Empowering Kenya

Br. Shubamrita Chaitanya visited Kenya from April 22nd to April 29th, 2014. During his stay, public talks were held at the Balaji temple auditorium and the Langham Court, during which he spoke on the topics ’Living Fearlessly’ and ’Living a Life of Purpose’. Both programmes attracted packed audiences, who thoroughly enjoyed the talk, devotional singing and guided meditation.

Mr. Yogeshwar Varma, the High Commissioner of India, was the chief guest at the Langham Court. Addressing the gathering, he profoundly thanked Amma and Amrita Center Kenya for their tireless efforts to spread spiritual values in the country of Kenya and their ongoing commitment to providing services for the poor and needy, regardless of their religion, ethnicity or social background.

On April 23rd, Shubamrita addresed 120 young Kenyans who are currently undergoing vocational training at CAPS Youth Empowerment Institute Training Center in Bururburu. The session was entitled ’Embrace Your Dreams’ and he invited the youth to reflect upon their personal ambitions and conceptualize concrete steps towards leading a successful and purposeful life.

Upon the invitation of Hon. Moses Akaranga, the Governor of Vihiga County, Shubamrita give a talk to the executives in the Government on Social Governance and Leadership.

Amongst those who were waiting most eagerly for Swamiji’s visit were the 110 children at the Amrita Watoto Boma, the Children’s Care home in Athi River. The students proudly told him about their academic achievements and then spent informal time with Swamiji, singing and dancing and all the time repeating one question: “When is Amma going to visit us?” The permaculture project in the premises of the Children’s Home has seen a healthy expansion, providing organic food for Amma’s children and turning the Home into a beautiful park of lush green vegetation. A greenhouse has been erected to provide even more nutritious vegetables to the children and staff. Every Sunday, more than 200 children from the surrounding informal settlements were invited to the Home to receive free food and snacks.

On April 28th, Br. Shubamrita launched the second free eye-surgery camp held by M.A. Math Charitable Trust, in conjunction with Vision Beyond Borders and Nairobi MJF Balaji Lions Club. 1,372 patients had been screened across the country, out of which 120 were diagnosed with a severe cataract condition that leads to blindness and subsequently received a free cataract surgery at Athi River Shalom Community Hospital. A group of seven doctors and nurses from Spain came to volunteer for one week to do the surgeries. In December 2013, the Shalom Hospital became a partner of the Telemedicine Project with Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi, India, receiving free consultations from highly specialized doctors.

It was really inspiring to see Amma’s love and compassion spreading across this beautiful country through the various activities and projects. Though far away physically from Amma, the volunteers of Amrita Kenya are so close to her in spirit, as they try to live Amma’s message through these projects initiated there.

– Dass


Amma in Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan- 19-21 May 2014
Amma began her 2014 summer tour by making her 24th visit to the island nation of Japan. Soon after landing at Narita airport in Tokyo Amma was greeted by overjoyed devotees who offered garlands and flowers as a sign of their gratitude and respect.

For the next three days Amma held public programs at the Tokyo Ryutsu Center (TRC) in Tokyo. Each day hundreds of devotees lined the way from the entrance of the building to the program hall with hearts yearning to get an embrace from Amma after one long year of waiting. The programs began each day with Amma conducting a guided meditation session and continued with Amma giving darshan to all the devotees present in the venue and leading evening bhajans. In Her satsang, Amma once again reiterated the need to bring back values to the society.

Japanese devotees organized a beautiful set of cultural programs that were performed during throughout the three days, including a meditative dance performed to the background of melodious flute and other native dance forms as well. Additionally, during the darshan, satsang groups from all over Japan sang bhajans.

