A safe and happy journey

29 March, 2006 – Gokulpur, Kolkata, West Bengal

Bharata Yatra 2006 began with the start of February {news}. The past two months have been full of bus trips, roadside satsangs, bhajans in myriad Indian languages and of course hundreds of thousands of people from all parts of India coming into Amma’s arms. With the conclusion of darshan in Kolkata in the wee hours of morning on the 29th, the yatra had finally come to an end.

But the next evening, just after sunset, Amma called all of the brahmacharis, brahmacharinis and devotees who had accompanied her on the tour for one last satsang on the roof of one of the ashram buildings.

At first, Amma discussed the Ashram’s ongoing tsunami-relief work, instructing one senior brahmachari to go to the Andaman Islands, off the coast of Tamil Nadu, to start constructing houses there. She also told both the brahmacharis and brahmacharinis that there was more relief work to do back at Amritapuri, specifically the construction of some homes on the mainland side of the backwaters.

When Amma asked her children to say something, one of them said, “Come back soon.” To this Amma responded, “Do you mean you want me to fall sick? All the programs are already fixed. When you say ‘come back soon,’ either it means there should be some problem with the programs or Amma should fall sick. You shouldn’t pray like this. You should pray that you come to be able to see Amma clearly in your heart.”

Amma then explained how most of the people who come to see her on her Indian Tour only have her darshan once every two years. She asked the ashramites to try to think of them and not themselves. “Instead of all the time thinking ‘I!,’ ‘I!,’ ‘I!,’ ‘I!’ and ‘for me!’ ‘for me!’ ‘for me!’, you should start thinking, ‘you’ and ‘for you,'” Amma said. “Only in compassion do we truly lose ourselves. In tapas [austerities], we still have the attitude that ‘I am the doer.'”

Telling her ashram children that they must struggle to keep their thirst for liberation alive, Amma gave them instructions to do as much japa and meditation on their bus trip back to Amritapuri as possible.

Before getting up to go to the airport for her trip to Australia, Amma then blessed everyone: “Children, may your journey be safe and happy.”

Was it a blessing for the physical journey or for the inner one?



One yatra ends, another begins

Bharata Yatra 2006
29 March — Dum Dum International Airport, Kolkata, West Bengal

Amma left the Kolkata Ashram around 8:00 p.m. to go to Dum Dum Airport in Kolkata. From there, she flew on to Perth, Australia. After giving a series of programs in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, Amma will return to Amritapuri.


First darshan in Kolkata ashram

Bharata Yatra 2006

28 March 2006 — Gokulpur, Kolkata, West Bengal

Amma has been coming to Kolkata almost every year since 1988, but only recently did the Math acquire property in the ancient city upon which to construct an ashram.

The Kolkata Ashram is located on a five-acre piece of property in Gokulpur, on the outskirts of the city. Its Amrita Vidyalayam is ready for the 2006 – 2007 academic year, and its Brahmasthanam Temple, the structure of which is almost complete, will most likely be consecrated by Amma during her next Bharata Yatra.

Amma’s second night of darshan in the city took place in the ashram itself, with a tent erected at the side of the permanent buildings.

In fact the main event of Amma’s formal programme was the launching of the Amrita Vidyalayam. Chief Justice of the Kolkata High Court V. Sirpukar lit the lamp in the presence of Amma.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Justice Sirpukar said, “Amma, our mother, is like a touchstone. Whoever gets her touch is blessed with divine peace, love and affection. To start with, Amma has blessed Kolkata with a school, which will bless many children with a good life.”

Shyamal Sen, the Chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, also participated in the formal program, distributing pensions to new beneficiaries of the Amrita Nidhi pension program. The program has been extended to 1000 more beneficiaries in Kolkata.

“In this materialistic world, we can own many things, but to get happiness of mind is difficult,” said Sen, a former Chief Justice of the Kolkata High Court and former Acting Governor of Kolkata. “By serving people we can get divine peace, which Amma has shown through her various wonderful contributions to mankind. By simply coming over here, I have gained so much mental peace and happiness. It is almost like getting divine bliss.”

Justice Tapan Sen of the Kolkata High Court also participated in the programme.


Ego and all things bow down to such Love

27 March — Kolkata, West Bengal, Bharat Yatra 2006

Amma’s first of two programmes in Kolkata took place at Nazrul Munj, an indoor-outdoor theatre in the southern part of the city.

