Ashram concludes relief work for flood

Victims in Mumbai

29 August 2005 — Mumbai, Maharashtra
Dr chandra sekhar giving medicines to the mothers

The Ashram has completed its relief work in Mumbai, where it has spent the past three weeks providing food, essential supplies and medical aid to victims of the monsoon-spawned flooding.

Dr. Chandrasekhar, a brahmachari based at the Amrita Kripa Charitable Hospital in Amritapuri, was one of three doctors sent by Amma to Mumbai in order to diagnose and treat flood victims there, as well as to distribute medicines.

“The worst-hit areas were the slums in place likes Kalyan, Badlapur, Kurla and Panvel,” said Dr. Chandrasekhar upon his return to Amritapuri. “When went there, we found that–although most of the first volunteer organizations to arrive on the scene had already departed–that many people had still not received their medicines. Even though the rains were still coming,people were willing to stand in queues to receive our medicines. This showed us how desperate the people were for help.”

The medical teams sent by the Ashram comprised three doctors, two fully equipped ambulances, seven paramedics,two nurses and two pharmacists. They attended to more than 1,500 patients every day and distributed a total of two tones of medicines [value of Rs. 20 lakh or $46,500 U.S.D.] that were sent from the Ashram’s AIMS Hospital in Cochin. Due to the large number of patients attending each camp, the medical team ran out of medicines at one stage. In appreciation of the great work being rendered by them, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Vilasarao Desmukh asked F.D.A. to provide medicines to the Ashram for distribution.

Dr. Chandrasekhar said that primarily the Ashram’s medical teams treated the flood victims for infectious diseases: “We saw a lot of lung infections, skin infections–the types of problems that are often seen in those who are continually in long-standing water. There were a few cases of malaria, dengue fever, typhoid and leptospirosis, but nothing that one could call an epidemic. We also saw many pregnant mothers, people suffering from malnutrition and anaemia.”

Distributing medicine from the AIMS ambulance

The first week the Ashram’s medical teams were in Mumbai, however, their focus was not on distributing medicines, but on distributing food and household items,such as kerosene stoves, sleeping mats, bed sheets, clothing, cooking vessels, rice grain and dhal. This went on in places such as Nerul, Panvel, Khidkupada and Badlapur.

In Nerul, the area in New Mumbai that is home to one of Amma’s branch ashrams, the teams serviced two relief camps, providing medical service and three meals a day for six days. Nerul had fallen victim to landslides, leaving hundreds homeless.

The worst of the monsoon flooding took place on 26th July, when just shy of one metre of rain fell in Mumbai in a single day.

“The sad thing is that the worst-affected were the poor,” reflected Dr. Chandrasekhar “Many of the slum residents lost all their belongings. They also lost all of their domestic animals, so their means of livelihood have seriously been affected as well.But at least now they have the proper footing to begin the road to recovery.”


Macabre monsoon in Mumbai: MAM into relief efforts

It was supposed to be the monsoon. But it seemed more like the deluge. Four days of continuous rains that began on July 26th, 2005, flooded the state of Maharashtra. Mumbai, its capital city, was most badly affected.

94.4 cm of rain fell in Mumbai on a single day, the highest rainfall recorded not only in Indian history, but in the world too.

Millions were affected. Floods and landslides washed away countless homes. At least a thousand people drowned. Tens of thousands were stranded in their offices for three days. Floods not only submerged many areas in the state, they also paralyzed all land transportation, cutting off supplies of food, water and medical aid.

In Panvel, many small villages were submerged in eight to 10 feet of water, destroying most of the hutments here. The Math distributed essentials such as mats, bed sheets, stoves and kitchen utensils, rice and groceries were distributed to the tribal folks at Khidkupada, Panvel.

The Mumbai branch of the M.A. Math swung into action, carrying out relief activities in Panvel, the worst-hit area in Navi Mumbai, as well as other areas of Mumbai like Borivili, Badlapur, Dahisar and Goregaon.

Ashram volunteers also distributed cooked food prepared at the M.A. Math to the hundreds of refugees staying in two makeshift shelters at Ambedkar Nagar and Shirovane.

Click here for more photos

First 25 Tsunami homes finished in Kanyakumari

28 August 2005 — Parapattru, Kalkulam Taluk, Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu

The Ashram has finished the construction of 25 homes for tsunami-affected families in Kanyakumari, the second-most devastated area in India. The houses will be inaugurated and the residents will move in around 9 September.

