Spiritual practices set you free

Monday, 7 April 2014, Amritapuri, Seashore Meditation and Question & Answer

Question: Amma, how can I have self-discipline without being too hard on myself?

Amma: Daughter, if you have the desire to build a house, what will you do? You will think about how you want it to look, you will sit with the architect, do all the planning and build it. Won’t you? It’s no different when you have the desire to know the Self. When the desire to know the Self arises, you will start doing all the things that are required to attain that goal and start avoiding all the things that will take you away from it. The more love you develop for the goal and the more you understand the need for the various disciplines and spiritual practices, the easier it will be to adhere to those disciplines and practices. The love for the goal is like the petrol in your tank. It is what gives enthusiasm, energy and vitality in your practices.


Sometimes when the mother or father needs to do some work, they cannot keep their eye completely on their child. So, then, they may give him some crayons or some toys. This way the child can continue to play but the mother knows where he is and what he is doing. The mother knows the child is safe. Similarly, it is the mind’s nature to be active. The point of doing spiritual practices is not to limit our freedom, but to give the mind an activity that helps it and protects it.

When we fly, the stewardess will make us wear our seatbelt. She has nothing to gain by that. She is not doing it to torture us. She is doing it for our safety and protection. Similarly, at first, adhering to spiritual disciplines may seem to take away our freedom, but really it is taking us to freedom—true freedom. When we study the scriptures, we will develop the right attitude towards such disciplines. We will understand the need for them in order to attain our goal. We will understand that they are not for God’s benefit or the guru’s benefit, but for our benefit. The more we understand the benefit derived from them, the more inspiration and enthusiasm we will have to do them.

In order to make sure they are adequately prepared for their exams, many students will make a timetable. It is helpful for spiritual aspirants to do the same thing. You have a goal – to know your True Self. You know certain things need to be done in order to attain that goal. How much spiritual practices you do and how strict you are in doing them—that is your choice. But once you have decided what you want to do, making a timetable and adhering to it as much as possible is a practical way to help you achieve your goal.

If you really have real control over your mind—the same level of control you have to the television when you have the remote control in your hand—then there is no need to do any spiritual practices. But most of our minds are not like this. They are more like old cars; there is a big gap between the time we hit the brakes and when we actually stop. In fact, we usually stop only after we’ve had an accident. We may want to show someone love, but we are not able to do so.

Don’t feel sad that you cannot be as disciplined as you would like to be. Do what you can. Don’t be sad about what you are not able to do. Don’t push yourself too hard. Don’t suppress or judge yourself. Give the body the food and sleep it needs. There is nothing wrong in that. But don’t overly pamper yourself either. There may be lapses in your discipline. We may fall down. But we shouldn’t allow it to make us feel frustrated. When you fall down, instead of lying there on the ground thinking how comfortable it is, remind yourself of your goal. Get back up and keep moving forward. Never accept defeat.

Spiritual investment will never go waste

23 May 2011,  Amritpauri

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

Meeting with Amma

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

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

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

Daily practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mantra Japa

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

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

Intensity to know

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

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

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

Center of Love

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

Attachment to the Guru

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

Cleaning the mind

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

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

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

Selfessness is the key

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

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

— Sakshi

— — — —

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

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

3. Sruti commonly refers to musical pitch.

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

5. Saranagati – Complete surrender.



Amma on Lord Shiva

This is a select collection of sayings on Lord Shiva taken from Amma’s messages, talks and books.


Some believe that Lord Shiva is at Kashi alone or Lord Krishna is only in Brindavan. Dear children, do not think that God is confined to the four walls of a temple or a place. He is omnipotent and omnipresent. He can assume any form of His choice.


If our beloved deity is Krishna, we should be able to behold Krishna everywhere, in every temple whether it is Lord Shiva’s temple or Devi’s temple. Children, do not think that Shiva might be angry if we don’t worship Him in a Shiva temple or that the Divine Mother will withhold Her blessings if we don’t praise Her while going to a Devi temple. One and the same person is called ‘husband’ by the wife, ‘father’ by the son and ‘brother’ by the sister. The person sees no change even if other people address him differently. Each of us sees God in a particular form and name Him according to our innate tendencies and imagination.


