Bringing happiness & samskara into the lives of the Tsunami children

12 March 2005 — Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala

Every morning after breakfast you see him—with his book-bag slung around his shoulder, pedalling off the Ashram grounds on his bicycle, he could easily be taken for a student. But instead of textbooks, his bag carries collections of bhajans, and he is not heading off to school but to various tsunami-relief camps where he plays, sings and talks with the children.

Manoj teaching children

“A few weeks after the tsunami, Amma asked me to start going out to the villages,” says Brahmachari Manoj. “Amma said, ‘The children are in shock. They still have terror in their minds. They saw the water rush in, and they still are having fear. Bring some happiness into their lives. Be with them, play with them, talk with them.’ She also told me to teach them some bhajans, to help bring some samskara [cultural values] into their lives.”

And for the past two months that’s what he has been doing—12 hours a day, seven days a week. In all, Manoj regularly visits nine camps and is intimately involved in the lives of 400 children. And even when he’s not at the camps, he frequently has a crew of three or four young boys at his side. He jokes with them and asks them thought-provoking questions, even as he eats his breakfast.

“I visit the Ashram’s camp in Srayikkad almost every day,” he says. “The other camps—which are either run by the government or by the villagers themselves—I go to on a rotation, visiting each of them two or three times a week. I teach them bhajans, how to meditate and talk to them in general about spiritual matters. I focus mainly on how they should respect their parents. In India, we say matru devo bhava pitru devo bhava acharya devo bhava, atithi devo bhava, which means we should regard our mother, father, teachers and guests as God. So I focus on the first aspect. When they meditate, I ask them to worship their parents by mentally washing their feet. I also tell them stories from the Puranas, like the one about the race between Ganesha and Muruga*.”

For the past week or so, Manoj has been regularly bringing the children to Amritapuri to sing bhajans for Amma while She gives darshan. They sit right in front of her in groups of as many as 30, spending up to two hours belting out traditional namavalis and other songs praising Sri Krishna, Devi and Lord Ganesha.

Amma liked the children’s singing very much, but—ever the Mother interested in helping Her children to develop hidden talents—Amma asked Manoj to start teaching them more complicated songs.

A week later, Manoj came with some children from Srayikkad and they sang an original song—this one dedicated to Amma. When they first sang it for Amma, she all but completely stopped darshan so as to be able to look into their beaming faces as they sang:

We have an Amma, our own Amma,
That Amma’s name is Amritamayi!
Amma will give us a kiss,
Oh, how sweet that kiss is!
Amma will hug us and give us darshan,
Oh how blissful is that darshan!
Isn’t everything but everything my Amma?
Aren’t you my very own Amma?

Amma gives love to everyone.
Isn’t She the Amma who is always smiling?
Isn’t She the Amma filled with motherly love?
Isn’t She the Devi who is ever protecting us?

We shall give a gift to our Amma.
Do you know what that gift is?
We shall not fight amongst ourselves, we shall not quarrel.
Are we not Amma’s children?

We shall study well and grow better.
Always we shall stay as one.
We shall tell no lies, we shall do no wrong.
Are we not Your dear children?

We shall listen to what our parents tell us.
At home we will be good children.
Amma has given us a prayer
Do you know what that prayer is?

Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

Peace, peace, peace Om peace, peace, peace

Manoj says that now if any of the children start arguing or fighting, the other children will start singing: We shall not fight amongst ourselves, we shall not quarrel. Are we not Amma’s children?

Manoj is not the only ashramite who is working regularly with the children. Several brahmacharinis are regularly holding classes for them, and recently the Ashram has begun providing them with classes in tabala, harmonium and swimming. Amma says that she wants to provide them with classes in yoga as well.

At Amma’s request, Manoj also talks to the children about the tsunami and encourages them to draw pictures with crayons, which more often than not are of the disaster. “For a while they were having nightmares,” Manoj says. “They would dream that friends of theirs who had died were coming for them, calling out to them in the night. A few of them even started sleepwalking. But their relationship with Amma has given them a lot of strength. They really feel Amma is watching over them, protecting them. The fact that she gave them food right from the first day of the tsunami made such an impression on them. Now, even the ones who are scheduled to take food elsewhere are coming to the Ashram to have their breakfast. And they always make a rice-ball offering for Amma before they start eating.”
children drawing tsunami

In this day and age when the Indian culture is suffering at the hands of cable television, materialism and “modernity,” Amma is the resurrecting force, breathing life back into the younger generation through the enthusiastic efforts of young men and women like Br. Manoj. Samskara is not weakness but strength, a strength we can see starting to shine in the faces of village children around the Ashram.

