Christmas carol of Swiss Bala Kendra

The Bala Kendra (children’s group) in Switzerland (Kindertreff Ziegelhütte) sang and played Christmas carols for elderly people in a retirement home near the Amma Center in Germany. The old people were very moved by the concert and applauded enthusiastically at the end. They very much appreciated, that these young people came to sweeten their holiday season. It was an inspiring experience for all of them.

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New service initiatives on 58th birthday of Amma

Each year on Amma’s birthday, Mata Amritanandamayi Math inaugurates new charities, expands existing ones and releases a number of new publications. There was a formal public function for this as part of the birthday celebrations.

Many dignitaries were there for the function. They include: His Excellency Sri. K. Sankaranarayanan, the Governor of Maharashtra; Sri. Vilasrao Deshmukh, Honourable Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences; Sri. K.C. Venugopal, Honourable Union Minister of State for Power; Sri. Vishnupada Rai, MP, Andaman Islands; Sri. N. Peethambara Kurup, MP, Kollam; Philipose Mar Chrysostam, the senior Metropolitan Bishop of the Mar Thoma Church; Swami Prakashananda, Head of Sivagiri Ashram; Swami Pranavananda Teerthapada, Head of Panmana Ashram; Sheikh Aly N’Daw, the President of the International Sufi School in Senegal; Sri. M.P. Veerendrakumar, Managing Director of Mathrubhumi; and Sri. O. Rajagopal, former minister, amongst others.

Swami Amritaswarupananda formally welcomed all of them.

“For most people, birthdays are a holiday—a day we stop everything and allow the world to worship us. We become ‘king for a day.’ Our spouse and children do special things for us. We get presents. A feast is prepared. Perhaps we don’t even go to work. We stay home and relax. Very often, if someone asks us to help them on this day, we say, ‘Please, not today. It’s my birthday.’ But for Amma, this is yet another day to selflessly serve the world, just as she does seven every other day.” said in his welcome speech.

Two new projects

Two new projects were lauched on this occasion. Free Tuition Program by Sri. Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Honorable Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences and Amrita Santvanam by His Excellency K.Sankaranarayanan, the Governor of Maharashtra.

Ongoing projects

Amrita Nidhi pension program – providing widows and other disadvantaged individuals with monthly pension checks was extended to another 5,000 beneficiaries throughout India. The checks were officially presented to 25 beneficiaries by Sri. N. Peethambara Kurup, MP.

As part of AmritaSREE Suraksha – a joint venture between the Mata Amritanandamayi Math and the Life Insurance Corporation of India – 3,000 scholarships to children of members of AmritaSREE (Self Reliance Economic Empowerment) self-help groups were distributed by Sri. K.C. Venugopal, Honorable Union Minister of State for Power.

The Vidyamritam Scholarship Program, was also extended. Sri. Vilasrao Deshmukh distributed the scholarships to 25 students, representing the 5,000 new beneficiaries.

Book releases:

MAM Mission Trusts following books was released by Sheyl Al N’Daw, the President of the International School of Sufis, Senegal.

Amrita Darshanam, a collection of Amma’s sayings
Nectar of Wisdom, a compilation of teachings by Amma
Varaprasadam, a collection of poetry by Swami Turiyamritananda Puri
Blesssed Life by Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri (Malayalam translation)
Torrential Love by Swamini Krishnamrita Prana (Malayalam translation)
Random Reflections, a collection of poetry by Evoor G. Madhavan Nair

Amrita Books was launched on Amma’s 57th birthday in order to ensure books of about Amma and her teachings are available in books stores in India. Its four books were released on this occasion.

Amma: The Life of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi – in Hindi, Kannada and Telugu.
From Amma’s Heart – in Kannada

Matruvani Birthday Souvenir by Swami Prakashananda, the head of Sivagiri Ashram.

Amma’s Advice: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times, a coffee-table book by Konarak publications  by His Grace Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostam Mar Thoma Metropolitan.

Amrita Keerti

This year’s Amrita Keerti Puraskar went to Sri. Veerendrakumar, the managing director of Mathrubhumi, in recognition of his philosophical travel memoir, Haimavatabhuvil.

