Onam is a call to reclaim our heritage

23 Aug 2010, Amritapuri
(Excerpts from Amma’s Onam message)

“When a Malayalee* hears the word ‘Onam,’ the experience is like the simultaneous advent of a thousand spring seasons in the heart. Wherever one may be in the world, Onam is an occasion when memories of one’s childhood—their home, their parents, their brothers, sisters and friends and the village fields in which they played—spontaneously spring forth. But along with reveling in fond memories of yesteryear, we also need to imbibe Onam’s invaluable message and implement it the present. Along with lessons of love, happiness and fraternity, Onam also reminds us to cultivate selfless devotion, a charitable nature, self-sacrifice, self-surrender and other such values.

Many regard Lord Vishnu as the one who pushed the righteous king Mahabali down into the netherworld. If this is correct, why would we welcome Lord Vishnu along with Mahabali on Tiru Onam? In reality, the Lord didn’t push Mahabali down; he lifted him up to perfection. Not only that, Tiru Onam is the day when the all-pervading Vishnu consciousness incarnated in the world as Vamana. On this day, we welcome both Mahabali and Lord Vishnu into our homes and hearts. This means welcoming devotion to God and love for all humankind. We should try to awaken an awareness of dharma and invoke God’s grace. If we want to attain success in life, these are essential. Mahabali’s story is of someone surrendering all his victories and failures and material gains to the Lord and becoming one with pure consciousness.

Celebrations like Onam help us to annually renew this love. Onam is a day when we can release ourselves from our self-created prisons of selfishness and take a breath of fresh air. It is this freedom that is the source of the happiness we experience during Onam.

The Onam of today is very different from the Onam we celebrated as children. The traditional Onam flowers, the butterflies and dragonflies that dance in the air, the banana-leaf plates and the pookalams—these are no longer essential aspects of Onam, like they were in the old days. Pounding the rice husks, children searching for flowers, exclamations of joy, children playing in fields and the traditional Onam games are becoming less and less common. The soil, the water and the earth that we have polluted add to our sorrows.

We, who have already discarded Sanskrit, are now beginning to discard our own mother tongue as well. Pure Malayalam and proper Malayalam grammar have been lost to us. Furthermore, a new generation is coming up that doesn’t even know how to read, write or pronounce our language properly. Their parents even take pride in this. Our traditional arts and sports, which bonded human hearts and uplifted people by helping them to remember God, are also fading away. The merging of hearts and the joy of sharing are also become less and less common.

In short, the Onam of the present-day Malayalee is an Onam without a soul. Still, Onam and its memories come, like a shower of rain in a desert, consoling us and awakening our hopes. But a tinge of sorrow also comes to our hearts. In fact, Onam is a call for us to return to a more natural and unpretentious way of life. It is a call to reclaim our heritage.

Just as plants and trees bring forth flowers from within, let us awaken the goodness inside of us. Let us maintain a space in our hearts for others. Let us bow down to the divine presence that pervades the earth and the sky. Thus, let us together try to make every day an Onam. Let my children have the strength for that. May grace bless everyone.”


* Malayalee – one who speaks the language Malayalam

Onam festival at Amritapuri

23 Aug Onam-2010, Amritapuri

Onam is one of the most festive days of the year in Kerala. Every day with Amma and especially Onam at Amritapuri suits the famous saying “Maveli nadu vaneedum kalam, manushyarellarum onnu pole” (Everyone was like one when Mahabali ruled the country). People from various places shared the one true source of happiness. Amma’s Onam is truly unique.

Morning archana saw thousands of new faces and Onam fervor set in a merrier mood. The hall was already full to capacity well before Amma’s arrival. People had come from various places. Most of them were wearing their best clothes. At 9:30am Amma was led to the hall by the musical Panchavadyam group of Paripally Orphanage. As part of the Onam Satsang, Amma spoke of the inner significance of the story of the legendary King Mahabali as well as faith and dedication in one’s Life. Amma recalled the Onam days of her childhood {news} and commented how modern day celebrations have lost a lot of their meaning and have become almost mechanical.

Amma’s message was translated by Swami Amritaswarupananda into English. To everyone’s delight, Amma asked everyone to stand up, forget themselves and all their tension and worries and dance, dedicating it to the Divine. She sang two bhajans, ‘Krishna Govinda Gopala’ and ‘Trimurti Gala’ and thousands of people joyfully danced with arms raised and clapped along to the beat of the songs.

