Mayor proclaims ‘Days of Amma‘ in Iowa


2 – 3 July 2008 — Coralville, Iowa, USA

The massive rains that recently hit America’s Midwest flooded a large portion of the region’s residential, commercial and farmlands. Although the waters have subsided considerably, the threat of more rain looms in the minds of many Midwesterners. Furthermore, there is the matter of the billions of dollars in damages and crop destruction. Iowa City and its suburbs were not spared, and areas of Coralville, the town where Amma has given darshan for the past two years, remain underwater.

Upon welcoming Amma to Coralville, Mayor Jim Fausett commented that Amma’s visit was a timely one. “Amma’s coming could not be at a better time because we are at a stage where we really need some uplifting of spirits for our community,” he said. “We have seen a lot of devastation in the area and across the state. And it is at this particular time that we need to stop, take a look where we are and see how we can best go forward. And, so, Amma, again, thank you for being here again this year. … We thank you immensely.”


Mayor Fausett then read a proclamation, proclaiming July 2 – 3, 2008 to be “The Days of Amma the Hugging Saint” in Coralville: “Whereas, Amma is a renowned humanitarian and spiritual leader, whose sole mission is to love and serve one and all. And whereas, the greatest miracle that takes place in Amma’s presence occurs in the hearts of those who come to her. And whereas, Amma is the recipient of the prestigious Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence. And whereas, through the example of her own life of tireless service to humanity, Amma inspires her children to walk towards the goal of self-realization by serving the poor and the needy. And whereas, Amma has inspired many humanitarian activities that have drawn the attention of the world community. Now, therefore, be it resolved, that I, Mayor Jim L. Fausett, do hereby proclaim July 2nd and 3rd 2008 to be the ‘Days of Amma the Hugging Saint’ in the city of Coralville.”


Jim Smiles With His Heart

30 June 2008 — Addison, Texas, USA

Grammy Award-winning Country and Bluegrass artist Jim Lauderdale met Amma in the summer of 2005 after being told about her by a tai-chi teacher. Reflecting back, Lauderdale says, “He said, ‘You’ve got to go to San Ramon and see Amma; you’re not going to believe her singing and her band.’”

Lauderdale says he was overwhelmed by the experience. “I’ve never met anyone like Amma—someone who has such a great impact on people’s lives for the good and for humanity. I am hard-pressed to think of someone who is doing more for mankind and the environment.”

Currently a resident of Nashville, Tennessee, Lauderdale has won two Grammys for “Best Bluegrass Album of the Year”: one for his 2007 release The Bluegrass Diaries (Yep Roc Records) and one for his collaboration with Ralph Stanley, 2002’s Lost in the Lonesome Pines (Dual Tone Records). He has also written a number of songs for Country stars such as George Strait, the Dixie Chicks, Patty Loveless, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Vince Gill and Mark Chesnutt.

To the delight of devotees, during Amma’s programs in Albuquerque, Lauderdale had his first opportunity to perform for Amma, an experience he says he will never forget. “It was very moving for me,” he says. “It was hard for me to hold the tears back. I have been fortunate to perform in a lot of different place and in front of a lot of different people that I was really nervous about—various musical greats. But Amma probably stands at the top of those kinds of experiences.”

The song Lauderdale performed, “Smile from Your Heart,” was inspired by something Amma had said during a recent program. Lauderdale explained from the stage how during one of Amma’s programs a mentally challenged boy had been going around telling people to smile—sometimes going as far as to press his fingertips to their cheeks in attempts of coercing a grin to emerge. As Lauderdale was having Amma’s darshan, the boy was standing at his side. “He was saying, ‘Smile! Smile!’” Lauderdale told the audience. “And then Amma said, ‘Smile with your heart.’ And that really impacted me. Then last week that this melody came to me.”

Strumming a simple chord progression with a Western Swing feel, Lauderdale sang:

Smile with your heart.
Smile with your heart.

Take a little step and love will do its part.
Smile with your heart.

From the inside,
Let it glow bright.
It’s a pathway to the light.
Let it out so it can travel far.
Smile with your heart.

Lauderdale’s composition clearly imparts a spiritual message, but is Country music “spiritual”? Lauderdale says it is: “There is a history, especially in Bluegrass, of Gospel Music. In both forms, it is almost like a contradiction, because there are songs about going out and having a good time and going to a ‘honky-tonk,’ which is a bar… and then the next morning going to Church and worshipping. So, it’s kind of like the human condition—and we kind of run a gamut of behaviours and experiences. But there is a big tradition in both for Gospel Music.”

In fact Lauderdale’s musical upbringing was very much rooted in the music of the church. His father was a Presbyterian minister and his mother was the choir director. However he says that he in no way feels any conflict between Amma’s teachings and his roots. “When I first came to see Amma, I saw people from many different faiths, and so I did not feel a conflict with my Christian upbringing. I thought, ‘Here’s a saint.’”

After three years of attending Amma’s programs in America, Lauderdale remains a “fan” of her music. “I enjoy so much listening to the bhajans and hearing Amma’s voice,” he says. “She has such an earthiness and otherworldly, heavenly, side to her voice. … When I get a new Amma CD, it reminds me of the excitement I got when I was much younger and a new Beatles album would come out. You were just—Oh yeah! And you just listened to it over and over and over. That’s the kind of feeling I get.”

What does Lauderdale feel to be the secret behind Amma’s musical brilliance? “Great songs and great singers and the combination, they come from another place—no matter what style or whatever the intent or the emotion is of the song,” he says. “And I think that great singers really have to lose themselves in the song. And it is very clear that Amma does that. And what sets her apart from other singers is that she doesn’t have any ego involved in it. She’s beyond all that. There’s no agenda or commercial goal, and so it’s very refreshing to hear that.

“Sometime when I listen to the CDs and hear Amma sing, it strikes me as what God would sound like if God were making music or singing,” Lauderdale says. “For some reason, I just get that feeling.”