Blessing a Child of the Survivor Tree

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29 June 2008 — Addison, Texas, USA

The terrorist bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building on April 19, 1995 took the lives of 168 people and scarred thousands more physically and emotionally. Despite the massive blast and subsequent fires, a 100-year-old American Elm Tree, part of the building’s original landscaping, survived. At the insistence of Oklahoma citizens, survivors, family members of the deceased and rescue workers, the “Survivor Tree” has become central part of the memorial dedicated to the victims of the blast.

At the beginning of Amma’s two days of programs in Addison, Texas, devotees from Oklahoma brought Amma a sapling to bless that was grown from a seed taken from the Survivor Tree. This sapling was presented to Amma by the Mayor of Addison, Joe Chow.

Immediately after Amma blessed the sapling, it was taken to Addison Town Park, where it was planted by the mayor, Swami Ramakrishnananda and members of the American wing of Amma’s youth group, AYUDH (Amrita Yuva Dharmadhara).

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Just prior to Amma’s blessing of the tree, Elizabeth Muller, a devotee from Oklahoma, addressed the gathering. “The Survivor Tree is a witness to tragedy, but also a symbol of resilience, tenacity, perseverance and hope,” she said. “Today, it is a tribute to renewal and rebirth. The inscription around that tree at the memorial reads: ‘The spirit of this city and nation will not be defeated. Our deeply rooted faith sustained us.’ This tree can stand for the nurturing of the tree of compassion in the hearts of us all. For, as Amma has said, ‘Compassion is the only way to peace.’”

Welcoming Amma to Addison for the fourth year in a row, Mayor Chow lauded Amma’s tireless service to humanity. “She gives everything she has to the poor and the needy,” he said. “She has done so much. Let’s give her a big round of applause.”

—Kannadi

Iraq Veterans Need Love and Embrace

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Iraq Veterans Need Amma’s Love & Embrace

24 June 2008 — Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

“There are thousands of veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan that need to know about this,” Joe Thergood, the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Veteran Services for the State of New Mexico, said from the dais at the beginning of Amma’s second night of programmes in Albuquerque.

Thergood explained to the ballroom full of people that until that day he had never met Amma before, nor heard of her. He said that he had been in the hotel on business and at the conclusion of the morning’s program had happened to see Amma as she passed through the hotel lobby. When Amma passed by Thergood, she stopped briefly and took his hand. “I noticed that she didn’t shake anybody else’s hand—and I felt guilty… and I was honoured,” he said.

After Amma had gone, Thergood—who primarily works with veterans suffering from mental and physical disabilities—began speaking to a devotee, who coincidentally happened to be a Vietnam veteran. “I had no idea who he was, but I walked up to him and we started talking and it just so happened that he was a Vietnam veteran. And he shared with me his story—how Amma had blessed him 10 years ago after the hug. And that got my attention. And he said, ‘I was suffering with PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] and I was healed.’”

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It was at this point that Thergood proclaimed—to a thundering round of applause and cheers—that Amma’s darshan and love would be a great help to the thousands upon thousands of soldiers returning from the Middle East who had incurred psychological problems during their tours of service.

“[Veterans] need the love that is exemplified in this audience and by Amma,” Thergood said.

Obviously moved by his brief meeting with Amma, Thergood then turned to face Amma, who was sitting on her peetham, and said, “Amma, I want you to know something. You’ve been with me all my life, and I didn’t even know it—because we’ve helped so many people.”

He concluded by reading a few sentences he wrote down after his brief encounter with Amma earlier that day: “We all have common concerns, common pain. We need uncommon healing, uncommon healing from Amma, and we welcome you to New Mexico for sure.”

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Amma was also welcomed by Martin Heinrich, a former council president for the City of Albuquerque who is currently seeking election to the U.S. Congress. “To look at the incredible change that her work has wrought is truly inspirational,” he said. “Healing the sick, housing the elderly, teaching people not just to make a living but how to live—these are things that we should all aspire to. And I believe we can all be inspired to make that change within our own life.”

—Tulasi

Watch Video: http://videos.amritapuri.org/2008/08nmexico.php

From Darkness to Light

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22 June 2008 — Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
As the end of the morning darshan approached, during Amma’s first program in Albuquerque, suddenly all the lights went out in the hall. As there were no windows, the crowd was thrust into pitch blackness. A hush fell across the room. A little girl burst out crying, and one of the bookstore staff reached out a hand to comfort her, but being a stranger, it seemed he only made the situation worse.