The image of Shiva represents that non-dual aspect of the Supreme that purifies aspirants of their sins and bestows renunciation and discrimination.


The Shiva represents the aspect of Brahman, which cleanses us of all impurities. Brahman alone can remove all our impurities. In the Puranic story, it was Shiva who took the prarabdhas of others and swallowed them Himself. Shiva is the divine filter that receives the prarabdhas and impurities of the people, thereby making them pure.


Devotee of Lord Shiva

Ravana was a devotee of Lord Shiva, but his devotion was only a means to increase his material power. The spiritual aspect was totally missing in him. In other words, he had no renunciation. He was intensely desirous of accumulating, possessing and enjoying as much as he could. Although he was strong and courageous, he had no love or compassion. Just like any other dictator, he was a power-monger, a person who cared only about himself and his own security. His power, which he derived from the Lord, made him so egotistic and blind that he even tried to lift Mount Kailas, Lord Shiva’s abode.

Without renunciation and humility one cannot be content. A true devotee has both of these qualities. A person who lacks renunciation and humility can never be content because he still craves material prosperity. His desires are countless and insatiable. He is never satisfied with what he has. Instead he thinks about accumulating more wealth, more money, a bigger house, a better car, more and more comfort.


Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva create, nourish and destroy desires respectively. Man creates and nourishes desires but does not destroy them. Children, destruction of desire is what is needed.


Amma likes the Lord of Death more than Lord Shiva. Isn’t it because of their fear of death that people call out to Shiva? Otherwise who would take refuge in Shiva?

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Shiva’s third eye is the eye of jnana, supreme knowledge.

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Ganga & Shiva

Modern science has proven that the river Ganges has the power to destroy germs. Likewise, there is a Ganges within us which has the power to purify our mind. That is why it is said that Ganges flows from the head of Lord Shiva. When we reach perfection through meditation, we become Him, the possessor of Ambrosia. The pure Ganges rises up from within. That is what is depicted as the Goddess Ganga hiding in the matted hair of Lord Shiva. Goddess Ganga represents the Kundalini Shakti and its endless flow is the flow of the Ganges. From Lord Shiva, the Perfect One, it flows pervading everything and purifies the whole universe.


The Creation
Children, vibration arose in Brahman from Primordial Resolve. From this came the three gunas (qualities), sattva, rajas and tamas. These three are represented as the Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. All these are within oneself. What we see existing in the Universe in truth exists within.


Before creation, Shakti (the Primordial Nature, Cosmic Energy) heard an ethereal voice. It said, “There is only sorrow in creation. You should not try to do it.” It was the voice of Shiva (Pure Consciousness). Shakti replied, “No, it needs to be done.”

After creation, Shiva, the Pure Consciousness aspect, moved away. He went and hid. In reality, He has nothing to do with all these things happening around. Later, Shakti went running to Him, complaining, “I have no peace. Look here, the children are scolding Me. They blame Me for everything. Nobody takes care of Me.”
Shiva said, “Hadn’t I told you at that very same time that it was going to be like this and that you should not pursue that (creation)? Now you created an uproar, having pursued that. Aren’t you the one who is responsible for all this that has happened? There was no problem when it was I alone, was there?”


Can Lord Shiva be called “Mother”?
Amma: Yes, of course, He can be called so. It is said that the “I” has become the father, mother, child, brother, sister and all. Everything is Him alone. You call Him, giving any name. One will say “palu,” another will say “milk,” and yet another will say something else. Whatever the name, there is no difference either in the color or taste of the milk. God can be called both as Father and Mother. You were told that He is the Father, weren’t you? He is the real Father who disciplines you by removing the ego and correcting you, and He is also the real Mother who looks after and protects you lovingly, compassionately and affectionately. Both are two different facets of the same God. Both aspects are unique. That is what manifests through a Perfect Master (Satguru), the perfect balance of both Divine Fatherhood and Motherhood. Everything is pervaded by the Supreme Self. He who has realized this can manifest any aspect at any time by Self-will.


