International Peace Day to be observed

15  September 2005

September 21st has been designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Peace, a day when people of all nations are asked to come together in prayer for the peace and harmony of the entire world.

The Amritapuri Ashram and all its branches and institutions will be observing this event.

Amma urges all her children around the world to participate, saying that she feels that darkness is still enveloping the world, that Nature is still angry and that it is important that we pray for harmony amongst humanity, between man and nature, and within our selves.

At Amritapuri, Amma and the ashram residents will come together at 12 noon to chant lokah samstah sukhino bhavantu [“May all the beings in all the world be happy”]. Amma urges her children throughout the world to dedicate one minute to the continuous chanting this mantra as well.

Amma’s 52th birthday celebration

Programme Schedule

* Sri Guru Padapuja–Worship of the Guru’s Lotus Feet
* Amma’s Address
* Public Function
* Distribution of Keys to Tsunami-Relief Housing, as well as Free Fishing Boats, Engines and Fishing Nets
* Inauguration of New Ashram Charitable Projects
* Distribution of Free Clothing for the Poor
* Awarding of the Amrita Keerti Puraskar to P Narayana Kurup
* Mass Marriage
* Followed by Amma’s darshan

During the observances of Amma’s birthday, which will be held at Amritapuri Ashram, in Kollam, Kerala, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math will distribute of keys to 550 tsunami-relief houses, as well as free fishing boats, boat engines and fishing nets. It will also launch its Matru Gramam programme, wherein villages are helped to become self-reliant, and inaugurate Kalakshetram. Free clothing will be distributed to the poor, and a mass marriage will be held for 52 impoverished couples. Gold ornaments, marriage dresses and family feast will be provided as part of the marriage; the costs for each couple being Rs. 45,000.

“God’s nature is pure compassion. Lending a helping hand to a neglected soul, feeding the hungry, giving a compassionate smile to the sad and dejected–this is the real language of religion. Living only for one’s self is not life, but death. We should invoke God’s compassion in our own hearts and hands. Only then will we experience deep joy and fulfilment in life.” –Amma

Onam celebration in the pool

12 September 2005 – Amritapuri

“What were your Onam of old like?” {read} This is what the reporter had asked Amma. And the picture Amma painted in response was of a world wet with life–one where boys and girls lepta into the backwaters and splashed about, making as much noise as they wanted, singing together, dancing together, running, laughing, knocking down fruit from the mango trees.

But when Amma told it, it was like speaking about a thing disappeared–or, at least, a thing disappearing.

Then… SPLASH! Four days later, Amma called all the children visiting from the Ashram’s orphanage to come to the swimming pool. And, suddenly, it was as if the Onams of Amma’s memories were reborn.

The children were in heaven; it was obvious. Amma sat at the edge of the water, watching them, as they hopped in and out of the pool–diving, jumping, leaping, splashing… The boys created a lovely chaos. “They are like penguins!” someone said. “There’s so many of them, jumping in and out of the water!” But he was quickly corrected, “No. penguins have order!” Amma made sure the ones who couldn’t really swim stayed in the shallow end, cordoning off the deep part of the pool with a rope. But mainly the girls stayed there. And soon–waist-deep in water–they formed a circle and began to dance and sing.

Many of the children who stay at Amrita Niketan, the Ashram’s orphanage–which is located in Parippally, Kollam District, Kerala–are vanavasis[tribals] from Wayanad, a district some 500 kilometers to the north. And each year when they come to Amritapuri for the Onam holidays, they leap at any opportunity they get to perform their tribal dances for Amma.

Watching the girls as they moved slowly clockwise in their circle–hands coming together up high for a clap, then coming in close to touch their hearts–it was obvious that they had found that place of pure existence, wherein nothing is but the now, so lost they were in the joy of their game.

It’s true that these children have Amma. It’s true they have shelter and education and good food, and caretakers and fellow orphans that truly love them. But many of them still have the memories of brutal pasts lurking within them–alcoholic parents, lives of servitude, lack of food, unspeakable abuse… But at least for the 20 minutes of that dance, there in the pool, by Amma’s feet, none of that remained.


