Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

May Peace & Happiness Prevail

Amma has chosen some peace mantras for daily chanting by her devotees and disciples. One of those invocations is Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. Although this mantra does not appear in any of the existent Veda sakhas [Vedic branches], it is an expression of the universal spirit that we find therein1. Let’s take a look at what context it appears in and what meaning it carries. The sloka as a whole reads as follows:

svasti prajabhya: paripalayantham nyayeana margena mahim maheesah
gobrahmanebhya shubamsthu nityam lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu

May there be well being to the people;
May the kings rule the earth along the right path;
May the cattle and the Brahmins have well being forever;
May all the beings in all the worlds become happy;
Peace, peace and peace be everywhere!

The sloka is an invocation for harmony and blessings for all of creation. In ancient days the social structure and form of government differed from ours in many ways, that is why we need not take the literal meaning of this sloka, but the essence.

For peace and harmony to prevail, the kings–i.e. the politicians and leaders–should have a healthy approach towards their subjects and govern according to principles of dharma. This, we sadly note, is very rare indeed in today’s world where power and wealth seem to be the prime motivation for the ruling elite. Nevertheless, the ideal remains as it is, and as Amma’s teachings are personally influencing countless politicians all over the world, there might yet be light at the end of the tunnel.

Brahmin is one who has either realised his oneness with Brahman, the Absolute, or one who has dedicted his life to the pursuit of that realization. Such selfless people are the enlightened thinkers who provide society with a healthy understanding of life. They give guidance to all sections of society, including the political leadership. A Brahmin can also mean a brilliant intellectual who is using his talents to selflessly serve society. Thus for a stable and bright society, it is essential that these Brahmins are healthy. The sage who gave voice to this mantra obviously does not assert Brahmin-hood as a hereditary vocation as found today.

There are many examples in history to demonstrate that Brahmin-hood is an inner quality not dependent on the social status that prevails upon one’s birth. We need only to look back to the great sage Veda Vyasa, also known as Krishna Dvaipayana because he had a dark complexion and was born on an island. He was born to a fisherwoman but possessed one of the greatest minds of all times and is universally accepted as a great rishi. He codified the Vedas and composed original works that are famed all over the world for their exquisite spiritual content. Among them are popular works like the Mahabharata and Srimad Bhagavatam, as well as profound treatises on the Ultimate Reality like the Brahma Sutras. In spite of his humble origins, Sage Vyasa is one of the most revered among the plethora of India’s spiritual giants.

Amma was born in a community of fisher folk. She was educated only up until the fourth standard and speaks only her mother tongue. Also, most striking of all, she has never studied the scriptures. Yet their wisdom flows from her lips unceasingly, rendering the most abstract truths in simple ways that most anyone can understand. Who would then deny Amma’s Brahmin-hood? Amma is directing the world with her wisdom, speaking to large audiences throughout the world, even at the United Nations.

Now, one might wonder about the cattle in this prayer, saying to one’s self: “What on earth have I, a city-dwelling modern person, to do with cattle? Shouldn’t I rather be praying that my BMW stays in good condition?” We need not be too literal-minded. The ancients didn’t use language in such a one-dimensional way as we do. If we contemplate deeply on the meaning of any given mantra, it is likely that it will reveal more and more layers of meaning. “Cattle” signifies nourishment and abundance in general. In ancient time cattle served as a sort of bank account. The number of cattle a person had was the measure of his wealth. Also, the milk was the primary source of livelihood for a large portion of society. Milk and milk products such as ghee comprised the majority of the offerings made into the sacrificial fires used in formal ritual worship. Thus cows are mentioned in many ancient texts as a symbol of plenty. It can be taken symbolically, like “the daily bread.”

In today’s society, such a prayer, if taken literally, has also a special irony, for cattle ranches around the world have become breeding grounds for diseases like the mad-cow epidemic. When cattle and the rest of the animal kingdom are devoid of well being, humanity will also suffer. Thus harmony between humans and the rest of creation is also stressed in this prayer. Actually cow can be taken as representative of the entire animal kingdom. The Sanskrit word for cattle is “go,” which is a most profound Vedic symbol and has many subtle spiritual meanings. Two such secondary meanings are “earth” and “mother,” and as such the sloka could also be a prayer for the welfare of Mother Earth. So we need not be worried that God will send a herd of cattle charging through our living room when we pray thus.

