Providing hope to mourning mothers

30 March 2005, Amritapuri

In the midst of such loss and tragedy, it is hard to say who has suffered the most. Out of all those affected by the tsunami, everyone’s heart goes out to the mothers that lost their children.

Many of the mothers who lost their children had previously undergone tubectomy to prevent them from having more children. So when their only children perished in the tsunami, many of these women lost hope and their desire to live.

When Amma came to know of their pain and suffering due to their loss, she offered them the opportunity to undergo a recanilization procedure at AIMS to reverse the effects of the earlier sterilization surgery.

Seven ladies expressed their willingness to undergo the procedure, to give them a chance to become mothers again.

“It was Amma who suggested the idea of the reverse operation as we were all very shattered by the tragedy. And our husbands and families also agreed,” says Lini who lost her sons.”

Sarala Sreedhar, a gynaecologist from AIMS noted that “only a few people opt for this surgery as it is very rare to lose both children. We can only say the success rate is 20 to 30 percent. And the success depends on how the tubectomy was done. There are chances for complications also.”

Despite the risks involved, all of the ladies have faith that because Amma is providing them this opportunity, everything will be successful.  Amma has given them hope where they had none.

“We have trust in Amma and the doctors. Everything will be all right,” says Adarsha, who lost her two daughters Sreelakshmi and Sreekkutty.

—Kannadi

see also

Watch Aparna video

Tsunami alert at Amritapuri

29 March 2005, 12.30 a.m. — Amritapuri

At 10:30 p.m. on 28 March, the Ashram received the news that there had been another earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, registering 8.2 on the Richter scale.

Amma immediately called the Ashram to alert and sent word to the villagers to evacuate the Alappad Panchayat peninsula, to which the Ashram is home.

Amma sent Ashram trucks and buses out into the village to shuttle the villagers to various jetties along the backwaters.

Four buses, three trucks, six cars and one ambulance were used for transportation in the evacuation operation.

Amma then went to Ashram boat jetty and began personally seeing that all the villagers, students, devotees and ashramites were getting across the backwaters safely to the Amrita University campus.

amma helping people to get into the boat
Ram and Lakshmi, the Ashram elephants, have been shifted to the safety of the temple.
Food preparations for evacuees immediately got underway.
The Ashram has also evacuated the villages it adopted in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu after the last tsunami.
As of this posting at 12:35 a.m., Amma is still at the jetty seeing people across to safety.

Update 2.30 a.m All villagers, devotees and students of the university are evacuated from the village. Amma, swamis and few ashramites are staying backat the ashram. Fear of tsunami attack is over. All will be back in the morning.

More Photos



Tsunami Alert
Amma evacuates the villagers across the backwaters on a tsunami alert.
28-Mar-2005, Amritapuri

Brahmasthanam temple in Trissur

20 March 2005

Amma will inaugurate Her 18th Brahmasthanam Temple, conducting the stupika pratishtha on 9 April from 8:30 to 9:00 a.m. and the murti pratishtha on 10 April from 6:20 to 6:30 a.m.

The new temple is located at Amma’s ashram in Ayyantol, Trissur, approximately 180 kilometres north of Amritapuri. Trissur is considered as the cultural capital of Kerala, famous for its temple elephants and festival celebrations.

Preparatory ceremonies will stars on 5th April, tuesday, evening. Covering, offerings at the major temple at the neighbourhood, Vastushanti, Vastubali, Ganapati homa, Sudharshana homa, Mrityunjaya homa, Tila homa, Navagraha Homa, Pujas, Detailed Bimbashodhanas, Jalaadhivaasa, Praasaada shudhi, Kalasha pujas and so on.

Amrita research labs goes Wi-Fi

18 March 2005 — Madgaon, Goa

Amrita Research Labs (ARL), the research-and-development wing of Amrita University, has developed a revolutionary new Wi-Fi-based wireless system of intelligent and interactive telematics for Konkon Railways’ SkyBus transportation network.

This Amrita-SkyBus system has been successfully deployed at Konkan SkyBus 1.6 km-long test track in Madgaon, Goa. This is an affordable but highly effective telematics system that handles vehicle-tracking, fleet-scheduling, traffic-management, education and entertainment on wheels even in everyday public-transportation vehicles.

Telematics is fast emerging as the most important application of cutting-edge wireless and mobile communication technologies in vehicular electronics, road and rail transportation. Until recently, telematics was primarily aiding navigation in luxury cars.
getting the blessing of amma after successful installtion of wireless communication

The SkyBus is a next-generation intelligent transportation system of Konkan Railways that promises to solve the congestion problem in Indian metros.
sky bus

Amrita Research Labs’ Wi-Fi technology makes the SkyBus transportation system more efficient, user-friendly and provides security and value-added services, such as location-tracking of SkyBus coaches, voice and video communication between a moving coach and the central-control station, Internet access within a moving coach, and public voice announcements, among others.

