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Amrita University gets UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality

UNESCO chair on gender equality and women’s empowerment for Amrita University

27 Oct, Paris, France – Europe Yatra 2016

During Amma’s programmes in Paris, France, the United Nations officially made Amrita University India’s first-ever UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment. The official bestowing of the UNESCO Chair took place before an audience of 8,000 people in Paris who were Amma’s programme.

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Special guests included Ruchira Kamboj, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to UNESCO; Dr. Peter Wells, Chief of Higher Education Section, UNESCO; and Gopinathan Achamkulangare, Inspector of the Joint Inspection Unit. Amrita University vice-chancellor P Venkat Rangan handed over the signed agreement on behalf of the university to Dr. Wells.

Dr. Peter Wells, Chief of Higher Education Section, UNESCO, said: “There is no greater force for development, resilience and peace in the world than girls’ education. Universities such as Amrita have a guiding and strategic role to play in this quest. This UNESCO chair will be at the crossroads of research and action, with the ambition to develop toolkits focusing on vital areas, from skills to health to climate change, on mobile technology applications, and better mapping of vulnerabilities. Amrita University and UNESCO share the same humanist agenda, and we look forward to a collaboration which advances the most important frontier for human rights, peace and progress.”

Ruchira Kamboj, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to UNESCO, said: “This is certainly the first-ever UNESCO chair in this discipline. What is truly remarkable is the strategy, where it is proposed to map out vulnerabilities of women and girls at various levels and from different perspectives, and through research, study, training, and an exchange of best practices, to find the best possible solutions, replicable by others. My thanks to Amrita University for the inspired idea and for the beautiful project. I am confident that through this chair, Amrita University will make sure that both the ceiling and the floor for women will be raised.”

Launched in 1992, the UNESCO Chairs Programme comprises a global network of more than 700 universities, across 128 countries. It promotes international inter-university cooperation and networking to enhance institutional capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work. Through the network, higher education and research institutions all over the globe pool their resources, both human and material, to address pressing challenges and contribute to the development of their societies.

 

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Humanity is crying out in one voice for a more compassionate, harmonious and just world

17-19 October, Houten, Holland – Europe Yatra 2016

Amma spent three days at the Expo Houten arena in Houten, Holland as part of her 2016 European tour. Upon her arrival in the Netherlands, Amma was received at the aircraft by Lucia Rijkers, the 7-time world boxing and kickboxing champion and acclaimed actress, and the guards of the Royal Marechaussee.

 

On the second day of programs, a formal program was held, in which Amma was warmly welcomed to the Netherlands by Deputy Mayor Jocko C.H. Rensen from the Council of Houten, J.S. Mukul, Ambassador of India to the Netherlands, and Lucia Rijker.

Deputy Mayor Rensen said: “It’s an honor to welcome you to Houten and the Netherlands. Your love and power of personal positivity have influenced and inspired a lot of people in the community of Houten, as well as my family, and myself. The power of your embrace, the story of your life, and the impressive work of your humanitarian projects are inspiring for our way of living, not only for my family, but for me as a city council member. Your visit is a perfect moment for reflection of who we are, and how we are embodying virtues. Thank you for visiting our community.”

Ambassador Mukul said: “Amma is a great cultural and humanitarian ambassador of India. The huge gathering we see here today is a testimony to Amma’s popularity in the Netherlands.” He went on to say that with the new e-Visa offered by India to Dutch citizens, “You don’t need to come to the embassy, you can get the visa online to visit Amma,” and that there are now 3 direct flights to India from the Netherlands each day – an increase of 200% over last year, “so now it will be much easier for you to visit Amma!” Both announcements were met with great applause and cheers from the assembled crowd.

Though the program was held on weekdays, the venue was full to overflowing on all three days. In a beautiful multicultural exchange, the local women devotees of Belgium and the Netherlands played the ‘Kai kottikali’, a traditional dance form of Kerala, in the traditional attire.