The specialty of Amritapuri Onam is ‘Onasadhya’ or Onam feast which Amma herself distributes as Prasad, while seeing and wishing each and every one who had come to share the occasion. While Amma gave a quick Darshan to the newcomers, bramhacharins and devotees had helped transport the big vessels of food on the stage. For the next several hours Amma distributed thousands of Onam meals, until each and every person had been served. Ashram elephants, Ram and Lakshmi share a special moment with Amma during Onam. As Amma walked down the stage, both Ram and Lakshmi welcomed Amma with their trumpeting cry rocking their heads as if prayers had been fulfilled. Amma playfully fed them sweetened rice. On Amma’s suggestion they even took some water up their trunks and playfully sprayed to the crowd immediately close to them.

In the evening Amma came for the regular evening bhajans. Amma sang beautiful yet soul-stirringly happy bhajans reminding the joy of Onam. Later at 10pm, Amma returned to the hall to participate in the cultural programs. A wide variety of programs were performed; students from Paripally and Amrita University performed traditional dances, AYUDH youth members and other devotes from all over the world performed original dances dedicated to Mother Nature set to English bhajans. Yet the best part of the night was at the very end, when Amma led the whole hall in spontaneously singing the bhajan Kali Maheswaryai. Kali Maheswariye has a subtle Vedantic comedy and as she sang, Amma gestured and acted out the meaning of each verse making it a memorably delightful Onam.

Amma’s very message was to make life itself an Onam, enjoying every moment through utmost faith and dedication. To the many present, the true Sadhya (feast) was being with Amma. Such was the Onam at Amritapuri this year too.

— Kannadi

Washington AYUDH youth exchange

The inaugural AYUDH East Coast Youth Exchange was held from August 14-15 at the M.A. Center in Washington, DC. Led by Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya, the retreat brought together over 30 youth from around the United States for a weekend of activities revolving around the theme of “Embracing Life.”

The exchange commenced with a live webcast with Swami Amritaswarupananda in Amritapuri, who gave the attendees inspirational advice on how to embrace life as Amma’s children. Enthused, the AYUDH members cooked and served a 9-course meal for Mother’s Kitchen and participated in a park restoration project, as a way of loving and serving the world and Nature.

Ajay Ganapathy, who came to the retreat from Atlanta, commented, “This was the first time I prepared and served food at a shelter. At first, I was apprehensive about actually meeting and greeting the people at the shelter, but I saw that the people were happy to see me. I found that I was happy to see them as well, and that they were not out to judge me or hurt me as I had perceived. In a psychological way, they had served me as much as I had served them. As a person who is generally slow to trust others, this gesture of compassion got rid of my fear of meeting new people, and removed the cynical bent I held toward interpersonal relationships.”

That evening, after a lively bhajan set featuring AYUDH singers and musicians, a handful of attendees put on an amazing talent show with a variety of acts, including photography, Bharatanatyam, breakdancing, poetry, a capella, Indian classical singing, Jazz, and a vivacious rendition of “Lean on Me.”

One of the weekend’s highlights was Br. Ramanand’s bhajan class for “Meri Jhoppidi De,” which intertwined the talents of several AYUDH members. From guitar solos to girls vs. boys, classical Indian notes to a clarinet interlude, an alap and a spontaneous rap solo, each and every participant rejoiced in the song and the escalating tempo. Satya Valis quickly threw together a rhyming rap, playing on the meaning of the song. “No desire for the name/ no desire for fame/ I show no shame/ my love for Him’s like one and the same/ so I chant His name/ Oh Rama Oh Rama!”

To culminate a weekend of “Embracing Life,” retreatants tied a string around each of their wrists to symbolize one specific promise made to each other and to themselves to become more active AYUDH members and better individuals, so that, guided by Amma’s Love, they may be able to create a bright and sustainable future for their brothers and sisters around the world.


Experience week for the youth

24th to August 1st, la Ferme du Plessis, Paris
GreenFriends-Europe held the “Experience Week”, in which 80 youth from all over the world invested themselves fully into an ecological project for the whole week. These projects were designed to encourage a learning-by-doing process. The Experience Week was awarded by the UNESCO the status of official project of the “Decade for Education on Sustainable Development”.

The participants of the “Experience Week” could choose from three different projects managed by youth themselves. The goal of these projects was to go deep into a concrete ecological realisation and develop self-confidence as part of a team. Many complementary activities were proposed so that the projects could really nourish the artistic and philosophical needs of the participants.

