Amma blesses Rotarians

23 February 2005 — Cochin, Kerala

“Who are we to offer an award to Amma?” said C.M. Abu Bakker,the Ernakulam Rotary District Governor.”We simply submit it at Her feet and pray that She blesses this organisation.It is this organisation that benefits from Amma accepting this award.”

Amma was being honoured with Rotary International’s Centenary Legendary Award for Service to Humanity,International Understanding & Peace at the Le Meridian Hotel in Cochin.

In Amma’s benedictory address, She asked Rotarians to come forward and form small aid groups to help people of the lower strata and Kerala’s poor.

“Suicide rates are rising steadily in the state,” Amma said. “Prostitution may not be as rampant as in other states, but it is there in our state. Tribals of Attappadi and Wayanad are facing severe mal-nutrition,ill health and problems of land-acquisition and alienation.Many are rendered homeless.

“Elderly Rotarians should come forward and form voluntary groups to identify the wants of the poor and spread awareness against social evils. The Ashram will also help them in their work.”

“Ours is a society that is seeking more and more enjoyment,” Amma said. “There are many paths open for recreation and pleasure.But we should never forget that only enjoyment that is rooted in samskara [culture/values]will lead to self development and lasting joy.There shouldn’t arise in our country the unfortunate situation where we will have to borrow samskara in the same way that we borrow money from the world Bank.”

Amma then told the Rotarians that the solution to the fall in values in society has to be rectified at the level of the family. For this family members should be more communicative, they should be able to share their hearts with one another. She said that children should be brought up with love in a natural environment and they shouldn’t be tainted by the competitiveness and hatred of the adult world.

Speaking about Amma, Rotarian Venugopal C. Govind said that Amma is the embodiment of all the ideals that Paul Harris envisioned for Rotary International when he founded the service organisation 100 years ago.

—Kannadi

Lions & tigers came for Ammas darshan

19 February 2005 , Sri Lanka

When Amma visited the Tamil tsunami-relief camp in the Ampara district of  Sri Lanka on 17th February, 15 Tamil Tigers—soldiers of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)—came for Amma’s darshan, as did 20 soldiers from the Sinhalese government’s Special Task Force (STF). The Sinhalese and Tamil armies have been engaged in a brutal civil war since 1983, in which more than 60,000 people have been killed.

“Their hearts were open,” Amma said. “They told me that they want to become united, but that they have a goal to achieve. I went there for tsunami rehabilitation; they came for my darshan.”

The LTTE soldiers who came for Amma’s darshan were all young women, recognizable as militants by their short haircuts, men’s shirts and wide black gun belts. As the ladies came before Amma, their hardened face softened and smiles lit up their eyes.

Maheswari Velayudham, the political secretary to Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda, was also in attendance. She was overwhelmed at seeing the two groups peacefully together. “Amma is the unifying force,” she said. “She is the catalyst. Only Amma can bring all these people together.”

When asked by reporters at Trivandrum if She would be interested in facilitating peace between the two warring groups, Amma said, “Amma is not interested in interfering in the internal affairs of another country, but if they ask, I will discuss.”

On 18 February, Amma met with Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunge at the president’s residence in Colombo. The president expressed to Amma her concern regarding the intense strife plaguing her country. She told Amma that just when it seemed like some progress was being made with the peace negotiations that the tsunami had come, once again bringing pain and suffering.

Amma told the president that she indeed felt the pain of the Sri Lankan people, and that as with every situation in life two factors were required for a favourable outcome: human effort and God’s grace.

-Sakshi

Amma consoles tsunami affected in Sri Lanka

16 – 19 February 2005 — Sri Lanka

Amma met with President Chandrika Kumaratunge on 18 February at the President’s residence in Colombo. Amma told the president that She would like to build 300 homes for Tamil and Sinhalese tsunami victims in Sri Lanka and expressed her willingness to provide more relief aid, such as free pensions and the adopting of orphans.

Amma also expressed the need for the men and women of Sri Lanka to awaken their universal motherhood—qualities such as love, compassion and patience.

