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer ñ this is education for a living. On the other hand, education for life requires understanding the essential principles of spirituality. This means gaining a deeper understanding of the world, our minds, our emotions, and ourselves. We all know that the real goal of education is not to create people who can understand only the language of machines. The main purpose of education should be to impart a culture of the heart – culture based on spiritual values.
Viewing religion externally creates more and more division. We need to see and understand the inside, the essence of religion, from a spiritual perspective. Only then will the feeling of division come to an end. Where there is division, there cannot be any real spiritual experience; and where there is true spiritual experience there will be no division, only unity and love. Religious leaders should be prepared to work on the basis of this knowledge, and make their followers aware of these truths.
The problem arises when we say, “Our religion is right; yours is wrong.” This is like saying, “My mother is good; yours is a prostitute!” Love and compassion are the very essence of all religions. Where, then, is the need for us to compete unnecessarily?
Love is our true essence. Love has no limitations of caste, religion, race, or nationality. We are all beads strung together on the same thread of love. To awaken this unity, and to spread to others the love that is our inherent nature, is the true goal of human life.
Indeed, love is the only religion that can help humanity to rise to great and glorious heights. Love should be the one string on which all religions and philosophies are strung together. The beauty of society lies in the unity of hearts.
There is much diversity in Sanatana Dharma, India’s ancient spiritual tradition. Every person is unique. Everyone has a different mental constitution. The seers provided us with a multitude of paths, so that each individual can choose the way most suitable for him or her. All locks cannot be opened with the same key, nor does everyone like the same type of food or clothing. This diversity holds equally true for spirituality, the same path will not be suitable for everyone.
Meetings and conferences such as this need to place more emphasis on spirituality, the inner essence of religion. This is the only way to achieve peace and unity. This conference should not be just a meeting of bodies. On occasions such as this, a true meeting should take place, one in which we can see and know each other’s hearts. Communication through machines has even made people in far off places seem very close. Yet, in the absence of communication between hearts, even those who are physically close to us seem very far away. So, this should not be an ordinary conference, where everyone talks, nobody listens, and everyone disagrees.
Listening to others is important. We may see and hear many things in the world. But we shouldn’t meddle in the affairs of others, because that can have dangerous consequences. Amma remembers a story.
A man once walked past a mental hospital and heard a voice moaning, “13…13…13…13…” The man went closer to locate where the sound was coming from. He saw a hole in the wall and realized that the sound was coming from the other side. Out of curiosity, he put his ear into the hole, hoping to hear better. Suddenly something bit him hard on the ear. As the man screamed in pain, the moaning voice groaned, “14…14…14…14.”! We should use our power of discrimination to distinguish between what we should or should not pay attention to. True religious leaders love and worship the whole Creation, seeing it as God Consciousness. They see the unity in diversity. But nowadays, many religious leaders misinterpret the words and experiences of the ancient Seers and Prophets, exploiting weak-minded people.
Religion and spirituality are the keys to open our hearts and see everyone with compassion. But, blinded by our selfishness, our minds have lost their proper judgement and our vision has become distorted. This attitude will only serve to create more darkness. Using the same key meant to open our hearts, our indiscriminate mindset is locking it shut.
There were once four men who had gone to attend a religious conference and had to pass the night together on an island. It was a bitter-cold night. Each traveler carried a matchbox and a small bundle of firewood in his pack ñ but each one thought that he was the only one who had firewood and matches.
The first man thought, “Judging from the medallion around that man’s neck, I would say he is from some other religion. If I start a fire, he will also benefit from its warmth. Why should I use my wood to warm him?” The second man thought, “That person is from the country that has always fought against us. I wouldnít dream of using my wood to make him comfortable!”
The third man looked at one of the others and thought, ìI know this guy. He belongs to a sect that always creates problems in my religion. Iëm not going to use up my wood for his sake!”
The last man thought, ìThis guy has a different skin color than mine, and I hate that! There’s no way Iím going to use my wood for him!” In the end, not one of them was willing to light his wood to warm the others, and so, by morning they all froze to death. Similarly, we quarrel in the name of religion, caste, nation, and color, without showing any compassion towards our fellow beings.
Modern society is like a person suffering from a severe fever. As the fever increases, the patient says senseless things. Pointing at a chair on the floor, he may ask, “Why is that chair flying?” What answer can we give? How can we prove to him that the chair is not flying? There is only one way to help him: we have to give him medicine to bring down the fever. Once the fever is reduced, everything will return to normal. Today, people are suffering from the fever of selfishness, greed, unrestrained desire and so forth.
Religion and spirituality form the path that helps transform the anger within us into compassion, our hatred into love, our lustful thoughts into divine thoughts, and our jealousy into sympathy. Yet, in our present deluded mental state, most of us do not understand this.
Society is comprised of individuals. It is the conflict in the individual mind that manifests as war. When individuals change, society will automatically change. Just as hatred and vengefulness exist in the mind, peace and love can also exist in the mind.
To wage wars, we spend billions of dollars and engage countless people. Think of how much attention and intense effort goes into that process! If we were to use even a fraction of this money and effort for the sake of world peace, we could definitely bring about peace and harmony in this world.
Every country spends huge amounts on building security systems. Security is indispensable. But the greatest security of all is to absorb the spiritual principles and live accordingly. We have forgotten this. The enemies that are today attacking us from within and without cannot be dealt with just by increasing the strength of our weapons. We can no longer afford to delay the rediscovery and strengthening of our most powerful weapon, spirituality, which is inherent in us all.