The most important aspect of the mantra is that the sage does not pray only for his clan or nation but for the whole world or, more precisely, all the worlds2. This, as Amma tells us and shows us, is the correct way to pray. Instead of asking for something for our self, Amma advises us to pray for the whole creation. Praying for the welfare of all sentient beings–all humans, all animals, all plants—our mind becomes more expansive. Through such prayer we slowly can go beyond our limited egocentric concepts of self to identify with the entire creation, recognising its true nature to be none other than our own. And as we too are part of the world, we also are benefited from the blessings of the prayer.

Amma’s whole life is a constant endeavour to bring happiness to as many beings as possible. Her life verily is this prayer in action. She is showing us the correct attitude by which not only to pray but also by which to live.

While chanting Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu next time, let us try to feel deeply for all living beings, and make a resolve to live in this selfless spirit.

May peace and harmony prevail.


1 Many of the original 1008 branches of the Vedas have been lost. It is possible that this mantra was in one of those lost branches. If not, it surely took birth from or around a Realized Master.

2 According to the traditional view, there are 14 worlds, or planes of existence–six figuratively above us and seven figuratively below. Bhuh is the earthly plane. Above it in ascending order are Bhuvah, Svah, Mahar, Jana, Tapa and Satya (also known as Brahma-loka); below in descending order are Atala, Vitala, Satala, Rasaatala, Talaatala, Mahaatala and Patala. These are generally divided into three zones: heaven (svarga), earth (prithvi) and the netherworld (patala). That is why one frequently comes across the expressions in the scriptures like “the lord of the three worlds.” If one refuses to accept that there are 14 worlds, they can consider the reference to multiple worlds as meaning the infinite perspectives of this world, as percieved by all the animals, plants and humans.

Amma leads Munich in a prayer for the world

9 – 11 October 2005 – Munich, Germany

From the top of small hill just outside the site of Amma’s programmes in Munich, one could see the entire city spread before them: the stadiums built for the 1972 Summer Olympic games, the steeples of the city’s hundreds of churches, the skyscrapers and industrial buildings, the brown rooftops of row upon row of German-style houses, the central office of Bavarian Motor Works (BMW)… Indeed, looking out at that breathtaking expanse, it seemed as if all of Munich was wrapped around the place where Amma sat giving darshan.

And if Munich seemed to be surrounding Amma’s programme site, Amma’s programme seemed to be spilling out into Munich, as the warm fall days had many of those who came to experience Amma’s blessing moving outside the confines of the darshan hall and onto the grassy lawns of Olympia Park. Many people could be seen meditating on the hillsides, talking about spiritual topics or chanting the Lalita Sahasranama as they walked around the park’s swan- and geese-filled lakes.

Indeed, taking in the picturesque surroundings, it was easy to feel far removed from the tragic earthquake that had taken place in Pakistan the night before Amma’s Munich programmes began. But it was clear that this tragedy was very much on Amma’s mind. Each day Amma was in Munich, she led all those gathered for her darshan in a silent prayer for world peace and harmony, asking them to pray for the peace of all those who had died, as well as for that of their loved ones. Amma’s prayer embraced everyone, not only those who’d died in the earthquake, but also those who had died in all the tragedies of the past year: the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the hurricanes in America, the stampede in Iraq, the floods in India, as well as those dying in wars and terrorist acts….

“The tragedies we are experiencing are not finished,” Amma said. “Nature continues to be angry and agitated. Only the cool, gentle breeze of divine grace can lift the clouds of anger, hatred and revenge. So, let us pray with melting hearts.” Many of Amma’s devotees could be heard commenting how correct Amma had been when she predicted back in 2002 that 2005 would be a Kashta-kaalam, a time of tragedy, for the world.

With these prayers beginning each of the programmes, Amma carried on her darshan as usual, sharing the joys and sorrows of her German children as each of them individually came into her arms.

Amma’s Munich programmes are always graced with the performance of traditional Bavarian folk-music by her devotees. And this year was no exception. Performing the music as an offering to Amma, the devotees played the traditional instruments–harp, guitar, hack brett and flute–and wore the traditional dress.

There was another unexpected musical performance as well, this one by a group of mentally challenged children from a school in Munich. Nath, a 21-year-old devotee from Halfling, Germany, had taught the children to sing a few simple bhajans, as part of their school’s classes on the cultures of Asia. The children sang versions of “Om Namah Shivaya,” “Amma Amma Taye” and “Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.” It was a beautiful moment that touched everyone in the hall’s heart.


