Arial photos of the Ashram

29 Dec 2009, Amritapuri
Many changes have taken place at the Ashram over the past two years. The pond next to Amma’s house has been filled in, and there is now an open field leading to the beach. To the south, a new two-story building houses the new full color printing press. The Juice Stall and Indian Canteen have moved to where the old cow shed was, and there is also a new Student’s Canteen to the east of the hall. This fall, the Main Hall received a brand new bright red roof.

Christmas celebrations at Amritapuri

December 24th 2009 – Amritapuri

Every year on this date the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated around the world. This year over 1200 visitors from all over the world and many more from India gathered to spend the holiday in Amritapuri. For this Christmas, many of the ashram residents put together an original musical production depicting the life, teachings and ministry of Jesus as recounted by Thomas*, one of Jesus’ disciples.

Just before 10pm Amma arrived to join a full hall of spectators waiting for the show to begin.  Soon the stage doors opened to reveal immaculate set decorations depicting different scenes in ancient Israel, including a 10 meter high Roman tower erected in the bhajan hall, complete with burning torches from where Pontius Pilate looked down with disdain upon his subjects.  For the next hour all the cast members danced and moved about on stage in wonderfully elaborate costumes depicting the roles of Jesus, his disciples, rabbis, Romans, etc.  Hidden just out of sight of the crowd other ashram residents sat on the side of the stage providing all the voices for the characters, led by a full live band including violin, guitar, bass, harmonium, percussion, etc. playing wonderful original music.

There were several moments of comic relief throughout the play, but most scenes tried to present the essence of Jesus’s teachings. Throughout our history we have confused the “I” spoken by Jesus to mean “I” the Christ, “I” the man.   Due to this misunderstanding countless wars and atrocities have been committed in His name.

After the musical’s joyous conclusion, Swamiji translated Amma’s Christmas message. “Christ is born along with each and every human being. Christ is still alive and will always continue to be. But not in the form of 2,000 years ago. He lives as our very essence. We need to realize this: The real Christ is our inner ‘I,’ our consciousness. Only when this understanding dawns, will we become true ‘Christians.’

Christ has said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Poor in spirit” means, those who have gone beyond the mind and thoughts, whose minds have ceased to exist. They have realized that the kingdom of heaven is within. Such people create heaven wherever they go.

Throughout the Bible, we hear Christ saying, “I am the son of Man.” But he also says, “I am the son of God.” We may think these two statements are contradictory, but they are not. As long as we remain identified with our body and mind, we will have the tendency to view mahatmas as similarly being limited by the body and mind. But the reality is that they are firmly rooted in the supreme consciousness. They are beyond time and space. God and life are like the two banks of a river. Mahatmas are like the water flowing between the two banks, uniting them.”

As soon as Swamiji finished speaking, Amma led everyone in the hall in singing Matarani.

And then came the moment everyone waits for on Christmas Eve…Santa’s arrival.  One of the ashram residents appeared dressed as Santa near Amma with a tray of chocolate Christmas cake (an annual tradition here) to offer Amma the first piece.  After her taste, Amma then looked on as Santa and the cast of the musical, including Jesus himself distributed the cake to everyone.

* The Gospel of Thomas was once known only by name as one of the gospels excluded from the bible. It bore a remarkable resemblance to the basic principles of Hindu Philosophy.

Easing the suffering of mankind

22 December, Kodungallur –Bharata Yatra 2009

During the first evening program of the annual Brahmasthanam festival in Kodungallur, Amma extended several of the ashram’s charitable projects to recipients in the area.

Sewing machines were  distributed along with financial working capital to start self-help groups for impoverished women.

KP Dhanapalan,  a Member of Parliment of the Mukundapuram District of Kerala, distributed keys to houses built around Kodungallur as part of the Amritakuteeram Project.

In the inaugural address MR. Dhanapalan shared a recent personal experience he had with Amma in New Delhi:
“When I was in Delhi 3 weeks ago I saw the news that Amma was also in town, but since I was leaving that same day  I was sad I missed my chance to meet her. When I went to the airport to catch my flight back to Kerala, I saw many people wearing white and I hoped that maybe I would get lucky and still see her, but Amma was not there.  But then after I boarded the flight and took my seat, just a few minutes before take off, Amma and the Swamis also boarded the plane.  She sat just across the aisle from me. By God’s will for the next three hours I travelled with Amma.  Usually I would carry a book and read through the journey.  But for that day I could not read a single page.  After getting her darshan, I  watched her closely for rest of the flight. Amma was  pulling out papers from her bag, reading them and giving some instructions to Swamini. I realised that those were the letters devotees had written to her. It then became very clear to me that Amma is some one who has dedicated her whole life, every second, to ease the suffering of humanity.”

