21 March 2008, Kolkata, West Bengal
Bharata yatra 2008
On the morning of March 19 in Kolkata, Amma consecrated a Brahmasthanam Temple, performing both stupika pratishtha and prana pratishtha consecutively. The Kolkata Brahmasthanam is the Ashram’s first temple in West Bengal and its 20th such temple altogether.
Kolkata is already home to a number of famous Kali temples, including Kaligat in South Kolkata and the Kali temple previously overseen by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa in Dakshineshwar.
Several thousands devotees and ashramites participated in the consecration, which took place to the chanting of the mantra Om shiva shaktiyaikya-rupinyai namah as well as the Kerala temple music of panchavadyam. Like all of Amma’s Brahmasthanam Temples, the murti [idol] is four-faced, with Devi facing the North, Ganapati facing east, Shiva facing South and Rahu facing West.
After the consecration, mass pujas were conducted for doshas [misfortunes] associated with Saturn and Rahu. The Saturn Puja was led by Amma herself, with a couple thousands people participating.
Amma’s Kolkata ashram is located on Budge Budge Road, approximately 10 kilometres from the Hoogly River, Bengal’s stretch of the Ganga.
18 – 21 March 2008 — Kolkata, West Bengal
Sri Durga Ma—clothed in red, each of her eight hands clutching a weapon—bore witness to Amma’s first Brahmasthanam Festival in her Calcutta ashram. For all three days of the program, the large Durga murti graced the dais where Amma sang bhajans, gave satsang, led meditation and manasa puja, and of course gave darshan. It is Durga, Kali and Tara who are the most beloved forms of the Divine Mother in West Bengal, and for the devotees assembled for the festival, Amma was the embodiment of all of them.
On the first night, a number of philanthropists, social workers and industrialists took part in the program, including Rajendra Kumar, IAS (Principal secretary, PHED), and Dr. Shekhar Chowdary, the director of Indian Institute of Managemet (IIM) Kolkata. Speaking about Amma, Dr. Chowdary expressed his inability to comprehend Amma’s infinite personality. “I’ve read about her and have heard about her,” he said. “But I still don’t feel I understand her!” He then compared Amma to Kolkata’s late-19th century tri-murti of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda, adding “Amma is a true master, one who has mastered all the paths to God.”
After praising Amma’s charitable works in the state—the Amrita Nidhi pension program, Amrita Kuteeram housing program and Amrita Vidyalayam schools—Chowdary concluded, “When I think of all the work done by Amma throughout India and in parts of the rest of the world, I cannot but think that Amma is an avatar—God in human form.”
Chowdary’s statements were punctuated with the extension of the Amrita Nidhi pension program in West Bengal by another 500 beneficiaries—30 widows and handicapped people receiving their first allotments directly from Amma’s hands.
It was then time for Amma’s satsang and bhajans, during which Amma treated her Bengali devotees to a number of songs in their mother tongue, including versions of “Ananda Janani” and “Amma Baramma.”
8 March 2008 — Jaipur, Rajasthan
Amma’s annual visit to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, was marked by the Ashram giving away keys to 79 houses it constructed for the homeless in Janapur. The Minister of Education of Rajasthan, Sri. Ghanashyam Tiwari, helped distribute the keys to these houses during Amma’s program at Suraj Maiden in Adarsh Nagar.
The houses are part of the Ashram’s Amrita Kuteeram program, which has already see the constructed and distribution of more than 30,000 such homes throughout India in the past 10 years. Ultimately the housing colony in Janapur with comprise 1,000 homes.
In his address, the minister related a personal experience. He told of how last year Amma had warned him that soon problems could arise in his state, telling him “Don’t worry; they will soon pass.” Sure enough, he said, the problems did come in the form of riots in the name caste and politics. But just as Amma had said, the situation soon subsided. Tiwari concluded by telling the people assembled that they should have deep faith in Amma.
