2014 xmas

Rebirth happens when we completely die to our ego

From Amma’s Christmas Message

God is said to be the embodiment of infinite divine qualities. He is beyond word and thought. It is through the lives of mahatmas that one directly experiences the divinity of God. The specialty of mahatmas is that they practice what they preach. In this regard, Jesus Christ was no different. He was the embodiment of self-sacrifice, love, knowledge and spiritual experience. Christ’s life itself was his message.

When we look at the lives of great like Sri Krishna and Jesus, we see that there were many evil powers that tried to harm them. There is a spiritual lesson in this: When spiritual knowledge—which can be equated to the divine child—is about to take birth, one’s selfish and materialistic tendencies will try to stop it. Only if one puts forth sincere effort with alertness and care will they attain Self-knowledge. If oil is poured over a spark, the spark will be extinguished. However, once the spark becomes a huge fire, no matter how much oil you pour on it, it will not be extinguished; the oil will be consumed by the fire. Similarly, when spiritual awareness is just beginning to expand within us, all of our negative tendencies and thoughts will try to block it. However, when one is established in Self-knowledge, there will be no place for materialistic tendencies and negativities. All great gurus take birth with the goal of removing the darkness of ignorance and adharma [unrighteousness] from the minds of humankind and spreading the light of knowledge.

Freedom & Bondage
Jesus’ birth reveals another profound spiritual principle. Jesus wasn’t born in a grand palace. He was born in a humble place—in a corner of a stable. His parents were not wealthy or learned. They had nothing to call their own, except their own mental purity. Moreover, other than a few blessed individuals, very few people knew about his birth. The teaching we should take from this is that spiritual awakening comes to those seekers who are humble and patient. Empty yourself of ego and I shall come and rest within—this is the essence of the Lord’s message.

If we take Sri Krishna’s life, we see that he was born in the jail where the wicked Kamsa had imprisoned his parents, Vasudeva and Devaki. The jail represents spiritual ignorance, and Krishna’s birth represents the birth of Self-knowledge, which breaks open the prison doors and frees us. While in jail, Devaki and Vasudeva prayed intensely to the Paramatman. This led to the birth of Lord Krishna. Love has no boundaries and can never be imprisoned behind walls. Even though ostensibly we are all free, we are still trapped in the jails of our ignorant minds. On the other hand, even if a mahatma is put in real jail, internally he is ever free. The external world can never bind a mahatma. Even though mahatmas may live in the world, they are detached from it, like butter floating on water.

The Science of Prayer
When true surrender dawns within, we will awaken and arise. Our state today is that we have knowledge but lack awareness. We may see things, yet we don’t really see them. We may hear things, but we don’t really listen. The reason for this is that our mind is never present in what we see and hear. There is a bhajan that goes, “O Lord, I have come with folded hands before you. Please, listen to me.” The real meaning here is that it is we who—through the heightened awareness of prayer—need to see and listen. Currently our mind is never in the present; it is always wandering this way and that. Although God is within us, we are not in God. Many things in the world bind our mind. To bring the mind back to God, prayer can be extremely useful.

If you were to fall into a deep pit and there were no one around to pull you out, imagine the intensity with which you would call out for help. Such intensity should be there in our prayers. We should call out to the Divine from the bottom of our heart, with a child like innocence. Prayer, chanting one’s mantra and meditation are different ways to awaken the Divine within us.

If we extend our arm outwards and hold a thick book, we may be able to manage to hold it there for five minutes or so. If we force ourselves to hold it like that for an hour, our hand will ache terribly. If we are forced to hold it the whole day, then someone will have to call an ambulance. It is the same way with our sorrow. We need to unburden ourselves of our sorrows, leaving them at the feet of the Divine through heartfelt prayer.

In olden days there would be slabs of stone along the roadside that would be supported by pillars. People carrying huge sacks on their heads or shoulders could place their loads on these slabs and rest for a while. Many of us are shouldering such heavy loads within—more than we can really manage. When we enter the puja room to pray, it is an opportunity to unburden ourselves of this weight.

Let your hearts melt in prayer. Praying with intensity is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, just as the wax fuels the flame as it melts, intense prayer awakens our devotion and love.

Crying for God is one of the ways to grow closer to the Divine. There are numerous ways to reach the top of a mountain. One person may climb the steps. Another may be pulled up in a basket. Some may scale the rocks… We cannot say that one way is better than another. This is why there are so many spiritual practices enumerated in Sanatana Dharma. If a restaurant has just one dish, not everyone will enjoy it. If a shoe store were to sell only one size of shoe, very few people will be able to buy shoes there. Similarly, no one can say one path is better than another.