There are over a billion people in this world suffering from poverty and starvation. This, in truth, is our greatest enemy. Poverty is one of the basic reasons why people commit theft and murder, and become terrorists and prostitutes. Poverty not only affects the body, but also weakens the mind. Such minds are influenced in the name of religion and injected with the poison of terrorist ideals. Looking at it this way, Amma feels that 80% of the problems in society would be resolved if we were to eradicate poverty.
In general, the human race is on a journey without a clear goal. A man drove up to an intersection and asked a pedestrian, “Could you tell me where this road leads to?” The pedestrian responded, “Where do you want to go?” The man replied, “I donít know.” “Well then,” said the pedestrian, “it obviously doesnít matter which road you take!”
We shouldnít become like this driver. We need a clear goal.
Amma is alarmed to see the direction in which the world is heading. If, in the future, there is a Third World War, let it not be a war between countries, but rather a war against our common enemy, poverty. In today’s world, people experience two types of poverty: The poverty caused by lack of food, clothing and shelter; and the poverty caused by lack of love and compassion.
Of these two, the second type needs to be considered first ñ because, if we have love and compassion in our hearts, then we will wholeheartedly serve those who suffer from lack of food, clothing and shelter. It is not the era we live in, but the compassionate hearts that will bring about a change in society. Religions should be able to create more compassionate hearts. This should be the main objective of religion and spirituality.
In order to protect this world, we have to choose a path forsaking our personal differences and desires. By forgiving and forgetting, we can try to recreate and give new life to this world. Digging up and scrutinizing the past is useless, and will benefit no one.
Abandoning the path of vengeance and retaliation, we need to impartially judge the present situation in the world. Only then can we find the path to true progress.
True unity ó both amongst humanity and between humanity and Natureówill come only through our faith in the immense power of the inner Self, which is beyond all external differences.
A rainbow gives visual splendor and also has an inner significance that helps expand the mind. A rainbow is formed by the convergence of seven different colors, making it so attractive and beautiful. In a similar way, we should be able to recognize and accept the differences created by religion, nationality, language and culture. We should be able to join hands, giving primary importance to humanity and universal human values. A rainbow appears and disappears in the sky within a span of minutes. However, in that short lifespan, the rainbow is able to make everyone happy. Just like the rainbow, which appears small in the infinite sky, our lifespan, which appears for just a short while within the infinite span of time, is also very small and insignificant. As long as we live in this world, our greatest and foremost duty (or dharma) is to be of some benefit to others. Only when goodness awakens within the individual will one’s personality and actions gain beauty and strength.
There once was a little girl who was permanently in a wheelchair. Her disability made her angry and frustrated with life. All day long, she would sit by her window moping, enviously watching all the other little children as they ran, jumped, skipped and played with each other. One day, as she sat gazing through the window, it began to drizzle. Suddenly, a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky. Instantly, the little girl forgot about her wheelchair, her disability and her sorrow. The colorful rainbow filled her with happiness and hope. But then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the rain stopped and the rainbow vanished. The memory of the rainbow filled her with a strange peace and joy. She asked her mother where the rainbow had gone. Her mother answered, “My darling, rainbows are very special creations. They exist only when the sun and rain come together.”
From then on, the little girl would sit by her window, waiting for the sun and the rain to come together. She no longer cared to watch the other children play.
Finally, one bright, sunny day, it unexpectedly began to rain lightly, and the most heavenly-colored rainbow appeared in the sky. The little girl’s joy knew no bounds. She called out to her mother to come quickly and take her to the rainbow. Not wanting to disappoint her daughter, the mother helped her little girl into the car and drove off in the direction of the rainbow. Finally, when they arrived at a point where they had a good view of the rainbow, the mother stopped the car and helped her daughter to get out, so that she could enjoy the sight. Looking up at the rainbow, she asked, ìWondrous rainbow, how is it that you are able to shine so radiantly?î The rainbow replied, ìMy dear child, I have a very short lifespan. Only for a brief span of time while the sun and rain come together do I exist. Rather than fret over my short existence, I have decided that within my brief lifespan, I want to make as many people as I can as happy as possible. And when I decided to do that, I became radiant and beautiful.” Then, even as the rainbow was still speaking, it began to fadeóuntil, finally, it was no more. The little girl looked up with love and admiration at the spot in the blue sky where the rainbow had just been. From that day on, the little girl was never the same. Instead of moping and fretting about her disability, she tried to smile and bring happiness to everyone around her. Thus, she found true happiness and satisfaction in life.
The rainbow was so beautiful because it forgot about itself and lived for the sake of others. Similarly, it is when we forget about ourselves and live for the happiness of others that we experience the real beauty of life.
The body will perish whether we work or sit idle. Therefore, instead of rusting away without doing anything for society, it is better to wear oneself away in the pursuit of good actions.
In Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Religion, (as Hinduism is called), there is the following mantra: “Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu”, meaning “May all the worlds be happy.”