During the discussion, President Chandrika Kumaratunge expressed to Amma that there has been so much strife and trouble in her country. Some progress was being made with the peace negotiations, but now with the coming of the tsunami, there once again is so much trouble and pain. Amma told the president that she indeed felt the pain of the people. Amma told her that as in every situation a favourable outcome depended on two factors: human effort and God’s grace.

On 17th Amma travelled by helicopter with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse to a Sinhalese tsunami relief camp in Hambantota, where She participated in the camp’s foundation-stone-laying ceremony. Amma then flew back to Colombo, where She and the PM are to meet with President Chandrika Kumaratunga later this evening.

Earlier, Amma had spent more than one hour with the PM discussing the Ashram’s tsunami-relief efforts, including its plan for building tsunami-proof homes. Amma told the PM that She is willing to establish an orphanage for Sri Lankan children and a free-pension scheme in the country. If the circumstances permit, Amma said, She would do more. Upon the conclusion of their discussion, the PM expressed the Sri Lankan government’s gratitude for the help and compassion Amma is showering upon the country.

LTTE & Tamil Special Task Force Come for Amma’s Darshan in Ampara

On 17th, Amma visited a Tamil relief camp in the district of Ampara, where she distributed 15,000 free saris and dhotis. At the camp, Amma gave darshan to 5,000 people, including 15 LTTE officials and 20 members of a Tamil Special Task Force. Maheswari Velayudham, the political secretary to Minister Douglas Devananda, was also in attendance. The secretary was overwhelmed at seeing the two groups peacefully together. “Amma is the unifying force,” she said later. “She is the catalyst. Only Amma can bring all these people together.”

At a press conference earlier that morning, one of the reporters had asked Amma whether she could predict when Sri Lanka would enjoy peace in full spirit. To this Amma responded, “We can awaken a person who is sleeping, but cannot awaken a person who is pretending to be sleeping. We should keep trying for peace. Feeling sympathy alone is not enough. We should work hard for it,” Amma said, adding that peace is possible only when spirituality is practiced.

–Kannad

Desharaksha puja in Azhikkal

16 February 2005 — Azhikkal Village, Alappad Panchayat, Kerala

After giving darshan in tsunami relief camps in Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu, Amma travelled all night to reach the Ashram at around 8:00 in the morning on February 15. This morning—less than 24 hours later—She left for Sri Lanka, where She is to visit more tsunami-wrecked villages. But before going to the airport, Amma made one quick stop in Azhikkal, one of the villages sharing the peninsula with the Ashram.

Azhikkal was the hardest-hit village in all of Kerala, suffering 142 deaths during the tsunami. Villagers there were conducting a desharaksha homa for the future protection of the village.

When Amma arrived at the yagnashala, the priests worshipped Her with flower petals to the chanting of Mantra Pushpam. They then offered oblations to Amma’s feet. With the priests as well as the ashramites chanting sacred mantras, Amma lit the oil lamp, commencing the yagna. She then gave darshan to the priests as the ashramites chanted the Mahishasura Mardini stotram. (The priests will offer oblations into the flames of 21 homa kundas throughout the day.)

Speaking at the request of the priests, Amma said, “All children should live in harmony and peace. Our culture is deteriorating. We should imbibe the cultural values of our ancestors. We should reintroduce the practice of praying to God at dusk instead of watching T.V. at that time. ”

Ten minutes later, Amma was heading down the road toward the airport in Trivandrum; the village children running to keep up with Her car.

—Sakshi

Amma provides 3 crores in Tsunami relief aid to Sri Lanka

16 February 2005 — Colombo, Sri Lanka

At a press conference today in Colombo, Amma announced that the Mata Amritanandamayi Center will be providing three crores Indian rupees in aid to the tsunami-wrecked country of Sri Lanka [69 million Sri Lankan Rs.]. The Ashram will also construct 300 houses in the island country.

The relief work and financial assistance is being handled through Healthcare Charities Inc., a devotee-run group in connection with the Mata Amritanandamayi Center in U.S.A.

The press conference, which was aired on Sri Lankan National Television, was held at the house of Sri. K.N. Douglas Devananda, the Honourable Minister of Agricultural Marketing Development, Co-operative Development, Hindu Affairs and Minister Assisting Education and Vocational Training. The honourable minister welcomed Amma and her tsunami-relief aid on behalf of the Sri Lankan government, saying that Sri Lanka is so grateful for Amma’s helping hand.

