15-gurupurnima

Guru is the embodiment of the Scriptures

15-gurupurnima

31 July 2014, Amritapuri

Gurupurnima was celebrated with much devotion and enthusiasm at Amritapuri today. Many devotees came from different parts of India and the world to be with the Guru.

Amma’s Padapuja was performed by Swami Amritaswarupanda with the chanting of Guru Gita and 108 Names. All the swamis garlanded Amma, Amma showered blessings upon every one.

 

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Amma addressed the overflowing hall on the significance of the principle of the Guru. The following remarks are excerpted from her address:
“The Guru tattwa (Guru principle) is eternal. Gurus lived these ideals in their lives. The disciples observed this and tried to live those ideals in their lives as well. God and the Guru are one. However, the Guru principle that elevates the soul to the state of liberation is beyond the divine principle. There is nothing whatsoever that the Guru needs to gain or do. He guides the disciple out of compassion alone.


“The disciple has innumerable weaknesses and tendencies. It takes boundless patience to lead such a disciple. Sacrifice and austerity are ever ablaze in the Guru’s life. Every word from such Gurus is scripture. Their very life is scripture. They are also the ones who impart vitality to the scriptures.

“Spirituality starts with compassion and ends in compassion. When we put a stone in a pond, ripples radiate from the stone and touch the shore. They then come back and reach the center. It begins with the center and ends with the center- the bindu. This central point is Love. ”

After the talk, Amma sang the bhajans, “Sakala Kala Devate Saraswati Devi,” and “Guruvadi vani sun lo” and at the end asked every one to dance to the last bhajan “Bolo Bolo sab mil bolo Om Namah shivaya.” She then led the assembled crowd in a silent prayer for world peace. After that, Amma started giving darshan. As we post this, she is still continuing darshan.

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Yoga helps us to reconnect with nature and God

Amma’s Message for the first-ever‎International YogaDay

“Today is International Yoga day. Previously, people did not need to have a special day for performing Yoga because Yoga was part and parcel of their lives. Unfortunately, now we need special a special day to remind us to perform Yoga, just as we need a day to remember our mother and father.

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“In the olden days, people would wake up in the morning, bow down to mother Earth and then, facing the sun, they would chant prayers and perform Surya Namaskaram. The whole time they were praying, they were exposed to the rays of the rising sun. Today, in many countries, out of ten people, six or seven have Vitamin D deficiency. It is postulated that vitamin D deficiency may be one of the precipitating factors for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Some may argue that even people with normal vitamin D levels get Alzheimer’s disease. This is true, but studies have shown that a majority of people with this condition have Vitamin D deficiency. It is also thought to be a cause of depression, which may be why the incidence of depressive disorders is higher in countries that have less sunlight.

“Yoga is beneficial for our health, physical beauty and mental discipline. It helps reduce our cholesterol, and through this, it helps maintain cardiac health. It increases our bone strength. This is especially important as the incidence of arthritis and osteoporosis is on a steep rise. It even helps improve our memory power.

“It is important to do balanced exercise for at least ten minutes a day. Along with this, we also need at least 10 minutes of sun exposure per day. Nowadays, everyone goes from their air-conditioned home to their air-conditioned car and from their air-conditioned car straight to their air-conditioned office. So, we have very little exposure to our natural environment. Some people tell Amma that they bought a $50,000 car for their child to drive two miles to a gym, where they spend around $1,000 dollars a year for gym membership. This sounds funny but it is quite common. It would be much more productive to just walk to the gym. If people would just walk outside in a park for two miles or even less, they wouldn’t need to spend all this money, they would get the same, if not more exercise, they would get fresh air, exposure to sunlight – all in all, they would be much healthier. Not only that, they would conserve petrol/diesel and reduce harmful emissions, thereby helping to protect the environment.

“Too much of anything is also a problem. So many people in tropical countries are suffering from heat stroke and skin cancer. So, we need to create a balance.