Her Excellency Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa, the Ambassador of India in Japan and Her Excellency Elisabeth Bertagnoli, the Ambassador of Austria in South Korea, officially welcomed Amma to Japan. Amma’s work in providing disaster relief, education, health care and housing to millions around the world was lauded by Ms. Deepa Gopalan. In her speech, Ms. Elisabeth Bertagnoli expressed her gratitude towards Amma for coming to Japan and hoped that Amma’s message of love will bring peace to this region, which has been witnessing lot of tensions recently.

From Tokyo, Amma traveled on to the United States and will continue the tour in Seattle, Washington.

– Tulasi

Masala Dosa Festival at Amritapuri

15 May 2014, Amritapuri

Four or five years ago, with Amma’s upcoming two-month tour of Japan and North America looming, Amma decided she wanted to do something special for the 3,000 or so ashram residents remaining in Amritapuri. In fact, Amma had already seen all 3,000 of the ashram residents privately, one-on-one–sannyasis, brahmacharis and brahmacharinis, householders–but still Amma wanted to do more. What did Amma decide she wanted to do? Like most mothers, she wanted to cook for her children. More than 3,000 masala dosa’s later, a new form of festival had taken birth in Amritapuri – the Festival of the Masala Dosa.

Masala Dosa is now an annual tradition in Amritapuri, and this year was no different. After bhajan’s on May 15th, Amma remained in the bhajan hall and began cooking dosa after dosa. After a while, she shifted to serving, while ashram brahmacharis and brahmacharinis continued to cook via 10 different stoves. After serving a dosas to each person in the entire ashram, Amma told everyone that they should eat as many dosas as they wanted.


I guess, what the pandit’s say is true: Atma-jnanam and food are the only two forms of giving through which the receiver eventually says alam–“enough.” Till next year.


Seeing everything as God is real puja bhava – Amma

15 May 2014 – Amritapuri

It was the day before Amma would leave on her two-month Japan-North America Tour. Amma was meeting all the ashramites in the Kali Temple for a final meeting. After addressing several administrative- and seva-related matters, Amma suddenly raised a question: “What is the relevance in doing puja?” Apparently, someone had made a comment that puja [ritualistic worship] was not necessary in an ashram where the focus is atma-vicara—contemplation on the Self.

Amma said, “When we are children, we learn what a parrot is by being referred to a picture. Once we learn, the picture is no longer required. Similarly, every learning process has multiple steps. So, puja is yet another way to focus on the universal consciousness.”

Amma then asked some brahmacharis who perform puja as a form of selfless service to speak from their experience. One of them said that Amma had always told him that it was the attitude with which he performed puja that was the most important thing. “Doing puja with the right attitude brings happiness to both the pujari and to the one who has requested the puja,” he said. “When we perform puja, we begin with samarpanam—where we dedicate the worship to the universal consciousness. When we perform puja in this manner, we find that stillness of mind is created. Even in ashrams solely devoted to studying Advaita, puja is accepted as a step to obtaining mental purity.”

“That’s correct,” Amma said. “Advaita is the foundation. “Even Sri Sankaracharya, who propounded Advaita, consecrated so many temples where puja was to be performed. He never rejected puja. The aim of puja is to help us gain control over our mind. Just like mantra japa, puja is also a way to put forth effort. If one says doing puja is against Advaita because it involves identification with doer-ship, then mantra japa is also against Advaita. With such logic, a so-called Advaitin cannot do japa or pray. Don’t all of those spiritual practices involve duality? Without duality, there can be neither guru nor disciple. There isn’t even any scope to contemplate “I am the Atma” because, in such contemplation, there still a limited individual thinking—isn’t it? Even in mananam [Vedantic reflection], there is duality.”

Amma then began speaking about the Brahmasthanam Temples built by the Mata Amritanandamayi Math and consecrated by Amma. “The Brahmasthanam temples were constructed because devotees wanted to do something that would help reverse the decline of people maintaining puja rooms in their homes,” she said. “The idea is that they are places where devotees can gather, participate directly in the worship, hear some satsang, share food as prasad and provide opportunities for people to help the downtrodden—help poor village children get educations, provide care for neglected elderly… This is why Amma set up those temples. But don’t forget the foundation, which is that the puja is a means to gain mental purity.”

