Helping Kashmir earthquake victims

distributing blankets
In response to the devastating earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir in October 2005, Amma sent two of her disciples, Bri. Rasamrita Chaitanya and Br. Abhayamrita Chaitanya, along with volunteers from the Delhi Ashram, to the region to console victims, distribute food and relief materials, and provide other assistance. Hundreds of blankets sent from Amritapuri were also distributed.

Bri. Rasamrita and the volunteers organized games, painting contests, and other cultural programs to help keep the children active and to focus their minds away from their recent traumatic experience.

Br. Abhaymarita also visited four villages in the region, met with government officials of Kashmir, and expressed the Ashram’s desire to adopt two or three villages.

Famous in Finland

18 – 19 October 2005 — Helsinki, Finland

After completing her programmes in Germany, Amma travelled to Helsinki for two days of programmes there. The programme venue, a renovated cable factory that now serves as an exhibition hall, was located next to a lake with downtown Helsinki on the opposite bank.

When Amma arrived at the hall, she was received by a large crowd of devotees, many of whom are regular visitors to Amritapuri. Among those in attendance were a strikingly large number of media representatives. A total of 25 television, newspaper and magazine reporters came to cover Amma’s programmes. Amma was major story – and the next day, she was featured in all of Finland’s major papers. One newspaper even carried a report claiming that Finland was Amma’s favourite country! Amma, who sees the whole world as one flower with each country as a petal, has definitely found a place in the hearts of the Finnish people. Their love for her continues to grow.

It may be recalled that her life and mission have been included in two of the country’s school textbooks {news}.

On the first night, Amma sang the bhajan “Where Can I Go?” in Finnish.

-Tulasi

Amma, why do you pray?

Question: Amma, you are established in the Self. Why, then, do you pray? What need is there for you to do sadhana (spiritual practices)?

amma-bhajan

Amma: I have taken this body for the sake of the world. It is not for myself that I have come to this world. If I say, “I am an Avatar,” and keep aloof, what would be the purpose of My birth? My aim is to guide people and to uplift the world — that is why I have come. If you wish to communicate with people who are deaf and dumb, you have to use signs and gestures. If you were to say, “I’m not deaf or dumb, so there’s no need for me to make those signs and gestures,” then those who are deaf and dumb wouldn’t be able to understand anything you say. For them such gestures are necessary. Similarly, in order to uplift the people who are ignorant of the Self, one has to go down to their level. One has to teach them through the example of one’s own life. For ordinary people, spiritual practices, such as singing bhajans, selfless service and meditation, are necessary. It is to uplift them that I assume many different roles. All those roles are played for the sake of the world.

People travel to the ashram by car, train or airplane. I never say that you have to come by one particular mode of transport. Each person should use the means that are the most suitable for him. Likewise, there are many paths leading to Self-realization. I instruct each person in the path that is most suitable for him, which is determined by his samskara (innate tendencies). Students who are talented in sciences should choose one of the sciences in college. They will be able to learn the subject faster than others, and can easily progress in their studies. Similarly, those who are intellectual and able to read and understand the scriptures will be able to contemplate the scriptural truths and advance along the jnana marga (path of knowledge). However, it requires a subtle intellect and considerable knowledge of the scriptures to achieve this. An ordinary person will not be able to do so. Many people who come to the ashram for the first time are not even familiar with the word, “spirituality.”

What will such children do? To understand the Bhagavad Gita has to have good education or have had some contact with spiritual people. Only those who have studied the scriptures can overcome the trying situations in life, by contemplating spiritual truths such as “neti neti” (not this, not this). How can I reject those who are unable to do any these? Those who do not have such accomplishments should also be able to advance on the spiritual path. They, too, need to be uplifted. In order to help them, I have to go down to their level and guide them, according to their mental make-up. Many people who are illiterate come here, as well as people who are literate but too poor to buy any books. People who have learnt just a little come here, as well as those who have read a lot but aren’t able to practice anything in their lives. Amma has to guide and uplift each one according to one’s calibre. What we call Brahman is pure experience — it is life. It is a state in which one is able to see everyone as one’s own Self. That should become our very nature. Rather than thinking that we are flowers, we have to become flowers. We have to strive to become flowers. We should make the realization of the Self our very life. Realization cannot e achieved through studies alone. The purpose of studying is to gain the ability to practice, and that is more difficult than reading books. The sages who lived in the past demonstrated great spiritual truths through the examples of their lives.