“Yoga also creates powerful spiritual vibrations. These vibrations positively affect both us, as well as others. It is like entering a perfume factory. Even after emerging, the sweet fragrance will remain on our body, pleasing both to others and us. When we perform yoga with complete awareness, it purifies each and every cell in our body.

“The purpose of Yoga is for our inner well-being. It does not belong to any particular faith or religion. It was passed on to us by the ancient seers for the well-being of humanity. Yoga helps us to reconnect with nature and eventually become one with God.”

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Environmental conservation is not so much part of mankind’s dharma towards Nature

Excerpts form Amma’s Vishu message.

15 April 2015, Amritapuri

Vishu is an expression of our culture’s deep connection with Nature. The Kani Konna flower, the Kani Vellari vegetable and all the various fruits of Vishu are not only are associated with a successful harvest, they also symbolize the love and respect our ancestors had for Nature.

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Sanatana Dharma teaches us that the creation and the Creator are not two but one. Nature is a visible form of God. Our birth-mother might carry us for two or three years, but Mother Earth allows us to tread on her our entire life. Our birth-mother might allow us to spit up on her during our childhood, but Mother Earth receives our waste throughout our life. She forgives our mistakes and continues to give and give.

In the past, Nature was like Kamadhenu—a wish-fulfilling cow. Today, that cow has become sick and old and is stumbling towards death. We alone are responsible for this. Our indiscriminate exploitation of Nature can be likened to sawing off a tree branch on which we are seated.

Along with festivity, every Vishu reminds us of our losses as well. Agriculture all but vanished from Kerala. Even the vegetables used in our Vishu decorations are imported from other states.

We need to regain the inner connection that we had with Nature. We need to protect Nature. We need to awaken from our inertia. A tree offers fruit and shelter. It also purifies water and air. It even gives shade to the one who cuts it. Educate our younger generation about the importance of tree planting. Usually, on Vishu, the elders in the family give the children Vishu-kaineetam [Vishu pocket money] and wish them a prosperous New Year. Along with the Vishu-kaineetam, from now onwards, please present children with a gift of a sapling,  Vishuthaineettam, as well. {news}

Some of the students from our college say, “Amma, we used to think of Nature as inert. Now, we feel life in it. Previously, we would pluck leaves unnecessarily. Now we don’t even feel like plucking even a single leaf. If we do, we feel a kind of electric shock within. We don’t harm Nature anymore.”

So, love for Nature can be awoken and cultivated.

Those who farm will continue farming wherever they go. Even if they stay in a small room, they will plant something in the corner. Because they have become habituated to loving Nature, the tendency to grow plants and vegetables will not leave them.

Without Nature, neither human beings nor human civilization can exist. Nature is our very life’s breath. Environmental conservation is not so much part of mankind’s dharma towards Nature, as it is a part of his dharma towards himself. Why? Because without Nature, human beings cannot survive.

May the Paramatman bless my children so that the right attitude awakens within them.

 

 

2015 shivaratri

Keep the head cool, heart warm

18 Feb 2015, Amritapuri

Shivaratri was celebrated at Amritapuri with enthusiasm and devotion last night. Around midnight, Amma held a special bhajan session and led the assembled crowd in singing soulful Shiva bhajans. Before concluding, Amma asked even everyone to stand up, forget themselves and dance to the tune as she sang “Bolo Bolo Sab Mil Bolo.” After the bhajans, Amma led everyone in a beautiful visualization and meditation for world peace. She asked each person to pray with utmost sincerity, and if possible to shed a few tears in prayer, for the peace and well-being of the whole world.

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Speaking on the occasion Amma said, “For those who are immersed in myriad thoughts of worldly life, all holy days are occasions to remember the God, the Supreme, and to become more aware of the ultimate goal of life. When many thousands of people remember the Divine with a one-pointed mind, perform actions dedicated to God, and engage in worship, the very environment becomes pure. Then, thinking of God becomes effortless for others, too.