Hurricane Katrina relief efforts continue

7 September 2005,  Arkansas, USA

Today Brahmachari Dayamrita Chaitanya visited some of the camps where the evacuees have been relocated. Though, their physical needs are being met, many of them are still traumatized by the experience. The harshest suffering seems to be amongst women who have been separated from their children and family. During the evacuation, women and children were sent first in buses. The men came later. Many are still searching for their near and loved ones. Dayamrita had the chance to meet and console a lady who had lost two of her children. They were with her mother before the storm hit New Orleans. She is yet to find their whereabouts.

The volunteers from Amrita Yoga Center in Arkansas are going every day to help, counsel and give guidance to the families. The volunteers have been helping the survivors find jobs & housing apart from getting them familiarized with the neighborhood.

As you may already know, evacuees from Louisiana will be sent to many other states as well. M. A. Center’s affiliates in Oklahoma, Missouri, California and Minnesota are gearing up to help the evacuees. Tomorrow, Br. Dayamrita will travel to Louisiana to continue the relief efforts.

Related story

Amma Responds to Hurricane Katrina

How to make a Pookkalam?


Each morning for the past 10 days, students from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham have presented Amma with a beautiful pookkalam at the foot of the steps to her room.

The tradition of making pookkalams [flower-petal mandalas] is as ancient as India herself. It is considered auspicious to create small pookkalams outside one’s home each morning as a way of welcoming visitors. It is the first thing done after taking a bath and before doing the morning’s worship. Generally, pookkalams are small–perhaps, one foot in diameter. But the pookkalams the students made for Amma are typically around six-feet wide.

Starting at dawn, the students work from sketches they’ve created or modified from traditional designs. Each pookkalam takes about three hours to complete. First, the design is traced out on the ground with chalk. The dimensions of the designs are marked using string and tape. Then the sections of the design are filled in with variously coloured flower petals:  rose, jasmine, hibiscus, tulasi, lotus and others. Amma says that the use of many different types of flower petals to make a pookkalam is symbolic of the coming together of hearts in society.


The 10 days of Onam begin

6 September 2005 — Amritapuri

When Amma came down the steps from her room, the first pookkalam of Onam was waiting for her. Designed in the colours of eight different varieties of flowers by students from Amrita University, the pookkalam showed many of the cultural hallmarks of Kerala: the green painted face of a kathakali dancer, the long black hull of a backwater racing boat, a lit oil lamp, as well as a nirapara and chotta [Kerala’s horn of plenty]. This was all done under the words: Sneha-purvvam, Ammaykkaay: “To Amma, Full of Love.”

Each morning for the next 10 days, a different group of students will offer a pookkalam at the bottom of Amma’s steps.

Amma responds to Hurricane Katrina

6 September 2005 – San Ramon, California, USA

“Pray with your heart. Work with your hands.” These were the simple instructions that Amma offered to everyone in the wake of the tsunami. Now, a full eight months later, a similar scene is repeating itself on the other side of the globe. As most of the world watches, stunned by the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Katrina, Amma is again asking us to follow these simple instructions.

Immediately after asking everyone to pray for all those affected by the hurricane, Amma called Brahmachari Dayamrita Chaitanya, her disciple in America, and discussed what the Ashram could do to help. Amma then asked him to go to the affected areas.

Br. Dayamrita is now based at the Amrita Center in Hot Springs, Arkansas and is mobilizing a large group of volunteers to begin the relief work.

Amma's Onam

How Amma celebrated Onam in her childhood

5 September 2005 — Amritapuri

When a leading Malayalam newspaper reporter from Kerala recently asked Amma to tell him about her Onam memories of long ago, an unforgettable satsang poured forth. In talking about Onam and the village life of her youth, Amma found the perfect medium to share her vision of life, a vision wherein every day is a celebration.

[Onam is a special festival of Kerala. Read about Onam.]




Living the Principle

“In my vision, every day is Onam.

“In this village, the houses are very close together, so the children would go to the neighbouring houses in the evening to play, and then they might eat dinner and sleep there itself. Whether it was a boy or a girl, their mother wouldn’t worry because she knew her child was safe.

