14-15 September 2006 — Amritapuri
Amma, the ashram residents and a couple thousand visiting devotees celebrated the birth of Sri Krishna all day today. The celebrations began in the morning with a go-puja, then continued with a village procession of little Krishnas, gopis and gopas. Next the children played uriyadi, the traditional pot-breaking game, as Amma watched and threw water balloons at devotees. A little before 11 pm, Amma came to the bhajan hall. The evening celebration began with Amma giving a short talk about the message of Sri Krishna, then the story of Krishna’s birth from the Malayalam Srimad Bhagavatam was sung, culminating at the midnight hour. Amma then sang Krishna bhajans, including “Agatanayi Agatanayi Krishna Devan” and “Govida Gokula Ayo.” The evening concluded with Amma dancing and distributing hot payasam to one and all.
Sri Krishna Jayanthi: Six Videos
31 July 2006 — Amritapuri
Amma had been giving darshan in North America for two months. Regardless, the day after her return to Amritapuri, she promptly came to the temple to give her first meditation and question-and-answer session with the ashram residents.
When Amma is in Amritapuri, the brahmacharins and householder devotees who live here can easily come to her for answers to their questions and to have any doubts cleared. But with Amma travelling more than six months out of the year, there are many times when one has to wait until Amma’s return to ask something.
This was the case for one American woman living in Amritapuri. Her question was waiting on Amma’s peetham when Amma entered the temple.
During the woman’s meditations, she had been having various experiences, and she wanted to know how to take them: “Amma, what sort of attitude and understanding should one have to the various experiences one undergoes during meditation? How much does one’s mental attitude affect how we experience these? For instance, at one time it might be a joyous experience of motherly love and, at another time, something very impersonal, like forces of nature, like little flashes of lightning and strong gusts of wind acting upon one’s being… What role does the Guru play in all of this? Why do many people go insane or become delusional and egoistic and only a few safely make it to the Goal?”
Amma told the woman that such experiences arise out of innocence. And that although one can take encouragement from such experiences, that they should not be given much importance.
“Because of one’s innocence one may have such experiences; one may feel motherly love, see divine lights or feel a cool breeze… But you should go beyond all such experiences,” Amma said. “You are on the path to realizing your oneness with God, with the Self. While travelling on a path, we see many things around us. But if we stop to see these things and forget our goal, we may never reach the goal.”
Amma said that all experiences are at the level of the mind and that the goal of spiritual life is to go beyond the mind. She said ultimately such experiences are much like dreams and, as such, they should only be given the same importance as a dream.
“The real important thing is the control we have over our mind in all situations,” Amma said. “If someone becomes angry at us, we should not react and become angry also. We should reflect, ‘Whom am I becoming angry at?’ In such situations we should remember that it is all the Atma, the Supreme Self. We should think, ‘The consciousness that is within me is within that person also. Can consciousness become angry? And if all is one, to whom can it express its anger?’ We should give more importance to the Self and not the body.”
In response to the part of the woman’s question regarding the Guru’s role in such experiences, Amma said that the Guru is like a mirror, reflecting whatever mental shortcomings one has. Amma said, “When you find yourself reacting in a negative way to different situations, you should contemplate upon the workings of your own mind, remind yourself of the Goal, and then rectify your behaviour. We should take every situation that comes in life as an opportunity for us to learn.”
Amma then explained how dangerous it is for someone to focus on and pursue mystic experiences in spiritual life. Amma said that when people get hung up on the pursuit of experiences, they often squander their entire lives wandering from place to place looking for places where the “energy feels good.” Others fall victim to spiritual entrepreneurs, who charge, say, $5000, to turn one into an avatar. “With the $5000, they say you can become an avatar after a three-week course. But without the money, it won’t happen,” Amma said. “In a search for newness, for new experiences, people go and follow all these things.”
Amma then said that charging money for teaching meditation, etc. is like a mother asking her child for payment for breast milk.
Amma said, in fact, liberation is not something one can be given; it must come from within: “If the ancient sages had to do austerities for ages in order to realize that state, how then could one get it just by paying someone some money?” Amma derided.