Even when we do Self-inquiry, negating the body, emotions and intellect and reminding ourselves that we are the Atma, we are still using the mind to do so. The state that the mahavakyas such as tat tvam asi—”You are That”—reveal are also experienced in prayer when the ego dissolves through the persistent awareness, “I am nothing; You are everything.”

When Devaki and Vasudeva or Mary and Joseph prayed intensely with surrender, understanding that they had nowhere but to the Lord to go for help, then the divine child was born to them. That divinity is there within each one of us, but we are currently unable to see it because our hearts are closed. It is like we are sitting in a boarded-up room and complaining that we are unable to experience the sunlight. If one shines a light in the eyes of a blind man, will he see anything? If someone holds a fragrant flower or sprays perfume under the nose of someone with nasal congestion, will he experience the fragrance? Our heart has to open. When a flower is still in the bud stage, one cannot enjoy its beauty and fragrance. Only when it blossoms can that be experienced.

Rebirth & death of ego
By birth, human beings are children of the universe, but they can be reborn as the children of God as well. This rebirth happens when we completely die to our ego. When the last trace of ego vanishes, that is when the real birth of our identity as the Supreme Self takes place within us. This is not something that is to be experienced after we die. We have to die to the ego, before we really die.

It’s not easy to transcend the ego. When Self-knowledge dawns within, the ego automatically disappears. Ego is like darkness. Darkness is not a something that can be removed. However, when you shine light, it automatically disappears. To bring in the light of Self-knowledge, one needs to engage themselves constantly in sravanam, mananam and nididhyasanam—learning the spiritual teachings, clearing one’s doubts regarding them and then dwelling in those truths.

Our ego has become strong because of our identification to our status and position, and it’s not easy to overcome this attachment. When someone praises us, we easily fall prey to the ego. On the other hand, even if we hear that our true nature is the Supreme Self 10,000 times, it still fails to truly sink in.

The spirit of Christmas is sharing and caring
As Christmas approaches, decorations light up most of the towns and cities, and shops are filled with customers buying Christmas presents for themselves and their near and dear ones. But amidst all this, the focus should not shift from the eternal to the ephemeral. As we enjoy the creation, let us also remember the Creator. If a friend sends you some chocolates, you can enjoy them and at the same time remember your friend as well. In a similar way, we need to keep our focus on the Creator.

Let us try to speak words with a selfless attitude. Words have a lot of power. One wrong word can drive someone to suicide and one right word can save someone as well. There are people who come to Amma and say, “Such and such a person said this to me. I’ve decided to end my life. I’ve even decided the date. What is the point in living in such a world? I loved him and helped him so selflessly. But what I got in return was the exact opposite.” When Amma spends time talking to them and consoling them, they change their decision and go back relieved. What is it that Amma is giving but a few heartfelt words?

We need to perform good actions. This will make us befitting to receive God’s grace. When we flow towards others, God flows towards us. Many people say, “I’ve done so many years of spiritual practices and seva, but what have I got in return?” This is not the right attitude. It should be, “At least I was able to do this many spiritual practices. At least I could do this much service to the world.” If we sow a seed, it may or may not sprout. If it doesn’t sprout, we will have to sow it again. But with good actions it’s never like that. The impressions of our good actions never go away. They are like fixed deposits and will always stay with us. They are not like businesses where we have to start all over again if we incur losses.

The spirit of Christmas is sharing and caring. Let us not just be focused on our lives alone. Let us look around a little and see the needs of others as well. Even if you are able to help just one person, then you have made a difference. If my children can do this, that would be the real Christmas celebration.

The birth of the Lord should take place in our hearts. Let us decorate the manger of our hearts with good thoughts, sweet words and compassionate actions. May the Paramatman rest there always. May grace bless everyone. Amma wishes her children a very Merry Christmas.

* Extracted from the message Amma delivered in Amritapuri Ashram, 25 December 2014.

 

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All of you are my angels : Amma

15 December 2014 – Amritapuri Ashram
The following dialogue took place between Amma and a visitor in Amritapuri during a seashore meditation and question-and-answer session.

Question: Amma, I have heard and read many things about angels. Can you tell me about them?

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Amma: For Amma, all of you are my angels.
There is an angel in everyone. In Amma’s view, when we do good actions for the welfare of others—that is what gives birth to, or invokes, an angel. The good actions we perform transform us into a vessel capable of receiving God’s grace. So, you can say these actions come back to us as angels. Or you can say, these good actions are like a friend, or an umbrella, that protects us as we walk through life. This is my perspective. When we look into a mirror and smile, the mirror smiles back—doesn’t it? When we scowl into a mirror, that anger reflects back at us as well. Remember, whatever we do in life comes back to us.

