Amma prays for the dead & the living

10 January 2005 ,Amritapuri

Walking down Beach Road must be much like it is to walk down some scenic path in Sarajevo or Baghdad. On one side, nature glistens with its eternal promise of renewal. On the other, the houses look like they’ve taken mortar fire. It’s a road of ghosts, of disappointed dreams, of women sitting on stoops holding their heads in their hands and men half-heartedly burning rubbish in their front yards. It’s a road in need of an exorcist.

Going north from the Ashram towards Azhikkal, where the famous Kayamkulam Backwaters bleed into the sea, it’s one long litany of sorrow: roof caved in, side wall collapsed, church destroyed, another roof caved in, temple washed away, another roof caved in, nothing but a pile of bricks, half a boat hull, half a house, half a family…

Monday, Amma walked down this three-kilometre stretch on Her way to Azhikkal Beach. Sixteen days had passed since the tsunami had come; in the Hindu tradition, the 16th day marks the end of mourning. Amma was going—along with 5,000 ashramites and devotees—to the spot where 42 people had been cremated on 28 December. She was going in order to pray for the peace of the souls of the dead and for those they’d left behind.

As the procession moved forward, the participants chanted aloud what has become the Ashram’s moola-mantra: “Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu”may all the beings in all the worlds be happy. And as they walked, it was plain that this was not mere lip service, for amidst the devastation, the procession passed by some 10 Ashram-run food-distribution counters, several other places where people could seek free help from Ashram doctors and also the road leading to the temporary shelters the Ashram has constructed for 500 people.The procession also overtook brahmacharinis who’d been out helping the villagers clean their homes and offering support to those who’d lost loved ones. Indeed, Beach Road has verily become Amma’s mantra sprung to life.

When Amma reached Azhikkal Beach, the places where the 42 funeral pyres had burned were still marked. They had been sectioned off so no one would trespass upon them. Amma asked everyone to light small clay oil lamps and then, holding the lamps in their hands, to stand in a formation that spelled out the peace mantra in Malayalam.

When the mantra had been formed, Amma asked everyone to sit down, so as to maintain its form. Then Amma spoke:

“My children, pray for everyone in the world. Pray for those who are dead and also for those who are living. Pray for the wives who lost their husbands. Pray for the children who lost their parents. Pray for the parents who lost their children.

“We may claim that we are the ones who are doing everything, but before we could even blink our eyes, the waves came and destroyed everything. We now understand the limitations of our efforts, and that science too has limitations. It is grace that helps to make everything complete. Our only protection is in surrendering to God.

“We may claim we are living in the moment, but even the next breath is not in our hands. Living in the moment is stressed by the Masters to help us embrace eternity.

One thing we can do in this situation is to invoke love and compassion in our hearts. Pray with your hearts. Act with your hands.

The dead are gone. To bring them back is impossible. Let us use this situation as an opportunity to share peace and love with the living. Become an embodiment of peace and service—both internally and externally. Pray and put forth the effort—take a vow. Pray ‘lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.’

Amma then sat down in the sand, and everyone chanted the ancient mantra for several minutes. When it finished, Amma’s cheeks were stained with tears.

To finish the ceremony, everyone walked, with lit lamps in hand, in a circle around the cremation grounds, and then, led by Amma, they offered their lamps into the Arabian Sea. One villager even immersed himself fully in the water, holding his lit lamp over his head like someone saving something precious. A few people even managed to get their clay lamps to float.

Sixteen days have passed since the tsunami hit, and the mourning is officially over. But as Amma says, it is not so much the dead that need our prayers as do the living they have left behind. And the living needs more than 16 days. In all reality, their homes will be whole again much sooner than their hearts. It’s going to take them years to pick up the pieces. But Amma has made it clear: She is here for them now and will be till the end.

– Kaalidaas

16 days later- Amma prays for the dead & the living

10 January 2005 — Amritapuri

Walking down Beach Road must be much like it is to walk down some scenic path in Sarajevo or Baghdad. On one side, nature glistens with its eternal promise of renewal. On the other, the houses look like they’ve taken mortar fire. It’s a road of ghosts, of disappointed dreams, of women sitting on stoops holding their heads in their hands and men half-heartedly burning rubbish in their front yards. It’s a road in need of an exorcist.