“When we eat sugar, we experience the sweetness. But we still are different from the sugar. We shouldn’t be an experiencer, we should become That, we should become the sugar, we should become the sweetness.”
Once again stressing how the balance of mind during all experiences is much more important than what the mind actually experiences, Amma quoted the Gita “samatvam yoga ucyate” * “Maintaining equanimity of mind in all situations should be our focus. It verily is the goal,” Amma said.
In response to the part of the woman’s question regarding people falling from the spiritual path, Amma said that the most important thing to do if one falls is to get back up and continue on. “There are many, many trees, and there can be many, many flowers on a tree. But not all the flowers become fruits. Some may fall away, others may wither, some may be eaten by insects. Along the spiritual path, there may be many falls, but if one does fall, the important thing is to not remain there, lying on the ground, enjoying the situation. You must get up and put in effort to walk further. Whatever effort you put in on this path will never be lost. You always have it with you. To realize our oneness with God may take our entire lifetime—it may take several lifetimes. You have to put in continuous effort. There is no other way. Everyone has to walk this one path. If you come upon an obstacle, you have to surmount it.
“Don’t focus on fleeting experiences,” Amma reiterated. “The things we see (pertaining to experiences mentioned in the question) are at the level of the mind. We should go beyond the mind.”
*yoga-stah kuru karmani samgam tyaktva dhananjaya
siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhutva samatvam yoga ucyate
(Bhagavad Gita 2nd chapter, verse 48)
[Remaining steadfast in yoga, Oh! Dhananjaya [Arjuna], perform actions, abandoning attachment, remaining the same to gain and loss alike. This equanimity of mind is called yoga.]
28 March, Gokulpur, Kolkata, West Bengal –Bharata Yatra 2006
At the end of each of Amma’s tours, there is one question in the hearts of many of the brahmacharis, brahmacharinis and devotees travelling with Amma: “Will Amma call us for darshan?” Sometimes she does, and sometimes she does not.
In the early days of the ashram, Amma would call the ashram residents for darshan quite often—as much as once a week. But with each passing year, as more and more people come to have Amma’s darshan, the ashramites go less and less. In truth many of them find their way into Amma’s arms only once or twice a year.
This time, Amma did indeed call, and the last two hours of darshan in Kolkata—the last two or three hours of the Indian Tour—were filled by Amma holding her Ashram children, joking with them about various things that had happened on the tour, inquiring about their health, instructing them regarding their sevas and popping prasad candies into their mouths.
A few devotees from the West, for whom this tour was their first, even asked Amma to give them spiritual names. One American boy she called “Yati,” meaning “one who is putting forth effort to realize the Truth,” and a young man from Germany she named “Jayendran,” meaning “victor over the senses.”
Everywhere one looked, one saw smiling faces. After their darshan, some people happily shared with each other what Amma had said to them, others sat alone, peacefully dwelling on the moments they had just experienced in Amma’s arms. It was almost sunrise when the last of them came for darshan. Another Bharata Yatra was coming to an end.
8 February 2006 —Talassery, Kerala – Bharata Yatra 2006
At their request, Amma has given many of her devotees “spiritual names”—typically Sanskrit or Sanskrit-derived words that indicate divine qualities, spiritual principles or are names of gods or saints in themselves. For example, Vinaya (a feminine name meaning “humility”), Mahesh (a name for Shiva, meaning “Great Lord”) or Chaitanya (“consciousness”)… Over the past 35 years or so, Amma has given thousands of people—from all countries and of all ages—such names.
At the beginning of the 2006 Bharata Yatra, Amma was spending some time with all the brahmacharis, brahmacharinis and devotees who would be accompanying her across India for the next two months, and Steve, an American devotee in his mid-twenties, took the opportunity to ask Amma what a spiritual name is all about.
“I was hoping Amma might tell me what the benefit and significance of having a spiritual name is?” he asked.
“Amma doesn’t force you to change your names,” Amma said. “You come to Amma and ask her to give you one. In India it is the tradition for parents to take their babies to ashrams and ask the Guru there to name them.