Amma then continued saying, “We need to see life itself as a form of puja. Live with that puja bhava—the attitude of seeing all your actions as worship and accepting all the experiences that come to you in life as prasad. Knowing that everyone and everything is a manifestation of the Atman, regardless of whether someone scolds you or praises you—that is verily Advaita. We need to cultivate the ability to accept everything as grace. Or cultivate the ability to see the negativities of others as reflections of our own flaws. Such attitudes are puja bhava. Ultimately, puja bhava is seeing the Self, or God, in everything. Even though initially this is difficult, gradually the feeling of oneness arises.

“A staircase is needed only until we reach the higher level. For Amma, there is nothing to reject; everything is accepted in love. Considering the feelings of others, spiritual aspirants should learn to love all, respect all, and feel everyone’s difficulties as their own. Some people do not have the good fortune to have sweetness in their lives. Understanding this, you should share the sweetness you’ve been fortunate to receive with others.

“Like the crow in the parable that could only drink the water in the fluted vase if it dropped rocks in it first, we should invoke god within with the required effort. Gaining control over our mind is the goal. All of the various forms of spiritual practices are means to achieve that common end. So, Amma cannot reject any of them. They were established by the rishis, and the rishis were not fools. Seeing God in all forms, they accepted all forms as appropriate means for helping the mind gain focus. If one looks into the depth of all the various spiritual practices—even just singing bhajans to oneself—you will see that they are not different from the Atma; they are, in fact, keys that open us up to that truth.”


Values from Valimiki, Sadgamaya Summer Camp for children

10 May 2014, Amritapuri

Sadgamaya Summer Camp 2014, with the theme “Values from Valmiki,” was conducted  at Amritapuri, May 7 – 10, 2014. 2,000 students attended the camp.

Addressing the students, Amma said that “Even in failure there is a lesson to learn. Understand it and move forward. In fact, if we can cultivate faith, enthusiasm and patience, we will never really fail in life.” In an hour long session she also answered few questions from the students. {read more from Amma’s talk}.
Swamini Krishnamrita Prana inaugurated the three-day workshop for 10th standard students studying at Amrita Vidyalayams throughout Kerala. Addressing the gathering, she asked the children to understand the value of  Indian culture. “Imitating the West, we are following them blindly, forgetting our values,” she said.

Br. Dhyanamrita Chaitanya gave a presentation on Valmiki Ramayana—its importance and relevance, its influence on art, culture, literature, the puranas and history.

Dr. Somasekharan enlightened the students on the teachings that can be found through the various brotherly relationships in the Ramayana.

E.V. Menon enthralled the students with his oration on the characters of the Ramayana and what they represent.

Vidyasagar spoke about Hanuman, telling the students that everything they needed to be successful in life can be found in the example set by Hanuman.

Br. Sivamrita Chaitanya explained why Ravana—in spite of being a very great scholar, musician and powerful king—was still ultimately a failure in life, due to his lack of guru’s grace.

Dr. Lakshmi Sankar spoke about Sita, telling the students that they should try to imbibe her straightforwardness and adherence to dharma.

Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri explained that Amma—a living personification of love, compassion and selflessness—is proof that such personalities as Rama and Sita existed.

The students also participated in various workshops including drama, painting, cartoon drawing, Vedic mathematics, recycling, gardening, etc. Yoga classes were also conducted by Bri Shobana and team.

After three days filled with workshops, classes, talks and group activities, the students went home with plenty of food for thought. It is our sincere wish that they will carry the values they discussed and contemplated during the Sadgamaya Summer Camp with them throughout their lives, and that these values will inform their decisions and actions as they grow into adulthood.

