“Amma is not afraid of death”

Press conference after Devi Bhava
4:30 a.m, Monday August 22nd, 2005

As Amma gave darshan, the leading press agencies from around the world descended on Amritapuri to find out what had really happened earlier in the night. {news} Since the news was already appearing in the media, devotees from around the world began calling the ashram to inquire about Amma’s well-being. Reporters from the leading news agencies, like Reuters, NDTV, Sahara TV, Aajtak, Star News, ANI etc., were waiting for hours to interview Amma.

As soon as the darshan finished, Amma came straight from the stage and met all the waiting reporters in her hut.

One of the reporters asked, “What is Amma’s reaction to this incident?”

Amma smilingly replied, “I don’t have any reaction to this incident.   Amma doesn’t have any fear of death.  There have never been any security measures taken here in the ashram, and if anyone wants to kill Amma, they can do it anywhere at any time.  Amma is not afraid of death at all.”

Amma continued by referring to the swamis. “They are afraid that Amma can be harmed. There was a police intelligence report passed on to the ashram officials about 2 weeks back that stated there may be a threat against Amma.”

She went on to say, “Amma doesn’t know all the people staying here. Many come just to get darshan and don’t leave the ashram afterwards.  They may hang around and sleep on the balcony or on the beach somewhere.  Amma doesn’t even know where all the residents in the ashram come from.  If Amma were really afraid of death, the first thing she would have done is check the background of everyone staying here at the ashram.”

Amma continued, “Whatever is meant to happen will happen when the time comes.  I just want to do what I have to do.  Anyway, one day we all have to die.  Therefore, it is better to get worn out than to rust away.”

The next reporter asked, “How should Amma’s children respond to this?”

Amma answered with a question of her own. “What is the use in reacting?  Forgive.  The past is gone.”

Amma was then asked, “Hearing this news, devotees around the world will be very anxious.  What is your message for them?”

Amma advised “They need not worry at all.  Nothing will happen to Amma.  He didn’t attack Amma; he simply came onto the stage with a knife.  Amma wants all her children to be patient and calm. They should not create any problems in the name of this incident.  That is Amma’s only fear.  When Amma was informed about what happened, she said, ‘No one should worry about this; there is no reason to panic.  Even if there were policeman and security here, if someone wants to kill Amma, they can kill me.  My path is this (hugging people)… till the end.  Amma will continue to give darshan.  Anybody can dress up as a brahmachari.  If someone want to kill me, they can simply dress up like that.’ ”

The last question was asked, “Would you like to meet the attacker?”

Amma replied, “I don’t have any problem meeting him.  Amma will meet everyone.  Amma has overcome much worse situations than this in the past.  Amma doesn’t give much importance to this incident.”


A sacrifice for The Master

Arun, from Thiruvalla, always comes to help control the crowds when Amma gives darshan.  Little did he know that on this day he would have to control some one in the crowd who was carrying a knife {news}.

Arun was one of the first ones on the scene when the attacker was forced from the stage and he attempted to subdue the man as he fled.

Unfortunately in his attempt to catch hold of the man, he was stabbed in the back, producing a 4-inch deep wound.

Once the man was finally captured, Arun was taken to the ashram’s Amritakripa hospital, where his wound was cleaned and treated.  The doctors said that he was very lucky, because if the knife had entered his back just a few centimetres to either side of where it struck, it would have hit his kidneys, liver or spinal cord.

Despite receiving 4 stitches the wound would not stop bleeding.  He was brought to Amma for darshan and she suggested that he be shifted to AIMS hospital. Today Amma called him to enquire about his well being and to see if he is recovering comfortably.

Dr. Ashok is showing the depth of the wound during the treatment at Amritapuri.

Stranger wielding a knife apprehended in Amritapuri

Amma is safe & giving darshan now

21st August 2005, Amritapuri 10.30 p.m.

The large hall was full as Amma began the program for the first Devi Bhava darshan after the US tour. Over 15,000 tokens were distributed for darshan.

After Amma’s satsang, during the 3rd song of the evening bhajans at around 6.15 pm, a man wearing a yellow shawl came onto the men’s side of the stage.  He was suspiciously holding something under the shawl, and was walking towards Amma. When asked to sit he refused. As he came behind the chorus and within 10 feet from Amma, one of the brahmacharis confronted him and pushed him to the side of the stage. A small skirmish ensued as Amma continued singing and the man was forcibly removed from the stage. At this point he pulled a knife out from under his shawl

Once off the stage several brahmacharis and devotees attempted to take the man into custody. In the process of subduing the man, two ashram residents Jitesh and Ramesh were slightly injured. Arun, a devotee from Tiruvalla received a 4-inch deep stab wound (update) on his back and was taken to the hospital. During the skirmish, before the man was taken into custody, two other men from the crowd assaulted the brahmacharis and fled the scene.

