Ashram Tsunami documentary wins award

29th October 2006 — Hot Springs, Arkansas, USA

The Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s documentary “Pray & Serve: Amma’s Response to the Tsunami” won the Filmmaker’s Award at the prestigious Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival in Arkansas, USA.

The film was screened on 28th October and the award was presented the following night.

This Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival is now in its 15th year, having begun in 1992. The 2006 festival was attended by some 12,000 people. The audience for Pray & Serve was visibly moved by the film’s portrayal of Amma’s compassionate response to the infamous disaster.
hotspring award for pray and serve


Children children everywhere

28 October 2006, Germany
To anyone attending the programmes in Munich and Mannheim, one would think that Germany has more children than any other country on earth.   In both places, dozens of children shared the stage with Amma during satsang each night – in Mannheim, the count was as high as 75!   Even during the Devi Bhava puja in both cities, the children crowded around Amma on stage and participated in the puja – sincerely chanting ‘Om Parashaktyai Namah.’

With well-organized child-care programs filled with games and arts and crafts, the children had ample outlets for their creative energies.   Many could be found walking around the hall dressed in costumes, wearing face-paint, or carrying around drawings which they gave to Amma during their darshan.   Others could be found doing seva in the snack shop or helping elsewhere in the hall.

On the second afternoon in Mannheim, between programmes, with the sun shining brightly, the parking lot outside the hall turned into somewhat of a carnival – children drawing with chalk on the pavement, others playing football (soccer), or demonstrating their acrobatic skills.

Germany has truly been a celebration for children of all ages.


Finnish government honours Amma

15 Oct 2006, Helsinki, Finland

On behalf of the Government of Finland, the Honourable Cultural Minister, Tanja Saarela, welcomed Amma to Helsinki. In her speech, the honourable Minister Tanja said, “Globalisation as such is neither good nor bad, but there is a need for examples against greed and uncaring behaviour. A good example of this is Amma’s wide-ranging work for the poor, the sick, and those who have suffered in the natural disasters.

Finland was the first country in Europe to grant voting rights to women in 1906. To commemorate that event of equal rights for women, a jewellery collection named “Woman’s Voice” was made. Now, one hundred years later, Tanja presented Amma with a replica of that jewellery collection to honour her compassion and love for everyone.

While presenting this the Minister said, “Humankind needs every possible voice for peace, mutual understanding and unselfish work. Amma’s charitable activities are good examples of this.” The Cultural minister also reminded that everyone needs an unconditional hug that does not demand anything.

Thousands of people got Amma’s blessings and hugs during the weekend in Helsinki.


May your hearts blossom

Munich, Germany — 10 October 2006

Moving through the city of Munich one sees sculpted lions—stone, copper, iron—on almost every street corner. Munich is famous for its lions, as Berlin is famous for its bears. The lion, however, is special to devotees of the Divine Mother, as the goddess Durga is depicted as seated on a lion. So it seemed especially appropriate that Amma’s 2006 European Tour would begin here, as if the lions heralded her arrival, and later stood as a testament to her visit.

The program venue, the Zenith Center, was a renovated warehouse, once used for building train carriages, and more recently for various cultural programs and performances. It was a change from the Olympic Grounds where Amma’s program has been held in recent years, but Amma was at the Zenith Center once before, about seven years ago. In and of itself, it is something of a gloomy place—inside everything is black and green, concrete and steel, catwalks and columns. Driving in on the first day, one wondered if this was the right type of place for an Amma program. But the first signs of hope were already emerging as the local devotees/volunteers swarmed here and there carrying ladders, lights, saris, ribbons, flowers, and heart-shaped balloons. By the time their work was through—late on the night before Amma was to arrive—the old factory had been transformed into a temple of light and cheer. One had to hand it to the decorations team, and amidst those decorations was planted a seed for not one but several touching moments during the three days of programs there.

Between programs, Amma stayed in the hall itself. To reach the room where she was staying, she had to climb up two flights of stairs and walk down a catwalk that ran along the wall on one side of the hall. A long walk, it quickly became one more precious opportunity for Amma’s children to soak in her beauty. The aforementioned heart-shaped balloons had been tied in bundles at intervals along the entire length of the catwalk, and as Amma passed each one by she tugged on their strings in obvious appreciation of the great care and effort which the devotees had put into preparing for every aspect of Amma’s program. As Amma quite literally tugged on their heart-strings, the devotees could be heard to exclaim with wonder and delight amid the traditional applause and cheers which are a peculiar trademark of all of Amma’s programs on the European continent—as if she has just put on a fantastic show.

On Monday morning, after the Devi Bhava darshan had come to a close, Amma made her way through the throng of her Munich children one last time, only to find that the heart-shaped balloons which had decorated the catwalk were waiting for her near the car—each one clutched in the hand of a man, woman or child waiting for one last glimpse of their beloved mother.

Though Amma had been giving darshan continuously for more than 12 hours, she stopped outside the car, apparently delighted at the sight of the heart-shaped balloons. The balloons were filled with helium, and one devotee demonstrated to Amma that if one were to let it go, it would fly—not ten or twenty feet but far up into the sky, well above the treetops and the tallest buildings of Munich. At the sight of this phenomenon, Amma became like a little child, clapping her hands and shouting with playful delight.

