You are my greatest wealth

4 October 2005 — Pfyn, Switzerland

The church bells tolled seven, letting everyone in the small Swiss village of Pfyn know the hour. From the town square, the sound carried out across the rolling green hillside where milk cows grazed unperturbed by a light evening rain, over the river that flows swiftly through the village’s small forest, and in through the open window of a room where Amma–wrapped in a baby-blue coat–sat taking in the faces of about a hundred of her European children. The temperature outside reached below 10C degrees.

After a few minutes, Amma started calling out the nationalities of some of those seated around her: “German, French, Spanish, English, Dutch…” It had been almost a year since many of them had seen Amma, and appropriately the room carried the feeling of a reunion.

Soon, Amma began to sing:

Sri Krishna Sri Hari Krishna…

Govinda Nanda Mukunda…

Gopi Lola Gopa Kumara Vrindavana Lola…

Some of the devotees sang along, others simply sat gazing up at Amma’s face, too content to even open their mouths.

Amma’s acknowledgment of the room’s diversity was a touching beginning to her European Tour, which–with its nine countries in six weeks–is perhaps the best illustration of how Amma is not only embracing the world, but also how the world is embracing Amma.

During the next couple hours, Amma sang five or six bhajans with the devotees, including a few in German. One of the bhajans was, “Wo Kann Ich Hin?” –‘Where Can I Go?’.

In between each song, Amma joked with the devotees and inquired about their health and  their year in general. She also told them about her year, which, of course–as all of them knew–had revolved almost exclusively around the tsunami that took place six weeks after the conclusion of the 2004 European Tour.

Amma told them how hard the Ashramites have been working to complete the 6,000 odd tsunami-relief houses the Ashram has pledged to construct throughout South India. She  also talked about the difficulties of dealing with the government, about her trip to console tsunami victims in Sri Lanka, the fishing boats the Ashram has been giving away and about many of the other tsunami relief works…

By the time Amma had finished, she truly had given a recap of her entire year. At that point, one of the devotees from Ireland who had recently visited Amma’s Ashram in India said, “It’s true! I have seen how fast things are moving with my own eyes. But still I wonder how it’s possible that so much has happened in such a short time.”

To which Amma responded, “When I have children like all of you all over the world, nothing is impossible. You are my greatest wealth.”


Villagers transformed by Ammas love

3 October 2005, Amma leaving Amritapuri

Amma left the ashram for Her 2005 European Tour at 5:15 a.m. today. The ashram residents lined the path from Amma’s room to the beach road. But the path did not end there… even at that early hour it seemed the entire village was awake and standing in front of their homes with palms joined.

Lamps were lit in front of many houses and the entire household—mothers, fathers, children, grandparents—had already taken their bath and waited near the lamps for Amma to pass by. The mantra, “Om Amriteswaryai Namah” pulsed softly in tune with the waves crashing against the shore.

Amma’s car moved slowly along the road, stopping at each lit lamp. The villagers stretched out their hands and Amma pressed candies into them. After Amma passed, many of the villagers could be seen shedding tears. Some still chanted Amma’s name; others softly murmured, “She touched my hand…She gave me a sweet.” Others stood silently, motionlessly, blinking back tears.

Many people heard the mantras and ran straight from their beds in time to catch a precious glimpse of Amma, while others came straight from the bathroom, their clothes wet and hair still dripping…recalling the famous Amma story of Vidura’s wife running to catch a glimpse of Sri Krishna.

The villagers rushing to greet Amma in the car as their lamps keep burning by the road side.

It was not an ordinary scene for these parts. In earlier days, the villagers did not react much when Amma left the area. Regarding this transformation, a villager who works as a soldier in the army commented, “We all believed Kadalamma [Mother Sea] was our protector. But when the sea set out to destroy us, Amma protected us. Amma is greater than Kadalamma.”

It was the second time in recent days that the villagers had lined the streets with lamps lit for Amma; they did the same thing during Her 52nd birthday. (news)

Again, this was a departure from the past. This year was the first time they took Amma’s birthday as a holiday. None of the fishermen had gone out to sea that day. More than taking the day off, it signaled a marked difference in the villagers’ attitude towards Amma. After all that She has done for them in the wake of the devastating tsunami, it is no surprise that they have chosen to consider the day of Amma’s birth as a “holy day.”


