Life blooms anew in Tsunami victims

6 September 2006, Amritapuri

Some of the mothers in the villages around Amritapuri who lost children in the 2004 tsunami had previously undergone tubal ligation as a form of permanent contraception. When Amma learned that these women lost their young children and could no longer conceive, and that they were in such despair to the point of considering suicide, her heart went out to them. After consulting with doctors at AIMS, Amma offered all such villagers an opportunity to undergo fallopian-tube recanalisation in order to reverse the effects of their sterilization surgery. {news}

Priya and her husband, Baby, were one such couple from Azheekkal. When the tsunami swept through, they had lost their two children–Kiran and Kinkini, ages four-and-a-half and one-and-a-half, respectively. Kinkini was washed away from Priya’s hands. Yesterday, Priya came for Amma’s darshan–nine months pregnant. She wanted Amma’s blessing before checking into AIMS to deliver the baby via caesarian section.

“Amma has done a great thing for us,” Priya said after her darshan. “Something that even our own relatives could not do.”
Pictured on the right: Priya with her husband coming for Amma’s darshan.

Of the original 9 couples who wanted to have more children, two were deemed too old to undergo the procedure, and another dropped out. The remaining six women underwent recanalization surgery at AIMS, and of these, only Priya was able to conceive naturally. The others have since been undergoing invitro fertilization. All expenses are being covered by the Ashram, which includes medicine from Switzerland.

As of today, one woman has elected to stop the medical treatment, being content with her one surviving child. Another is continuting medication which will help the invitro procedure. The remaining three women are pregnant – one is in her sixth month and the other two are in their second month of pregnancy. Two of these women are carrying twins!


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More payasam?

6 September 2006 — Amritapuri

The day after Onam, a young man went for Amma’s darshan. As he approached Amma, he handed her a small note written in Malayalam. Amma took it from his hands and began reading aloud

I will tell you an experience from yesterday. The payasam from the Onam feast was very good. I felt to take a second cup. But as I was about to go for a second serving, I remembered the poster on the wall near the Accommodation Office:
“Don’t increase your desires. Don’t live like a beggar. Reduce your desires and then live like a king.” —Amma
Therefore I decided not to take a second serving of payasam.

Amma, thank you so much for this Onam present.

Amma laughed, a big smile lighting up her face. She then took the young man into her arms and squeezed him lovingly, shining with a mother’s pride.


Forget all differences and make life joyful

Amma Celebrates Tiru Onam
5 September 2006 — Amritapuri

“All of you know stories about Onam and Mahabali {story}. There is no point in repeating them. But there is an important message behind the Onam celebrations,” Amma told the 10,000-plus devotees who’d come to Amritapuri in order to celebrate Tiru Onam. Amma then explained how not only the story of Mahabali, but every aspect of Onam—the pookkalams [flower mandalas], the games, the feast–points to the importance of cultivating love and feelings of oneness in our hearts. Furthermore, Amma said, in today’s war-torn and conflict-ridden world, imbibing this message is highly needed.

Amma then explained how kaduvakkali, villadichaampat and onathallu help transform hunting, war and fighting into music and games. “In short, the message of Onam is to forget all differences and make life joyful,” Amma said. “Those who take part in onathallu do not harbor any feelings of hatred or revenge because they are aware that it is just a game. In a game there is no ego; there is no feeling of ‘I and mine.’ In a game, innocence awakens in our heart, allowing us to see everything in its light. When this happens, there is only bliss.”

Amma then turned her focus to the state of Kerala, expressing her sorrow over its ethical, environmental and cultural deterioration. “Kerala is known as ‘God’s own country,’ but with each passing day suicide, murder, clashes, harassment of women and organized crime increase. When Amma sees this, she wonders if the devil has taken over ‘God’s own country’ and taken the human hearts there within hostage.”

Amma then took issue with society’s fragmentation along the lines of caste and religion, which she says still exists in subtle form in the human mind. “During Onam, may the Brahmins, Nambootiris, Nayars and people belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes, the leaders, the artists and the labourers forget all distinctions and come together to take part in the Onam feast. May they take part in the Onam games together. In this way, may the feeling of difference between human beings be reduced.”