“Just by getting a name, you won’t change. The change has to happen from within. At present we are strangers to our own Self. We need to awaken from that state.”
Amma then asked Steve, “What would your expectation be in receiving a spiritual name?”
“I would expect that it would be something that would represent my personality and that it would be something that would grow within me as people called me that name,” he answered.
Smiling at the young man, Amma said, “We are born nameless. Then our mother and father give us a name and we become very attached to it. Amma is not interested in changing your names. Your parents will be hurt if you forsake those names. But since you ask, I give them to you. Just by changing our name or taking up new clothes [i.e. the clothing of an ashramites], nothing will change. Change must come from within.”
Amma then said that, on the other hand, if we reflect we will realize that we have had many births, many mothers and fathers, and many names. “Think, ‘What is eternal?’ Maybe in our past life, we were their parents and it was we who named them. These names are not eternal.”
Amma then said that taking a name from a Guru is like taking a new birth. “This doesn’t mean that you have to actually die. In truth, death is taking place each and every moment.” (Amma then said, kind of as an aside, that for her, death is just another experience, like taking a bath, changing your clothes or brushing your teeth.) She then continued, “When Amma gives you a name, it is like taking a new birth. You become identified with it and it reminds you of your True Self. If you are focused on it, the name can really help you to realize your true nature.”
Amma then explained how in the world everyone is attached to his name, fame and position in society. In the name of freedom, she said, people have no problem killing or torturing one another for money or pleasure. Everyone wants to be the boss; no one wants to accept anyone else’s ideas or opinions, she said. “But in spiritual life we are trying to go beyond all this. Taking a new name can be a step in this direction. Now we are trying to include others in our prayers. Now we are trying to see others in our own Self and our Self in others.”
Amma then shared the experience of one who has gone beyond and realized his identity with the Supreme Self. “A Guru needs nothing from this world. He lives as if in a glass case. He can see both the world outside as well as his own Self. He sees the world in his Self, and his Self in the world. But he remains totally detached.”
Amma reiterated, “It is one sun that reflects in a thousands different pots. In a similar way, once you realize your identity with the supreme consciousness, you transcend all names. But, first, the ahamkara [the notion of “I” and “mine”] must go.
“In order to transcend the ego, we must become humble. Only when a seed goes down into the soil and breaks open does it merge into the soil and become a tree. As long as the ego is there, there is no hope. A spiritual name helps to remind us that we are, in fact, the Paramatman [Supreme Self].”
Amma then explained some other ways in which having a spiritual name can help one striving on the spiritual path: “When you hear someone call the name, you will think of Amma, because she gave it to you. Also, as you hear the name constantly, it makes you constantly inquire to see if you are living up to all it signifies.”
Such names also help us maintain awareness of our dharma, Amma said: “When you get married, you exchange rings. The ring reminds you of your beloved. And if later you start becoming attracted to someone else, your ring serves to keep you aware of your dharma. A spiritual name can be a similar type of reminder.”
“You also have a responsibility to live up to your dharma,” Amma told her children. But she then added that she, of course, will help them to do so.
“All names and forms have a purpose in the world. They have a meaning. They have a dharma,” Amma said. She then gave the example of how someone illegally cutting down trees in a forest might not listen if a man approaches him and tells him to stop. But if that man returns in a police uniform, surely he will listen.
“In the end, we must go beyond all names and forms,” Amma said. “But the name is quite helpful in getting us to this stage. If a thorn gets stuck in our foot, we take another thorn and use it to pick it out. Venom itself is used as an antidote for poison.”
29 March, Kolkata
In Kolkata, Amma called all those who had been traveling with her for the past two months for her darshan. When Steve came before Amma, he had another question. “Amma, can I have a name?”
Now, Steve is known as “Yati,” meaning “one who strives for realization.”
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- The world should know that a life of dedication; a life inspired by love and service to humanity is possible. #Ammapic.twitter.com/RF5ckvoBBQ
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- Worrying brings no solutions. Discriminative thinking is the way to overcome life’s problems. #Amma