Youth reach new heights together

From 24 – 31 July 2011 the M.A Centre, Germany, hosted the 7th International Youth Initiative Reaching New Heights – The Power of Youth to Change the World, a multinational youth programme that welcomed 180 youth from 20 countries in Europe and beyond.

Reaching New Heights focused on eight main challenges faced by youth in today’s society: lack of self-confidence, depression and suicide, addictions and substance abuse, erosion of culture and values, violence, poverty and unemployment, lack of perspective and meaning, family and social crises and environmental challenges. Each country group chose one specific challenge to deal with during the initiative.

For six months prior to the camp, each country group chose one specific challenge to work with. Based on scientific research, discussions, and interviews with affected youth they produced a short video clip which was presented at the beginning of the camp.

Four ‘Powers’ were then identified to deal with these problems: the power of confidence, the power of commitment, the power of creativity and the power of community. Tackling the eight challenges through these four powers thus leads to eight corresponding goals, referred to during the camp as the ‘Youth Development Goals’: Confidence, Understanding, Health, Tolerance, Nature, Culture, Progress, and Vision.

The four powers were dealt with through talks and discussions during the camp. The power of confidence was discussed by Br. Shubamrita Chaitanya, who highlighted the importance of developing self-confidence as a tool for personal empowerment and suggested ways in which to achieve an increased sense of self-worth and integrity and ways to surmount obstacles in life.

The power of commitment was discussed by Hollywood actress and former world champion kick-boxer and boxer Lucia Rijker who shared with the youth how commitment, dedication and determination had helped her achieve new heights in the fields of athletics and acting.

The power of creativity was discussed by the German artist Gabriele von Lutzau*, who emphasized the importance of creativity, originality and self-expression and suggested ways in which youth can uncap their own imaginative and innovative powers in order to bring change in their personal lives and the lives of others. In her talk she shared with the youth how she could turn scars into stars by using her art as a tool to come out of the traumatic experiences she had gone through.

The power of community was discussed by Bri. Dipamrita Chaitanya who highlighted the importance of belonging to, and contributing to, a value based community in order to develop the character and value system of youth.

Making the initiative relevant to the youth themselves, the local community, and the wider society three large-scale projects were organised in close collaboration with the city of Michelstadt.

The first of these projects was the landscaping and garden project, which involved renovating and reshaping the park area of Heilig-Kreuz in Michelstadt, a town close by the M.A. Center Germany. Youth who participated in this workshop helped to re-design the area by plating greenery, repairing the broken bridge, cleaning the riverbeds and pathways and refurbishing the signs.

The second project was the creation of an artistic monument, lead by students from the woodcrafts school of Michelstadt. Participants designed a monument which was placed in the renovated park area at Heilig-Kreuz at the end of the camp. It stands as a symbol of the eight Youth Development Goals. The central pole of the monument carries a dove – universal symbol for peace and hope, made by Gabriele von Lutzau.

The third and largest project was a Musical presented on the last evening of the week in the Theater-Hall “Odenwaldhalle” in Michelstadt. Speaking on the occassion, the Mayor of Michelstadt, Stephan Kelber said: “In the name of all the people of the Odenwald region, of 17,000 people, I can say that we are very happy to have you all here in this town. We are proud indeed that you are here, and we feel a bit like the center of the world this evening.”

For six months the Ayudh groups from all over Europe had been writing songs, creating theatre scenes, dance choreographies and video documentaries which would exemplify the challenges they dealt with and show possible solutions to the audience. During the youth camp at M.A. Center Germany these individual scenes were put together into one performance. In workshops the youth took care of all aspects of the show: costumes, props, choir, stage construction, painting the backdrop, light, sound and video projection. Within just one week the youth created an amazing performance – a true example of the collective power of youth to inspire, create and reach new heights together. At the end of the performance, the hall echoed with the chants – “Mata Rani ki Jai”. Even with the intense activities during the week, the youngsters did not miss the chanting, meditation and yoga/tai chi sessions. Through the dedicated work of many volunteers and through the sincerity, joy and enthusiasm each person brought to the initiative, the 7th annual retreat was a complete success.