“Pure, Selfless Love is only medicine for healing wounds of human trafficking”- Amma

Amma’s Speech on Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery
Delivered at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Vatican City, Rome

(click here for Malayalam)

Dec 2nd 2014

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Amma bows down to everyone gathered here today, who are embodiments of Divine Love and the Supreme Self.

Your Holiness and honored guests… I would like to start by expressing my heartfelt appreciation for being able to participate in such a historic gathering. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the determination and social commitment of His Holiness and to the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Respected Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, who has worked very hard to make this assembly a reality.

Human trafficking is one of the worst curses plaguing society—not only in this century but since the beginning of time. The more we try to eradicate slavery and forced labor, the stronger it seems to rebound. It is like an evil ghost that keeps haunting us. As His Holiness has stated, “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society. It is a crime against humanity.”

It is the duty of each country to implement laws that address and work to eradicate this extremely cruel and immoral crime and to liberate and protect victims from such a fate. It is also the moral responsibility of every citizen committed to justice and social welfare. However, we are all aware of the bitter truth that this problem cannot easily be solved, for the wound of human trafficking is centuries old and extremely deep-rooted.

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Human trafficking rips apart the lives of innocent and helpless children, who embrace life with a heart full of sweet dreams for the future, but are left, in the end, destroyed and discarded.

We have been granted the blessing of life through God’s compassion. This life is to be spent performing good deeds as an offering to God. To destroy another person’s life is a misuse of God’s gift. All living beings are instruments in the hands of the Divine.

The law of God’s court is righteousness, or dharma. Let us all strive to respect and follow this law. Human trafficking is unrighteous.

All religious leaders have the ability to help both the perpetrators—those who trap their fellow human beings in the net of human enslavement—as well as the victims who get caught in this net. They both need to be guided to the right path. Religious leaders should be prepared to fight this battle and uphold righteousness. This is not a war meant to kill. We need to be ready to fight a war to save the helpless from the grip of demonic minds. We don’t want a response born out of revenge due to perceived differences in caste, creed, religion, etc. Instead, we need to develop empathy, realizing the divinity within each person.

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The human mind has created many divisions in the name of religion, caste, language and national boundaries. Let us try to create a bridge of all-encompassing pure love to break down these self-created walls. Any hardened heart will soften in love. Love can spread light through even the densest darkness. Selfless love transforms the mind from a demon that enslaves us into our own liberator. Those who traffic and enslave others have fallen prey to a negative mind. Religious leaders should, without ulterior motives, formulate an action plan of rehabilitation based on selfless love and spirituality, the essence of all faiths.

Remaining silent in the face of unrighteousness is unrighteous. Governments and political leaders have to establish laws without loopholes, so the guilty cannot escape, and these laws must be strictly enforced. In many countries, the government and various NGOs are fighting human trafficking, but we see no reduction in the power and massive financial gain of those who make a business out of treating living beings as mere objects to be used and eventually discarded. The number of victims of this business is rapidly increasing. Like the roots of an enormous tree, the roots of this tragedy are pervading deeper and deeper into society. If we fail to do something effective against this injustice, which is happening right in front of our eyes, it will constitute a travesty against future generations.

Human trafficking is one of the worst curses that plagues society

Victims of human trafficking lose their self-respect and fall into a pit of despair. They are often used by terrorists as drug mules, suicide bombers and for many other illegal activities. Some foods that we eat on a daily basis are produced by children who are forced to work day and night. Victim’s kidneys and other body parts become commodities sold in the marketplace. When these victims are no longer useful and have developed psychological problems as a result of abuse or have contracted incurable diseases such as AIDS, they are finally thrown out onto the streets.

I have personally seen and listened to thousands upon thousands of examples of human trafficking. Once, a woman came to me and burst into tears. She said, “Amma, I have AIDS. My only desire is to see my child before I die. Please help me.” When Amma asked what had happened, she said, “When I was nine years old, I was working as a domestic servant for a family. There I met an elderly man. He said he could give me a better salary and promised me many other benefits. Because my family had so many financial problems, I left with him. When we reached the new place, I saw that there were many other girls there. I wasn’t allowed to speak to any of them. Finally, I realized it was a brothel. Men started to rape me regularly. At first, I felt angry as well as guilty for what I was being made to do. But, as time went by, I lost all sense of dignity and even started to find pleasure in my work.

