Retain mental strength and unity to face disasters

Amma’s Message on the First Anniversary Observation of the Tsunami

Srayikkad, 26 December 2005
Life becomes complete when humankind and Nature move in harmony, hand in hand. When melody and rhythm complement each other, music becomes beautiful and pleasing to the ear. Likewise, when people live in accordance with the laws of nature, the song of life becomes sweet.

There is an order to everything in the cosmos. There is a rhythm to everything—the wind, the rain, the waves, our flow of breath and heartbeat. Similarly, there is a rhythm in life. Our thoughts and actions create the rhythm and melody of our lives. When the rhythm of our thoughts is lost, it reflects in our actions. This will, in turn, throw off the very rhythm of life.
The rhythm of Nature depends upon humanity. It’s necessary to maintain the rhythm of the mind and body for the sake of our health and life span, for the sake of humankind and Nature. But this rhythm is being lost. This is reflected in Nature and in society by natural disasters like the tsunami.
Death is part of life. All of us must face it today or tomorrow. The important thing is not how we die, but how we live. God has given us the freedom to laugh or cry. Even if we are completely surrounded by darkness, we must keep the light within aflame. Even if we cannot completely remove the suffering of others, sorrows lessen when they are shared with others. But when we console others using our smile and kind words, our capacity for kindness doesn’t lessen but increases. Every poor person has a right to the unlimited wealth of kindness. Just as water from a perennial spring never dries up no matter how much we draw from it, the more kindness we give, the more it will increase.

Just because our loved ones have died doesn’t mean that we should grieve forever. Our scriptures refer to death as a step into a new life. It’s like the period that comes at the end of the sentence. It’s not only departed soul’s near and dear ones who have prayed for their well-being; many, many children from all over the whole world have prayed too. Those prayers will never be wasted. Children, you should gain strength thinking of that. Pray to God for these departed souls to attain a superior life.

Natural disasters are not under our control. No matter how technologically advanced we become, we will never be able to prevent such disasters from taking place. But seeing how you children are rising up to the occasion and facing these obstacles with courage and unity, Amma is filled with tremendous hope. If we are able to retain this mental strength and unity, we are paving the way to a bright future. It is not enough if you children have good houses; you should also have a vision of life built upon a strong spiritual foundation.
May the wounds the tsunami has inflicted upon my children heal quickly. Amma prays to the Paramatman that the lives of all those affected by the tsunami blossom again and become filled with peace and happiness.

Smriti Deepam: lamps of remembrance


26 December 2005 — Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala

The walk had been made before—16 days shy of a year ago. Then and now, the prayers were the same: May the dead find peace… May those who loved them find peace.,, May the whole world be happy. But although the walk Amma led from Amritapuri to Azhikkal today seemed in many ways a flashback to the one immediately following the tsunami, in others it was entirely different, as the road itself was different.

Sixteen days shy of a year ago, Beach Road was full of broken things—broken houses, broken boats, broken people. It was a place where even the idea of hope had yet to take root. In contrast, today the road was marked, not with tragedy or joy, but, markedly, with normalcy:

A man pumping air into the rear tire of his five-year-old son’s new bicycle…
The sound of someone’s grandmother chanting bhajans over a temple speaker…
Teenage boys playing cricket on the beach…
Chai shops turning the day’s business…
A young girl using the boundary wall around her house as a balance beam…

And, of course, the other major difference was that when Amma made the walk to the Azhikkal cremation grounds today, she passed by the hundreds of new houses—more than 1,000 built by the Ashram so far—that now line the road or are partially visible from behind groves of coconut trees.

Unlike a year ago, when Amma began the two and half-kilometre walk today, the road was lined with 10,000 people—a mix of residents of Alappad Panchayat, Ashramites and Amma’s devotees from around the world—all holding small clay oil lamps in their hands. Smriti deepam–lamps of remembrance.

Then, as Amma passed by, all followed her, chanting Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. [“May all the beings in all the worlds be happy.”]

When Amma reached the cremation grounds, she blessed with flowers a newly installed statue of a woman’s head and open hands. Made of black sand, the woman symbolizes the land praying to the sea to maintain its boundaries.

It was here that two days after the tsunami 42 bodies had been burned: mothers, fathers, dozens of children. Today, their photographs, draped with garlands, rested near the individual pyre sites. In their midst, Amma planted a small peepal tree and then led all those who’d accompanied her in circumambulating the cremation grounds. Amma then sat down on the sands of the cremation grounds and asked everyone to chant Om lokaha samastah sukhino bhavantu. The sound of all the 10,000 people chanting the mantra filled the air for the next five minutes. The only other sound was that of a few women, who had lost members of their family, breaking down.

