Dance in the bliss of the remembrance of the lord

28 August 2004, Amritapuri
Several thousand devotees came to Amritapuri for the traditional Onam festival. Amma sang and danced, gave darshan and served prasad lunch to more than 7000 people.

For ten days preceding the festival, students of Amrita Institutions who reside at the ashram made large flower mandalas at the base of the steps to Amma’s room. This morning, a mandala depicting the Amritavarsham50 logo was created—depicting Amma embracing the globe–next to a baskets of apples and bananas representing the harvest and a pot full of coins, representing prosperity.

A little after nine in the morning, Amma came down from Her room and blessed the mandala. After receiving a number of flower garlands, Amma made Her way to the auditorium, smiling brightly and holding out Her hands to for all to touch.

In Her satsang, Amma spoke of Onam as a fond remembrance of the days when human beings lived happily together, following the path of dharma. “Normally, in the rest of the year, human beings are always emitting the poison of hatred, anger and jealousy in the world. The Onam festival instills a sense of love, compassion and brotherhood and reduces the effect of the negative poison to a great extent. The story of King Mahabali conveys the importance of surrender.”

Then Amma sang “He Giridara Gopala,” warming up the thousands of people who had filled the hall to capacity. Afterwards, Amma stood up and called on all Her children to forget themselves and dance in the bliss of remembrance of the Lord. Amma took the bells in her hand, raised them above her head and set the rhythm of the song. Everybody in the hall stood up and started clapping their hands above their head in time with Her.

When Amma started singing, “Narayana Narayana Jay Govinda Hare,” She closed Her eyes and it was clear that She was following Her own advice. The whole auditorium enthusiastically emulated Her, dancing, clapping, and singing more and more enthusiastically. Finally Amma bent down, touched the ground and sat down. The music stopped and there was silence as all Amma’s children meditated on Her, who sat immersed in the bliss of the Lord. The entire hall kept silent in this magic moment. It lasted several minutes. When She opened Her eyes, She stood and moved to Her peetham to begin giving darshan

After darshan She walked through the throngs of devotees, who lovingly parted to make way for Her, to the specially prepared seat in the back of the hall. Gracing all who came to see their Mother on Onam with a full serving of rice, curry, vegetables, sambar and pasayam, the most cherished prasad was Her blessing smile and loving gaze.

A rapidly spreading celebration

Amritapuri — Saturday, 28 August 2004

“What is it that is ancient and yet ever new?” Amma wanted to know. She was sitting on Her peetham before some 12,000 devotees, all of whom had come to celebrate Onam at Her ashram. Amma’s voice was casual, like that of a teacher posing questions to a group of small children, trying to trick them into learning something.

“Amma!” a few voices called out. But as true as it may have been, it was not the answer Amma wanted. The correct one came quickly enough though: “Love.”

“What is it that spreads faster than anything else?” Amma asked next.

“Chiri,” a man’s voice not far from the stage called out. She accepted it: “Yes, a smile.”

Amma then went on to give a satsang that seemed to cover every aspect of life: the importance of creating a spiritual foundation, how to keep the family in harmony, temple worship, education, the importance of protecting Nature, cultural degradation, the importance of cultivating good qualities, ways in which we can uplift the poor and suffering.

Speaking to all Her children from Kerala, Amma also spoke at length about Onam. “Onam is sweet like mother’s milk,” She said. “It is our own, in the same way our biological mother is our own. Onam and Malayalees are not two, they are one. The Onam festival imbibes so much of our culture. Joy, brotherhood, happiness, contentment, devotion, sharing, sacrifice and surrender to the Higher Self — there are so many lessons in Onam we need to imbibe and apply to our lives.”

“Pookalam [Onam flower decorations] are our expression of gratitude and devotion to the Lord. Really we have to arrange these pookalam inside our hearts,” Amma said. “When each heart fills with love and compassion, it becomes the Lord’s most favourite Pookalam.”

Explaining the principles behind the Onam story of Mahabali, Amma reminded the devotees, “Practicing dharma with awareness and the grace of the Lord — only when these two come together is life complete.”

After leading everyone through a meditation and prayers for peace, Amma told everyone to stand up, to raise their arms above their heads, smile and clap their hands.