A sweet parting gift

2 October 2005, Amritapuri

Today after noon, after having finished giving darshan to newcomers, Amma unexpectedly headed towards the pool.

Within minutes, word had spread throughout the Ashram that she was going swimming.  Ashramites ran to their rooms to put on their swimsuits and rushed to the pool to spend time with her.

Though Amma had been to the pool twice this past year with Tsunami children, it has been quiet some time since Amma had called the Ashramites to join her.

First Amma called the male residents.  Amma stood at the deep end of the pool surrounded by beaming devotees.  One by one, the boys lined up to be pushed into the pool by her.  Amma took special care to ask each one whether they knew how to swim.  If they said ‘no’, she helped them put on a life preserver.  Experienced swimmers stood by to guide them to the shallow end.

Sometimes she would laugh at the antics of the boys as they jumped, dove, or belly flopped into the pool.    Other times, she would chuckle at someone’s large belly.

After everyone had been pushed in, Amma sat down in a chair and started singing He Giridhara Gopala  – her arms rising upwards to the sky.   Everyone sang at the top of their lungs – no one cared whether he was singing in tune or not – we were all in bliss.

Amma then asked all the men to leave and invited all the women to come.   Again, she pushed each person into the pool.  At the end, everyone sang Sri Krishna, Sri Hari Krishna.  Suddenly, Amma started dancing!   Afterwards, she surprised everyone again by jumping in the pool and swimming to the shallow end!

All the Ashramites were beaming with joy at the wonderful parting present she had given us before her Europe tour.

Onam: Unity of hearts is the beauty of the society

15 September 2005 — Amritapuri

“All of you look like a beautiful pookkalam,” Amma said, looking down at the 10,000 or so people who had gathered at Amritapuri to celebrate Onam. Later, in her satsang, Amma explained that pookkalams, the multicoloured flower-petal mandalas of Onam, symbolize the confluence of hearts in society. “Pookkalam represent the unity of hearts. The unity of hearts is the beauty of society. Each flower has a beauty of its own, but when they come together their beauty multiplies. This is the true celebration of Onam.”

Amma explained how the saying “മാവേലി നാടുവാണീടും കാലം മാനുഷരെല്ലാരും ഒന്നുപോലെ Maveli nadu vaneedam kaalam manushar ellavarum onnu pole –  [“During the time when Mahabali ruled, everybody lived as one.”], did not mean that during the time of Mahabali everyone was identical, but that society was functioning harmoniously, as everyone was adhering to their dharma.

Amma concluded her talk by saying that if we really want we can recreate such a world: “If we are all determined, we can create such a world. We can put an end to looting, killing, cheating and other forms of violence. Our world has enough resources to do so, but we are not using them correctly.” {read Amma’s Onam message}

Amma then sang “He Giridhara Gopala.” When she finished, she rose to her feet and asked everyone to join her in dance. No sooner had Amma stood up then a harmonium could be heard playing the melody of a traditional Kerala boat-racing song… which several years back one brahmachari converted into a bhajan about Amma: “Amrita Vahini.” { }

Everyone in the bhajan hall was clapping to the fast tempo of the bhajan and jumping up and down as Amma danced. As one devotee commented afterwards, “It was a real festival!”

When Amma was finished dancing, she sat down in meditation for several minutes. She then called the devotees for darshan. After giving darshan for an hour or so, she started serving Onam sadhya, the traditional Onam meal, to one and all. Ten thousands plates later, Amma got up and walked to her room, where two more devotees were waiting for their Onam prasad–Ram and Lakshmi, the ashram elephants. Amma fed them large balls of rice, banana chips and other treats.

Then, as Amma was giving payasam to Ram, she commented that it was too watery and, therefore, difficult to serve. She asked for a metal cup, so that she could pour the sweet pudding into Ram’s mouth. The first time Amma’s hand disappeared into Ram’s mouth, it came back out without the cup. Amma immediately starting yelling, “Tuppada! Tuppada!” [“Spit it out! Spit it out!”]. A few seconds passed, as everyone anxiously waited to see if Ram would really swallow the metal cup. But after he had made sure the cup was empty, he obliged Amma by spitting it out onto the floor. In unison, everyone let out a sigh of relief and had a good laugh.

