Melting pot of Los Angeles

15- 19 Los Angeles, American Yatra 2012

Los Angeles is a megalopolis–it spreads for miles and miles in all directions; in one of those directions it engulfs Hollywood, Mecca to budding stars and starlets.  So is it any surprise that at Amma’s LA program, the second night retreat program included theatrical shows?

As Amma was giving darshan to the huge number of people coming for her blessings, first a humorous stage play was enacted, complete with semi-bollywood dance numbers. The play could have been passed off as a comedy of manners, with mistaken identities and impersonations–but it was more than that. It was a play about love. About what we mistake for love, and how we recognize love when it is real, and how our expectations and prejudices can stand in the way of real love.  When all the mix-ups were sorted out, led by quotes from Amma, everyone in the play had found someone she or he really could love.

LA is a city of diversity–people from all over the world come to this “melting pot”, so it was fitting that as the evening’s program continued, other cultures were represented.  Mexico, not a hundred miles away from LA, was represented by a man singing traditional Mariachi songs, accompanied by women dressed in long Mexican skirts and hand-embroidered blouses.
An African-American man, sometimes drumming, singing, and occasionally dancing himself, led a group of women in traditional African dance. This exploded, by the end, in an invitation to all in the room to join in–and little children, teens, adults, staff members, elderly people–everyone who felt like it–joined in!

The last presentation for the night was in stark contrast to the preceding loud and rousing events: softly the strains of a harp, accompanied by a softly played tabla, settled the room down. Classical Indian music provided a gentle and peaceful setting for Amma’s ongoing hugging.
The second day of every retreat featured a special outdoor meditation with Amma, followed by a question/ answer session. At the end, Amma led everyone present in singing and playing pattycake together, before she herself served dinner to all. There were special treats at the end: papadoms for the children, and ice cream mixed with crumbled papadoms for all.

Most of the road journey from Los Angeles to New Mexico was through the deserts of the South-West.  Amma decided to break up the journey and stop for a picnic with the group in the middle of the desert.  For most of the day temperatures had soared to over 100 degrees; fortunately by the time Amma sat with the group, as the sun was setting it cooled off and everyone was able to enjoy a memorable dinner time with Amma.


The family reunion at San Ramon

Jun 6- 13 San Ramon, CA – 2012 America Yatra

San Ramon is home to Amma’s first American ashram.  While there are always new faces, there are also always lots of familiar faces. Children whom Amma fed their first solid food have grown up now and are coming to her for their weddings–or even for their own children’s Annaprasham (first rice)! The eight days’ programs in San Ramon are like a large family reunion.


One thing families often do when they get together is sing, and Amma’s big family is no different.  At the end of the second full day of darshan, in fact, even before darshan ended, Amma decided to sing.  This was a special treat, for on the full days, when Amma begins darshan at 11 in the morning and doesn’t stop, darshan continues usually until at least ten or so–and that means no formal bhajan program.  The swamis do come and sing at the ordinary bhajan time–but people don’t get to hear Amma sing.  This particular day, however, when “bhajan time” came along, Amma decided to participate–even as she continued hugging people.  She sang five songs, ranging from lively songs like Gopiyarkal, with moments of laughter, to the moving, more solemn strains of Kodannu Koti–sometimes apparently forgetting to let go of whoever was in her lap for whole minutes at a time.

When there’s a family reunion, thoughts naturally turn to those in the family who have not been able to gather.  When Amma finished the first of the two Devi Bhavas in San Ramon, she reached out to the ‘missing’ family members. Having tossed a special handful of petals their way (via the web cast connection to Amritapuri and several other centers), she continued the connection when she was about to leave the hall.  Stopping to gaze lovingly at the faces of children half-way around the world, but as close as the webcast screen on the laptop held for her, she offered words and waves and kisses.

Another thing that happens at family reunions is eating!  If there are snacks, they are shared–and sure enough, when people brought Amma special treats during darshan (from fresh vegetables to home-made vadas to sweets), she would take a bite and then gesture that the rest should be shared around as far as it could be stretched. Like a good mother, she took thought for all her children, not just those nearby; time and again she indicated that the people on the balconies, who might expect to miss out, must be included; dutifully, someone would arrive on the balcony with a bit of Toblerone chocolate, or a palm full of vada crumbs, and offer them even to those who hadn’t seen what had gone on, but had felt wistful upon hearing the laughter.

The second night of a retreat is the night Amma, having answered her children’s questions as the day moved from warm and sunny afternoon to cool and shadowed evening, leads the crowd from the open field into the mandap, where she serves a plate of prasad to each one, and then sits with the children, to each of whom she gives a papadom.  A few years ago, Amma surprised everyone after the papadom procession by suddenly reaching her hands into the big bowl with a few papadoms remaining, and breaking them all into small pieces–doing with food what all little children want to do, but mostly are told not to! That wasn’t all: she then added ice cream, and mushed the crumbled papadoms and ice cream all together!  This has become a tradition since that first time, and now someone stands ready with a BIG mixing bowl of ice cream, and extra papadoms are on hand–because of course everyone will want a taste of this prasad when Amma gestures for it to be offered around!