Participating in the program were a number of businessmen and government officials, including IAS officers Sukumar Das and Rajendra Kumar and industrialists Harsh Neotia and G.D. Bangur.

Sukumar Das distributed 10 keys to houses in the new 250-home Amrita Kuteeram housing colony in Panihati. The land for the colony was provided by the Kolkata Development Authority. Later, Sukumar Das addressed those gathered, saying, “The sight of Amma embracing all people all over India is a beautiful sight that I don’t believe I will ever see anywhere else. Ego and all things bow down to such love.”

Sukumar Das then quoted a few lines from the world-renowned Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore:

At the end of my carrier as a writer,
All that I have written appears to be a noisy discourse.
And when it lands as the peak of silence,
All popular attainments are reduced to nothing.

Two books were released during the program. The first copy of Amriteshwari 06, a book commemorating Amma’s 2006 visit to Kolkata, was handed by industrialist Harsh Neotia to fellow man of industry Arun Poddar.

Speaking from the dais, Harsh Neotia said, “It’s very difficult to speak anything on an occasion like this, except to say that if there are more people in the world like Amma who believe in selfless love, unconditional love, then all of us will agree that this world will be a much more bountiful and beautiful place.”

A Bengali translation of Jyotir Gamaya, Volume Two was also released at the programme. The first copy was given by Rajendra Kumar, IAS, Principle Secretary, Government of West Bengal to industrialist G.D. Bangur.


Bharata yatra darshan

28 March, Gokulpur, Kolkata, West Bengal –Bharata Yatra 2006

At the end of each of Amma’s tours, there is one question in the hearts of many of the brahmacharis, brahmacharinis and devotees travelling with Amma: “Will Amma call us for darshan?” Sometimes she does, and sometimes she does not.

In the early days of the ashram, Amma would call the ashram residents for darshan quite often—as much as once a week. But with each passing year, as more and more people come to have Amma’s darshan, the ashramites go less and less. In truth many of them find their way into Amma’s arms only once or twice a year.

This time, Amma did indeed call, and the last two hours of darshan in Kolkata—the last two or three hours of the Indian Tour—were filled by Amma holding her Ashram children, joking with them about various things that had happened on the tour, inquiring about their health, instructing them regarding their sevas and popping prasad candies into their mouths.

A few devotees from the West, for whom this tour was their first, even asked Amma to give them spiritual names. One American boy she called “Yati,” meaning “one who is putting forth effort to realize the Truth,” and a young man from Germany she named “Jayendran,” meaning “victor over the senses.”

Everywhere one looked, one saw smiling faces. After their darshan, some people happily shared with each other what Amma had said to them, others sat alone, peacefully dwelling on the moments they had just experienced in Amma’s arms. It was almost sunrise when the last of them came for darshan. Another Bharata Yatra was coming to an end.



May Ammas love blossom in Jharkhand

25 March, 2006 — Ranchi, Jharkhand

“We’ve heard a lot about Amma and seen her on TV, but today we have the great luck of actually meeting her and having her darshan, and as such I feel very happy,” said Arjun Munda, the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, upon Amma’s first visit to the recently formed state. “May the all-embracing love of Amma—which has united the entire world—sprout, grow and blossom in Jharkhand. Inspired by Amma’s loving touch, let us try to transcend or differences, overcome our difficulties and walk in a new direction.”

The Chief Minister helped officially inaugurate the Amrita Nidhi lifetime pension programme in Jharkhand, handing over certificates of enrolment to six widows from Ranchi. The ladies were representative of 1000 such destitutes who are now receiving financial aid from the Ashram in the city.

Indir Simha Namadhari, the Speaker of the Assembly, was also on the dais. In a rousing speech that brought many rounds of applause from the tens of thousands gathered at the Zila school ground, Namadhari compared Amma to Adi Shankaracharya. “From Kerala, Shankaracharya walked, carrying the flag of knowledge. Thus he travelled all over India and established the four ashram centres in India’s four corners. He made everyone aware of his existence—that was Shankaracharya’s work. From that same land of Kerala, Amma has started walking, but Amma has crossed the boundaries of the nation and in every corner of the world she is allowing the ocean of her love to flow.”

Namadhari also said that while the culture of Jharkhand is very rich, the majority of its people remain quite poor, adding that he felt confident that after Amma’s visit, the state would be transformed economically.

Swami Satyeshananda of Ranchi’s Ramakrishna Math also came to offer a garland to Amma.