Amma addresses Jaipur International Women’s Summit
8 March 2008 — Jaipur, Rajasthan
Amma addressed a gathering of women religious and spiritual leaders at a summit in Jaipur today: “Making Way for the Feminine for the Benefit of the World Community.” The event was organized by the Global Peace Initiative of Women and held at Clarks Amer Hotel.
In her address, “The Infinite Potential of Women,” Amma called on the need for women and men to come together in unity, accepting, respecting and valuing each other’s differences. “Alienating women from matters of finance and politics is to discard half of the intellect and strength of society,” Amma said.
Amma also stressed the importance of women holding on to their innate femininity and qualities associated with motherhood. “It’s true that women must move forward, but they also need to turn back to consider the child following in their footsteps, not discarding their parental responsibilities. For the sake of her children, a mother should have at least some patience. It’s not enough to give a baby space in her womb; she must also give it space in her heart.”
The meeting was convened by Dena Merriam and co-chaired by Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell and Sister Joan Chittister. Participating in the event were many young people from around the world.
Upon the conclusion of her address, Amma met privately with representatives from areas of conflict throughout the world, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Turkey, and several African countries. Amma offered them her full support, saying that she would bless their initiatives and provide every help she could.
In 2003, Amma addressed the organization’s first summit, whereupon she was awarded the Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence.
4 March 2008 — Ahmadabad, Gujarat
Sri. Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, was the chief dignitary at Amma’s program in Ahmadabad. In his address, he requested Amma to establish the second headquarters of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math in Gujarat, invoking Sri Adi Sankaracarya’s establishment of ashrams in the four corners of India as precedent.
“It’s the fortune of Gujarat that we are able to seek Amma’s darshan every year,” Modi said. “When the earthquakes struck Gujarat, at Amma’s request all her devotees rushed to Gujarat with help. And they didn’t leave until the work was complete. Amma, through the medium of seva, has sparked a process of spiritual awakening. Amma has taught us the religion that takes us from ‘I’ to ‘we’; the religion that joins ‘self’ to the ‘whole’; the religion that teaches us to look at a needy person not with sympathy but with compassion; the religion that teaches us that we should share whatever we have with the others. And I believe this is what the great rishis and sages tried to teach us. And Amma has brought that lineage to us today. …
“Amma has brought these spiritual heights not just to India but to the whole world. The whole world has accepted her as its ‘Amma.’ By establishing her organization throughout the world, she has projected India to the world—through her life, through the various activities of her ashram and through her spiritual heights.
“When I look back at history, today’s situation in India gives me assurance, a ray of hope that fills me with enthusiasm. In India today, a new period of spirituality has begun. You switch on the TV in the morning and you find a spiritual person giving a discourse, addressing a gathering of thousands and lakhs. Another joyful thing is that the youth of India are taking part in this spiritual resurgence. This reminds me of the 19th century. There was a spiritual revolution then. The sages, the mahatmas, the poets, storywriters and singers created a spiritual revolution. It was this fervour that helped in the Freedom Struggle. Without it, India never would have attained Independence.
“The saints, the scientists and everyone are proclaiming with one voice that the 21st century will belong to Asia, particularly India. I feel it’s true because I can see that the spiritual leaders are preparing the foundation for the same strong resurgence. For this, Amma is making a major contribution. It feels great when this Ganga of spiritual fervour flows into Gujarat and touches the Gujarat soil. And for this, time and again I welcome Amma to Gujarat.
“Your headquarters are in Kerala. It’s not right for the devotees of Gujarat. Sri Sankara was also from Kerala. He established four ashrams around India. He tried to awaken the spiritual consciousness throughout the vast country of Bharat. Amma, can you make your second headquarters here in Gujarat? Gujarat is inviting you. Sri Krishna has also come here. I am sure that Amma will accept.
“This land calls all those with a spiritual inclination. My full faith is that Amma will make her second headquarters here in Gujarat. In this way the devotees of Gujarat can have a sip of the holy Ganga that is Amma. With this I conclude my speech, praying that Amma will bestow all the best blessings to Gujarat. And that Gujarat will come to do good works for society.”