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“In one respect, Shivaratri is different from other festivals, which give importance to prayer and worship. But Shivaratri emphasizes sacrifice and austerity. It is also a day to remind ourselves about the goal of life and to examine how far we have progressed in spiritual life. At present, most of us give considerable importance to food and sleep. Shivaratri conveys the message that one should set such preferences aside and enshrine God instead in our hearts. If we can dedicate at least one day a year to giving God utmost importance in our lives, treating this as a sacred pledge, the resulting samskara (impressions) will certainly help to make our lives more God-oriented gradually.

“Shivaratri, which is celebrated at the end of winter, points to the arrival of spring in India. There is an inner meaning in this. When the light and warmth of knowledge thaws the mind that is benumbed by inertia and ignorance, the flowers of joy and peace start blossoming. The change of seasons is characteristic of the outer world. However, if we try, we can control our inner weather and temperature, and even make it unchanging. To do so, spiritual knowledge is necessary.

“When we are steeped in the pains and pleasures of this world, we do not think of the Lord of the Universe, who bestows everything on us. When we experience creation, we do not remember the Creator. We are bewitched by the maya (delusory power) of creation. As a result, we lose a great opportunity to experience supreme bliss. It is difficult for someone who is predominantly tamasic (dull) or rajasic (action-oriented) to discover the divine principle hidden in creation. Such a mind pursues creation as an inexhaustible mine of material pleasures. On the contrary, the attention of a person who is predominantly satvic (calm) turns God-ward. By observing the vows associated with Shivaratri, one fosters sattvic qualities.

“Lord Shiva is Gangadhara, the bearer of river Ganga. He holds the Ganga, which is of the nature of immortality, on His head eternally. Ganga is synonymous with gentle coolness. No matter how turbulent the situation, the Lord’s head and inner realm remains peaceful. Though the head is cool, the heart is always warm with compassion for the world. In order to save the world from the detrimental effect of the all-destructive Kalakuta poison, Paramashiva, the Supreme Lord, drank it. Through His personal example, Lord Shiva teaches us that what we need is a cool head and a warm heart. But what we see in the world today is the very opposite: most people are hot-headed and cold-hearted. Everyone’s head is heated up by worldly thoughts, and the heart has become frosty with selfishness. If our head is cool, we can face the most adverse circumstance peacefully and turn it to our advantage.

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“Not only on the Maha Shivaratri day, let us remind ourselves everyday that “I am not this limited ephemeral body. I am Shiva. My true nature is the Supreme Consciousness.” Let us revel in this thought and experience. Just as the world of plurality disappears at night, may we be able to transcend our thoughts and the mind and perceive Lord Shiva, or the Shiva Tattva (Shiva principle), or the true Self everywhere. May the light of knowledge put an end to the darkness of ignorance. May my children be able to see everything in themselves and themselves in everything. This is the real message of Shivaratri. May my children have the strength and grace to realize this. Amma offers this prayer to the Paramatman.”

– Sakshi

2015 newyear

How can I put an end to suffering? – Amma’s 2015 New Year Message

The advent of the New Year is always a joyous occasion that kindles hope, enthusiasm and optimism in all of our hearts. Amma prays to the Paramatman that in the coming year both the world and each individual within it are filled with peace, harmony and prosperity.

This past year bore witness to a lot of sorrow and suffering. Thousands fell prey to the bullets of terrorists. The death toll in Africa caused by the Ebola virus was shocking, so too the recent mass shootings in Pakistan1 and Assam2. Recovering from these tragedies is not easy.

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One may ask, “How can we keep smiling amidst all this suffering?” It’s true; it’s not easy to remain happy in times of such hardship. However, becoming unhappy and depressed is not a solution. If our hand is injured and we just keep crying about it, it’s never going to heal. It will only get infected. The practical thing to do is to tend to the wound and apply medicine. Let us not lose hope and optimism regarding the future. Losing hope and optimism renders¬ us like birds that have lost their wings. Just as such birds can no longer fly, we will not be able to soar high into the sky of life. We cannot allow ourselves to lose our mental strength. In reality, just like any other decision, happiness is also a decision. It is the firm decision, “Let anything come my way, I will be happy. I will be courageous.”