Why the Shiva linga

We can not understand why some people ridicule and insult the divine symbols and images in Hindu faith. The Shiva linga is not a symbol of one particular religion; it actually stands for a scientific principle.
Today scientists say that the universe is egg-shaped. In India, for thousands of years, the universe was referred to as Brahmandam, meaning the ‘great egg.’ Brahman means the absolute greatest.  The Shiva linga is a microcosm of that vast cosmic egg. When we worship the Shiva linga, we are, in fact, worshipping the entire universe as the Auspicious Form and as the Divine Consciousness, This is not the worship of a God who sits somewhere beyond the sky. This teaches us that any selfless service rendered to the universe, including to all living beings, is worship of Shiva.

Absolute Reality, is the Source and Support of everything. It is devoid of attributes, qualities, and form. How can the attributeless be described? In this difficult context, the sages found a symbol to represent that initial stage between Brahman and creation: the Shiva linga. It signifies the creation of the universe out of Brahman. The Shiva linga is the symbol the Rishis used to reveal the truth they experienced in a way ordinary people could understand.

lingaThe word Shiva means “auspicious”. Auspiciousness doesn’t have a form. By worshipping the Shiva linga, which is a symbol of auspiciousness, the worshipper receives that which is auspiciousness.


The meaning of linga is not phallus; for not even fools would pray to a male’s sexual organs for protection!

Q: Some people describe the Shiva linga as obscene. Is there any basis for this?
Amma: My children, people talk that way only because they do not understand the principle behind the Shiva linga. Each individual sees either good or bad in everything depending on that person’s inner tendencies.
Shiva burnt Kama ( lust and desires) with his third eye. In that state of Supreme Bliss, there is no female and male, mine and yours. Shiva linga helps us grasp this principle and frees us from lust. That is why the Shiva linga is worshipped by both men and women, the old and the young, the Brahman and the outcaste.

Q: It is said that Shiva dwells in funeral grounds. What is the meaning of this?
Amma: Desire is the cause of suffering. At the cremation grounds, the body with all its material desires are reduced to ashes. And there, where desires are absent and there is no body consciousness, Lord Shiva dances in bliss. That is why he is called the resident of the cremation grounds. The meaning of this is not that bliss comes to us only after death. Everything is within us. We and the universe are one. We are automatically filled with bliss, when in the fire of Self-awareness the attachment to the body dies.

Shiva’s body is decorated with ashes from the funeral pyres. This is the symbol of having conquered all desires.


Tantric Sadhana

Tantric sadhana is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted paths. In the name of tantric sadhana people start drinking, engaging in sex and other licentious and irresponsible behavior. They say that they are offering it to the Divine Mother, but ultimately such people get totally carried away by such indulgence. Their ignorance about real sadhana becomes denser and denser, and so they argue that whatever they do is correct.

What is involved in tantric worship is an offering. The fact is, the principle behind the worship is what is to be offered. This offering is not external; it is internal. You offer your individuality, or your ego, to the Divine. Furthermore, the references to sexual union in the worship are not to be taken as something to be done by a male person and a female person. It is the final union, the union of the jivatman (individual self) and the Paramatman (the Supreme Self). It is symbolic. It symbolizes the union or the integration of the feminine and masculine qualities – the union of Purusha and Prakriti, the merging of the mind into the Supreme Reality. It is the attainment of a perfect balance between the inner and outer natures of the sadhak. It is the experiencing of and becoming established in All-Pervasiveness, which ensues from the union of Shiva and Shakti.

In that state the sadhak transcends everything and merges with the Supreme Principle. That Supreme Oneness is the meaning of sexual union in tantric puja.

This union of Shiva (Supreme Consciousness) and Shakti (Primordial Energy) happens when the sadhak’s purified semen, which has transformed into ojas (pure vital energy) reaches the top of the head where the thousand petalled lotus is located. The use of sexual imagery as symbolic imagery in tantric sadhana is an external, figurative depiction of this inner transformation. Sexual union is the closest symbol that can give the idea about this eternal union of Shiva and Shakti. Both aspects, Supreme Consciousness and Primordial Energy are within us.

All human beings are sexual, and therefore, all are familiar with the experience of sexual desire, the longing for union with the opposite sex. Thus by employing something that everybody can understand, that is, the terms and symbols of sexual union, to express the essential quality and process of eternal union, the sages have tried to give us an idea of the process of inner union. But human minds are so crude and lowly that they misinterpret the whole thing and bring it all down to a vulgar level, misusing it or using it as an excuse for licentious behavior and illicit actions that can cause harm to others as well as themselves. Tantric sadhana must not be practiced without the guidance of a Perfect Master.