Going north from the Ashram towards Azhikkal, where the famous Kayamkulam Backwaters bleed into the sea, it’s one long litany of sorrow: roof caved in, side wall collapsed, church destroyed, another roof caved in, temple washed away, another roof caved in, nothing but a pile of bricks, half a boat hull, half a house, half a family…

Monday, Amma walked down this three-kilometre stretch on Her way to Azhikkal Beach. Sixteen days had passed since the tsunami had come; in the Hindu tradition, the 16th day marks the end of mourning. Amma was going—along with 5,000 ashramites and devotees—to the spot where 42 people had been cremated on 28 December. She was going in order to pray for the peace of the souls of the dead and for those they’d left behind.

As the procession moved forward, the participants chanted aloud what has become the Ashram’s moola-mantra: Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu ” may all the beings in all the worlds be happy.”  And as they walked, it was plain that this was not mere lip service, for amidst the devastation, the procession passed by some 10 Ashram-run food-distribution counters, several other places where people could seek free help from Ashram doctors and also the road leading to the temporary shelters the Ashram has constructed for 500 people.The procession also overtook brahmacharinis who’d been out helping the villagers clean their homes and offering support to those who’d lost loved ones. Indeed, Beach Road has verily become Amma’s mantra sprung to life.

When Amma reached Azhikkal Beach, the places where the 42 funeral pyres had burned were still marked. They had been sectioned off so no one would trespass upon them. Amma asked everyone to light small clay oil lamps and then, holding the lamps in their hands, to stand in a formation that spelled out the peace mantra in Malayalam.

When the mantra had been formed, Amma asked everyone to sit down, so as to maintain its form. Then Amma spoke:

“My children, pray for everyone in the world. Pray for those who are dead and also for those who are living. Pray for the wives who lost their husbands. Pray for the children who lost their parents. Pray for the parents who lost their children.

“We may claim that we are the ones who are doing everything, but before we could even blink our eyes, the waves came and destroyed everything. We now understand the limitations of our efforts, and that science too has limitations. It is grace that helps to make everything complete. Our only protection is in surrendering to God.

“We may claim we are living in the moment, but even the next breath is not in our hands. Living in the moment is stressed by the Masters to help us embrace eternity.

“One thing we can do in this situation is to invoke love and compassion in our hearts. Pray with your hearts. Act with your hands.

“The dead are gone. To bring them back is impossible. Let us use this situation as an opportunity to share peace and love with the living. Become an embodiment of peace and service—both internally and externally. Pray and put forth the effort—take a vow. Pray ‘lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.'”

Amma then sat down in the sand, and everyone chanted the ancient mantra for several minutes. When it finished, Amma’s cheeks were stained with tears.

To finish the ceremony, everyone walked, with lit lamps in hand, in a circle around the cremation grounds, and then, led by Amma, they offered their lamps into the Arabian Sea. One villager even immersed himself fully in the water, holding his lit lamp over his head like someone saving something precious. A few people even managed to get their clay lamps to float.

Sixteen days have passed since the tsunami hit, and the mourning is officially over. But as Amma says, it is not so much the dead that need our prayers as do the living they have left behind. And the living needs more than 16 days. In all reality, their homes will be whole again much sooner than their hearts. It’s going to take them years to pick up the pieces. But Amma has made it clear: She is here for them now and will be till the end.

–Kaalidaas

Ashram to construct houses in Nagapattanam

9 January 2005 — Nagapattanam, Tamil Nadu

As part of its 100 crore tsunami-relief aid package, the Ashram is planning to construct 1000 permanent houses at Pattinacherry, Samanthampettai and other villages in Nagapattanam.

The Ashram already had constructed temporary shelters at Samanthampettai, which include provisions for clean drinking water for about 100 families. The Ashram is also constructing day-care centres and community halls for relief camps at Panangudi, Collectorate and Samanthampettai—complete with colour television sets and provisions for clean drinking water.

The Ashram is fully involved in the relief and rehabilitation operations along the coastal belt of Nagapattanam. Within a few days after the tsunami, a group of volunteers from Coimbatore, Chennai and Kochi—including students from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham under the leadership of Br. Abhayamrita Chaitanya—swung into relief operations.