Throughout the test run, the entire system operated flawlessly, maintaining seamless data connectivity, even at speeds of 60 km per hour.

Lose yourself in the song

Someone had put a note on Amma’s peetham before the start of the evening bhajan, requesting Her to sing the Mahishasura Mardini Stotram, a 21-versed hymn in praise of Durga. Amma read the note aloud to the ashramites and devotees who were seated before Her and then told them all to close their eyes, imagine that they were dancing with Amma and lose themselves in the song.

And that is exactly what they did, as for the next 15 minutes, the bhajan hall resounded with the fast-paced, hypnotic hymn that Amma has only sung a few times before. The lyrics say that Durga “burns like the blazing sun, inflamed by the resounding din of the drums of the gods,” and indeed that is what the song sounded like when Amma sang it.

The Sanskrit stotram, which is often attributed to Sri Adi Shankaracharya, details Durga’s slaughter of Mahisha Asura, the Buffalo Demon, who, according to the Devi Mahatmyam, persecuted even the gods during his reign of terror.

Mahisha means “buffalo,” and is thus a symbol of tamas, the element of creation associated with darkness, lethargy and ignorance. Mahisha Asura should be taken as the demonic tendencies born of ego that reside in every one of us—hatred, jealousy, lust, greed, etc.

In the end, Durga is of course, victorious, earning the title that is thrust upon Her every fourth line: jaya jaya he mahisha-asura-mardhini ramya-kapardini shailasute. “Victory, victory to You, Oh Slayer of the Buffalo Demon! Victory, Daughter of the Himalayas, with beautifully braided hair.”

The ashramites have been singing the stotram as part of their morning archana, along with the 108 names of Amma and the 1,000 names of the Devi.

-Tulasi
18 March 2005 — Amritapuri

A delightful game for those who know swimming

16 March 2005 — Amritapuri

The 30 children from Alappad who are currently taking swimming lessons in the Ashram swimming pool came to Amma with a desire: Would Amma go swimming with them?

Word got around pretty quick. Soon everywhere one went one would people talking in hushed yet excited tones: Did you hear? Amma might go swimming with the village children today!

Around 4:30, when Amma finished giving darshan and walked down the spiral steps, about 50 village kids were there, lined up and waiting for Her. “Amma, will you come with us?” one of them asked.

Amma seemed to think a minute and then said, “Go take a bath, go to the bathroom and change your clothes. Then Amma will come.”

Their response was unexpected: “No, Amma. Please eat something first and then you can come.”

About a half hour later Amma arrived at the pool, wearing a pink swim dress. The kids—along with the instructors who are teaching them to swim as part of the Ashram’s tsunami-relief efforts —were already there in the shallow end of the pool.

When Amma stepped down into the water, to be frank, the kids simply went wild. The pool exploded with screams, splashes and the general mayhem associated with a large group of children in a body of water. It certainly was hard to believe that only a week before some of these kids were afraid to even put a foot in the water.

Amma spent the next hour or so helping various children to swim around the pool. Often She would offer slight support to their bodies as they propelled themselves forward with kicks and strokes. Amma also would have the smaller children hold on to Her back as She swam back and forth, from place to place. She taught them how to hold their nose as they went under and showed them how there was no need to wipe their face each time they lifted their heads from the water.

As Amma swam about with the children, one could not help but think of something She says in nearly every one of Her satsangs: “For one who knows swimming, being in the ocean is a delightful game. But one who doesn’t know may even drown.”

What was Amma doing there in the pool? Teaching children to swim or sewing the seeds of a relationship that would serve them in the years to come. Was this about making them masters of water or masters of life itself? Or in Amma’s unique way, was it both?

Afterwards, in front of Amma’s room, Amma served all of the children chai and vadas. They thanked Her for coming and swimming with them, telling Her that they loved Her. They then asked Amma to bless them, as they were about to take their final exams.

“Amma has only studied up to fourth standard,” Amma told them.

“No,” they replied. “You are Devi.”

—Sakshi

Watch Amma teaches tsunami-affected children to swim

The water is a delightful game

16 March 2005 — Amritapuri

The 30 children from Alappad who are currently taking swimming lessons in the Ashram swimming pool came to Amma with a desire: Would Amma go swimming with them?