Addressing the villagers and devotees, Amma compared life to music that can be beautiful and harmonious if lived correctly, or full of chaos and destruction if lived carelessly. She encouraged everyone to spread the light of kindness, saying that its flame never diminishes with sharing but rather intensifies.

Amma also spoke of how death is an intrinsic part of life. “All of us must face it, today or tomorrow,” Amma said. “The important thing is not how we die, but how we live. … Just because our loved ones have died doesn’t mean that we should grieve forever. Our scriptures refer to death as a step into a new life. It’s like the period that comes at the end of the sentence. It’s not only the departed souls’ near and dear ones who have prayed for their well-being; many, many children from all over the whole world have prayed too. Those prayers will never be wasted. Children, you should gain strength thinking of that. Pray to God for these departed souls to attain a superior life.”

In conclusion, Amma said that certainly the world had not seen its last natural disaster, but that such obstacles in life could be overcome—not through technology but through courage, unity and strength of mind. “Seeing how you children are rising up to the occasion and facing these obstacles with courage and unity, Amma is filled with tremendous hope. If we are able to retain this mental strength and unity, we are paving the way to a bright future.”

A year had passed since the tsunami. It was a time to remember the dead. But perhaps more importantly it was a time to remember life and how to live it so that even death cannot touch us.

–KaaliDaas

0 Smriti Deepam video

Christmas in Amritapuri

25 December 2005 — Amritapuri

Never is Amritapuri filled with more of Amma’s devotees from the West than during Christmas. Each year people from America, Europe, Australia and other parts of the Western world come all the way across the globe to spend their winter holidays with Amma. Many of them only get 10 days off from work, but still out of their love for Amma make the pilgrimage, which can take as many as 40 hours each way.

In fact, many of them had arrived when Amma was still conducting her programmes in Tamil Nadu. During the long journey back from those programmes, Amma’s mind was clearly on her newly arrived devotees. At a lunch stop on 24th, she reminded everyone that they had to go fast so they could reach the Ashram in time to celebrate Christmas with all her Western children.

Amma reached Amritapuri in the wee hours of Christmas morning. To her devotees’ delight, at 6:00 p.m. she came out for the nightly bhajan, singing bhajans in Malayalam, Tamil, English, Sindi, Marathi. (Devotees not only from the West but also from across India had come to Amritapuri during the work holidays.) Then, at 9:30, Amma again came out to the bhajan hall for the Christmas celebrations.

“The message of Christmas is the life of Jesus Christ itself,” Amma told the devotees gathered to celebrate the holiday. “It is said that God is the embodiment of infinite divine values. At the same time, God is beyond words and the mind. It is through the lives of Mahatmas that we are able to directly experience the divinity of God. Mahatmas teach us through their own lives. Christ was the embodiment of love, self-sacrifice and humility.

Surrender towards God and love towards the world—both of these qualities shined through him. He took birth in a barn, worked hard in life and lived in an ordinary hut. Though materially he had nothing, he was the embodiment of prosperity.”

To celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Christ, Amma’s Western devotees put on a children’s play, performed dances and sang Christmas carols–all of which Amma watched while seated in a chair in the midst of a sea of devotees.

The children’s play started off with a young child asking his mother the question, “Who is God?” When his mother couldn’t answer, the child sat down and started to think: “God is in the sun.. God is in the rivers, the moon, and the mountains.. God is also in the lion and the tiger..” And as the child thought, various children came out, enacting each image or animal. One child even came out as a train. (“God is in the chugga-chugga chugga-chugga of the train.) Amma laughed whenever the children–many of whom where very small–lingered too long on the stage, missed their cues or acted generally confused in the spotlight. At the end, the child realized that if God is in all these things, He must also be inside each child, mother, father, brother and sister as well.

The Western men and women who sang the Christmas carols kept switching back and forth from various different languages. For example, the verses of “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” were sung alternately in French, German, English and other languages, while the chorus remained in Latin. Carols were also sung in Finnish by a large group from Finland.

There was also a juggler from France, an Indian dance by a group of teenage Western girls, a Latin dance led by an Ashram resident from Venezuela. The performances ended with Murali, a professional pianist from France, playing a piece by Elbeniz.