“I ask them, ‘Where did you get your eyes?'” They can’t say. So I tell them, ‘You got your right eye from your mom and your left eye from your dad! So you know what that means? With your right hand you have to serve your mother and with your left hand you have to serve your dad. And then with both hands, you serve the whole world.”


*Ganesha and Muruga are both sons of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Once Parvati challenged them to race each other. The first one to make a round of the entire universe would be the winner. Muruga set off as fast as he could, but Ganesha took his time. Knowing that the entire universe was in truth within his father and mother, he simply walked around them once and prostrated. The story teaches about God’s greatness, in particular in the form of one’s parents.

Watch Video:
Children singing with Manoj

An eagle comes for Amma’s bhajan

11 March 2005 , Amritapuri

Om manusya-mrga-paksyadi sarva-samsevitanghraye namah
(Salutations to the feet of She who is served by humans, animals, birds and all others.)

It’s like something out of a fairy tale—but it happened. And not just once but many times, to hear Amma tell it. The eagles fed Her.

It’s something to picture: a teenage girl sitting hour after hour—perhaps, on the black sands of the beach or, perhaps, in a muddy bog by the backwaters—so engrossed in the essential nature of Her being that She was rendered lost to the outside world. At times like these, Amma paid no heed to the needs of Her body. The sun would beat down on Her, and She would not move, She would not take water, She would not go for food. She simply would sit. But the animals would care for Her, protect Her and feed Her. A dog stole would steal food packets and carry them to Her in its mouth, and two eagles would drop fish into her lap, which Amma would take as God’s prasad. And when Amma would give Krishna Bhava darshan, the eagles would come sit on the roof of the small kalari temple. ( read more on early life)

The whole thing—even the intensity of Amma’s sadhana was simply Her leela, a divine play put on to instruct, inspire and enchant the minds of those who witnessed it or would hear of it later.

And still to this day the eagles are ever near. Whether it’s Devi Bhava, Amma’s birthday, or at a Brahmasthanam Temple installation or when Amma is leaving for a tour, you can bet they will be there, circling overhead in the sky. ( read more on Eagle’s alert)

And now it seems that the leela continues, as in the past few weeks another eagle has apparently made the Ashram its home. And as Amma gives darshan, it will sit nearby, perhaps on a gate, rail or low wall and wait. And it will even let the brahmacharis feed it by hand.

Today when Amma came for bhajans, the eagle soared into the hall right after Her. Amma watched with mirth in her eyes as it circled the hall over and over again. Then it flew all the way into the stage area where Amma was singing, and literally did pradakshina to Her, gliding around Her, all but touching Her head as it passed by. The crowd applauded in joy. Finally, the eagle touched down and rested on top of the loud speaker that hangs from the ceiling right in front of Amma, over the oil lamp.


Fight for Dharma, Amma asks journalism students

3 March 2005 , Amritapuri

Journalism students get their first big interview

“Newspapers are meant for dharma. And for the purpose of protecting dharma we have to live our dharma,” Amma said. She was talking to 15 students from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s School of Journalism who She’d called to Her room after bhajans on 3rd March.

The students had come from the university’s campus in Coimbatore in order to spend the weekend at the Ashram. From the outset, it was the hope of the future journalists to “get their interview,” and many of them asked Amma as much when they went for darshan.

But when they went to Amma’s room, She turned the tables on them. It was Amma who was asking the questions: “Why have you decided to become journalists? What is your idea about this profession? What is the dharma of a journalist? Do you think that you can live up to that dharma?”

Amma explained how journalists face pressures from many directions—specifically those coming from the vested interests of their audience, of their publishers and of themselves.

“In today’s world many newspapers are run by businessmen whose sole aim is to make profits,” Amma said. “You will have tremendous pressure from the management. You will also have to work under numerous constraints while trying to uphold journalistic ethics. But you should learn to tackle all these problems, without compromising on the truth and values.

“You will have to keep your job to maintain your family. But that doesn’t mean that you should forget your fellow human beings; their interests should be given top priority. It’s an uphill task, but it can be accomplished with God’s grace.

“Life is not going to be a bed of roses. You will have to tread thorny paths and face many obstacles. You may even feel confused and lose your sense of direction in the overwhelming darkness. But then, it is a matter of will. You should fight till you establish dharma, even if it means you have to make sacrifices.”

The 45 minutes Amma spent with the students left them thrilled. It was clear they felt Amma was their Sri Krishna, clearing their doubts and calling them on to fight their Kuruksetra. They left feeling invigorated and full of enthusiasm to take up the challenge of their chosen path.

