Amma in Finnish upper primary textbooks

21 september 2003, Amritapuri

Amma is featured in a new textbook of World Religions for 6th- to 8th-grade students in Finland. At the end of the section on Hinduism, under the title Hinduism in Finland, there is a picture of Amma giving darshan.

She is smiling in the picture. The caption for the picture reads, “Amma is a saint from India who has hundreds and thousands of followers. To help poor and needy people is important for Her. She last visited Finland in September 2002.”
Official recognition–that Amma is a Hindu saint—is indicated by the State’s Education Institution which has approved the information to be included in the school textbook. Devotees in Finland are of the opinion that this picture of Amma will awaken interest in many children.

No one But You

17 september 2003,Amritapuri

For many of Amma’s devotees around the world, the fact that Amma speaks Malayalam has not been a barrier, because our Mother speaks the Universal language of Love. Even so, when Amma started singing “Iswar Tumhi Daya Karo” in French during Her Reunion Island visit, the news spread like wildfire – and so during the U.S. Tour, She began singing in English. Recently at Amritapuri, much to the delight of the international devotees staying here, Amma has sung a devotional song in a different language every night during the evening bhajans.

Thus far, Amma has sung “Iswar Tumhi Daya Karo” in English, Portuguese, Japanese, French, Spanish, Swedish, Finnish, German, and Arabic. Every evening, devotees wait with anticipation wondering what language She will sing in that night. Without fail, the devotees break into thunderous applause when She finishes.

Devotees from the different countries who have known Amma for many years are asked to translate the Malayalam bhajan into their language. Then, the bhajan is transliterated phonetically so Amma can read it, and a recording of the bhajan in the new language is made, so She can listen to the pronunciation. The question on the minds of many devotees is, “when does She find the time to do this?”

When devotees are asked what it is like for them to hear Amma sing in their native language, words such as, “personal” and “intimate” are commonly used to describe the experience. Jose and Guillem from Barcelona, Spain said that hearing Amma sing in their Mother tongue brought them closer to Her, and described Amma’s Spanish singing as “very tender.” A French devotee from Reunion Island said she was very grateful to Amma for singing in French, and that ‘Iswar Tumhi…’ is especially touching because of the devotional quality of the song.

A devotee from the U.S. who listened to Amma sing in English, “Lord of Vrindavan,” a devotional song about Krishna, had no words to describe how he felt. He simply placed his hand on his heart and said, “It is overwhelming.”

There is no doubt that for those of us who do not speak Malayalam, hearing our beloved Mother sing to us in our home language is a precious gift indeed. It is yet another way in which Amma showers us with love.

– Vimala Rachel Purcell

Our every need is taken care of

Have you wondered how the more than 100,000 devotees will find sanitary facilities during Amritavarsham50? Read on.

Each night after bhajans, 150 or so devotees crowd around the stairway to Amma’s room to delight in Her feeding of Ram, the ashram elephant. Tonight Amma showed Her design skills as well, with strict attention to detail. After feeding Ram, Amma sat on the floor and was invisible to all but the persons nearest to Her. Those few who could see Her reported back to those who craned their necks to find out what in the world was going on. Finally, the words trickled back. Our beloved Amma was designing and making the prototype privacy curtain for the 1,000 pit toilets that will be provided to the 100,000 plus devotees who attend the Celebrations in Cochin.

For about an hour, Amma hand-stitched plastic cement bags together, instructing workers that they must sew the seams together facing the same way so that one side of the privacy curtain will lay flat. In this way, Amma said that the curtains will be “beautiful” for the devotees. She also kept measuring the height of the sewn bags, making sure that the final curtain would be high enough to provide privacy for the tallest person. The final design will lead to eight-foot-high, smoothly surfaced walls.

More than 3,000 bags have been collected for this purpose, but this is not enough. More must be found. As bhajans were sung tonight, a team of workers washed the bags. When Amma was told that the bags were too wet to sew, She just declared that this was not a problem and that it could be done.

Beginning at 10:30 tonight, volunteers will be doing sewing seva for our Amma and for the attendees of Amritavarsham50.

Who could possibly say that Amma does not provide for our every need?

—Triguna Besse

Teaching Ram

As a frequent visitor to Amritapuri, I have often watched my beloved Amma feed the elephant Ram after bhajans everyday. It is such a joy to watch the spontaneous and innocent interactions between the Mother of the Universe and Her elephant son.

