Famous in Finland

18 – 19 October 2005 — Helsinki, Finland

After completing her programmes in Germany, Amma travelled to Helsinki for two days of programmes there. The programme venue, a renovated cable factory that now serves as an exhibition hall, was located next to a lake with downtown Helsinki on the opposite bank.

When Amma arrived at the hall, she was received by a large crowd of devotees, many of whom are regular visitors to Amritapuri. Among those in attendance were a strikingly large number of media representatives. A total of 25 television, newspaper and magazine reporters came to cover Amma’s programmes. Amma was major story – and the next day, she was featured in all of Finland’s major papers. One newspaper even carried a report claiming that Finland was Amma’s favourite country! Amma, who sees the whole world as one flower with each country as a petal, has definitely found a place in the hearts of the Finnish people. Their love for her continues to grow.

It may be recalled that her life and mission have been included in two of the country’s school textbooks {news}.

On the first night, Amma sang the bhajan “Where Can I Go?” in Finnish.

-Tulasi

Creating memories, collecting pearls


17 October 2005 – Kirchbrombach, Odenwald, Germany

“Is there a white horse?” Amma wanted to know. She was walking around a horse ranch in Odenwald, Germany, a property where many Ashram retreats have been held. The morning was bright and clear, the air was quite cold, and Amma was wrapped in a pink hooded winter coat. Soon, Vineeta, a young German woman who works at the horse ranch came leading a beautiful white horse by the reins.

She led it up to where Amma was, and Amma began feeding the horse carrots and pieces of dry bread. Steam issued forth from the horse’s nostrils as it ate from Amma’s hands. About 40 devotees were gathered around, taking in another precious memory of time spent in the presence of the Guru.

Unknown to all, Vineeta had a special place for the white horse in her heart.  She had been praying that Amma would come and shower her love on this one in particular, and now Amma had answered her prayer. Then, suddenly, Amma said, “No, we shouldn’t show partiality to this horse. Bring all the horses.”

So, next a small tan pony was brought to Amma, and she fed that one as well. Then Amma went to a fenced off area on the east side of the ranch and there fed a tall black stallion and two brown mares. Another pony was soon brought, this time a black one. The horses snickered and brayed, each one trying to nose in towards Amma’s hands to get her treats.

Situated on the break of a hill, the horse ranch provides a beautiful view of the surrounding village and the green pastures where the horses are allowed to run. Everyone looked out at that tremendous expanse, taking in its splendour.

“Amma, there are more horses down there,” someone said, and soon Amma was walking off to the east side of the property where more horses were kept. The ranch keeps eighteen horses in all. There, Amma rested against a wooden fence, and fed those horses carrots and pieces of bread from her hands.

After Amma fed all of the horses, she went back inside, where she sat and distributed bread, jam, and pieces of banana–this time to the devotees.

“Last night, Amma thought she would spend the full day here with you,” Amma said to the devotees, explaining that she did not know that she would have to leave as early as noon for her flight to Finland. “Amma had planned to serve lunch, sing bhajans and go for a walk with all of you.”

Then someone half-jokingly asked, “And give liberation too?”

“Everything Amma does is for that only,” Amma said. ‘Chittachora’ is one of the names of Lord Krishna. It means ‘One who steals the mind.’ This is what Lord Krishna did with the Gopis of Vrindavan. By spending all his time with these milkmaids, playing with them, joking with them, stealing their butter and milk, what he actually was doing was stealing their hearts. This is what Amma is doing when she spends time with all of you. She is putting a special pearl deep inside of you, so that you will remember Amma everywhere you go, whatever you are doing.

“Normally when we begin a long, hard task, we will be tense the whole time. The only peace we get is when we think; ‘I will get rest once the task is completed’.  By providing the devotees with memories, deep inside they will always be thinking of me no matter what they are doing.” Amma added that such thoughts–the moments when the disciple thinks of being with the Guru–are moments of peace and rest.

Amma then explained how in the path of advaita-vedanta, one tries to see the whole world as an extension of oneself, and how in the path of bhakti, one tries to see the whole world as their Beloved Lord, or Guru.  The two paths are not different, just slightly different ways of looking at the same thing. “In today’s world, people run to hear talks on Vedanta, but here we try to live Vedanta,” Amma said, referring to how she encourages her devotees to serve the world, seeing it as an extension of Amma, or an extension of their own Self.