It was only a few hours later that Amma returned to the hall. It was 6:00 p.m.–a half hour before the bhajan was scheduled to start. Why had she come? She wanted to spend some more time with the children who were visiting from the Ashram’s orphanage in Parippally. Soon Amma was dancing with about 30 children in a wide circle.
amma dancing with the children of Parippally

Many of the children from Parippally are Vanavasis [tribals] from Northern Kerala, and as such they love sharing their tribal dances and songs with Amma. Together, they did several different dances. When she was finished, Amma began the evening bhajan.

For the final song of the night, Amma sang a very old bhajan, “Bhakta Vatsale Devi Ambike Manohari.” Amma became so lost in the bhava of the song that it seemed she would never finish. For the next half-hour Amma called out into the night, singing every single one of the song’s 27 verses. Amma never once opened her eyes, the words just poured forth, unstoppable, like a tsunami. O Devi who showers motherly love upon her devotees! Mother! Enchanter of the Mind! May you dwell here in order to end the suffering of the people!


Amma’s 52th birthday celebration

Programme Schedule

* Sri Guru Padapuja–Worship of the Guru’s Lotus Feet
* Amma’s Address
* Public Function
* Distribution of Keys to Tsunami-Relief Housing, as well as Free Fishing Boats, Engines and Fishing Nets
* Inauguration of New Ashram Charitable Projects
* Distribution of Free Clothing for the Poor
* Awarding of the Amrita Keerti Puraskar to P Narayana Kurup
* Mass Marriage
* Followed by Amma’s darshan

During the observances of Amma’s birthday, which will be held at Amritapuri Ashram, in Kollam, Kerala, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math will distribute of keys to 550 tsunami-relief houses, as well as free fishing boats, boat engines and fishing nets. It will also launch its Matru Gramam programme, wherein villages are helped to become self-reliant, and inaugurate Kalakshetram. Free clothing will be distributed to the poor, and a mass marriage will be held for 52 impoverished couples. Gold ornaments, marriage dresses and family feast will be provided as part of the marriage; the costs for each couple being Rs. 45,000.

“God’s nature is pure compassion. Lending a helping hand to a neglected soul, feeding the hungry, giving a compassionate smile to the sad and dejected–this is the real language of religion. Living only for one’s self is not life, but death. We should invoke God’s compassion in our own hearts and hands. Only then will we experience deep joy and fulfilment in life.” –Amma

Onam celebration in the pool

12 September 2005 – Amritapuri

“What were your Onam of old like?” {read} This is what the reporter had asked Amma. And the picture Amma painted in response was of a world wet with life–one where boys and girls lepta into the backwaters and splashed about, making as much noise as they wanted, singing together, dancing together, running, laughing, knocking down fruit from the mango trees.

But when Amma told it, it was like speaking about a thing disappeared–or, at least, a thing disappearing.

Then… SPLASH! Four days later, Amma called all the children visiting from the Ashram’s orphanage to come to the swimming pool. And, suddenly, it was as if the Onams of Amma’s memories were reborn.

The children were in heaven; it was obvious. Amma sat at the edge of the water, watching them, as they hopped in and out of the pool–diving, jumping, leaping, splashing… The boys created a lovely chaos. “They are like penguins!” someone said. “There’s so many of them, jumping in and out of the water!” But he was quickly corrected, “No. penguins have order!” Amma made sure the ones who couldn’t really swim stayed in the shallow end, cordoning off the deep part of the pool with a rope. But mainly the girls stayed there. And soon–waist-deep in water–they formed a circle and began to dance and sing.

Many of the children who stay at Amrita Niketan, the Ashram’s orphanage–which is located in Parippally, Kollam District, Kerala–are vanavasis[tribals] from Wayanad, a district some 500 kilometers to the north. And each year when they come to Amritapuri for the Onam holidays, they leap at any opportunity they get to perform their tribal dances for Amma.

Watching the girls as they moved slowly clockwise in their circle–hands coming together up high for a clap, then coming in close to touch their hearts–it was obvious that they had found that place of pure existence, wherein nothing is but the now, so lost they were in the joy of their game.