Word got around pretty quick. Soon everywhere one went one would people talking in hushed yet excited tones: Did you hear? Amma might go swimming with the village children today!

Around 4:30, when Amma finished giving darshan and walked down the spiral steps, about 50 village kids were there, lined up and waiting for Her. “Amma, will you come with us?” one of them asked.

Amma seemed to think a minute and then said, “Go take a bath, go to the bathroom and change your clothes. Then Amma will come.”

Their response was unexpected: “No, Amma. Please eat something first and then you can come.”

About a half hour later Amma arrived at the pool, wearing a pink swim dress. The kids—along with the instructors who are teaching them to swim as part of the Ashram’s tsunami-relief efforts (report)—were already there in the shallow end of the pool.

When Amma stepped down into the water, to be frank, the kids simply went wild. The pool exploded with screams, splashes and the general mayhem associated with a large group of children in a body of water. It certainly was hard to believe that only a week before some of these kids were afraid to even put a foot in the water.

Amma spent the next hour or so helping various children to swim around the pool. Often She would offer slight support to their bodies as they propelled themselves forward with kicks and strokes. Amma also would have the smaller children hold on to Her back as She swam back and forth, from place to place. She taught them how to hold their nose as they went under and showed them how there was no need to wipe their face each time they lifted their heads from the water.

As Amma swam about with the children, one could not help but think of something She says in nearly every one of Her satsangs: “For one who knows swimming, being in the ocean is a delightful game. But one who doesn’t know may even drown.”

What was Amma doing there in the pool? Teaching children to swim or sewing the seeds of a relationship that would serve them in the years to come. Was this about making them masters of water or masters of life itself? Or in Amma’s unique way, was it both?

Afterwards, in front of Amma’s room, Amma served all of the children chai and vadas. They thanked Her for coming and swimming with them, telling Her that they loved Her. They then asked Amma to bless them, as they were about to take their final exams.

“Amma has only studied up to fourth standard,” Amma told them.

“No,” they replied. “You are Devi.”

—Sakshi

Sri Rama knew Sitas heart

15 March 2005 — Amritapuri

The Puranas and Hindu epics are full of stories that seem simple on the surface, but upon deeper investigation reveal fathomless depth. This, in truth, is their greatness—the fact that everyone from a child to a scholar can hear them and come away with a meaning appropriate for their stage and place in life. But sometimes, due to our lack of understanding, stories in these texts can cause some confusion, particularly when a hero or god acts in a way that seems contrary to the code of dharma. When this happens our only recourse is to go to a True Master and ask him or her to clear our doubt. Such was the case in Amritapuri on Tuesday’s Meditation Day.

The epic in question was the Ramayana, the 7,500-year-old text by Sage Valmiki detailing the life of Sri Rama. In the epic, Sri Rama’s wife, Sita, is stolen away by Ravana, and taken to his palace in Lanka. Eventually, after a search of 10 months Sri Rama kills Ravana and rescues Sita. But when questions arise in Sri Rama’s kingdom regarding Sita’s chastity during her time in Ravana’s palace, Sri Rama exiles his wife to the forest—even though she is pregnant with Sri Rama’s children—without even giving her an opportunity to speak in defense of herself. The brahmachari raising the question wanted to know how we could consider someone who would treat his virtuous wife in such a way as the embodiment of dharma. The brahmachari raising the question wanted to know how we could consider someone who would treat his virtuous wife in such a way as the embodiment of dharma.

“If we interpret the inner meaning of Ramayana, Sri Rama, Sita and all other characters are within us,” Amma said. “Even when we look into the epic of Ramayana externally, Sri Rama was indeed an incarnation of dharma. And he did set a good example to his subjects.”

Amma then explained how, as the King of Ayodhya, Sri Rama was not just wedded to Sita but to all of his subjects and that, whatever he did, the well being of his entire kingdom was his top consideration.

“When one is the king of a nation, that person cannot act, merely thinking of the well being of his own family,” Amma said. “For example, suppose a war breaks out between two countries. A general should not stay back at home with his wife and children. He has to be there at the war front, leading his army. This is a general’s dharma towards the nation.”

Amma then quoted some advice given by Sage Vidura in the Mahabharata: “To save a family, sacrifice a man; to save the village, sacrifice a family; to save the country, sacrifice a village.”

Then Amma looked at Sri Rama’s actions from another angle, explaining how when a robbery or fraud takes place at a bank, the authorities will immediately suspend the manager and have the enquiry later. “Although the authorities may know deep within that the manager is innocent, still they will let the law take its own course,” Amma said. “Maybe in the enquiry the manager will be proven innocent. In that case, he will be reinstated. Such an action will increase alertness and awareness among the other staff too, and they will be extra careful in all their transactions.”