When a man and a woman move forward together with love, mutual understanding, and a willingness to be flexible to the other’s needs, what develops is not equality between them, but union—the union of Shiva and Shakti. That is the world of joy. The man and the woman become one, forgetting all differences.

Time loss is a loss forever

Amma on the practicality of Spiritual practices
1 Feb 2010, Amritapuri
Amma’s walk to the beach is a welcome sign for many ashramites and visitors. Sad faces blossom into smiles, surprised looks turn into glee. Such is the presence of Amma. The very evening becomes a festival.

Last Monday evening the bell rang at 5 p.m. and Amma walked from her room to the beach. People love to crowd behind her and walk at her side hoping to catch her glance. Amma takes a loving look at them too. It was a beautiful sight.

Amma sat down below a coconut tree facing the sea and with Swamiji translating, Amma lead the meditation for all who had assembled around her.  After the guided meditation, Amma asked the question “What do you think about the practicality of spiritual practices?” Amma had been very keen to stress the importance of spiritual practices during her recent meditation-Satsang sessions.

Many devotees chose to answer and one by one Amma would listen to them all while looking at each and all around her. After a few others expressed their views, an eight year old girl said “Everything is in God’s hands. We have to become instruments in God’s hands. The world is so full of desires and there is no use going behind it.” Amma listened to the girl and pulled her closer and after looking at her deeply, hugged her with the fond affection like that of a proud mother and gently pressed her head tilted sideways against the little girl’s.

A person sitting a few feet away from Amma said, “When I sit on the (meditation) mat, I know it is a good practice but I do not know how practical that is. To know that is the reason I am here with Amma.”

Meanwhile a little Finnish toddler, Amritavarshini, who is less than a year old, helped herself to Amma’s seat and Amma took her up and set her on the extra space near her. The little toddler took some flowers and started giving them to Amma. Amma would receive it gently and would lovingly put it back on the toddler’s head. This went on for few many minutes as people spoke. The toddler then took out a beautiful picture of Goddess Kali and gave it to Amma. Amma received it and having blessed it gave it back to the toddler. The little one started offering the flowers like during archana to that Kali picture after having placed the picture resting on Amma’s seat. Amma smiled lovingly and the little girl turned her cheeks upward to Amma. Amma kissed her and then as she continued drew a small art representing a leaf on the cheek of the little toddler. The little one immediately turned around and wearing a proud beautiful smile showed it to all around her.

As the microphone changed hands, another person continued on Amma’s question saying “Amma, when I feel hungry I take food. Whether it is practical or whether it is a necessity I do not know. Your question triggers in me several more questions!”

A lady seated facing Amma said “I do not know how practical it is to get up for the Archana at 4 a.m. every morning.”

Laughing, Amma answered her saying that “when one has an examination at school, it becomes necessary to get up early in the morning to prepare oneself. Spiritual practices are similar. At present, our mind is not in our hands. Desires take shape in the mind. One needs constant practice to understand the nature of the mind. Such preparation alone will help our mind to keep it ‘air-conditioned’; when facing joy or sorrow, one must not get over-excited or over-depressed.” Amma explained about the practicality of spiritual practices.

Amma continued her explanation saying, “Like the tortoise that can withdraw its head and arms into the shell when not needed, the mind should be withdrawn when not needed or in danger.” Amma went on to give another example, that of a tadpole and a frog.  When the tadpole has a tail, it remains only in water.  Once it transforms into a frog by losing its tail, it can go on water and on land as well. By losing our ego, one can live anywhere happily. Everyone is the One Self. Love everyone and serve everyone. ” Amma re-iterated the goal and the purpose of spiritual life.

Amma’s ever smiling face carried with it the depth of wisdom of the Vedas.

And then Amma referred to the story of a person who fell into a rapidly rushing river. Amma explained that by constant practice at least one does not fall backward, even if one does not go forward. “If someone has a business loss, one can recover, but time lost is a loss forever. Youth will not come back, childhood will not come back. So one has to create that awareness and put forth effort continuously,” Amma alerted every one.