It’s true that these children have Amma. It’s true they have shelter and education and good food, and caretakers and fellow orphans that truly love them. But many of them still have the memories of brutal pasts lurking within them–alcoholic parents, lives of servitude, lack of food, unspeakable abuse… But at least for the 20 minutes of that dance, there in the pool, by Amma’s feet, none of that remained.


Amma's Onam

How Amma celebrated Onam in her childhood

5 September 2005 — Amritapuri

When a leading Malayalam newspaper reporter from Kerala recently asked Amma to tell him about her Onam memories of long ago, an unforgettable satsang poured forth. In talking about Onam and the village life of her youth, Amma found the perfect medium to share her vision of life, a vision wherein every day is a celebration.

[Onam is a special festival of Kerala. Read about Onam.]




Living the Principle

“In my vision, every day is Onam.

“In this village, the houses are very close together, so the children would go to the neighbouring houses in the evening to play, and then they might eat dinner and sleep there itself. Whether it was a boy or a girl, their mother wouldn’t worry because she knew her child was safe.

“When someone visited your house, you would feed them. When you visited their house, they would feed you. There was no such thing as waiting for the guest to leave before eating. There was no need for matchboxes—we would take fire for lighting the kitchen stove from whoever nearby had it already burning. Similarly, when they lit the deepam for the evening prayers, they would light it using the fire from a neighbour’s house. That’s they way it was.

“Even if a stranger came to the house, he would be provided with accommodation. If it were a small house, they would somehow find space for him in a storeroom or by the cowshed.

“Dharma and love—through these everything was provided in my youth.

“On Onam, people would buy and wear new clothes. Normally, they would have fish every day for lunch, but on Onam they would not fish. They would have payasam and more vegetable curries. This is back then, not now.

“Drumstick [the pod from the Moringa tree] was a specialty. Every house used to have a drumstick tree, so they would have that every day… but only on Onam would they buy extra vegetables and make special curries.

“About 50 or 60 houses from each village would assemble in the courtyard, and they would put up a big swing and sing songs of Mahabali, like:

മാവേലി നാടുവാണീടും കാലം മാനുഷരെല്ലാരും ഒന്നുപോലെ

“Maveli nadu vaneedam kaalamManushayellavarum onnu pole”

[During the time when Mahabali was ruling the country all of humankind lived as one.]

“Twenty girls and boys would sit together and sing. After the age of 12, girls were not sent to the village shops to buy things, but during Onam, the boys and girls would mingle together and swing and sing and prepare the pookkalams [flower-petal mandalas]. This was the Onam celebration.

“During the 10 days of Onam, the children would play without getting scolded or spanked by anyone in the family. During these 10 days, they would have so much freedom to play and shout and make noise. Usually the rule is that girls should not speak loudly or run: ‘If she walks, the earth should not shake.’ Boys could run. But on these 10 days, the girls could run, scream and shout. There was no difference between the boys and girls. They would dance together.

“Amma doesn’t think that other than these simple traditions, the people in Amma’s village understood any principle behind Onam. Even though they were singing the songs, they did not know the deep meaning behind them. During the time Mahabali was ruling the country, all of humankind lived as one… It doesn’t mean that everybody had the same height, talents, etc.—not like that. Everyone was living their own dharma.

“In my youth, whenever anyone came to our house, my mother would serve them food. And she would give the children the water left over from boiling the rice, adding to it some shredded pieces of coconut. She was worried about the guests. Were they fed enough? Were they happy or not? She wasn’t worried whether her children had had enough food or not. Her worry was whether or not the guests’ stomachs were full. We would prepare tea for anyone who came at anytime, also paan and beedis. Make them happy and feel good. Give them all comforts. These were the only thoughts. Even though they didn’t know the principle, they lived the principle.

“Even if the people in the village were very poor, they would buy new clothes for Onam. They would be so happy. When they received their new set of clothes, they would become happy in the same way that a starving man becomes happy when he receives food. It was the pinnacle of happiness for them.

