Open your hearts and awaken the inner child

24 Dec 2013, Xmas celebrations, Amritapuri

Christmas Eve was truly special this year. The main hall was filled with people from all over the world. Amma’s arrival to the hall started the festivities. Devotees from all over the world performed an original musical about the birth of Jesus Christ. The play told the story through the life of Saphira, a servant of King Herod, who met with the three wise men from the East who had come to see Jesus’s birth.

Amma sat surrounded with everyone around her but had two tiny tots on her lap on one side and an old French devotee dressed as Santa Claus on the other side. Amma would sway with the two tots when music was played. As the drama finished the multiple actors who wore life-sized camel and donkey suits got made their way to Amma for prasad. Classical dances on Meerabhai’s song dedicated to Lord Hari followed the drama.

 

After the performances, Amma shared her Christmas message, on practicing the teachings from the life and activities of Mahatmas. Amma emphasized that Christmas is the message of compassion. Each sadhak should see God’s embodiment in the Guru and enlightenment as the awakening of the “I” within. Amma said that return of Christ must not be considered external. Ego and selfishness need to be removed and accepting God within is our true goal. Our innocent heart is the true manger. Amma reminded everyone that heaven is in a seed within all of us and that enthusiasm should never be lost while on the spiritual path. Amma added that each aspect of nature teaches us such lessons and while buildings walls outside it is important not to build within our minds. As with Christmas gifts, we should open our true inner gifts and share them with the world. Like the shining star, we should not forget the goal indicating the path ahead of us. Amma said that while we remember and plan a celebration we should not forget the real reason of such celebrations. Only with a positive mind and innocence can we see the message of the Masters. Opening our hearts and awakening our inner child is the message that we need to remember. Moving from innocence to Innocence is the journey of true spiritual life, Amma reminded all.

 

Amma then led two bhajans to wrap up the celebrations. As the bhajans were ending, Amma continued by chanting ‘Lokah Samasthah Sukhino Bhavantu’ for a few minutes. Finally the traditional Christmas cakes were then distributed to one and all taking us into a sweet Christmas morning.

Swami visits typhoon hit Philippines

4-7 Dec 2013, Philippines

The world community was shocked when Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines on November 8th, 2013. With a speed of up to 370 km/h the tropical cyclone destroyed nearly 80 to 90% of the houses in many areas of the country. The deadliest Typhoon in Philippine history took the lives of more than 6,000 people and affected a total of eleven million people, leaving countless without home and shelter.

When Amma heard about the tragedy she announced one million USD relief– and rehabilitation package to provide relief and long-term support to the victims of the disaster.

Amma sent Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri to visit the affected areas in order to assess the situation on the ground. On his four day trip Swami was accompanied by devotees from Japan and Singapore, and joined by Senator Jamby Madregal in Manila.

After arriving in Manila, the team took a military aircraft to Tacloban City in the province Leyte. They visited a local indoor stadium, which provided shelter to 3000 people. Along with Swamiji and Senator Jambi, the volunteers distributed cooked food to the people, who had lost everything in the cyclone. It was the first time after almost a month that the victims received cooked food, which gave them back a smile on their face.

In another relief camp Swamiji met Mr. Petilla, Governor of Levte Province to discuss the ongoing rehabilitation operations. He also took part in the main relief operation meetings at the residence of Congressman Mr. Martin Romualdez, and joined one of the relief operations officers in a helicopter ride to get an areal view of the situation.

Talking to the people of Tacloban, Swamiji heard many sad, and some miraculous stories – like that of the Mayor, Mr. Romualdez. He was inside his house when the Typhoon hit. As the water level rose he moved to the top of a table, then slowly climbed on to the roof of the building. Facing winds with the speed of 250 km/h he made a hole in another part of the roof from which he could descend down. At the same time his wife and two children were trapped inside a car. Once they escaped, they had to hold on to a pole for almost two hours, in order to survive the disaster.

As the team left the Philippines on December 7th, they felt very moved and saddened by the many human tragedies that they witnessed during their visit. Yet they were confident that Amma’s arms of compassion will be able to uplift and create a huge transformation in the lives of those affected.

Swami is now in contact with the local authorities to discuss the next steps of Embracing The World’s relief operations in the area.