– Tulasi

Even in failure there is a lesson to learn – Amma

​Amma Addresses 2,000 10th Standard Students as Part of Sadgamaya Summer Camp

May 10, 2014 – Amritapuri

There are two types of education: education for earning a living and education for life. When we study in college, striving to become a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer—that is education for earning a living. But education for life means learning how to lead life, how to overcome obstacles in life without losing enthusiasm, how to live for the benefit of society and for the world. For this, we need to develop spiritual understanding: a deeper understanding of the world, our minds, our emotions and ourselves. Most people learn about the external world, but never try to learn about themselves.

Our school years are an occasion to imbibe good lessons and create the foundation for a good life. We can learn not only math, science and English, but other important lessons as well—lessons of friendship, cooperation, compassion, discipline, obedience, respect for elders, patience, speaking kind words, not wasting… There are so many such good lessons to learn. We can learn these things not only from our teachers but also from our friends and our own contemplation.

In fact, the important thing is to maintain an enthusiasm for learning throughout our life. Even in failure , there is a lesson to learn. Understand it and move forward. In fact, if we can cultivate faith, enthusiasm and patience, we will never really fail in life.

The purpose of education is not to just create people who can understand the language of machines. The primary thing to be attained is samskara—spiritual culture. This is being forgotten. For mere sophistication, education is not required. Even tribal populations are proud of their tastes and fashion.

In certain circumstances in life, we have to say “yes.” In others, we have have to say, “no.” Currently we are saying “no” to the things to which we should be saying “yes” and vice-versa. This is creating many problems for us. The Ramayana and Mahabharata teach us about this. 

A compassionate heart helps us become a vessel that is capable of receiving God’s grace. Those who remove thorns from the paths of others are in fact also showering flower petals upon their own path. We should always maintain the humility of a beginner. Only a beginner can grow. Along with this, we need optimism and to put in effort. If we have these, we will go far in life.

(Excerpts from Amma’s message to the students)

Amma is making women’s empowerment a reality, Governor Dikshit

03 May 2014 — Amritapuri Ashram

The keynote speaker of the Women Empowerment Celebration conducted by AMMACHI Labs was the Governor of Kerala, Her Excellency Smt. Sheila Dikshit. Standing alongside Amma and the other dignitaries, Governor Dikshit helped distribute awards to a couple dozen of the 1,500 women who had come to Amritapuri Ashram to participate in the celebration. She then delivered a speech praising the efforts of the women, of AMMACHI Labs, of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and of Amma.

“The United Nations, as we all know, is a worldwide organization, and when it choses projects, it choses them very carefully,” Governor Dikshit said. “The fact that this project of Women Empowerment done by the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham [was chosen] is in itself a great honor for all of you, for all of us and for the nation.”

Governor Dikshit then stressed Amma’s role as an empowerer or women. “It’s Ma who is making this dream come true,” she said, “[making sure] that it is not just spoken about but that, actually, we do attain the emancipation which comes about after we have become powerful both economically, in the community, in the family and, ultimately, also politically.”

Directly addressing the Women Empowerment Program graduates, Governor Dikshit said, “Your participation in nation-building, in family values and in bringing about a society which has love, compassion and respect for all is extremely critical. And this training program—which will give you emancipation, which will give you the courage, which will give you the confidence, to be able to stand on your own legs and feet—will contribute towards the making of an ideal nation and an ideal society.”

Governor Dikshit then spoke at length about the Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s Amrita Kuteeram homes-for-the-homeless project, through which Amma’s ashram has constructed more than 45,000 homes throughout India to date. “If dignity really has to come to civilization, and to societies, and to homes, and to families and to people,” said Governor Dikshit, “then having a good roof over their heads is as important as anything else. Health is important, education is important, developing a skill to be able to earn your livelihood with dignity and with grace is important. But equally and even more important, to make all this really come to its full flowering is a home, is a roof over one’s head.”