What we call Brahman is pure experience — it is life. It is a state in which one is able to see everyone as one’s own Self.

But these days, people engage in verbal arguments after having read and memorized a few books. In truth, prayer and worship are also the way to attain Brahman.

Stone laid for houses in Kalmunai

17 October 2005, Kalmunai, Sri Lanka

Today morning, the foundation stone was laid for the construction of 60 houses in Periyanilavanai in the Kalmunai division of Ampara District, Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. As per the Govt. of Sri Lanka’s guidelines, the Math is building 3 story homes, each with a total of 530 square feet.

The event was attended by Mr.N. Pathmanathan, Member of Parliament, Ampara. He spoke of his appreciation for the care and concern that Amma has shown towards the tsunami affected people of Sri Lanka.

He noted that in February, out of her compassion, Amma had traveled all the way from India to Sri Lanka, visiting many refugee camps in different parts of the country, and consoling thousands. Amma is now building permanent houses for these affected people.

Mr. Herath Abeyaweera, District Collector, Ampara, also spoke at the event. He lauded the Math for building houses for the people who were made homeless by the tsunami.

Mr. U. L. A. Azeez, Additional Collector, noted that NGO’s like the Mata Amritanandamayi Math are doing a great service for the people of Sri Lanka by providing relief and rehabilitation for the affected. He stated that the Periyanilavanai region was one of the worst affected by the tsunami and that building houses for the people of this area is a very great service.

Mr. Vasudevan, Divisional Secretary, Kalmunai, also praised the services of the Math and assured that he would provide all the necessary help for the speedy completion of the project.

Br. Vinayamrita Chaitanya further spoke about Amma and the disaster relief activities of the Math all over the world, including relief efforts taking place in the US by Amma’s devotees in response to Hurricane Katrina.

Creating memories, collecting pearls


17 October 2005 – Kirchbrombach, Odenwald, Germany

“Is there a white horse?” Amma wanted to know. She was walking around a horse ranch in Odenwald, Germany, a property where many Ashram retreats have been held. The morning was bright and clear, the air was quite cold, and Amma was wrapped in a pink hooded winter coat. Soon, Vineeta, a young German woman who works at the horse ranch came leading a beautiful white horse by the reins.

She led it up to where Amma was, and Amma began feeding the horse carrots and pieces of dry bread. Steam issued forth from the horse’s nostrils as it ate from Amma’s hands. About 40 devotees were gathered around, taking in another precious memory of time spent in the presence of the Guru.

Unknown to all, Vineeta had a special place for the white horse in her heart.  She had been praying that Amma would come and shower her love on this one in particular, and now Amma had answered her prayer. Then, suddenly, Amma said, “No, we shouldn’t show partiality to this horse. Bring all the horses.”

So, next a small tan pony was brought to Amma, and she fed that one as well. Then Amma went to a fenced off area on the east side of the ranch and there fed a tall black stallion and two brown mares. Another pony was soon brought, this time a black one. The horses snickered and brayed, each one trying to nose in towards Amma’s hands to get her treats.

Situated on the break of a hill, the horse ranch provides a beautiful view of the surrounding village and the green pastures where the horses are allowed to run. Everyone looked out at that tremendous expanse, taking in its splendour.

“Amma, there are more horses down there,” someone said, and soon Amma was walking off to the east side of the property where more horses were kept. The ranch keeps eighteen horses in all. There, Amma rested against a wooden fence, and fed those horses carrots and pieces of bread from her hands.

After Amma fed all of the horses, she went back inside, where she sat and distributed bread, jam, and pieces of banana–this time to the devotees.

“Last night, Amma thought she would spend the full day here with you,” Amma said to the devotees, explaining that she did not know that she would have to leave as early as noon for her flight to Finland. “Amma had planned to serve lunch, sing bhajans and go for a walk with all of you.”