The homes are in Parapattru, a village near Mandakkadu, in the Kalkulam Taluk. The 360-square-foot houses comprise one bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, a veranda, and a staircase leading to the roof, where shelter can be taken in case of future flooding.

The villagers who will soon be calling the new houses home hail from an area three kilometres away. But as their previous houses—which were all destroyed by the massive waves—were directly on the beach, the government has relocated them to Parappattru, which is a half a kilometre inland. At least three people from the 25 families were killed during the tsunami.

Construction on the homes began on 6 July, and the Ashram was able to finish in two month’s time—despite the monsoon. “We worked in rain or shine,” said one of the brahmacharis who worked on the construction. The Ashram has also constructed a main road for the houses, dug a bore-well and installed water tanks. The Ashram’s were the first tsunami-relief homes to be completed in Kanyakumari.

In all, the Ashram is building 100 houses in the Kanyakumari District. With the first phase of 25 homes now finished, it will begin the second 25, in Kolachal, imminently.


Amrita Setu – connecting Alappad with Vallikkavu

28 August 2005 — Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala
Artist’s rendition of the bridge that will connect Alappad and Vallikkavu

Anyone who has ever climbed up to the roof of the 16-storey ashram flats knows how breathtaking the view is. From that height, two things become clear: the ashram possesses the only multi-storeyed buildings as far as the eye can see, and the ashram is almost completely surrounded by water.

When the tsunami hit on December 26th, everyone from the surrounding villages rushed to Amritapuri, knowing it to be the only true place of refuge. Amma then directed everyone to be transported across the backwaters via ashram boats.

On March 29th when the government issued a warning of a possible second tsunami, the scene repeated itself (news). Because of the limited number of boats available and the fact that so many people depended on the Ashram to get them across, it took more than three hours to transport everyone to the mainland. Fortunately, nothing happened, but Amma took note of the long time it took to evacuate and said that a more efficient way to transport people to the mainland must be established.

In the end Amma decided that a footbridge had to be built, with the goal of being able to evacuate all of Alappad Panchayat within 30 minutes.

Swami Amritaswarupananda laid the foundation stones for the new bridge. Extending from the Ashram jetty to the mainland, the bridge will be 100 meters long, five meters wide and seven meters high.

Currently, Alappad is connected with the mainland via only one bridge, which is two kilometers from the southern tip of the penninsula. The government has started constructing another bridge at the northern end of Alappad. Alappad is 17.5 kilometers in length. The ashram is located in the middle.


A hospital of hope for wayanad’s vanavasis:

The Amrita Kripa Charitable Hospital for Tribal
Kalpetta, Kerala

Tribals with akshyamrita chaitanya
Kalpetta, the capital of the Wayanad District in north Kerala, is reached by following steep roads that wind through densely forested mountains. The region has been inhabited for at least 12,000 years. The indigenous people who still inhabit this area are the adivasis : meaning,the first inhabitants, also known as “tribal.”

Throughout India, the tribal population is suffering. In Wayanad, their history is steeped in tragedy. Once welling in simplicity in the majestic silence of the land, many of the district’s tribals became slaves and today many live in a state not far removed from that. A people who were once healthy and long-lived, they now suffer from severe malnutrition and untreated diseases.
Exploitation by English colonists, abuse and degradation of the environment, a general lack of understanding and respect by the dominant community… the historical reasons for this tragedy are complex. The condition of the adivasis was hurt even more by 1994’s World Trade Agreement, which effectively lowered the prices on the district’s main cash crops of coffee, tea and spices to such an extent that many plantations were forced to shutdown. The main source of employment for adivasis is as day labourers on plantations, earning around 50 rupees [a little more than a dollar] a day. The shortage of plantation work has found many dying from starvation or malnutrition.

tribalsAmma’s Ashram has been working in tribal areas for years, trying to help these people out of their desperate situation. Many of the children who live at the Ashram’s orphanage in Paripally are tribals, and in the Wayanad District, the Ashram runs small tribal schools, mobile medical camps, vocational education and regularly distributes food and clothing. The Amrita Kripa Hospital for tribals in Kalpetta is the Ashram’s latest effort to relieve the suffering of these people. It is the Ashram’s hope to guide the adivasis onto the path towards a healthy lifestyle and economic independence. It also hopes to help them preserve the many positive aspects of their traditional lifestyle that have gone unrecognised and unappreciated and are in danger of being lost.
Guided by Brahmachari Akshayamrita Chaitanya, who Amma has put in charge of the Wayanad District, we visited some tribal homes in the vicinity of the hospital in last November.