According to the scriptures of India, there is no difference between the Creator and creation, just as there is no difference between the ocean and its waves; the essence of both the ocean and the waves the are one and the same: it is water; gold and gold ornaments are the same because gold is the substance of the ornaments; and clay and the clay pot are ultimately one and the same because the component of the pot is clay. So there is no difference between the Creator or God, and the created, the world. Essentially they are one and the same ñ pure consciousness. So, we should learn to love everyone equally, because in essence we are all one, one Atman, one soul. Though externally everything looks different, internally all are manifestations of the absolute Self. God is not a limited individual, who sits alone up in the clouds on a golden throne. God is the pure Consciousness that dwells within everything. We need to understand this truth, and thereby learn to accept and to love everyone equally.
Just as the sun doesn’t need the light of a candle, God doesnít need anything from us. God is the giver of everything. We should move amongst the suffering people and serve them.
There are millions of refugees and destitute people in the world. Governments are trying to help such people in various ways, but the world needs far more people who are ready to work in a spirit of selflessness. At the hands of self-serving people, one million dollars becomes only 100,000 dollars by the time it reaches the people who should benefit from the funds. It is like pouring oil from one container into another and then another. After doing this many times, there is no oil left because some of it sticks to each container. But with those who are engaged in selfless service, it is quite different. Such people may receive only hundreds of thousands of dollars, but will deliver the equivalent of millions to people in need. This is because their motives are selfless; they simply desire to benefit society. Rather than take any pay for themselves, they donate it to those who are suffering.
If we have at least a little compassion in our hearts, we should commit ourselves to working overtime an extra half hour a day for the sake of those who are suffering ñ this is Amma’s request. Amma believes that in this way a solution for all the sorrow and poverty in the world will be revealed.
Today’s world needs people who express goodness in their words and deeds. If such noble role models set the example for their fellow beings, the darkness prevailing in today’s society will be dispelled, and the light of peace and non-violence will once again illumine this earth. Let us work together towards this goal.
May the tree of our life be firmly rooted in the soil of love Let good deeds be the leaves on that tree; May words of kindness form its flowers; May peace be its fruits. Let us grow and unfold as one family, united in love ñ that we may rejoice and celebrate our oneness in a world where peace and contentment prevail.
As Amma concludes Her words, She would also like to add that, in truth, nothing ends. Just like the period at the end of a sentence, there is only a short pause ó a pause before a new beginning on the path to peace. May divine Grace bless us with the strength to carry forth this message.
Addressing the parliament, Amma said, “The greatest tragedy in life is not death; the greatest tragedy takes place when our talents and capabilities are underutilized and allowed to rust while we are living. When we use the wealth obtained from nature, it diminishes; but when we use the wealth of our inner capabilities, it increases.” Barcelona, 13 July 2004
“Only in the depth of pure silence can we hear God’s voice.”
“God is compassion. He is waiting at the door of every heart. He is an uninvited guest everywhere, because whether you call Him or not, He is there. Whether you are a believer or a nonbeliever, He is within you uninvited. Behind every form, behind everything, God is hiding. He beautifies things and makes them what they are. He is the hidden formula of life. But He won’t reveal Himself to you. You won’t feel Him unless you call Him. Prayer is the invitation. You must invoke Him through prayer and meditation. Chanting, singing and repeating the mantra are invitations, asking God to reveal Himself.”
“God is not confined to a particular body or place. There is not even an atom of space where He is not. Do not think that Amma is only in Vallickavu and is only this body. When you pray sincerely thinking of Amma definitely that vibration will reach Amma and reflect on Her mind. Your prayers and your pure and innocent sankalpa will bring Amma to you. Then you will feel Amma’s presence and peace.”
“Just give your mind to God; take refuge in Him, and you won’t lack anything in life. You will be given whatever you need. Your problems will be solved, in some way, and you will find peace. Those who pray to God and meditate on Him sincerely will not feel a shortage of anything that is essential. That is God’s resolve. It is Amma’s own experience. If nothing else, chant the Lalita Sahasranama (1,000 Names of the Divine Mother) daily with love and devotion. Then you won’t lack anything.”
What is Real Prayer?
“A real prayer will never contain any suggestions, instructions or demands. The sincere devotee will simply say, ‘O Lord, I do not know what is good or what is bad for me. I am nobody, nothing. You know everything. I know whatever you do must be for the best; therefore, do as you wish.’ In real prayer you bow down, surrender and declare your helplessness to the Lord.”
“To remember God, you have to forget. To be really focused on God is to be fully and absolutely in the present moment, forgetting the past and the future. That alone is real prayer.”
How Should We Pray?
“Having closed the door, one should imagine that one’s beloved deity is standing everywhere in the room. Then one should pray thus, ‘O Lord, are You not seeing me? O God, please take me on Your lap. I am Your child. I have no one but You as my refuge. Do not abandon me but always dwell in my heart.’ ”
“Contemplate on God as your creator, protector and the final abode to where you will return. Try to feel God with your heart; try to feel God’s presence, grace, compassion and love. Open your heart and pray, ‘O Lord, my creator, protector, and final resting place, guide me to Your light and love. Fill my heart with Your presence. I’ve been told that I am Your child, but I am totally ignorant of my existence in You. My most beloved Lord, I do not know how to worship You, or how to please You or meditate on Your form. I have not studied the scriptures; I know not how to glorify You. O Compassionate One, show me the right path so that I can return to my real abode which is nothing but You.’ ”
“Night is the best time to pray. Nature is quiet. No one will disturb you.”
“No matter who causes you grief, take your complaints to the puja room where your real friend is. Go to the puja room and complain, ‘Why did You let him treat me like that? Weren’t You with me?’ Open your heart and tell God everything. Then it becomes a satsang.”
