Amma received the Gandhi-King Award for Non-violence

7 Oct 2002, United Nations General Assembly Hall (Palais Des Nations), Geneva

In 2002, Amma was presented with the Gandhi-King Award for Non-violence, given in recognition of Her lifelong work in furthering the principles of non-violence. The Gandhi-King Award is a joint initiative of the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders and the World Movement for Non-Violence. During the event at the UN headquarters in Geneva, she gave the keynote address at the Global Peace Initiative of Women and Religious Leaders.

 

Dr. Jane Goodall presenting the Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence to Amma at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Next to Amma –  H.E. Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Sri Bawa Jain, Secretary-General of the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders.

 

In what conference organiser Dena Merriam called “the most important ceremony of this event,” Amma was presented with the 2002 Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence at the United Nations General Assembly Hall (Palais Des Nations) in Geneva in recognition of Her lifelong work in furthering the principles of non-violence. The three previous recipients of the award were Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, and the world-renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall. Dr. Goodall presented the award to Amma.

Dr. Goodall, presenting the award to Amma said: “I feel it’s a great honour to share a platform with a woman who is so remarkable, and who is the very embodiment of goodness… She believes that God does not discriminate between the sexes, and I believe that She stands here in front of us, God’s love in a human body.”

 

Bawa Jain (Secretary-General of both The Millennium World Peace Summit and The World Council of Religions) and His Excellency Mr. Sergio Vleira De Mello, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights were also on stage with Ms. Goodall to bestow this prestigious award.

Acceptance Speech

In her acceptance speech,  {news} Amma praised the work of both Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “This award is in the name of two great beings who fearlessly devoted their lives towards the cause of peace, harmony and equality. Amma accepts this award on behalf of all those who pray and work for peace the world over. May this be an inspiration for people everywhere to redouble their efforts in bringing peace to our planet.”

 

Amma’s keynote address, entitled “Awaken the Universal Motherhood,” {news} addressed gender issues directly and profoundly in the context of spirituality and society as a whole: “No authentic religion belittles or denigrates women. For those who have realized God, there is no difference between male and female. The realized ones have equal vision. If anywhere in the world there exist rules that prevent women from enjoying their rightful freedom, rules that obstruct their progress in society, then those are not God’s commandments, but are born out of the selfishness of men.

 

“Which eye is more important, the left or the right? Both are equally important. It is the same with the status of men and women in society. Both should be aware of their unique responsibilities, or dharma. Men and women have to support one another. Only in this way can we maintain the harmony of the world. When men and women become powers that complement each other, and move together with co-operation and mutual respect, they will attain perfection.”

 

Also during the conference, Amma gave interviews to One Voice International, during which She comforted a New York firefighter who was present during the September 11 tragedy, and the Christian Broadcasting Corporation. She also led the prayers for world peace at English Garden Lake Park, located in the heart of Geneva. In Her peace message after the prayers, She said, “What everyone needs is peace. But a majority want to be king. No one wants to be a servant. How can there be peace then? Won’t there only be war and conflict? A true servant is the real king. Isn’t the milk from the black cow, the white cow and the brown cow white? Similarly, the essence in every person is the same. Peace and contentment are the same for everyone. Those who desire them should work together.”

Sw Purnamritananda’s visit to Japan – 2002

In September of 2001 Swami Purnamritananda Puri, one of Amma’s senior-most disciples, spent two weeks in Japan conducting programmes for Amma’s devotees throughout the country. He was accompanied by Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya, who served as translator and organiser of the tour.

Swamiji’s programmes were well-attended even in mountain areas outside Tokyo. Amma’s many devotees throughout the country gave swamis a warm welcome wherever they went.

A special puja was held on 22 September during second retreat near Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, combining Lakshmi Puja, Durga Puja, and Bhagavati Seva. The location was an ancient Buddhist monastery called Koyasan, where Tantric Buddhism was first practiced in Japan 1300 years ago.

Swamiji also met with Japanese Shugendo practitioners in Oita, including the head priest of the temple where programme was held performed the homa.

