Amma playing with Lakshmi

The elephant Lakshmi was waiting by Amma’s house after bhajans to be fed and played with by Amma. When Amma was about to come around the corner Lakshmi felt it and began trumpeting in excitement.
In the meantime a lot of ashram residents & visitors where gathered as well to enjoy the rare occasion and secretly hoping of getting sprayed with water by Lakshmi at the end.

Amma fed Lakshmi balls of rice & bananas. Lakshmi was thoroughly enjoying it! Once in a while Amma teased Lakshmi by rubbing jaggery rice ball on Lakshmi’s tongue and pulling away and hiding it behind her back. Lakshmi would try to find it, with a smile on her face each time.

It was a great scene to watch! Sometimes Lakshmi would make some sounds as she was enjoying the sacred prasad given by Amma. When she was done eating there were a few pieces of food laying on the floor that Lakshmi spilled. Amma made her eat it, up to the last crumb. Amma is even teaching the elephants not to waste food.

After Lakshmi ate, a pot of water was brought in and she was drinking it happily. Out of the previous experiences of the Ashram residents they knew that Lakshmi would spray the people with water… Every time she lowered her trunk in the pot with water you could hear them oooohhhhh… and Lakshmi would drink it.. The tension was slowly building till she finally decided to bless everyone with water! Many people got wet but they loved every drop of it.

Lakshmi was really enjoying the whole thing. The whole time she had a huge smile on her face and was even playing with Amma by moving her trunk filled with water to Amma for a moment, but Amma told her not to spray Her but the other people.

When Amma was about to walk to her room Lakshmi prostrated to Amma.

Another glorious moment with Amma that will surely stay locked in the hearts of all people present.

– Kannadi

Spiritual investment will never go waste

23 May 2011,  Amritpauri

Every year before the USA yatra, Amma holds a meeting for all the ashramites. This is the time of the year when she shares her vision on the working of the institutions, point out shortcomings, suggesting the modus operandi we need to pursue and tips on sadhana. This year also was not different.

Meeting with Amma

The bell rang three times. Every one ran to the Kali temple. Within few miniutes Amma arrived through the balcony. She took the mic “All those who are looking after institutions, schools please stand up.” Scanning over the assembled, she said “Where are the others? Not all are here – I am going to mark them absent.” She sounded like a strict teacher.

She continued asking for the requirements concerning schools/institutions for the coming academic year. “You have to give me proper lists of requirements – with exact numbers of where you need it and its justfication. Even if you give me a list, I won’t give you straight away what you ask for. It has to be a clear detailed list. Otherwise if you are given without any proper justification, then there might not be proper accountability. You might waste and misuse. And you will come up with the same list again next year” said Amma with a smile. She was pointing out our need for awareness. “You should make enquiries about such things in other institutions also. What sort of user – computer ratios do they have? Teachers are supposed to be aware of and be thorough with what they are teaching. They should not have to rely only on computers.” Amma cautioned.

“You are all spiritual aspirants. We should have awareness in all that we do. Only then does karma become karma yoga. Strive to seek that awareness from me.” Amma started explaining about the subtle principles of spiritual life and its application.

Daily practice

“Discipline helps good thoughts and qualities to develop, which in turn leads to Shraddha or awareness in action. For one who has Shraddha, everything becomes Puja (worship). Nothing will be wasted, everything will be practical” Amma said.

“To control the mind, discipline is needed. We need to meditate, do japa, do seva. Only one who has a strong grounding in the Shastras (scriptures) can survive without this.”

“Meditate in the morning. Go for your seva after that. Read books and make notes. What is the use of showing light to a blind person! You have to awaken yourself. Only then will you have that yearning.”

Amma then started explaing how daily discipline can help us in our life quoting from her own life experiences.

“Because we had that sort of discipline during childhood – at dusk we would wash our hands and feet, light the lamp and pray. We would also place a pot of water in front of the lamp for God, so that God could wash his feet if he comes to our house! People had such innocent faith then. During prayers and bhajans, we would have to sit with folded hands as a mark of devotion and respect. Even now if I am not able to come for bhajans I sit with the tambura and sing bhajans in the room itself. Even when I had throat problems, I do still sing.”