What was different this time was every parent’s nightmare–the worry of every parent who has tried to teach the little ones proper table manners: at least one child was watching, learning, and imitating this normally ‘unacceptable’ behavior!

Sitting right next to Amma was a small child. This child watched intently–and with perhaps some surprise–as Amma crumbled papadoms into her dish, and even more intently as she accepted the second bowl of ice cream and poured it into the papadom and ice cream mixture, and stirred.  Fascinated and inspired, the child did as any good disciple would, and tried to follow the Guru’s example. She turned to the place beside her, took up a second ice cream dish, poured the remains into her own dish, and began stirring!

Amma left the hall as her big bowls of crunchy ice cream were passed around; dessert for all at the San Ramon family reunion.


475 more houses at Raichur

17 June 2012, Dongrampura, Raichur, Karnataka

As part of MAM’s relief and rehabilitation work for the flood affected in Raichur, 475 more houses were completed and handed over to the Govt of Karnataka. Swami Amritageetananda handed over the keys during the program which was attend by the Minister for Housing, V Somanna, District Collector Smt MV Savitri, and other dignitaries along with people of twelve neighbouring villages as well. V Somanna praised Amma for always being ready to offer service anywhere in the country whenever disasters occur.


Walk your path; clean your way

2 Jun 2012, Seattle , USA

Amma’s commitment to taking care of Mother Nature, being good stewards of our Mother the Earth, is not restricted to India {ABC news}. People all over the world are responding–including Amma’s children in the Seattle. On the second night of the retreat there this year, members of the Pacific Northwest Litter Campaign, not yet a year old, arrived in the hall from two back doors–a procession of children and adults, led by Atlas–well, a devotee, anyhow–holding over his head a great globe: the earth that needs to be clean and litter-free.

As they made their ways down the side aisles, the participants showed what it is they do: using sticks with grabbers on the end, they picked up (mostly imaginary) litter all along the route, and then ranged themselves across the stage where they sang three songs about caring for Mother earth.

One of the songs, composed by one of the satsang members, sounds like a good candidate for a work song for litter-picker-uppers all over the world. The tune is catchy, and the words say tell how to avoid making litter, and how to help when someone else has dropped it:

Picking up litter it’s easy to do
It’s up to me and it’s up to you
Picking up litter can be a lot of fun
Let’s go outside and get the job done.

Plastic bags are floating in the steams
Picking them up is not as hard as it seems
Grab a friend and go for a walk
Picking up litter while you talk.

One target for litter collectors is cigarette butts. The group earned $2250.00 for the future Pacific Northwest Amma Center by picking up cigarette butts in several parks in the Seattle area in projects sponsored by the United Health Foundation and the King County Tobacco Prevention Program. Cigarette butts are poisonous (one cigarette butt filter, with or without tobacco remnants, smoked or not smoked, in one liter of water will kill 50% of the fish living in it) and take a very long time to biodegrade as they are made of cellulose (thus they present a threat to wildlife: cigarette filters have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales and other marine creatures who mistake them for food).

The Pacific Northwest Litter Project started not quite a year ago with only 24 members. The group now comprises 258 participants, most from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia (Canada).


It’s an honor and blessing to be in her presence – Bishop Gregory

May 31 – Jun 3 Seattle — Japan America Yatra 2012

After a 12 hour flight from Japan and Amma landed in Seattle to conduct four days of program at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue.

Large crowds showed up for the public day and also for the retreat, where Amma was officially welcomed by the Right Reverand Gregory Rickel, Bishop and spiritual head of the Episcopal Church in Western Washington. Accompanied by his wife and son, the bishop garlanded Amma. Speaking on the occasion he said “Our intent was to stay the whole evening, but due to the Vigil* for the shooting victims set at St. Mark’s Cathedral we had to greet Amma, receive our hug, and then make our way to (the Cathedral). Still, we were able to be briefed on the tremendous work this amazing woman has been doing in her native India, but even more throughout the world. It’s an honor and blessing to be in her presence.”

Blessing to be in her presence

"It's an honor and blessing to be in her presence" - Bishop Gregory Rickel

These two spiritual leaders had been drawn together on a more than formal level. The Bishop is particularly committed to interfaith dialogue, and is a strong advocate of environmental concerns and social justice issues, especially homelessness.

Amma, in the same spirit, reaches out to people of all spiritual and religious traditions around the world, encouraging people to deepen their own faiths and discover the shared truths of all the great religions. Her Amala Bharatham Campaign for a clean India and the worldwide GreenFriends organization both focus on Mother Earth. In the area of social justice, Amma has outreach to widows, orphans, and those so desperate as to turn to suicide. And the over 50,000 homes Embracing the World has built for the poor testify to her concern for homelessness.