Swamiji’s flute playing was so popular that they asked him to play every single programme at the end of bhajans. He always made the last song a meditation, asking the devotees to focus on the sound of the flute. Many devotees said that it was very helpful and that in this way they experienced true meditation for the first time. Their minds merged in the flute’s peaceful sound vibrations.

 

Swamis performed Bhagavati Seva during Amma’s birthday celebrations in Japan. The size of the padmam (sand painting) was nine feet by nine feet and took eight hours to make. The puja was preceded by a special birthday programme given by Swamiji, which included satsang, meditation, bhajans and prasad to all present.

Amma’s Birthday Celebrations – 2002

25 Sept, 2002

On Amma’s birthday proper, Amma descended from Her room at 8:45 a.m., pausing for a moment to allow Her largest darling son, the elephant Ram, to place a garland around Her neck. All those who had packed into the darshan hall rose to their feet to try and catch a glimpse of Amma as She made Her way up the centre of the hall to the stage. Upon reaching the stage, Swamiji performed the pada puja and placed a beautiful garland of pink and white lotus flowers around Amma’s neck. He then proceeded to cover Her feet with lotus petals while chanting Amma’s 108 names.

After blessing everyone with Her Satsang, Amma gave darshan until 5:30 p.m. When She returned a few hours later to begin the Devi Bhava darshan, Her way was lit with thousands of tiny oil lamps and a path of lotus petals was laid all the way from Her room to the stage. However, Amma walked to the right of the flowers – never stepping on a one. If only all the world could imbibe just an infinitesimal fraction of such humility.

Amma’s Devi Bhava darshan lasted from 9:00 p.m. till 10:15 the next morning.

Amritakuteeram free housing scheme expanded

27 Sep 2002, Amritapuri

As an expression of Her infinite compassion, Amma has been providing homes to the homeless and the destitute in Kerala since 1987. Moved by the plight of the homeless all over the country, Amma, later, launched the unique, and massive Amritakuteeram Project in 1996 for building 25000 houses for the homeless. Putting the project in place and identifying the beneficiaries, took almost 18 months. Hon’ble Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, handed over the keys for the first 5000 houses in 1998. Since then, with Amma’s Grace, 25000 houses have been built all over India. This was possible only with the support of various State Governments, active and selfless participation of the disciples, devotees, students of Amrita Institutions, and well wishers. The contribution from the International community, particularly the students from Japan has been significant.

K M Mani, the Hon’ble Minister received the symbolic key of the Amritakuteeram Project from our beloved Amma.

With Revenue Minister K.M. Mani handing over the keys to 5,000 free homes, the M.A. Math met its goal of providing 25,000 homes to the poor through its Amritakuteeram free-housing scheme.

Amma then immediately announced the Math’s plans to expand the project. Its new goal is to build and distribute keys to 100,000 homes within the next 10 years.

After handing over the keys, the Minister said, “Amma is doing something that the Kerala government has not been able to do. The government is providing houses for loan, but Amma is providing houses for free. At the culmination of this project, I feel it is a great privilege to be the one to hand over the keys to the final five thousand houses.”

No rust for our Guru

24 July 2002, Guru Purnima at Amritapuri

amma-feet

It took five minutes for Swamiji to perform the pada puja for Amma on Guru Purnima. It took 10 minutes for him to chant Amma’s 108 Names and, handful-by-handful, to cover our Guru’s Feet in flower petals. Five minutes after that, all Mother’s swamis and swaminis had garlanded Her, and so had both of Her parents — whom She then rose to embrace.

So it took basically 20 minutes for the rituals of Guru Purnima to be accomplished.

But the day had not ended. It was just beginning.

amma-parents

From the chair where She sat for the rituals, Mother moved forward to a low peetham near the front of the stage. There, after prostrating to the thousands of people in attendance, She delivered a satsang on the nature of the Guru. In that talk, She spoke of lessons She had learned from her own mother, Damayanti Amma. “Though she didn’t have any spiritual understanding, she was able to guide me,” Amma said. Damayanti Amma might give some strict directive, and Amma would find a spiritual principle in it. For this reason, Amma explained, She sometimes calls Damayanti Amma Her guru.