Irrespective of the situation, you will be able to pursue your practice if you had an early discipline. To drive this point Amma quoted “When Damayanti Amma’s father died – she sat by the body and did Hari Nama Kirtanam1 – because as per her schedule it was time to do so. She used to chant the Hari Nama Kirtnam every morning.”

Mantra Japa

“During Archana, you can either chant or keep silence and imagine that you are doing an abhisheka2 with flowers to God, flowing from head to feet – that way you will be able to visualise the whole form. Archana – can be chanted together but should be in synchrony – with the same speed and shruthi3.” Amma pointed out.

Amma started explaing how practically we should live a spiritual life. “You can chant wherever you are. You can look at the sky as you travel and look into the skies and persieve the ‘Ishta devata’4 is moving with you. While travelling by road, you can imagine Devi driving in a chariot/car ahead of you. While cooking you can see Devi’s face in the fire as you blow. So you can do anything and everything anywhere with the remembrance of God.”

Intensity to know

“I am very sad when I do not see such an attitude in my children. You should have that intensity, but many of you seem to lack it. Most of you are like an ordinary bus. That goes so slow, stopping here and there again and again. Moreover, you keep on loading the bus with each and everything you see at every stop till the bus breaks down and you lose everything. Then you wait for the next bus.”

“Make a resolve; That we should reach a particular place by a particular time. It is only then that we will have the urgency to reach our destination. We should have the yearning and the Jijnasa- the desire to know” Amma inspired everyone.

Narrating the story of Kaikeyi and Manthara from Ramayana, “If within the mind, some gossip and slander finds root, God leaves, Devil will rule the mind.” Amma warned.

Center of Love

“Without a center you cannot draw a circle. Without that center of love, there won’t be fulfilment to life. That is what makes life full. Doing actions as an offering to God is karma yoga. Here, in the ashram you can do this very easily – you can think that you are doing it for Amma. Remember that Amma has offered herself to the world. Amma is always in Atma-bhava, in the state of Self. She is your Atma; She is not different from you. So if you do actions with that attitude, then it is the Self offering it to the Self.”

Attachment to the Guru

Explaing the attachment towards Guru, Amma said “Your attachment to Amma or God is like attachment to river Ganga. It will purify everything. Attachment to the world is like being attached to a dirty sewer. It will lead to many diseases.”

Cleaning the mind

Amma insisted on being selfless and performing action with that attitude. “Nishkama karma – selfless service will surely benefit us. It is like strewing seeds and moving on. You should not think that you have attained nothing, being in this spiritual path. For there is nothing to be attained. Everything is inside. We should be thinking on what we are able to do, what we are able to give to the society. That gives antahkarana shuddhi – purification of inner instruments. It is then that the gaps within us will be filled. If we do a business and lose, we lose everything. But here when you turn and look you will see a beautiful garden.”

Explaining that our spiritual investment will never go waste, but stay like gold and will benefit others, Amma said “When you pray or do japa or dhyana – it is like watering the root of a tree – you do not have to water all the leaves or flowers and such. Here in the ashram there are many brahmacharies from the same family – it is because there was a Sannyasi in their family earlier. Because of that, the samskara is still alive in their family.”

Quoting the stories of Upanishads where disciple offered himself to save the crops from flood, and the disciple boy who was asked to look after the cows, Amma said, “We should have an attitude of acceptance. We should not be perturbed when we lose position. Have the attitude of Saranagati5 to the Guru. It is invaluable.”

Selfessness is the key

Amma reinforced the attitude that we need to have as a sadhak. “When we do actions selflessly, our mind clears up the dirt and the dust, our ego, and we are able to see the Atma within. It is to clean the mind, that we are doing all this – to see our Selves. When the mind is clear, God will be revealed within.”

Amma was putting across the highest principles of spirituality and its practical execution in simple words. “We can serve everybody seeing God in all. That is Sanatana Dharma.” Amma concluded.

— Sakshi

— — — —

1 – Hari Nama Kirtanam, Ezhuthachan’s poetic composition of vedantic principles which people used to chant everyday as a prayer. Consisting 66 stanzas, each stanza starts in a descending alphabetic order with a malayalam character.