When all the cultural performances were over Amma distributed chocolate cake as prasad–something that has become an Amritapuri Christmas tradition.

-Tulasi

The mystery of death: Why is it a secret?

21 December 2005 — auto-parts factory and repair facility, just off NH45, Pondicherry

About halfway to Chennai from Nagapattinam, one of the vehicles in Amma’s caravan began showing signs of engine trouble. It was also past time for lunch. So when the caravan passed by a large auto-parts factory and engine-repair facility, Amma instructed everyone to pull over and inquire if the group could have its lunch there.

To everyone’s surprise, the factory was owned by one of Amma’s devotees who had actually come for Amma’s darshan the night before in Nagapattinam. During his darshan he had asked Amma to come visit his home on her way to Chennai. However, Amma had told him that such a visit was impossible, as there was no time.

You can imagine the surprise of the devotee when his employees called him and told him that Amma had suddenly appeared at his place of business! He immediately gathered his wife and two daughters, and 10 minutes later they were all sitting at Amma’s feet with the rest of Amma’s disciples and devotees.

After giving everyone prasad in the form of curd rice and curry, one of Amma’s brahmacharinis began to tell a story. It was the lead-in tale of  Kathopanishad, the Vedic teaching delivered by Yama Dharmaraja, the Lord of Death, to a young Brahmin boy.

Almost verse by verse, the brahmacharini related the story of how Nachiketas came to leave the earthly plane and visit Lord Death in his abode. She explained how, in fact, when the boy reached there, Death was not home and how Nachiketas had to wait three days for him to return. For each day he was forced to wait, Death granted Nachiketas a boon.

For his first boon, Nachiketas asked that his father accept him upon his return to the earthly plane. For his second boon, he asked Yama to teach him a fire ritual that when correctly performed would take one to heaven. And for his third boon, he said, “What happens after death? Is there a soul surviving death, or is it total annihilation?”

Death told him, “Please, I will give you anything you desire: heavenly damsels, gold, sons, cattle. Ask me anything but this.”

To which Nachiketas responded, “Keep your damsels and long life, all I want to know is this secret.”

Finally, impressed by the Nachiketas dispassion, Death began imparting his precious secret.

But at this point, the brahmacharini stopped the story, saying that she could not proceed further as, like Lord Death had said, the knowledge was a secret.

This is where Amma came in.

Amma said that the Vedantic teachings regarding the ultimate reality are not given out to just anyone. Only upon being convinced of the mental maturity of the student will the Guru begin to undertake such a teaching. If Vedanta is taught to one who is not mature enough, it will be wasted or could even result in harm.

In order to illustrate this point, Amma told two stories.

The first one involved a disciple who’d recently been taught that everything in creation in truth is nothing other than Brahman, the pure eternal unlimited consciousness that pervades all of creation. Elated with his new knowledge, the disciple walked around continually reminding himself that everything he saw was Brahman. In the midst of his revelry, he heard someone shout, “Everyone run! A mad dog is coming!” However, the disciple did not react. “If everything is Brahman, then this dog too is Brahman only,” he told himself. “What is the point of getting out of the way?” No sooner had he finished his thought than the mad dog appeared on the scene. It promptly ran up to the disciple and bit him. Later, the Guru stood at the disciple’s side, tending to his wounds. “When everyone was telling you a mad dog was coming, why didn’t you run?” the Guru asked. The disciple told him his reasoning. The Guru quickly rebuffed him: “If you could see the mad dog as Brahman, why didn’t you see the person who was telling you to run as Brahman also?”

Amma then told everyone that the scriptures say there are three types of disciples: the uttama adhikari, the madhya adhikari and the adhama adhikari the top, the middle and the lowest.

Amma’s second story went like this: Once upon a time, there was a great Vedantic scholar whose prized possession was a parrot that he’d taught to chant all of the Vedas. One day while walking through the forest, this scholar was attacked by a ferocious lion. At the last possible second before the lion fell upon the scholar, a forest-dwelling hunter suddenly appeared and shot the lion dead. The scholar told the hunter that he now owed him his very life and as such he wanted to give him something—his prized parrot.

The hunter and the scholar then parted. But it wasn’t long before the scholar began lamenting having given his parrot away. It was such a rare and valuable possession. He simply could not stop thinking about the parrot and wondering how it was faring with its new owner.