Nevertheless I have sometimes wondered why Amma spends so much time on this simple activity. After all, anyone can feed Ram. Can’t Amma rest during that time? Or perhaps attend to the more important tasks of Her institutions so that She can get to bed early?

It is said that it is impossible for us to understand the ways of a mahatma with our limited intellects. Amma, as our Guru, teaches us in so many ways.
Through the simple stories She narrates again and again in Her satsangs, and especially through the examples of Her own actions. Could it be that this seemingly simple task of feeding Ram is also another means for Amma to teach us? This thought came to mind as I watched Amma with Ram recently one day…

Ram, in his carelessness, or maybe eagerness to get the food from Amma’s hand, had let most of it fall on the ground. As he tried to grab at Amma for more food, She told him to pick it up from the ground and eat that first. But Ram didn’t listen. He tried to reach for the bananas kept some distance away. Amma did not relent either. She sternly repeated that first he was to eat the food he had thrown down, only then would he get any more food. Finally, seeing no other alternative, Ram started picking at the food on the ground.

Amma stood by Ram’s side, quietly and intently watching him, as he swept up with his trunk, morsel by morsel, the food he had thrown down. Amma looked on, the very embodiment of supreme patience, as She waited for Her child to correct his mistake. Only after Ram put the last morsel into his mouth, did Amma smile and reward him with more food.

Watching this episode, suddenly I saw reflected in it the exact image of how Amma guides us also. She instructs us, but if we don’t listen to Her, She may scold us. We may still not listen, but yet she waits patiently, relentlessly. Finally, perhaps seeing no other alternatives, we finally proceed to do the right thing, and She stands by our side the entire time, looking on. No matter how many mistakes we make, She doesn’t once give up on us. Rather She waits patiently for us to learn and imbibe our lessons. And when we do, She is there to reward our efforts with much Grace.

It is said that all of a mahatma’s actions have deep meanings. It is possible that there are many beautiful lessons to be learnt from watching Amma’s leelas with Ram. And it is also possible that Amma simply takes the time to feed Her pachoderm child everyday so that Her human children may experience intimate and fun-filled moments with Her. In the early days, when the crowds were smaller, such moments were many. But today thousands come for Amma’s darshan, and the ashram runs many big institutions, so such times are rare.

But, wait! That’s not exactly right. Because, somehow, amidst the ever-growing whirlwind of responsibilities and activities, Amma yet manages to create precious moments just like this, that let us know She is still, and always, our caring and attentive Mother first and foremost.

After all, Amma does make the time to feed Ram everyday.

-Anju Bist

Hold me like the river

23 August, 2003 Amritapuri

The story begins in Rhode Island, when a handful of Amma’s Western children sang Michael Jackson’s “Hold Me”, the theme song to the movie, “Free Willie.” Already a touching song with spiritual implications, with just a few adjustments in the lyrics, the song was transformed into a heartfelt tribute to Amma. But it wasn’t just a song. The singers had assembled an impromptu troupe of dancers to stand in the back of the room and wave their hands back and forth in unison. As Amma responded enthusiastically and the song crescendoed into a joyful celebration of God’s love, almost everyone stood up and danced, the room transformed into a sea of white, the tide of love rolled in. Amma’s eyes shone as She gazed out at Her children’s innocent plea for Her love and attention.

At Amritapuri recently, Amma asked the same children to sing the song again. But it wasn’t only the song She wanted; She also asked that people should wave their hands in unison the way they had done in Rhode Island. So during the height of the Western Canteen dinner rush, a few of the singers called all the Western children closed and entreated them to quite literally give them a hand the next day when they were to sing the song.

This morning, after Amma started giving darshan, the singers went to Her and told Her they planned to sing the song at 2:00 pm. But Amma asked them to sing at 1:00 pm instead. Then ensued a mad dash to the flats, where the singers went door to door informing the dancers, (i.e. nearly all the Western children at the ashram) that the time had been changed from 2:00 to 1:00 pm. The Western Canteen lunch, which normally starts at 1:00 pm, would have to be postponed, as many of the girls in the kitchen had to be there to sing for Amma. But in the end it didn’t matter, as there wouldn’t have been anyone in line to eat, either. 1:00 saw the temple full with shining Western faces, eager to fulfill Amma’s request.

As the song began,

“Hold me
Like the river Jordan
And I will then say to thee
You are my friend,”

the room began to sway back and forth.

By the time the Canteen girls were plaintively singing the touching refrain,

Tell me will you hold me?
When wrong, will you scold me?
When lost, will you find me?”