Indir Simha Namadhari officially released the book, handing the first copy Maharaj Chintamanisaram Nath Sahadev, the King of Ranchi.

Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, the organization founded by Sri Yogananda Paramahansa and, a sannyasin and two brahmacharis from his line came to pay their respects to Amma on stage. The sannyasin, Swami Krishnananda Giri, also contributed an article to Amrita Prabha 2006, a book released to commemorate Amma’s visit to Ranchi.

In that article, he wrote: “Amma is such an avatar who is leading the world by the example of her life, which is nothing less than a phenomenon. Her life shows us how we should live, how we can bring peace and harmony in our own lives first, which, in turn, will bring peace and harmony all around us. Feeling the presence of God within, we will see him without, in all persons and under all conditions. Amma is a Queen of Divine Love, embracing the world with her tenderness and compassion, bringing about harmony amongst the followers of all religions, of all nations. In her life, we see perfect balance of all aspects of yoga in action—jnana, bhakti, raja and karma.”

The Maharani of Hathwa also sat on the dais, as did the state’s Minister of Education, Pradeep Yadav and Finance Minister Raghuvardas.

In fact, Raghuvardas, who had come for Amma’s darshan earlier in the day, made perhaps the most heartfelt statement of programme, a statement that describes best why kings, queens, politicians and monks—in short, the breadth of humanity—are coming to Amma: “The love that I experienced in her lap this afternoon can only be experienced in the lap of a saint.”

Amma’s continued giving darshan till past 11:00 a.m. Upon its conclusion, she travelled onward to Kolkatta, the final city of her 2006 Bharata Yatra.


Amma consoles victims of varanasi bomb blast

24 March, Benares Hindu University Hospital, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh –Bharata Yatra 2006

On 7 March, the ancient city of Varanasi made worldwide headlines when bomb blasts went off at its Sankat Mochana Hanuman Temple and railway station. Twenty people were killed and more than 100 were injured.

On Amma’s way from Lucknow to Ranchi on 23rd March, she stopped for the night in the ancient city. Upon Amma’s departure, devotees requested her to visit Benares Hindu University Hospital, where 10 bomb-blast victims remained inpatients.

As hospital doctors guided Amma from room to room, tears flowed from her eyes. Amma stood at the victims’ bedsides, kissed their cheeks and offered words of consolement to those who were conscious. But mainly she was silent.

One of the victims was Ashish, a 10-year-old boy who had been hurt in the temple blast. Amma caressed his forehead and looked at his wounds. His legs in particular had been damaged.

In the intensive-care unit, Amma visited a 17-year-old boy named Ratish Kumar. Only a few days before, he had developed intense internal bleeding, which the doctors were unable to stop. He was breathing only with the help of a ventilator. Amma gently touched his feet, closed her eyes and offered her prayers. Later she told those with her that she felt he would die soon. The next day, Amma was sent word that in fact he had passed.

Amma spent time with inpatients hospitalized for ailments unrelated to the blasts as well, including one man who had recently attempted suicide.

Upon Amma’s instruction, the Ashram is giving each of the 10 victims Rs. 5000 to help pay for their immediate hospital expenses. She also offered further financial assistance through the Amrita Nidhi lifetime-pension program and offered to build houses for any victim lacking proper shelter through the Amrita Kuteeram homes-for-the-homeless program.



Mother of Lucknow’s poor, handicapped and homeless

22 March 2006 — Lakshmanpur, Uttar Pradesh

Both pensions for widows and houses for the homeless were given away during Amma’s program in Lakshmanpur (Lucknow). The occasion prompted both Sri. Matraprasad Pande, the Speaker of the State Assembly of Uttar Pradesh, and the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Sri. Jagadambikapal, to comment on Amma’s world-embracing compassion.

“Although Amma stays in Kollam, she has shown today that she is indeed the mother of the poor, the handicapped and the homeless in Lucknow,” said Jagadambikapal, who helped distribute certificates of enrolment to new beneficiaries of the Amrita Nidhi lifetime-pension programme. “Today, it would not be appropriate to say that Amma is merely the mother of Kerala, or even the mother of India, for that matter. The truth is that she is verily the mother of the whole world.”

Matraprasad, who helped distribute keys to houses constructed for the homeless as part of an Amrita Kuteeram housing colony, said, “Through her spiritual power, Amma is helping crores of people. This is sending a message to the world that Bharat is regaining its spiritual grandeur. I welcome Amma’s holy arrival on the sanctified soil of Lucknow. I offer my salutations and gratitude that in the minds of numerous poor people you have ignited the flame of hope that there are spiritual people to look after them.”