The event was supported by the “Youth in Action” programme of the European Commission for Education and Culture, the state of Hessen, the city of Michelstadt, the European Year of Volunteering, and the UN’s International Year of Youth.

– Nath


*Gabriele von Lutzau, who was also the patron of the initiative, had earned the “Bundesverdienstkreuz”, the German order of honor, for her outstanding role in rescuing passengers during the hijacking of a passenger aircraft by terrorists in 1977. As a stewardess on the kidnapped flight she had played a crucial role in the rescue operation and had shown enormous courage and compassion despite the life-threatening circumstances she was in.

Installation of Brahmasthanam Temple in Kannur

5 May, Kannur Brahmasthana Pratishta, Bharata Yatra 2011

There was an air of expectancy in the air as Amma was to consecrate the temple. The pujas had already started a few days prior to Amma’s arrival. On the 4th bimba shudhi and vaastu shuddhi was completed.

The morning of 5th Amma appeared in a yellow shawl, with a lotus mala and hair tied up. Amma’s eyes wore an other worldly expression as if She were gazing into things unknown and unseen by us. Amma ascended to the scaffold on top of the temple and meditated there for some time. As she opened her eyes and looked into the skies and all around her, it was as if she were invoking all of natures blessings. The pratishtha is a lesson in humility for us – Amma, the master, seeks the blessings of nature and of all the devotees before doing these ceremonies.

The sun was burning down as Amma did the Kalasha Pratishtha – the Pancha vadyam players reached a crescendo – fireworks resounded in the air, there was a continuos chant of Aum Shiva Shaktyaikya Roopinyai Namah mantra. Devotees overflowing the ashram premises stand in neighbouring properties to catch a glimpse of Amma as she placed each copper kalasha one on top of the other; she filled the kalashas with paddy. An eagle, said to be an auspicious sign, soared overhead, circling above the temple. After the pratishtha Amma did abhisheka, then after garlanding the kalashas Amma postrated to the Kalashas after arati.


Amma entered the temple. The idol was carried in by brahmacharis. Amma sat on the side of the Shakti Peetham, facing East. Amma placed fully bloomed lotus flowers on the four corners of the peetham and then embraced the peetham infusing it with shakti. The doors were closed and the idol was installed after Amma infused it with her energy.

Amma said that her sankalpa in the pratishtha was world peace.

When the doors opened again at 12.38pm the expectant devotees craned forward, chanting mantras, seeking the first darshan of the Murthi. Some local devotees and ashramites carried pots with consecrated water to the temple. Amma did abhisheka to the newly installed idol with this sanctified water.

Amma went to each of the doors – bowing down to the devotees seeking their goodwill and then offered flowers to the vigraha. Four of the Swamis did arati simultaneously to the four deities. It was not only within the temple that Amma had installed God – a new faith and devotion seemed to have sprung up in the hearts of the devotees, as both Indians and Westerners jostled and reached out to get just one petal used by Amma for the puja or even a drop of the tirtham from the abhishekha.


In the satsang Amma said that the temple is like a mirror – it is meant for us to see ourselves so that we can cleanse ourselves of the dirt on us. Amma says that the suffering we undergo is a result of our past actions. To rectify the situation we need to do good karmas. Pujas conducted in brahmasthanam temples help alleviate the negative effects of our karmas. So people are encouraged to do pujas for themselves. The four facets of the single idol – Shiva, Devi, Ganapati and Rahu/Kartikeya, members of one family, also shows unity in diversity – all names and forms representing but different aspects of the one reality. The temple also embodies the concept of the world or universal family – which is represented by the Shiva Kutumba.

This is the 21st Brahmasthanam consecrated by Amma. It will definitely serve as a beacon light of faith and hope to all who come here.