During her three-day visit to the island country (Feb. 16-19), Amma will visit relief camps in the Tamil area of Ampara on 17 February and the Sinhalese area of Hambantota on the 18th. Each relief camp is currently sheltering more than 1,000 families rendered homeless by the tsunami. Amma will give darshan there, as well as distribute 15,000 saris and dhotis.

Amma was invited to the island country last month by the Sri Lankan government “to bless Sri Lankans of all faiths and races and to bring peace and prosperity in their lives.”

– Dass

Amma to console Sri Lankans

15 February 2005

At the request of the people and government of Sri Lanka, Amma is visiting the island country from 16 to 19 February. Amma will visit and console the tsunami victims in relief camps in the districts of Ampara and Hambantota, as well discuss with the president and prime minister of Sri Lanka the possibilities for the Ashram to conduct relief work in the country. Amma has said that she will provide at least three crores Indian rupees in aid to the country, with the possibility of more if circumstances permit.

They had come to give

14 February 2005 — Karaikkal, Pondicherry

Amma was in Karaikkal, giving darshan to the villagers who had been waiting patiently for their turn to come. Rice was also being distributed to everyone.

In between programmes, a few brahmacharis went to the beach to just see what it was like—for the Karaikkal was one of the worst tsunami-hit areas in India. The people were poor to start. The tsunami had deprived them of what little they had.

When the brahmacharis were returning from the beach, they saw a woman standing in front of her hut. Seeing her looking at them, they politely enquired about the well being of her family. She had a sad story to tell—she had four children before the tsunami, two had died in the waters. But in the midst of her sorrow and deprivation, she invited the brahmacharis for lunch, saying, “I know that Amma has come with an entourage of a couple of hundreds of people, and guests are a manifestation of God. Being poor I cannot offer my hospitality to all, but I can definitely feed you. It shall be a meal with fish curry the likes of which you have never had before.”

The brahmacharis were speechless. They had come with Amma to give, but here a poor woman was offering them—who were total strangers to her—food, love and respect. Not knowing whether she and her family had enough to feed themselves, the brahmacharis politely refused, telling her that a glass of water was enough for them. She immediately brought water for all of them, happy to be able to offer something.

Many a times when we give, we forget that the giving is not in the quantity or quality but in the attitude with which it is given.

—Tulasi

Amma inspires Nagapattinam

14 February 2005 — Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu

Amma visited several tsunami-hit areas in Nagapattinam on the 13th and 14th. There were no formal programmes. Nothing had been arranged by the Ashram, but by the time Amma arrived in the village of Nagore, there were many posters and banners welcoming her. When Amma arrived the place where she was to stay at 5:30 a.m., she was greeted by a throng of locals chanting “Om Amriteswaryai Namah.” The enthusiasm and love they exuded had to be seen to be believed. Said Krishnaveni, one of those affected by the tsunami, “Amma has fed us. She gave us shelter and clothes. We want to see those hands that gave us life once again.”

“It was so spontaneous. We arranged nothing, we made no formal announcements, but there was a spontaneous response from the locals. When they got to know that Amma would be coming, they had posters printed; word spread by word of mouth too. And today as I was coming from the camps that Amma intends to visit I saw almost all of the women cleaning the place, drawing kolams [decorative designs drawn as symbols of well-being and prosperity]. It was so beautiful,” said Abhayamrita Chaitanya, the brahmachari in charge of the relief operations in the district.

At all the places Amma visited, the men and women greeted her as if she were a close friend they had not seen in far too long. Amma talked to all of the people, telling them that she had not come there to hold a programme and give a satsang, but to share in their sorrow, to allay their fears. Many told Amma that they were afraid of going out to sea again. Many had lost their boats and fishing nets—not to even mention members of their families. Amma consoled them and gave them courage. “Mother Sea has always protected and sustained you,” She said. “She would never harm Her children. It was because of an earthquake in the sea that the waves rose. You shouldn’t be afraid to venture out again.”