The mantra became a remedy

10 October 2005 — Munich, Germany

For the past two years, Nath  Hirsch has worked with mentally challenged children at a School in Munich. Some time back, he spent a month teaching the children about the cultures of Asia, including India’s. As part of those classes, he decided to teach them a few bhajans: simple repetitions of “Om Namah Shivaya,” “Amma Amma Taye” and “Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.”

Today, he brought these children–with his guitar in hand–to Amma’s programme in Munich so that they could sing for Amma and have her darshan. The children were so excited–both to sing and to meet Amma. Everyone in the hall was moved by the innocence and joy they exuded as they sang.

“Many of the children have Down’s Syndrome, but others have less definable mental problems,” says Nath, who is 21 and first met Amma in 1988 when he was only four. “One of the boys has both Down’s and Autism. It is a very rare case. He can get so agitated—nothing will calm him down. But he when we started singing ‘Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavanthu,’ [which means “May all the beings in all the worlds be happy”] he really responded very well. The mantra became kind of like a remedy for the children whenever they would get real agitated. At the school, sometimes we would sing it for 20 minutes continuously. One time, after we’d been singing it for a long time and I finally stopped strumming the guitar, this boy reached out to my hand, moving it, as if to keep it strumming the strings. He didn’t want the song to end.”

Nath says that he was inspired to help these mentally handicapped children through the example of Amma’s life and her teachings of selfless service, which he has been imbibing his entire life. Nath also participates in the selfless-service activities of Amma’s youth group in Munich. Most recently, the youth group has been selling tea and waffles each month on the streets of Munich to raise money for Amma’s tsunami relief-and-rehabilitation project.

When Nath took the mentally handicapped children for Amma’s darshan, Amma embraced them tightly and gave each an apple for prasad. She also told them how much she liked their singing, often showing her approval with a big thumb’s up.

As for Nath himself, he could not control his tears. Watching him on Amma’s shoulder, surrounded by those innocent and simple children, he softly wept.

Amma’s lamp of Love continues to spread.



Amma’s Vidyaarambham, initiation into alphabets

10 October 2005, Amritapuri

[Just before Amma left for Europe, a reporter from Matrubhumi, a leading Malayalam daily, asked Amma about Her vidyaarambham [initiation into learning], i.e. when and how Amma was initiated into learning.]

“My vidyaarambham (news) took place 48 years ago. I was four then. Every navaratri, we used to place the items for worship in the Kunnumpura Veedu, a house near ours. It was my mother, Damayanti Amma, who took me to there for the vidyaarambham ceremony.

“The person who initiated me into learning was an 85-year-old aashan [teacher]. He took my index finger and made me write ‘Hari Sri‘** on the cow-dung-paved floor on which sand had been spread out. Later, I was sent to the aashaan pallikkootam*.

Q: Which is Amma’s most memorable experience?

“Since the ashram started, we have been observing Vijayadashami and Vidyaarambham here. There were years when up to 500 children were initiated into learning here. But for the last many years, I have been overseas during Navaraatri. This year too, I won’t be here.

“Even though Amma may have initiated many children into learning, an unforgettable case was that of a girl named Lakshmi. Lakshmi’s only near and dear ones were her mother and younger brother; her father had abandoned them somewhere in Tamil Nadu. Once, when these young children were starving, they went to a restaurant and begged for some food, the proprietor of the hotel threw some hot water on them. The mother, who was proud, took the children to the beach. She flung her young son into the sea. Then, grabbing her daughter, she went near a railway track. When the train approached, the mother jumped before the train. Someone took the orphaned Lakshmi to the Parippally ashram.

“While she was still a young kid, Lakshmi came to see me one Onam. I asked her if she knew the alphabets. She said that she didn’t. While giving darshan, I instructed someone to bring a slate for Lakshmi. I wrote ‘A.’ seeing this, Lakshmi followed suit. Thus, amidst darshan, I taught her every one of the alphabets. Later, I also gave Lakshmi a job at the Parippally ashram. When she came of age, I myself took the initiative to get her married off.” (Read Lakshmi’s Marriage)


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

*An aashaan pallikkotam was an informal learning centre where children were taught to write and pronounce the 52 Malayalam alphabets correctly. Such centres had no blackboards; children had no slate or notebook either. So, they would write the alphabets on the ground and say them aloud as they wrote. The job of the aashaan [master] was to ensure that the children wrote and pronounced the alphabets correctly. Later, the children would enrol in regular schools.