Love for the goal will give us the inspiration to continue striving to attain it. Then, even if we experience pain, it will not cripple us. There will be sweetness even amidst the pain. A mother is ready to bear the weight of her baby and undergo all the pain of labor because of her love for her child and her desire to be united with it. It is our love for the goal that gives us the strength to face all obstacles.

When New Year’s arrives, it’s very common to hear people say, “The previous year passed so quickly. It was gone before I knew it.” In truth, time goes neither fast nor slow. What makes it feel fast or slow is the situations we face and our attitude towards them. We may have been really busy, but we need to ask ourselves, “Why was I so busy? Was I busy trying to attain the ephemeral or the eternal?” The advent of the New Year is a good time to introspect and evaluate our spiritual progress. If we feel that we have regressed, we need to take a resolution so that we don’t allow ourselves to slip further. We should ensure that we start to move forward again.

New Year is also a subtle reminder that one more year of our time on earth has come to an end and our meeting with death is another year closer. No one can escape death. It can come at any time. We should ask ourselves, “If death were to come now, would I be able to face it with a smile? Or would I tremble with fear and insecurity?” If we have truly understood spirituality, we will have no fear whatsoever. We will see everything in its proper place and not develop unintelligent attachment.

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Life is like living in a rented house. We cannot live there permanently. One day or the other, we will be asked to leave. If, while one is renting a house, he is also building an even more beautiful and spacious house of his own, then he will have no bad feelings when he has to leave. On the contrary, he will be happy. But if he has failed to find a permanent place to live, he will always be worrying, “Where will I go when I’m asked to vacate?” Similarly, just as one shifts from a rented house to a house of their own, we should also be prepared to shift from this rented house—the body—to the realm of the Self, which is our true home.

Every attachment we create to the world further depletes our mental strength. Initially we may feel it’s just a small attachment and there is nothing to fear. However, as the attachment grows, we find ourselves falling slave to it. Soon, we become like a beggar before it. Then it becomes our master. Attachment to God is different. Faith in God helps us to cultivate values like love and compassion and helps us to speak good words and perform virtuous actions. Attachment to God, or to the guru, helps us detach from our dependence upon the world and become Self-reliant.

In olden days, New Year’s was seen as a holy day. People would visit places of worship and take part in prayers for their wellbeing and pray for the strength to perform good actions. It was also a day to feed the poor and other forms of charity. Today, the “holy-ness” of the holiday has disappeared. New Year’s has become just a time to get drunk, dance and celebrate. One doesn’t need to get drunk to celebrate. When people forget the true meaning behind a holiday and use just it for empty celebration, it becomes like eating the peel and throwing away the fruit. We cannot lose the values that make us human beings.

“Does God exist or not?” is not the relevant question at this time. Ask yourself, “Is there suffering in the world or not?” and “How can I remove that suffering—both mine and that of others? What can I do to put an end to it?” These are the questions we should be asking ourselves, especially on New Year’s.

Why do we find newness in a new year? Is there any real difference between the 31st of December and the 1st of January? It is our mind that creates this sense of newness and hope. If we are constantly engaged in actions that foster our own wellbeing and that of the world, we will find newness, vitality and enthusiasm in every moment. If we use the present moment in this way, it is enough. We shouldn’t put off for later what needs to be done today. We should fully immerse ourselves in doing good deeds. We must strive to see the world with a loving and joyous outlook, every single day.

2015 newyear 5point

 

If we want to live meaningful lives, we must keep five things in mind:

1) Never squander an opportunity to help others.
The help we render others will awaken joy, not just in their hearts but in ours as well. For example, if we feed an orphan, the child’s hunger will be appeased and we will be able to see the happiness on his face. How much contentment we will feel seeing that child’s happiness! This is the visible fruit of that action. There is also an invisible result—the punyam [merit] created by the action. So, never miss the opportunity to help and serve others.