Swami Prashanthananda, President Sri Ramakrishna Math Trissur; VD Sateeshan, MLA from Pravoor; PD Viswambharan, Chairman Kodungallur Muncipality; Dr. Vijayakumar, District Judge,  were the other dignitaries sharing the stage with Amma.

– Dass

Amrita institute for differently abled inaugurated

19 Dec 2009, Kozhikode

A new institute for the differently-abled, Amrita Institute for Differently Abled (AIDA), was inaugurated by  Mr. M. K. Raghavan, honorable Member of Parliament of Kozhikode constituency, in the presence of Amma during the Kozhikode Brahmasthanam festival.

This new Institute, situated in Putiyara, is dedicated to the welfare of the mentally challenged children belonging to Kozhikode and surrounding regions.

As its first phase, a day-care center has been established to initially accommodate 20 children. Proper developmental therapy incorporating daily skills, early social integration and schooling will be imparted at the center. Personalized therapy will be provided based on each individual’s mental and physical abilities. These programs will provide these children with basic life skills and fundamental concepts that will help them function as independently as possible on a day-to-day basis.

Bharata Yatra 2010 January

Amma’s programs in Chennai, Tanjavur, Ramanathapuram and Toothukkudi are  postponed.
Amma’s program in Tiruvananthapuram on 23, 24 is confirmed.

Amma’s Bharata Yatra 2010 starts 9 January.

The program dates:

  • Jan 9 Departure Amritapuri
  • Jan 10 – 11 Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu Brahmastanam
    Coimbatore Brahmastanam Temple,
    Ramasamy Nagar 2, Nallampalayam Road, Phone 0422-2538325, 0422-2538326
  • Jan 14 – 15 Chennai, Tamil Nadu Brahmastanam
    Chennai Brahmastanam Temple,
    (near Avichi school) Arcot Road, Saligramam, Chennai. Phone 044-2376 4063 & 044-2376 4867
  • Jan 17 Tanjavoor, Tamil Nadu evening public program
    P.V.Sevaraj  Girls Higher Secondary School, Ganapathy Nagar, Phone-09360844670, 08056673636, 09443971222
  • Jan 19 Ramanatapuram, Tamil Nadu evening public program
    Raja Higher Secondary School Grounds, Madurai road, Ramnathapuram, Phone 09842420555, 09940911664, 09994949816
  • Jan 21 Tuthukkudi , Tamil Nadu evening public program
    VOC College Grounds, Toothukudi, 0461 23266116, 09363309724,  09447498812
  • Jan 23 – 24 Tiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala Brahmastanam
    MAM, Kaimanam, Tiruvananthapuram. Phone 0471-490140
  • Jan 25 Return to Amritapuri

North India Yatra expected to start in the 2nd week of February.

Ammas visit will be like Hanukkah

Between the 3rd and 8th of December 2009 Br. Shubamrita paid his fourth annual visit to Israel.

Public programmes were held in the cities of Tel Aviv, Pardes Hana and for the first time in Netiv Halamed Hey, a Kibbutz (community) near Jerusalem. An Integrated Amrita Meditation course was held in Tel Aviv, with nearly 80 participants.

The participants enjoyed Br. Shubamrita’s talks based on Amma’s teachings and interspersed with a lot of humour and personal experiences. The Hebrew songs also were a great hit with the audience.

Br. Shubamrita was invited to ‘Wings of Krembo’, a youth organization which cares for children with special needs. There are more than 900 teenagers who volunteer in the organization, which has 8 active groups throughout the country. Twice a week they spend an afternoon with the needy children, thus allowing their parents to have some free time. Br. Shubamrita had a very lively interaction with the group, joining in their singing and games. He taught the kids the peace prayer “Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” which was chanted with a lot of cheering and clapping.

At the end of the meeting, Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of light, was celebrated. Just like the candles are lit on the traditional seven-armed lamp, the simple act of kindness by the youngsters is kindling the light of joy, love and peace in the lives of those they care for.