Amma had started to wave Her hands back and forth, too. When their Mother started, it was no longer a Western celebration but a human celebration, as all of Amma’s devotees joined in the dance.

When the song reached its crescendo with the words,

“Save me
Heal me and bathe me
Softly you say to me
I will be there,”

a lone Westerner in the middle of the temple stood and began to dance, innocently and ecstatically. He didn’t mind that no one else joined him, oblivious of his surroundings, he was lost in his own celebration of love. But the room couldn’t ignore his innocent demonstration for long—by the end of the song, the entire room was on its feet, dancing for joy, dancing for love, dancing for Amma. [click here to see the video]

Was it a bit unconventional, a Michael Jackson song in a temple? Maybe so. But Amma celebrates the good in everything–in every person, every circumstance, every culture, every faith. Here was an innocent, heartfelt prayer in the form of a pop song. Amma made sure that it was heard by all. When the song was over, Amma had the song translated and read out in Malayalam, so that everyone present could understand the song’s words.

Healer of Healers

Amma talks with medical students

14 August 2003, Amritapuri

100 medical students from Amrita University came to Amritapuri and received the blessing of a private group meeting with Amma today. Most were meeting Amma for the very first time, and had just completed their first 2 weeks of life in medical school. This batch of new students is the first since the school was conferred University status by the Government of India, and respresented those chosen out of a pool of 2000 applicants from every state in India, and even countries abroad.

All sat before Amma in rapt attention as She lovingly talked and joked with them.

Amma began by discussing the value of the medical profession and how it should be viewed as a blessed career. She spoke of how doctors have a unique opportunity to relieve the pain and suffering of people, through both the treatment itself and through loving and compassionate care. Those who are suffering from illness or injury are the ones most in need of peace and relief. The doctor, who should learn how to identify with other’s pain, feeling it as their own, is in a position to bring happiness to those who need it most, mentally and emotionally as much as physically. In fact this is essentially the root of true compassion and spirituality itself: seeing all as oneself. This is one way that practicing medicine can be a sadhana.

Amma continued to say that all of the students should view the practice of medicine as a chance to serve God through humanity. She implored the children to, for Her sake, please accept the difficult school years ahead as an opportunity and a tapas (spiritual austerity), which will bear fruit later.

The students had all been living these past two weeks away from their families for the very first time. Indian families are very tight-knit and often live together in the same home all of their lives. And of course those students who moved here from overseas to attend over five years of medical college would surely be missing their homes terribly as well. All were experiencing the same longing for that family connection, and one student, speaking for the group, said to Amma, “We didn’t realize it would be this difficult leaving everyone we love behind. All of us have been so homesick and finding it hard to get used to being away from our families. But, this half-hour spent with Amma has been so full of smiles and happiness. How can we take this happiness with us?”

Visibly touched, Amma responded: “Amma knows you are sad and missing your families. But, after you finish school and get a job, you will have to leave them at that time as well. One must learn to adjust to new circumstances, and strength will come from this. Also, since you are all living and studying together, you should establish a family-like atmosphere amongst yourselves. Develop the attitude of sharing love. When that feeling of connectedness comes, love and happiness will be there. We are like links in a chain, and one’s words and actions have a direct impact on others. So always be humble and loving. This will in turn make you happy, as well as spread happiness to others. Happiness never lies in any object, but in our mental attitude.When that mental attitude is right, happiness will be there, regardless of the outer circumstances.”

Amma then gave the example of hot coffee. “The heat does not belong to the coffee, but was borrowed from the fire. Your mind is the fire,” Amma said.

One student, a younger girl meeting Amma for the first time, wanted to say something to Amma. She was called forward to speak, but when she arrived, she simply and innocently embraced Amma. A moment later, an older boy smiling in the very back of the group, and who was also meeting Amma for the very first time, raised his hand and said to Amma, “I would like to talk to you too!” When encouraged to do so, he responded with,

“No, I want to talk with you in private, Amma!” (a sentiment many of Amma’s devotees can sympathise with!). So, Amma waved him toward Her as well. Only when he reached Her, instead of talking he simply fell straight into Her lap, where he remained for the next few minutes! Then, a third made the journey to Her lap. And then a fourth. Such is the spontaneous attraction that pure love generates.