After a few months, the scholar again was walking through the forest. There, he once again happened to cross paths with the hunter. He was elated. “How is my parrot?” he asked, hoping to get him back. The hunter just smiled and rubbed his belly: “Oh, he made an excellent meal!”

Amma said that if Vedanta is taught to someone who is not mature enough to understand, he will only use the knowledge as to his level of understanding.

“A mother gives breast milk to her baby, not meat,” Amma said. “Similarly, such knowledge should be imparted only to those who are mature enough to receive it.

Amma also said that in today’s world many people go around repeating, “I am Brahman, I am Brahman,’ but they have no such experience. Amma compared such foolishness to licking the word “honey” written on a piece of paper and expecting to get sweetness from it. Similarly, she said, “A picture of a cow won’t eat any grass or give us any milk.”

In today’s world, it is common to come across people who misinterpret Vedanta and—consciously or subconsciously—twist the philosophy in order to fulfill their selfish desires. Instead of acting according to the principles of the philosophy, they use the philosophy to justify their actions. As Amma often says, we should not leave Vedanta confined to the pages of books. We need to live Vedanta, letting the philosophy shine forth in all of our actions.

-Sakshi

The mystery of death: why is it a secret?

21 December 2005 — auto-parts factory and repair facility, just off NH45, Pondicherry

About halfway to Chennai from Nagapattinam, one of the vehicles in Amma’s caravan began showing signs of engine trouble. It was also past time for lunch. So when the caravan passed by a large auto-parts factory and engine-repair facility, Amma instructed everyone to pull over and inquire if the group could have its lunch there.

To everyone’s surprise, the factory was owned by one of Amma’s devotees who had actually come for Amma’s darshan the night before in Nagapattinam. During his darshan he had asked Amma to come visit his home on her way to Chennai. However, Amma had told him that such a visit was impossible, as there was no time.

You can imagine the surprise of the devotee when his employees called him and told him that Amma had suddenly appeared at his place of business! He immediately gathered his wife and two daughters, and 10 minutes later they were all sitting at Amma’s feet with the rest of Amma’s disciples and devotees.

After giving everyone prasad in the form of curd rice and curry, one of Amma’s brahmacharinis began to tell a story. It was the lead-in tale of Kathopanishad, the Vedic teaching delivered by Yama Dharmaraja, the Lord of Death, to a young Brahmin boy.

Almost verse by verse, the brahmacharini related the story of how Nachiketas came to leave the earthly plane and visit Lord Death in his abode. She explained how, in fact, when the boy reached there, Death was not home and how Nachiketas had to wait three days for him to return. For each day he was forced to wait, Death granted Nachiketas a boon.

For his first boon, Nachiketas asked that his father accept him upon his return to the earthly plane. For his second boon, he asked Yama to teach him a fire ritual that when correctly performed would take one to heaven. And for his third boon, he said, “What happens after death? Is there a soul surviving death, or is it total annihilation?”

Death told him, “Please, I will give you anything you desire: heavenly damsels, gold, sons, cattle. Ask me anything but this.”

To which Nachiketas responded, “Keep your damsels and long life, all I want to know is this secret.”

Finally, impressed by the Nachiketas’ dispassion, Death began imparting his precious secret.

But at this point, the brahmacharini stopped the story, saying that she could not proceed further as, like Lord Death had said, the knowledge was a secret.

This is where Amma came in.

Amma said that the Vedantic teachings regarding the ultimate reality are not given out to just anyone. Only upon being convinced of the mental maturity of the student will the Guru begin to undertake such a teaching. If Vedanta is taught to one who is not mature enough, it will be wasted or could even result in harm.

In order to illustrate this point, Amma told two stories.

The first one involved a disciple who’d recently been taught that everything in creation in truth is nothing other than Brahman, the pure eternal unlimited consciousness that pervades all of creation. Elated with his new knowledge, the disciple walked around continually reminding himself that everything he saw was Brahman. In the midst of his revelry, he heard someone shout, “Everyone run! A mad dog is coming!” However, the disciple did not react. “If everything is Brahman, then this dog too is Brahman only,” he told himself. “What is the point of getting out of the way?” No sooner had he finished his thought than the mad dog appeared on the scene. It promptly ran up to the disciple and bit him. Later, the Guru stood at the disciple’s side, tending to his wounds. “When everyone was telling you a mad dog was coming, why didn’t you run?” the Guru asked. The disciple told him his reasoning. The Guru quickly rebuffed him: “If you could see the mad dog as Brahman, why didn’t you see the person who was telling you to run as Brahman also?”