One of Damayanti Amma’s teachings, Amma said, was: “Never say, ‘This much work is enough.’ Always say, ‘Give me more work.’ So I used to pray to God to give me more of his work.”

For the rest of Wednesday, the 24th of July, Guru Purnima, Amma showed (as She has so many times before!) that She took this lesson to heart.

She worked.

amma-negro

After 10 minutes’ guided meditation, She again stood, the low peetham was exchanged for the darshan bench, and She sat and began hugging.

Hugging is work? One remembers a reporter back in America, who, hearing of “The Hugging Saint,” said, “Hugging? Who couldn’t do that? Heck, I could hug people for a living…” He changed his song after he watched Her.

Amma doesn’t just hug. She holds you close, and whispers an endearment. She listens, as you ask a question, or pour out an emotion. When you need advice, She gives it; when a scolding is in order, She delivers it — and softens it with laughter and another hug. Squirming babies are handed to Her, and She holds them in one arm while drawing their parents close with the other. She bows to let someone garland Her, then removes the garland in time for the next person to offer another flower mala. A heavy man is being helped to rise after his darshan, and leans his weight on Her knee; a child hurls herself against Amma’s legs and demands a sweet; a woman approaching on her knees inadvertently kneels on Amma’s Foot, and the next person, thrilled to be in the arms of the Compassionate Mother, hugs Her with all his might; the next person’s cheek collides with Amma’s right cheek — the one with the perennial bruise. (About eight years ago when this bruise began to develop, someone asked Amma about it. Smiling and stroking it, She said, “Children’s prema. Children’s love.”)

Throughout, Amma smiles, scolds, comforts, jokes, advises, laughs, cries… gives whatever response is suited to the person in Her lap at the moment. And along with all this, She is conferring with an AIMS Hospital official sitting to Her right, beside the bench, and acknowledging the presence of a devotee who has the privilege of handing Her prasad from Her left side — a different devotee each minute-and-a-half. She is listening to the live bhajans being sung, leading applause for the little child who sings for Her, and hurling a handful of sweets at the tabla player who has missed the beat. Her ever-watchful eyes are attending to everything going on in the hall: an elderly man has no place to sit comfortably, and She calls a brahmachari to lead him to a chair; some people are being told it is too late to join the queue and She sends word to let them come to Her; a devotee from far away finds no place to sit on the stage near Her, and She directs some ashramites to move, making space for such visitors. All this, and every few seconds a new person in Her lap.

ammasfeet

This goes on until all who have come for Her darshan have been hugged. On this Guru Purnima day, that meant 10 straight hours. Evening bhajans were held while the hugging continued, and at 9:00 the arati lamp was being waved in front of Mother, still on the darshan cot, while She washed Her Hands before feeding a child its first rice.

Less than half an hour for the rites of honouring the Guru; 10 hours for the Guru to bless and serve Her children.

But never mind; Amma was getting Her Heart’s desire. For here is something else that She said in Her Guru Purnima satsang: It is better to get worn out rather than rust away. This is what Amma desires.

She is carrying them in her heart

23 July 2002,Amritapuri

After returning from Her US Tour, some of the first things Amma talked about were the devotion, surrender and self-sacrifice of Her American children.

“The tour was sweet,” She said. “The hearts of the people were filled with devotion.”

Amma went on to tell Her Amritapuri children that when She left America, everyone was crying, so Amma felt it hard to leave. “Amma tried to console them by saying, ‘Where there is love, distance is no barrier. Just like the mother hen looks after the eggs it has laid, Amma is always with you, carrying you in Her heart.”

Amma then told one anecdote about a television reporter who asked Her if She ever gets bored doing the same thing day after day. Amma repeated Her response to the disciple and devotees assembled. Amma said, “If the river gets bored by flowing, if the sun gets bored by shining, then Amma also gets bored.” Amma added that She doesn’t know the word “boredom.” She sees everyone as Her own Self.