“Children, try to pray until your heart melts and flows down as tears. It is said that the water of the Ganges purifies whoever takes a dip it. The tears that fill the eyes while one is remembering God have tremendous power to purify one’s mind. These tears are more powerful than meditation. Such tears are verily the Ganges.”
What Should We Pray For?
“A true devotee realises that his Lord is within and without, that He is all-knowing and all-powerful — omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. Understanding this, the devotee simply tries to express his total helplessness to the Lord and accepts Him as the sole protector and guide. In such sincere and open-hearted prayer, the devotee confesses the uselessness and the burden of his ego. Why should one keep a useless thing? Therefore, he prays to the Lord to remove it, to destroy it. This kind of prayer is real meditation, and it will definitely take one to the goal.”
“Praying for the fulfilment of petty desires is being stuck in your mind and all its attachments and aversions. Not only that, it is adding more to the existing vasanas. New worlds are created. Along with that, you lengthen the chain of your anger, lust, greed, jealously, delusion and all other negative traits. Each desire brings with it those negative emotions. Unfulfilled desires result in anger.”
“Pray for a contented mind in all circumstances. Prayer becomes genuine only when you pray for a peaceful and contented mind, no matter what you get.”
Remember God in Happiness and Sorrow
“Children, now that you are happy and joyful, do not forget God. Remember God and pray to God even in times of happiness. Usually people remember God and pray only when they are in pain, as if God were only a painkiller. Do not be that way. Let prayer and remembrance of God become part of your daily life. Amma is with you.”
“Nowadays, people pray to God only during times of distress. If you pray to God in times of both happiness and sadness, you will no longer have to experience any suffering. Even if some suffering should come to you, it won’t appear as suffering. God will look after you. If you can pray to Him with an open heart and shed a few tears out of love for Him, then you are saved.”
The Power of Group Prayer
“Group chanting and prayer is very powerful. It can change anything. The lost harmony of the human mind can be restored only through a selfless attitude supported by prayer, meditation and chanting of mantras.”
Crying to God
“Children, pray and shed tears as you think of God. That is the greatest sadhana. No other sadhana will give you the bliss of divine love as effectively as sincere prayer.”
“If you can’t cry at first, say the words again and again and make yourself cry. A child will pester his mother to make her buy what he wants. He’ll keep following her around and he won’t stop crying until he has the desired object in his hand. We have to pester the Divine Mother like that. We have to sit there and cry. Don’t give Her a moment of peace! We should cry out, ‘Show yourself to me! Show yourself!’ When you say that you can’t cry, it means that you have no real yearning. Anyone will cry when that longing comes to them. If you can’t cry, make yourself cry, even if it takes some effort.”
“Say that you are hungry but you don’t have any food or money. You will go somewhere or do something to get food, won’t you? Cry out to the Divine Mother and say, ‘Why aren’t you giving me tears?’ Ask Her, ‘Why don’t you make me cry? Does it mean that you don’t love me? How can I live if you don’t love me?’ Then She will give you strength, and you will be able to cry. Children, that is what Amma used to do. You can do the same.”
“Such tears are not tears of sorrow. They are a form of inner bliss. Those tears will flow when the jivatman (individual soul) merges with the Paramatman (Supreme Self). Our tears mark a moment of oneness with God. Those who are watching us may interpret it as sorrow. For us, however, it is bliss.”
“The beauty and charm of selfless love and service should not die away from the face of this earth. The world should know that a life of dedication is possible, that a life inspired by love and service to humanity is possible.”
“Behind all great and unforgettable events is the heart. Love and a selfless attitude underlie all truly great deeds. Behind any good cause, you will find somebody who has renounced everything and dedicated his or her life to it.”
“Children, it is doubt and fear that has torn us away from true joy and immortality. However, that lost, forgotten joy can be regained if we just make the effort to be selfless. Immortality, which is our true state, can be rediscovered through the attitude of selfless love and selfless action. ”
“Do your work and perform your duties with all your heart. Try to work selflessly with love. Pour yourself into whatever you do. Then you will feel and experience beauty and love in every field of work. Love and beauty are within you. Try to express them through your actions and you will definitely touch the very source of bliss.”
“Selfless service and repeating your mantra is enough for attaining the goal. If these are lacking, however much penance you do, you will not be able to attain the goal. If you do spiritual practices without performing selfless actions, it will be like building a house without any doors, or a house that doesn’t have a path to enter. Be courageous. Do not be idle.”
Selfless Service is a form of Sadhana
“Service is also a form of sadhana. If you claim that you have attained perfection after doing sadhana sitting in a certain place, Amma will not accept that. Getting out into the world and doing service is very much a part of sadhana. If we want to eliminate the enemies that lurk in the innermost depths of the heart, we have to serve the world. Only then will we be able to tell how effective our meditation has been. Only when someone gets angry with us, will we know whether we still have anger in us.”
“Service should be seen as sadhana, and should be an offering to God. Then, if someone opposes us, we may feel some slight hostility, but we can get rid of it through contemplation. “Who in him was the object of my anger? Didn’t I get angry at him because I took myself to be the body? What have I learned from the scriptures? Which world (spiritual or material) am I travelling to? How could I feel any ill-will towards that person after declaring that I am not the body or the mind, but the Atman (Self)?’ We should do this type of self-examination repeatedly. Eventually, we will stop feeling anger towards anyone. We will feel remorse, and that will lead us on the right path.”