People are praying to Amma to visit Israel.  In Tel Aviv one lady said, “Hanukkah is a festival that brings in joy and light to all of us and is very dear to our hearts. It will be like a Hanukkah for us when Amma comes to Israel, for we can see a person who is spreading the light of love and peace around the world.”

– Dass

Sheltered by faith in the rain

04 Dec 2009, Amritapuri
After two months, the bell rang three times indicating  Amma was calling us for meditation today. Soon, Amma joined us at the beach. After meditation, she raised a question, “What is the practical aspect of our faith in God?” She passed the microphone from one person to the other.

One of the devotees said, “As we know that God takes care of us, we don’t feel that we are alone. Neither the past nor the future bothers us. We remain aware and dwell in the present moment.”

The next person said, “If we have faith, we are at peace. If I believe that everything happening in my life is Amma’s will and for my good, I will be at peace. If I don’t have this faith, I won’t be at peace.” Amma  mischievously asked, “Have you developed it?” He grinned. He knew that Amma had cornered him. He said, “Amma has asked me a very difficult question.” Everyone burst into laughter. He added, “The question is very appropriate. This morning I was tense and disturbed at work. I asked myself, ‘What is the meaning of all of this?’ I told myself, ‘I don’t have faith.’ Now, Amma has asked me whether I have faith.” Everybody laughed and he added, “Actually, 100-percent faith is God realization. Once it is perfect, we have equanimity of mind and won’t have negativities such as anger. As long as we have these feelings, it is true that we haven’t developed perfect faith. One day, hopefully by Amma’s grace it will become perfect.”

Now, it started drizzling and Amma asked, “We sat here with the firm faith that it wouldn’t rain. Now it started raining. What do you do? Has the faith gone? So, what sort of faith should we have?”

One of Amma’s devotees said, “Our expectations need not be God’s will. So, we need to develop the attitude of surrender. Faith is moving from intellect into the heart. From constriction to openness.”

Amma said, “It is true that all of us have faith. We meditated here with the faith that another tsunami won’t come. We believed that an earthquake won’t rock this place. But we need to introspect and find out if we have enough faith to face the given situation with the right attitude.”

Amma recollected an anecdote from a recent tour of America. Many people were waiting outside the hall for Amma’s darshan. There were some occupancy restrictions, so not everyone was allowed inside. As one of them tried to creep in, he was forcefully stopped by the security staff. However he eventually got inside. When the person came for darshan, Amma lovingly caressed him and made him sit next to her. He kept gazing at Amma. He said, “What a wonderful opportunity! It is a dream come true! I had a deep desire to sit next to Amma and now it has been fulfilled.”

Amma summed up, “So, his faith enabled him to see the bitter experience positively and he considered it as blessing in disguise.”

At this point, the drizzle turned into a downpour. Amma wanted everyone to go back, but the translation hadn’t finished, so no one moved. Amma acquiesced, telling everyone to at least cover their head. A little girl was getting wet, so Amma stretched her sari to shelter her. Regardless, soon everyone was drenched. Amma remarked, “So, that was God’s test! As we were discussing faith, maybe God decided to test our faith.”

After the translation, Amma sang, “Mukunda Murare.” Before she left for bhajans, Amma announced, “Children! Please dry your hair and change your wet clothes before you go for bhajans. May your faith be based on right discrimination!”

— Sakshi

Inspire youth through dialogues not lectures

Amma inaugurates Vivekananda International Foundation

1 December 2009 — Chanakyapuri, New Delhi
On 1 December 2009, Amma inaugurated the Vivekananda International Foundation in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. The foundation,  which is an independent non-partisan think-tank, will undertake solution-oriented research and studies through different activities. It also will participate in international, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue.

In her inaugural address, Amma defined Swami Vivekananda as “a great sannyasi who revolutionized and transformed the society, a perfect example of devotion to the guru, an elevated karma yogi and a brilliant orator.”