Later the assailant was handed over to the police. His identity remains unknown, as he is giving various alias names such as Pavitran, Joseph and various places of residence as Idukki and Palakkad. He told the police that he was “not able to fulfil his mission.”

The ashram is looking into the matter seriously.

During the bhajans, Swami Amritaswarupananda wanted to get up and immediately investigate the matter. But Amma asked him to stay and sing.  Later Amma explained that She did not want him to act with anger, but wanted him to act with a calm mind.

Amma continued all Her programs as scheduled and is now giving darshan. All the programs are continuing as normal. Amma looks as beautiful as ever in a green sari.

Amma requests all Her devotees around the world not to worry and to be patient and calm.


Metal detectors installed at Ashram

It is the wish of Amma’s devotees and disciples to increase security around Amma. After discussions between the Ashram’s Board of Trustees, the police have installed metal detectors at the entrances to the temple.

The detectors only slightly slow the flow of traffic into the temple, and the devotees are happy to put up with the small inconvenience. It is clear that everyone just wants Amma to be safe.

During darshan, many devotees have been breaking down in tears as they tell Amma how upset they were when they heard about the attack.

There is also a uniformed security presence throughout the ashram now, as well as uniformed and plainclothes police officers.

“Amma is the most precious treasure of the world,” one brahmachari said. “It is our duty to protect her.”


Amma is the cultural ambassador of India

20 August 2005 — Amritapuri

Sri. Therambil Ramakrishnan, the Honourable Speaker of the Kerala Legislative Assembly, came to Amritapuri today in order to help the Ashram distribute 300 sewing machines to villagers and clothes to the children affected by the tsunami.

The clothes were given to the 6,000 children from Kerala’s Alappuzha District who participated in the Ashram’s free Yoga-English-Sanskrit camp last May. During the camp, the children’s measurements had been taken so that the Ashram could tailor-make the clothing for them.

The sewing machines were given to 300 women who have completed the Ashram’s tailoring classes, which are taking places in 10 centres throughout Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala. Some 2,000 women have participated in the course during the past seven months. The Ashram is providing piecework for the women when they achieve proficiency. This enables them to supplement their family’s incomes by up to Rs. 2,500 a month.

In Amma’s presence, Sri. Ramakrishnan also took a few minutes to address all those assembled. “After Swami Vivekananda, who echoed the Indian culture and Vedantic principles in the West, Amma is the only one who has been able to make the waves of the Vedantic principles echo in the West,” said the Speaker. “Amma is the cultural ambassador of India.”

Sri. Ramakrishnan lauded the Ashram’s massive tsunami-relief programme, specifically the way its social programmes are helping the victims to help themselves. Speaking to the tailoring students, he said, “Amma has given you the instruments and training so that you can stand on your own two feet. Success in life lies in making proper use of such training. May these machines help you to gain strength to stand on your own two feet so you can support the future generations.”

Speaking to the children who’d come to collect their clothes, he said, “The garments that Amma has given you are not just clothes, they are something that a mother gives to her children out of love—they are the strength that binds you to the divine.”

Also in his speech, Sri. Ramakrishnan said that nara-seva—serving man as a means of worshipping God—is the essence of Indian culture, and that Amma lives this principle to the letter. “Amma has become the consolation and love for those suffering from the tsunami. She came to their rescue. And we have the wonderful history of this before us. What the government body has not able to do in time was executed through Amma’s leadership. That truth we should not forget.”

He also asked everyone to reflect on Amma’s teachings and actions, saying that if we do so, we will realise that we have become selfish. “[In today’s society] we feel we don’t have time to think about the rest of society and other people. But concern for others is true culture—the thing that verily makes someone a human being.”

He concluded by saying, “We are lucky to have been born in the land where Amma was born, even luckier to meet her, and even more so to receive the touch of her consolation and love.”



Brick by brick- rebuilding houses for tsunami victims

19 August 2005 — Vellannathuruthu, Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala

As the morning sun finds its way through the canopy of coconut trees that shade Vellannathuruthu, a group of Amma’s devotees and disciples plods back and forth along one of the seaside village’s dirt pathways carrying loads of bricks—mostly upon their heads.

It’s hard work. But the men, women—and occasional child—work steadily and without complaint in an effort to complete as quickly as possible the 1,400 houses the Ashram is constructing in Alappad Panchayat as part of its tsunami-rehabilitation programme.

The construction has been going on for the past couple of months, and with 1,360 foundations already complete, the work currently at hand is erecting the brick walls.