 

 

Throughout this year, Amma has been guiding an extended meditation and prayer for divine grace to bring harmony back to our planet, both in the form of restoring nature’s balance and in transforming the hatred and anger in the minds of human beings into forgiveness and compassion. Amma guides this meditation as part of both morning and evening programs, before beginning the process of individually embracing each person attending the event. The meditation, as well as Amma’s satsang, are always translated into the local language. Thus if one follows Amma around the world, one can hear prayers for peace reverberating in dozens of languages. Here in Houten, listening to the prayers uttered in Dutch, one was reminded that in the wake of Amma’s tours, humanity is crying out as in one voice for a more compassionate, harmonious and just world. And touched by Amma’s message and her divine embrace, all who walked through the doors of the Expo Houten walk out again transformed, and imbued with love, tenderness and hope they can carry like ripples to everyone they meet. Each of Amma’s programs then, and indeed each embrace she gives, is like a stone dropped into a lake, and the kindness and compassion expressed by those Amma has touched are like ripples spreading throughout society.

-Dass

 

 

 

 

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The meaning and importance of Navaratri worship

Children, Navaratri is an occasion for worshiping Parashakti, the Almighty Goddess, who is the cause of the universe.

Navaratri is a time for vows, austerities and worship. The ways of worshiping vary from place to place. In some places, a different aspect of Devi is worshiped on each day. In other places, She is worshiped as Kali or Durga during the first three days, as Lakshmi in the next three days, and as Saraswati in the last three days. In yet other places, the worship is performed only during the last three days.

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Negativities such as excessive sleepiness, sloth, lust, anger, pride, envy, impatience and a lack of faith are obstacles to doing spiritual practices and making spiritual progress. Conquering them through penance and thus attaining spiritual fulfillment—this is the principle that Navaratri conveys. Not only that, through prayer, one also gains power, auspiciousness and knowledge. Through vows, we can increase our will power and gain greater self-control. Vijayadasami marks the successful completion of this occasion.

On the day of Durga-ashtami, we offer our books and the tools of our trade for puja (worship) as an expression of gratitude for the blessings received in the previous year.

A tailor keeps his needle for puja, and a warrior, his gun. Likewise, a doctor or a butcher might keep the tools of his trade for worship. This is because people depend on them to earn their living. By offering the tools to God, one commits to performing all work as worship.

Thereafter, we receive them as Prasad, and begin life afresh. Vijayadasami is an auspicious occasion for any new noble undertaking. We initiate children into learning that day by making them write the syllables  “Harishree…”. The mantra, “ ॐ  हरिः  श्री  गणपतये नमः  / Om Hari Shree Ganapataye Namah,” represents the whole universe of letters. Human beings gain knowledge mainly through the alphabet. When Devi, who is the embodiment of language, shines forth in the mind and on the tongue, the mute becomes eloquent, and the illiterate, scholarly.
The ultimate truth is Pure Consciousness. It undergoes no change when the universe manifests from It. We refer to the power behind it as Devi. God and divine power are not two; they are one and the same, just as sun and its light, honey and its sweetness, a word and its meaning.

We have the freedom to worship God in any form we like. We can worship Him as Mother, Father, Guru, Friend, the Lord or as our own child. The only thing is, our worship should be based on spiritual principles.  Among human relationships, the one between mother and child is highest. The child has total freedom with his mother. He gets what he wants by crying or through willfulness. Even if the mother spanks her child, he will hold on to her tightly. “I have no other refuge than the mother”—this is his attitude. No matter what the cause of his distress, he finds consolation in his mother’s lap. This is the attitude we should have towards God.  The mother is the embodiment of patience. No matter how many times the child errs, the mother forgives him repeatedly and showers her affection on him. However, most mothers have such love only for their own children, whereas the Divine Mother’s attitude combines both love towards all beings in the universe and spiritual discipline.

Some ask ‘why we refer to Devi as Maya. Doesn’t Maya lead us to delusion, sorrow and bondage? Why then do we worship Devi’? The universe is the visible manifestation of Devi. She pervades all forms. As She is everything, Maya, too, is Devi. Devi is the one who liberates both Maya and the Mayavi (magician) from delusion. Devi is knowledge and ignorance. Knowledge leads one to Truth. Ignorance leads one to untruth and sorrow. Because Devi is everything, She is both knowledge and ignorance, as well as the supreme truth, which is the substratum of both. Maya is nothing other than our own mind. It is not some outer force. Maya is the root form of the mind. The mind is the cause of bondage and liberation.

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Once, a band of thieves robbed a person of his valuables, bound him with rope, and pushed him inside a well. The victim shouted for help. Hearing his calls, a few people went to the well. Seeing him, they threw a rope inside the well and saved him. A rope bound him. Later, another rope saved him. Similarly, the mind alone is the cause of both bondage and liberation. We can lock the door when we turn the key towards left; unlock the door when we turn towards the right. But the key remains the same. How we use it determines whether we unlock the door or not. Similarly, the mind alone is the cause of both bondage and liberation. Most of our sorrows are caused by misconceptions. At dusk, the sun sets into the sea. A child cries, imagining the sun is drowning. Such is the case with most of our sorrows.