Conserving the present, celebrating the future

Celebrating Earth Day in Delhi

22 April 2011

It was in the background of one of the worst natural disasters – the earthquake and tsunami in Japan – that this year’s Earth day arrived on the 22nd of April. This calamity of unprecedented magnitude lent added relevance and significance to this year’s Earth Day. Ayudh Delhi felt that it was high time that awareness about ever deteriorating environmental condition should be brought home to all, so as to save Earth, our ONLY home. Hence, replicating the activity undertaken during Earth Day last year, another awareness campaign about the state of our Earth and the various ways in which each individual can bring about improvement in environment was done.

The venue for this awareness campaign was Dilli Haat at INA on Aurobindo Marg, a place known as a confluence of various cultural traditions and handicrafts from different parts of the country. A large crowd of knowledgeable and passionate visitors coupled with the ambience of the place and the idea itself contributed to a truly memorable and rewarding evening.

The state of our earth was put across in the shape of a dry and barren tree atop a famished earth. People were asked to contribute their ideas, which could liven up this dying earth. The ideas were pinned up to the tree in the form of green leaves. People came in droves to contribute their ideas and suggestions. Within a few hours itself, the tree which had looked so barren in the beginning was fluttering with the green leaves of hope.

Another initiative was to get a signed commitment from the people to take up at least one of the three very simple acts to bring about a significant improvement in environmental condition. The commitments were “To save Water”, “To switch off electricity when not required” and “To turn off the engines of vehicles when at the red lights”. The response was seen to be believed. The Big Banner hosting these 3 commitments ran out of space for people to sign on in no time. People assured us that the commitment that they have done here is meant to be followed in true letter and spirit.

If the above two activities were well received, the crown jewel was the Tulsi distribution. As an extension of the Tulsi distribution done at the time of Amma’s visit to Delhi in mid-March this year, Ayudh distributed around 1000 tulsi saplings free of cost to the visitors at Dilli Haat. People were really happy to get the sapling. They assured us that they would take good care of it and nourish it with all their love and warmth. Hence it was another step in Amma’s vision of the plantation drive, in which Amma wants people to take up the responsibility to plant saplings and nurture them.

The significant lesson these activities brought home to us was that people clearly understood the deteriorating environmental condition that we are in right now, and voluntary initiatives to spread the message to save the Earth would be wholeheartedly welcomed. Obviously, there is need is to organize such initiatives so that like- minded people can come together and get to know that there are many who share their concern and that they are not alone in the fight to save the nature. This in turn would give them hope to continue their efforts at making the world a better place to live in.

– Dass

Conscious Living

Br. Shantamrita presented a Conscious Living Workshop in the capital of the Fiji Islands, Suva on Saturday March 12 to an enthusiastic group of people. In the three-hour workshop held at the Pacific Theological College, Br. Shantamrita examined the obstacles in life that prevent us from reaching our full potential in spiritual and worldly matters such as self-doubt, negativity, ignorance, and lack of awareness, and offered practical solutions to overcome these obstacles. He also led the participants through the principles for self-transformation through awareness. The workshop had group discussion on certain issues and also finished with a question and answer session. All the participants were extremely satisfied with the workshop.

Finding a balance with life and work

10 March 2011, Fiji
Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya carried out a workshop for United Nations staff based in capital Suva, Fiji, entitled “Achieving a Work Life Balance: A holistic approach” at the UN’s request. The workshop was held at the United Nations Development Programme Pacific Centre’s office on March 10, and the participants were from a range of United Nations agencies in Suva, including the Director of the Pacific Centre.

Shantamrita introduced concepts and techniques aiming to improve not only the abilities of the UN staff to manage complex projects, but also their ability to deal with the multiple demands of their personal lives in order to achieve a holistic success. Seeing life as a whole rather than divided in to personal and professional, and both the workplace and the home as places to grow spiritually and professionally was a theme that UN staff found refreshing in the interactive workshop. The participants commented that they felt better equipped to deal with stress, handle personal and professional demands, and grow spiritually and in their careers.