Don’t miss a single opportunity to serve
“Children, do you know what expectations Amma has of you? You should be like the sun, not like a firefly. Fireflies make light merely for their own needs. Don’t be like that. Selflessness is all you should ever wish for. You should be the ones who raise their hands to help others, even at the moment of your death.”
“Children, don’t miss a single opportunity you get to serve others. Nobody should have to wait patiently to receive our help according to our own convenience.”
“Children, having a selfless attitude will uplift us. By helping others we are, in fact, helping ourselves. On the other hand, every time we do a selfish action, we are harming ourselves.”
Isn’t it their Karma to Suffer?
“If it is someone’s karma to suffer, consider it your karma to help him.”
Selflessness is the Goal
“Children, selflessness is the goal to be attained. Action coupled with meditation, japa, chanting, and other spiritual practices are the means to attain the state of selflessness. There should always be a balance between meditation and action. Action alone cannot take you to the goal. Action performed with an attitude of self-surrender and love is the right path. Action should be well-rooted in the essential principles of spirituality, otherwise it will not take you to the goal. Only action performed with the right attitude can take you to the state of selflessness.”
“A medical student is not a doctor. It takes years of concentrated study and preparations to become a good doctor. But during the period when he is still an intern, we might call him a doctor even though he hasn’t yet received his degree. Why? Because it is the goal he will reach at the end of his studies. Whatever he does is done as a preparation towards that goal. His aim is to be a doctor; he constantly remembers this and makes every effort to attain that final goal. He refrains from any action or situation that could create an obstacle on his path. Likewise, our final goal is selflessness, but we haven’t reached there yet. We do our duty and perform our actions with that state as our goal. Even though our actions at present are not selfless, we call them selfless, in the same way as we might call a medical intern a doctor. But this is still our period of training, and we have a long way to go before getting there. We should be fully intent on the goal; we should avoid any unnecessary thoughts, and whenever we perform an action, we should try to desist from being attached to the action or its fruit.”
“Action performed with a spirit of selflessness is far superior to action performed with selfish motives. A person who is inspired by the ideal of selflessness is less attached to the action and more dedicated to the ideal of selflessness. This attitude of selflessness has a beauty of its own. As you feel the bliss and joy of selfless action more and more, you enter deeper and deeper into a state of selflessness and meditation. So in the beginning, just feel inspired by that very ideal. Love the ideal; be inspired by it. In the beginning it is a conscious and deliberate attempt. As you feel more and more inspired by the ideal of selflessness, you start working from your heart. By the very performance of the work, a joy will spring forth from deep within you. Eventually it will become spontaneous.”
Do your work with sincerity
“Children, you must do your work with sincerity. Whether you consider it significant or insignificant, whether you like it or not, you should do your work with interest and love. When you work in this way, when love begins to flow into all that you do, your work becomes sadhana.”
“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.”
“If you can, clean some dirty public place without anybody’s insistence. Do it just out of concern for others. That action becomes a beautiful piece of work. Your pure attitude beautifies the work. An unknown feeling of joy springs forth within you as a result of doing it.”
Selfless Service and Meditation
“Along with doing selfless action, one should also find enough time to contemplate, meditate and pray. As you try to perform selfless actions, friction and conflicts are bound to occur. It is inevitable for these things to come up, especially when you work in a group. Friction and conflict will sometimes cause your mind to be agitated. This, in turn, might cause your enthusiasm and vigour to diminish, and you may feel less inspired by the ideal of selflessness. Anger, hatred and thoughts of vengeance are bound to arise. In order to remove all such negative feelings and in order to keep yourself always in the right spirit, you must meditate, pray and contemplate. You should not let any thoughts block your spiritual growth. You should not have any ill feelings towards anyone.”
“Only action performed with an attitude of selflessness can help you to go deeper into meditation. And real meditation will happen only when you have become truly selfless, because it is selflessness that removes thoughts and takes you deep into the silence.”
“If a sadhak (spiritual aspirant) does not work, they are cheating the world and cheating God in the name of spirituality.”
Share what we have with others
“We should recognise those in need and help them. We should give to those who have lost their health and cannot work any longer, those who are handicapped, children who have been abandoned by their parents, those who are sick but don’t have the resources for treatment, those who are old and have no family to help them. That is our dharma (duty), and we should not expect anything in return for our help.”
“It is all right to give money to ashrams and other institutions that serve the world. They will not waste that money. Institutions like ashrams spend money on charitable projects; but even in this case, we ourselves should not give just to become famous for giving. We should see it as an opportunity to serve God. The merit from giving a gift will come to us, in any event. When we make a gift, only we should know about it. Isn’t there a saying that the left hand shouldn’t know what the right hand is doing?”
“We should share whatever we have with others, and we should try to contribute to the welfare of society in some way. It is through giving that we progress on the spiritual path. If we hoard our wealth, our spiritual development will be stunted, and slowly our lives will wither away. The blood that is pumped by the heart is circulated and distributed evenly throughout the whole body. What would happen if our circulation were to stop? We would collapse and die. Likewise, whatever we have should be circulated and shared. We shouldn’t hoard our wealth because then society becomes stagnant, and cannot grow as a whole. It is through selfless sharing that the flower of life becomes beautiful and fragrant.”