Carrying bricks

The problem is that the interior locations of Alappad Panchayat are accessible almost exclusively via various cramped and winding dirt pathways—pathways that often pregnant cows have trouble negotiating, not to mention lorries carrying a several tonnes of bricks. To make matters more difficult, the monsoon season has rendered the land very muddy, and small ponds are now overflowing, often submerging the paths altogether. Therefore the lorries have unloaded the bricks in central locations throughout the panchayat, and the ashramites are spending their mornings schlepping them from point A to point B, over and over again.

To be frank, at the end of a four-hour shift, the men and women look quite warn out, but spirits remain high, as their motivation lies in helping families that have been homeless for eight months return to normalcy. “When I first saw the images of the tsunami on television from Europe, I felt so sad that I couldn’t be there to help in person,” says Ed De Wilde, a 54-year old Belgium man who is currently visiting Amritapuri with his family. “I gave a donation, but it wasn’t the same thing as being there to help in person. So now I am happy that I can be here and really help the tsunami victims.”

Most of the Westerners still prefer to carry the bricks with their arms, either cradling a stack in front of their body as they walk or filling up a large burlap rice sack and slinging it over their back. But a few have taken to the traditional Indian method—filing a basket with seven or eight bricks and carrying it on top of their head. One Westerner when asked how he felt after using the Indian method for several hours joked, “About three inches shorter.”

Using a wooden board as a platform, some of the brahmacharis regularly make trips with as many as 16 bricks piled up in this fashion. Adding to this a nice wade through knee-deep water can make each trip a real exercise in mindfulness. But according to ashram history, 16 bricks is nothing. When Amma’s first batch of brahmacharis were constructing the Amritapuri temple, one of the current sannyasins set the Ashram record, carrying 45 bricks atop his head.

The brick seva will most likely continue for several more months. With each house requiring 13,000 bricks, it means that there are 18.2 million bricks to be moved about in all. But this figure in no way daunts Amma’s workforce. “We are not doing anything,” says one of the senior brahmacharis helping with the work. “Amma is doing everything, so what is there to worry about.”



Greenshore: Protecting Kerala’s coast by making it green

17 August 2005 — Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala

As the sun set on the beach in Cheriya Azhikkal–a village in Alappad Panchayat, five kilometres from Amritapuri–villagers gathered to plant hundreds of small casuarina saplings (Australian pine). The saplings are being planted with the aim of curbing erosion caused by high tides and to protect the villager’s homes from future tsunamis.
“I’m hear to protect the future,” said one woman wearing a brightly coloured sari who was participating in the mass planting.

“I’m happy to be here because we’re doing something for our children,” said another.
Since June 5th 2005 (World Environment Day), this scene has been repeated over and over, again up and down the coast of Alappad Panchayat. Spearheaded by the Ashram, the project—Harita Theeram, or Green Shores–will see the planting of 300,000 casuarina saplings in total on the Alappad Panchayat peninsula by 2008. Fifty thousands have been planted in the past three months alone. The saplings are being supplied by the Kerala Department of Forestry.

– Tulasi

88 Houses completed in Cuddalore

16 August 2005 — Pudukuppam, Cuddalore District, Tamil Nadu

On 25 August 2005, the Ashram will hand over the 88 houses it is building in Pudukuppam, Cuddalore District, Tamil Nadu. The houses will be the first tsunami-reconstruction houses to be finished in Tamil Nadu State. This will make the Ashram the first organisation to finish tsunami relief houses according to government specifications in both Kerala and in Tamil Nadu. Ashram started the construction in Pudukuppam on 25 June.

The Ashram has almost completed the 150 houses it is building in Alappuzha District, Kerala. They should be finished around the 23rd of August.

In Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala, the foundation and pilings for 1,360 houses [out of 1400 allocated thus far] have been completed. 300 of those houses have been concreted, 250 are finished except for the painting, and 100 are entirely finished, including the painting.

In Alappad Panchayat, the Ashram is also building 18 houses in an area known as Kozhikode, Ayanivelikulangara. These are houses that were originally located on the strip of land between the beach and the Beach Road. Of these, 15 houses have thus far been concreted, and three have complete foundations.

The dawning of Vedic culture in India

16 August 2005 — Amritapuri

“It is impossible to say exactly when Vedic culture began,” Amma told the devotees and disciples gathered for Tuesday’s meditation and question-and-answer session. “The Vedas are anadi [without beginning]; they were there even before the beginning of the human race. The Vedas are said to be isvara nisvasam–the exhalation of God. We don’t even know who discovered them. To say exactly when the Vedas came into existence is difficult.”

Amma was responding to two questions by a Western devotee regarding the origin of the Vedic culture: When did the Vedas come into existence and where did the culture associated with them come from?