The certificates of enrolment into the Amrita Nidhi programme were representative of 1000 such new enrollees in the Lucknow area, and the keys given were representative of a 112-home Amrita Kuteeram housing colony in Telibag, Vrindavan Yojana, a neighbouring city of Lakshmanpur

Also on the dais was Sri. Lalji Tandon, the Leader of the Opposition.



Amma detoxifies and inspires Delhi

16 March, 2006 – New Delhi

When the car driving Amma reached Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, Amma was greeted by a horse-drawn chariot, a team of fully decorated elephants and camels and a band of turbaned bhangra dancers, one of who spit celebratory bursts of flame into the air.

The dignitaries who came to participate in Amma’s programme in the Capitol City included Delhi’s Chief Minister Sheila Dixit; Leader of the Opposition and former Deputy Prime Minister of India L.K. Advani and Union Minister Mahavir Prasad.

Addressing the gathering, L.K. Advani said, “This is not a venue for speeches by politicians like me. I have come here only to obtain Amma’s darshan and blessings.”

The crowd responded with a warm round of applause.

Continuing, Advani said, “Working in day-to-day life, an individual—consciously or unconsciously—collects a lot of pollution. Spiritual gatherings such as this one help detoxify us, removing all the pollutants we have collected. Coming here today, I am happy that once again am being freed from all the pollutants that I have previously, consciously or unconsciously, gathered.”

Advani also said how in his opinion the SQ, or “Spiritual Quotient,” is just as important as the IQ or EQ. “At spiritual gatherings, each individual gets his SQ increased, and because of this the nation progresses very much,” he said.

Delhi’s Chief Minister Sheila Dixit thanked Amma for her annual visits to Delhi, saying, “During Amma’s darshan, we feel deeply honoured, highly motivated and elevated. This is due to Amma’s very benign, very holy and very kind presence. … Amma’s presence not only blesses us, but also reminds us that in all the work we do the most important thing is how and with what spirit we do it. It is Amma’s spirit that inspires us—especially those of us who are in the business of governance. Such inspiration helps elevate the work we do so as to make it as beautiful as you.”

The CM concluded by requesting Amma to continue to regularly visit Delhi, saying, “Your arrival creates an atmosphere that keeps the citizens of Delhi inspired throughout the year.”

Dixit, Advani and Mahavir Prasad all helped distribute certificates of enrolment to the Amrita Nidhi lifetime-pension programme to a dozen or so of Delhi’s widows and cripples. The people who received their certificates onstage were representative of 1000 such new beneficiaries in the Delhi area.

The three dignitaries also jointly lit the deepam for the marriage of 13 impoverished couples sponsored by the Ashram. Amma herself then led the ceremony, instructing the couples when to pranam, offer arati and tie the taali, etc. The Ashram sponsored all the traditional jewellery, wedding saris and dhotis and feast.

Sri. Mahavir Prasad also helped release Amrit Delhi 2006, a souvenir commemorating Amma’s visit to the Capitol City. He handed the first copy to Sri. Satbir Singh, the Honourable Mayor of Delhi.

Playback Singer Sri. Anoop Jalota then officially released the Hindi translation of Santana Dharma, a book of Amma’s teachings, by handing the first copy to Sufi singer Sri. Rabbi Shergill.

Other dignitaries to grace the dais included Ashok Ganguly, the Chairman of the Central Board of Secondary Education; Vijay Kumar, Director of Education, Delhi Administration and VHP member Giriraj Kishore.

When Amma finished darshan on the morning of the 17th, she returned to her ashram in Vasant Kunj, where she will be holding a Brahmasthanam Festival on the 18th and 19th.



Leaving Jaipur with flying colours

15 March, Jaipur, Rajasthan –Bharata Yatra 2006

Initially we thought we were going to leave Jaipur before sunrise, but then word came that we would not be leaving until after noon. With the tour’s rigorous schedule, I was happy to be able to sleep in. However, myself and others were concerned that we were setting ourselves up for a colourful Holi attack.

Eight buses, several of them full of Westerners, driving through Jaipur in broad daylight would appear to be a prime target for any Holi revellers. I had heard that on previous tours powder had been tossed at the buses and some Westerners had been hit through opened windows. Regardless of how symbolic the throwing of powdered paints may be, when you’re tired after being up all night, facing a five-hour bus ride, and wearing your only clean pair of white clothes, your enthusiasm to celebrate is greatly diminished.