At the end of the meditation following the arati on this night, Amma asked everyone to pray for the five victims, and for a lessening of violence, and for world peace.

Devotees enthusiastically participated in the day’s program and the 3-day retreat which included Satsang, Bhajans and a Puja for world peace and harmony.

After Seattle Amma left for California where another 8 days of program are to be held at her Ashram.

* Two days earlier a killing spree in Seattle had resulted in the deaths of four victims and their slayer. At the end of May there have been 21 such deaths–equaling the total for last year. The Bishop supposed to lead a prayer vigil for the victims, was scheduled for Friday evening at St. Mark’s Cathedral.

Shaken by Love, Dancing in Joy

May 27 -29  Tokyo, Japan — 2012 Japan – America Yatra

Indian Embassy Deputy Head of Mission Mr. and Mrs. Sanjay Panda  welcomed Amma and said that this was his first meeting with her and he will cherish Amma’s embrace for the rest of his life. He lauded Amma’s vast humanitarian achievements and sought Amma’s blessings for the well-being of the people of Japan and the whole world.

The Tokyo programs were held in Shinagawa-ku, a very central area. People in the thousands thronged the hall for Amma’s darshan each day.

During a function, Amma distributed saplings to the young generation. These trees are indigenous to the disaster area in the northeast and will be planted in the coastal areas to restore the vegetation and prevent erosion and damage from future such disasters. She also  blesseed GreenFriends’ 10 Habits, a guide line towards living in harmony with nature.

There was a unique puppet show “Hachiouji Kuruma Ningyo”  for Amma which was well appreciated by all.   The Puppeteer explained that this was a 175-year old Japanese tradition offered as a prayer to the Divine for a bountiful harvest and prosperity.

On the second day at the end of the evening program, Amma danced to the tune of ‘Ayar Kula Kuzhanthey’, a new Tamil bhajan. This is the first time the Tokyo witnessed Amma dancing. It was so beautiful and spontaneous that it  took  all Japanese people by complete surprise.

The Japanese people expressed their joy and appreciation for Amma by performing a  group dance to a bhajan song “thi thi tara”  (Amrita Vahini). Br. Shantamrita, who takes care of the Japan activities, joined the dance. It was a heartwarming sight to see  Amma’s Japanese children hold hands and dance like they were one big family.

A group of Japan tsunami relief workers from the Amma Center came for darshan. Amma showered each one of them with love and affection and gave them a touching group darshan, too.

The Japanese people watched Amma leave the hall with tear filled eyes and waited  in line for Her loving last touch as She passed each and every one of them.

Amma then flew to North America to meet her children there in Seattle, Washington.

– Tulasi

Amma in Osaka, Japan

24-25  Osaka, Japan – 2012 Japan – America Yatra

At Osaka, Amma was given a warm welcome at the airport and received her Japanese children in a loving embrace.
The  programs were held in the Umeda Sky Building in the heart of Osaka.  The hall was full with many first-timers waiting anxiously for Amma’s arrival. This is Amma’s second visit to Osaka. Osaka  is a hub of marine transportation and  has been a cultural and economic center of the nation since ancient times.

Beautiful heart-shaped red balloons welcomed people as they entered the darshan line and a huge heart adorned the backdrop of the program stage, reflecting the love of the Japanese people for Amma.

Several dignitaries were present to welcome and honor Amma. Amongst them were the Vice Consul B. Bhatamishra from the Indian Consulate, the  Director of the Osaka Ayurveda Research Institute, Dr. Inamura Hiroe Sharma, and the President of the Japan Natural Consumers’ Cooperative, Matsuo Yumi. On Amma’s arrival they officially welcomed Amma and addressed the gathering. The Vice Consul said that the amount of humanitarian work that Amma has achieved is immeasurable.

On the first evening Amma blessed the seeds of indigenous Japanese vegetables – Seed of Love – and distributed that to many local youth, and a book  “Ayurvedic Nutrition” was released on the occasion.

The kitchen crew who worked with so much enthusiasm during Amma’s program came together to sing for Amma during Devi Bhava. Their drums were pots and pans and their cymbals were spoons and ladles. Wearing scarves and aprons, they joyfully sang,

“kitchen niwa umai mon ga ippai Arun yade.
Papadam, dosa, okonomiyaki …”

– meaning “There is lots of yummy food in the kitchen, like papadam, dosa and okonomiyaki. There is plenty of Amma’s love in the kitchen, happy, fun and warm. Amma we love you! jay!”

After the programs in Osaka, the group and Amma drove the 600 km  through breathtaking scenery with views of lush greenery and mountains on all sides, finally arriving to Tokyo.

– Tulasi