At the front of the room, there was a single ray of light. Someone was holding a pen light over Amma’s head, but it barely pierced the darkness. Suddenly someone holding a laptop appeared on the scene, holding it open above his head, using it as a torch to cast at least a little illumination. It wasn’t really enough light to see by, but Amma, laughing, seemed touched by the devotee’s efforts. Then a third source of light appeared—a cell-phone held aloft, casting a faint glow above Amma’s head. One by one, lights flickered on the darkness and danced like fireflies toward the front of the room where Amma was giving darshan. Another computer. Another cell phone. Another flashlight. Oddly, none of them seemed to cast as much light as they might have… maybe the flashlights were almost out of batteries, and the computers’ energy consumption settings were on.

An Amrita TV crewmember came over with a camera spot, but even that was just a tiny light and not a huge spot… it was like everyone grabbed the first source of light they could lay hands upon and rushed to join the congregation around Amma.

As the scene unfolded, one was reminded of Amma’s advice that we should never fear that our own small light of love and faith will not be enough to dispel the gathering darkness of fear and hatred in the world around us… together, our many tiny flickering lights can shine like the sun and illuminate the whole world. And just so, the many tiny lights around Amma, held aloft by her devotees, together illumined the scene. And as all the other activities that unfold around the perimeter of Amma’s darshan program were shrouded in darkness and the ensuing silence, everyone in the hall moved toward Amma’s physical body, and her physical act of giving love, compassion and hope to her children—the only source of light.

At the time the lights went out, a local satsang had been singing an English bhajan to Amma. The refrain: “Amma, help me shine…” Someone standing near Amma wisecracked that it seemed their prayer had backfired.

While giving darshan in the dark, Amma corrected him. “Real shining does not mean having bright overhead lights… In temples, at the time of the diparadhana [arati worship with light], all of the temple lights are dimmed, and only the light of the oil lamp being waved before the idol remains. This represents the principle that it is only when we turn away from our external senses that we can discover the light within.”

—Kannadi

Amma Walks in Beauty

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23 June 2008 — Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Upon the commencement of Amma’s five days of programmes in New Mexico, State Representative Gayle Chasey officially welcomed Amma to the state, placing a garland around her neck and reciting a traditional Navaho* prayer.

“Unexpected blessings sometimes come the way of those in public service,” said the representative. “And my invitation to welcome Amma back to New Mexico tonight falls in that category. As one who believes in the dignity of all human beings—the most vulnerable, those who have no other voice, the hungry, the homeless, those in prison, those who are sick and lack healthcare—I am deeply honoured to be in your presence this evening.

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“I am moved by Amma’s good works—her service, her teachings, her emphasis on every aspect of well-being: material, emotional, spiritual.

“I would like to borrow from our Navaho brothers and sisters here in the great Southwest to make a wish for Amma and all of us. At the heart of the Navaho way is the concept of harmony—the need to be in the right relationship with all things. This concept is often translated as ‘beauty.’ The Navaho Night Way Ceremony begins with the words ‘In beauty, may I walk.’ Amma, may you walk in beauty here in the Land of Enchantment, and may you help us do the same.”

Amma is in Albuquerque from June 22th through 26st.

—Tulasi

— —— —– —— —— —–

* Navaho (Anonymous) Prayer

Dark young pine, at the center of the earth originating,
I have made your sacrifice.
Whiteshell, turquoise, abalone beautiful,
Jet beautiful, fool’s gold beautiful, blue pollen beautiful,
Reed pollen, pollen beautiful, your sacrifice I have made.
This day your child I have become, I say.

Watch over me.
Hold your hand before me in protection.
Stand guard for me, speak in defense of me.
As I speak for you, speak for me.
May it be beautiful before me.
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
May it be beautiful all around me.

I am restored in beauty.
I am restored in beauty.
I am restored in beauty.
I am restored in beauty.

Los Angeles commends Amma

Joe Matthews

Joe Matthews, the Field Deputy of Los Angeles, receives blessing from Amma, after officially welcoming her on part of the city. Standing to his side is LA’s Deputy of Health, Richard Espinosa

17 June 2008 — Los Angeles, California, USA

Amma was welcomed to Los Angeles with the presentation of an official commendation signed by the city’s Mayor and the City Council. She was also officially welcomed by the Deputy of Health, Richard Espinosa, and the Field Deputy, Joe Matthews. Addressing Amma on the dais, Mr. Espinosa said, “On behalf of the city of Los Angeles and its 10 million residents, I would like to welcome you to Los Angeles County, to welcome you to our homes and to our hearts. … Please come back very soon and very often, because this is your home.”

The commendation—signed by Bill Rosendahl, Council Member of the 11th District, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; and Eric Garcetti, Council Member and President of the City Council—was then read allowed:“The City of Los Angeles, State of California, hereby presents this resolution to Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Amma Devi… Whereas Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Amma Devi is respected throughout the world for her tireless charitable efforts to benefit women, the poor, the homeless and the destitute…  And whereas in 2005 Amma and her organizations worked hard to rebuild the areas affected by the tsunami in India, Sri Lanka, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Over 5,300 homes were built in India and Sri Lanka at that time.