After that Amma said that there are many stories from the US Tour that She wants to share, but that She is saving them for another time.

Mother and Guru returns

21 July 2002,Amritapuri

One could hear the excitement in the temple bell as it sounded — three times in quick succession. It hadn’t rung thus in more than two months. Three bells means Amma. Amma had returned from Her US Tour.

Actually, the scene was much the same as it was back in May — hundreds of Amma’s children packed around the stairs to Her room, waiting. But whereas in May everyone was waiting to say goodbye, this time, it was to say hello.

Soon Amma’s car pulled into the courtyard. Within moments She was moving through the sea of disciples and devotees towards Her stairs. For those at some distance, Her progress could be marked by a single red flower, which Amma twirled over Her head. Once on the stairs, She took the video camera from the ashram photographer and began filming the crowd. Her smile was contagious.

Many devotees were calling out “Amma! Amma!” Then one lady shouted, “Amma, bless me with discrimination!” Amma’s wit was sharp, “If you are eating in the dark, do you put the food accidentally into your eyes, into your ears? You have discrimination for such things. Why can’t you use it in other circumstances?” Amma beamed at everyone for a while longer and then walked into Her room.

Of course everyone waited for Amma to emerge from Her window, which She soon did. Everyone had a good view of Her from up there — the children looking at the Mother, the Mother looking at the children. “Amma say something,” someone asked. Once again it was the Guru who spoke, “Talking is useless. It’s like two advocates arguing without a judge — it doesn’t go anywhere. Victory is in silence.”

A few more moments, a few more laughs, a few more smiles. Then Amma disappeared behind Her curtain.

The miracle of the children

13 July 2002, Rhode Island Retreat

When little kids get together, being little kids, each is immersed in his or her own wants. After all, “Let me!” and “I want to!” and “Me first!” are some of the first sentences children learn.

It was really no different in Rhode Island when the little ones gathered for the “Children’s Puja” while the older folks were in the hall for Amma’s puja before Devi Bhava.

They really did try to raise their hands and take turns when they were asked to suggest names for Amma that could be used in their chanting. The adults would, of course, hear Swamiji chanting “Om Sri Matre Namah” and would reply “Om Parashaktyai Namah,” and then he would say “Om Sri Maha Ragnyai Namah” and then they would respond as before. But those Sanskrit chants are hard for kids to pronounce — never mind to understand! So for their puja, they make up names of Amma: “Om Amma Who Gives Us Chocolate” was one, and “Om Amma Who Hugs and Kisses Us” was another. And there was “Om Amma Who Snuggles Us.” And more. And everyone had an idea — or two or three — and trying to remember to take turns and be polite was a little hard.

Still the list got made, and the children sat cross-legged (albeit fidgety!) at their “puja settings': each had a picture of Amma, and a small plastic cup of the water Amma had blessed at the grownups’ puja and sent over for them, and a “placemat” on which were outlines of Amma’s Feet, drawn by the child. As each name the children had made up was read aloud, they placed flower petals on the feet, and responded, “Om Amriteshwaryai Namah” — a Sanskrit mantra everyone knows because it is chanted while awaiting Amma’s arrival at every program. The youngsters’ voices were angelic-including when they giggled at one of the names: “Om Amma Who Likes to Laugh.”

With the Names finished, it was time for Devi Bhava.

Again, there was the usual eagerness of children and the chaos of little children all wanting to be first:

“I want to be Amma!”

“Let me! Let me!”

“It’s my turn!”

One of the adults draped a small girl in a red sari; a felt crown was placed on her head.

Another child garlanded her, and a third child held a cheerful pink parasol over her. Beside this Little Amma knelt another youngster, holding a small dish of sandal paste; another child was ready to hand her prasad — banana pieces or Triscuits. In front, to the sides, knelt other children, in “the lap position”: they would help the “devotees” in the line approach Little Amma, receive her darshan, and move away.

Little Amma reached out for the first child in the queue, and everything changed.

She grew still and calm; the others did too. They stayed quietly in a line that just naturally formed, and they watched her with the same kind of intentness with which they watch the real Amma when they’re moving towards her in the darshan queue.