“It wasn’t only a joyful time but also a time when they would shed their sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine.’ The differences between the poor and the rich disappeared. The poor would be welcomed into the rich people’s houses, and the rich would come down to the level of the poor. They were shedding their egos, thereby transforming themselves from small to big, from the seed to the tree—the tree that gives shade even to the one who is cutting it down, the tree that has patience, love and generosity.

“During Onam, my parents would give the mooppan [the coconut-tree climber] a new set of clothes and some money, as well as the carpenters, the dhobis [washer-men]…. And in turn they would all bring something to my father as well, like chunnamba [quicklime—pinches of which are mixed with betel-nut to make paan].

“Once on Onam, Amma’s brother gave clothes to the mooppan, and he threw them to him, instead of handing them. When the dhobis came, they would not touch the well. You would have to give them the water. They would not touch the well. This made Amma sad. Amma could not understand why it was like this. Amma would make them fetch their own water from the well. But father’s family did not like this. Now such a thing does not exist—it was in my youth.

“They understood that in order to receive God’s grace one should serve the poor. But here untouchability was there. Still, they served the poor because they wanted God’s grace. However, when they served the food, they would just put it down and go away. They did not know the principle.”



The pre-onam exams: then vs. today

“These days, children are eager to welcome Onam, but they also are tense because of their exams. The Onam and exams of today are different from the Onam and exams of yesterday. In my school days, there were no other languages taught in third standard. English and Hindi only came in fifth standard. A few words of Hindi were taught in the school. Amma learned English [the alphabet] only by looking at the calendar. At that time there were not so many books to create tension.

“On many of the holidays, the children would go to nearby mango trees to try to knock down the mangos. At least six months out of the year, the backwaters were fresh. All the children would run and jump into the water and yell and scream. Hearing this, all the grownups would come and beat them, but then after they left the children would jump into the water again. Only if our clothes were wet would our families come to know. In villages like this, up to the age of five, the children are not used to wearing clothes. There was no shame in it. They had an aranjnanam [string-like band] tied around their waist. The ones older than that would jump in with their clothes on and then, once in the water, they would take off their clothes, roll them up into a ball and then throw them onto the land. They would enjoy playing, swimming…. All the holidays were like this—knocking down mangos and swimming in the backwaters. Amma doesn’t think the children were very tense for the examinations in these villages. Only a few texts were there to be studied. There was no need to be tense.”

Collecting flowers for making pookkalams

“As Amma became a little older, I would go to collect toopu [long tender stems often used to feed goats]. There was only one house right next to our house. After that all the houses were surrounded by water and a little wooded area. There would be small areas like this around the kayal [backwater lagoon]. In places like these, there would be a small tree called kambatti [from which the toopu is gathered]. I would go there to fetch grass for the cows. Flowers used to grow around there [which Amma would collect for making pookkalams [the decorative flower-petal mandalas of Onam]. Then, when I was a little older, I would go east [across the backwaters to Vallikkavu]. For a while I studied tailoring there. I would swim to the other shore and, holding the flowers in my mouth, swim back.”

Onam is not for celebrating only one day a year

“For me, Onam is not something to be celebrated one day a year—making sure everyone has enough food and clothing. It is meant to be celebrated throughout life. Everyone must make every day an Onam celebration. Celebrating just once in a year… that doesn’t mean anything to me. To understand this principle, you have to understand spirituality.

“Today’s world believes the greatest relationship to be the relationship between a child and its mother. But in my world, it is not; the Guru-disciple relationship is. Because When you understand spirituality, you understand the principle. When you understand the principle, you become expansive. You lose your sense of ‘mine.’ My mother, my father, my child, my relatives…. In the Guru-disciple relationship, everything becomes ‘Yours’ [the Lord’s]. The ‘I’ disappears. Only the Atman exists. Love and serve others as your own Self. When the left hand is in pain, the right hand comes and consoles it. It is with this bhava [feeling and attitude] that we must live life. This is the principle behind Onam.

“Two plus two is always four—never five. No one can make it five. The sun rises in the East, and sets in the West. It doesn’t do the opposite on Onam. So there is nothing new on Onam. Amma doesn’t feel like Onam is a special day. May people have the mind to love and serve others and celebrate life every day—not just on Onam. This is Amma’s vision.

