Devotees clean toilets at Government relief camps

2 January 2005 — Ochira, Kollam District, Kerala

“Who are they?” This was the question asked by most as they saw the team of Westerners from the Ashram cleaning up toilets that hadn’t been cleaned for months and which local health authorities had closed down as being unhygienic and unhealthy.

There were 20 sealed toilets at the government-run relief camp in Ochira. When a group of Amma’s visiting devotees and brahmacharis came to clean the camp, the local officials there asked them if they could do something about the toilets.

The devotees—most of who were from the West—were willing to do the work. So they all put on gloves and masks and entered. What they saw they will never forget: the most disgusting toilets on the planet ever. In order to do the job properly, they literally had to scoop out excreta with their hands.

Chidambaram, a devotee from Los Angeles, says that the local government staff and some of the evacuees had gathered around, and the question on their faces was clear: “Why are they doing what we ourselves wouldn’t do?”

“I thought, ‘Dirty toilets need to be cleaned,'” says Chidambaram, an American from Los Angeles. “But others were gagging and covering their nose and mouth.”

The local authorities were so impressed that they called a photographer.

In the end, when the toilets looked as good as new, the astounded government officials asked, “How could you do it? What motivated you to do it?”

And the answer was the same from all the Westerners: “It is Amma’s love and what she teaches through Her life that motivated us to do it.” One of the brahmacharis on the site added, “It is the love that they’ve received from Amma that they are now giving out to the world.”

–Tulasi

Amma meets the Village Councils

2 January 2005

Amma held a meeting with the local village councils from the coastal belt to discuss future steps for rehabilitation.

Food, essentials and medical aid continues to be provided to evacuees at the camps as usual.

Psychiatrists from AIMS have also come to help the medical team as there are many cases of trauma and depression.

Ashram cleaning teams make regular rounds of camp sites.

AYUDH, the Math’s youth wing, is actively participating in the cleaning.

Nagapattinam

Under the auspices of the Math, many ashramites, devotees and AYUDH members are in the forefront in helping and providing amenities to the tsunami-affected. Their love for Amma takes myriad forms. One devotee donated 58,000 packets of biscuits for the tsunami victims. Others contributed utensils, clothes and other provisions.

A relief camp was set up at Nagapattinam in Pattinasseri, providing food to about 10,000 people daily.

Medical teams are also providing medical aid.

Under instructions from Amma, the volunteers help remove dead bodies and clean the affected places.

People go back to the villages

1st January 2005

1. Now that people are returning to repair and salvage what they can from their homes, the Ashram is providing food for 600 people in Azhikkal three times a day, as well as for 100 policemen and firemen.

2. Breakfast was provided for about 7,000 people in the relief camps. As people return to their homes and as the government is arranging amenities in other areas, food is now supplied to only nine camps.

3. The Ashram is providing the people staying at its two camps with everything from slippers for those who didn’t have any, to things like soap, oil, toothpaste and toothbrushes, combs, soaps, washing soap, shirts, dothis, underwear, saris, blouses, undergarments and bedsheets.

4. Even a television is set up at the camps run by the Ashram.

5. Registration of all the displaced in the two camps set up by the Ashram is done by government officials. This way, the evacuees will accrue the same benefits as those housed at the government-run camps.

6. A detailed list of material damage suffered by the evacuees is being made at the Ashram-run camps.

7. Teams of ashramites and devotees have been doing regular rounds of camps to find out the needs of the people.

8. Medicine worth one lakh is distributed each day. Now there are three ambulances and 10 doctors, serving about 1,800 patients daily. Not only are their current needs met but long-term medication for heart patients, diabetics, asthamatics, etc. is also being provided.

9. More of the flood victims are expected to shift to the Ashram camps as the government starts vacating its camps. The Ashram is planning to accomodate the vacated people at its camps and to build temporary shelters.

A New Year shrouded in darkness


31 Dec 2004, Amritapuri
For the first time in five days, the temple bell rang three times—announcing to all the ashramites that Amma was coming to the bhajan hall. It seemed to many that the bell was announcing the rain, as it came exactly as the bell was sounded. Everyone—the ashramites and the visiting devotees—ran to sit near Amma’s peetham.

When Amma arrived at 11:15, Her mood was a little distant. She was not crying, but if you looked closely you could see Her eyes were wet. The grief of the past five days weighed heavy in the air.

Amma started with two bhajans in Hindi, one to Sri Ganesh, “Kripa Ho Teri Vigna Vinashaka,” and one to Sri Krishna, “Arati Kunja Vihari.” The Ashram sound system had been damaged in the flood, so only a minimal setup was used. At times, it was difficult to hear Amma over the sound of the rain hitting against the roof of the bhajan hall.

Then Amma sang “Kodanukoti” a very old Malayalam bhajan in the raga charukeshi [mood of sorrow]. The song is about how distant God seems to remain no matter how intense one’s austerities. O Eternal Truth, mankind has been searching for you for millions and millions of years… When Amma sung such lines, Her voice become one with the raga, causing many of the ashramites and devotees to shed tears.

The song finished at 11:55 and Amma asked everyone to close their eyes and start chanting the peace mantra lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. With the events of the past week fresh in everyone’s mind, it was clear the prayer was coming from the bottom of everyone’s heart. As Amma chanted, Her body slowly rocked back and forth in Her chair.

When the chant ended 10 minutes later, Amma began to speak. “With very heavy hearts, we are welcoming the New Year,” Amma said. “We cannot rejoice at this moment, and this is not a time to rejoice. This is a time to invoke love and compassion in our hearts. The dead are not going to come back, but we can give love and consolation to those who are living.

“In this New Year, which is shrouded in the darkness of sorrow, we should light the lamp of love, service and compassion, and with faith move forward.

“Man can achieve anything; he can even become God, but one second is enough to lose everything.”

Amma went on to say that human effort has its limitations, and that God’s grace is more important. “Children, understand the goal of life and proceed.”

At one point Amma confessed that She didn’t know what to say—”My heart is empty.”

Amma then led everyone in a short meditation. When it was over, Amma’s mood seemed lighter somehow, and She sang “Ananda Janani,” a celebration of the glory of the Divine Mother. Towards the end of the song, Amma raised Her hands over Her head and started clapping. Everyone in the hall did the same. How quickly the mood had gone from darkness to light.

Amma then stood up and called everyone to come and get prasad. For many visiting the Ashram during their Christmas vacation, it was the first time they had received Amma’s darshan.

Kannadi When the chant ended 10 minutes later, Amma began to speak. “With very heavy hearts, we are welcoming the New Year,” Amma said. “We cannot rejoice at this moment, and this is not a time to rejoice. This is a time to invoke love and compassion in our hearts. The dead are not going to come back, but we can give love and consolation to those who are living.

“In this New Year, which is shrouded in the darkness of sorrow, we should light the lamp of love, service and compassion, and with faith move forward.

“Man can achieve anything; he can even become God, but one second is enough to lose everything.”

Amma went on to say that human effort has its limitations, and that God’s grace is more important. “Children, understand the goal of life and proceed.”

At one point Amma confessed that She didn’t know what to say—”My heart is empty.”

Amma then led everyone in a short meditation. When it was over, Amma’s mood seemed lighter somehow, and She sang “Ananda Janani,” a celebration of the glory of the Divine Mother. Towards the end of the song, Amma raised Her hands over Her head and started clapping. Everyone in the hall did the same. How quickly the mood had gone from darkness to light.

Amma then stood up and called everyone to come and get prasad. For many visiting the Ashram during their Christmas vacation, it was the first time they had received Amma’s darshan.

-Kannadi