2 – Abhisheka, also called Abhishekam, is the prayer ritual where one pours libations on the form of the deity being worshipped, amidst the chanting of mantras. Amma indicated the mental action of throwing a flower in prayerful obeisance with the flower falling from head to foot, so one can visualize the form.

3. Sruti commonly refers to musical pitch.

4. ‘Ishta Devata’ refers to one’s favourite form of worship.

5. Saranagati – Complete surrender.

 

 

Masala Dosa festival at Amritapuri

23 May 2011, Amritapuri

Amma’s US tour is about to start. Before every tour, Amma makes it a point to meet each and every Ashramite. Usually it takes more than 10-12 days of continuous Darshan for Amma to meet everyone and each day Amma would have to sit more than 15 hours, receiving one and all, listening patiently, giving instructions with cajoling words and directing the path to inner peace. On the penultimate day before the tour, Amma came out into the Kali temple and like any Satsang day, Amma started directing Seva and pinpointing the need of Sadhana to the ashram residents{news}. As Amma was leaving the temple, she announced that she would come back that evening to make and serve Dosa1 to all.

Amma making masala dosa

 

Amma had called the kitchen incharge some time earlier and had told him that some children had asked Amma for a dosa. The person first received the news without realising that Amma was serious on her plans. Amma then asked his estimates for the total number of people, logistics and time for making dosas for the entire Ashram. The kitchen incharge, realizing that Amma would really be making them, soon did his estimates. One may imagine the panic state of the kitchen incharge: a group of friends call and tell you they are coming to your place for dinner and that they need a specific menu and all that within two or three hours. Imagine the trepidation when that number is over 3000! The gas cylinders, dosa stoves, potato peeling and preparation of the masala, personnel to make dosas, batter flour, kitchen instruments and vessels, just to point a few.

They had initially planned Ghee roasts2. During the Satsang, Amma asked everyone what they would prefer and how much they would eat. To the question on what dosa they would prefer, someone said masala dosa3. Amma then asked how many dosas one would need. Many said one, some said two. So at 3 pm that day, Amma asked for masala (the spicy potato paste) that goes into the dosas to be prepared. She had estimated 3000 people. In less than 3 hours, both masala and the rice batter were kept ready.

There was a lot of excitement. The main bhajan hall already had 12 dosa stoves set up before the evening bhajans. People came and sat around them to attend the Bhajans. A 90-year old Ashram resident (a.k.a Pattiamma) had climbed up with Amma as Amma had come into the stage. As Amma entered the stage, Pattiamma had requested Amma to sing a particular song on Sri Lalita. Bhajans started and Amma’s singing took many into the earnest thoughts of unconditional joy. Amma paused the bhajans in between and asked for a microphone to be given to Pattiamma and asked her to sing a bhajan. Despite her struggle for breath, Pattiamma sang a beautiful song ‘Sivakamasundari Jagadamba’ in classical style calling out to the Divine Mother.

Amma making masala dosa

Amma’s mood and expression was so mesmerizing blissful and her eyes filled listening to Pattiamma. Immediately after that, responding to Pattiamma’s request, Amma then started singing a bhajan on Sri Lalita and after singing a few lines stopped while the music was still playing and said “Pattiamma had wanted a bhajan on Sri Lalita but it was not this one. I was enthralled in the words and bhava of her song, given her age, so I lost my mind”. Amma then started another beautiful bhajan on Lalitamba. After Arati, Amma walked right down the stage to the dosa stoves.

Amma started making Masala Dosas. What a sight! A small pan of batter, she would take and spread it thin on the hot plate, someone would sprinkle a bit of oil, another would place a bit of potato-masala in the center. Amma would then make another one just like that on the other side of the hot plate, pouring from the cup and spreading it slowly as someone would sprinkle oil and put some masala. By that time, the first dosa would be ready and Amma would take the dosa, roll it with the ladle and place it on an awaiting plate ready to be served. Someone tied a pink apron on Amma while she cooked.