Serve without expectation
“We should serve others without any expectations whatsoever. When others throw thorns at us, we should be able to throw flowers back at them. When they give us poison, we should give them payasam (sweet rice pudding). This is the kind of mind we should have. The purpose of serving the world is to develop that sort of mind.”
What the world needs
“What the world needs are servants, not leaders. Everyone’s wish is to become a leader. We have enough leaders who are not real leaders. Let us become a real servant instead. That is the only way to become a real leader.”
“Though there are many paths, there are mainly only four: bhakti yoga (yoga of devotion), karma yoga (yoga of action), jnana yoga (yoga of knowledge) and raja yoga (yoga of controlling the mind and senses). The purpose of all yogas is control of the mind, which means thoughts. Whatever may be the path, attainment of the goal is possible only if the vasanas (habits) are attenuated. It cannot be said which path is best because each one is great and unique in its own way.”
“All paths lead to the same goal, and all paths incorporate devotion or love as essential to the practice.”
“All yogas aim at samatva bhava (attitude of equality). What is known as yoga is samatva. There is no God beyond that, whatever may be the path. That state should be attained.”
“Any spiritual path, whichever it may be, involves renunciation. Without practising renunciation, the desired benefit will not be obtained.”
“Whatever the path is, sadhana should be performed and should be known through experience.”
“The field that is the mind should be irrigated with the water of devotion, so that the seed of knowledge can be sown. Then we can harvest the crop of liberation.”
Q: Which Path Should I Follow?
“Which path to follow depends on the spiritual disposition one has inherited from the previous birth. This birth is a continuation of the previous one. Whatever path you follow, the mind should flow spontaneously towards it. Love is necessary. To approach a perfect master is another way to find your path.”
“You cannot simply adopt any path that you feel like. Each one will have a path, which they followed in the previous birth. Only if that path is followed will one progress in one’s practice.”
“Different people’s experiences cannot be the same. They can only happen according to each individual’s unique mental constitution, the path he follows, the amount of effort he or she puts forth, and the samskaras he or she has inherited from previous lives. What you experience now is not a beginning; it is a continuation of the past. Also, you must remember that the Guru gives only what is needed, and that whatever he gives is for your own good.”
Which is the Best Path for Westerners?
Question: “Amma, which path is the best for Westerners?”
Amma: “Whether it is in the East or in the West, one’s spiritual path can only be indicated according to one’s inherited spiritual disposition and mental constitution. One path cannot be announced in a public address as the one and only path for all. The advice given is particular to the individual. Each person is a patient with a different disease. Some people are in the beginning stages of a disease while others are in the middle stages. In addition, we find people with chronic diseases and still others who are half-cured. Therefore, the treatment for each person cannot be the same. The medicine will be different and the dosage will vary. But generally speaking, the path of devotion is the easiest and least complicated. While anybody can love, not all can do pranayama (breath control) or hatha yoga (yogic postures). Only certain people endowed with a certain mental and physical constitution can do these. But love has no prerequisites. Whoever has a heart can love, and everyone has a heart. To love is an innate tendency in human beings.
“The path of love, otherwise known as the path of devotion, is the best path for Western children. Of course, this is a general statement. In the West, society is such that people, even from early childhood, are intellectual and take an intellectual approach to everything. It is the product of their ‘modern’ education. They are fed with all kinds of factual information about the empirical world, and the emphasis is on science and technology. So their analytical minds are well developed, but their hearts are dry. In most cases, the hearts of people in the West remain underdeveloped and imperfect. The head is big, but the heart is shrivelled up and dry.
“The path of bhakti teaches love. First, you develop one-pointed love towards God. When that love becomes the centre of your life and as the devotional practices become more and more intense, your vision changes. You come to understand that God dwells as pure consciousness in all beings, including you. As this experience becomes stronger and stronger, the love in you also grows until, at last, you become That. The love within you expands and embraces the entire universe with all its beings. You become the personification of love. This love removes all dryness from you. This love is the best cure for all emotional blocks and for all negative feelings. Therefore, Amma thinks that the path of love is the best for Western seekers.”
Which is Superior, Bhakti or Karma Yoga?
Question: “Which is superior, bhakti or karma yoga?”
Amma: “We can’t really say that bhakti yoga and karma yoga differ from each other, because a true karma yogi is a real devotee, and a true devotee is a real karma yogi. Every action isn’t necessarily karma yoga. Only those actions performed selflessly, as an offering to God, can be called karma yoga. Neither does doing four circumambulations, raising your arms, and offering salutations to the deity qualify as bhakti. Our minds should dwell on God, and our every action should be a form of worship. We should see our beloved deity in everyone, and offer them our love and service. We should surrender to God with all our heart. Only then we can say we have bhakti. A true karma yogi keeps their mind on God while engaged in each action. We should have the attitude that everything is God. Then it is bhakti. On the other hand, if we think about other things while we are doing puja (ritual worship), then the puja cannot be considered bhakti yoga, because it is just an external action and not real worship. But even if our job is cleaning lavatories, if we chant the mantra while working, with the attitude that it is God’s work, then it is both bhakti yoga and karma yoga.”
Why does Amma place so much importance of the path of devotion?