“After five years, I gave birth to a girl. They let me breastfeed my baby for the first month, then suddenly took her away from me. After a few more years, I was diagnosed with HIV. They stopped allowing me to see my child. When I became really sick, they said they were going to take me to a hospital, but instead they abandoned me. I begged them to let me see my child just one more time, but they never agreed. They didn’t even take me back to the brothel. Everyone I approached for help treated me with disgust and loathing. The only thing they didn’t do is throw stones at me. All doors close in my face. I cannot live in this world anymore. I just want to see my child once more before I die. Will they inject her with hormones to make her look older, use her like they used me and eventually throw her out?”

Hearing her pathetic story, I sent some people to go and try to find her daughter. It was a difficult task.

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Some other women also narrated their horrifying story to Amma, “A man used to visit us regularly. He would help out with whatever was needed, and we became very comfortable with him. After a while, he offered to take our children abroad to work in his friend’s company. He promised to send back large amounts of money each month. He gave each of us an advance payment of Rs. 1,000. He took our children with him. We have not seen him or our children since. We are not sure where our children are, but we heard that they were taken to a brothel. When people went to search for the brothel, they were told that the children had already been trafficked from there.” Saying this, they burst into tears.

Today the value of everything has increased. Men sell their sperm and women their ova for a great deal of money, but ironically, in many countries, a child can be purchased for prostitution or forced labor for a pathetic sum of 10 to 20 dollars.

Human trafficking is a complex problem. The solution needs to be multifaceted. We must address the aspect of dharma, the compelling aspect of poverty, legal aspects, etc. Social service and awareness campaigns also have a huge role to play in this process. Considering all aspects, we will only be able to improve this situation with a collaborative approach.

In spite of taking regular medications, if a diabetic continues to eat sweet food, their blood sugar level will increase. Diet control and lifestyle modification are more important than medication. In the case of impoverished children who lack access to proper education because schools are scarce, resulting in many children only going to the fourth or eighth grade, money alone will not improve the situation. We need to provide the new generation as well as the victims of human trafficking with a practical education that will help create a greater awareness within them. We need to awaken their latent courage and self-confidence, to help them arise. They need to realize that they are not helpless and vulnerable like kittens; they are mighty and courageous lions. We have to help them elevate their minds.

There are two types of education: education for a living and education for life. When we study in college, striving to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer—this is education for a living. On the other hand, education for life requires an understanding of the essential principles of spirituality. The real goal of education is not to create people who can understand only the language of machines. The main purpose of education should be to impart a culture of the heart—a culture based on enduring values.

When Amma’s devotees go to villages to give vocational training, women are also given sex education and life-enrichment education. As a result, many young women have been able to save themselves from people trying to sell them for prostitution, sometimes even their own parents. Amma has been able to help 80 percent of the women who were forced into prostitution and came to her for help, but the other 20 percent are continuing the same way of life. They do not want to change, and Amma has also not tried to force them to do anything.

Lust is a kind of hunger. Even if we feel hungry, we don’t devour everything we can get our hands on. If we go to a restaurant and order food, the people around us may have ordered a variety of different dishes. We may think, “I wish I had ordered that dish instead.” But even if we feel this way, we will exercise a certain amount of restraint. In this manner, we need to exercise restraint for everything in life, especially lust.

Spiritual values need to be inculcated at a young age. When Amma was a child, her mother would say, “Never urinate in the river. The river is the Divine Mother.” When we swam in the backwaters, even though the water was cold, remembering our mother’s words, we could restrain ourselves. When we develop a reverential attitude towards a river, we will never defile it. Our respect towards the river helped to keep it clean, and a clean river ultimately benefits everyone who uses it. It’s not important to debate whether God exists or not. What is important is that devotion and faith in God help to sustain good values and righteousness in society. These values are what bring balance to society and the entire creation.

Roads are meant for vehicles to drive on, but if we say, “I can drive however I wish,” we may get into an accident. Just as there are traffic rules, there are similar rules for everything in life. Spiritual values help us to live according to these rules.

Many people are working hard to put a stop to child labor, but just by banning it we will not be able to solve the problem. Once, a man brought a 10-year-old boy to Amma. He wanted me to raise the boy in the ashram and told me the story of how the boy became an orphan. His father had died two years before, so his mother and sister went to work in a matchbox factory near their home. His mother was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and was unable to work, as she was bedridden. Even though his sister was paid very little, it was just enough to make ends meet. After a while, laws were established that banned child labor. The owner of the matchbox factory was arrested, and his company was shut down. All the children working there were let go. Distraught at the loss of their only source of income, the mother sent her son to school in the morning and then she poisoned her daughter and herself.