Then someone half-jokingly asked, “And give liberation too?”

“Everything Amma does is for that only,” Amma said. ‘Chittachora’ is one of the names of Lord Krishna. It means ‘One who steals the mind.’ This is what Lord Krishna did with the Gopis of Vrindavan. By spending all his time with these milkmaids, playing with them, joking with them, stealing their butter and milk, what he actually was doing was stealing their hearts. This is what Amma is doing when she spends time with all of you. She is putting a special pearl deep inside of you, so that you will remember Amma everywhere you go, whatever you are doing.

“Normally when we begin a long, hard task, we will be tense the whole time. The only peace we get is when we think; ‘I will get rest once the task is completed’.  By providing the devotees with memories, deep inside they will always be thinking of me no matter what they are doing.” Amma added that such thoughts–the moments when the disciple thinks of being with the Guru–are moments of peace and rest.

Amma then explained how in the path of advaita-vedanta, one tries to see the whole world as an extension of oneself, and how in the path of bhakti, one tries to see the whole world as their Beloved Lord, or Guru.  The two paths are not different, just slightly different ways of looking at the same thing. “In today’s world, people run to hear talks on Vedanta, but here we try to live Vedanta,” Amma said, referring to how she encourages her devotees to serve the world, seeing it as an extension of Amma, or an extension of their own Self.

“At the heart of all religions is the Guru-disciple relationship. It doesn’t matter whether it is Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, or Hinduism,” Amma said. “In reality, this relationship is the relationship between the jivatman and Paramatman, the individual self and the Supreme Self. In truth, they are one and the same. When standing on the shore, a river appears to have two separate banks, but in reality those two banks are one and the same at the bottom of the river. Once we remove the water (the ego), we will realize this truth.

Then it was time. Amma had to go to Finland. As Amma drove slowly off the grounds, it was a scene just like when Amma leaves Amritapuri in Kerala. Amma rolled down her window and held her hand outside the car so it could brush past the hands of all the devotees who had lined up along the driveway as she drove away.Now that Amma had visited the ranch, everywhere the devotees look, they will see beautiful pearls – memories of Amma’s visit. Will they be ever able to look at the horse without thinking of Amma? They have their clear instructions: Do selfless service thinking of Amma, and remember always that you and Amma are not two, but in essence one and the same.”

–Sakshi

Many musical offerings of mannheim

13 – 15 October 2005 — Mannheim, Germany

Whatever gift a child may offer its mother, she will treasure it with all her heart. The truth of this statement was made evident in Mannheim, where Amma’s devotees offered a diverse array of performances at her feet: a traditional tribal dance from Northern Kerala, a Malayalam children’s song and a German version of the hip-hop hit “Where Is the Love?”

It was the first night of the Mannheim programmes when a group of girls formed a circle in front of where Amma was giving darshan. They soon began a dance that is often performed at Amritapuri by children from the Ashram’s orphanage, a traditional folk dance of the tribals of Northern Kerala{news}. At the conclusion of the night’s darshan, Amma showed her delight at her daughter’s performance by demonstrating a few similar steps of her own.

On Devi Bhava, some boys from Amritapuri also sang a song often performed for Amma by local children in Amritapuri: “Njangalkkoru Ammayundu Svantam Amma.” This is the song that one brahmachari wrote for the tsunami-affected children from Azhikkal{news}. It has become somewhat of an anthem for those children, and they perform it during Amma’s darshan each time they come to the ashram. Sung in unison, the song is all about how grateful the children are to have a mother like Amma, and is full of promises to not fight or tell lies, but to be good boys and girls.

Devi Bhava also saw a completely different type of performance, this one from the hip-hop tradition. The song was “Where Is the Love?” – the smash hit by The Black-Eyed Peas. But the song was rendered a little different than it is on the radio. Felix, a young German man who spent two years doing selfless service in Amritapuri, was on the mic, rapping the glories of Amma in German. Throughout the song, Amma continually beamed her smile down upon him. Many of the devotees took to their feet for the duration of the song, clapping and swaying to the beat.

-Kannadi