Amma said that Sri Rama’s actions were in a similar vein: “When there was some murmur among the people about Sita’s purity, Rama sent her to the forest. But later, when the people became convinced of Sita’s chastity, Rama was ready to accept her back. This shows how a king must be. For a king, each and every subject in his kingdom is important. He listens to each and every person. He doesn’t just stick to the words of his counsel. In his heart Rama knew that Sita was pure. Similarly, Sita also knew Rama’s heart.”

Amma then offered another interpretation, this one focusing on the fact that Sita was pregnant. “In India it is the custom to send a wife back to her parents’ house when she reaches her seventh month of pregnancy with her first child,” Amma said. “During her stay there, special pujas are conducted and Vedic hymns are regularly chanted, and the atmosphere is kept spiritually surcharged. This atmosphere will have a positive influence on the baby. After she gives birth, she is once again brought back to the husband’s house.

“Sri Rama did the same. He knew that Sita was going to stay in Sage Valmiki’s ashram. In the ashram, she was always hearing the chanting of Vedic hymns, inhaling the pure smoke from the fire rituals and was in the elevating presence of the Rishi. So the children born to her—the twins Lava and Kusha—were spiritually vibrant and courageous.”

Amma also pointed out how in those days a king could marry any number of times, yet Sri Rama never took even a second wife. Even when he performed the ashwamedha sacrifice, which requires the presence of one of the king’s wives, he did not remarry but had a golden idol of Sita made and kept it in the place specified for the wife. “This clearly shows the love Sri Rama had for Sita,” Amma said.

Amma then went on to speak about the deeper meaning of the epic, specifically the scene where Sita is stolen by Ravana after falling under the enchantment of Maricha, a demon disguised as a golden dear. Amma explained how Sita represents the mind, Sri Rama represents God, Sri Rama’s brother Lakshmana represents discipline, the deer represents desire, Maricha represents maya [the illusionary world] and Ravana represents the senses.

In the story, Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are staying in a camp in the forest when Maricha approaches them in the form of a golden deer. Sita wants Sri Rama to capture the deer for her and he complies. But the deer tactfully takes him far away from the camp. When Sri Rama realises the deer is really a demon, he kills it, but as Maricha is dying, the demon calls out. “Lakshmana, help me!” When Lakshmana and Sita hear Sri Rama’s call back in their hut, Sita tells Lakshmana to go help his brother. Lakshmana reluctantly leaves, but before he does so, he draws a line on the ground and warns Sita not to cross it at any cost. With both Sri Rama and Lakshmana away from Sita, Ravana comes, tricks Sita into crossing Lakshmana’s line and takes her away to Lanka.

“As soon as Sita realised her mistake, She began repenting,” Amma said. “When her yearning for Sri Rama reached its peak, Sri Rama reached Lanka with his monkey army, defeated Ravana and brought Sita back.”

Amma explained how the story illustrates the fact that when desires enter our mind, we become distant from God. “Maya [the illusionary world] is very powerful,” Amma said. “If desires become strong, we fall into a trap. Then it is discipline alone that saves us. When Sita, the mind crossed over the line of discipline she fell into the hands of Ravana. Then she realized her folly and started praying to the Lord wholeheartedly. Then Sri Rama came and rescued her. When we awaken to our ignorance and put in conscious efforts, God reaches out to us and we are able to unite with God, the Source.”

When Amma finished Her explanation, the brahmacharis doubt was cleared. Where he once saw a thorn, he now saw the rose.

-Sakshi

Buoyancy experiences: teaching tsunami kids how to swim

15 March 2005 — Amritapuri

It was only a week after the tsunami that Amma first mentioned Her idea of providing swimming lessons for the village children in the Ashram swimming pool. Amma wanted to help the children to overcome their fear of water, as so many had become petrified of Mother Sea since the day she flooded through their streets, washed away their homes and, perhaps, even drowned a friend or family member. “Only through water will they be able to overcome their fear of water,” Amma said.

Now lessons are in full swing, with two one-hour-long classes taking place each morning—one for boys and one for girls. The course, Beginning Swimming & Water Safety, is being taught by Sneha Albione Becnel, a 62-year-old American woman who has lived in Amritapuri for the past five years, during which time she has successfully taught more than 100 people to swim.

“You can’t talk someone out of a fear of water,” says Sneha, a former Red Cross Water Safety Instructor. “However you can teach them skills that will give them control, and that will give them the confidence. That’s what we focus on—things such as getting them to put their face in the water, rhythmic breathing, treading water, bobbing, floating on your stomach and back, the crawl stroke. We also teach them how to do a standing front dive and to jump in feet-first and then swim to safety. We try to get them in water that’s over their head as safely and as quickly as possible.”