In the early morning, the streets seemed quiet. We were in a quiet part of town, and I felt that not much would happen. Anyway, the school in which we were staying was protected like a fortress with a high boundary wall. To get in and out, you had to pass through an iron gate. All we had to do was load the buses, which were just outside the gate, board quickly and close the windows.

But as it got later, I began to hear the banging of drums, cheering and voices in Hindi singing various songs. It wasn’t coming from right outside, but it was too close for comfort. No matter, at least had our fortress to protect us.

However, around 11 a.m.—just when we had to start loading the buses—a band of young Indian ladies, covered from head to toe in varying hues and carrying bags of powdered paint, apparently realized they could capitalize on our predicament. Unable to resist the large number of potential targets inside the school, they decided to position themselves just outside the gate and wait for us to emerge with our bags. Then the Ashram bus drivers (who are from Kerala) started to play Holi. We could hear the antics of the drivers, the locals and the young women in the streets.

Since we had to eventually leave for Delhi, some of my fellow Westerners began to brave the gauntlet and headed outside with their bags. They were quickly ambushed by the women, and many of them came back with green and red streaks of powdered paint in their hair and on their clothes. Some were a bit annoyed, others slightly miffed. No one really seemed able to embrace the revellry.

Most of us remained inside the safety of the school, hoping to wait out the celebration and thereby protect our white dhotis and saris. Some openly enjoyed watching their fellow Westerners get painted. But eventually everyone had to go outside.

When I headed out, I tried to explain to the ladies that I was a foreigner and therefore should be spared, telling them that I did not really understand the meaning of Holi in the first place. I begged them to have mercy on myself and all the other Westerners. But it was like trying to tell a child not to trick-or-treat on Halloween or to not light firecrackers on Independence Day. We settled on a consolation—one of them could paint a small green tilak on my forehead. I figured that the small gesture would indicate that I had already “played Holi” and that I would then be spared of any future onslaughts. I was wrong. No sooner had the tilak been applied then the woman’s hand slid down the right side of my face and I was stained in bright green and orange. Now I was apparently fair game. Being chased by the women, I ran into the safety of the school, only to find that those Westerners who had already been painted were now running after each other with coloured powder of their own. Many had to retreat further into the school for safety.

While the Westerners were playing cat-and-mouse with the band of Indian ladies and each other, a few of the brahmacharis who had also been hit obtained some colours of their own and started to turn on one another. Many people got hit. Some cheered, others ran and hid. After about an hour like this, the band of ladies apparently became satisfied that they had accomplished their mission and departed.

When we finally boarded the buses, we all rolled up our windows. As we drove through Jaipur, I saw hundreds of people covered with colours. We passed motorcycle after motorcycle of two, three, even four, people covered from head to toe in colours. Men, women, children and drivers—no one seemed to have been spared. I even saw some dogs and cows sporting paint. But eventually the colours of the city gave way to the fields of the country. Relieved, I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

Around sunset, when we were maybe two hours from Delhi, we pulled over to stop for tea and to spend some time with Amma. Almost everyone who had thought they’d made a clean Holi getaway was wrong. After Amma sat down in the field—with all of us around her—someone offered her a couple packets of powdered paint. To make a long story short, she blessed us in true Holi style. I was ecstatic. I was sitting almost right in front of Amma. With a beaming smile, she showered fistfuls of colours on all of us. Soon I had bright florescent-orange and pink paint staining my clothes. Whereas earlier I was running from the Indian ladies at the school, here I was eager to have Amma throw powder at me. Then, as I watched Amma paint the face of a woman devotee sitting next to her, I wanted to leap up and ask her to do the same to me. It was such a blissful and joyous celebration.

Sitting in front of Amma, covered with powder, it occurred to me that the fortress-like school we had stayed in back in Jaipur could be likened to the ego. We spend countless lifetimes in such a fortress. One can hide behind it for as long as they want, but as long as one does, he or she is never truly able to join the celebration of life. By throwing powder on us, Amma was tearing down the walls of our ego, encouraging us to become a celebration of the Divine Truth that is our real nature.

It’s a scary proposition, but once we allow the wall to come down—and allow the Guru to paint us with his teachings and his grace—we realize what fools we were to have been hiding.

What a beautiful way to learn the meaning of Holi.

-Sri Pati