“When someone visited your house, you would feed them. When you visited their house, they would feed you. There was no such thing as waiting for the guest to leave before eating. There was no need for matchboxes—we would take fire for lighting the kitchen stove from whoever nearby had it already burning. Similarly, when they lit the deepam for the evening prayers, they would light it using the fire from a neighbour’s house. That’s they way it was.

“Even if a stranger came to the house, he would be provided with accommodation. If it were a small house, they would somehow find space for him in a storeroom or by the cowshed.

“Dharma and love—through these everything was provided in my youth.

“On Onam, people would buy and wear new clothes. Normally, they would have fish every day for lunch, but on Onam they would not fish. They would have payasam and more vegetable curries. This is back then, not now.

“Drumstick [the pod from the Moringa tree] was a specialty. Every house used to have a drumstick tree, so they would have that every day… but only on Onam would they buy extra vegetables and make special curries.

“About 50 or 60 houses from each village would assemble in the courtyard, and they would put up a big swing and sing songs of Mahabali, like:

മാവേലി നാടുവാണീടും കാലം മാനുഷരെല്ലാരും ഒന്നുപോലെ

“Maveli nadu vaneedam kaalamManushayellavarum onnu pole”

[During the time when Mahabali was ruling the country all of humankind lived as one.]

“Twenty girls and boys would sit together and sing. After the age of 12, girls were not sent to the village shops to buy things, but during Onam, the boys and girls would mingle together and swing and sing and prepare the pookkalams [flower-petal mandalas]. This was the Onam celebration.

“During the 10 days of Onam, the children would play without getting scolded or spanked by anyone in the family. During these 10 days, they would have so much freedom to play and shout and make noise. Usually the rule is that girls should not speak loudly or run: ‘If she walks, the earth should not shake.’ Boys could run. But on these 10 days, the girls could run, scream and shout. There was no difference between the boys and girls. They would dance together.

“Amma doesn’t think that other than these simple traditions, the people in Amma’s village understood any principle behind Onam. Even though they were singing the songs, they did not know the deep meaning behind them. During the time Mahabali was ruling the country, all of humankind lived as one… It doesn’t mean that everybody had the same height, talents, etc.—not like that. Everyone was living their own dharma.

“In my youth, whenever anyone came to our house, my mother would serve them food. And she would give the children the water left over from boiling the rice, adding to it some shredded pieces of coconut. She was worried about the guests. Were they fed enough? Were they happy or not? She wasn’t worried whether her children had had enough food or not. Her worry was whether or not the guests’ stomachs were full. We would prepare tea for anyone who came at anytime, also paan and beedis. Make them happy and feel good. Give them all comforts. These were the only thoughts. Even though they didn’t know the principle, they lived the principle.

“Even if the people in the village were very poor, they would buy new clothes for Onam. They would be so happy. When they received their new set of clothes, they would become happy in the same way that a starving man becomes happy when he receives food. It was the pinnacle of happiness for them.

“It wasn’t only a joyful time but also a time when they would shed their sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine.’ The differences between the poor and the rich disappeared. The poor would be welcomed into the rich people’s houses, and the rich would come down to the level of the poor. They were shedding their egos, thereby transforming themselves from small to big, from the seed to the tree—the tree that gives shade even to the one who is cutting it down, the tree that has patience, love and generosity.

“During Onam, my parents would give the mooppan [the coconut-tree climber] a new set of clothes and some money, as well as the carpenters, the dhobis [washer-men]…. And in turn they would all bring something to my father as well, like chunnamba [quicklime—pinches of which are mixed with betel-nut to make paan].

“Once on Onam, Amma’s brother gave clothes to the mooppan, and he threw them to him, instead of handing them. When the dhobis came, they would not touch the well. You would have to give them the water. They would not touch the well. This made Amma sad. Amma could not understand why it was like this. Amma would make them fetch their own water from the well. But father’s family did not like this. Now such a thing does not exist—it was in my youth.

