Ashram supplies villagers with free clothing and blankets

28 December 2004 — Amrita University, Amritapuri Campus

Although Amritapuri was also hit by the flood, the ashramites are doing what they can to help the villagers, many of whom have lost all their clothes and food when their huts were swept away by the incoming water.

Recently devotees from Dubai had donated a large amount of clothes to be used in the Ashram’s clothing-distribution programme. There were also a lot of shirts, saris and dhotis from the Ashram Store and the Flea Market as well. Despite possible danger from further flooding, Amma’s disciples went across the river to collect such supplies in order to give them to the villagers—the majority of whom now only owned what was on their backs.

Ashram sheets were used for the sick and injured in the hospitals and to cover the evacuees as they slept in the night. The ashramites even gave their straw mats for the villagers to sleep upon.

“These people have nothing,” said one brahmachari. “If our only hearts go out to them, it is not enough. We have to give them whatever we can. I don’t consider it a sacrifice. I consider it my duty, an opportunity to serve.”


Amma visits relief camps

27 December, 8:20 PM

The danger is over. But the damage has been done. While no one at the Ashram was injured, the villagers have suffered great losses. Family members are dead and missing. Many of their houses and huts have simply been washed away.

Amma visited the relief camps and consoled the evacuees and the families of the deceased.

* Amma visited the relief camps, consoling the evacuees.
* The government has ordered the penninsula evacuated for the next 48 hours.
* Ashram is housing some 3,000 evacuees at the Ayurveda School and Engineering College.
* Food, sleeping mats, water, milk and food are being provided to all by the Ashram.
* The Ashram is also supplying food to all nine relief centres set up in schools by the government.
* Six AIMS ambulances with 10 doctor led medical teams are visiting the relief centres every two hours.
* The Ashramites are preparing food for more than 10,000 people, three times a day.
* The Ashram is also actively involved in relief operations in Cochin (Vaippin), Trivandrum, Chennai and Pondicherry. Amma has told all the Ashram branches throughout South India to help in the relief efforts.

* 27 December, 12:30 AM
* The elephants and the cows have been moved further inland, across the backwaters.
* Amma also crossed the backwaters to inquire about the welfare of all those who are staying on the University campus. She is also spending the night there.

Amma cries with them

27 December 2004–Amritapuri

The danger is over. But the damage has been done. While no one at the Ashram was injured, the villagers have suffered great losses. Family members are dead and missing. Many of their houses and huts have simply been washed away. The government has evacuated the area, asking everyone stay on the other side of the backwaters for the next 48 hours. Under Amma’s instructions, relief camps have been set up at both the Amrita University School of Engineering and at the new Ayurveda School. More than 3,000 evacuees are being accommodated there.

Five villagers in the neighbourhood were killed; at least 150 in Kollam District. More bodies are being discovered every hour. When one considers that there were more people in the Ashram–20,000 at the time–than in the entire Allappad Village it shares the peninsula with, it can only be grace that none of them were hurt.

The ashramites are also homeless for the time being, having taken with them only the clothes on their backs. But they are making sure the villagers are all right–that they have straw mats to sleep on, that they have food three times a day, that they have water and milk. In the middle of the night, Amma even asked them to give up the mats they were sleeping on for the use of the villagers.
The government has set up relief centres in nine of the area’s schools, and it is Amma’s Ashram that is providing those centres with food and other necessities like clothes and blankets.

Six ambulances from the Ashram’s AIMS Hospital, with medical teams lead by 10 doctors are making regular rounds. They are visiting each camp every two hours, 24 hours a day.

In all, the Ashram is preparing food for 10,000 people, three times a day. The brahmacharis are cooking the rice, uppama and curries, and the brahmacharinis and many of the devotees from around the world are busy chopping vegetables. The food is then being carried in Ashram trucks to the relief centres. The brahmacharis are also delivering sacks of uncooked rice for distribution, as many people’s food supplies have been washed away.

All along, it has been Amma Herself that has been directing the relief efforts. As soon as the water rose, Amma stopped giving darshan, wrapped Herself in a yellow shawl and began giving instructions from the temple balcony. She then came down into the water and started personally seeing that everyone was getting to safety.

At one point, brahmacharies rescued some 50 people who were stranded on top of a house and could not swim. They extended a plank from the Ashram kitchen to their roof and helped them across.

Amma made sure that everyone in each family was together before sending them across the river in the boats. She was concerned that if they did not cross as families that they would get separated and not know where the rest of their loved ones were or if they were ok.

First the villagers were sent across, then the devotees and then the ashramites. The elephants and cows were sent around dusk via the Beach Road Bridge. Amma was the last person to leave the Ashram. She only left because She knew that if She did not leave, some of the disciples also would not.

When Amma reached the other side of the backwaters, it was past midnight. She then started further organising relief work, telling groups of brahmacharis where to go and what to bring in order to take care of the people.

This morning Amma visited the relief camps set up by the Ashram, consoling all the people there and inquiring about their homes and families. She then visited the families of the deceased.

The Ashram is also actively involved in relief operations in Cochin (Vaippin), Trivandrum, Chennai and Pondicherry. Amma has told all the Ashram branches throughout South India to help in the relief efforts.