2) In the coming year, we should avoid using harsh words. Never speak ill of others.
Doing so will disturb our own mind as well as those of others. Never forget that all good and bad originate in words.

3) Ensure that spiritual practices like chanting your mantra and meditation are not missed, even for a day.
These daily practices remove the impurities accumulated by the mind during the course of every day. They also bestow enthusiasm and peace. For example, suppose we have to reach our office at 10 a.m. Before we go to sleep at night, won’t we try to ensure that everything is ready, so that won’t be delayed at all the next morning? When we are focused on a goal, we will put forth utmost effort with enthusiasm and ignore all distractions.

4) Strive to spend at least a little time in Satsang.
Studying the scriptures and spending time in the presence of Mahatmas are ideal forms of Satsang. How much time do we waste in unnecessary talk and gossip? We can use that time to read inspiring spiritual books.

5) Every day, pray with all your heart to the guru or God for purity of mind and the strength to perform good actions.
If one wishes to make spiritual progress, this humility and devotion are absolutely essential. We should make a vow to be humble. When we are humble, it will automatically make us receptive to the factor of grace.

 

All of us want the world to be filled with more goodness and beauty than it is at present. We must do our part to create that world:

A new year without war and terrorism…
A new year wherein no one experiences hunger or poverty…
A new year wherein everyone is given an equal opportunity to grow and develop…
A new year wherein there is mutual respect among everyone, regardless of sex, religion or skin color…
A new year wherein human hearts unite in love and unity…

We can dream. To make that dream a reality, let us be willing to undergo self-sacrifice.

What makes the life of a plant fulfilling is its sprouting, flowering and bearing fruit. When this happens, a plant lends goodness and beauty to the world before. In truth, even when it withers away, a plant nourishes the earth and future generations. Let us pray that, our lives can be of similar benefit.

God has given each of us a face. Whether it expresses love or anger is completely up to us. If we smile all the time, it will make others smile too. If we have love and peace within, it will create such feelings in others as well. Then the whole environment will be filled with happiness. In this manner, in this coming year, may we be able to make our families, countries and world blossom more fully in love. Let us step into the New Year with this prayer. Amma wishes all of her children a very happy 2015.

 

***

1 On December 16, 2014, a terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar left, nearly 145 people dead, 132 of them children.

2 On December 24, 2014, separatist militants killed 81 tribal villagers in the Indian state of Assam.

(The above has been excerpted from the message Amma delivered in Amritapuri Ashram in the early hours of January 1, 2015.)

2014 xmas

Rebirth happens when we completely die to our ego

From Amma’s Christmas Message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

(click here for Malayalam)

Dec 2nd 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human trafficking is one of the worst curses that plagues society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Balagokulam bestows Janmashtami Puraskaram upon Amma

4September 2014 – Amritapuri Ashram

Balagokulam, an organization promoting Hindu cultural education since the 1970s, bestowed its 18th annual Krishna Janmashtami Award upon Amma today. The award was presented by Shripad Yesso Naik, the Honorable Central Minister for Culture and Tourism during a function held at Amritapuri Ashram.

 

Addressing the gathering, Sri. Naik said, “It is a great honor and privilege for me today to confer the Janmashtami Puraskar to Amma, who is above all awards and puraskaram [honours]. But, still, as an expression of gratitude to Amma, in all humbleness, it is a privilege for the people here that Amma has accepted to be bestowed with this puraskaram only for their satisfaction.” Sri. Naik said that the award was being bestowed upon Amma for her never-ending “promotion of the cultural, spiritual and indigenous heritage of our nation through enlightenment as well as seva [selfless service].”

He then presented Amma with the award.

In her acceptance address, Amma stressed the importance of spreading India’s spiritual culture to its children. “Truth and compassion towards all beings, the twin peaks of human existence, are the hallmarks of Bharata samskara [Indian spiritual culture]. This culture is our mother. If we can imbibe this culture and take pride in it, it will lead us to great heights. If we lose touch with it, our society will become like a kite whose string has snapped.”