Happiness and gratitude radiated from the student’s faces, as everyone drank in Amma’s compassionate words and bathed in the blissful atmosphere. One had the sense that all were feeling profoundly fortunate to have a great World-Teacher such as Amma instructing and guiding them in these crucial early steps of their lives in the world. Indeed, if only we all had such a start in life!

Wanting to capture the moment, perhaps as a way of “taking their happiness with them,” they asked for a group photo to be taken with Amma. Amma of course happily agreed. However, as the meeting was taking place inside the enclosed stage of the new temple hall there wasn’t enough room to get the wide shot needed to include all 100 students!

Just as this was being realised, the large doors were flung open wide, revealing the eager faces of Amrita University’s Computer and Engineering students waiting outside in the huge hall for their turn with Amma.

So, smiling as always, Amma came forward into the door’s archway, surrounded by 100 future doctors, and had the photo snapped from the floor below, finding the wide shot that was needed. Fortunate students indeed, and it’s a fortunate world that will soon be receiving healers inspired by the greatest Healer of all.

Independence Day

14 Aug 2003,Amritapuri

It was late in the evening of 14th August, and Amritapuri witnessed a quiet metamorphosis, brought about by the engineering and computer students of the Amrita Institutions. At around 10 pm, as Amma led the chanting of Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, the youth started lighting lamps on the floor of the expansive Devi Bhava Hall in the Ashram. In a few minutes, what emerged was a string of lamps outlined as the map of India. As the lights of the diyas shimmered against the darkness of the night, pairs of boys and girls were also symbolically lighting more lamps within the map contours—to mark the location of major holy pilgrimages and holy rivers of India. Every time a lamp was lighted at a holy location a brief archana, was also performed. The whole scene done in the presence of the Universal Mother, Amma, was indeed an apt homage by the youth to Mother India on the eve of her Independence Day.

What made the occasion more memorable was Amma’s message to all her children assembled not only at Amritapuri, but all across the country where Her darling children were celebrating Independence Day.

In part, Amma said, “The social and cultural atmosphere of India is different from that of the West. Therefore when adopting western behaviors and attitudes, we should be careful. There are good aspects, which we can accept. By accepting these, we will become expansive. So what is to be accepted and what is to be rejected? That decision has to come from the cultural foundation within, which is hundreds of centuries old. If we adopt western ways impulsively, without exercising proper discrimination, we may find that we can’t truly assimilate it. In time, it may become a burden to us.

“In many countries, by the age of 18, 90% of young people either take loans or work to continue with their studies. They are not dependent on their parents. On the contrary, in India, if a son remains unmarried or unemployed even till the age of 40, his mother thinks that it is still her duty to labour hard to nurture her child. A mother does not hesitate to go hungry to feed her adult children.

How can a son or daughter begin to repay their debt to their mother who carried them in the womb for 10 months and gave birth to him or her after suffering so much? The child gives the mother so much trouble, not even allowing her to sleep through the night. But the mother bears all this with a smile, loving her child unconditionally.

Today we are not fulfilling our duties toward each other. We have even forgotten what they are. Honor your mother at least once. Bow down to your father. Remember, ours is a culture which once believed in the dictum, ‘Mother is God, Father is God, Teacher is God, Guest is God.’ How beautiful it would be if we could regain them. But today, in search of the new, values are being lost. Let the effort of my children be a remedy for this situation.”

After Amma’s message was read aloud, the students delivered a series of delightful dramas and dances. Finally, Amma led all present in singing the bhajan, “He Giridhara Gopala”. Her lilting voice transported Her children to a realm of love and longing for the Divine.

The bell rang three times

29 July, 2003,Amritapuri

The bell rang three times. The ashramites knew Amma would be coming any moment. Everyone rushed to Amma’s courtyard. The gates were open wide for Amma’s car. But then when the crowd heard the sound of excited voices by the old temple, they realized that Amma was coming via a side passage—on foot. Amma had exited Her car by Ram the ashram elephant’s house.

By the time Amma made it to Her steps, She had several red and pink garlands around Her neck. She stood there for some time, allowing all the ashramites to take in their first site of Her in two months. One grandmother who lives at the ashram, performed Amma’s padapuja. Then one devotee showed Amma a baby squirrel, which she had been taking carry of during Amma’s absence. The squirrel quickly jumped to Amma’s shoulder.

After making sure She could see all of Her children (even squinting to see the ones in the far back), Amma climbed Her stairs to Her room. No one wanted Her to go—especially the baby squirrel, which clung to Amma’s sari, trying as he could to not let go.