Amma then told everyone that the scriptures say there are three types of disciples: the uttama adhikari, the madhya adhikari and the adhama adhikari the top, the middle and the lowest.

Amma’s second story went like this: Once upon a time, there was a great Vedantic scholar whose prized possession was a parrot that he’d taught to chant all of the Vedas. One day while walking through the forest, this scholar was attacked by a ferocious lion. At the last possible second before the lion fell upon the scholar, a forest-dwelling hunter suddenly appeared and shot the lion dead. The scholar told the hunter that he now owed him his very life and as such he wanted to give him something—his prized parrot.

The hunter and the scholar then parted. But it wasn’t long before the scholar began lamenting having given his parrot away. It was such a rare and valuable possession. He simply could not stop thinking about the parrot and wondering how it was faring with its new owner.

After a few months, the scholar again was walking through the forest. There, he once again happened to cross paths with the hunter. He was elated. “How is my parrot?” he asked, hoping to get him back. The hunter just smiled and rubbed his belly: “Oh, he made an excellent meal!”

Amma said that if Vedanta is taught to someone who is not mature enough to understand, he will only use the knowledge as to his level of understanding.

“A mother gives breast milk to her baby, not meat,” Amma said. “Similarly, such knowledge should be imparted only to those who are mature enough to receive it.

Amma also said that in today’s world many people go around repeating, “I am Brahman, I am Brahman,’ but they have no such experience. Amma compared such foolishness to licking the word “honey” written on a piece of paper and expecting to get sweetness from it. Similarly, she said, “A picture of a cow won’t eat any grass or give us any milk.”

In today’s world, it is common to come across people who misinterpret Vedanta and—consciously or subconsciously—twist the philosophy in order to fulfil their selfish desires. Instead of acting according to the principles of the philosophy, they use the philosophy to justify their actions. As Amma often says, we should not leave Vedanta confined to the pages of books. We need to live Vedanta, letting the philosophy shine forth in all of our actions.

-Sakshi

Helping Nagapattinam to overcome fear

20 December 2005 — Samanthampettai, Nagore, Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu

“When difficult circumstances arise in life, there are two ways to respond. We can either run away in fear or kindle the love within and try to overcome,” Amma said. She was talking to the 60,000 people or so who’d come to have her darshan in Samanthampettai, a small village in Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam District. Considering the crowd it was a pretty heavy statement. A year ago when the tsunami hit India, Nagapattinam became an international household name—8,000 dead.

Tonight’s programme was the first that Amma has ever given in the district, but her second visit. In February, just six weeks after the tsunami, Amma came to Samanthampettai and walked door-to-door through a relief-camp set up by the Ashram. She personally dried the eyes of hundreds that day, listening to family after family tell her who’d died and how.

Tonight, the Ashram officially handed over certificates to the 375 homes it has completed in Nagapattinam thus far: 340 in Samanthampettai, 25 in Akkaraipettai and 10 in Pandagasali.

Dr. J. Radhakrishnan, the district collector, gave a short speech in which he called the work of Amma’s Ashram “remarkable” and said that Amma’s Ashram was “the first organization to finish an entire community in-full.” In fact, some 45 NGOs [non-governmental agencies] are currently working to complete tsunami-relief houses in Tamil Nadu. So far, all of them put together have completed about 1000 homes; 50 percent of these have been built by Amma’s Ashram. The 375 houses built in Nagapattinam took only 180 days to complete—more than two houses per day.

Among those to receive the certificate of ownership to his house during Amma’s programme was Vijayan, a fishermen who, along with his home, lost his grandmother in the tsunami. After having Amma’s darshan he said, “If Amma had not been beside us, we would have been left totally aimless, with no aspiration to live. In fact, for three months we did not go out into the sea. But during that time, Amma gave us everything: food, shelter, education, medical care, even clothing and soap.”

Rajeswari, Vijayan’s sister, has been attending classes offered by the Ashram for tsunami-affected youth. She says that the classes have inspired her and many other girls in the village to complete their basic education and that it is becoming quite common to hear girls speak of pursuing higher studies—something that previously was not given too much importance.

Run away in fear or kindle the love within and overcome Amma has provided the options, but she has also led the way to the only true choice. For, by coming into their midst and wiping their tears with the end of her sari, Amma, in fact, has already begun breathing life into the very love she is extolling them to kindle. As one devotee  attending the Samanthampettai programme remarked, “Amma is not just rebuilding their houses; she is rebuilding their faith in life itself.”