The sun was setting in the ocean. Even the last rays had disappeared into the water. Darkness slowly started falling on every thing. Amma continued saying that “we must not complain about the darkness around. We have a lighted candle with us. Take each step with faith. That candle will shed light on the next step.”

After singing  ‘Mukundamurari gopala’ and walking back to the ashram to join the evening bhajans, many ashramites and guests were thinking how lucky they were to have Amma with them to hold their hand and walk beside them, instilling  love and faith with every faith-filled step.

— Kannadi

Walking Meditation: See Where It Leads You

Each day you will find the brahmacharis at Amritapuri slowly walking in single file around the perimeter of the bhajan hall. Some have their eyes fixed on the ground, some let malas of rudraksha or rosewood slowly pass through their fingers, others move with their eyes half-closed, clearly focusing on something deep within. All are practicing different forms of walking meditation.

When Amma was a young girl, in order to set an example for others to follow, She would say Her mantra, “Amma’ Amma’ Amma’,” with each step—even going as far as to take a step backwards if She ever forgot.

It is also believed that Sri Buddha taught his disciples a form of walking meditation, as in his discourse “Satipatthana Sutta,” he said, “A monk while walking knows “I am walking.'” The walking meditation associated with Lord Buddha involves focusing on the movement of one’s own body to the exclusion of all else, to fully abide in one’s walking.

In essence, both meditations are the same. They are methods of bringing the one-pointedness of meditation into our daily life, methods of cultivating what Amma calls ” bodha” (awareness) and the Buddha called “sati” (mindfulness). After all, we mustn’t limit our spiritual practices to the meditation hall. The point of spiritual life is to come to abide in the sahaja samadhi of Amma —where one perceives God or Brahman pervading everything within and without, eyes opened or closed.

In the beginning it takes a lot of effort to chant the mantra with each step or breath, as Amma did. But if this practice is maintained, eventually the mantra will come on its own accord, without any effort on our part. Amma says the mantra will continue to be chanted, even when we are sleeping. One way to attain this is through associating the mantra with a physical action that we do all the time such as walking or breathing.

Focusing our mind on our physical movements can revolutionise the way we go about our day. Upon practicing this type of meditation many realise an unto-for-noticed beauty in his or her movements. The experience of walking can become like that of a graceful dance the role of the sole on the ground, the shift in weight from one leg to another. If one concentrates, their entire manner of walking will be transformed perfected, literally from foot to head.

With both of these forms of walking meditation, our thoughts become less and less, and a profound peace ensues. The mind now silenced, we can begin to take in the world through which we are moving with a deep awareness — the trees, the buildings, the clouds, the flowers in the garden, the bees collecting nectar’. We can begin to perceive things about these objects that we’ve never before noticed their uniqueness, their beauty, the mystic perfection with which they’ve been woven and relate to one another. A new world is thus opened up to us. Going even deeper, we can come to experience the underlying unity of all the objects of this creation the pure existence, or ” is-ness,” that is their substratum.

The more awareness we are able to bring to our working day, the deeper our awareness will be when we sit for meditation. This is because we are no longer spending what we’ve worked so hard to earn when we were seated with our eyes closed. In fact, it is just the opposite we are continuing to ” earn” it with eyes open.

We walk all the time. It is something we take for granted. But try “practicing” walking, and see where it leads you.


Go beyond the mind

31 July 2006 — Amritapuri

Amma had been giving darshan in North America for two months. Regardless, the day after her return to Amritapuri, she promptly came to the temple to give her first meditation and question-and-answer session with the ashram residents.

When Amma is in Amritapuri, the brahmacharins and householder devotees who live here can easily come to her for answers to their questions and to have any doubts cleared. But with Amma travelling more than six months out of the year, there are many times when one has to wait until Amma’s return to ask something.

This was the case for one American woman living in Amritapuri. Her question was waiting on Amma’s peetham when Amma entered the temple.

During the woman’s meditations, she had been having various experiences, and she wanted to know how to take them: “Amma, what sort of attitude and understanding should one have to the various experiences one undergoes during meditation? How much does one’s mental attitude affect how we experience these? For instance, at one time it might be a joyous experience of motherly love and, at another time, something very impersonal, like forces of nature, like little flashes of lightning and strong gusts of wind acting upon one’s being… What role does the Guru play in all of this? Why do many people go insane or become delusional and egoistic and only a few safely make it to the Goal?”