“It was ecstatic,” wrote Anoop Anandhe Jaggal in the March 7th copy of the Campus Beat, the student newspaper. “Amma was talking and we all were sitting around Her. For the first time in life I knew that words can be this powerful. I was charged up. She spoke in such a simple language, but the irony was that I just couldn’t stop thinking about what She said for the whole night. Her simple words were embedded with eternal concepts.”

“It was as if She knew exactly what we wanted to know from Her,” wrote Soyesh H. Rawther.

As part of their education, Amma urged the students to visit rural Indian and get a feel of the life there, to understand the plight of the country’s poor. She also spoke to them about the deterioration of values in Indian society, and while agreeing that there were things worth imbibing from the West—such as the strong work-ethic and self-sufficiency of the people—there were many aspects to its culture that simply do not fit India. “We Indians only imbibe what the Westerners dump, while they always take only the good from our culture,” Amma lamented.

It seems that every few months Amma is talking with another group of students, either calling them to the bhajan-hall stage or to Her room. But no matter what discipline the students are studying—medicine, computers, journalism—they always report being so inspired by Amma’s satsang. Amma founded Amrita University not only to create professionals, but professional human beings,professionals with a heart and a strong sense of dharma.

In today’s world it is the journalists who spark the minds of the people. Now Amma is sparking the minds of the young journalists, stoking a fire fuelled by truth and dharma.  Perhaps the sentiments of Radha R. Menon, in her article for Campus Beat, show best the potential inherent in Amma’s spark: “Just as Amma says, fulfilling our dharma is most important. I hope to fulfil my dharma fruitfully. After all we have a short life and we have so much to do.”


Parts of this article were culled from those appearing in Campus Beats, a paper written and published by students of the Amrita School of Journalism in Coimbatore.

Buddhist monk finds inspiration in Amma

1 March 2005 , Amritapuri

Around the time Amma left for Sri Lanka, a Buddhist monk from the island country came to stay for a while in Amritapuri. He had heard a lot about Amma and, as he was spending some time in India, had decided to come to Her Ashram.

After Amma returned from Sri Lanka, some ashramites working on a video of Amma’s trip to the country needed help translating some words from Sinhalese, one of the languages spoken there. They approached him and he agreed.

He told them that he was part of a group of ascetic Sri Lankan Buddhists who hardly ever leave the forests. When he fist came to the Ashram, he was a bit confused as to how to go for Amma’s darshan, as he worried that being embraced by Amma would violate his vow to not have physical contact with a woman. In the end, he decided that he would go to Amma with the attitude of a patient seeing a doctor. He had Amma’s darshan and felt that Amma was a great soul.

He watched the video clips of Amma giving darshan to the tsunami victims in Ampara and Hambantota, some of the hardest-hit areas in Sri Lanka. He saw Amma giving darshan to the Tamilian Tigers and the Sinhalese Lions—two groups that have been engaged in a brutal civil war for more than 20 years. As he did so, tears welled up in eyes and rolled down his cheeks. He said that he was overwhelmed that Amma, a native of India, had gone to Sri Lanka, another country, to comfort the people there.

Suddenly he realised that he had to leave in a few hours to catch his train. Wiping his tears, he hurried and went for Amma’s darshan one last time.

As he was leaving, he said that Amma had rekindled his spirit. He had been a recluse and solitary, but now he felt he should go into the world and live his life as a sacrifice for others.


Sciences of ancient India

1 March 2005 , Amritapuri

One of the Ashram residents had read something in the paper and wanted to share it with Amma. So she placed the clipping in a pile of questions on Amma’s peetham during Tuesday’s Meditation Day.

It was the story of a group of elephants kept at a resort in Phuket, Thailand, that, 20 minutes before December’s tsunami, became so agitated that they broke free of their ground posts and ran up to the top of a hill.

Amma said that it is true that animals have many subtle senses. “Animals have many abilities that man does not have,” She said, citing as an example the ability of police dogs to track down criminals through their heightened sense of smell. “However, although they do have such abilities, they cannot do what humans can. We have never heard of a dog singing classical music or playing the tabala. For millions of years birds have been living in nests. They haven’t built multi-storied buildings. Nor have they made any atom bombs. But what man is not able to sniff and understand, a dog can.”

Amma explained that by systematically studying the behaviour of various animals, the Rishis of ancient India were able to establish and record systems for predicting future events. Among others, there are Gauli Shastra [the science of lizards], Shakuna Shastra [the science of birds], Nimitta Shastra [science of omens], Hastarekha Shastra [palmistry] and Jyotish [astrology].

Amma then told everyone how back when She was a girl, if crows were heard cawing in the morning in a certain peculiar way, housewives would take it as a sign: “They would be sure that guests would soon arrive and be sure to cook extra rice. And invariably some unexpected guest would come. These days housewives behave differently; if they were to know that a guest is coming they will get ready with an excuse! They may lock their doors and go out, or they may tell the guests, ‘You have chosen to come on the wrong day. Today is our day for fasting. Please share a cup of water with us.'”