She made many dosas. Amma’s handling the dosa batter, the drawing of a thin layer using the pouring cup and especially the way she rolled and ladled out the dosa seemed so uncanny and professional. On the contrary, Amma had mentioned while coming the ramp from the stage that she does not know how to make masala dosas. After making many dosas, Amma started serving them herself. Simultaneously boys and girls started making dosas in the other 12 stoves. On either side, one could notice several stoves and many ashramites making dosas. Some stoves had 2 dosas simultaneously, some others had 3 and some larger ones had upto 6 at the same time. With water sprinkled after every round, dosa stoves were creating sizzles of white vapour at random intervals. Plates were set on benches, curry ladled out and then the plates were passed to Amma.

One by one people came and got their share of Masala dosa from Amma. The whole hall had been full with visitors, devotees, students and Ashramites. Amma would ask for a show of hands to those who did not get their dosa and count them fast and send plates in that direction. Amma mentioned “Children eat well, need more take more, I want to see your stomachs full so I can be happy. If you eat, I will be full and happy tonight”. Amma said “We can sing bhajans after you all eat!”. Soon after serving all, Gita was chanted. It was so nice to also see Amma had joined us to taste the dosas. Two bramhacharins had made her big dosas. She took tiny bites relishing the taste that her children had given her from the same batter from which she had made for all her children. More than three thousand dosas were done. Amma happily said “In one hour we all did it”.

Amma then sang a beautiful bhajan “Bandalo Bandalo”. ‘Bandalo’ talks of the joy that a devotee experiences in the company and with the arrival of the Divine Mother (Devi). Following the beats, Amma asked everyone to clap hands with each other. Many smiles bloomed as the tune grew faster. Amma then requested everyone to pray for world peace and sang the song “Kushiomke Bahar” that ends with the words “Lokah Samasthah Sukhino Bhavatu” (May there be peace to everyone in the world).

Truly, it was a spiritually enthralling Masala dosa fest.

In a few hours, Amma would leave for the US tour, to spend the next 8 weeks with her children there.

— Kannadi

=====

1 Dosa – South Indian delicacy made from rice batter resembling a thin pancake

2 Ghee roast – Dosa made using clarified butter or ghee

3 Masala Dosa – Dosa with potato masala stuffing

Changeless in the midst of change

May 2011

While Amma herself is changeless, the Ashram is constantly in a state of flux. For those living here, the changes can be gradual. But for the occasional, annual visitor, they catch one’s eye immediately.

Arriving at the backwaters, with Amritapuri rising to the west, the first change one notices is that Amrita Setu has received a new coat of paint. The span is now mostly orange – allowing the bridge to stand out against the green palm trees, blue sky, and even darker blue backwaters.

The recycling center, previously next to the Ecology Center, has also moved to newer facilities at the end of the Girl’s Student Hostel on the north western edge of the Ashram grounds. There, a committed group of sevites sift through all the trash generated by the Ashram and separate it into various categories for recycling, re-use and disposal.

Amrita Setu is not the only part of Amritapuri with new colors. The main Temple has also received a makeover. While pink is still prominent, the various ornamentations, frescos and designs all feature brighter colors in shades of red, orange, and yellow. Krishna, Arjuna, and their chariot appear to virtually charge into battle on the roof of the entrance to the Temple.

In the courtyard in front of the temple, a new flat complex sits behind the bookstall. The walkways surrounding these flats feature columns as well as ornate wooden benches, window sills, and doors.

To the left of the Temple on the way to the Kalari, the sand path has been replaced with a mosaic of colored tiles. The same can be said for the area in front of the Western Canteen.

Two years back, a new field opened up to the west of the main hall – stretching from the south of Amma’s house to the Western Canteen and westwards to the Beach Road. This field now holds numerous gardens, extra seating for the canteen, and a small two storey flat. An additional cow shed which houses six indigenous cows is by Amma’s room now.

Additional flats have sprung up. To the far south of the Ashram, on the eastern end of the field that a few years ago held Amma’s Birthday celebrations, new flats rise two stories tall. A wide balcony promenade stretches the length of the complex on both floors. On the western end of the field just past the horticultural center are the multisided Cottages. The architectural style of these buildings reflects the tropical feel of the palm tree covered surroundings.