Amma told the woman that such experiences arise out of innocence. And that although one can take encouragement from such experiences, that they should not be given much importance.

“Because of one’s innocence one may have such experiences; one may feel motherly love, see divine lights or feel a cool breeze… But you should go beyond all such experiences,” Amma said. “You are on the path to realizing your oneness with God, with the Self. While travelling on a path, we see many things around us. But if we stop to see these things and forget our goal, we may never reach the goal.”

Amma said that all experiences are at the level of the mind and that the goal of spiritual life is to go beyond the mind. She said ultimately such experiences are much like dreams and, as such, they should only be given the same importance as a dream.

“The real important thing is the control we have over our mind in all situations,” Amma said. “If someone becomes angry at us, we should not react and become angry also. We should reflect, ‘Whom am I becoming angry at?’ In such situations we should remember that it is all the Atma, the Supreme Self. We should think, ‘The consciousness that is within me is within that person also. Can consciousness become angry? And if all is one, to whom can it express its anger?’ We should give more importance to the Self and not the body.”

In response to the part of the woman’s question regarding the Guru’s role in such experiences, Amma said that the Guru is like a mirror, reflecting whatever mental shortcomings one has. Amma said, “When you find yourself reacting in a negative way to different situations, you should contemplate upon the workings of your own mind, remind yourself of the Goal, and then rectify your behaviour. We should take every situation that comes in life as an opportunity for us to learn.”

Amma then explained how dangerous it is for someone to focus on and pursue mystic experiences in spiritual life. Amma said that when people get hung up on the pursuit of experiences, they often squander their entire lives wandering from place to place looking for places where the “energy feels good.” Others fall victim to spiritual entrepreneurs, who charge, say, $5000, to turn one into an avatar. “With the $5000, they say you can become an avatar after a three-week course. But without the money, it won’t happen,” Amma said. “In a search for newness, for new experiences, people go and follow all these things.”

Amma then said that charging money for teaching meditation, etc. is like a mother asking her child for payment for breast milk.

Amma said, in fact, liberation is not something one can be given; it must come from within: “If the ancient sages had to do austerities for ages in order to realize that state, how then could one get it just by paying someone some money?” Amma derided.

“When we eat sugar, we experience the sweetness. But we still are different from the sugar. We shouldn’t be an experiencer, we should become That, we should become the sugar, we should become the sweetness.”

Once again stressing how the balance of mind during all experiences is much more important than what the mind actually experiences, Amma quoted the Gita “samatvam yoga ucyate” * “Maintaining equanimity of mind in all situations should be our focus. It verily is the goal,” Amma said.

In response to the part of the woman’s question regarding people falling from the spiritual path, Amma said that the most important thing to do if one falls is to get back up and continue on. “There are many, many trees, and there can be many, many flowers on a tree. But not all the flowers become fruits. Some may fall away, others may wither, some may be eaten by insects. Along the spiritual path, there may be many falls, but if one does fall, the important thing is to not remain there, lying on the ground, enjoying the situation. You must get up and put in effort to walk further. Whatever effort you put in on this path will never be lost. You always have it with you. To realize our oneness with God may take our entire lifetime—it may take several lifetimes. You have to put in continuous effort. There is no other way. Everyone has to walk this one path. If you come upon an obstacle, you have to surmount it.

“Don’t focus on fleeting experiences,” Amma reiterated. “The things we see (pertaining to experiences mentioned in the question) are at the level of the mind. We should go beyond the mind.”


*yoga-stah kuru karmani samgam tyaktva dhananjaya
siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhutva samatvam yoga ucyate
(Bhagavad Gita 2nd chapter, verse 48)

[Remaining steadfast in yoga, Oh! Dhananjaya [Arjuna], perform actions, abandoning attachment, remaining the same to gain and loss alike. This equanimity of mind is called yoga.]

Observance of customs, vows and rituals: Amma says

Acharas are Necessary for a Sadhak’s Progress

“Acharas (observance of customs) are necessary for a sadhak’s (spiritual aspirant) progress. Just as there is a way to act in front of a policemen, there is also a way to conduct oneself before a Guru, elders or in a temple or holy place. Customs will instil a sense of humility and obedience in a sadhak, which will be an asset in his or her spiritual life.”