Amma has not slept or even water since the beginning of the tragedy. When someone asked Amma to drink some water, She simply said, “How can I take when so many people have died.”


A dance of joy on a silent night

24 December 2004 — Amritapuri

To celebrate Christmas, Amma’s Western children sang carols, performed classical music, put on a play about Jesus’ life and did two dances—one involving fire and one inspiring Amma Herself to raise to Her feet. The evening didn’t end until past 1:00 a.m. Christmas morning, with Amma distributing chocolate-cake prasad to one and all.

Amma came to the bhajan hall around 10 p.m. and sat in a chair that had been arranged for Her in the middle of all the devotees—which included more than 900 from the West.

The first performance was by a young girl from Alicante, Spain, who sang Christmas carols in the Basque language. Her voice—simple and beautiful—captured everyone’s heart.

Next, a man from Paris and an ashramite from Holland performed an operatic duet and an African American spiritual. Then, the man showed his mastery of the piano with two Western classical pieces, including one by Rachmaninoff.

Third was a play depicting four scenes from Jesus’ life. It began with his birth in the manger (which found a shepherd leading one of the ashram calves and three wise men offer prostrations—one from Japan, one from Italy and one from Punjab.) Other scenes included Jesus stopping the stoning of the adulteress with his immortal words,”Let he who is without sin caste the first stone,” and his washing of his 12 disciples feet during the Last Supper.

The next offering to Amma was by a young German lady—a fire-dancer! The lights were dimmed, the music was turned up and the young woman moved about in a fluid, meditative fashion, juggling burning sticks and skipping a flaming rope. Everyone seemed spellbound.

A different type of dance ended the evening; this one put on by Amma’s daughters from all over the West. Using a quotation from the speech Amma delivered at the 2004 Parliament of World’s Religions, they had composed a song with verses in Spanish, English, German, French and Italian. The dance itself was based on the sign language expressions of the words.

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 so that we may rejoice and celebrate our oneness in a world where peace and contentment prevail.

As the song ended, it really picked up momentum, and soon many in the hall stood up, turned to face Amma and started clapping and dancing around Her. Finally, Amma Herself rose to Her feet and joined in Her children’s celebration.

When the song finally ended, Amma called all of Her children to come get prasad from Her hands—chocolate cake. By the time Amma returned to Her room, it was nearly 2:00 in the morning.


Lost in the bhava of the song

21 December 2004–Amritapuri

After answering the questions of the ashram residents, Amma told one of the brahmacharis to bring the harmonium. She then called for a new bhajan in Hindi that she has been singing lately in the evenings: Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah. Before beginning, Amma asked that the lyrics be translated into English so that all of her children could know the meaning.

May all beings be happy
May all beings be free from affliction
May all see auspiciousness everywhere
May none be sorrowful

May the spring of happiness prevail
May peace continue to prevail in the world
O Lord, let us remain without desire and be selfless
May we progress towards you

May all be happy in the world
May everybody see the Lord in everyone
May the flame of love burn in our minds
May everyone ever live in harmony

Let us worship together,
Let us desire the same goal
Let us chant together:
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

The meaning is uplifting, but the melody is melancholy.

Amma kept repeating the last line–lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu–over and over. And at some point, her demeanour seemed to subtly shift. A thousand people were singing along with her, yet Amma seemed very much alone. She had lost Herself in the bhava of the song. Her cheeks became wet. The final time, the words came like a whisper.

Amma sat still in the silence that followed. She then opened her eyes and quickly shook herself free of the mood, drying her tears with the side of her hand.


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They saw God and wanted to touch Her

16 December 2004–Kozhikode, Kerala

When Amma arrived at Her ashram in Kozhikode, thousands of devotees were waiting with the hopes of catching just a glimpse of Her. And when Amma stepped out from the back seat of Her car, they could not help themselves–they surged forward, all of them. Can you blame them? They saw God and wanted to touch Her.

It’s like this almost everywhere Amma goes, and it can be terrifying: 5,000 people trying to touch Amma as She walks–unbarricaded and barely five-feet tall–from point A to point B. Amma doesn’t help matters. She often seems as desperate to touch them as they are to touch Her, stretching out Her tiny hands to make contact, just like the bearded Old Man that Michelangelo painted on the celiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Some see a riot. Amma sees God struggling to touch God.

“All this–everything you see–should be covered with God.” It’s the first line of the first upanishad one learns. In that single mantra, everything is said: the Truth and the Goal. Has there ever been a moment when Amma’s actions haven’t shown this to be Her experience?

Once, when Amma was leaving a city in northern India, a similar incident to the one in Kozhikode took place. But to many, it was actually quite different, as it seemed utterly devoid of innocence and raging with ego. After waiting outside the place where Amma was staying for hours, these people made it clear: they were going to have Amma’s darshan, one way or another.

When Amma emerged from Her room, the people got wild. It was just short of something one sees at a football stadium. There was no policing it. Whatever was going to happen was to going happen. As the expression goes, “It was in God’s hands.”