“At the heart of all religions is the Guru-disciple relationship. It doesn’t matter whether it is Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, or Hinduism,” Amma said. “In reality, this relationship is the relationship between the jivatman and Paramatman, the individual self and the Supreme Self. In truth, they are one and the same. When standing on the shore, a river appears to have two separate banks, but in reality those two banks are one and the same at the bottom of the river. Once we remove the water (the ego), we will realize this truth.

Then it was time. Amma had to go to Finland. As Amma drove slowly off the grounds, it was a scene just like when Amma leaves Amritapuri in Kerala. Amma rolled down her window and held her hand outside the car so it could brush past the hands of all the devotees who had lined up along the driveway as she drove away.Now that Amma had visited the ranch, everywhere the devotees look, they will see beautiful pearls – memories of Amma’s visit. Will they be ever able to look at the horse without thinking of Amma? They have their clear instructions: Do selfless service thinking of Amma, and remember always that you and Amma are not two, but in essence one and the same.”

–Sakshi

Many musical offerings of mannheim

13 – 15 October 2005 — Mannheim, Germany

Whatever gift a child may offer its mother, she will treasure it with all her heart. The truth of this statement was made evident in Mannheim, where Amma’s devotees offered a diverse array of performances at her feet: a traditional tribal dance from Northern Kerala, a Malayalam children’s song and a German version of the hip-hop hit “Where Is the Love?”

It was the first night of the Mannheim programmes when a group of girls formed a circle in front of where Amma was giving darshan. They soon began a dance that is often performed at Amritapuri by children from the Ashram’s orphanage, a traditional folk dance of the tribals of Northern Kerala{news}. At the conclusion of the night’s darshan, Amma showed her delight at her daughter’s performance by demonstrating a few similar steps of her own.

On Devi Bhava, some boys from Amritapuri also sang a song often performed for Amma by local children in Amritapuri: “Njangalkkoru Ammayundu Svantam Amma.” This is the song that one brahmachari wrote for the tsunami-affected children from Azhikkal{news}. It has become somewhat of an anthem for those children, and they perform it during Amma’s darshan each time they come to the ashram. Sung in unison, the song is all about how grateful the children are to have a mother like Amma, and is full of promises to not fight or tell lies, but to be good boys and girls.

Devi Bhava also saw a completely different type of performance, this one from the hip-hop tradition. The song was “Where Is the Love?” – the smash hit by The Black-Eyed Peas. But the song was rendered a little different than it is on the radio. Felix, a young German man who spent two years doing selfless service in Amritapuri, was on the mic, rapping the glories of Amma in German. Throughout the song, Amma continually beamed her smile down upon him. Many of the devotees took to their feet for the duration of the song, clapping and swaying to the beat.

-Kannadi

Amma leads Munich in a prayer for the world

9 – 11 October 2005 – Munich, Germany

From the top of small hill just outside the site of Amma’s programmes in Munich, one could see the entire city spread before them: the stadiums built for the 1972 Summer Olympic games, the steeples of the city’s hundreds of churches, the skyscrapers and industrial buildings, the brown rooftops of row upon row of German-style houses, the central office of Bavarian Motor Works (BMW)… Indeed, looking out at that breathtaking expanse, it seemed as if all of Munich was wrapped around the place where Amma sat giving darshan.

And if Munich seemed to be surrounding Amma’s programme site, Amma’s programme seemed to be spilling out into Munich, as the warm fall days had many of those who came to experience Amma’s blessing moving outside the confines of the darshan hall and onto the grassy lawns of Olympia Park. Many people could be seen meditating on the hillsides, talking about spiritual topics or chanting the Lalita Sahasranama as they walked around the park’s swan- and geese-filled lakes.

Indeed, taking in the picturesque surroundings, it was easy to feel far removed from the tragic earthquake that had taken place in Pakistan the night before Amma’s Munich programmes began. But it was clear that this tragedy was very much on Amma’s mind. Each day Amma was in Munich, she led all those gathered for her darshan in a silent prayer for world peace and harmony, asking them to pray for the peace of all those who had died, as well as for that of their loved ones. Amma’s prayer embraced everyone, not only those who’d died in the earthquake, but also those who had died in all the tragedies of the past year: the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the hurricanes in America, the stampede in Iraq, the floods in India, as well as those dying in wars and terrorist acts….