Amma explained that these seemingly cryptic shastras show how through the observation of seemingly insignificant things we can infer wide-ranging implications. The idea being that all happenings in this world are interconnected, so much so that with reference to one we can ascertain the others.

“Different predictions are made according to the different movements made by house lizards,” Amma explained. “Suppose a lizard chirps in a particular place or moves in a particular direction—it will indicate some specific thing. Similarly, when a crow drops excreta on someone’s head at a particular time, it is taken as a sign that he will soon hear of the death of one of his relatives. Other birds indicate forthcoming good news.”

Amma continued to list some of the observations detailed in these shastras. A succession of dogs howling in a certain way is taken as a sign that a death will soon occur in the village. A black cat crossing one’s path is seen as an ill omen, and one typically will return home and wait some time before recommencing their journey. And if one’s vehicle strikes a pig, they will most likely sell it off, as the collision indicates that the vehicle could soon be involved in a more serious accident.

“Though all these may sound irrational, many people believe strongly in such things, as in their own experience they have come true,” Amma said. “Such sciences came as the result of years of research by the Rishis, so Amma doesn’t think that these are blind beliefs. Every country has their own beliefs, in their own different ways.”

Amma went on to explain how these ancient sciences are in truth not very different from the so-called traditional sciences, as both types of sciences considered an inference legitimate only after it passes an acceptable success rate. “Suppose a doctor tests a patient’s blood sample and finds that the white-blood-cell count is very high; he will consider it as a symptom of cancer,” Amma said. “If the count is too low, the doctor may consider it a sign of tuberculosis. When the doctor makes such predictions, it is not mere superstition. Suppose, a botanist tells us that a certain tree will flower after so many years or that a certain tree will bear fruit after so many years—again it is not mere superstition. Doctors and botanists are able to make such inferences as a result of their research. Similarly, when the ancient Seers established such systems, it was a result of their research.”

Amma went on to question why rationalists and modern scientists typically scoff at such ancient sciences  like astrology: “The rationalists fail to understand that there is deep hidden meaning; the planets are symbols. Just as a national flag is not a mere flag but the symbol of an entire nation’s culture, heritage and pride, such planets carry deep hidden meaning. Depending on one’s time and place of birth and the position of the sun and other planets, astrological charts are made. It is subtle mathematics.”

Amma said that depending on the different phases of the moon, the heat and humidity in the earth’s atmosphere are affected. “It reflects not only in nature but also in us as well,” Amma said, citing as examples how on new and full moon days asthma intensifies, ladies experience heavier menstruation and mental patients suffer from insomnia. “We are closely related to nature.”

“Some people say, ‘Man has set foot on the moon and sent satellites to Mars, it is inert. How can it have an effect on humans?’ But the planets do have their effect.”

In case anyone was becoming a little too fascinated, Amma reminded the ashramites that we shouldn’t pay excessive attention to such things, that life is bound to bring pleasurable and painful situations and that the only way to remain unaffected by calamities is not by becoming a master of, say, palmistry, but by becoming a master of the mind.

“By doing spiritual practices such as meditation, we try to bring this pendulum of the mind into equilibrium,” Amma said. “Thus it is said that meditation is precious like gold. Swimming in the ocean is a nightmarish experience for someone who doesn’t know swimming, but for an expert swimmer it is very pleasant and joyful. The person who knows a firecracker is going to go off will not be shocked when he hears the explosion. On the other hand, one who doesn’t know will be shocked. Spirituality is the science that teaches us about the nature of the world and advises us how to live in it.”

Omens, jyotish, palmistry we can use such systems as means to warn us of times when it is important to be extra alert, but then we have to move forward with our lives using our God-given discrimination, Amma said. She then explained through a story how omens do not produce any results of their own, but merely point to results that have already been determined by some other factor.

“We must sharpen our discrimination,” Amma said. “Suppose we hear a warning that another tsunami is going to strike. All of us must run to a higher place. There is no point in waiting for the water to come.”

When all of creation is seen as but a bubble existing within one’s Infinite Self, the mysteries of the world unravel and their mechanics become as obvious as the back of one’s hand. To one with such a vision, the unfathomable latticework of creation is etched in every happening, on every grain of sand, on every creature great and small. Advanced mathematics, gravity, the heliocentric galaxy, the spherical earth, the elliptical universe, the concept of the atom, the macrocosm in the microcosm—these are but a few of the concepts investigated, discovered and recorded in the shastras of the Rishi-scientists millenniums ago. As Amma has said, “Nature is a book. It has to be studied.”