“Acharas should be observed as long as we live in the world. Even a person who has reached the non-dual state and is beyond purity and impurity or dos and don’ts, will not negate achara even though nothing affects him. Ordinary people cannot ascend without achara. Whether or not we observe achara, Brahman has nothing to gain. But for us to grow, we need to observe achara. Nothing affects those who have reached there. Dharma (righteousness) will decay if achara is not honoured. Acharas will be useful for mental purity.”


“When everything is pervaded by God, which thing is not to be worshiped?”

“Whatever you are engaged in, you should only be thinking of God. This is the purpose of rituals. Rituals will help foster good habits, and there will be order in life. Still, we should go beyond rituals; we should not be bound to them until the day we die.”

“Rituals and other ceremonies will help to cleanse and purify the mind. Through rituals and other religious observances, the mind, filled with all kinds of evil thoughts, will become good and virtuous. When that is gained, don’t stop; proceed and transcend that as well. If you attach yourself to the good and virtuous, these again will become habits and consequently vasanas.”

Question: “Mother, are rituals like formal worship necessary? Is it not enough if one does mental worship?”

Amma: “Will hunger be appeased if you merely think of food? Don’t you have to eat? In the beginning stages of spiritual life, puja and other ritualistic practices are necessary. They are one way to purify the wandering mind. The wandering nature of the mind can be controlled by keeping it engaged in the remembrance of God or Guru. While cleaning the puja room and puja articles, picking the flowers and making a garland and while doing the puja, the mind will always be thinking of the Lord’s worship. This one thought will replace the many disconnected thoughts of the mind and give a sense of quietude. A fixed place, time and materials for worship are needed at the beginning. Through constant practice, one will reach a stage where one can perform mental worship at all times and places, but this is very subtle and is possible only after the mind has become subtle through concentration and devotion. After this, one will be able to perform every action as a worship of the Lord.”

“Don’t face south when you light the oil lamps. Also, when you light the wicks of a lamp, do it clockwise round the lamp, just as you do pradakshina (circumambulation) in the temple.”

“The performer (of the ritual) should become the offering. The attitude should be, ‘O Lord, here, by offering this ingredient, I offer all my attachments to you. O Lord, now by offering this ingredient, I offer all my aversions to you. I burn all these in this fire of knowledge. Take this and purify me.’ This is the right attitude.”

“We have to acquire the necessary prerequisites of purity and mental maturity before we can enter into the realm of the Supreme Truth, and that is what we gain through rituals. Once that maturity and purity is attained, we are ready to dive into the ocean of Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss), and then there is no more need for action or rituals. While engaged in any action, or while performing rituals, we should keep in mind that Self-knowledge is the ultimate goal.”

“The Vedic rituals, and the mantras which form a part of them, purify the atmosphere and benefit mankind. Of course they do much good, but they can’t be compared to the immeasurable benefit humanity receives from a person who has attained realisation. No matter how important and valuable the rituals are, the practitioner should strive to go beyond them and to experience the ultimate Truth within. That is the very purpose of religion: to realise that there is no god or goddess existing separately from our own innermost Self.


“The atmosphere will be more polluted on certain days such as the eleventh day of the lunar month and the day of the full moon. It is to escape from this pollution that vows are observed on these days. Importance should be given to sadhana (spiritual practices) on these particular days because on such days our mind can become more concentrated. Just as there are planets outside, there are subtle planets surrounding each organ of our body, whose movements are similar to the movements of the planets going around the sun. More concentration can be gained when these subtle planets reach a certain state of vibration. Only fruit should be eaten on these particular days since they are less affected by the atmospheric pollution due to their having skin. The polluting effect will be greater on grains and vegetables. In addition, you should remain silent on these days. If you talk more, you breathe the polluted atmospheric air more. Mental control will increase when you lessen food and concentration will increase.”

Prayer: Tuning to God

Amma says:-

“Only in the depth of pure silence can we hear God’s voice.”