“The tragedies we are experiencing are not finished,” Amma said. “Nature continues to be angry and agitated. Only the cool, gentle breeze of divine grace can lift the clouds of anger, hatred and revenge. So, let us pray with melting hearts.” Many of Amma’s devotees could be heard commenting how correct Amma had been when she predicted back in 2002 that 2005 would be a Kashta-kaalam, a time of tragedy, for the world.

With these prayers beginning each of the programmes, Amma carried on her darshan as usual, sharing the joys and sorrows of her German children as each of them individually came into her arms.

Amma’s Munich programmes are always graced with the performance of traditional Bavarian folk-music by her devotees. And this year was no exception. Performing the music as an offering to Amma, the devotees played the traditional instruments–harp, guitar, hack brett and flute–and wore the traditional dress.

There was another unexpected musical performance as well, this one by a group of mentally challenged children from a school in Munich. Nath, a 21-year-old devotee from Halfling, Germany, had taught the children to sing a few simple bhajans, as part of their school’s classes on the cultures of Asia. The children sang versions of “Om Namah Shivaya,” “Amma Amma Taye” and “Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.” It was a beautiful moment that touched everyone in the hall’s heart.

-Tulasi

The mantra became a remedy

10 October 2005 — Munich, Germany

For the past two years, Nath  Hirsch has worked with mentally challenged children at a School in Munich. Some time back, he spent a month teaching the children about the cultures of Asia, including India’s. As part of those classes, he decided to teach them a few bhajans: simple repetitions of “Om Namah Shivaya,” “Amma Amma Taye” and “Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.”

Today, he brought these children–with his guitar in hand–to Amma’s programme in Munich so that they could sing for Amma and have her darshan. The children were so excited–both to sing and to meet Amma. Everyone in the hall was moved by the innocence and joy they exuded as they sang.

“Many of the children have Down’s Syndrome, but others have less definable mental problems,” says Nath, who is 21 and first met Amma in 1988 when he was only four. “One of the boys has both Down’s and Autism. It is a very rare case. He can get so agitated—nothing will calm him down. But he when we started singing ‘Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavanthu,’ [which means “May all the beings in all the worlds be happy”] he really responded very well. The mantra became kind of like a remedy for the children whenever they would get real agitated. At the school, sometimes we would sing it for 20 minutes continuously. One time, after we’d been singing it for a long time and I finally stopped strumming the guitar, this boy reached out to my hand, moving it, as if to keep it strumming the strings. He didn’t want the song to end.”

Nath says that he was inspired to help these mentally handicapped children through the example of Amma’s life and her teachings of selfless service, which he has been imbibing his entire life. Nath also participates in the selfless-service activities of Amma’s youth group in Munich. Most recently, the youth group has been selling tea and waffles each month on the streets of Munich to raise money for Amma’s tsunami relief-and-rehabilitation project.

When Nath took the mentally handicapped children for Amma’s darshan, Amma embraced them tightly and gave each an apple for prasad. She also told them how much she liked their singing, often showing her approval with a big thumb’s up.

As for Nath himself, he could not control his tears. Watching him on Amma’s shoulder, surrounded by those innocent and simple children, he softly wept.

Amma’s lamp of Love continues to spread.

-Kannadi

harisri

Amma’s Vidyaarambham, initiation into alphabats

10 October 2005, Amritapuri

[Just before Amma left for Europe, a reporter from Matrubhumi, a leading Malayalam daily, asked Amma about Her vidyaarambham [initiation into learning], i.e. when and how Amma was initiated into learning.]
harisri

“My vidyaarambham (news) took place 48 years ago. I was four then. Every navaratri, we used to place the items for worship in the Kunnumpura Veedu, a house near ours. It was my mother, Damayanti Amma, who took me to there for the vidyaarambham ceremony.

“The person who initiated me into learning was an 85-year-old aashan [teacher]. He took my index finger and made me write ‘Hari Sri‘** on the cow-dung-paved floor on which sand had been spread out. Later, I was sent to the aashaan pallikkootam*.