Our jeep ploughed through an almost nonexistent road, gone muddy from recent rains. To our right, about 50 feet below, flowed a muddy river. On our left, in a clearing in the forest, were simple dwellings. They ranged from solid-looking brick buildings, to thatched huts, to one fashioned from a simple tarpaulin stretched over a crumbling foundation. This last home was occupied by two old ladies and a young woman. The day-labour wages of the young woman was the family’s sole support.
We stopped the jeep and proceeded along a path. At the next simple house we visited, a woman asked Br. Akshayamrita to do a puja [ritual worship]. She had draped a white cloth on a low ledge, upon which she had placed a small photo of Amma, an oil lamp and a few brilliantly red hibiscus flowers. Br. Akshayamrita did a simple puja, to the joy of the lady. At each house the people were happy to see us and invited us in. Br. Akshayamrita distributed sweets and asked after the welfare of the people. At one house, the men showed us a traditional adivasi bamboo bow and the different types of arrows used for hunting. Now the adivasis are forbidden to hunt on their own native lands.
Later at the Kalpetta hospital, we met Dr. Sanjiv and Dr. Ajita, a husband-and-wife team who were instrumental in setting up the hospital. The three doctors went to work treating the steady stream of patients who had come long distance by bus or foot for the treatment of a variety of ailments. The most common complaints of the adivasis are cuts, infections, parasites, anaemia and the host of ailments that stem from malnutrition.

None of the patients we saw had life-threatening illnesses, but when you live in squalor in this part of the world, even a small injury or bad case of parasites can have serious consequences–not to mention that a day spent in the sickbed is a day of no income. For example, Naryanan, age 60, supports his wife and two children by working in the fields as a day labourer. He is his family’s sole source of income. His toe became infected while working in the muddy fields. He had been going to the Government Hospital for the past month, but his condition had still not improved. The Ashram doctors removed part of his toenail and treated the infection with antibiotics. He told us that he feels better and is happy with his treatment at the hospital. Like most patients, he came by bus and foot–even with his bad toe. The average patient undertakes a two-hour journey to reach the hospital. Some even travel four.

Hopsital in kalpetta
Sarojini also came with an infected toe, stemming from an accident with a knife while working in the fields of a coffee estate. She came to Amrita Kripa because she has little money. Prior to her injury, she had been attending the hospital’s weekly bhajan session. She explained to us that this helped her to feel comfortable to come here. She told us that she has heard about Amma and is learning some of Amma’s bhajans from her three teenaged children. While interviewing her, we discovered that she has a teenaged daughter who has been disabled from severe childhood burns. The doctors encouraged her to bring the shy girl to the hospital so that they can assess her condition
During our visit, many adivasis came with gastric complaints, severe anaemia, upper respiratory infections, joint problems and parasites. We met a Muslim woman who had gained the confidence to come after her daughter reported having a good experience with her treatment. It seems obvious that only after one month of operation, the hospital is already actively serving the area in a variety of ways.

Long-term plans include a community outreach program, specialty medical camps, extending the services offered to include impatient treatment and a full range of services including cardiology, obstetrics and gynaecology, gastrology, ophthalmology, etc. Plans are underway for senior residents and interns from AIMS Medical College to provide rotating staff for some of these services.
Located on a large piece of property, the Amrita Kripa Charitable Hospital is well placed for expansion. Its location–adjacent to major highways leading to Mysore and Bangalore, while still being close enough to Kalpetta’s centre–should also ensure that those who need it can easily come to known of it and to avail of its services.

The hospital’s small staff radiates a warm concern and sweetness towards the patients. We could see the wariness and concern of the patients dissipate as they interacted with the doctors and the staff. Healing–on many levels–is clearly taking place here.

We left convinced that through the dedication and loving attitude of the doctors and staff, the strong relationship between the adivasi community and Br. Akshayamrita, and the grace of Amma, this project will make a major impact on the difficult lives of these sweet and simple people.
A few weeks after our visit, we met some people from Wayanad at the Amritapuri Ashram. They had just finished a course at AIMS Hospital to become community health workers. They were taught simply procedures such as how to check someone’s blood pressure and blood-sugar levels. They were also taught how to give instructions on basic healthcare and sanitation. Graduates from the programme, earn 1500 rupees a month doing this valuable work. They all had graduated the 10th standard [equivalent of high-school graduates]. Community outreach is a crucial part of the Charitable Hospital in Kalpetta’s goal towards improving the health of the local people, and this programme is expected to continue to expand.