The Math identified Nagoor as its camp headquarters in Nagapattanam. and set up a huge community kitchen, the biggest in Nagapattanam. The kitchen served nearly 9000 people thrice a day in 12 relief camps in and around Nagoor and Samanthampettai. The victims at these relief camps profusely thanked the volunteers for serving steaming hot nutritious food right on time every day. Milk was also served to toddlers. Serving 9000 people spread over 12 relief camps is no easy task and this was made possible by the commitment and dedication of the volunteers.

A full-fledged medical team from AIMS (Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Kochi) the state-of-the-art super specialty hospital consisting of seven doctors and five paramedics went around the coastal areas and attended over 300 patients every day. A fully equipped and well-stocked mobile ICU accompanied the medical team.

The volunteers also visited Pookaran Theru (also Nagapattanam, District) and distributed kits containing rice, dhal, edible oil, tea and other essentials to nearly 100 displaced families.

Rajendran, one villager who lost his wife and two children, says, “If not for the love and kind persuasion to eat food, I would have starved.”

–Tulasi

Ashram to construct houses in Nagapattanam

9 January 2005 — Nagapattanam, Tamil Nadu

As part of its 100 crore tsunami-relief aid package, the Ashram is planning to construct 1000 permanent houses at Pattinacherry, Samanthampettai and other villages in Nagapattanam.

The Ashram already had constructed temporary shelters at Samanthampettai, which include provisions for clean drinking water for about 100 families. The Ashram is also constructing day-care centres and community halls for relief camps at Panangudi, Collectorate and Samanthampettai—complete with colour television sets and provisions for clean drinking water.

The Ashram is fully involved in the relief and rehabilitation operations along the coastal belt of Nagapattanam. Within a few days after the tsunami, a group of volunteers from Coimbatore, Chennai and Kochi—including students from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham under the leadership of Br. Abhayamrita Chaitanya—swung into relief operations.

The Math identified Nagoor as its camp headquarters in Nagapattanam. and set up a huge community kitchen, the biggest in Nagapattanam. The kitchen served nearly 9000 people thrice a day in 12 relief camps in and around Nagoor and Samanthampettai. The victims at these relief camps profusely thanked the volunteers for serving steaming hot nutritious food right on time every day. Milk was also served to toddlers. Serving 9000 people spread over 12 relief camps is no easy task and this was made possible by the commitment and dedication of the volunteers.

A full-fledged medical team from AIMS (Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Kochi) the state-of-the-art super specialty hospital consisting of seven doctors and five paramedics went around the coastal areas and attended over 300 patients every day. A fully equipped and well-stocked mobile ICU accompanied the medical team.

The volunteers also visited Pookaran Theru (also Nagapattanam, District) and distributed kits containing rice, dhal, edible oil, tea and other essentials to nearly 100 displaced families.

Rajendran, one villager who lost his wife and two children, says, “If not for the love and kind persuasion to eat food, I would have starved.”

–Tulasi

Moving forward fast: Temporary shelters are almost ready

7 January 2005 — Srayikkad, Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala

It was just on the third of January that Amma announced Her plans to dedicate 100 crores in aid to tsunami victims. And now, just four days later, the first phase in that plan is well underway—the construction of temporary shelters. More than one crore rupees has been already invested in the project.

The 10 acres the Ashram owns in Srayikkad, where the shelters are being erected, have already been cleared. Half of the foundations have been laid, and three of the buildings already have their metal frames and roofs in place. This building can be inhabited at any time.

A mix of employed labour and devotee-volunteers has been working at the shelter site for the past several days under the supervision of Amma’s brahmacharis. Some of the devotees who have come to do electrical and plumbing work are pitching in with more basic tasks, such as shoveling sand, until the time comes for their expertise.

The cement bricks used for building the foundations have been brought from Kochi, where the Ashram manufactures them.

An estimated 500 people will live now in these shelters. Currently these people are being housed at various relief camps on the mainland. But as the number of school-based camps has reduced since the end of winter vacation, the Ashram is trying to get the Srayikkad shelters inhabitable as soon as possible. Thus the work is going on around the clock.

–Tulasi

Helping fishing villages of Tamil Nadu

6 January 2005 — Tamil Nadu

It’s a horrible thing to picture. When the tsunami waves pounded the fishing villages near Chennai, hundreds of wooden boats moored on the shore were sent flying. They struck people, destroyed houses and smashed into cars. Some came down, riding waves as tall as 40 feet.