Q: Which is Amma’s most memorable experience?

“Since the ashram started, we have been observing Vijayadashami and Vidyaarambham here. There were years when up to 500 children were initiated into learning here. But for the last many years, I have been overseas during Navaraatri. This year too, I won’t be here.

“Even though Amma may have initiated many children into learning, an unforgettable case was that of a girl named Lakshmi. Lakshmi’s only near and dear ones were her mother and younger brother; her father had abandoned them somewhere in Tamil Nadu. Once, when these young children were starving, they went to a restaurant and begged for some food, the proprietor of the hotel threw some hot water on them. The mother, who was proud, took the children to the beach. She flung her young son into the sea. Then, grabbing her daughter, she went near a railway track. When the train approached, the mother jumped before the train. Someone took the orphaned Lakshmi to the Parippally ashram.

“While she was still a young kid, Lakshmi came to see me one Onam. I asked her if she knew the alphabets. She said that she didn’t. While giving darshan, I instructed someone to bring a slate for Lakshmi. I wrote ‘A.’ seeing this, Lakshmi followed suit. Thus, amidst darshan, I taught her every one of the alphabets. Later, I also gave Lakshmi a job at the Parippally ashram. When she came of age, I myself took the initiative to get her married off.” (Read Lakshmi’s Marriage)

—Sakshi

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

*An aashaan pallikkotam was an informal learning centre where children were taught to write and pronounce the 52 Malayalam alphabets correctly. Such centres had no blackboards; children had no slate or notebook either. So, they would write the alphabets on the ground and say them aloud as they wrote. The job of the aashaan [master] was to ensure that the children wrote and pronounced the alphabets correctly. Later, the children would enrol in regular schools.

**Initiation into the world of alphabets usually begins with the writing of the mantra   ‘Om hari sri ganapataye namah.’  ‘Hari’ refers to the Lord, ‘sri,’ to prosperity. At first, the mantra would be written on sand or in a tray of rice grains. Then, the master would write the mantra on the child’s tongue with gold. Writing on sand denotes practice. Writing on grains denotes the acquisition of knowledge, which leads to prosperity. Writing on the tongue with gold invokes the grace of the Goddess of Learning, by which one attains the wealth of true knowledge.

Ammas swiss time

5 – 7 October 2005 — Winterthur, Switzerland

Switzerland is a unique European country in that within its borders four languages are spoken: German, French, Italian and Rumanch. Despite the diverse languages, the people are very much unified in their “Swiss-tvam.” They take pride in precision and in doing things well—there is a reason why the country is known throughout the world for its clocks! As such, the hall where Amma gave darshan—the Eulachallen in Winterthur (a region about 20 kilometres from Zurich’s city centre)—had a strict curfew. The first two nights, Amma’s darshan had to finish by 2:00 a.m. sharp.

The first night, around 1:00 a.m., someone came to Amma to remind her about the pending curfew. As she gave darshan, Amma responded, “Normally, Amma has an understanding with Time: ‘You mind your business and Amma will mind hers!’ and we don’t bother each other. But tonight, it looks the clock is going to have the final word!” Of course, Amma and everyone around her broke into laughter.

Amma had many beautiful things to say during the programmes. When one Swiss man came for darshan, he asked Amma how she is able to embrace people with skin diseases such as leprosy without ever becoming infected by their maladies. Amma answered with a question of her own, “Can the Ganges ever become impure?”

To the delight of the Swiss Germans, Amma sang a couple bhajans in German, including “Wo Kann Ich Hin?”  [a German version of “Where Can I Go?”]. On Devi Bhava, a group of devotees sang some all-vocal choir music in the Rumanch language as well.

And one afternoon, the Swiss children’s satsang—a group that meets regularly to inculcate Amma’s teachings in children—put on a play for Amma, complete with live music. The play focused on Amma’s childhood and all the special relationships she had with various animals: the cow that would lift its leg so that Amma could drink milk directly from its utter when she was meditating, the dog that would bring food packets for Amma…. The children even showed how the snakes would come to simply be near Amma when she was in meditation.

With its four different languages under “one roof,” as it were, Switzerland is a beautiful representation of unity in diversity—a microcosm of all of Europe, the perfect beginning for Amma’s European Tour.

-KaliCharan