“They understood that in order to receive God’s grace one should serve the poor. But here untouchability was there. Still, they served the poor because they wanted God’s grace. However, when they served the food, they would just put it down and go away. They did not know the principle.”



The pre-onam exams: then vs. today

“These days, children are eager to welcome Onam, but they also are tense because of their exams. The Onam and exams of today are different from the Onam and exams of yesterday. In my school days, there were no other languages taught in third standard. English and Hindi only came in fifth standard. A few words of Hindi were taught in the school. Amma learned English [the alphabet] only by looking at the calendar. At that time there were not so many books to create tension.

“On many of the holidays, the children would go to nearby mango trees to try to knock down the mangos. At least six months out of the year, the backwaters were fresh. All the children would run and jump into the water and yell and scream. Hearing this, all the grownups would come and beat them, but then after they left the children would jump into the water again. Only if our clothes were wet would our families come to know. In villages like this, up to the age of five, the children are not used to wearing clothes. There was no shame in it. They had an aranjnanam [string-like band] tied around their waist. The ones older than that would jump in with their clothes on and then, once in the water, they would take off their clothes, roll them up into a ball and then throw them onto the land. They would enjoy playing, swimming…. All the holidays were like this—knocking down mangos and swimming in the backwaters. Amma doesn’t think the children were very tense for the examinations in these villages. Only a few texts were there to be studied. There was no need to be tense.”

Collecting flowers for making pookkalams

“As Amma became a little older, I would go to collect toopu [long tender stems often used to feed goats]. There was only one house right next to our house. After that all the houses were surrounded by water and a little wooded area. There would be small areas like this around the kayal [backwater lagoon]. In places like these, there would be a small tree called kambatti [from which the toopu is gathered]. I would go there to fetch grass for the cows. Flowers used to grow around there [which Amma would collect for making pookkalams [the decorative flower-petal mandalas of Onam]. Then, when I was a little older, I would go east [across the backwaters to Vallikkavu]. For a while I studied tailoring there. I would swim to the other shore and, holding the flowers in my mouth, swim back.”

Onam is not for celebrating only one day a year

“For me, Onam is not something to be celebrated one day a year—making sure everyone has enough food and clothing. It is meant to be celebrated throughout life. Everyone must make every day an Onam celebration. Celebrating just once in a year… that doesn’t mean anything to me. To understand this principle, you have to understand spirituality.

“Today’s world believes the greatest relationship to be the relationship between a child and its mother. But in my world, it is not; the Guru-disciple relationship is. Because When you understand spirituality, you understand the principle. When you understand the principle, you become expansive. You lose your sense of ‘mine.’ My mother, my father, my child, my relatives…. In the Guru-disciple relationship, everything becomes ‘Yours’ [the Lord’s]. The ‘I’ disappears. Only the Atman exists. Love and serve others as your own Self. When the left hand is in pain, the right hand comes and consoles it. It is with this bhava [feeling and attitude] that we must live life. This is the principle behind Onam.

“Two plus two is always four—never five. No one can make it five. The sun rises in the East, and sets in the West. It doesn’t do the opposite on Onam. So there is nothing new on Onam. Amma doesn’t feel like Onam is a special day. May people have the mind to love and serve others and celebrate life every day—not just on Onam. This is Amma’s vision.

“You have to understand spirituality, our dharma. The road is for traffic, but you have to follow the rules. We are born to be happy. Along with that, you have a dharma. The teacher has her own dharma, the mother has her own dharma… When a teacher is at school, she must follow the dharma of a teacher, but when she is at home she has to follow the dharma of a mother. Everything has its own dharma. We have to act according to our dharma. Then the traffic of life will flow in harmony. Whether God exists or not is not the question. Regardless of the answer, how useful His message is in our life! This is what we have to investigate.”

We have lost our discrimination

“We need to develop the language of the heart. But now we are only developing our intellects. When there is a mixture of sand and sugar, the intellect cannot distinguish between the two, but the ant can come and take only the sugar. That’s the beauty of the heart.