One of the most impressive of all the changes that have taken place is that the Ashram now has a fully developed composting system. Each day, more than one tonne of food waste is collected and brought to an area in the southeast corner of the Ashram where, over the course of two months, it is transformed into compost. Part of the fresh compost is used in the tulsi fields and gardens around the Ashram. The rest of the compost is brought to the worm farm where, in two more months, over 50,000 worms will turn it into rich soil.

Even the area surrounding the Ashram is changing. New stores have sprung up in Valikkavu, the University campus has expanded, and a few kilometers north of the Ashram, a new bridge has been completed which connects the peninsula to the mainland. Since the tsunami of 2004, four new bridges have come up connecting this island to the main land which brings the total no of bridges to five.

The more one walks around, the more one spends at Amritapuri, the more one notices these changes. While the Changeless One sits on stage in the main hall giving darshan and consoling the multitudes, the external world revolves around in all its chaos.

– Sri

 

IAM Meditation camp for instructors

As per Amma’s instructions a two day All India IAM Technique Trainers’ camp was conducted on May 14th and 15th at Amritapuri. The participants were from various states, covering almost the entire geographical spread of India.

IAM Meditation

IAM Meditation camp for instructors

IAM Meditation

IAM Meditation camp for instructors

IAM Meditation

IAM Meditation camp for instructors

Devotees from all over India and faculty from all the Amrita Institutions, including the various University schools and all the Amrita Vidyalayams, attended in the hundreds. The interactive sessions included guided meditation sessions, mock teaching sessions, corporate games sessions, additional yoga sessions, informational video sessions on meditation and talks on the benefits of meditation by Dr Shanti Nair, winner of National Research award 2011 and Vandana Balakrishnan, who has done extensive research on the effect of IAM Technique on the physiological functioning of the human body.

The camp concluded with a lucid talk by Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri followed by a Question – Answer session.

The world awaits true leaders in Fiji

Amma’s message has been spread to the South Pacific through a visit to the Fiji Islands by Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya from March 7 to 14, 2011 to conduct a series of seminars on Practical Spirituality.

Br. Shantamrita’s first program on March 9 was at the prestigious Fiji National University in the capital Suva where he spoke to diverse audience of indigenous Fijians, Indo-Fijians, expatriates, students, and professor’s on the topic of “The World Awaits True Leaders”. Based on Amma’s teachings Br. Shantamrita explained how true leaders speak through their actions, guiding and inspiring others with their love and selflessness and how such leaders, like Amma, can bring about tremendous transformation, even in today’s world. Touching on such topics, Br. Shantamrita discussed how we can invoke our latent leadership qualities and become the change that we seek in society. The talk was followed by a lively question and answer session.

The next day Shantamrita taught meditation to a group of enthusiastic participants at a private house in Suva. The session was held on the house verandah surrounded by a lush tropical garden creating a relaxing atmosphere for all. Many of the participants commented how peaceful and inspired they felt by the session.

Further sessions were held during the week, including a training session for United Nations’ staff, a satsang at a large Hindu temple, a conscious living workshop, and an introduction to meditation for children at a national park just outside of Suva.

 

 

Love, light, compassion, fragrance and beauty fill your heart

Amritapuri, New Year eve 2011
The dawn of 2011 was celebrated in grandeur with Amma here at Amritapuri. In addition to Indian devotees, more than 1500 visitors from abroad had flown in to be with Amma for the new year. The evening hall was packed and every corner had people from various regions and languages. One family had even driven all the way across Europe and middle-east to reach Amritapuri by road. Immediately after evening bhajans, the hall was rearranged with Amma’s seat in the center. At 10, cultural programs commenced the celebrations. It was raining heavily outside.

Ganesha Vandana, a Bharat Natyam dance was the first of the performances. Student groups of Amrita University presented a skit on “Amala Bharatam”- Amma’s recent India clean-up initiative. A rap song, themed “Lokah Samasthah Sukino Bhavantu” was performed by Ayudh UK. The next dance was by Gauri, a tiny tot who enthralled the audience with her exquisite Bharata Natyam dance. After the performance, Amma took her on her lap and asked a few questions; the shy Gauri flashed a smile that lighted up everyone watching the scene. The last two performances included a symphony of English songs followed by a dance themed on Hanuman Chalisa.