**Initiation into the world of alphabets usually begins with the writing of the mantra   ‘Om hari sri ganapataye namah.’  ‘Hari’ refers to the Lord, ‘sri,’ to prosperity. At first, the mantra would be written on sand or in a tray of rice grains. Then, the master would write the mantra on the child’s tongue with gold. Writing on sand denotes practice. Writing on grains denotes the acquisition of knowledge, which leads to prosperity. Writing on the tongue with gold invokes the grace of the Goddess of Learning, by which one attains the wealth of true knowledge.

Ammas swiss time

5 – 7 October 2005 — Winterthur, Switzerland

Switzerland is a unique European country in that within its borders four languages are spoken: German, French, Italian and Rumanch. Despite the diverse languages, the people are very much unified in their “Swiss-tvam.” They take pride in precision and in doing things well—there is a reason why the country is known throughout the world for its clocks! As such, the hall where Amma gave darshan—the Eulachallen in Winterthur (a region about 20 kilometres from Zurich’s city centre)—had a strict curfew. The first two nights, Amma’s darshan had to finish by 2:00 a.m. sharp.

The first night, around 1:00 a.m., someone came to Amma to remind her about the pending curfew. As she gave darshan, Amma responded, “Normally, Amma has an understanding with Time: ‘You mind your business and Amma will mind hers!’ and we don’t bother each other. But tonight, it looks the clock is going to have the final word!” Of course, Amma and everyone around her broke into laughter.

Amma had many beautiful things to say during the programmes. When one Swiss man came for darshan, he asked Amma how she is able to embrace people with skin diseases such as leprosy without ever becoming infected by their maladies. Amma answered with a question of her own, “Can the Ganges ever become impure?”

To the delight of the Swiss Germans, Amma sang a couple bhajans in German, including “Wo Kann Ich Hin?”  [a German version of “Where Can I Go?”]. On Devi Bhava, a group of devotees sang some all-vocal choir music in the Rumanch language as well.

And one afternoon, the Swiss children’s satsang—a group that meets regularly to inculcate Amma’s teachings in children—put on a play for Amma, complete with live music. The play focused on Amma’s childhood and all the special relationships she had with various animals: the cow that would lift its leg so that Amma could drink milk directly from its utter when she was meditating, the dog that would bring food packets for Amma…. The children even showed how the snakes would come to simply be near Amma when she was in meditation.

With its four different languages under “one roof,” as it were, Switzerland is a beautiful representation of unity in diversity—a microcosm of all of Europe, the perfect beginning for Amma’s European Tour.


You are my greatest wealth

4 October 2005 — Pfyn, Switzerland

The church bells tolled seven, letting everyone in the small Swiss village of Pfyn know the hour. From the town square, the sound carried out across the rolling green hillside where milk cows grazed unperturbed by a light evening rain, over the river that flows swiftly through the village’s small forest, and in through the open window of a room where Amma–wrapped in a baby-blue coat–sat taking in the faces of about a hundred of her European children. The temperature outside reached below 10C degrees.

After a few minutes, Amma started calling out the nationalities of some of those seated around her: “German, French, Spanish, English, Dutch…” It had been almost a year since many of them had seen Amma, and appropriately the room carried the feeling of a reunion.

Soon, Amma began to sing:

Sri Krishna Sri Hari Krishna…

Govinda Nanda Mukunda…

Gopi Lola Gopa Kumara Vrindavana Lola…

Some of the devotees sang along, others simply sat gazing up at Amma’s face, too content to even open their mouths.

Amma’s acknowledgment of the room’s diversity was a touching beginning to her European Tour, which–with its nine countries in six weeks–is perhaps the best illustration of how Amma is not only embracing the world, but also how the world is embracing Amma.

During the next couple hours, Amma sang five or six bhajans with the devotees, including a few in German. One of the bhajans was, “Wo Kann Ich Hin?” –‘Where Can I Go?’.

In between each song, Amma joked with the devotees and inquired about their health and  their year in general. She also told them about her year, which, of course–as all of them knew–had revolved almost exclusively around the tsunami that took place six weeks after the conclusion of the 2004 European Tour.