“The people are simply shell-shocked,” says one of Amma’s senior brahmacharis who has been helping with relief work in Tamil Nadu. “They didn’t know what to do. Believing that their children were doomed to drown, they even put them in the boats, so at least they would have a chance. Miraculously, some such children were found three km away with only bruises.”

Upon learning of the tsunami, Br. Vinayamrita Chaitanya, the head of Amma’s Chennai Ashram, immediately started relief efforts. He arranged for food to be cooked at the Ashram and then drove 50 to 60 kilometres along East Coast Road, distributing it to the needy. The next day Amma sent him to Nagapattinam District.

“When we reached there, we saw bodies strewn everywhere,” he says. “My first instinct was to help remove them, but then I decided the living, who were without food, needed our help more. So we started the cooking.”

Since the disaster, the Ashram has focused its relief work in three fishing villages: Kovalam, Pudhukuppam, Nemeli and Mahabalipuram. All the huts, fishing nets, catamarans and other boats in these three villages were destroyed. Their losses total into crores [one crore is $233,644 U.S.D.].

“One 60 year-old-lady who came for treatment of bruises on her face told an amazing story. When the waves came, she wrapped her arms around a palm tree. The waves were beating her so badly that it took everything she had to hold on, but she knew if she let go she simply would die.”

In Tamil Nadu, the Ashram has sent medical teams comprising four ambulances, seven doctors, five paramedics and a full ICU team. These have been making regular rounds in ambulances since the disaster. They are accompanied by vehicles distributing pongal [rice and dhal curry] and other food. The Chennai Ashram is feeding 10,000 daily, as well as giving away clothes, soaps, oils, toothbrushes and other necessities. In the first few days after the disaster, the doctors had already distributed more than Rs. 200,000 in medicines .

“The devotees have really been there for the victims,” says Br. Vinayamritai. “One immediately donated 58,000 packets of biscuits for distribution. Others came to the ashram and simply asked what they could do. We told them to obtain blankets, utensils and sacks of rice. They just went out and purchased what was needed.

“The members of Chennai AYUDH [the Ashram’s youth group] have also been helping. Those first days, they were so busy that many of them went without food. Some even took leave from work to help with the Ashram’s efforts. It is their love for Amma that makes them so selfless.”

–Kannadi

From the Piggy bank to Amma

6 January 2005 — Switzerland

Sharada is six years old. One morning she came to her mother, carrying all her savings from her piggy bank and quite a good amount that she had received as a Christmas present. She asked her mother to send all the money to Amma’s tsunami relief fund.

The same girl was initiated into a mantra from Amma during the last Europe tour. As she is six years old, she chants the mantra every evening before going to bed for six minutes. In order to be able to visualize Amma easier inside, while chanting the mantra she keeps a small picture of Amma on her third eye!

–Kannadi

My children are my strength

4 January 2005 , Amritapuri

“My children are my strength.” This is what Amma told a group of reporters from Delhi who came to interview Her regarding the 100 crores (news) She has announced to spend on tsunami-relief in South India. The answer came in response to a question regarding how Amma was able to commit such a large amount in aid.

“The brahmacharis work 18 hours a day,” Amma said. “They do all the driving and the construction and operate the earthmovers. There are no contractors. All the materials—like bricks, windows, doors, tables, chairs, beds—are made by our brahmacharis. The electrical, plumbing and structure is all done by our brahmacharis. This is nothing new for us. Right now, we are building Amrita Kuteerams [free houses for the destitute] in 47 sites throughout India—14 villages in Tamil Nadu, Kadappa in Andhra, Ajanta Nagar in Pune…. There are some 2,000 ashramites here. They work day in and day out, and they don’t take any payment for their work.”

“I have many good children,” Amma said, referring to Her millions of devotees around the world. “They all do what they can.” Amma went on to say that even some small children make dolls or small statues and sell them so that they can give the earnings to their beloved Amma. “Some children—when presented with money on their birthday or when their parents tell them that they can have an ice cream—say that they would like to give that money to Amma instead, telling their parents how Amma can use it for supporting poor children. Other children come up to Amma and offer their savings, saying that it can be used to buy pens for poor students. Amma doesn’t want to accept this as other children who have nothing to offer may then feel sad but when Amma sees the goodness of their hearts, She has no choice. The government alone cannot do everything. Would these children give this money to the government with the same love as they would give to Amma? Other non-governmental service organizations have to come up to help, as they have in this recent disaster.”