The first project was the construction of a traditional dovecote. Dovecotes are an important part of the French heritage because pigeon’s excreta are a perfect natural fertilizer. This project was the opportunity to remove the pigeons living in the main tower of the site, which will be renovated in the coming years. Youth learnt eco-building techniques with local materials: a traditional wood frame with professional carpenters, straw and clay techniques for the walls and the pigeonholes.

The second project was the continuation of the Seeds of Life project at la Ferme du Plessis that had been launched a few months ago. A new mandala garden aims at helping the French Center attain self-reliance regarding the use of seeds for the organic gardens. The participants were involved in the first seed harvests, which are both very technical and meticulous. A storage room has been started and will offer a seed bank to the Center, which will also be used for traditional seeds from the surroundings of the Center, as Amma had asked for. Many artistic workshops could help the participants develop an intimate understanding of plants and seeds.

The third project was to build an astronomy observatory on a small hill. A lot of different workshops were offered: stone carving for a solar cadran, mosaic work, building a wall with lime… The biggest part of the hard team work was in the construction of a wall with old tyres, in order to maintain the hill but also to create a new half-circular space to watch the sun set in the morning. Astronomy observations were offered during 3 nights, providing the youth with the opportunity to discover the magic of the stars.

Above all, this gathering marked a unique opportunity for youngsters with shared values and a common vision for a sustainable future to meet, exchange and inspire each other to work with their hearts and hands for the betterment of society.

– Dev

ayudh games

Youth meeting for a better future

la Ferme du Plessis, Paris
From July 24th to August 1st AYUDH and GreenFriends welcomed in la Ferme du Plessis more than 150 youth from all over the world to propose two different approaches of the various dimensions of ecology.

Entitled “Embracing Life – Living in the Respect of Nature”, the 6th European Youth Exchange of AYUDH welcomed in total 73 youth from 8 European countries and was co-sponsored by the European Commission’s “Youth in Action” programme.

The programme included inspirational talks by Br. Shubamrita and Bri. Dipamrita mainly focused on the values that can help us integrate our respect for Nature into our daily lives. Additional talks on our relationship to energy consumption by Mathieu Labonne, expert on carbon governance, and on water consumption by Pierre Taillandier and Clarisse Gimat made the youth aware of the complexity and origin of some of the major ecological challenges faced in the world today. Question and answer sessions complemented the talks and gave the youth the opportunity to enquire deeper and discuss both spiritual and scientific questions.

Four different workshop modules were offered to the participants of the youth exchange, and each participant could choose one workshop from each module, that were standing for the different dimensions of sustainability. They were called the “CARE” workshops, which stands for:

C – Community Service: In these workshops the youth could contribute to a sustainable community in different ways, like working in an organic vegetable garden, doing organic cooking or ecological restoration of the heritage site of la Ferme du Plessis.

A – Artistic: In these workshops the youth could develop and express their creative potential through painting, drumming or singing. Some youths were introduced to the ancient technique of tainted glass crafting, used in the cathedrals for times immemorial.

R – Revitalization: These workshops adressed the different dimensions of stress-management, enabling the youth to develop their creativity and productivity in study or at work. The IAM or IAM Youth Meditation, Tai Chi Chuan and Nei Gong, 5 Rhythm Dance, Non-Violent Communication or the “flow” workshop helped the youth find their inner strengths.

E – Ecology: These workshops were dedicated to environmental protection and maintenance of biodiversity, like building a “hotel” for insects, organic gardening on balconies and window shelves or recycling plastic trash into valuable fashion items.

For many youth this marked the 6th year of getting together for this European Youth Exchange. The deep bond that had formed amongst the youngsters through all these years was deeply enriched by the new participants who blended in the group seamlessly, bringing new inspiration and cultural enrichment to the group.

A cultural visit to the nearby cathedral of Chartres, bonfire, games and soccer matches gave the youngsters the opportunity to relax, recharge and enjoy the diversity of cultures, nationalities and languages of those present. The young participants were encourage to discover the diversity of cultures through international breakfasts, national country presentations and intercultural discussions.