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It is justifiable to shut down such factories, but we often forget the families of the young children who depend on these factories in order to live. In our attempts to resolve a problem, if we only see one aspect and fail to see the other, it is the people who have no one to turn to who experience the repercussions. Before we push drastically to stop child labor and human trafficking, first we need to build a foundation to help these families become self-sufficient and ensure their future.

Spirituality begins and culminates in compassion. If we could transform compassion from a mere word into a path of action, we would be able to solve 90 percent of the world’s humanitarian problems. There are two types of poverty in the world. The first type is due to the lack of food, clothing and shelter. The second type is the poverty of love and compassion. We need to tackle the second type of poverty first. If we have love and compassion, we will wholeheartedly serve and help those who lack food, clothing and shelter.

According to the Bhagavad Gita, the Creator and creation are one, just as waves and the ocean are one and the same. Though we may see a thousand suns reflected in a thousand pots of water, there is only one sun. Likewise, the consciousness within all of us is the same. Just as one hand spontaneously reaches out to soothe the other hand when it is in pain, may we all console and support others as we would our own Self.

People from all nations and religions become victims to the ravaging effects of human enslavement and experience extreme abuse and suffering. Their physical and mental pain does not differentiate between language, race or skin color. These victims are just a single group of humans, struggling against the clutches of endless sorrow and emotional suppression.

There are antibiotic ointments that aid in the healing of external wounds. Similarly, there are many different kinds of medication available to treat diseases of our internal organs, but there is only one medicine that can heal the wounds of our mind. This medicine is pure love. In order to heal the mental and emotional wounds inflicted upon the victims of human trafficking, we need to care for them with selfless love. This will bring them into the light of a free life, away from the darkness forcefully imposed upon them in the past. We need to create a large taskforce of social servants to carry out this sacred mission. Only religious and spiritual leaders can bring together such a taskforce.

May the inherent compassion within all living beings awaken. May we all develop the discernment to love and respect life and those living around us. We are not isolated islands but interconnected links on the chain of God’s creation. May we realize this great truth. May we see others’ pain as our pain and their happiness as our happiness. May we forget all the pain and the suffering of the past and forgive all the hurt we have experienced. May we bow down in reverence to all that is good in the world and find eternal happiness.

 

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Amma signs Faith Leaders’ Universal Declaration Against Slavery at Vatican

Amma signs Faith Leaders’ Universal Declaration Against Slavery, Joining global faith leaders at Vatican Ceremony

Dec 2, 2014 – Vatican City, Rome

Amma joined Pope Francis in the Vatican and 10 other world religious leaders this morning, in a ceremonial signing of a declaration against human trafficking and slavery.

The other leaders were: Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Head of the Anglican Church, Buddhist: Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) (represented by Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu 
Chan Khong); Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (represented by Dr. Abbas Abdalla 
Abbas Soliman, Undersecretary of State of Al Azhar Alsharif); Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi; Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi (represented by Sheikh Naziyah 
Razzaq Jaafar, Special advisor of Grand Ayatollah); Muslim: Sheikh Omar Abboud; Malaysian Buddhist Monk: Ven. Datuk Kirinde Dhammaratana Nayak Maha Thero, and Chief Rabbi David Rosen, KSG, CBE, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (represented by His Eminence 
Metropolitan Emmanuel of France), Rabbi Skorka, the coordinator of the Jewish community in South America.
The signing today of the Faith Leaders’ Universal Declaration against Slavery is a historic initiative, working together to end a global tragedy by 2020, gathering combined represented congregations of followers and supporters of over half the world’s population.

 

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Amma commented herself:

“We are honoured and thankful that His Holiness Pope Francis has gathered us here today under the auspices of the Global Freedom Network. I am optimistic that all global faiths are uniting together to inspire both spiritual and practical actions towards society ending the horror of slavery and human trafficking.

“People from all nations and religions become victims to the ravaging effects of human enslavement and experience extreme abuse and suffering. Their physical and mental pain does not differentiate between language, race or skin colour. These victims are just a single group of humans, struggling against the clutches of endless sorrow and emotional suppression.

“The human mind has created many divisions in the name of religion, caste, language and national boundaries. Let us try to create a bridge of all-encompassing pure love to break down these self-created walls.”

Pope Francis commented, “Inspired by our faiths, we have gathered together today because of one historical initiative and one concrete action: to declare that we will work together to eradicate the terrible scourge of modern slavery in all its forms. The physical, economical, sexual and physiological exploitation of men, women, boys and girls is currently linking millions of people to dehumanization and humiliation. Every human being —man, woman, boy and girl— is an image of God. God is Love and freedom that is given freely in interpersonal relationships; therefore, every human being is a free individual, whose life is for the good of others, living in equality and fraternity.”