“The time of the Vedas cannot be stated,” Amma continued. “Amma cannot produce any proof for this. It is like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. It is beyond words. When the British were ruling India, they burned all the pramana granthas [validating texts] to ashes. And what they wrote in their place is what is being taught to the children today.”

As to where the Vedic culture took birth, Amma said that it is from India alone and not, as some scholars claim, brought to India by foreigners from over the Himalayan passes.

Amma then lamented the acceptance by many scholars and laymen that the Vedas were written some 5,000 years ago, and that that they and the Indian culture–including the Sanskrit language–were brought to India by nomadic tribes.

“There is no logic in that,” Amma said. “In India, Sanskrit is a spoken language. No other country has been using Sanskrit as a spoken language. Now, it is being taken by other countries and taught there. But it is spoken only in India. If nomads from another country had come to India and introduced the language, it should also have been a spoken language in their country of origin. That is not the case. Sanskrit is India’s. You will not find the knowledge of the Vedas in other countries or languages.”

Amma then recounted a popular legend that is a testament to the Vedic culture’s origin in India. The story has it that Alexander of Macedonia, who invaded India in 326 B.C., was asked by Aristotle, the general’s preceptor, to bring him back a yogi when he returned, as Aristotle wished to study from one. The legend implies that as long as 2,300 years ago, India was renowned as a source of rare and great wisdom.

Amma said that there is a lot of miseducation in Vedic studies due to the way that the Vedas are being taught today. Traditionally, the Vedas and their teachings were taught in a gurukula system, orally passed down through the guru-disciple parampara [lineage]. Now, that tradition is all but lost, and the vast majority of Vedic scholars have gained their knowledge through textbooks in translation, motivated by academic curiosity rather than a thirst for the Truth.

Amma gave a telling example of this miseducation: the interpretation of the Sanskrit word “pashu.” The most common meaning, indeed, is “cow,” but the word also has many other meanings including “ego.” So, in some Vedic rituals it says to sacrifice a “pashu”; although the correct meaning is to end your identification with the limited sense of “I,” in most Western universities it is being taken as to kill a cow.

Many of these mistakes originated with Max Müller, a German philologist and Orientalist who translated the Rg Veda, the major Upanishads and wrote various works on Hindu culture–without once having visited India. As Müller was the first person to translate much of the Vedic literature into English, his texts became the primary source of reference.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy is that Indians today are accepting these fallacies as fact, Amma said. Even though Mahatmas are correcting these misconceptions and pointing out the real meaning of the scriptural statements, most people are not able to accept what the Mahatmas are saying as the real truth. Instead, they cling to the belief that whatever they were taught in school—from textbooks based on the writings of Müller and other Western scholars—must be correct. Amma said that one of the reasons for this is that as the Indian people were living in slavery under the British for nearly 200 years, they have developed the attitude to accept whatever the West says.

Amma then told a story to illustrate the condition of India: Once a king ate some payasam [sweet rice pudding] and, not wanting his subjects to have any, told all of them that it was bitter. All the subjects, out of respect for the king, did not even taste the payasam, accepting its bitterness as a fact. But there was one smart fellow in the court, and he said, “I like bitter payasam,” and took all of it.

The story is symbolic of how certain forces have been able to trick the majority of people into forfeiting the Vedic culture that is their birthright. However, even so, the truly inquisitive seekers of knowledge have pushed forward anyway, found out the sweetness of India’s spiritual tradition for themselves and embraced it.

But Amma said some of the blame also falls on Indian people themselves; that there were some Indian pundits who sold the knowledge contained in the Vedas to foreigners just to make money, often helping them to misinterpret or pretending to know the meanings when they really did not. This was the beginning of the proliferation of misinformation. “In this way, too many of India’s precious things were lost,” Amma said.

“Westerners are very keen to come and explore and investigate the origin of the knowledge, but Indians are not interested in this,” Amma said, adding that, seeing the knowledge’s value, Westerners take it back to their own countries and patent it, but that the Indians never see its value. Amma then wondered aloud: “All our books have commentaries written by Westerners. Indians haven’t written that much. Why is it like this?”


Amrita Sanjeevani

Amrita Sanjeevani

On August 15, 2005, when all of India was celebrating the 58th anniversary of her independence, the students of Amrita University were celebrating the joy of selfless service. The students at the Amritapuri campus formed the Amrita Sanjeevani, a new student seva association. The students and staff of the University will take a more active role in participating in the Ashram tsunami relief work as well as other ongoing seva projects lead by the ashram.

The students have actually been helping since day one of the Tsunami relief work. About one week before their official formation, large groups of students and university staff headed to Azhikkal, one of the worst hit areas by the tsunami. There, they worked for several hours under the hot sun, moving bricks.

Students of the University participating in carrying bricks to the construction site.