She proceeded to take the helium-filled hearts from the devotees who stood around her and, one by one and then in groups of two, three, five and ten to let them fly up into the sky. For those standing around her, seeing the flock of hearts like birds sailing up into the sky was a wonderful sight, but far more wonderful was the sight of Amma’s response—Amma’s wholehearted involvement—in this spectacle. Amma says, “The childlike innocence deep within you is God.” For Amma, everything is new, and the wonder of God’s creation can be found even in small things.

Amma appeared completely caught up in the sight of the bright red hearts against the brilliant blue sky. Her neck bent backwards, she watched them for a long time.

As the devotees slowly dispersed, one last heart-shaped balloon, which had not quite had enough helium to float away, lay on the ground. On it was printed the words: “Moegen eure Herzen erbluehen.” German for: May your hearts blossom.

Anytime, anywhere… anything is possible for Amma

4 October 2006, 4:45 am, Amritapuri

3:30 a.m.: The bell rings for archana, a little earlier than usual. Some ashram residents haven’t slept, as they have been helping out with last-minute packing for the tour. The other sleepyheads were keeping awake in anticipation of Amma’s early-morning departure.

4:45 a.m.: The bell rings thrice, a clear indication that Amma is coming out.

The morning archana is just over, but not the mahishasura mardhini stotram. The boys postpone the stotram. The girls zip through it at super-fast speed. Everyone gathers around Amma’s car. All eyes are on the steps leading to Amma’s room, anticipating her arrival.

Suddenly, a message arrives. Amma is calling everyone to the temple.

O my God! We run into the temple. As the steps of the spiral staircase are narrow, many take the other ways to the hall. Why did Amma go to the hall? What is she going to do? A thousand questions.

Amma is sitting on her wooden cot, like she usually does on Tuesdays. Surprise, surprise! She asks for a mike. She is going to talk… no, she is going to conduct a meeting! How could it be? She had spent so much time with us at the swimming pool the evening before, pushing us into the water, joking with us, singing and sharing stories from her childhood. She could have held the meeting yesterday. Why now?

This is what makes Amma unique, inimitable, more beautiful and wonderful than anything in the world—her spontaneity.

Amma starts inquiring about the housing projects and the status of the tsunami-related works in Tamil Nadu and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. She poses a variety of questions: Should the timber be procured from Kerala, Tamil Nadu or Kolkata? Isn’t it more economical to make windows and doors here and then transport them to Chennai by truck, to be then shipped to the Andamans? Anyway the timber should come from Kerala.* Suppose a truck can carry 10 tons, how many finished doors and windows can be transported in one truck? Are there any additional transportation costs involved? She tells a brahmachari to check out the timber prices and labour rates in Tamil Nadu and Kolkata.

Amma asks whether the electrical-wiring work in the new houses is finished. She finds out that it isn’t. She entrusts the work to a brahmachari.

She tells another brahmachari to talk to government officials in Tamil Nadu where, in some areas, land hasn’t been identified by the government for the tsunami houses it wants the ashram to build.

Amma then turns her attention to the Amrita Vidyalayam schools. The increasing number of new admissions means a whole lot of work to be done in a short period. It means more classrooms, more labs, etc in each school. Also, there is maintenance work in the old buildings and construction work in the new ones… in Perumbavoor, Trivandrum, Kolkata, Bombay, Hyderabad, Tiruvalla… Amma summoned the brahmacharinis in charge to confirm what needed to be done by the end of the year. Do what needs to be done now, and postpone the less pressing works, she said. Amma also assigned brahmacharis to take charge of the construction work in about 30 schools.

The printing press received her attention next, and after that the Ayurveda section. Amma also spoke to the brahmacharis and brahmacharinis translating ashram publications; to those going to hold satsangs outside of Kerala; and to those teaching and/or working at our schools and colleges. Amma also delegated some brahmacharis to work in newly set-up branch ashrams.

Amma insisted that everyone should attend the Bhagavad Gita class, and that this should not affect the regular work they do in the ashram or school. If necessary, they should work extra hours in the evening to make up for any lag in the work.

Amma didn’t forget to give some motherly scolding to some brahmacharis for the mistakes they had made in their seva. She reminded them that work done without shraddha [attentiveness] is adharma [unrighteous].

Just when everyone thought that the meeting was about to end, Amma asked, Who doesn’t have any work? Everyone smiled. A few nervously stood up. Amma gently advised them to help whenever and wherever work needs to be done urgently.

What one sees in Amma is the manifestation of outstanding managerial skills: resource management, quick decision making, fund management, HR administration, time management, productivity, superb communication skills, and more than anything else, the ability to harness all of them to a common goal: loka sevanam [service of humanity].

Those who were expecting Amma to talk about ‘spiritual’ matters during those early hours would have been surprised—she seemed to be talking about worldly matters. But for Amma, there is nothing worldly. Nothing is mithya [unreal]. As far as Amma is concerned, ‘Ishavaasyamidam sarvam’ [‘Everything is divine, real’].

Before leaving, Amma sang ‘Mukunda murari gopala.’ It was a bitter-sweet moment: there was so much joy being with Amma, and yet, everyone felt sad, thinking that Amma was about to leave. Before getting up, Amma asked all her children to bless her two-month tour of Europe and the U.S.

The ashram residents lined up on one side: the side where Amma sat in the car. Everyone stood with palms joined together prayerfully: in devotion to Amma and with prayers.

What a great fortune and blessing it is to have such a Mother and Guru!