Enchanting Balinese Dance

18 Dec 2013, Amritapuri

Amma’s children from Bali, Indonesia performed four beautiful classical dances  during the darshan time.

The dance from sacred Art Dharma Duta AGP lead by Indra Udayana, with the dancer Adi Suputra and Mila Rosinta of Bali, Indonesia.

The classical Balinese dance and special dances performed were Tari Kawing – about women empowerment; Tari Baris  – about the power of youth and hero in them; Tari Javuk – mask dance about humanism and leadership; and Tari Sthri Sakthi – a special dance created for Amma about Goddesses Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvathi.

 

“Usually these classical dances are performed only in temples. But we present this here because Amritapuri is a temple” said Udayana. While presenting the dance Udayana requested Amma to come to Bali when she visits Singapore. “If She comes there (Bali) in the morning, she can go back in the evening. If Amma dosent like that she can stay there for a day and give darshan. If Amma dosnet want to do that she can stay for two days. If Amma is not happy with it she can stay there for a week. But Amma, Pls come to Bali”, Udayana requested on the mike.

Amma accepted that sweet prayer noding her head saying ‘yes’ while she is giving darshan.

 

13serbiaf

Amma’s message of Love and Peace reaches Serbia

On 24th November 2013 Br. Shubamrita Chaitanya visited Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. It was the first time a representative of Amma was holding a public programme in this Balkan country. The event was organized by the India-Serbia Friendship Society and was held in “Kulturni Centar”, a former synagogue and cultural center right in the center of town. A packed audience attended Br. Shubamrita’s talk, devotional singing and meditation with rapt attention. It was especially so inspiring to see large number of youngsters in the audience, expressing their interest in cultural exchange and personal empowerment.

 


Br. Shubamrita’s talk highlighted on the ways to find the treasure of infinite peace and love within. His witty and lively presentation, filled with incidents from Amma’s life and experiences around Amma, immediately struck a chord with the audience. Once could also see many eyes moist with tears watching the introductory video of Embracing the World, which was translated into the Serbian language.

While meeting people after the event, one of the participants of the programme said to Br. Shubamrita, “Many people in this country are suffering due to the wounds of years of war and conflict that this country has gone through. Amma’s message of love, compassion and forgiveness means a lot for the people here. Just hearing about Amma gives us such peace. I can’t imagine what we will feel when we see her with our eyes.”

As Br. Shubamrita left Belgrade for Moscow, he carried with him so many messages for Amma, asking her to visit Serbia as soon as possible, and thanking her for all that she was doing to spread the message of love and compassion in the world.

 

Amrita Live-in-Labs would help awaken compassion in the youth

Amrita University launched a pioneering experiential learning programme  – ‘Amrita Live-in-Labs’ – that encourages the youth to live and experience the problems in the country’s villages.

The scheme envisages students of Amrita as well as international students from some of the best universities of the world to live in Indian villages for six months to understand the rural population’s problems in areas that include health, hygiene, energy, water, waste and environment. It also aims to define projects that seek to address the problems, devise solutions, implement, test and eventually demonstrate innovative solutions.

liveinlab

The idea behind the Amrita Live-in-Labs came from the address Amma gave at the 150th birthday celebrations of Swami Vivekananda at Delhi in Jan 2013. In her inaugural address Amma had suggested a way to ensure that at least one child from every family served in rural areas for one year after their graduation. She also recommended government funds for such a programme, saying the initiative would help awaken compassion in the youth besides uplift the poor and ensure a holistic growth of the nation.

As part of the Amrita Live-in-Labs programme, Amrita University signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with University of California (UC), San Diego, to enhance research and student exchanges. The signatories included UC Executive Vice Chancellor Dr Suresh Subramani and Amrita University Vice Chancellor Dr P Venkat Rangan.

Others present at the function included Michelle L. Hermas, Director, International Affairs UC; Dr. Maneesha V. Ramesh, Director, Amrita Center for International Programs, its Co-Director Dr. Krishnashree Achuthan, Mr. P. Manoj, Program Manager, Amrita Center for International Programs.

The MoU will also facilitate exchanges of faculty, undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, joint research projects and publications, virtual labs, exchanges of publications, materials, and information; and special short-term programs.

Amrita Live-in-Labs was inaugurated during Amritavarsham60, Amma’s 60th birthday celebrations.