India’s Farmer Suicide Problem and Amma’s Solutions
25 February, Bharata Yatra 2008 — Ahamed Nagar, Maharashtra, a roadside stop between Pune and Mumbai
It was only after Amma’s program in Vidarbha that some of the Western devotees travelling with Amma learned the full extent of the region’s suicide epidemic. Figures that baffle the mind: farmers committing suicide at a rate as fast as one every eight hours—more than 1,000 suicides a year. Wanting to understand the problem more clearly, one such devotee asked Amma to explain the situation as well as Amma’s plans to help rectify it.
“The entire lives of these people revolves around agriculture,” Amma said. “The government should be supporting them. In some places it is doing so, but not effectively enough. In other places, it is not doing so at all. Some farmers own and cultivate very small plots of land—maybe only one to four acres. That is their sole source of income. If there is a problem with their harvest—if their crops fail—they go broke. Sometimes when the crops are planted, the price may be at 20 or 30 rupees per kilo, but then by harvest time the value has plummeted to only 10 rupees or less. When this happens, they have no other means to continue farming than to take out loans, using their land as collateral. Often they cannot take loans from government institutions or proper banks, only from private money-loaners. These money-loaners charge extremely high interests rates—as much as 30 to 40 percent. The proper banks will not loan them money because they feel the risk of default is too high. These interest rates place such a financial burden upon the farmers that they end up unable to pay their field-hands. Furthermore, they may have additional expenses, like having daughters of marrying age for whom they need to raise dowry. The result is complete and total financial duress. The farmers feel utterly helpless and, seeing no other way out, they decide to commit suicide. They give their children poison and then drink it themselves.”
Amma then said how, more often than not, the fields are maintained solely by the families themselves. In such situations, much of the responsibility of cultivation falls upon the shoulders of the children, forcing them to discontinue their educations at early ages. Amma explained how the Ashram’s Vidyamritam program, which is providing scholarships for 30,000 such children throughout India, is aimed at correcting this problem. “At least the children who are interested should be given the opportunity to study,” Amma said. “If they receive at least a basic education more avenues of income will become available to them and their families.”
Amma said, “Amma feels the situation is due to how inextricably tied to agriculture these people’s lives are traditionally. If we provide them with alternative means of income, it may help.”
Amma then went on to elucidate the Ashram’s Amrita Sree Program [Amrita Self-Reliance Employment & Empowerment Program]. “The Ashram has started conducting vocational training for groups of women from such families. These groups are then given some initial seed capital in order to start cottage-industry businesses. The Ashram is also coordinating these groups to avail of loans from proper banks. This will help the families become less dependent on the whims of Nature and the success of the harvest.”
Amma paused for a moment and slowly scanned her eyes across the faces of the 400 or so disciples and devotees surrounding her—people from around the world trying to mold their lives after her example of selfless service. She then said, “When someone is drowning in a river, they will cling to even a single straw for dear life. Amma feels these programs could be like that straw, providing them with at least some hope for the future.”
Amma then reflected on the larger problem: how the soil is losing fertility due to pollution, global warming and the additional demands placed upon the earth due to the exploding population. She stressed the need for India to conduct more research in the area of agriculture technology and rainwater harvesting. “We have to start thinking of means to conserve water,” Amma said. “We have to learn how to produce more crops with less water, and how to get water from the lakes, ponds and rivers to farming areas.”
Amma said she believed that artificial means of cultivation were a necessary evil. “These artificial means of producing greater crop yields are temporarily appeasing hunger, but ultimately they are causing further damage,” she said. “It is like cross-breeding a donkey with a horse. The result is a mule, which has neither the good qualities of a horse nor a donkey. Similarly the new ways of cultivation are creating more crops, but are resulting in deterioration of health—physical and mental. Regardless, they are needed at this point in time. Such is our state. In this way we can continue for some time—like a cancer patient extending his life another six months through chemotherapy.”
“In truth,” Amma said, “the situation is worse than a third world war. If it were war, there would be instant death—not this long, drawn out suffering. Rectifying the situation is a Himalayan task. Only if we generate love and compassion in our hearts and come together as one can we hope to make a change.”
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