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Archbishop Justin Welby commented, “Christians believe that the divine life was lived fully and uniquely in the flesh and blood of a human being, Jesus Christ, born through the willing co-operation of his mother Mary. And so we are bound to see every human being as part of the divine plan. This means that no human body can, in any circumstance, be simply an object to be traded, trafficked or enslaved.”

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Skorka, Rector of the M.T. Meyer Latin-American Rabbinical Seminary, & Rabbi of the Benei Tikva Community, said, “The heroic coming out of slavery from Egypt is one of the essential parts of the Pentateuch, and one of its central messages is that courage and profound meaning inherent in being a free person. It is clear from the above that, in the biblical conception, enslaving an individual hurts the image of God lying inside every human- and only those individuals who can fully and profoundly be free can dignify the human condition for themselves and in God’s eyes.”

The Most Ven. Datuk K. Sri Dhammaratana, the Chief High Priest of Malaysia, said, “Human Trafficking and slavery is so widespread that it is practiced in every part of the world at varying levels of intensity. Religious leaders play an important role to work together with the government parties to put a stop to these negative activities. I believe that together we must be united with the effort to increase investigations and prosecutions of  labour trafficking  offences and slavery. We must ensure that there are equal human rights for all and that everyone can live the life that they deserve.”

Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imama of Al-Azhar (presented by Dr Abbas Soliman, Deputy of Al-Azhar), said: “At no point did Islam condone slavery between the people whom it does as being from the same father, Adam, and the same mother, Eve. All forms of slavery are deemed reprehensible in Islamic law and religious and human rights institutions, authorities and organisations must all work to abolish them and push countries to enact laws and legislations that deter the deprivation of freedoms.”

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His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the Orthodox Church, said, “We would like to assure you that we stand with you in solidarity and commitment to eradicate modern expressions of slavery, which are a disgrace to God, a dishonor to humankind, and a degradation of all its innocent victims in the images and likeness of our heavenly Creator.”

And Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said, “Christians believe that the divine life was lived fully and uniquely in the flesh and blood of a human being, Jesus Christ, born through the willing co-operation of his mother Mary. And so we are bound to see every human being as part of the divine plan. This means that no human body can, in any circumstance, be simply an object to be traded, trafficked or enslaved.”

Amma & world faith leaders to declare commitment to eradication of slavery

1 December 2014 — Rome, Italy

Amma has arrived in Rome to participate as part of a historic event aimed at eradicating modern slavery by 2020. On December 2, Amma will join His Holiness Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, as well as leaders of the Anglican Church, Orthodox Churches and the Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim faiths to sign a Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery.

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When Amma arrived at Vatican

The declaration will underline that modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity, and must be recognised as such by everyone and by all nations. They will affirm their common commitment to inspiring spiritual and practical action by all faiths and people of goodwill everywhere to eradicate modern slavery.

The event is being organized and conducted by the Global Freedom Network (GFN). According to GFN research almost 36 million people have are currently trapped in modern slavery, having lost their freedom and being exploited for personal or commercial gain.

According to the International Labour Organization, the total profits obtained from the use of forced labour in the private economy worldwide amount to $150 billion U.S. per year.

In addition to Amma, the signatories will be:

• Catholic: His Holiness Pope Francis
• Buddhist: Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) (represented by Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu Chan Khong)
• Buddhist: The Most Ven. Datuk K Sri Dhammaratana, Chief High Priest of Malaysia
• Jewish: Rabbi Dr. Abraham Skorka
• Jewish: Chief Rabbi David Rosen, KSG, CBE
• Orthodox: His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (represented by His Eminence
Metropolitan Emmanuel of France)
• Muslim: Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (represented by Dr. Abbas Abdalla
Abbas Soliman, Undersecretary of State of Al Azhar Alsharif)
• Muslim: Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi
• Muslim: Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi (represented by Sheikh Naziyah
Razzaq Jaafar, Special advisor of Grand Ayatollah)
• Muslim: Sheikh Omar Abboud
• Anglican: Most Revd and Right Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

A number of leaders from international organisations, including GFN partner Andrew Forrest of the Walk Free Foundation, civil society organisations and businesses will witness the signing of the declaration on December 2.

A live stream of the ceremony will be available on amritapuri.org on 2 December from 11.00 to 12.30 CET (3.30 – 5.00 PM IST).