It was 11:52pm and Amma started her satsang, “Rather than giving a message, Amma would like to pray for World peace and happiness”. Amma wished her children to always remain happy. “May love, light, compassion, fragrance and beauty fill your heart in this new year”, Amma concluded.

She sang the bhajan “Kushiyon ki bahar”, a song that talks of continued happiness in life, ending with the phrase “Om Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu – May all beings be happy”. As Amma chanted “Lokah Samastha”, the whole hall repeated it. As the chants continued, tears swelled in Amma’s eyes. Amma then asked all her children to forget everything and sing with joy and with a mood of celebration. As it finished, she raised her hands and hailed “Mata Rani ki” and whole hall resounded with a loud “Jai”. Amma’s raised hands were met with everyone raising theirs and the wave of open palms prayed for world peace and happiness.

Russia looking forward to the warmth of Amma s Love

On Nov. 26th, 2011, Br. Shubamrita Chaitanya held a public programme in the beautiful city of St. Petersburg in Russia.

Despite severe weather conditions and temperature of -10 degree Celsius, more than 150 people came to the event, which took place in a centrally located conference hall at the Lityeynyy prospekt.

Br. Shubamrita gave a talk on the “Way to Inner Peace” based on Amma’s teachings, followed by devotional singing and a short meditation.

For many participants this was their first encounter with Amma’s message and teachings. However they were in rapt attention for the talk and meditation and joyfully participated in the bhajans
.
Some of them came to Shubamrita as a group as he was distributing prasad and said, “Amma hasn’t physically visited us for nearly 20 years. Please convey our heartfelt prayer to Her that Her Russian children are waiting eagerly for the next visit, to be warmed by Her love again.”

Akshara Puja by Lovers of Sanskrit

Akshara Puja
Akshara Puja
Akshara Puja

15 Oct 2010, Amritapuri
In connection with the Navaratri celebrations, a Bharati Puja program was arranged for Sanskrit students and Sanskrit lovers, in the ashram. The map of India was drawn with rice powder, denoting 51 shakti peethas, each represented by a lamp and an alphabet. With the offering of flame and flowers, Devi was worshipped. About 400 people participated. Mrs. Vandana Nandakumar, a full time honourary worker of Vishva Sanskrita Pratishthan, spoke on the importance of Sanskrit language.

Cleaning the surroundings, cleaning the mind

3 Oct 2010, Tokyo, Japan

Every year, Amma’s Japanese devotees in Tokyo celebrate Amma’s Birthday with great festivity and ceremony. This year, however, they decided to add a new twist – cleaning up a public park. Ironically coinciding with Amma’s birthday message {news} about cleaning one’s community.

The cleanup took place in Toyama Park of Shinjuku Ward, in downtown Tokyo. About 20 people participated in the morning session, which started with a brief talk by Br. Shantamrita on “Man and Nature.”

In a short while, the devotees had collected enough garbage from the park premises to fill many trash bags. The most common items of litter were cigarette butts, candy wrappers and empty cans/bottles. The participants enjoyed the occasion so thoroughly, they decided to make it a regular activity and scheduled monthly park cleanups to put into practice Amma’s teachings.

Embracing Amma’s recent message about environmental cleaning efforts, the devotees plan to conduct a campaign to raise awareness of how we can minimize our impact on nature by adopting eco-friendly household practices and waste management.

The afternoon program consisted of the more traditional Birthday Celebrations. Br. Shantamrita started by giving a talk on how Amma sees the interconnectedness of life, showing compassion not only to human beings, but also to Mother Nature. He then began the abhishekham to Amma’s silver padukas, while the devotees in attendance chanted Guru Stotra, Guru Paduka Stotra and Durga Suktam. Each program attendee was given the opportunity to perform abhishekham, as well. All were encouraged to remember the symbolism of the ceremony while participating – we are offering our respects to the padukam as a symbol of our respect for the lofty principles embodied in Amma’s life.
As the abhishekham continued, the devotees sang bhajans full of devotion and love. After the conclusion of the ceremony, the devotees remained in the hall to watch videos of Amma. Especially engrossing was the new Japanese version of Amma’s charitable activities – Stories From The Field.