In August 2005, after 11 months of operation, the Charitable Hospital in Kalpetta has expanded its services enormously. In this first year, the hospital’s doctors have seen a total of 11,333 patients. Of these 6,780 were tribals. All services for the tribals are free, and others receive treatment at reduced rate. All patients are seen, regardless of their ability to pay. A measure of the confidence the local people have in the treatment they are receiving can be seen by the number of repeat visits, which number 7,288. Currently, the hospital sees, on the average, 123 patients a day. Twenty-eight medical camps have been held in this first year of operation. Additionally, the hospital is offering telemedicine consultation with AIMS Hospital for complicated cases.

–Rita & Gitamba

All 150 houses in Alappuzha completed

26 August 2005 — Alappuzha District, Kerala

The Ashram has finished the construction of all the houses it is building for tsunami victims in the Alappuzha District of Kerala. Next week, the Ashram will hand over the completed houses to the government, and they, in turn, will distribute them to the recipients. The Ashram has built 150 houses in Alappuzha, which is just to the north of the Amritapuri. The Ashram handed over the first 88 of these houses in June, and now the remaining 62 have been completed. Of this final batch, 58 houses have two storeys; the recipients were given the choice of having one or two floors.

Sri Krishna Jayanti

26 Aug 2005 Amritapuri

Just before midnight–the time of Sri Krishna’s birth–Amma went to the stage. A puja was performed as the “Srimad Bhagavatam” in Malayalam was read describing the birth of Sri Krishna.

Amma sang “Agatanayi Agatanayi Krishna Devan,” “Radhe Govinda Gopi Gopala” and “Govinda Gopala.” She then gave a satsang about the life of Sri Krishna.

After singing several songs to Sri Krishna, Amma rose to her feet, telling everyone to forget everything and dance to the tune of “Hari Bol Hari Bol.”

Uriyadi, the traditional pot-breaking game of Krishnajayanti, was performed infront of the Ashram. The studetns of Amrita University are shown here, making a human pyramid to break the pot.

Amma sits with little Krishnas and Gopikas during the ‘Uriyadi’ at Amritapuri.
go puja

The Krishnajayanti celebrations at Amritapuri began with Go Puja, the worship of Mother Cow.

Amma and her winged friends

26 August 2005, Amritapuri

Amma’s love flows forth to all beings—not just humans. And if one watches the birds that live in and around Amritapuri, one can easily observe that they love her too. Ducks, eagles, owls, crows, pigeons—all have their unique relationship with Amma.

For years there was a beautiful and unusual duck that camped out underneath Amma’s room. He would sit there, beneath her window, almost seeming as if he were meditating. And he never gave up his vigil—even for an hour. And if someone walked up to him, rather than waddle off as most ducks would, he would hold his ground and make them back off with a fierce quack. But he was just one of many.

Each morning, Amritapuri comes alive to the sound of birds. First there are the cuckoos, cooing to each other from distant treetops. They begin quite early—around 3:30 in the morning. They are soon joined by the sweet little voices from a bevy of tiny birds, many of who take up residence in the bushy mango tree by the window to Amma’s room. By the time the sun rises, the chakoras [Greek partridges] have taken over. Flying from one tree to another, several pairs of these brick-red, brown and black birds chatter for about an hour. Then comes a lone red-winged blackbird, a bird of good omen, calling out to all with its deep “grook… grook… grook…” He is followed by the crows, calling out “caw… caw…  caw….” Some of the ashram residents like to imagine the birds are all singing just for Amma, calling her to bless them as they begin their day.

Every day, around 8 a.m., a multi-coloured woodpecker, with its fan-like tail-plume, dares to knock at Amma’s window. The ashramites look on amazed—perhaps envious of his view! He knocks first on the eastern panes, hopping around for some time, seeking the best vantage point—and then, if the requested darshan hasn’t come, he goes to the northern panes and continues knocking!

Throughout the day, mynas and pigeons frequently come for Amma’s darshan. They take turns singing for her during darshan, flying in and out of the hall, perhaps longing for a quick glance from their Amma.