“There are many reasons why we should consider the path of devotion the most suitable path for most people. First of all, it gives much contentment to the practitioner. A contented person will have enthusiasm and vigour. Such a person will be very optimistic and endowed with an adventurous mind. Their attitude is that life and everything that happens in life is a gift, and this gives them immense patience and strength. Unlike those who pursue other paths, such a one does not believe that happiness is a right to which he or she is entitled. As far as they are concerned, there are no rights, there are only gifts. This attitude helps them to accept everything as a gift, both good and bad, and also instils them with courage and faith. Such a person will have a loving and compassionate heart, a childlike innocence and a pleasing nature. Not wanting to injure anyone or hurt anybody’s feelings, he or she cannot harm anyone. They will also have the power to renounce comforts and pleasures for the happiness and peace of others. He or she will experience the same problems in life as everyone else, but he will have the mental ability and balance to remain calm and quiet when adversity arises. He or she practices acceptance, for such a one’s attitude is that life and everything that happens in life is a gift, not a right.
“Children, as far as Mother is concerned, the path of devotion is the best and the easiest since most people are predominately emotional in nature. Not only that, bhakti marga (path of devotion) has no complications like the other paths. There are no harmful techniques or complications involved in love. Simply love the Lord. Love is not aggressive; it is a constant flow. ”
“Jnana is intellectual knowledge while vijnana is transcending the intellect, negating even that as untrue, and affirming pure experience alone as the Supreme Truth.”
“It is hard to become established in jnana without devotion. With gravel alone we cannot build anything; we need to add cement as well, and make concrete. We cannot build the steps leading to God without adding the binding quality of love.”
Question: “Does Amma have the opinion that the different names and forms of gods and goddesses are real?”
Amma: “What Mother would like to say is that names and forms are needed for people like us with the kind of mental calibre that exists today. It will help our spiritual growth. Do not say that ours is the best path and all other paths are wrong. If a person’s choice is tea, have it, fine and good. Let those who do not like tea drink coffee, lemonade or plain water. Why should we bother our heads about people’s personal preferences? Why should we say that tea alone is good and all other drinks, bad? The purpose is to quench the thirst. Therefore, whether it is meditation on the Supreme with attributes or the Supreme without attributes, the goal is to attain perfect mental peace in any circumstance. Give up all such doubts about gods and goddesses and do your sadhana.
“Look children, Amma knows very well that all names and forms are limited and that God is nameless, formless and attributeless. Still, the sweet and blissful feeling that one gains from singing the glories of the Lord is an incomparable and inexpressible experience.
“All the names and forms, whatever they are, are only creations of the mind for one who has gone beyond the mind. But this is not the case for one who has not reached the state of perfection. He or she may say that all names and forms are unreal and that Brahman alone is true and real. However, if they have not experienced perfection, it is meaningless to go around declaring the unreality of forms.
“Everything is Brahman, that is right. But have you realised That? It is like a blind person saying that there is light everywhere. Why do you talk unnecessarily about some thing that you have no idea about at all? You constantly experience the world and its objects, but you talk about something which you have never experienced.
“Advaita (non-duality) is the state in which there is only One. It is the state in which you spontaneously see everyone as being the same as your own Self. It is not something you talk about; it is a state to be experienced.”
“When we worship Rama, Krishna or Christ, we adore the eternal ideals which manifest through Them. If they were mere individuals, nobody would have worshipped Them. When they are worshipped, a true seeker is not adoring a limited individual but the same all-pervading cosmic intelligence which you believe is the only Truth.
“For a person who has gone beyond maya (transitory world of names and forms), everything is Brahman since he or she constantly experiences It. But for a person who lives in maya it is not so. He or she has everything around them. Thus, he or she must put forth a deliberate attempt to come out of it. He or she should try to convince themselves that the world and the pleasure-giving objects are flickering and dreamlike.”
Comment: “There is no Rama or Krishna”
Amma: “Everyone ultimately reaches the same place, but you need an upadhi (limiting factor) for doing sadhana. How can you say there is no Rama or Krishna? Even if you don’t see Ochira on a map of India, can you say there is no place called Ochira? Our sense of Advaita is just limited to our words. It is not possible to bring it into our experience without devotion.”
Tantric Sadhana is the most misunderstood path
“Amma would say that tantric sadhana is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted paths. In the name of tantric sadhana, people start drinking, engaging in sex and other licentious and irresponsible behaviour. What is involved in tantric worship is an offering. The fact is, the principle behind the worship is what is to be offered. This offering is not external; it is internal. You offer your individuality, or your ego, to the Divine. Furthermore, the references to sexual union in the worship are not to be taken as something to be done by a male person and a female person. It is the final union, the union of the jivatman (individual self) and the Paramatman (the Supreme Self). It is symbolic. It symbolises the union or the integration of the feminine and masculine qualities, the union of Purusha and Prakriti, the merging of the mind into the supreme reality. It is the attainment of a perfect balance between the inner and out natures of the sadhak. It is the experiencing of and becoming established in all-pervasiveness, which ensues from the union of Shiva and Shakti.”
7 July 2004 — Amrita University, Ettimidai
A state-of-the-art E-learning Studio with 6 simultaneous synchronous LCD panels was launched at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham (Amrita University) Ettimadai campus on 7 July, 2004 by Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of the Indian IT major, Infosys Technologies. Mr. Bhaskar Narayan, Director, Satellite Communications, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was the distinguished guest of honour for the function.
This studio and e-classroom is the front-end of the high bandwidth satellite network, which has made Amrita University a fully interactive, multimedia capable, multi-disciplinary virtual university – the first of its kind in the nation. It will enable interactive class room sessions across all 4 campuses of the University.