Amma told them how hard the Ashramites have been working to complete the 6,000 odd tsunami-relief houses the Ashram has pledged to construct throughout South India. She  also talked about the difficulties of dealing with the government, about her trip to console tsunami victims in Sri Lanka, the fishing boats the Ashram has been giving away and about many of the other tsunami relief works…

By the time Amma had finished, she truly had given a recap of her entire year. At that point, one of the devotees from Ireland who had recently visited Amma’s Ashram in India said, “It’s true! I have seen how fast things are moving with my own eyes. But still I wonder how it’s possible that so much has happened in such a short time.”

To which Amma responded, “When I have children like all of you all over the world, nothing is impossible. You are my greatest wealth.”


Villagers transformed by Ammas love

3 October 2005, Amma leaving Amritapuri

Amma left the ashram for Her 2005 European Tour at 5:15 a.m. today. The ashram residents lined the path from Amma’s room to the beach road. But the path did not end there… even at that early hour it seemed the entire village was awake and standing in front of their homes with palms joined.

Lamps were lit in front of many houses and the entire household—mothers, fathers, children, grandparents—had already taken their bath and waited near the lamps for Amma to pass by. The mantra, “Om Amriteswaryai Namah” pulsed softly in tune with the waves crashing against the shore.

Amma’s car moved slowly along the road, stopping at each lit lamp. The villagers stretched out their hands and Amma pressed candies into them. After Amma passed, many of the villagers could be seen shedding tears. Some still chanted Amma’s name; others softly murmured, “She touched my hand…She gave me a sweet.” Others stood silently, motionlessly, blinking back tears.

Many people heard the mantras and ran straight from their beds in time to catch a precious glimpse of Amma, while others came straight from the bathroom, their clothes wet and hair still dripping…recalling the famous Amma story of Vidura’s wife running to catch a glimpse of Sri Krishna.

The villagers rushing to greet Amma in the car as their lamps keep burning by the road side.

It was not an ordinary scene for these parts. In earlier days, the villagers did not react much when Amma left the area. Regarding this transformation, a villager who works as a soldier in the army commented, “We all believed Kadalamma [Mother Sea] was our protector. But when the sea set out to destroy us, Amma protected us. Amma is greater than Kadalamma.”

It was the second time in recent days that the villagers had lined the streets with lamps lit for Amma; they did the same thing during Her 52nd birthday. (news)

Again, this was a departure from the past. This year was the first time they took Amma’s birthday as a holiday. None of the fishermen had gone out to sea that day. More than taking the day off, it signaled a marked difference in the villagers’ attitude towards Amma. After all that She has done for them in the wake of the devastating tsunami, it is no surprise that they have chosen to consider the day of Amma’s birth as a “holy day.”


A sweet parting gift

2 October 2005, Amritapuri

Today after noon, after having finished giving darshan to newcomers, Amma unexpectedly headed towards the pool.

Within minutes, word had spread throughout the Ashram that she was going swimming.  Ashramites ran to their rooms to put on their swimsuits and rushed to the pool to spend time with her.

Though Amma had been to the pool twice this past year with Tsunami children, it has been quiet some time since Amma had called the Ashramites to join her.

First Amma called the male residents.  Amma stood at the deep end of the pool surrounded by beaming devotees.  One by one, the boys lined up to be pushed into the pool by her.  Amma took special care to ask each one whether they knew how to swim.  If they said ‘no’, she helped them put on a life preserver.  Experienced swimmers stood by to guide them to the shallow end.

Sometimes she would laugh at the antics of the boys as they jumped, dove, or belly flopped into the pool.    Other times, she would chuckle at someone’s large belly.

After everyone had been pushed in, Amma sat down in a chair and started singing He Giridhara Gopala  – her arms rising upwards to the sky.   Everyone sang at the top of their lungs – no one cared whether he was singing in tune or not – we were all in bliss.

Amma then asked all the men to leave and invited all the women to come.   Again, she pushed each person into the pool.  At the end, everyone sang Sri Krishna, Sri Hari Krishna.  Suddenly, Amma started dancing!   Afterwards, she surprised everyone again by jumping in the pool and swimming to the shallow end!

All the Ashramites were beaming with joy at the wonderful parting present she had given us before her Europe tour.