Amma then further spoke about the symbolism in the legend behind Onam. Explaining the symbolism behind Vishnu approaching Mahabali as Vamana, a young boy, before revealing his universal form, Amma said, “In the same way, when we become possessed of a childlike heart, we will be able to expand and rise up to God.”

Amma continued, “In order to eliminate the ego, one needs the grace and disciplining of a Satguru. Coming as a student, Vamana discharged his duties as a Guru. In the same way, the elder has something to learn from the child, the teacher has something to learn from student and the philanthropist has something to learn from the beggar. This is also conveyed to us through Vamana’s story. We shouldn’t consider anybody as insignificant. We need to have the understanding that what we consider to be ours, in fact, belongs to the Lord. In the realm of our consciousness, the feet of the Lord should leave clear imprints. Vamana kept his feet on Mahabali’s head in order to convey this idea to those who did not have this understanding.”

Amma said that the equality spoken of in association with Onam is not external, but internal. “In the inner realm, there is always equality between human beings,” Amma said. “We are all one Atman [Self]. We are all children of the Divine Mother. When this attitude grows within us, we will be able to see others as our own Self and love them. This is true equality. When true love fills within, it flows through our actions as compassion. We feel the suffering and sorrow of others as our own.”

Amma concluded her talk with a prayer that the unity, love, kinship and joy associated with Onam should not be limited to the holiday but become part and parcel of our everyday lives.

Upon the conclusion of her satsang Amma rose to her feet. She told everyone to stand up and dance. “Don’t be shy,” Amma told them. The “Hari Bol Hari Bol” then began to play. Amma stepped gently from side to side, keeping rhythm with her kaimani [small hand cymbals]. When the song was finished, Amma sat down in meditation for some time.

Upon getting up, Amma began giving darshan. After a few hours she started serving Onam sadhya [the traditional Onam feast], as prasad to all 10,000 people. When that was finished, it was time to feed Ram and Lakshmi, the ashram elephants. Then, a few hours later, Amma spent some time in the swimming pool with the children from the Ashram’s orphanage who are spending the Onam holidays in Amritapuri. One by one, Amma joyfully pushed all the children in the pool—as well as many fully clothed devotees we happened to be on the scene.

It was a special Onam for all the devotees who were able to be in Amma’s presence. However, Amma did not forget all her children who could not come to the ashram for the celebrations. After everyone had taken their prasad, Amma called for rice and samples of all the curries. She then mixed them all together with her hands in a single plate. “This is for all the children who couldn’t come,” Amma said.


Destruction makes way for Creation

Amritapuri, 4 September 2006

What is created eventually gets destroyed.  What is born eventually has to die.  This is the wisdom of the scriptures, and what has been happening right here in Amritapuri.   Nothing is permanent. At any given moment, Amma may request that an old structure should be torn down to make way for a new one. Or a department or groups of people have to relocate – often with no advanced notice.

So it was no surprise when word came just last week that the two store section of the East Wing Flats would be torn down in order to clear the way for a temporary expansion of the Temple to accommodate the large crowds expected for Amma’s Birthday Celebrations later this month. The garden next door would also be relocated and cleared.

First, the old library located at the base of the Temple was remodelled to become the new home for the Canteen. While that was happening, workers began crawling over the adjacent two storey flats – anything that could be re-used was saved – the doors, windows, piping, electrical, and metal materials.  Afters workers with sledgehammers removed parts of the roof and floors; a bulldozer began knocking down the concrete and brick walls, which accumulated in 6-foot high piles of rubble on the ground.

Then the rubble had to be removed.  So earlier today, a hundred or so Brahmacharis, Westerners, and visiting devotees, began hauling off carts of concrete and brick to the backwaters. Someone brought drinking water and mango juice.   After dinner, it was the Brahmacharini’s turn; large pieces were moved hand by hand down human chains to the carts. Sacks were filled with sand and dirt.  Later, a dump truck was brought in to assist. Young and old all participated in the activities.

By 11pm, most of the work had been completed. With destruction having cleared the way, creation can now take place.