As for the material losses, Amma said that the Ashram will do whatever it can to restore their lives to normal. During the programmes, Amma also distributed rice, clothes and other provisions. She also visited individual homes in the temporary shelters in Samanthampettai—loving, caressing, comforting—giving them hope, like the sun spreading light after a long dark night.

Amma made arrangements for those who needed special medical attention to be taken to hospitals and reiterated that the Ashram will adopt children who had lost both their parents if their relatives agree. The Ashram is also providing jobs and adopting two villages, as well as constructing more homes in a third in collaboration with the TATA Relief Committee.

At a couple of the programme sites, Amma led the gathering in bhajans.

Amma visited camps in Pattinacheri, Samanthampettai, Nambiyar Nagar, Akkarapettai, Karaikalmedu and T.R. Pattinam.

–Kannadi

When Amma adopts a village

13 February 2005 — Samanthampettai, Nagore Village, Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu

When a child is hurt sometimes he doesn’t cry… until he sees his mother. However many tears the men and women of Samanthampettai had been holding back, they all seemed to come to the surface this week when their Amma came to check on them. Though they had never seen her before or read Her biography, they seemed to know her to be their own the moment they looked into her eyes—unhesitatingly rushing forward to experience the asylum of Her arms.

In two days, Amma visited eight villages in the districts of Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu and Karaikkal, Pondicherry. In Samanthampettai, a village in Nagapattinam that Amma has adopted, Amma walked door-to-door, entering the families’ living quarters and listening to their heartbreaking tales. The Ashram has already constructed temporary shelters for 300 families in Nagapattinam and is in the process of constructing 1,700 permanent homes in three villages. However, as Amma made her way through Samanthampettai, She made it clear that her idea of “adopting a village” is more than the reconstruction of houses.

In the first shelter, there was a boy who’d been feeling poorly ever since the tsunami. He had been treated, but had yet to regain his vigour. Amma told the mother that she felt he had some internal injury and that he should be taken to AIMS, the Ashram’s super-specialty hospital in Cochin. Amma told one of the brahmacharis to write a letter of explanation for the mother and to arrange bus fare for her and the boy.

In the next house were two small children—a boy of about six and a girl of about four whose mother had died. Amma held the boy so close to her, looking deeply into his eyes and telling him, “Your mother is not dead. She is still there. The Atman is eternal. Be sure to study well; that will make her happy.” The girl is too young to comprehend her mother’s death. “Mom went to the sea,” she tells Amma.

In the next house are a young woman and an old man. The woman tells Amma that her husband died. “Pray for the uplift of his soul,” Amma tells her, as she wipes her tears. The woman nods in promise. “Only because you are giving, do we have food,” she tells Amma as she falls into Her arms.

At another house, Amma speaks with a mother whose two children were pulled from her arms by the powerful waters of the sea. Amma learns that she has had her “tubes tied” and can no longer have children. Amma tells the woman and her husband that the Ashram will pay for them to go to AIMS where she can have reverse-canal surgery so that they can once again have children.

In the next shelter, there are a mother and father whose children were playing at the beach when the tsunami came. They were all lost. Amma pulls the parents to her chest, and they break down in tears. She tells them to pray for their little ones.

A few houses down the road, Amma speaks with Vanita and Balachandran, a sister and her younger brother whose parents are now dead. “Shall I take you to Kerala and give you a job there?” Amma asks the girl, who is around 20, upon learning that she has only studied up to the 5th standard. The girl agrees. “If you don’t like the job in Cochin, Amma will give you a job in a school in Madras, okay?” Amma then tells the boy he can come along with his sister.

Another house finds a young mother, Punitavati, holding an infant girl—”Amrita Devi.” Amma takes the child into crook of her arm as Punitavati tells her story. She was in her final week of pregnancy when the tsunami destroyed her home. Upon finding Punitavati in such a hapless and expectant state, the brahmacharis arranged for her stay at a local hospital until she delivered the baby. The doctors there told Punitavati that if she hadn’t had been admitted, there was a strong possibility she would have died in labour due to a complication in her delivery.

In the next house, Amma consoles a mother and father over the death of their child—the candles lit before the child’s photograph on an alter glowing in the background.

In the next house, another child is dead.