Devotion is not blind faith but a blindness-removing faith
Amma also said that it is important that cultural festivals, such as those held during Sri Krishna’s birthday, are conducted in a manner that awakens spiritual understanding, values and devotion in the younger generation. “Devotion is not blind faith but a blindness-removing faith, dispelling the darkness of the mind,” Amma said. “Where there is love, there is light. It is our negativities that create darkness in our mind and veil God’s true nature, which in reality is residing within us. Only the pure light of love for God can remove this veil.”

The Gita is the essence of the Vedas
Amma then praised the Bhagavad-Gita as one of India’s most precious gems and said that if we really want to bring about a resurgence in spiritual culture that we should try to bring its teachings to the public. “The Gita is the essence of the Vedas,” Amma said. “It reveals the path by which people belonging to all sections of society and walks of life can raise themselves up. Just as the footprints of all animals can fit within the footprint of an elephant, so too the essence of all scriptures is contained within the Gita. The best way to help our spiritual culture grow is by bringing Sri Krishna’s message to the hearts of the people and kindling their devotion.”

 

“Does God exist?” is not the relevant question
Amma also pointed out that people should focus on the practical benefits of spirituality instead of engaging in pointless debates: “Does God exist?” is not the relevant question. The relevant question is: “Are human beings suffering?” The practical science for removing suffering is devotion. Devotion not only helps us to unburden our heart but also helps us become more aware of dharma. It also helps us to become more compassionate towards suffering people. Devotion for the Lord and compassion for the world are two sides of the same coin.”

Amma also had a few concrete suggestions, including requesting mothers to spend time in prayer with their children during sunset. “Amma would also ask the mothers in each house to spend at least 10 minutes to a half an hour sitting with their children chanting prayers and singing bhajans every night,” she said. “This will give the children the kind of relaxation and concentration they require. Remember, the mother is the first guru; no one can give a child what its mother can. Some may say that there is no time for such things. But when a mother’s child falls sick and has to be hospitalized, won’t she spend days—even months—at the child’s side? It is important that we bring back the culture of the evening prayer.”

At the end of her address Amma said that she was accepting the award on behalf of all her devotees. “A mother never expects any award for the things she does for her children,” Amma said. “For the happiness of my children, in the name of all of my children, Amma is accepting this award. May the efforts of Balagokulam help transform every heart into a gokulam in which little Krishna will joyfully reside forever.”

Service to poor is best Birthday present says Amma

Excerpted from Amma’s 61s Birthday Satsang, September 27, 2014, Amritapuri

As far as Amma is concerned, there is nothing different about this day. Like every day, Amma will see her children, listen to their sorrows and console them. Today is just another day like that. Therefore, Amma has only one thing to tell you: ‘Our lives should be of some benefit to the world. We should sincerely love and console at least one life, for at least a moment, without any expectations.’

We are living in a world where various individuals, societies, caste communities, religious groups and countries are segregating themselves from each other. For their own happiness and pleasure, they are competing to make each other cry. It’s startling when we realize that the world we are living in today is one wherein even elderly women with one foot in the grave are not spared from cruelty and abuse. There are groups preaching a form of terrorism even more savage than that of primitives. They stand ready, aiming to make human life completely miserable.Therefore, in today’s world, there are no guarantees. Anything can happen to anyone, at any time, at any place.

At present, the human race is caught in the midst of many serious problems: global warming and other natural disasters, unemployment and economic recession. Many countries are trapped in the grip of poverty and famine. New infectious diseases are arising; infant mortality is increasing. There are more incidents of suicide and psychological problems. These days, for the sake of money, people are ready to do even the cruelest things. For many, amassing money by any means, satiating themselves with liquor, and delighting in the pleasures of the senses without any discernment are the very goals of life.