A word missing from Amma’s dictionary

8-10 Nov, Milano, Italy – Europe Yatra 2014
A huge group of volunteers waited for Amma to welcome her on her arrival in Malpensa Fiere in Milano, which was the venue for Amma’s programme in Italy from November 8 to 10. On arrival, Amma straight away went to the Dining hall to serve food to all her children present, answered their questions, and sang bhajans with them. In response to the question of a devotee, Amma said, “We should introspect at the end of each day and ask ourselves, “Did I go out of my way and help somebody? Was I selfish in my actions or was I able to maintain a selfless attitude? Did I hurt anybody with my words and actions? Was I mature with my emotions?” These are questions that will help us to gauge our progress and help us make resolutions for the next day. My children, never lose your awareness of the goal. If the awareness stays with you, you will never be distracted by anything in the world.”

Amma was welcomed to Italy by the Indian Consul, Mr. Arun Kumar Sharma, Mr. Rudi Collini, President of the Promovaresse, and Padre Antonio Zanotti, a well-known Catholic priest.

 

It was a sight to see as Amma walked into the hall each morning and left in the early morning hours the next day, as the whole crowd would burst into applause with shouts of “Grazie Amma.” There were also groups of people from Greece, Russia and Israel that had come to Milano to see Amma. They had prepared songs for Amma that they sang in front of her, which enthralled everybody. They all held banners asking Amma to visit their country. They even learnt the phrase, “Amma, we are eagerly waiting for you” in Malayalam, which they said to Amma as they had their darshan.

On the third and final evening of programs in Milano, the overflow hall was also packed to capacity. As Amma got up from her seat in the morning hours of the 11th, the main hall was still full, and it seemed that no one had left. As she got down from the stage, and walked towards the camper to drive to the next destination, hundreds of devotees stood on both sides, full of yearning for one last glance from Amma. If there is a word missing from Amma’s dictionary — it is the word ‘rest’.

-Kannadi

‘Merci Amma’ from Lou Paradou, Toulon

3-5 November, Toulon, France – Europe Yatra 2014

With lighted candles in hands and hearts lit with love, hundreds of volunteers lined up to receive Amma as she arrived at the Zenith Omega in Toulon for a three day program. Overt the next three days, thousands gathered to receive Amma’s embrace, braving even the stormy weather on the program days to make it to the hall. Amma sat for hours and hours together each day to meet her children and would get up only after making sure that everybody had the chance of getting her darshan.

In her talk, Amma reiterated the importance of investing time and energy in finding true happiness within She said, “Many of us may have watched the waves at sea. They rise, then fall, then rise again, then fall again… and this cycle continues endlessly. It is the same with our experience of the world and its objects and relationships. We may find happiness, but this happiness will soon turn to sorrow. The sorrow that we feel will subsequently turn back to happiness but this oscillation continues endlessly. In order to maintain inner balance, we need to find peace within instead of depending on the external world.”

It was a touching sight to see the huge crowd shout “Merci Amma” with tears in the eyes as Amma was leaving the venue. She stopped on the way consoling and wiping the tears of many.

After the programme, Amma visited her center in the south of France, Lou Paradou, where She served lunch for the hundreds gathered here, sang bhajans, answered questions and also walked around the center, stopping for some minutes near the beautiful river that flows through the property. Amma’s children in the south of France were immersed in bliss spending these precious moments with Amma.

– Kannadi

 

If each of those 33 million people could pass on the same message…

Ireland welcomes Amma with open arms and hearts

31 Oct – 1 Nov, Dublin, Ireland — Europe Yatra 2014

Amma’s children in Ireland welcomed her to the country with open arms and hearts as she arrived in Dublin for a two-day programme on the 31st October and the 1st of November. The Irish hospitality was at its best and evident to everyone who participated in the program. The beautifully decorated National Show Centre was buzzing with people on both the days of the programme.

On the 31st evening, welcoming Amma to the country, Mr. Thomas Pringle, Member of Parliament of the Government of Ireland, thanked Amma for the support and encouragement she has given her Irish supporters to keep the Irish culture and language alive and celebrate that culture. He added, “Amma has directly touched the lives of 33 million people around the world, passing on a message of love, respect and positive energy to each and every one of those people. If each of those 33 million people could pass on the same message in their daily lives, just by doing the simple things, making time for each other, and sharing compassion, I think we could effect a real change in the world.” Mr. Pringle also said, “I think I speak for everyone here tonight when I say, Amma, we know you are extremely busy, but please find time to visit Ireland every year from now on.”

Also present on this occasion was the Mayor of Fingal, Mrs. Mags Murray whose speech also drew roaring applause from the gathering. In reflecting on Amma’s significance in today’s world, she remarked, “In this world, and in the busy lives that we lead, we all need something to believe in. That belief can make us feel better, happier, and stronger and give us something to look forward to. That’s an incredible power for one person to carry around and to touch the lives of so many people.”