Actually, there was no need for Amma to tell everyone to smile. When Amma dances, the smiles just come. It is like the raasa-leela of Krishna and the Gopis — 12,000 people may be there, but for those focused on the bounce of Amma’s step and the gentle sway of Her sari that number is reduced to one.

The clapping hands set the rhythm and then the harmonium began to play: bolo bolo gokula bala gopala jai gopala.bolo bolo nanda-kumara gopala jai gopala.

As She moved, Amma kept time with Her cymbals. You could hear their pristine chime ring out across the hall. Her eyes were closed and She looked very much in bliss as She danced in a simple way.

At one point the bhajan finished, but Amma did not. She continued to move to the uncovered beat kept only by the clapping of hands and Her small cymbals. Swamiji then restarted the song and kept it going until Amma Herself stopped and sat down in meditation.

So profound are the moments when Amma moves from dancing to meditation. One second Her body is so graceful and flowing, the next it is like a rock. The devotees too are transformed — 12,000 people pounding out a beat are instantly rendered silent. The only thing left moving are the fan-stirred folds of Amma’s sari. In the juxtaposition of the two extremes, there is a teaching.

Amma sat in the depth of that silence for several minutes. She then stood up and began giving darshan. After a few hours, She stood up once again, walked to the back of the hall and began serving everyone the traditional Onam meal.

Twelve thousand people —  families of devotees, students from Amma’s schools, ashramites, orphans. Amma served 12,000 people their Onam meal, a contagious smile spreading from to Her to each one.

— Kannadi

She had become one with them

Amritapuri — Tuesday, 24 August 2004

When you visit Amma’s orphanage at Parippally and speak about Amma with the children who live there, they never fail to mention one thing: Amma’s dancing. On holidays, such as Onam and Amma’s birthday, all 500 or so Parippally children come to Amritapuri — to listen to Amma’s bhajans, to have Her darshan and, on two occasion in the past, to dance with Her.

The last time Amma danced with the Parippally orphans was in 1999. It was the day after Amma’s birthday, and despite just having given darshan to 25,000 people, Amma called all the children up to the roof of the flats to talk, sing and joke around. Many of the children who stay at Parippally come from the tribal regions of North Kerala and have grown up doing traditional group dances. Out of the blue Amma asked some of the girls to dance for Her. but it wasn’t long before Amma Herself joined in.

To this day, the Parippally orphans talk of that night up on the rooftop—even the ones who weren’t there. Among them, it’s become like a legend. For some a beautiful memory, for others a dream of what one day could be.

This Tuesday, Amma looked out at the couple of thousand people assembled for the evening bhajans. The small faces of the Parippally children dotted the mass of devotees seated before Her. This is festival time in Kerala—Onam time, when everybody spends time with their families. The children had come Amma as they thought of Her as their mother. Amma’s heart went out to them, and She spoke over the microphone, asking everyone in the front to get up and make space for the children.

As the people seated in front moved to the sides, from all over the bhajan hall groups of children began to slowly rise. With smiles mixed with excitement and shyness, they made their way to the front and sat before Amma. Throughout the rest of the bhajans, their voice rang out so strong and clear.
Amma dancing with the children of the orphanage

When the bhajans ended, Amma walked back to Her room followed by all the children, and there, by the stairs, She fed bananas and payasam to the ashram elephant as usual. But when She finished She suddenly turned to the Parippally kids and asked, “What song are you going to sing?”

Of course, they all knew what this meant, and a group of girls immediately began singing the energetic call and response of one of their tribal songs and demonstrating the corresponding dance for Amma. Amma learned the moves in a matter of seconds. Soon She was stepping in the circle to the rhythm and clapping Her hands high and low in synch with the young girls. To anyone watching, it was obvious: She had become one with them. After the girls had finished, it was the boys’ turn. Amma asked them to show a different dance and, once again, it took Her no time at all to fall in step. It went on like this for three or four songs, all with different moves and tunes.

If Amma hadn’t been wearing a white sari, you would have thought Her to be just another one of the tribal kids, someone that had known the dances Her whole life. Her movements were so graceful, so full of beauty. But more than that was Her enthusiasm — Her smile, Her laugh. They were just like those of the children.