God has assigned everything its own place in the universe. There is no great or small. See and revere everyone as God. We need this equal vision. This is also the message behind the bommakkolu (multi-tiered arrangement of idols) associated with Navaratri. We worship even the most insignificant idol in the bommakkolu as a part of Devi. Supreme devotion is seeing, loving, serving and worshiping everything as the Universal Mother.

We need to awaken the right knowledge from within. We need to gain scriptural knowledge and practice those teachings in our life. May Navaratri awaken this attitude in all my children. May divine grace bless you all.

 

-Excerpts from Amma’s Navaratri message, Amritapuri, 11 Oct 2016

 

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Money, Knowledge and Health needed for a proper living

8 Oct 2016 – Amritapuri

Each time Amma leaves Amritapuri for a foreign tour, she holds a meeting with the ashram residents to give instructions on both spiritual and logistical matters.

During the meeting on Saturday, Amma asked the children who live in the ashram if they keep a timetable. Amma explained that it is very important to follow a routine. In the culture of Sanatana Dharma, Amma said, time management is nothing new. Yet in modern management theory, time management is a relatively new topic and courses are offered on this.

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Amma went on to speak about the importance of teaching values to children at a very young age. So saying, she proceeded to teach a two-year-old child to chant the sloka below. In the morning, Amma told the child, first thing when you wake up, look at your palm and chant:

कराग्रे वसते लक्ष्मी करमध्ये सरस्वती
करमूले तु गोविन्द प्रभाते करदर्शनम्

karagre vasate lakshmi kara madhye saraswati
karamoole tu govinda prabhate kara darshanam

and she went on to explain the meaning of the sloka:

Lakshmi resides at the top of the palm, Amma explained. In the middle, Saraswati. At the base of the palm, Gouri/Govinda resides.

Amma continued:
We pray to Lakshmi for money.
We pray to Saraswati for knowledge.
We pray to Gauri or Govinda for health.

All three are needed for a healthy life.
This mantra holds both spiritual and material meaning.

Amma continued to instruct the children:

Do not jump out of bed after sleep, or jump into bed when you go to sleep.
Meditate for some time before you go to bed, and again before you get out of bed.
Pray: O Lord, you should guide me in a good path, give me the ability to follow my parents’ instructions.

Aso pray before you eat: first meditation, eating comes after.

When you sit down to study, do namaskaram to (bow to) both the book and the pen,
because we are gaining knowledge from these.

This is how we should live.

Amma also spoka about pujavaippu, also known as ayudha puja – the tradition of placing books and all types of tools used for knowledge and making a living before an altar for worship during the 9 days of Navaratri. Amma explained that this tradition represents the principle that all things, both sentient and insentient, are verily God.

We should have prasada buddhi – accepting everything as God’s prasad (blessing). This is the attitude we should develop.

-Sakshi

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Birthday is a day of giving; giving without reservations

As every year, Amma’s birthday was a day of giving. The Hon. Prime Minister of India, Sri. Narendra Modi, who participated in Amma’s birthday celebrations via video conference, announced the Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s completion of 2,000 toilets for the poor in Kerala, as part of a Rs. 100-crore pledge to build 15,000 toilets to help end open defecation throughout India. {news}

On the occasion of Amma’s 63rd, birthday, with the help of various cabinet ministers, religious figures and other dignitaries gracing the dais, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math  (MAM) also presented:

* 400 free surgeries for the poor at Amrita Hospital, including 200 open-heart surgeries, 25 renal transplants, 75 neurosurgeries and 100 oncology surgeries

* Provision of clean drinking water to all residents of 5 rural villages as part of the Amrita SeRVe 101 village project: Ratnapur and Bhojpur in Bihar; Danda and Uttarakashi in Uttarakhand; and Gudipavacheru in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh.

* Development and deployment of a method for sustainable income via a solar-thermal-based lemon-grass distillation unit for women in Mothakkara Village, Wayanad, Kerala.

* 100 newly constructed houses for the poor throughout Kerala

* 400,000 saris to women who are beneficiaries of various humanitarian initiatives of MAM

* Amma initiated weddings for 54 couples who could not afford to otherwise be married. MAM provided all the saris, dhotis, gold jewelry and feast required for a traditional wedding.