“You have to understand spirituality, our dharma. The road is for traffic, but you have to follow the rules. We are born to be happy. Along with that, you have a dharma. The teacher has her own dharma, the mother has her own dharma… When a teacher is at school, she must follow the dharma of a teacher, but when she is at home she has to follow the dharma of a mother. Everything has its own dharma. We have to act according to our dharma. Then the traffic of life will flow in harmony. Whether God exists or not is not the question. Regardless of the answer, how useful His message is in our life! This is what we have to investigate.”

We have lost our discrimination

“We need to develop the language of the heart. But now we are only developing our intellects. When there is a mixture of sand and sugar, the intellect cannot distinguish between the two, but the ant can come and take only the sugar. That’s the beauty of the heart.

“The intellect is like a pair of scissors, cutting everything in two. People say they have grown, but Amma doesn’t see any viveka [faculty of discriminative thinking] in them. They say they are growing, but Amma doesn’t see them expanding. They are intelligent, but don’t have viveka. They have the information but not the bodha [awareness]. The intellect has grown, but the heart is weakening. They have beautiful houses, but their families are falling apart. This is the world we are living in today. So there is no comparison between the Onam of today and the Onam of yesterday. Today, it is mechanical. Back then it was pulsating with life. There was heart and beat. Even if it was blind belief, there was a pulsation of love at its core. They were living the principle. Today, even though someone may know the principle, they are not living up to it. We lost our viveka. The intellect has grown, but our viveka has been lost.

“Because of this lack of viveka, the distance between family members is increasing. If there are three members in a family, they are living like three islands. We are not single islands; we are connected like the links of a chain. What we show our children, our children will emulate. If we do not look after our parents, our children will not look after us. That is the state we are heading towards. You get what you give. This is the best proof for the principle of karma.

“Today there also are celebrations, but the families go to some restaurant. In the olden days, all the children from far off places would come to the house. They would sing, dance, play and eat together. Not just the immediate family’s children, but all the children, mothers, fathers etc. would come to the taravadu [ancestral home]. Nowadays, they either eat at a restaurant or get take out. In the olden days, they would prepare weeks ahead, husking and pounding the rice for all the many family members who would come.”

The Relationship of Love

“I have seen my mother when she was grinding the curry powders—the child may be a little further away and milk would leak out from her breast and wet her blouse. Immediately she would say, “Oh, my child is hungry!” Maybe the child would be in the next house. Or maybe he is with the older children. The child is not with the mother, but she will feel the child’s needs. The breast will leak milk unceasingly. So she will clutch her breast and say, “My child is hungry!” And if you were to reach out to the child, you would find that it was true. The mother has not heard the child cry. The vibration of the child has reached the mother, and the mother’s breast is leaking milk. This is the relationship of love.

“Amma has travelled all around the world. When she listens to people’s problems, she understands how far we have deviated from our values, how much we have lost.

“Nowadays, people buy cards on days like St. Valentine’s Days with the words ‘I love you’ written on them, but it was not necessary to say such things in day’s past. Now it is only in the words.

“It is not the action but the attitude that is the most important thing. In the olden days, people had the correct attitude.”


Natures fury is not yet abated

1 September 2005 — Amritapuri

When the night’s bhajans finished, Amma’s voice came once more over the microphone:

“Amma would like all of her children to pray for the peace for those who died and for those who lost their loved ones in the recent stampede in Iraq and in the flooding in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina.”

“Pray that the anger and hatred in the hearts of all those who are creating terror, war and conflict in the world be transformed into repentance, forgiveness, understanding and love.”

As Amma has said repeatedly since the tsunami, Nature is clearly out of balance, reacting to the adharmic (unrighteous) actions of man.  “Nature’s fury is not yet abated.” Amma asked everyone to pray so that  “what would be a hurricane be transformed into a gentle breeze.”

She then led everyone in the chanting of Om three times, as well as the chanting of lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu for several minutes.

– Kannadi

Amma and her winged friends

26 August 2005, Amritapuri

Amma’s love flows forth to all beings—not just humans. And if one watches the birds that live in and around Amritapuri, one can easily observe that they love her too. Ducks, eagles, owls, crows, pigeons—all have their unique relationship with Amma.