Governor Dikshit then again focused on Amma, saying, “Amma—in the spirit with which she works with love and compassion, with an ever-smiling face—gives us all the courage to stand up and live by the ideals that she has taught us… That in itself is something. As was said by a speaker just before me, ‘She is the greatest saint we have today.’ And this country, and Kerala particularly, is very happy and very lucky to have her presence here. … I have had the honor of meeting [Amma] every time she has come to Delhi. Every time … she leaves behind a spirit which is inexplicable in words, but which brings calm and peace.”

Governor Dikshit then expressed pride in the Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations. “Apart from the fact that [the Mata Amritanandamayi Math] is supported by [the United Nations], it also has a consultative status with them, which is rare because not many NGOs, not many organizations, the United Nations needs to consult, but it does consult Ma’s NGO. So, that is a great honor for the NGO and all of us, for the recognition that the United Nations has given them. It’s a very unique record and a very inspiring record for all others to follow.”

Governor Dikshit concluded by offering her salutations to Amma: “Let us bow our head before Mata for having guided all towards this moment of glory and also set a standard of humanitarian service to all of those of us who aspire to serve. So, my very sincere and humble namaskar to Ma on behalf of myself and all of you. And thank you very much for the United Nations for having recognized and supported this great initiative. And, last but not least, my heartiest congratulations to all of you who have participated in this program and are going back to wherever you have come from—Tamil Nadu or Kerala—with greater sense of confidence and greater sense of dignity. Thank you very much. Jai Hind.”

– Kannadi

Amma’s Women Empowerment Project is Role Model for Entire World says U.N.

3 May 2014 – Amritapuri Ashram

More than 1,500 women from various parts of India poured into Amritapuri for the two-day event “A Celebration of Empowerment.” This was the capstone event of AMMACHI Labs’ Women Empowerment project, co-funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and Amrita University. The participants all shared one thing in common: they were graduates of AMMACHI Labs’ unique computerized vocational education and life-enrichment education courses.

Video: Amma talks about the plight of women and relates a heartrending true story that illustrates why programs like AMMACHI Labs’ Women Empowerment project are so important. This project successfully trained more than 3,000 women with vocational and life skills in less than 18 months.

The chief guests of the celebration, who graced the dias along with Amma, were Her Excellency the Governor of Kerala Smt. Sheila Dikshit; the Head of the United Nations in India, Ms. Lise Grande; and renowned film actor Kunchacko Boban.

Ms. Grande praised the AMMACHI Labs’ Women Empowerment project, saying, “[The United Nations] scours the world looking for the best projects, the most innovative projects, the projects which will have the highest impact. The one we’ve chosen for India is this project, and we chose it because AMMACHI Labs is the most creative way of empowering women. Of all of the projects which the UN funds around the world, this is the one dearest to our heart. It’s the one were most proud of. And it’s the one that we intend to take to the rest of the world so that they can learn from what you have achieved.”

Over a span of 18 months, 3,136 women were trained via 28 of Ammachi Labs’ Women Empowerment Centers across Kerala and Tamil Nadu, both permanent and mobile. In the process, they set up 30 Self Help Groups, seven small businesses, and earned a collective income of more than one million rupees [Rs. 10 lakhs] within 3 months of completing the course. Courses included plumbing, fabric-painting and jewelry-making. Furthermore, the graduates also led more than 70 community awareness and action campaigns, ranging from alcohol abuse to environmental protection.

“Empowerment to us is more than mere economic success. The goal is to equip women with an enhanced ability to participate in the democratic process and increased capacity to make decisions at the individual, family and community levels,” said Director of AMMACHI Labs, Professor Bhavani. “Economic and socio-economic empowerment of women were achieved simultaneously through the delivery of AMMACHI Labs’ cVET and LEE program, both tailored to the participant’s specific needs.”