Amma went on to explain how when the government allocates money for relief projects, much of it is dissipated in wages. Amma likened the situation to pouring oil from one glass to another down a line. “In the end, you don’t have any oil left,” Amma said. “All of it has been lost, sticking to the sides of all the glasses. This way, 1,000 paise become 100 paise by the time it reaches the people. Whereas if we get 10 paise, we add our effort to it and the money multiplies. Amma is not blaming the government; of course, government employees need to make a living and the government machinery needs to be maintained.”

Amma explained that She attributes all of the Ashram’s success to the renunciation and selfless service of Her children—that She has never spent time calculating whether a project She has felt inspired to undertake is feasible or not before starting it. When Amma has felt the need, She has committed and by grace they have always come together. As examples, Amma cited AIMS, the Ashram’s super-specialty hospital for the poor in Cochin, and the three villages the Ashram completely rebuilt in Bhuj after the 2001 earthquake. Amma said, “So I am sure this also will materialise.”

When a journalist from Rastriya Sahara asked Amma what Her moolamantra was meaning what was the secret of Her success.Amma suggested that maybe it was that people are finding in Her what is essential for all, but what is missing in them. When prompted further, Amma said it is ‘Love’.

“There are two types of poverty,” Amma added. “Material poverty and poverty of love and compassion. If love and compassion are awakened, then the other kind of poverty is also done away with.”

“I don’t lay any claims to having done anything,” Amma said. “It is my children who have made all this possible. My children are my wealth; they are my strength.”

-Kannadi

Amma dedicates one billion to rehabilitate tsunami victims

3 January 2005 — Amritapuri

Mata Amritanandamayi Devi held a press conference today in which Amma announced that she will dedicate 100 crores [1 billion rupees or approx. $23,364,486 U.S.D.] to rehabilitate and reconstruct homes in South India that were completely destroyed by the tsunami on 26th December.

The houses will be built according to the specifications of the state governments. The Ashram has proposed to build houses consisting of two rooms, a kitchen, a small veranda and a toilet.
photo: Amma announcing future plans for tsunami-affected.

As thousands in the immediate area of Amritapuri are currently homeless, the Ashram has already started constructing temporary shelters to house them until the new homes are completed. This is being done on a 10-acre piece of property owned by the Ashram in Srayikkad, about one kilometer away.

In specific districts of Kerala, the Ashram is also allocating 15 million rupees [$350,467 U.S.D.], at 1,000 rupees per family, to those who’s homes were destroyed, for the purchasing of household items.

The Ashram will also provide free education and counseling to those children who have lost both parents in the tragedy.

In the tsunami camps

2 January 2005 — Alapphuza District, Kerala

Vivek, an ashramite from Japan, was very happy to be part of a team sent to clean a tsunami relief camp in the Alappuzha. There, the Ashram team removed garbage, dug pits for waste and temporary toilets, swept and cleaned patios and toilets.

There were many in the different teams—Vivek from Japan, Prashant and Achyut from America, Nicholas is Switzerland…. What motivated them to engage in work that many run from? The answer is Amma and the example set by her life.

All of them were happy to be serving. In fact, they said that they were overjoyed. “More than the work, it was the oppurtunity to serve, to be able to smile and spread love—to do what Amma does,” said Achyut.

“And we didn’t just work. We also played with the children. They are so innocent and it is amazing how the people have adjusted and adapted themselves to the situation. Back in the West, our life is so cosmetic. For the past few days we had been stuck in the relief camps, hearing news of all the desruction and sorrow, but we had not been really able to do much. This was an oppurtunity to do something, ” added another worker.

Maybe they went to give but they definitely got something too. As Amma says, when one uses natural resources there is a depletion, but when one uses their God-given talents—gives of themselves—there is an expansion, a growth. Love, when given, grows. They may have gone as strangers, but when it was time to wind up and return to the Ashram, they left as friends.

The teams went to NRPM Higher Secondary School in Kayamkulam, Madambil School in Kundallur, SNDP Audiorium in Kundallur and Muthukulam High School in Velanchira.

—Tulasi