For years there was a beautiful and unusual duck that camped out underneath Amma’s room. He would sit there, beneath her window, almost seeming as if he were meditating. And he never gave up his vigil—even for an hour. And if someone walked up to him, rather than waddle off as most ducks would, he would hold his ground and make them back off with a fierce quack. But he was just one of many.

Each morning, Amritapuri comes alive to the sound of birds. First there are the cuckoos, cooing to each other from distant treetops. They begin quite early—around 3:30 in the morning. They are soon joined by the sweet little voices from a bevy of tiny birds, many of who take up residence in the bushy mango tree by the window to Amma’s room. By the time the sun rises, the chakoras [Greek partridges] have taken over. Flying from one tree to another, several pairs of these brick-red, brown and black birds chatter for about an hour. Then comes a lone red-winged blackbird, a bird of good omen, calling out to all with its deep “grook… grook… grook…” He is followed by the crows, calling out “caw… caw…  caw….” Some of the ashram residents like to imagine the birds are all singing just for Amma, calling her to bless them as they begin their day.

Every day, around 8 a.m., a multi-coloured woodpecker, with its fan-like tail-plume, dares to knock at Amma’s window. The ashramites look on amazed—perhaps envious of his view! He knocks first on the eastern panes, hopping around for some time, seeking the best vantage point—and then, if the requested darshan hasn’t come, he goes to the northern panes and continues knocking!

Throughout the day, mynas and pigeons frequently come for Amma’s darshan. They take turns singing for her during darshan, flying in and out of the hall, perhaps longing for a quick glance from their Amma.

Quite frequently, ashram children will bring a wounded baby crow or pigeon to Amma for her blessing, and Amma never fails to kiss the poor baby birds on the head. A painful start to life is thus balanced by a kiss from Amma! Like many of the human devotees, their trauma has become their good fortune. And whenever possible, these injured fledglings will be nursed back to health by the loving care of the ashramites, who keep them in their rooms and even bottle-feed them for weeks on end.

The lotus pond across from Amma’s room is the haunt of a bright blue-winged kingfisher, who occasionally calls out in a shrill voice, perhaps asking Amma to send him a fish—after all, he’s hungry, and isn’t she his mother?

And what to say of the eagles that soar above the Brahmasthanam Temples whenever Amma consecrates them? Across the length and breadth of India, these eagles come to bear witness to the installation of the prana-shakti into the temple’s murti.

For the last six months or so, one eagle—who may indeed be related to the eagle who 30 years ago would drop raw fish into Amma’s lap when she was lost in deep meditation—can almost always be seen somewhere in the ashram. Sometimes he perches on the balcony railing directly behind the temple, only 15 feet from where Amma is giving darshan. But most often he’s found near the Western Canteen, swooping down on unaware devotees to snatch away their buttered toast.

In the evening, when Amma comes for bhajans, the eagle often comes, perching above the stage and then swooping out over the crowd. Not long back, just as Amma had taken her place on her peetham for bhajans, he swooped around the hall several times in what seemed like circumambulation, finally coming inside the stage area in order to circle once more around Amma herself.

During Amritavarsham50, Amma’s 50th birthday celebrations in Cochin, a little owl came to sit right above Amma’s chair for then end of her marathon darshan session, which lasted almost 23 continuous hours. Although a night creature, this little owl stayed by Amma’s side until the late hours of the morning when the sun was burning high in the sky.

A couple of years ago, one of Amma’s devotees gave her a copy of a documentary about birds, which showed amazing close-ups of them as they migrated all over the world. Knowing that her children would love to watch it alongside her, Amma one night called all the ashramites to the bhajan hall in order do so. It was such a treasure—sitting with Amma as she laughed and watched in wonder at her winged friends.

The Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures teach us that the Supreme Consciousness flows equally through everything in this world—be it sentient or insentient, plant or stone, human or animal. The divine spark at the heart of the hummingbird is the same as the one inside each of us, as it is the same as the one inside Amma. But for us, who are caught up in the illusion of maya, created by our ego, it is all too easy to forget this—to ignore the divinity of the play taking place all around us. But wherever we go, and particularly when we spend time in Amma’s ashram, we must struggle to recognize this divine spark in all the creatures that call this world their home—whether they live on land, sea or in the air.