Quite frequently, ashram children will bring a wounded baby crow or pigeon to Amma for her blessing, and Amma never fails to kiss the poor baby birds on the head. A painful start to life is thus balanced by a kiss from Amma! Like many of the human devotees, their trauma has become their good fortune. And whenever possible, these injured fledglings will be nursed back to health by the loving care of the ashramites, who keep them in their rooms and even bottle-feed them for weeks on end.

The lotus pond across from Amma’s room is the haunt of a bright blue-winged kingfisher, who occasionally calls out in a shrill voice, perhaps asking Amma to send him a fish—after all, he’s hungry, and isn’t she his mother?

And what to say of the eagles that soar above the Brahmasthanam Temples whenever Amma consecrates them? Across the length and breadth of India, these eagles come to bear witness to the installation of the prana-shakti into the temple’s murti.

For the last six months or so, one eagle—who may indeed be related to the eagle who 30 years ago would drop raw fish into Amma’s lap when she was lost in deep meditation—can almost always be seen somewhere in the ashram. Sometimes he perches on the balcony railing directly behind the temple, only 15 feet from where Amma is giving darshan. But most often he’s found near the Western Canteen, swooping down on unaware devotees to snatch away their buttered toast.

In the evening, when Amma comes for bhajans, the eagle often comes, perching above the stage and then swooping out over the crowd. Not long back, just as Amma had taken her place on her peetham for bhajans, he swooped around the hall several times in what seemed like circumambulation, finally coming inside the stage area in order to circle once more around Amma herself.

During Amritavarsham50, Amma’s 50th birthday celebrations in Cochin, a little owl came to sit right above Amma’s chair for then end of her marathon darshan session, which lasted almost 23 continuous hours. Although a night creature, this little owl stayed by Amma’s side until the late hours of the morning when the sun was burning high in the sky.

A couple of years ago, one of Amma’s devotees gave her a copy of a documentary about birds, which showed amazing close-ups of them as they migrated all over the world. Knowing that her children would love to watch it alongside her, Amma one night called all the ashramites to the bhajan hall in order do so. It was such a treasure—sitting with Amma as she laughed and watched in wonder at her winged friends.

The Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures teach us that the Supreme Consciousness flows equally through everything in this world—be it sentient or insentient, plant or stone, human or animal. The divine spark at the heart of the hummingbird is the same as the one inside each of us, as it is the same as the one inside Amma. But for us, who are caught up in the illusion of maya, created by our ego, it is all too easy to forget this—to ignore the divinity of the play taking place all around us. But wherever we go, and particularly when we spend time in Amma’s ashram, we must struggle to recognize this divine spark in all the creatures that call this world their home—whether they live on land, sea or in the air.


Krishna talk: kids on Sri Krishna

26 August 2005, Amritapuri

On Krishna Jayanti, Amritapuri is full of little Krishnas, Radhas, and various gopikas. Many of them, in fact, are from the West. They participate in the uriyadi, the pot-breaking game; walk in the Krishna procession with all the Ashram cows; put on small dramas about Krishna’s life; do dances and sing songs. This year, we had a chance to speak with some of them and to find out some of their thoughts and feelings about Sri Krishna and the day celebrating his birth.

Auguste, 8 years old, France:

Why are you dressed like this?
Because it is Krishna’s Birthday!

Did you choose to be dressed like that?
Yes, of course! Today is a very special day

Why do you like Krishna?
I like him because Amma likes him. She likes him the most!

What would you ask him for?
I would ask him: Can you please put me in Paramatman?

And what would you ask Amma for?
The same, of course!

Who do you like more, Amma or Krishna?

I don’t know… I just like Amma more!

Beatrice, 11 years old, Spain:

“I am in Amritapuri since a month and will be leaving back to Spain in two days. Yes, I am very happy today because it is a festival day. It is a celebration of Krishna’s birthday.”

Who is Krishna?
One man who was very mischievous when he was a kid…. He is God also!

Why do you like him?
Because he helped other people.

Any other reason?
He was also like Amma. He loved all the people and also nature, the birds and animals.

What would you ask Krishna for?
To help all the people in the world, especially the poor people.

Dev (Victor), 13 years old, Spain:

I have been in Amritapuri for 20 days now. I came with my parents. Today is a very happy day for me, as it is Krishna’s birthday. It is a special day: we all dress up nicely, and there will be nice programmes and lots of fun. I will participate in the pot-breaking game in the afternoon. Looking forward for that!