“The intellect is like a pair of scissors, cutting everything in two. People say they have grown, but Amma doesn’t see any viveka [faculty of discriminative thinking] in them. They say they are growing, but Amma doesn’t see them expanding. They are intelligent, but don’t have viveka. They have the information but not the bodha [awareness]. The intellect has grown, but the heart is weakening. They have beautiful houses, but their families are falling apart. This is the world we are living in today. So there is no comparison between the Onam of today and the Onam of yesterday. Today, it is mechanical. Back then it was pulsating with life. There was heart and beat. Even if it was blind belief, there was a pulsation of love at its core. They were living the principle. Today, even though someone may know the principle, they are not living up to it. We lost our viveka. The intellect has grown, but our viveka has been lost.

“Because of this lack of viveka, the distance between family members is increasing. If there are three members in a family, they are living like three islands. We are not single islands; we are connected like the links of a chain. What we show our children, our children will emulate. If we do not look after our parents, our children will not look after us. That is the state we are heading towards. You get what you give. This is the best proof for the principle of karma.

“Today there also are celebrations, but the families go to some restaurant. In the olden days, all the children from far off places would come to the house. They would sing, dance, play and eat together. Not just the immediate family’s children, but all the children, mothers, fathers etc. would come to the taravadu [ancestral home]. Nowadays, they either eat at a restaurant or get take out. In the olden days, they would prepare weeks ahead, husking and pounding the rice for all the many family members who would come.”

The Relationship of Love

“I have seen my mother when she was grinding the curry powders—the child may be a little further away and milk would leak out from her breast and wet her blouse. Immediately she would say, “Oh, my child is hungry!” Maybe the child would be in the next house. Or maybe he is with the older children. The child is not with the mother, but she will feel the child’s needs. The breast will leak milk unceasingly. So she will clutch her breast and say, “My child is hungry!” And if you were to reach out to the child, you would find that it was true. The mother has not heard the child cry. The vibration of the child has reached the mother, and the mother’s breast is leaking milk. This is the relationship of love.

“Amma has travelled all around the world. When she listens to people’s problems, she understands how far we have deviated from our values, how much we have lost.

“Nowadays, people buy cards on days like St. Valentine’s Days with the words ‘I love you’ written on them, but it was not necessary to say such things in day’s past. Now it is only in the words.

“It is not the action but the attitude that is the most important thing. In the olden days, people had the correct attitude.”


88 houses in Cuddalore handed over to recipients

4 September 2005 — Pudukuppam, Cuddalore District, Tamil Nadu

Today Swami Ramakrishnananda handed over the keys to 88 new homes to the government official, who, in turn, presented the keys to the happy recipients of new homes built by the Ashram in the village of Pudukuppam. These homes are the first to be completed by any organization in Tamil Nadu, despite the fact that the Ashram was only allotted the land by the government a short three months back (news).

In addition to the actual houses, the Ashram also built roads, a community hall and a drainage system.  The Ashram has also undertaken the renovation and expansion of the primary school that was already present at the site. Transforming it from an elementary school that only went up to the fourth grade, to a full 10-standard high school.

This village was the worst-hit in Cuddalore District, with 123 deaths caused by the tsunami.

The Ashram is also nearing completion of another 27 houses at Sambasivapuram in Kanyakumari and the work for construction of 350 houses in the severely battered Nagapattinam District is going on full swing.


Natures fury is not yet abated

1 September 2005 — Amritapuri

When the night’s bhajans finished, Amma’s voice came once more over the microphone:

“Amma would like all of her children to pray for the peace for those who died and for those who lost their loved ones in the recent stampede in Iraq and in the flooding in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina.”

“Pray that the anger and hatred in the hearts of all those who are creating terror, war and conflict in the world be transformed into repentance, forgiveness, understanding and love.”

As Amma has said repeatedly since the tsunami, Nature is clearly out of balance, reacting to the adharmic (unrighteous) actions of man.  “Nature’s fury is not yet abated.” Amma asked everyone to pray so that  “what would be a hurricane be transformed into a gentle breeze.”

She then led everyone in the chanting of Om three times, as well as the chanting of lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu for several minutes.

– Kannadi