The smile never left Amma’s face. She didn’t shy away from anyone. She moved into them, literally pulling the people towards Her body as She moved forward. A few minutes later, heading down the road in the car, Amma said only one thing–prema. To Amma, it was clear, what She had just experienced was love and love alone.

“God is love. But nobody has seen God. We should try to invoke that love in our hearts and be loving to everyone.” These were some of the words Amma chose to speak to the 30,000 or so devotees who’d gathered for Her darshan the second day of the 2004 Kozhikode Brahmasthanam Festival.

It’s true, we’ve never seen love the way Amma sees love–as pervading all things. This is the vision Amma and the upanishad are asking us to invoke. But in Amma we have at least seen proof of the vision’s possibility. And this in itself is the first step on that journey home.



Manjeri had come to Amma

14 December, Manjeri, Kerala – Bharata Yatra 2004

The crowd surrounded the stage and spilled out onto the main road. There simply was not enough room for all the people. At one point, Amma even told the brahmachari running the kitchen to have buckets of food carried down to the street to insure that the devotees who still had not been able to make it into the programme grounds proper were served. Amma had come to Manjeri, and Manjeri had come to Amma.

Amma last came to this northern Kerala town in 1996. At that time there had also been a large crowd. That programme is well remembered by ashramites, as it was raining so hard that people picked up the blue plastic tarpaulins that were serving as carpets and used them to protect themselves from the unseasonal rain. That way—holding massive blue tarpaulins over their heads—they came for Amma’s darshan in groups, lest one of them get left behind in the downpoor.

See the pics of 1996 Manjeri program below:



Joining Amma on the podium for the formal part of the programme were Sri. A.P. Anilkumar, Kerala’s Honourable Minister of Culture & Youth Affairs; Sri. Ishaak Kurikkal (Manjeri M.L.A.), Sri. Kuttikadan Mohamed Kutty (Municipal Chairman of Manjeri); Sri. M.P. Gangadharan (M.L.A.) and Mahakavi Sri. Akkittam Acchyutan Nambootiri.

Referring to Amma as “the essence of all religions,” Sri. Ishaak Kurikkal said in his welcoming address, “Amma is teaching the world the value of love. If there were people like Her all around, surely the world would be saved. … In the volatile world of religious intolerance, Amma is the hope. … Amma—who is building houses and places of worship for people of all castes, faiths and religions—is showing the path to goodness in today’s world. ”

The Member of the Kerala Legislative Assembly ended his speech with a request. “Amma Your hospital in Cochin is helping poor people a lot. I request You to build a similar one here in Manjeri, laying the foundation stone with Your own lotus hands. There is no point in submitting this request to the government. That is why I am submitting the request to You. More efficiently than the government, You can execute it.”

Sainaba was a concrete worker until she broke her back falling from a roof. Her family lost everything in its attempts to pay for her treatment. Sajida, a mother of two girls, was divorced by her husband and left in squalor. During the Manjeri programme, both Muslim ladies received free homes as part of the Ashram’s Amrita Kuteeram housing project. Sri. A.P. Anilkumar inaugurated the programme, and all the dignitaries helped distribute the keys. In all, the Ashram gave away 21 such houses, as part of 500 it is building in the Malappuram District. Many of the recipients were in tears as they received the keys to their new homes.

At midnight, the massive crowd had not abated. They were sitting patiently through the night to get their chance with Amma.


Triple-Knot: Amma marries couple for third time

4 December 2004 — Amritapuri

The groom was 80, and the bride was in her 70s. As he approached Amma for marriage, one of the relatives called out, “Amma, he’s getting married for the third time!”

And then another, “And it’s the same girl!”

Amma and everyone around started laughing, but the couple was very serious.

Actually, they were first married 60 years before. Then, wanting to renew their bond, they were married again 40 years later. And during darshan on the fourth of December, Amma married them for a third time. It is a custom for Brahmin men to remarry their wives at 60 and 80.

The couple, Lalita Raman and Colonel Raman, came all the way from Hyderabad to ask Amma to perform the ceremony. They first met Amma in 1987 and have dedicated their lives to Her ever since. Even at this age, both of them go house to house, campaigning for Matruvani, the Ashram’s monthly spiritual magazine.

Throughout the ceremony, Amma continually joked with the bride and groom—-who’s wedding party included many family members. “Everything she has is old,” Amma said. “Her fridge is 40 years old, her car is 40 years old….”

In these days when divorce and remarriage are becoming so prominent, it was touching to see a couple so devoted to one and another. The wife even brought something from 60 years before to be used in the ceremony—-the original cloth garlands from their first wedding.

And when Colonel Raman tied the taali around the neck of his bride for the third time, Amma said, “This is moksha kalyanam—marriage for liberation.


The return of Ram

1 December 2004 — Amritapuri

“Where’s Ram? Where’s Ram?” So many children, and adults, have been asking. The truth is for the past six months, he’s been away at school in Trishur. Learning to become a truly great temple elephant. Trishur is the Elephant Capital of Kerala, where dozens of elephants regularly come together for elaborate temple programs.

But now he’s back—on a little holiday to see his Mother. So now, each night, there are once again two elephants waiting for Amma when She returns from singing bhajans.