Who is Krishna?
Krishna is a God

How do you know?
Someone told me.

Who is that?
I just heard.

If you had something to ask Krishna for, what would it be?
I have many things to ask!

Like what?
I want the world to be happy.

Darsana – Vandya, 8 years old, France:

Are you happy today?
Yes, very happy!

Because of Krishna! It is his birthday and there will be lots of games and fun!

Who is Krishna?
He is Yashoda’s son.

What is special about him?
Oh! He is God!

What does this mean?
It means that he can do lots of things… like lifting mountains.

What else?
Oh! He consoles the people that are sad and helps them.

Why are you here?
Because I want to see Amma! I am here since two months with my parents, my brother and sister.

Do you like Amma?
Oh yes! I love her?

Because she is very nice and sweet. She is very beautiful too!

What would you ask Her for?
To be like her!

Nealu, 8 years old, USA:

Is it the first time you participate in Krishna’s birthday?
No, it’s my 2nd or 3rd time. Last time was two years ago…

What do you like best?
Breaking the pots! And getting the money.

Did you break one today?
No (sad), haven’t broken any yet… But next year, I’ll be older and I think I’ll break one. My brother was nine when he broke his first, and I’ll be nine next year!

Wow! What else do you like?
The cow-procession in the morning. I love holding the calf. It was so cute when we returned to the cowshed after the procession and he jumped from my arms to run to his home.

By the way, do you know who Krishna is?
He’s a deity.

What is a deity?
Oh, it’s like an avatar or something.

Do you like Krishna?
I like Amma! But I also like Krishna and the other one, Rama, some.

What is special about Krishna?
He played the flute really well… and other things.

What would you ask him for if you could?
Don’t know… If anything I’d ask for no wars. Wars scare me!

What would you ask Amma for?
World peace.

What does that mean?
Well, non-violence and peace.

Mahima, 9 years old, France:

I am very happy today. It is because it is Krishna’s birthday.

What is special in this?
Oh, come on! It’s a big festival! Everyone is getting disguised. In the morning we were being mischievous like Krishna, stealing curd from adults and laughing!

What else will happen?
There will be many events and games, and Amma will sing to Krishna in the night!

Is it the first time you see this?
Yes, and it is so exciting!

Why are you dressed like that?
Oh, because I am Radha!

Who is Radha?
Krishna’s wife.

So are you Krishna’s wife?
Not really (laughs)… like his wife! Krishna loved Radha the most, you know?

So does he love you the same?
… I think so!

By the way, who is Krishna?
He is the ‘saving god’ and Yashoda’s son.

What would you ask him for?
That I can always stay with Amma.

And what would you ask Amma for?
That she gives me darshan everyday! Also that Krishna appears to us!

What is the difference between Amma and Krishna?
Hey, they are the same!

How come? She is a woman and he is a man. She dresses in white and he dresses in colours!
Not that! You are not getting it! Inside, they are the same!


The heart is not in the sandals

23 August 2005 , Amritapuri

As always on Tuesdays, this week all the ashramites gathered for a day of meditation, followed by an opportunity to ask Amma questions and to receive a plate of prasad directly from her hands.

When everyone had received prasad, a devotee approached Amma, telling her that she had just scolded another lady because she had approached Amma while wearing her sandals. The woman told Amma that she had sternly told the lady that one should never approach the Guru wearing shoes or sandals, but that one should come barefoot and humble. She asked Amma if what she had said was correct, and if she was in the right to have scolded the woman.

Amma’s response was quick: “The heart is not in the sandals.”

As always, Amma’s focus was on the attitude, not the act. It is better to approach the Guru with humility and a pure heart while wearing one’s sandals than to approach barefoot and full of pride.

After Amma’s answer, Amma and those immediately around her broke into laughter. But, as there was no microphone, no one else knew why they were laughing.

Soon, the group around Amma shared the story with the circle of people directly behind them. Of course, they too began to laugh. Then the circle of people directly behind them wanted to know what was so funny, so they also were told. In this way, the laughter gradually spread, like a single slow-moving shockwave, throughout the temple. By the time the story reached the very back of the hall–setting off a final burst of laughter–several minutes had passed. So Amma asked what they were laughing at. When she heard the reason, of course, she fell into laughter once again.