The youth present held several project development sessions during the week to make their action for society more durable throughout the year.
To capture the spirit of the camp, the youth composed a song during the camp:

Life is a chance, take it
Life is Love, share it
Life is a hymn, sing it
Life is a dream, make it real
Life is a must, do it
Life is a challenge, face it
Life is beauty, admire it
Life is bliss, taste it
Life is precious, protect it
Life is a mystery, embrace it
Life is a promise, fulfill it
Life is a fight, accept it
When life gives a hard time, smile!
Life is happiness, embrace it
Life is beauty, admire it
Life is joy, celebrate it

— Dev




Festival of joy starts again at Amritapuri

2 Aug 2010, Amritapuri

Amma is the source of ultimate happiness and to many here at Amritapuri, Amma’s presence itself is an event of Joy. Amma reached Ashram completing the long US-Japan yatra yesterday. Amma’s arrival at Ashram was a sight of bliss. Archana had just finished and as if prayers were responded immediately, Amma’s camper pulled in through the Ashram gates. “Amma Amma” – was all one could hear. Policing staff could do little to hold the eager crowd from crowding and falling on her. Amma was as always smiling and her eyes seemed searching and looking at all around while saying “Children Children”. Amma had gone into her room and as the crowd was dispersing, lo suddenly she came to a window. She looked endearingly at one and all as if her glances had missed someone. It was as if she wanted us all more than we would dream wanting to be with her. Ashram was in perfect bliss, enthralled by that glanced and by the presence that personified Love.

Amma came to the stage for bhajans the same evening. Many visitors have come from afar and Amma’s bhajans reflected the loving glance that made us all feel wanted, more than ever.

– Kannadi

242 houses handed over to Raichur flood affected

Raichur, Karnataka, 4 August 2010:

Raichur houses

Mata Amritanandamayi Math provides 242 free houses to flood-hit
242 families from the flooded islands of Kurvakurda and Mangigadda received new homes today in the village of Dongrampur, in the Raichur District of Karnataka. As part of its Rs. 50-crore relief-and-rehabilitation project {news} for victims of unprecedented flooding in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh late last year, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) has pledged to build 2,000 new houses {news} for victims who lost their homes in the flooding. In February 2010, MAM became the first organisation to complete homes for the flood victims, when it completed 100 new houses just 20 days {news} after beginning construction. At the time, while presiding over the inauguration ceremony, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Shri. B.S. Yeddyurappa  lauded MAM’s efforts, and said he hoped the speed and efficiency with which MAM had completed the homes would inspire other NGOs to move quickly to help the flood victims.

The procurement of materials, management of the project, and liasion with government officials as well as members of the community was all handled by MAM.  Beyond that, many of Amma’s devotees and well wishers from all parts of India as well as University students from Japan {news}  volunteered their time and energy to help build the houses so quickly. The villagers of Dongrampur, where the houses are being constructed for the people from the flooded islands, were themselves extremely cooperative, despite the fact that their own houses have not yet been constructed.  MAM intends to build an additional 500 houses for the villagers of Dongrampur.  In addition to this, the people of the two island villages of Kurvakala and Agrahara are also being rehabilitated to a site on the mainland at Atkur.  All four affected villages have been regularly getting flooded during the monsoon season; the villagers have expressed great relief at being relocated to the safety of the mainland.

More than one million people were displaced by last year’s flooding.

The Chief Minister was also present for the handover of the 242 homes, where he exhorted the villagers to treat their new houses as temples. “Every morning, when I start my prayers, I remember Mata Amritanandamayi and all her good work. You are fortunate you are being given these new houses. Earlier, you people lived without toilets, electricity or water. All that is being provided to you now.” Revenue Minister G Karunakara Reddy, Housing Minister Katta Subramania Naidu and Fisheries Minister Anand Asnotikar also attended the function.

Swami Amritageetananda Puri, representing MAM, and Karnataka’s Revenue Minister, Shri. G. Karunakara Reddy, Housing Minister Shri. Katta Subramania Naidu and Fisheries Minister Anand Asnotikar were also present at the function.

Raichur houses

MAM provided each house with electricity and clean drinking water, and also paved new roads for the villagers. Rangamma, wife of Dodda Rangappa, from the island of Kurvaka, was one of the recipients. Expressing gratitude for her new home where she will live along with her family, Rangamma said that she was very happy when her name was announced as one of the beneficiaries. Even before the flooding, she never dreamt of living in such a well-built house with all standard amenities.

— Tulasi

Amma in Japan

July 25 – 31, Tokyo & Kobe , Japan Yatra 2010
Amma had 5 days of program in Japan’s Capital city Tokyo and the Southern city of Kobe.

Amma was welcomed by Consulate General of India Pieyush Gupta, Masa-aki Tatsuki PH.D Vice President Doshisha University and Sun TV Chief Manager Kanya Sakai who said:
“In my first darshan i did not understand very much about Amma, but gradually i get interested more and more and reading her books, i started to think about my life. I feel Amma’s presence and good influence in my daily life and I am very grateful for that.”

Two new books “Lead Us TO Light” and “Unforgettable Memories” were also released in Japanese.