Honorary Citizenship and the Key to the City

14 July 2003,Chicago-Area Cities Award Amma

After a full weekend of Amma’s programs in the Chicago area, the working Monday morning still found devotees making their way into Amma’s soothing presence, yearning for more time in the peaceful vicinity of this Spiritual Master in the form of a loving Mother. On this day, the crowded hall was graced by the visit of two esteemed dignitaries – the mayor of the host city of Naperville, as well as the mayor of the neighboring city of Lisle.

The Mayor of Naperville, A. George Pradle, welcomed Amma to his city and, as a token of his appreciation for Amma and Her selfless work in the area, he conferred on Amma the title of Honorary Citizen of Naperville. Presenting Amma with the certificate, he said in an open gesture of welcome, “We would like Amma to realize that we (the people of Naperville) have a great love for people from other countries. It is a privilege for us to have people from other homelands visiting our place.” Then pointing to his tie, in a touch of humor he said, “See, I even wore a special tie for this occasion that came from India!”

“I have been looking forward to coming here all weekend, because I love hugging. Thank you all for coming to our city. Thank you for caring about other people!”

Praising Amma’s charitable work which includes feeding the homeless on the streets of Chicago through the “Amma’s Kitchen” program, he confessed to a personal reason for his visit, “I’ve been looking forward all weekend to coming here,” he said with a broad smile, “because I’m a big hugger too and I am looking forward to this hug. I’d like to have the world record for hugs, but so far, Amma has beat me to it!”

As the Mayor went up to Amma for his hug, Amma hugged him in a long, sweet darshan. He then presented the official certificate of Honorary Citizenship to Amma. Afterwards, he turned to Amma and asked innocently, “Can I have another hug?” Amma laughed and happily embraced him a second time. Wiping his tears, Mayor Pradel said, “We love you, Amma. We love you.”

A little later, Mayor Joseph Broda from the neighboring city of Lisle, which has had the honor of hosting Amma in previous years, came forward to extend his welcome. “I just wanted to offer my greetings to Amma,” he said, “Welcome, Amma, to the Naperville-Lisle area. I would like to present Amma with the keys to the Village of Lisle. I wish Amma the best in the future towards helping the poor.” Mayor Broda then presented Amma with the Key to the Village of Lisle, and Amma held him warmly in a loving darshan.

As Mayor Pradle of Naperville exited the hall, he was heard to remark, “Yes, She is a Spiritual Master, a Realized Being. I could feel that from the sense of peace and light that surrounds Her, and from the joy reflected in the faces around Her.”

The honor and welcome that Amma receives from the cities that She blesses with Her presence is recognition of Amma’s globe-spanning labor of love and selfless service. This official appreciation coming from the higher circles of government is an acknowledgment of Amma’s love and compassion reaching even the most destitute in society. With the example of Her life, Amma inspires every person that She comes into contact with to do more for the world around them, thus extending Her arms to reach and hold more of Her children in Her loving embrace.

There is no key that can lock love

24 June 2003,Los Angeles

Amma Officially Welcomed to Los Angeles

This morning Amma began Her yearly programs here in Los Angeles, CA, USA. But before Amma could begin to receive Her children, She was officially honored by representatives of the Los Angeles County, its Board of Supervisors, and the city of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and its constituency of 10 million people were represented by Susan Nissman, senior field deputy for District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavski. Ms. Nissman officially welcomed Amma, and presented Her with a Commendation “For Her Humanitarian Endeavors Throughout the World…In recognition of dedicated service to the affairs of the community and for the civic pride demonstrated by numerous contributions for the benefit of all citizens of Los Angeles County and the World.” Ms. Nissman additionally honored Amma by adding that Her “constituency is colorless…and She makes no judgement in terms of healing, and Her good works.”

Next Amma was honored by Sherri Adams, field deputy for City Councilman Dennis P. Zine for the Woodland Hills District of LA. She presented Amma with an official Certificate of Welcome to Los Angeles. On the certificate, the full name of this city was given as: “El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora, La Reina de Los Angeles,” which literally translates to mean that Amma was being welcomed to, “The community of our Lady, the Queen of the Angels.”

In reception of the honors, Amma said that this official welcome by the City and County “was an expression of Love and Compassion and…showed the large-heartedness of Los Angeles…”
She added that “Love is overflowing everywhere, nothing can obstruct love, and there are no barriers for Love…There is no key that can lock love inside, because love overflows, crossing all limitations, all barriers.”