Amrita is the best hospital in the country

Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre was awarded the best hospital in the country for “betterment of health care” by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) based on an exhaustive review and presentation process.

aims-award

In a glittering function in New Delhi on the 2nd of September 2013, Dr.Prem Nair, Medical Director, received this award on behalf of the Amrita Institute from the famous Bollywood film director Ramesh Sippy.

Showering “kisses” in Detroit, Michigan

Amma and the group arrived in Detroit on Nov. 24th with the programs beginning the very next day. If it was rain in San Ramon, it was the first snow shower for the season in Detroit. Seemed like Mother Nature wanted to join Amma in showering love on Her children.

13mi

 

The five-day visit to Michigan comprised of two days of public programs and a three-day retreat. It was the time for Amma’s east coast children to come together, some even driving for 16 hours in the wintery conditions. On the second day, the students of Kala Kshetra, a fine arts school based in Michigan, put on a beautiful set of cultural programs. The performances ended with traditional Kerala “chenda” performance by a group of men. As they went to get Amma’s darshan later, Amma exclaimed to them “Amma saw Kerala, right here”.

An interesting question was posed to Amma during the question and answer session during the retreat. Amma was asked how to find the balance between compassion and detachment. Amma’s answer was swift but profound. Amma said that in reality there is no difference between detachment and compassion. When one has detachment, there is automatically compassion. Amma said, “See everything as God and compassion is nothing but seeing others as your own self. One who as no attachment would not see others different from him and would have only compassion for them. Like a seed has the potential of a full grown tree within itself, the divinity is within us. We need to let it sprout.  The moisture of compassion will make the shell of ego break and let the tree of divinity sprout.”

The second day of retreat saw even more beautiful cultural programs, comprising of dance, vocal and other performances. Probably the one that stole the show was a group dance put forth by Amma’s Michigan children. Dressed traditionally, a big group of them danced joyously to the bhajan Anandame Anandam. As the song ended, someone announced “now we are going to celebrate Amma’s 60th  birthday the ‘Mo-Town’ way.” Amidst cheers, the mood changed and the traditionally dressed dancers began shaking their legs to one of the Stevie Wonder’s popular numbers. Slowly more people joined in and then literally everyone in the hall was up dancing. Watching Her children dancing joyfully Amma threw a couple of “kisses” candies towards them. The excitement reached its peak. All the hands were up in the air to catch the next one coming. And then, there was a shower of “kisses”.

The final evening program ended at 10am the following day. Amma will be back in Amritapuri soon after two months in Europe and North America.

Quenching the drought with Love in San Ramon, California

Amma and the group arrived in San Ramon ashram in the evening of Nov 17th after a long flight from Barcelona, Spain. It was a full day of darshan the very next day. The local county had declared a drought for the region, for it had not received rain for months. The very next day, it was pouring heavily. Amma brought with her the heavy rain to quench Mother Earth’s thirst as well as the spiritual thirst of Amma’s children who had been excitedly waiting for her since her visit in the summer.

13sr

 

The rains were followed by very high winds for the next two days in combination with the chilly weather. But, as usual, nothing could keep Amma’s children from flocking to the place from even far away. They were ready to wait outside, especially for the final evening program, to get a token for Amma’s darshan. Amma says, “Where there is love, there is no feeling of difficulty and suffering.” One could witness the perfect example here.

The last three days of the programs was a spiritual retreat with Amma. During the question and answer session on the second day of the retreat, a question was posed asking Amma what should AYUDH (Amrita Yuva Dharma Dhara – the youth wing) kids do to remain focused on Amma and the spiritual practices and principles Amma teaches them. Amma said that today’s youth are the pillars for tomorrow’s world. The young have the potential to make a change in the world. Amma stressed on how the AYUDH children could inspire others by coming together to take initiatives to protect Mother Nature. Amma said that they could organize tree planting drives, initiatives for preserving traditional organic seeds, cleanliness drives etc. It is all about channeling the energy the youth have for the right cause.

Later, Amma served dinner and after bhajans there was an array of cultural programs put together by Amma’s San Ramon children, comprising of instrumental, vocal, dance performances and a humorous play.

The final evening program went on continually for almost 16 hours, ending by 11 am the following day.