—Tulasi

Creation: The divine joke

19 December 2005 — Amrita University, Coimbatore

When Amma stopped for lunch at the Coimbatore campus of Amrita University on her way to Nagapattinam, she started off by asking people to tell jokes. “Whether we smile or cry, life is still going to keep passing by, so why not smile,” Amma said.

After a few jokes were told—some bringing forth laughter, others groans—one of Amma’s American devotees stood up. “Do you want to know how to make God laugh?” she asked. “Tell Her your plans.”

Half groans, half laughs.

Amma said, “God smiles when He sees someone crying because of their identification with another person’s suffering and then reaching out to console and comfort them.”

An eight-year-old boy named Eknath then came forward and told a quite intricate joke involving an ant and an elephant getting into an accident while riding a motorcycle. Why was only the elephant hurt? “Because the ant was wearing a helmet.”

Again half groans, half laughter.

Another eight-year-old boy, Ramu, then asked Amma, “Why are you God?”

“Because you are a fool,” Amma sweetly replied. Then in order to help Ramu understand his foolishness, Amma asked him a question of her own: “Where is God?”

Ramu pointed up to the sky.

“No, inside,” Amma said. “God is inside of you.” And then pointing to the 400 or so people circled around her, “God is inside each and every one of these people here. We should serve everyone, seeing them all as embodiments of God.”

Amma then asked the boy to explain his concept of God.

“God created the world and all the people,” Ramu said.

“The world is not God’s creation,” Amma replied. “It is your creation.”

Amma’s sutram one of the highest truths shot forward with the compactness and swiftness of an arrow struck the hearts of everyone assembled. A thousand pundits can speak such a truth and it will never have the impact that comes from hearing it directly from the mouth of a Satguru, one who speaks from their direct experience.

Voluminous works like the Yoga Vasishtha and in-depth commentaries like Sri Gaudapada’s Mandukya Karika have been composed in order to illumine this raw truth: the fact that the entire universe is indeed nothing but a projection of the mind. As such, Ramu stood perplexed. Then, staring up into the infinity held within Amma’s eyes, he finally—without confidence—said, “Amma is joking.”

-Sakshi

Amritapuri is the land of compassion, love and beauty

President of India visits Amritapuri

18 December 2005 , Amritapuri

His Excellency the President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, paid a visit to Amritapuri today. In the divine presence of Amma, His Excellency officially handed over 500 tsunami-relief houses constructed by the Ashram to the Honourable Minister of Revenue of Kerala, Sri. K.M. Mani.

In his speech, His Excellency said: “I have come to Amritapuri a number of times.

Amritapuri is the Land of Compassion, the Land of Love, the Land of Beauty. And definitely it is a place that will become a bridge for people of many faiths. And I wish you all the best: the opportunities that Amma is giving, the grace that Amma is giving and all the blessings that Amma is giving for the country and the people of this nation.”

“I am very happy to be in the Mata Amritanandamayi Math in the presence of Amma and participate in the inauguration function of 500 newly hundred houses for the tsunami-affected citizens in Kollam District. My greetings to Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi and other dignitaries on this occasion.”

“It is said that whenever difficult times and calamities occur, the leader will exactly be on the spot of event. It is a divine blessing.

When the tsunami occurred in the Kollam region on 26th Dec 2004, I saw Amma was in action in crucial time, helping the people all around her in that region. At Kollam Ashram, Amma acted with speed and took necessary measures to move all the people to the places of safety. Amma entered into the tsunami-affected areas while floodwater was still there and tried her best to rescue as many people as possible from the houses, under the trees, with her team of dedicated devotees. Amma made arrangements for food, shelter and clothing to all the people affected by tsunami. Amma announced the relief package for people affected by tsunami, not only in Kollam region, but also for all the areas in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Pondicherry, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Sri Lanka. Similarly, when Katrina hit New Orleans, Amma came to the rescue of the people there also and extended her helping hand spontaneously. It shows the magnanimous mind of Amma in removing the pain of the people irrespective of caste, creed, religion, region or nationality.”

The 500 houses handed over today by the President brings the total number of tsunami-relief houses completed by the Ashram thus far to 2000. The Ashram has 4200 more to build before it is finished.