In addition to the Prime Minister, also gracing the dais were Justice Sri. P. Sathasivam, the Governor of Kerala; Sri. Mohan Bhagwat, the Sarsanghchalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh; Sri. Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport, Highways & Shipping; Sri. Shripad Yashoo Naik, Minister of State for AYUSH; General Sri. V.K. Singh, Union Minister of State for External Affairs; Prof. P.J. Kurien, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha; Sri. Amar Singh, MP (Uttar Pradesh), President Samajwadi Party; Sri. A Shanmugham, Coimbatore, MLA; Sri. MK Raghavan, MP; Sri. P.C. George, MLA; Sri. O. Rajagopal, MLA; Sri. Ganta Sreenivasa Rao, Minister of Human Resource Development (Andhra Pradesh); Sri. Kummanam Rajasekharan, State President for BJP; Sri. Vellapalli Natesan, General Secretary of the SNDP; among others; His Excellency Philippe, Janvier-Kamiyama, Consulate General of France in Pondicherry.

Then, Amma began to do what she does every day of her life – embrace people, one by one, for as long as it takes. In this case, it took until 10:30 am the following day, when Amma finally left the stage, 25 hours after she had arrived, her eyes and smile as bright as they were when she had arrived. Though the Amritavarsham celebrations had come to an end, they will continue in the hearts of Amma’s children forever.

 

 

 

 

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UNESCO Chair for Amrita University

26 Sep 2016, Amritapuri – Amritavarsham 63 celebrations

The Government of India’s Minister for Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar announced the establishment of a UNESCO Chair for Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment at our own Amrita University. The Chair will focus on mapping vulnerabilities of women for a holistic approach to designing necessary solutions.

Said Prakash Javadekar: “Nothing is more noble than creating centres of excellence in education, and Amrita University is among the best in the country. The UNESCO Chair for Gender Equality and Women Empowerment will play a vital role in future. It takes care of all the millennium development goals, as they are directly or indirectly linked to the health, welfare and upliftment of women, be it maternal health, education, sanitation or infant mortality.

“The British were not interested in the empowerment of the country. They were interested to create a cadre of obedient officers and not uplift the education of the poor and underprivileged. After independence, the country has taken education to all houses, and achieved 98 percent enrollments in primary care. We have achieved expansion, now we have to receive quality education. That equality can be brought by Women Empowerment and Gender Equality, which is the focus of Amma’s new initiative with the UNESCO Chair on Women Empowerment and Gender Equality . As a HRD minister, it will be my duty to help good universities such as Amrita University, and it will be given boost for the future.

“Education is not a political agenda. Education is neither Left, Right or Centre. Education will be the top priority of our nation and I hope Amma will guide us. And we are all here to celebrate, to get blessings , and to give our pranams to Amma because she is the embodiment of love, compassion and humanity.

“Looking at the institutes which she has created in her birthplace, I can only say Brahma created this Sristhi, but you created another Srishti here. Nothing is more noble than creating centers of education. And you have created one, and today I am very happy to launch and declare the UNESCO chair. This is a very unique chair – it takes care of all women empowerment goals accepted by the UN. If a man is taught, one is taught, but if a woman is taught, the entire family and society is taught, because she is mother to all. When we teach women, this takes care of universal primary care education, lowers infant mortality, improve health, lowers possibility of contracting HIV.

“All religions teach respect, culture of live and let live, non-violence, truth. If people become religious, they will follow this noble path. I am happy as HRD minister and it will be my duty to help good universities like the one you have created. We are all creating a system where good universities have more autonomy and less regulation” said the Minister announcing the UNESCO Chair for Amrita University.

 

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The last moments from Amritavarsham63 Celebrations

28 Sep 2016, Amritapuri –  Amritavarsham 63 Celebrations

After staying for 25 hours and 25 minutes on the stage, Amma left the Amritavarsham63 venue and headed back to the ashram. What generous and precious moments she had offered yet again to the tens of thousands that gathered on this blessed occasion!

Amma took the a car to the boat-jetty where a boat was waiting for her to cross the backwaters. Coming down from the boat, she walked to her parents house to meet her old mother.

It was past 11am, when Amma was back to her room after giving one last beaming loving smile to her children with full of energy. And she is 63!