A grandmother…

In the next, another child…

The next, four children…

Son died…

Six-months pregnant daughter died…

Bhagyavati also has had her tubes tied. Again Amma tells the woman she can have her surgery reversed for free if she wishes at the Ashram’s hospital in Cochin.

In the next house, a mother tells Amma that her son is now afraid to sleep at night. He was at the beach when the waves came, playing with his friends. They were all washed away. Only the boy survived—rescued by someone who saw him holding his hand above the water. “Don’t be afraid,” Amma tells him as she takes him into Her arms. “Mother Sea won’t betray you.”

A little way down the path, Amma comes to a shelter housing two brothers and sisters, each pair of which have lost their parents. “Would you like to come and work in Cochin?” Amma asks them?

In the next house is a boy of about six with one of his legs wrapped in a plaster cast. Amma lifts him into her arms and holds him there as she speaks to his mother. “Amma doesn’t feel this cast was done properly,” She says. “You should send him straight to AIMS. This swami will give you a letter and arrange your bus fare.” Then to the boy: “When you see the water, don’t be afraid. The sea is our mother.”

In the next house is a father holding a two-year-old boy. His wife is dead. The child is traumatised, acting insane. He won’t leave his father’s arms, even to take a candy from Amma. Looking at the man, one can see he is doing all he can to hold it together. Amma strokes his arm lovingly. “Take the boy to where other children are playing,” she tells him. “When he sees them playing for some time, he will change. He may even forget everything.”

When Amma adopts a village, she gives the people there everything she possibly can: food, shelter, medicine, education, jobs, love.

The villagers of Samanthampettai were both excited and in tears. They thanked Amma for coming and blessing their village. Amma told them, “There is no need to thank Amma. Amma is not a guest. Amma is a member of your family.”

The villagers then told Amma that they wanted to rename their village after Her—”Amritakupam,” or Immortal Cove. They asked Amma to unveil a placard immortalising the event. “Amma doesn’t need any board,” Amma said. “Your happiness is my board.”

The villagers responded, “Amma, the moment we saw your face, we forget all of our sorrows. We are all happy.”

–Sakshi

Just your blessings…

13 February 2005 — Lechakkupam, Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu

Amma had been visiting tsunami relief camps from the morning itself. Many a times those with Her had tried to get Her to cut short Her programme in some way, but Amma was not open to suggestions—She just said, “You don’t understand their sorrow.”

The programme at Akkaraipettai ended; there was a mad scramble for the vehicles, which were to go with Amma—a usual sight at all programmes! Amma’s vehicle was in the lead. Suddenly it turned off the route and headed into a small hamlet,Lechakkuppam—some people from there had invited Amma during Her programme at the last place and Amma had agreed to visit them.

Amma’s car stopped in front of a small Kali temple at around 12:30 in the night. She was greeted by the village headmen and some others with reverence. Amma was invited into the temple where the villagers started voicing their woes. They had lost everything—some their family members,most their sole means of livelihood—their boats and nets; they were also a bit afraid to venture into the sea again. The government and some NGOs had provided basic amenities and some monetary aid but the future still presented a bleak picture—they knew no other profession, no other means of making a livelihood. They were a strong, independent people and did not take easily to the idea of losing the freedom that their profession had granted them. As in Kerala, the fishermen there too worked on a share basis—the owner took a fixed share of the profit and the balance was distributed amongst the rest in an equitable fashion.

When they talked of their woes their voices were choked with emotion—the helplessness of those who see no future was apparent in their tones. But still they didn’t ask Amma for anything. Amma’s eyes too filled with tears, all those who were there felt the sorrow of these people, more so because it was presented in such a dignified and restrained manner.

Amma told them that She had been under the impression that other organizations were looking after the needs of the people there and so She had already made commitments to help in other parts of the country and Sri Lanka—but still She would do what She could.

In reply to Amma’s words these simple villagers said, “Amma, you have made commitments to help others—let your word stand true. We just need your blessings. We are sure that if your blessings are there then everything will turn out right.” These were words of people who were meeting Amma for the first time, who knew little about Her. They had not read Amma’s biography, they had not read books of Amma’s teachings, they did not know of the extent of Amma’s charitable activities,but still their hearts told them all that there was to know if Amma’s blessings were there all would turn out fine!

—Sakshi