Sneha says that the most important thing is to give the children what she calls “buoyancy experiences,” incidents that show them the body’s natural tendency to float. “You can’t teach that with words,” she says. “They must experience it. One thing I like to do is to tell them, ‘Go sit on the bottom of the pool.’ Well, of course, you can’t sit on the bottom of the pool. They find that out and experience the water pushing them up.”

All this helps the children gain confidence. “You have to get them to experience feeling safe in the water,” says Sneha. “All activities we do here are for that purpose.” Once the children overcome their fear, Sneha and her assistants work on getting them mobile in and under the water. “That’s important,” says Sneha. “Just teaching them to swim is not enough. They have to be able to go under water too. That’s a whole different experience. If you can swim, but only with your head above water, it isn’t going to really help you in an emergency.”

The first batch of kids finishes its course on Sunday, and the competent swimmers will all be given certificates to take back home with them. The students who are not quite up to snuff will sit in again with the next batch

Halfway through the course and the children are doing very well, says Sneha, reporting that about 70 percent of the boys can already dive in and then swim to the other side of the pool. “That’s the most rewarding thing: seeing a child who was absolutely terrified of the water when we started—who was afraid to even put her foot in the water—six days later being able to dive in and swim the length of the pool.”

—Tulasi

A different kind of party

Japanese College Students Build Houses for Tsunami victims

13 March 2005 — Edavanakkad, Ernakulam District, Kerala

Ask your average college student what he or she intends to do on their vacation and most likely the response is going to involve some combination of the words “beach,” “dance” and “partying.” But about 100 students from Japan decided to get respite from their studies in another way: travelling to India to unload cement blocks and dig foundations for Amma’s tsunami-relief free-housing project.

The students are part of IVUSA (International Volunteer University Student Association), which has established a relationship with Amma’s Ashram, in that almost every year since 1998 some of its members have come to participate in the Amrita Kuteeram free-housing programme—helping in places from Kerala to Gujarat. (news)

With the tsunami laying waste to thousands of homes throughout South India, this year the students set up camp in Kerala’s Ernakulam District, focusing on the village of Edavanakkad, where the Ashram is building 50 homes.

“They worked so hard,” says Vivek, an ashramite from Japan who has helped coordinate the IVUSA students for several years now. “They have fun, but they find the fun in working. They are so enthusiastic. They would start work around 8:00 in the morning and then go on to sundown. After that, we would sing bhajans. One time Swami Poornamritananda came and played his flute. It was like a flute-meditation for them.”

“Their attitude is very in tune with how Amma teaches us to be in our work, as far as willingness to transcend their bodily comforts,” says Gautam, an ashramite from the U.S. who was also involved in coordinating the project. “One of the plots was marked right on top of this muddy bog. I told them that we had to clear it out, and they just jumped right in and spent most of three days shovelling out all the muck. In the end they looked like mud people.”

Other jobs the students participated in included the unloading of some 30 truckloads of cement blocks, digging foundations for 18 homes and general land-clearing duties.

Although the students have paid what many young people would consider “the ultimate sacrifice”—paying to fly to another country to work, for free, on their vacation—the IVUSA students feel that they have received more than they have given.

“When I come here, I see that even the eyes of poor people are shining so brightly,” says Hayato Eto, a young man studying in Tokyo who has come three times now to participate in the Ashram’s project. “I keep asking myself why that is. I believe it is because they are rich in heart. I also learned a lot about adjusting. Construction in Japan is very different; everything is done with machines. Here we are carrying all the bricks by hand. You really learn to adjust.”

Every day the students were shuttled from their lodgings to the construction site. As the last kilometre of road was too narrow for the buses, they would have to get out and walk, and each day more and more of the villagers would come out to greet them as they passed by. “It was really beautiful,” says Gautam. “The last day it was like a procession. They were saying ‘Om Namah Shivaya,’ to everyone and everyone was saying it back—even the Muslim families. It was such an example of Amma’s teaching of how love is the universal language.”

Before the students returned to Japan, they made a short trip down to Amritapuri to have Amma’s darshan. Most people meet Amma and then become inspired by Her example to start serving the world. For these students it was the other way around.

“Darshan was so warm,” says Akina Tomimatsu, a 20-year-old girl from Tokyo. “It was a kind of love I’ve never experienced before. All the people I met here were so warm-hearted. When I go back to Japan, that is what I want to try to take with me—to treat everyone with kindness and love.”

—Tulasi