Later, when asked about the dance, Amma said, “I did it just for them.”


Onam celebration at Parippally

20 August 2004 — Parippally, Kerala

For Malayalees all over the world, the coming of the fall month of Chingam brings with it sweet childhood memories—of time spent with family, of eating nice meals and, for many, of collecting flower petals with which to make colourful mandalas. All these are part of the month’s 10-day Onam celebrations, an important part of Kerala’s culture. The festival teaches lessons of brotherhood, happiness, contentment, devotion, sharing, sacrifice and surrender to the Higher Self.

This year, the Amrita Sanskrit Higher Secondary School in Parippally held its own Onam celebration. Among the school’s 2,300 students are the 500 or so residents of Amma’s Amrita Niketan orphanage, many of whom have had few chances to celebrate the holiday.

An area was roped off for the classes to compete in creating flower mandalas, or pookkalams, as they are called in Malayalam. The youngest students were assisted by their teachers, while the older ones had come with designs in mind. The boys created the geometric outline of the designs in the sand using compasses made of pencils and string. Then all the students in the group filled in the sections with various colours and textures of flower petals. The offerings of the pookalams were completed with the burning of oil lamps and incense sticks.

Pookalams are made outside the doors of homes, offices and temples to welcome King Maha Bali on his 10-day visit from the underworld to his former kingdom of Kerala.

Observing the competition one could notice the interpersonal skills needed to complete the design. There was a lot of discussion and dispute around the shape and colours of the pookalams. Agreement had to be reached and then fast and efficient teamwork was required to finish within the allotted time. The result was a beautiful creation achieved from the contributions of all the participants. Watching the children, one could see them honing skills that would serve them well in any endeavour.

After the pookkalams were finished, the students performed thiruvathira, a traditional Onam dance, and then the chief figure of Onam, King Maha Bali, portrayed by one of the students, arrived from the underworld to deliver an inspiring speech. The other students then sang bhajans, playing violins and guitars and tabla.

With the next day came the Onam vacation. Many of the orphans were taken to caregivers in their native villages, but 200 others came to Amritapuri to spend time the rest of the holidays with Amma.


Watch out for those green lights

Amritapuri — Friday, 20 August 2004

Today Amma came to give satsang to all the ashramites. One of the first questions put to Her was by a new visitor to the ashram. “Amma,” he said, “When I first came to the ashram I had a wonderful experience. I felt my aajnja chakra [third eye] open up and I attained a divine consciousness. But after five and a half days, the experience left me, and now I am very depressed. What happened?”

Amma began by telling the man that for those five and a half days he had “pushed the button” on the torch [flashlight], and therefore he’d seen “the light.” But whatever he had been doing he must have stopped and thus his experience ended. But that didn’t matter, Amma said, seeing the path before him illumined he can now continue forward inspired and guided by what he had seen.

Such experiences may come, Amma said, but don’t give them too much importance.  Consider them something to inspire you to persevere in your spiritual practices. We should let such experiences come and also let them go. If we don’t let them go, we may find ourselves stuck on them.

Amma said we may experience many things along the path to realisation. Perhaps we will see a blue light or a golden light, etc. But we are not here to chase such experiences.

Amma then told a story about a man who began seeing a green light in his mind while meditating. He became so obsessed with the light that he soon started seeing green lights everywhere he looked. Then one day while driving his car through an intersection, he met with a bad accident because he thought even the red light was green.

Amma concluded be saying that such experiences are not the way to gauge our spiritual progress. This can only be judged by checking our ability to face all situations with equanimity of mind and our ability to always be loving and peaceful towards others.



Give the body, live after your death

Amritapuri — Tuesday, 17 August 2004

On this meditation day, Amma was asked a question about the posthumous donation of organs to scientists and hospitals. “Does it effect the soul, whether the body is buried, cremated or donated?” the questioner wanted to know.


Amma replied that what happens to a body after its death only affects that body, not the Atman [the Self], which is eternal. It is better to donate the body’s parts after it dies, She said. If a body is burned, it becomes ash. If it is buried, it becomes food for worms. If you sign it up for posthumous donation, it can give sight or save a life.