One of the highlights of the Irish programme has been the traditional music and dance performances. This year as well, many well-known bands enthralled the audience with their songs and music and had the whole hall up on their feet, swaying to the beat and dancing in joy.

As the programme came to an end, one could see teary eyes all around the hall. Devotees lined up all the way to Amma’s vehicle with a collective prayer in their hearts and lips, “Amma, please come to Ireland every year.”

– Kannadi

Work together in the spirit of love and unity, contribute to society

October 23-25 – Houten, Netherlands, Europe Yatra 2014

Amma was welcomed at the Expo Houten in Houten, Netherlands on her arrival from Paris by devotees with sparklers in their hands, chanting, “Happy Diwali Amma.” Amma too joined in the celebrations by waving sparklers with them. Though Amma had arrived after a marathon darshan in Paris, she spent time with everybody, distributing cookies to all those present. Lucia Rijkers, the former women’s Boxing World champion, welcomed Amma to Netherlands with a flower garland.

 

De Telegraaf, the largest newspaper in Netherlands, covered Amma’s visit and Belgium VRT1 TV carried a programme on Amma during Her programme at Expo Houten.

 

After the programme, Amma visited the new Netherlands ashram, located at Zeist. Inaugurating the center, Amma said, “May my children work together in the spirit of love and unity which will help us to contribute more and more to society. Let us not look into the drawbacks and shortcomings of others. Let us instead reflect within and work upon our own shortcomings. We should never forget the language of love, patience and forgiveness. All of you have the potential within to do great things. We need to remember that we are not candles to be lit by somebody else. We are the effulgent sun; we are the embodiments of the Supreme Love and strength.”

She also served food to hundreds of devotees present there and sang bhajans with them, leaving each one fully saturated with love. The memories of this visit of Amma to their new ashram will remain etched in the hearts of the devotees who were present that day.

– Kannadi

Amma plants seeds compassion in the hearts of others

27 October 2014 — Alexander Palace, London

Upon Amma’s arrival in London, her 27th visit to the United Kingdom, Amma was welcomed onstage by three dignitaries: Lord Andrew Stone of the House of Lords; Ms. Scilla Elworthy, peace activist and founder Rising Women, Rising World, the Oxford Research Group and Peace Direct; and Academy Award-winning film director Alfonso Cuarón.

Addressing the gathering, Ms. Elworthy, who is a three-time Nobel  Peace Prize nominee and the recipient of the 2003 Niwano Peace Prize, praised Amma’s humanitarian initiatives and youth groups. She said, “I observe two phenomenon happening in our world. On the one hand, humans are stripping the earth of its natural resources so fast that entire ecosystems are collapsing. On the other hand, humans are waking up to an entirely new perception of how the universe functions. And the most powerful forces in that direction, in my experience, are, first of all, the empowerment of women to share with men the responsibilities of decision-making and, secondly, the energy, alertness and skills of young people who have moved from ‘me’ to ‘we.’ They care less about how much they have and more about how much they can offer. And these forces are gaining impetus fast, profoundly inspired and encouraged by Amma’s work. … Amma’s huge heart plants compassion like a seed in the hearts of others, and that is how this huge army of volunteers changes the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.”

 

Lord Stone also addressed the gathering, sharing developments in the House of Lords in specific and in the U.K. government in general that he attributes to inspiration he took from his 2013 meeting with Amma. “We’ve created an all-party Parliamentary group on mindfulness. In the last year 115 Lords and MPs and staff in the houses of Parliament have done an eight-week mindfulness course. And with the blessing of the Cabinet, we are now developing a strategy for the U.K. that would have mindfulness in schools, mindfulness in the health service for mental and physical, mindfulness in the criminal justice system for offenders and victims and the police, and mindfulness in government and business. So, ‘it was Amma’s hug that started that off.””

Finally, director Alfonso Cuarón, best known for his 2013 film Gravity, which won seven Academy Awards including Best Director, addressed the gathering. He said, “I first met Amma two years ago here in London and was more than inspired by her, also by all her humanitarian work that keeps on growing year after year. Amma has touched millions of people’s lives the world over, and her tireless efforts to make the world a better place through her message of love and service are one of the wonders of our time. Spending time with her offers us the opportunity to reflect on our own progress to become better human beings and to ensure that we are moving in the right direction—the direction of peace and love. Thank you, Amma. Thank you for coming to London and setting an example for what is possible. Thank you.”

 

The three dignitaries officially released in the U.K. two new books published by Amma’s Ashram—one by Swami Paramatmananda Puri and one by Swamini Krishnamrita Prana. The formal program was concluded with Amma’s satsang, bhajans, and of course darshan.

– Kannadi