The teacher is empowered with the unique capability of performing two-way live audio-video interaction. The facility is equipped with 130 seats for classroom instruction, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week using the dedicated satellite link with a bandwidth of 1.5 Mbps. The e-classroom is ergonomically designed so as to enhance the teaching and learning process and give teachers and students a feel of a normal class room session. This heralds a new vista in the delivery of education and is a model for educational institutions across the country.
Amrita University has plans of immediately offering various courses between campuses. Courses on cutting-edge technology areas like Mobile and Wireless communication, Information Security, VLSI using Cadence tools, Bioinformatics etc.
With ISRO, Amrita University plans to start Village Resource Centers for the transformation of rural communities.
28 -29 June 2004 Santa Fe
“This is the highpoint of Amma’s tour. It’s all down hill from here,” joked one of Amma’s devotees from Santa Fe. He was referring to the fact that, at 7,000 feet above sea level, Amma’s programmes at Her New Mexico ashram are the most physically elevated of Her U.S. Tour.
The two days Amma spent at the ashram were blissful ones—both for the devotees and for the land. The ashram is located in one of the most arid areas of the United States and, as is typical in the summer, Sante Fe was undergoing a severe drought. Many of the shrubs around the ashram property were starting to die from lack of water and ground wells were running very low. But, as always, Amma’s presence seemed to bring the rain. Each day Amma was in Santa Fe, it poured down. “It always happens in Santa Fe. After a long drought it rains when Amma arrives,” says Steve, a resident of the ashram.
As New Mexico is home to a great number of people who speak Spanish, each night Amma sang bhajans in that language, including “Ishwar Tumhi” and “Anantamami.” She also sang in English and in Hebrew. When one man from Lebanon came for Amma’s darshan, She stopped everything and, with him laying across Her lap, sang “Ishwar Tumhi” in Arabic in its entirety. The man seemed unable to believe what was happening to him and, by the time Amma finished, nearly five minutes later, he was crying uncontrollably.
As in India, extended Latin American families are very close and, more than once, Amma gave darshan to groups of as many as 16 people.
Another extended family came to see Amma in New Mexico as well—the Tewa Dancers, Native American Pueblo Indians who represented the indigenous people of North America during Amritavarsham50. The Tewa Dancers came to offer another dance performance for Amma, but Amma had a surprise in store for them—during Her bhajans on the night they were present, She sang “Ishwar Tumhi” in their own native Tewa tongue. The applause following Amma’s song was far louder than could have come from the group of 10 Tewa speakers there.
Later on, the Tewa Dancers performed several traditional dances, including the Deer Dance, which they explained could not be performed in India because they could not fit the antlers on the plane. Later on Devi Bhava, Amma married two of the dancers, who were dressed in the traditional Tewa marriage dress.
30 – 2 July 2004, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Although Albuquerque is 2,000 feet below Santa Fe, Amma’s programmes there seemed even more elevated than the ones at the ashram, as Amma’s children were given a double blessing—hearing Amma sing Sri Adi Shankaracharya’s “Mahishasura Mardini” on July 1st and being able to celebrate Guru Purnima in the physical presence of their Guru on the 2nd.
Rumors had been spreading in Los Angeles that Amma would soon sing Shankara’s stottram, but it did not materialise in L.A.. But then at the end of bhajans on the first night of the Albuquerque retreat, devotees were thrilled to hear Amma ecstatically calling out, “Jay jaya he mahishasura mardini ramya kapardini shailasute!” over and over again. Each time one thought the ancient chant in praise of Devi was coming to an end, Amma would keep it going, chanting on and on at a faster and faster tempo. By its end everyone was all but out of breath.
As Amma ended darshan on the 2nd, Swami Amritaswarupananda delivered a Guru Purnima message, saying how, for a true disciple, worship of the Guru’s feet is not a once-a-year-affair, but his or her entire life. Upon darshan’s conclusion, Amma delivered a Guru Purnima message to Her children, leading them in several minutes of chanting the peace mantra “Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu”. Amma asked everyone to imagine their prayers as spreading out to cover the entire world and, in particular, asked them to think of all of Her children unable to be in Her physical presence at that hollowed moment.
Swamiji then performed Amma’s padapuja, leading the chanting of Amma’s 108 names. Upon the puja’s conclusion, he and all of Amma’s sannyasins garlanded Amma until She was practically buried in flowers. Guru Stottram and “Satguruve Jaya” were also sung. Then Amma distributed payassam to all the devotees. It was past 3:30 when She finally left.
It was Guru Purnima and Amma had spent the whole day—as She does every day—giving everything to Her children. In all, some devotees had Amma’s prasad four times that day: the dinner Amma served at the retreat, a Hershey’s Kiss from their darshan, Amma’s payassam and then the mahaprasad of Amma’s padapuja.
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- God is the innocent and sincere smile that issues forth from within, and that is the greatest gift that we can give the world. #Amma
- Amma has nothing of Her own. If Her children r happy Amma is happy, if they r unhappy Amma is unhappy. But she is neither of these. #Amma
- An opportunity to serve others is priceless; never waste it. #Amma
- No matter how expensive a pen might be, if we do not use it, its ink will dry up; it will become useless. Our life shouldn’t be like that.
- Many people die unexpectedly from accidents and diseases. Wouldn’t it be better to breathe our last while living a life of service?
- If we have even a trace of spiritual affinity in us, we can grow by holding onto it. Never think 'I am not capable of anything'. #Amma