Veerendrakumar was presented with the customary cash award of Rs. 1,23,456, a statuette created by sculptor Namboodiri, as well as a citation were presented by His Excellency Sri. K. Sankaranarayanan, the Governor of Maharashtra.

After receiving the award, Veerendrakumar addressed the gathering, saying that Amma has symbolized the true message of unconditional compassion. He also said that he considers the award as a blessing, not just an award, and considers himself a very fortunate person for receiving it upon Amma’s birthday. “India exists not on its military strength. It has survived through the centuries by drawing strength and inspiration from its spiritually-oriented culture. Through Amma’s spiritual guidance and acts of charity transcending national borders she helped humanity experience love, mercy and grace in a world of hard realities.”

In his address, Venugopal said, “Amritapuri has been transformed into a center not for just spiritual pursuits, but has become a nerve-centre for human welfare across the world—be it natural calamities across the world or a wide range of programs aimed at the poor, cutting across barriers of color, caste and creed.”

Amma also conducted a mass marriage for the underprivileged couples.

-Tulasi

AYUDH participates in inter-religious peace prayer

12 September 2011 – Munich

AYUDH was invited by the catholic church to co-facilitate the inter-religious peace prayer. They also joined dialogue-groups to discuss ways to peace within a multicultural society. The youth read out from Amma’s teachings, sang the bhajan “Everyone in the world” and prayed “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.”

 

In a church centre in the Munich neighbourhood Haidhausen, about 120 representatives of various religions came together at an inter-religious youth meeting and collective prayer for peace.

Through the International Peace Meeting, the hosts, the congregation Sant´Egidio and the archdiocese of Munich and Freising discussed topics about living together with different religions and cultures.

 

Before the communal peace prayer, the individual religions prayed in accordance to their respective traditions, lit a peace candle together and placed flowers in a vase to create a colorful bouquet. Afterwards, the participants met for a dialogue where representatives of the different religions shared their own views and perspectives on ways of being in the world in respect to peace.

“In everyday religion, normally we don’t meet like this, rather everyone prays in their own way. This meeting offered the opportunity to get a taste of the different traditions, to discover what they have in common, and to remove prejudices. The building blocks of religion should be used to build bridges rather than walls” commented a participant, Nath Hirsch from AYUDH

– Das

Reaching new heights by AYUDH of USA

August 12-14, 2011 M.A. Center, Washington, DC.

Under the guidance of Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya, forty youth came together for the second annual AYUDH East Coast Youth Exchange for the theme ‘Reaching New Heights’. The zealous youth from across the United States and Canada gathered at the picturesque ashram to share ideas, pray together, and join hands in performing selfless service.

 

The participants arose early the first morning to cook and serve lunch for the Bethesda Cares shelter in Maryland. Apart from the joy of partaking in teamwork to churn out a meal within an hour, some participants remarked that it was their first time serving at a shelter, and it was a transformative experience. “It was eye-opening to see firsthand how others appreciated so dearly what many of us take for granted every day,” commented Amit Sookdeo.

 

In a question-and-answer session with Br. Dayamrita, participants learned how to handle stress, especially with demanding academic curricula.

One of the retreat’s highlights was the screening of Bag-It, a documentary highlighting the gross waste of plastic and the subsequent effects on our ecosystems. Inspired by AYUDH members’ service projects around the world, the Amrita University students’ efforts to clean roadside trash in India, and Amma’s message that “Nature is our Mother,” the participants each pledged to make one change in their lives. The pledges ranged from carrying reusable bags to the grocery store to growing plants in one’s backyard, stopping the personal purchase of plastic water bottles to serving at a homeless shelter twice a month, and even recommending a composting system for one’s college dining hall to wasting less water on a daily basis.

“Even though we pledged to do simple things like grow plants in our house or be more conscious about the environment, these little actions will add up in the end and we will see genuine change,” said Jaya Vallis.

The rain cleared up the evening, as AYUDH members swam in the Ashram’s pool, played tennis and basketball, enjoyed a slip-and-slide, and roasted marshmallows in a bonfire.