Amma also spoke from the dais. Reflecting on how so many disparate groups of people had volunteered their services for the construction of the Math’s tsunami-relief homes, Amma said, “In this world where selfishness prevails, to see such selfless children is a delight for the eye. It is proof that the world has not totally forgotten the language of compassion and selflessness. It is through the mirror of selfless service that human beings are able to behold their own true beauty.”

In his Welcome Speech, Swami Amritaswarupananda said, “Here in Alappad Panchayat, Amma has looked after every aspect of the villager’s needs: from food, clothing and shelter… to physical and psychological healthcare… to education and employment opportunities… and much, much more. In fact, I really wonder if any other NGO in the world has ever provided such extensive and in-depth disaster relief—one that touches every aspect of the beneficiaries’ lives.”

On several occasions in the past His Excellency has addressed students of the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University, and not long after he took office, the President donated his first 10 month’s salary to Amma’s charitable activities in Rameshwaram.

Other dignitaries present for the occasion were the Honourable Minister of Labour, Sri. Babu Divakaran; the Honourable Minister of Fisheries, Sri. Dominic Presentation; and Advocate Rajan Babu, MLA.

—Kannadi

Would a mother trick her children?

16 December 2005 — Amritapuri

Devi is the Goddess, the Divine Mother of the Universe. But in puranas, hymns and other devotional works she is also spoken of as maya, the illusory power. For example in the Lalita Sahasranama, the 716th mantra is Om mayayai namah.1 On the one hand we are presented with Devi the Divine Mother, full of love and compassion, ever ready to wipe our tears and come to the rescue of her children. And on the other, she is the symbol of maya, through which mankind is all but helplessly ensnared.

It is only natural for this to bring some confusion, and so it did to a young Israeli woman living Amritapuri: “Amma, will you please explain to me the concept of Devi as maya, or delusion? If Devi is maya, and maya is illusion, why do we worship her? Why would Devi cast illusion upon mankind? Doesn’t she want us to know the real truth behind the universe?”

Amma said, “In the Lalita Sahasranama, the first mantra itself is Om sri matre namah2. Devi is the Mother of the Universe, and as such she is very attached to her children. Would such a mother ever create illusion to delude her children?”

Amma then explained that when we call something maya, it does not mean that it does not exist. It means that it is changing. “If today you depend upon things that change, you will have sorrow tomorrow,” Amma said. “Today’s criminal may become tomorrow’s saint. Today’s good friend may become tomorrow’s foe. Our mind is also changing. We may like someone today, dislike him tomorrow. This is the nature of the mind.”

To explain just how quickly the mind tends to fluctuate, Amma narrated a story about Karna, the mighty Kaurava warrior of the Mahabharata. Karna was famous for his charitable nature. He was known throughout the land for his willingness to help anyone who came to him in need. One day a poor man came to his chamber and asked him for some money. Karna immediately reached out with his left hand, grabbed some nearby gold coins and handed them to the man. After the man had left, someone questioned Karna as to why he had used his left hand to give the coins3. Karna responded, “I did it on purpose because I know very well that change is the mind’s very nature. It is even possible that in the time it would have taken me to switch the coins from my left hand to my right that my mind could have changed and I would have decided to not give him any money.”

“In one second the mind may change,” Amma said. “The mind is the foundation for all this maya. The body is ever changing; the mind is ever changing. If you hold on to them and the objects of this world as your sources of support, it will only lead to sorrow. Only hold on to the eternal.”

“The cow eats the grass. It then becomes milk and manure. The manure then becomes food for plants. Similarly, everything in this universe is constantly changing.”

Amma then explained how when we spend our life in pursuit of transient objects, the only result is our utter exhaustion. “Such a life becomes like trying to win the 100-meter dash with a huge weight hanging around the neck.”

“As we are deluded by the world, we are not able to experience bliss,” Amma said. “In deep-sleep, we experience bliss. It is only because of that peace that a person is able to run around and be normal the next day. If he doesn’t get it, he will simply go insane.”

Amma explained how we are able to experience this bliss in deep sleep only because during that time the mind has gone into a dormant state. In deep sleep there is no division and no sense of limitation; everything has resolved into seed form. Amma added that only when the duality imposed by the mind is transcended is one able to experience the bliss of the unlimited Self. Amma explained how when one finally transcends the limitations of the mind and realizes the inherent oneness of all creation, they will never again experience anger or hatred. They will only know peace, love and happiness.