Amma told everyone that they should think of how happy the patient who receives the organs will be when their life is saved by a new heart, a new liver or a new kidney. She asked everyone to imagine the joy of the blind person who is finally able to see do to someone’s donated eyes. How happy will his family be? She asked, mentioning that they may even be rescued from a life of destitution,

Amma said that people who donate their organs gain great punya [merit], so it is not only helpful to the receiver but also to the soul of the donor. She told of how recently at AIMS, the Ashram’s super-specialty hospital in Cochin, the doctors were able to use nearly every donated organ of a man to save others.

Then Amma told a story about a doctor whose father died. The doctor removed all his father’s organs before the body was cremated. He did it, Amma said, because he had the awareness — the awareness of what the body is, what it does and the potential of its parts after death.

You are not the body, Amma reminded everyone, and besides the donation is after your death. What do you care what is done with the body once it is dead?

Once again, Amma was reminding Her disciples that they have taken upon themselves a life of renunciation, a life of a sacrifice, a life of living for others. Our bondage begins with the false notion that we are the body. If we cannot reject the body even upon its death, then where are we?


Jhilam jhilam chilankakal

Amritapuri — Tuesday, 17 August 2004

This Tuesday, one of the mothers living in the Ashram performed padapuja to Amma. After washing Amma’s feet with the traditional offerings, She clasped a pair of gold chilankas around Amma’s ankles. Chilankas are belled anklets that ring lightly as the person wearing them takes each step.

Normally Amma will remove any ornaments offered to Her by devotees before She rises from Her peetham, but this devotee pleaded with Amma to wear the chilankas as She walked up the stairs and down the hall to Her room.

Amma conceded.

Everyone in the hall stood silently as Amma rose from Her chair and then walked towards Her room. The only sound that remained in the temple was the soft music issuing forth from Amma’s jewelled ankles.

When Amma reached the final passageway to Her room, She stopped, turned around and, smiling like a happy little girl, did a quick little dance while singing a simple little tune.


Independence Day 2004

Independence day was celebrated in Amritapuri with Amma on 15 August 2004

Students of Amrita University (Amritapuri campus) celebrate India’s 57th Independence Day at the Ashram, paying their tribute and respect to this great land of Bharat.

Lamps were lit along India’s border and flowers marked Her seven sacred rivers. The students danced, sang patriotic songs and earlier had performed seva (selfless service) by cleaning a local government hospital.

Bharat is not just a handful of sand. It is the Mother. Just as a mother feeds her child the milk from her breast, Bharat nourishes her children with the milk of Sanatana Dharma, her culture.


AYUDH celebrates India’s Independence

15 August 2004 — Amritapuri

“Bharat is the spiritual centre of the world, its spiritual heart,” said Swami Jnanamritananda on the evening of the 57th anniversary of India’s independence. “Bharat is not just a handful of sand. It is the Mother. Just as a mother feeds her child from her breast, so too this Mother Land nourishes her children through her culture.”

Four the third year in a row, AYUDDH, the youth wing of Mata Amritanandamayi Math celebrated India’s Independence Day by conducting Matrupujas throughout Kerala and at its main centres throughout the country. For Matrupuja, or “worship of the Mother,” children perform padapuja [worship of the feet] to their mothers, as well as participate in the worshipping of sands gathered from holy sites throughout India—including Amma’s Amritapuri Ashram.

Explaining the essence of Matrupuja, Jnanamritananda Swami said, “Even if a child gives hundreds of thousands of rupees to his mother, it will never equal what the mother has given to that child. A child can only pay his mother back by prostrating at her feet and washing them with tears of love.

“Today, we find more and more children putting their parents into old-age homes. It is our tradition that children should see their parents as their gods. The mother gives birth, so she should be respected.

“We have the children perform this puja so that we can maintain the harmony in the family. If the family has harmony, so will the society. If the society has harmony, so will the nation. If the nation does, so will the world.”

For the last one and a half hours of Amma’s Independence Day darshan, students from the Amritapuri campus of Amrita University performed a dance to “Mahishasura Mardini,’ and created a map of India on the darshan hall floor with small oil lamps defining its borders and lines of flower petals forming its seven sacred rivers. They also participated in the cleaning of a near bye government hospital at Amma’s suggestion.