The following day, participants were treated to a lively bhajan class on the song “Akhilandeshwari Ambe,” involving a conglomeration of instruments, music styles, a rap, and singing variations between boys and girls. AYUDH had a satsang with Swami Amritaswarupananda via webcast from Amritapuri, who gave the camp members a guide to reach new heights and embrace what he coined the Law of Grace. He also spoke of how love is a product of Amma’s grace, the elimination of emotional distress, and the three C’s: Calmness, Cheerfulness, and Confidence.

 

The final event of the retreat was one that had many participants fighting back tears. AYUDH had the opportunity to do a one-hour performance before the elderly residents of the Potomac Valley Nursing and Wellness Center. Titled “East Meets West,” the performance had a medley of songs and dances, such as “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Hari Pancha, “Kal Ho Na Ho” by Amritesh Thoppil, “My Favorite Things” on saxophone by Karthik Krishnan, and a Wushu martial arts demonstration by Poorna Sreekumar.

Several AYUDH members from DC choreographed and performed a fusion dance with raas, bhangra, Bollywood, and hip-hop, followed by an interactive “Lean on Me” led by Tom Marino for which all of AYUDH and many of the Center’s residents sang along. Throughout the entire set, several residents in the front row displayed their enthusiasm by clapping and laughing aloud at the jokes. The most memorable part was a spontaneous, heartwarming rendition of “Amazing Grace” by Fran, a care home resident who sung in her church choir from the age of two.

Said Tom Marino, “This lesson was made tangible at our visit to the nursing home: At first I was nervous and doubtful. Through Grace, the three C’s gradually replaced my distress. The result was love, which had saturated the entire hall and is still present in my heart.” After spending some time with the residents who expressed their appreciation for the performance and after promising to come back soon, AYUDH members wheeled residents back to their rooms and returned to the DC Ashram, invigorated and touched by the bliss received in performing seva.

 

– KaliDas

Teen Retreat at MA Center, Germany

The first Teen-Retreat for children between the ages of 12-15 took place at the M.A. Center, Germany, on July 1.-3, 2011.

The participants came to gel as a group through various team building activities such as group discussions, mural painting, music, etc. The mornings started with meditation. They were given the chance to express themselves creatively; they made their own picture-frames and paintings.

The participants also came up with a new song which was tuned with the participation of all. This powerful song accompanied the entire retreat and brought out the strength and enthusiasm of the young group.

On Saturday, the teens had a question and answer session over webcast with Br. Shubamrita. The teens also presented their song. Their honest and innocent questions were very interesting and thought provoking.

Great was the enthusiasm for the Teen-Retreat. The teens left saying that they would want a longer camp next year!

– Tulasi

In tune with Nature

“In tune with nature” was the topic for this year’s Children Retreat on June 11th – 13th, 2011 during Pentecost. Forty children and their parents, from all over Switzerland and Germany, gathered together to spend an inspiring weekend at the MA Center Germany in Hof Herrenberg.

Dodo, clown from the Children’s Retreat, led all into the fascinating subject of “sound”, showing us tricks and telling us about the sacred syllable OM. The children learned a song about nature “Mother Nature,” which Amma sang last year. In a playful and humorous way the children learned interesting things about the subject of sound, which was then discussed in depth in the afternoon in small group sessions. Humane values were taught during these sessions.
The evening Bhajans were very touching. For many adults it was an impressive experience to see the children singing with so much joy and devotion.

On Sunday, the children were asked to select one of the various workshops, which were part of the “In Tune with Nature” theme. They could choose between; construction of their own instrument using materials from nature or developing a musical play about nature or working with horses in an appropriate, animal friendly way.

The children were also given a chance to learn the IAM-Technique for children.

In the evening the children performed their musical play.
On Monday, the children had the opportunity to ask Br. Shubamrita their own questions via webcast. They had endless questions about God and the world and Br. Shubamrita patiently took the time to answer them.

On the last day, each child had the opportunity to make their own small Devi Bhava Amma doll out of felt. These dolls were used in the concluding ritual for a wonderful puja. Of course, Dodo the clown came again and presented each child with a small gift; a white rose and a delicious Swiss sweet called “Morachopf”, so they would remember this wonderful meeting.

The retreat was indeed a true gift for the children and parents. They will certainly keep it in their hearts for a long time!

-Tulasi

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

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*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.

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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.

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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.

–Sakshi

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.