Little Amma pulled the first child close, rubbed his back, whispered something into his ear, touched a bit of sandal paste to his forehead, looked into his eyes, handed him a piece of banana, and gently pushed him away as she reached for the little girl just behind him.

You had to be there to experience what was happening: little kids, moments ago vying for the privilege of dressing up like Devi, calling out “My turn! Me now!” came to the soft embrace of another child, and mysterious expressions came over their faces. Every few minutes, the Little Amma would get up, shed the sari and crown, and join the queue for darshan while another child would be transformed into Devi, and begin giving darshan. The new Little Devi would stroke whoever came to his or her embrace (even if it was someone with whom a tussle had been occurring just a moment before) and you could see that neither was remembering the competition; both were really living their parts.

You can’t help wondering, watching this miracle of the children, what would happen in the adult world if we could be so simple and innocent, could see and be Amma, the way the kids did.

Separation?

13 July 2002, Rhode Island Retreat

It might have been meditation time, but before things got serious and silent, Mother was laughing and pointing…

She drew everyone’s attention to a man watching Her through binoculars. “Where there is love,” She said, “there is no distance.”

The people ranged around Amma on the grassy hillside at Rhode Island’s Bryant College joined in the laughter, and the man kept gazing.

Then Mother wanted to say more about distance:

“The sun is so far up in the sky, and yet it makes the lotus bud in the pond blossom.”

This is the last of the five U.S. Summer Tour retreats; perhaps that (along with the binoculars!) is why Mother’s mind turned to distance, to separation; soon She’ll be leaving Her American children, to return home to India.

Home to India — and to the children She’s been separated from for nearly two months now, the children of Her home ashram in Kerala. She remembered, and narrated, an incident with one of the brahmacharis there just before She left for tour. Knowing very well Her teaching that “where there’s love there’s no separation,” he offered his variation: “Amma,” he said to Her just before She left, “Where there is telephone there is no distance.”

More laughter; then a few soft smiles at the children nearby, and Mother and all those gathered grew silent, and meditated.

Foster Mothers

11 July 2002, New York City

“Let me show the picture to Mother. She’ll love it!”

“No, no, look how busy She is; I wouldn’t want to interfere,” said the soft-spoken woman.

“But I know She’ll love to see this, and to know your story.”

“I did mean to show it to Her, but I just forgot.”

“That happens around Mother!”

Both laugh.

“I’ll take it up to Her; you sit here and I’ll point you out, I think She’ll want to see who is taking care of this wallaby.”

The woman was still hesitant, not wanting to take any of Amma’s time, but she handed over the photo: it showed a baby wallaby (sort of like a kangaroo) standing up on what was definitely not a typical place for such an animal: a human bed.

She held out a second item as well: an eagle feather. “I also meant to give Her this — but I forgot it, too!”

The picture and the feather were taken up to Mother, and the story was told:

“Kathleen nurses sick or rejected babies at the Bronx Zoo, Amma. All kinds of animals born in captivity — if their mothers reject them, or they’re sick, she takes them in, cuddles them, feeds them — like this wallaby!”

Amma, Devi in brilliant purple and gold, grabbed the photo, looked closely, and smiled. Smiled and smiled, and looked over at Kathleen and smiled some more.

She touched the zoo baby’s forehead with sandalpaste, and blessed the feather with another spot of sandalpaste. She sent both back to Kathleen, along with the message that Mother couldn’t take an eagle feather out of the country so Kathleen should keep it now as prasad.

Kathleen clasped the picture and the feather to her bosom and smiled towards Mother.

You had the feeling that the two “mothers” were kindred spirits, each one accepting any who are rejected, and each nurturing any who suffer.

As for the eagle feather, when the Ponca Chief Sah Pah offered Amma an eagle feather a week ago, he explained that it was the highest honour that his people could give to an individual. It seemed perfect, then, that one foster mother offered it to another foster Mother, who then offered it back. Mutual honour, mother to Mother to mother.