Our youth are leading lives devoid of any fundamental human values. Our family lives and the relationships between husbands and wives, etc, are becoming a mockery. We see mothers and fathers completely unable to discipline their children, and children totally forgetting their dharma to their parents. If we don’t awaken and act now, there are grave dangers waiting for humankind. Currently we are acing as if we are in a hurry to embrace these dangers, rushing straight towards them.

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If you probe into the source of most of the problems in the world, you will find only one answer: lack of love and compassion. A lot of effort is being put forth to find a vaccine to stop the spread of the Ebola virus, which in some African countries has become like a nightmare, destroying thousands of lives. However, currently, a much more dangerous virus is at large—a virus that is devouring countless lives every day. This is the virus of hatred. We need not search far and wide to find a cure for this virus. The vaccine is readily available inside each and every one of us: love and compassion. Love and compassion not only provide us with strength and vitality, they also uplift everyone around us. Love is the divine medicine and compassion is the mrita-sanjeevani—the remedy for death.

We very often hear people ask, sadly, “Why is our world in such a state? Why has our country declined in certain areas?” We are forgetting an important truth: The world includes us as well. Thus, we should see that we are also playing a role in making this world better or worse. Consequently, if we try, we can make this world a better place. One of the reasons for the current state of the world is that many people are ready to take whatever they can, even if it means harming others, but when it comes time to sacrifice for the general social good, they run away from their duties.

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One of ancient Bharat’s valuable contributions to the world was the invention of number zero, but now our country needs to add a few things to that zero: zero-poverty, zero-illiteracy, zero-waste, zero-crime, zero-violence against women, etc. If we can make strides in these areas, India can become a role model for many other countries.

Thinking about the current state of Bharat, one of the things that comes to Amma’s mind is the increase in crimes against women. Statistics say that the incidents of these crimes have increased by 27 per cent in the past year. Some of us see these as “women’s issues,” but this is something of concern for the entire society. Why? Because women are the very foundation of society and the very foundation of the family. A nation can only truly be called advanced when the security and wellbeing of its women are ensured. Boys should be taught from a young age to respect and support girls. Along with this, women need to awaken and arise. This is the need of the hour. The time when woman were viewed as weak and helpless is over. The progress of the world rests in the rise of knowledgeable, self-confident, capable and compassionate women. Women have the power to create a new world now, while working side-by-side with men.

Just as we hear of alcohol addiction and drug addiction, today there is also Internet addiction. Misuse of the Internet is one factor contributing to the increase in crime against women. No doubt, the Internet has caused a technological revolution in all spheres of life. We cannot discount all the achievements that have come through it. However, we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the negative effects that have arisen from its misuse. So many relationships and lives have been destroyed due to this addiction.

Another thing that we need to be aware of is the preservation and protection of Nature. Natural disasters like the recent landslide in Maharashtra and the floods in Jammu-Kashmir are constantly haunting us. When these tragedies take place, it isn’t God that needs to be cross-examined in the witness box, but man. In reality, every natural disaster is a warning from Nature that we need to rectify our ways. We should not ignore these warnings.

In today’s world, life has become very mechanical. Two people living under the same roof often live devoid of love and happiness, unable to understand or truly acknowledge the other. In the olden days, it was different. While there were no mobile phones back then, the communication that happened through love was perfect and transgressed all barriers of time and space.

We need to enjoy every moment of our life, aware of how precious it is. Life does not become meaningful by chasing after sense pleasures like an animal. It only becomes meaningful when we spread happiness to others. It is this understanding that makes a human being truly human. No one knows how long he will live. Therefore, as soon as possible, we should complete all the good actions we are supposed to. Let’s not postpone anything for tomorrow.

Devotion and compassion towards the poor and the needy go hand in hand. They are like two sides of a coin. We should look around us and reach out to people who need our help. If we are able to help even just one person, we can bring about a big change in their life. If my children can become ready to share their lives with the poor and the needy, that would be the best birthday present Amma could ever receive.