Governor Dikshit praised Amma as both a humanitarian and a spiritual leader. “Amma, in the spirit with which she works—with love and compassion and an ever-smiling face—gives us all the courage to stand up and live by the ideals that she has taught us. … My congratulations and grateful thanks to her for having given confidence and equality to our women.”

Both UN Representative Grande and Governor Dikshit, together with Amma, then awarded prizes to 23 women who’s AMMACHI Labs’ Self-Help Groups have excelled since their training.

Award-winning actor Kunchacko Boban offered his support of the project and said, “Women Empowerment … is something the Mata Amritanandamayi Math understands, not just in words, but in deeds.”

The program concluded with a short talk by Amma. “Today is a day of joy and satisfaction,” Amma said. “Women face many difficulties and challenges in daily life. It is good if we can help inspire them. The difficulties that the common woman faces in her family and social life are not small. There are economic problems, family problems, safety problems… For women in such circumstances to be able to find a profession and thereby stand on their own two feet comes as a great source of relief for them. That said, even then, problems persist—problems at home, problems with their children, problems at work… When these combine, it can be a tremendous weight to bear. When such women are provided with self-confidence, training and wise-counseling, their lives develop new meaning. In reality, the key to woman’s liberty lies in her own hands. In order to realize this, women need determination, forbearance and constant effort. On our part, we need to provide them with a little encouragement and guidance. If provided with the right opportunities, any woman can become a role-model for society.”

Amma then gave darshan to all the women and to their families. These ladies had put up stalls in the ashram to showcase their achievements. The stalls contained artwork, jewelry, painted fabrics, bags, pillows and other products they had produced. But when visiting the stalls, nothing shined brighter than the confident smiles on the faces of the Women Empowerment graduates.

– Kannadi

Amma Initiates Pongala Festival at Srayikkad Temple

2 May 2014 – Srayikkad, Alappad Panchayat, Kollam

At the request of local villagers, Amma initiated the Rohini Pongala Festival at the Paschimeshwaram Temple in Srayikkad this morning.

Around 8:00 a.m. Amma walked the two kilometres up Beach Road to the Paschimeshwaram Temple in Srayikkad. The villagers had decorated the roadway with streamers, rangoli, flower petals, lit oil lamps and other decorations.

Upon arriving, Amma entered the temple, circumambulated the installed deity and then lit the fire to the first clay pot of payasam [sweet pudding]. Hundreds of village women had gathered to participate in cooking payasam as part of the festival worship, bringing the clay pots and ingredients from their own homes as per tradition.

After lighting the fire, Amma spoke about significance of temple festival:

“It is unshakable faith in God and devotion that makes the coastal people the mantel-bearers of our blessed culture,” Amma said. “Don’t forget that, don’t allow it to be destroyed. We should be dedicated to passing down this culture to our children and society.

“Pongal means ‘to overflow.’ The time when humankind’s love for nature and nature’s love for humankind overflow—that is Pongal. Human beings make nature happy by having good thoughts and doing good actions. Nature blesses humankind with a bountiful harvest. When the universal mind and the individual mind overflow and become one—that is what Pongal is symbol of.

Matru-devo bhava, Pitr-devo bhava, acharya-devo bhava atithi-devo bhava—‘May you see your mother as God, your father as God, your teacher as God, your guests as God’—this is what Sanatana Dharma teaches us. Respect everything, worship everything. Why? Because there is nothing other than God. May this Pongal Festival be an opportunity for you to you to instill this culture and God deeply within and spread it without.

“Temple festivals are, in fact, festivals for everyone living in the area. Even people working far away will return home in order to participate. Everyone will sit together, eat together and remember old times together. On such occasions, we experience the joy and exuberance that occur when hearts come together. These temple festivals are sacred moments that help us to establish love and unity and nourish our relationships.

“Amma would request all of you to come to this temple every day, sit together, pray together, perform archana together and circumambulate the temple a few times together without fail.”
To the delight of the villagers, this was second time in the past month that Amma has participated in the local temple functions {news}.