 

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Amma has set an example of selfless service and unconditional love

27 Sep 2016, Amritapuri – Amritavarsham celebrations

Mr Nitin Gadkari Union Minister for Transport while participating in the launch of premier charitable projects of the MAM said that Amma has set an example of selfless service and unconditional love. In our culture it has been said that our real dharma is seva for the poor and underprivileged.

 

On her birthday I will like to pray for her good health and also inspire all of us to contribute to the welfare of society through good deeds.. I would also like to seek her blessings on this august occasion.

 

The wonderful work done by Amma in creating facilities for sanitation, toilets, hospitals for the poor is commendable. Similarly science and technology is the key to future development. Amma has effectively used Science and Technology for societal benefit, as serving humanity has been Amma’s mission.

 

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Amma manifests the eternal message of Bharat

27 Sep 2016, Amritapuri – Amritavarsham 63 , Amma’s birthday celebrations

Sri Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghchalak of Rashtriya Swaymsevak Sangh participated in the brithday celebrations and and spoke these words.

* Many ages ago, the young Sant Gyaneswar of Maharashtra who had written a commentary on Bhagwad Geeta asked his guru for a boon- “Every where in the world, there are realised souls who are in constant touch with Reality,should be available to all common people at all times”. When we see life of Amma we see that the boon has now been granted.

* Our ancient scriptures state that the universe runs on dharma which has 4 components- Truth,Compassion, Purity and Tapas. For us common people we need an example of such behaviour.

* In Tetrayuga we had Lord Rama as an embodiment of Dharma in human body. In India we still have the tradition of such evolved persons being a leading light for society. We are looking uo to Amma as she has realised the Truth of real existence. Her humanitarian activities embody the highest form of Compassion. Likewise when you are around Amma you experience Purity. And for us she is performing Tapas relentessly.

* We are very lucky people as we have met Amma who embodies all the 4 elements. Whenever we come in the vicinity of Amma all worries leave us, we become tension free and blissful. And even our thoughts become pure. This is my experience.

* The eternal message of Bharat has been that in Solitude we should Realise and in Multitude we should Serve without any discrimination. This is very difficult, but Amma makes that happen. She is freely available to all

* Amma is practising real Dharma and doesnt need our blessings.–but what else can we offer to her. I pray that she instills in us at least a particle of the 4 components of Dharma

 

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Mankind has become a walking disaster, instead create ripples of Compassion

27 Sep 2016, Amritapuri, – Amritavarsham celebrations

Excerpts from Amma’s Birthday message

Taking more and wasting it is Adharma

“Environmental protection is one of the greatest issues mankind faces today. If only we would walk along the path shown by our ancestors, we could easily find solutions to the problems we are facing in this area. In the past, our ancestors didn’t need to ‘try to protect Nature’ because their very lives themselves protected Nature. Environmental protection was inherent in their very lifestyle, worship and cultural customs. Reverence and respect towards all creatures and creation was an integral part of their life. It was ingrained in them that they should take only what was needed from Nature, without exploiting and destroying Her. But in today’s world, we see humans taking from Nature and their fellow human beings without any limit. Moreover, they often destroy them at the same time. Taking more and wasting it is Adharma. Both, a Rs. 1,000 watch and a Rs. 100,000 watch would show the same time. But if we can be content with the Rs. 1,000 watch, we can use the rest of the money for the poor and needy.”

 

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The plague of terrorism:

“Terrorism has become one of humanity’s foremost problems, robbing society of its peace,” she said. “Statistics show that around 1,200 large-scale terrorist attacks have taken place in various parts of the world in 2016 alone. Today our waking reality is worse than our most terrifying nightmare.”
“Natural disasters may not be under our control,” Amma added, “but we do have some technology that can signal us as they are approaching. However, science has yet to be able to invent a device that can detect the disasters man carries in his mind. Today mankind has become a walking disaster!”

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Ripples of Compassion:

“God is the indivisible oneness devoid of all boundaries or separation. Mother Nature, the atmosphere, the birds and other animals, the plants and trees—each and every atom in them is overflowing with this divine power. God is fully present in all that is sentient and insentient. When we fully understand this truth, we can do nothing but love ourselves as well as everyone around us. The first ripple of love emerges from within us. When a pebble is dropped into a still pond, the first little ripple forms around the pebble itself. Gradually the circle of that ripple expands and expands until it reaches the shore. In the same way, love should start within. If we are able to purify the love inherent in us, it will gradually expand to encompass the world.”