To illustrate, Amma offered the example of two children playing with dolls. Eventually the children begin to fight, each one wanting a certain doll for itself. No matter how much the parents try, they are unable to prevent the children from fighting over the dolls. But eventually the children become tired and fall asleep. When they succumb to sleep, the dolls they are holding fall from their grasp, and they sleep side-by-side without any problem.

“The mind is the creator of maya and the creator of the world,” Amma said.

“People refer to nature as ‘Mother Nature,'” Amma said. “This is because we cannot live without water, and we cannot live without trees because they give us oxygen. Not only that, the roots of trees purify the water. Our biological mother keeps us on her lap for only a couple of years, but Mother Nature keeps us on her lap for our entire life.”

Amma then went on to explain the panca-matas [five mothers] as indicated in the scriptures: Bhu Mata [Mother Earth], Desha Mata [Mother Land], Go Mata [Mother Cow], Deha Mata, [biological mother] and Veda Mata [Mother Knowledge]. “The Earth is the Mother,” Amma said. “So is the cow; she gives 10 times more than she takes. The tree gives 100 times more. Even if you say the body is mithya [of a transient nature], only if there is body can one realize the Self; thus, we also worship the biological mother. If you have awareness, purity of mind and intellect, the body will benefit you. Desha Mata, one’s motherland, is there also. And then Veda Mata–regardless of how much wealth you have, if you are devoid of knowledge, you will not be happy. We are dependent on all these.

“Devi is not maya. Actually she gives 100 times back what you give her.”

Amma then went on to speak from the highest standpoint, wherein all duality, along with all such dual concepts as “mother and child,” “Guru and disciple,” and “knower and known” are proven to not even exist and only the birthless, deathless, blissful non-dual consciousness remains: “If you say that, ‘Everything is maya,’ then the Divine Mother also is maya. But maya is our creation. Happiness and sorrow are our creation. Maya is our mind. Maya really means ‘that which is not.'” Amma then reiterated that in fact Devi is no different from Brahman: “Devi is the Truth behind the creation.”

“When the baby cries due to hunger, we put pacifier in its mouth and then it will keep quiet. This is what we are doing. Don’t depend on the pacifier. It won’t appease your hunger. The pacifier principle is maya. See the rope as a rope. If you see it as a snake, you will be afraid4. If you understand the scriptures, you can move about freely without any fear.”

–Kannadi
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

1 “Om. I prostrate to she who is maya.”

2 “Om. I prostrate to she who is the auspicious mother.”

3 In India, one only uses the right hand when giving gifts.

4 In the Vedantic example of the snake and the rope, a man in the semi-dark mistakes a rope on the ground for a snake. It is only because of his ignorance of the rope’s true nature, that the mind is able to project the snake concept onto it. The rope is a symbol of our true nature: the limitless, blissful and non-dual “I.” The snake symbolizes our erroneous concept of being limited and finite. The idea is that it is only due to our ignorance of our true nature that the mind is able to project its concept of being limited and finite upon us.

President of India to visit Amritapuri

14 December 2005 — Amritapuri

This Sunday, the 18th of December, His Excellency the President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, will come to Amritapuri Ashram in order to hand over 500 tsunami-relief houses to local government authorities in the presence of Amma.

When the President hands over the keys to the tsunami houses during his visit to the Ashram, it will raise the total number of tsunami homes completed by the Ashram in India to 2000. Earlier this year, MAM took on the responsibility of constructing 6200 tsunami-relief houses in India.

The houses built on the coastal belt of Alappad Panchayat are spread over 17.5 kilometers, comprising all 13 wards of the panchayat. Each house was built using a foundation comprising eight nine-metre-deep pilings. The villagers had their option of single-storey or double-storey houses.

The Honourable Chief Minister of Kerala, Sri. Oomman Chandy, and the Honourable Minister of Revenue, Sri. K.M. Mani, will also participate in the programme.

This will be the first time His Excellency has visited Amritapuri since becoming President. However, Dr. Kalam did visit the Ashram on 2nd October 2001, just before he was elected. At that time, he met with Amma and gave a lecture to the students of Amrita Institute.

The President also spoke at Amma’s 50th Birthday Celebrations in 2003 in Cochin. At that time, he gave an address at the Youth Meet {news} and was the key figure in the CEO Summit {news}, which gathered top executives from India and abroad to brainstorm ways to make India a spiritually strong, economically secure, fully developed nation.

-Kannadi