Amma endorsed Vivekananda’s vision and practice of spiritual life, saying, “According to Swami Vivekananda, spirituality was not merely a penance to be performed with closed eyes in a far away forest or cave. It was a way of living to be performed in this world, while living amongst all different types of people, and while facing all circumstances and challenges of life with courage and equanimity. He firmly believed that spirituality is the basis of life and the origin of power and intelligence.”
In her speech Amma touched on a wide range of topics, including the means of creating inter-religious harmony, the proper role of education in society, and the importance of taking pride in one’s motherland and national heritage. The main focus of her talk, however, was India’s youth—their needs and the role adults should play in helping them attain their full potential. Amma said: “How can young people develop spiritual values and qualities? How can we lead them on the right path? How can we use the strength of youth for the growth of society, the country, and the world? We should prepare the youth for self-unfoldment and personal development. For that, we should go to their level and understand them.”

Amma stated that India’s current primary needs are strength, vigor and bravery—inherent qualities of youth. “If our youth arise and act, they have the strength and vigor to create huge transformation in society,” she said. “Only through awakening the inner power dormant within us will there be true transformation and a permanent solution to the problems facing society. Strength is the most important thing needed for an individual or a country. When we realize that this resides in each and every one of us, true strength awakens within.”

Amma said it was not enough for parents to provide their children with money and luxuries, but that they needed to impart to them spiritual culture and values. “Even if a person buys the most expensive car and fills its tank with the highest grade petrol, a battery is needed in order to start the engine,” Amma said. “Similarly, regardless of much wealth and education the child receives, it is the love and cultural values received from the parents that help the child to handle any circumstances once he or she grows into adulthood, and to give and receive love.”

Amma also stressed the importance of imparting the spiritual teachings to youth in a language, manner and context with which they can relate. She said we should not lecture the youth about spirituality but rather create heartfelt dialogues wherein their questions and criticisms are patiently and lovingly considered. “We should approach them with compassion,” Amma said. “Such an approach will create a change within them. Above all, we should set examples that will inspire them.”

Amma said such dialogues are essential not only for imparting spiritual teachings to youth, but also for the fostering of inter-religious harmony. Problems arise when we say, ‘My religion alone is good and yours is bad.’ This is like saying, ‘My mother is perfect; your mother is a prostitute.’ When we hold discussions with the understanding that each person sees their mother as perfect, we will be able to truly communicate with others.”

Amma also stressed the importance of cultivating love and respect for one’s motherland and culture. As an example, she told an anecdote about Vivekananda, which took place upon his return to India after his first tour of the United States. Amma said, “It is said that he rolled in the sand and proclaimed through tears, ‘Even after visiting so many countries, I have never found a mother like mine.’ When he stayed in a five-star hotel, instead of sleeping on the fancy bed, he laid on the bare floor and shed tears remembering the poor and starving people in India. Many people who leave India come to feel, ‘Our birth mother’s rice gruel is tastier than our step mother’s sweet pudding.'”

Elaborating, Amma said, “The curse upon our society is ignorance regarding our traditions and the basic principle of spirituality. This needs to change. I have visited so many countries of the world including Australia, Africa and America and they all take pride in their heritage. But we here in India, neither have understanding nor pride of our culture. In fact, many people even deride it. Only if we lay a strong foundation can we erect a tall building. Similarly, only if we have knowledge and pride of our forefathers and history, can we create a lustrous present and future.”

Other dignitaries on the dais included former Chief Justice of India M.N. Venkatachaliah, who delivered the keynote address; Vivekananda International Foundation President P. Parameswaran, who delivered the presidential address; Vivekananda International Foundation Director Ajit Kumar Doval, welcoming address; and classical and playback singer Vani Jairam, who sang the program’s invocation prayers.

In his keynote address, which followed Amma’s benedictory address, M.N. Venkatachaliah praised Amma and her address. “Today we had this dose of ambrosia [from Amma],” he said. “She told us what adds flavor to life, and her interpretation of Vivekananda was perhaps the most inspirational and accurate. And her understanding and presentation was so remarkable that I think some of us who felt gloomy now feel that as yet that there is something that is good for the world. Someone once said, ‘As long as there are birds, flowers and children, everything will be all right with the world.’ But I say, ‘As long as there are birds, flowers and children—and Mata Amritanandamayi—everything will be all right with the world.'”

In his welcoming address, Ajit Kumar Doval also praised Amma, referring to her as “spirituality incarnate.” He said, “[Amma’s] abiding love for humanity and her all-pervading energy are in line with the great tradition of our spiritual leaders, who from time to time lead humanity and the destiny of this nation, providing a sense of continuity to our civilization—that civilization that constitutes the bedrock of our nationalism, of our identity, of our nation and its people.”