Ganapati bapa moriya

Amritapuri, 2 September 2006

Hundreds of Ashramites, students, and villagers gathered in the courtyard in front of the Main Temple at four this afternoon to participate in the final celebrations of Ganesh Chaturthi {news} – Ganesha Visarjan, or the immersion of Ganesh in the ocean.   On one side of the courtyard, the Ashram elephants Ram and Lakshmi stood adorned with regal ornaments.   On the other, were traditional South Indian musicians.  All around stood a huge crowd. And on the steps of the Main Temple was the statue of Ganesh.  All week long, the murti had been in front of the Kalari, where celebrations, pujas and nightly bhajans had been performed in honor of the Remover of Obstacles.

After a dance performance by children of Amma’s orphanage in Parippalli, and more rousing bhajans sung by Brahamacharis and students of Amrita University, Ganesh was lifted onto a decorated chariot.  As the chariot was slowly led out of the Ashram, a procession quickly formed.  Students, villagers, ashramites, musicians, dancers, all began walking towards the beach singing “Ganapati Bapa Moriya”.   The parade stretched for over 1/2 kilometer with Ram and Lakshmi bringing up the rear.  Every few meters found a different scene and a different bhajan.    Watching the procession pass by, one might hear, “Jay Jay Jay Gananayaka” sung by Ashramites and villagers merging into another group singing “Gam Ganapataye Namo Namah”.   The banging of drums would be followed by bhajans celebrating the Divine Mother.   All around, children were running, jumping, and singing at the top of their lungs.  Everyone was in a joyous mood.

Finally, the procession reached the ocean.   Erosion had created 6 ft high cliffs of sand between the rocky breakers and the surf.  As the crowd lined the top of the sand cliffs, everyone watched while Ganesh was brought to the ocean.   Five men then carried the statue out – past the waves, moving deeper and deeper until it was finally submerged.   Behind this ceremony lies profound symbolism.   It is to remind us that our physical existence is temporary – having its origins and dissolution in the Formless Absolute.   Just as Ganesh merges with the ocean, so do we seek to merge with the Ocean of Immortal Bliss.

The celebrations had now ended.  Ganesh bhajans still ringing in everyone’s ears, “Ganapati Bapa Moriya”


Everyday a celebration

Amritapuri, 1 September 2006

During the past few days, the Ashram has been buzzing with celebrations surrounding Ganesh Chaturthi and Onam.  While each morning has seen a new Pookkalam (flower design) created for Onam by students of  Amrita University,  the  evenings have been resounding with bhajans being sung at the Kalari in honor of Ganesh.

The celebrations started last Sunday.  In the morning, a six-foot tall statue of Ganesh was carried in a procession along Beach Road. Children led the way – holding small candles.  Ashramites, students, and villagers followed behind the murti and danced in joyous celebration, singing and clapping their hands.  Lakshmi (one of the Ashram elephants) took up the rear – adorned with regal decorations. Along the way, villagers lined the roadway in front of their homes and lit lamps in honor of Lord Ganesh   When the murti reached the front of the temple, the celebrations grew even louder as boys and girls separated into different groups and continued dancing and singing.   The murti was then moved to a peetam located just in front of the Kalari.  More singing as a special puja was performed for Ganesh.

On Monday morning – Vinayaka Chaturthi, Ram and Lakshmi were brought to the Main Hall where another puja was performed.  This time, Brahmacharis led bhajans while Ashramites and Visitors joined in the festivities.  Ram and Lakshmi were then treated to huge plates of bananas and sweets.

Tuesday, during satsang, one of the Brahmacharis asked Amma about the meaning of Caturthi and wanted to know why it is considered inauspicious to see the moon on that day.    Amma gave a wonderful answer. “We are the caturthi,” Amma said. (read full story)

In the evenings, just after bhajans, people have been gathering in the Kalari to sing bhajans. The air reasonates with the sounds of traditional aarati melodies…”Tan Man Sab Dhan Tera Sab Kuch Hai Tera, Kya Laage Mera…” which means “My body, my mind, my weath, is all yours, What is there as mine? ”

The celebrations will culminate this evening (Saturday) when the statue of Ganesh is carried to the ocean and immersed in the waves during Ganesha Visarjan. Just in time for the main Onam celebrations on Tuesday.

Everyday is truly a festival……