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.



Role of temples changed in today’s world

11 March 2011, Fiji

Br. Shantamrita addressed the crowd of 100 or so local Indo-Fijians on the topic of “the Role of Temples in Today’s World”. The program was held at Siva Mandir which is one of the oldest temples in Fiji.

In the talk, Br. Shantamrita recognized that these days many people often find it difficult to make time even for many important things in life and that there are so many comforts and attractions in today’s world, constantly fighting for our attention. At the same time, he emphasized that people experience a lot of stress and tension in their lives. In this context and with the audience’s participation, he addressed questions such as what is the age-old role of temples changed in today’s world and how should we understand the significance of temples in relation to the changing world around us? The local people were fascinated by the topic and could relate to it well.
The talk was followed by bhajans together the members of the Amma Fiji Satsang Group as well as distribution of prasad.

Dr. N.P. Unni to receive Amrita Keerti

23 Sep 2010, Amriapuri

MAM first began presenting the Amrita Keerti Puraskar in 2001.

Dr. N.P. Unni, former Vice-Chancellor of the Sri Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, Kerala (1996 – 2000), has made vast and important contributions to the cultural, spiritual and philosophical literature of India. He has further contributed to the preservation of India’s culture through his role as professor and lecturer in various governmental and non-governmental educational institutions, including Sri Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit in Kalady and the University of Kerala, among others.

Dr. Unni is currently the author of 38 books in English, including critical analyses and commentaries of Sanskrit drama, scriptures and kshetra tantra vidya, as well as translations of classical Sanskrit literature and commentary. He has also translated numerous upanishads and puranas into Malayalam. He has contributed more than 150 papers to Indological journals, etc., and as served as a PhD advisor and mentor to dozens of Indian and foreign scholars.

Washington AYUDH youth exchange

The inaugural AYUDH East Coast Youth Exchange was held from August 14-15 at the M.A. Center in Washington, DC. Led by Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya, the retreat brought together over 30 youth from around the United States for a weekend of activities revolving around the theme of “Embracing Life.”

The exchange commenced with a live webcast with Swami Amritaswarupananda in Amritapuri, who gave the attendees inspirational advice on how to embrace life as Amma’s children. Enthused, the AYUDH members cooked and served a 9-course meal for Mother’s Kitchen and participated in a park restoration project, as a way of loving and serving the world and Nature.

Ajay Ganapathy, who came to the retreat from Atlanta, commented, “This was the first time I prepared and served food at a shelter. At first, I was apprehensive about actually meeting and greeting the people at the shelter, but I saw that the people were happy to see me. I found that I was happy to see them as well, and that they were not out to judge me or hurt me as I had perceived. In a psychological way, they had served me as much as I had served them. As a person who is generally slow to trust others, this gesture of compassion got rid of my fear of meeting new people, and removed the cynical bent I held toward interpersonal relationships.”

That evening, after a lively bhajan set featuring AYUDH singers and musicians, a handful of attendees put on an amazing talent show with a variety of acts, including photography, Bharatanatyam, breakdancing, poetry, a capella, Indian classical singing, Jazz, and a vivacious rendition of “Lean on Me.”

One of the weekend’s highlights was Br. Ramanand’s bhajan class for “Meri Jhoppidi De,” which intertwined the talents of several AYUDH members. From guitar solos to girls vs. boys, classical Indian notes to a clarinet interlude, an alap and a spontaneous rap solo, each and every participant rejoiced in the song and the escalating tempo. Satya Valis quickly threw together a rhyming rap, playing on the meaning of the song. “No desire for the name/ no desire for fame/ I show no shame/ my love for Him’s like one and the same/ so I chant His name/ Oh Rama Oh Rama!”

To culminate a weekend of “Embracing Life,” retreatants tied a string around each of their wrists to symbolize one specific promise made to each other and to themselves to become more active AYUDH members and better individuals, so that, guided by Amma’s Love, they may be able to create a bright and sustainable future for their brothers and sisters around the world.