Amma being welcomed

Amma was welcomed to Los Angeles with the presentation of an official commendation signed by the city’s Mayor and the City Council.

Today, Amma’s organizations continue to rebuild dozens of villages, orphanages and boats… And whereas Amma’s charitable projects in Los Angeles area include Mother’s Kitchen, Circle of Love, Green Friends, Disaster and Emergency Preparedness… And whereas Amma was presented with the 2002 Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, given in recognition of her lifelong work in furthering the principles of non-violence… And whereas Amma has been invited by international organizations to address issues of religious differences, environmental concerns and establishing peace… Now, therefore, be it resolved that, by the adoption of this resolution, the Los Angeles City Council, along with the Mayor, City Attorney and City Controller, do hereby commend Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Amma Devi for her service and dedication to humanity. Her selfless service has crossed all barriers of religion, race and nationality.”

Amma is in Los Angeles for her annual programs there, from June 17th through 21st. —Tulasi

American Yatra Begins

3 June 2008, Seattle, USA

Amma commenced her 22nd Yatra of North America this weekend with four days of programs in Seattle, Washington. Thousands of Americans, as well as Canadians, attended the programs, where Amma gave discourses, sang bhajans, led meditation sessions and gave darshan.
Upon the programs’ conclusion Tuesday morning, Amma will travel to her ashram in San Ramon, California, where she will remain for the majority of the next two weeks.

Amma’s North American Yatra will conclude on July 23rd in Toronto, Canada.

A Rakhi Bond to Fight Farmer Suicide

A Rakhi Bond with Amma

31 May 2008 – Seattle, Washington, USA

On the first night of the retreat weekend with Amma in Seattle, a dozen or so teenagers and twenty-somethings wearing T-shirts with AYUDH across the back came up to the side of Amma’s chair. One of them held a bracelet of braided pink and blue strings, which she then tied around Amma’s wrist. The T-shirted bunch were from the American wing of Amma’s youth group, Amrita Yuva Dharmadhara, and the tying of the bracelet was part of a new project the group is undertaking for Amma’s US Tour.
Raksha bandhan is an Indian tradition wherein sisters tie rakhi bracelets on the wrists of their brothers. It marks the indelible bond between the siblings. The rakhi is said to protect the brother; in return the brother vows to always come to the aid of the sister when needed. AYUDH America is weaving these bracelets and selling them in order to raise money for Amma’s projects aimed at ending India’s farmer-suicide epidemic {news}.

“The bracelets cost $3. The idea is to both raise money for the projects, as well as to create awareness regarding the epidemic,” said Lalita, 25, an AYUDH member/coordinator from Walnut Creek, California. “Each AYUDH member has pledged to weave a certain number of rakhis for selling during Amma’s tour. Here, not only are you making a bond with the person you tie the rakhi upon, but you are also making a bond with the farmers in India, promising to help protect them as well with your $3 donation. In the West, most people don’t know about the rakhi tradition. When they see the bracelets they will ask people what they are for, and then the person wearing the bracelet can tell them about the plight of the Indian farmers as well as everything Amma’s Ashram is doing to rehabilitate them.”

In India AYUDH groups have been holding meetings and engaging in service projects for more than 10 years. Now the program is taking off internationally as well. AYUDH Europe has held three youth retreats in Germany and regularly raises money for Amma’s humanitarian projects by selling hot waffles in city centres, among other activities. AYUDH America began on December 26, 2007 with a four-day retreat at Amma’s ashram in San Ramon, California. More than 60 youth attended. One of the retreat’s highlights was a question-and-answer session with Swami Amritaswarupananda, wherein the San Ramon ashram was connected to Amritapuri via Web-cam. In the past five months, AYUDH America has met more than 14 times to engage in activities like planting trees and cleaning beaches. Another retreat is planned for December 2008.

Ayudh Activists

pictured: AYUDH America with Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya during a beach cleanup project

“I like AYUDH’s youthful enthusiasm,” said Gilad, a 22-year-old AYUDH member from Berkeley, California. “We run the group ourselves. It’s not that someone else decides what we are going to do. Anyone of the members can offer suggestions and submit a plan. Then we consider it as a group and decide.”

The experience of tying the rakhi on Amma’s wrist is something the AYUDH America members will no doubt remember for the rest of their lives. Afterwards, Sri Vidya, 25, of Cupertino, California, said “When we tied it, it was so nice. No words were needed. We knew what it was about, and Amma knew. There was something so special and nice about it.”
— Kannadi