“God is compassion. He is waiting at the door of every heart. He is an uninvited guest everywhere, because whether you call Him or not, He is there. Whether you are a believer or a nonbeliever, He is within you uninvited. Behind every form, behind everything, God is hiding. He beautifies things and makes them what they are. He is the hidden formula of life. But He won’t reveal Himself to you. You won’t feel Him unless you call Him. Prayer is the invitation. You must invoke Him through prayer and meditation. Chanting, singing and repeating the mantra are invitations, asking God to reveal Himself.”

“God is not confined to a particular body or place. There is not even an atom of space where He is not. Do not think that Amma is only in Vallickavu and is only this body. When you pray sincerely thinking of Amma definitely that vibration will reach Amma and reflect on Her mind. Your prayers and your pure and innocent sankalpa will bring Amma to you. Then you will feel Amma’s presence and peace.”

“Just give your mind to God; take refuge in Him, and you won’t lack anything in life. You will be given whatever you need. Your problems will be solved, in some way, and you will find peace. Those who pray to God and meditate on Him sincerely will not feel a shortage of anything that is essential. That is God’s resolve. It is Amma’s own experience. If nothing else, chant the Lalita Sahasranama (1,000 Names of the Divine Mother) daily with love and devotion. Then you won’t lack anything.”

What is Real Prayer?

“A real prayer will never contain any suggestions, instructions or demands. The sincere devotee will simply say, ‘O Lord, I do not know what is good or what is bad for me. I am nobody, nothing. You know everything. I know whatever you do must be for the best; therefore, do as you wish.’ In real prayer you bow down, surrender and declare your helplessness to the Lord.”

“To remember God, you have to forget. To be really focused on God is to be fully and absolutely in the present moment, forgetting the past and the future. That alone is real prayer.”

How Should We Pray?

“Having closed the door, one should imagine that one’s beloved deity is standing everywhere in the room. Then one should pray thus, ‘O Lord, are You not seeing me? O God, please take me on Your lap. I am Your child. I have no one but You as my refuge. Do not abandon me but always dwell in my heart.’ ”

“Contemplate on God as your creator, protector and the final abode to where you will return. Try to feel God with your heart; try to feel God’s presence, grace, compassion and love. Open your heart and pray, ‘O Lord, my creator, protector, and final resting place, guide me to Your light and love. Fill my heart with Your presence. I’ve been told that I am Your child, but I am totally ignorant of my existence in You. My most beloved Lord, I do not know how to worship You, or how to please You or meditate on Your form. I have not studied the scriptures; I know not how to glorify You. O Compassionate One, show me the right path so that I can return to my real abode which is nothing but You.’ ”

“Night is the best time to pray. Nature is quiet. No one will disturb you.”

“No matter who causes you grief, take your complaints to the puja room where your real friend is. Go to the puja room and complain, ‘Why did You let him treat me like that? Weren’t You with me?’ Open your heart and tell God everything. Then it becomes a satsang.”

“Children, try to pray until your heart melts and flows down as tears. It is said that the water of the Ganges purifies whoever takes a dip it. The tears that fill the eyes while one is remembering God have tremendous power to purify one’s mind. These tears are more powerful than meditation. Such tears are verily the Ganges.”

What Should We Pray For?

“A true devotee realises that his Lord is within and without, that He is all-knowing and all-powerful — omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. Understanding this, the devotee simply tries to express his total helplessness to the Lord and accepts Him as the sole protector and guide. In such sincere and open-hearted prayer, the devotee confesses the uselessness and the burden of his ego. Why should one keep a useless thing? Therefore, he prays to the Lord to remove it, to destroy it. This kind of prayer is real meditation, and it will definitely take one to the goal.”

“Praying for the fulfilment of petty desires is being stuck in your mind and all its attachments and aversions. Not only that, it is adding more to the existing vasanas. New worlds are created. Along with that, you lengthen the chain of your anger, lust, greed, jealously, delusion and all other negative traits. Each desire brings with it those negative emotions. Unfulfilled desires result in anger.”

“Pray for a contented mind in all circumstances. Prayer becomes genuine only when you pray for a peaceful and contented mind, no matter what you get.”

Remember God in Happiness and Sorrow

“Children, now that you are happy and joyful, do not forget God. Remember God and pray to God even in times of happiness. Usually people remember God and pray only when they are in pain, as if God were only a painkiller. Do not be that way. Let prayer and remembrance of God become part of your daily life. Amma is with you.”

“Nowadays, people pray to God only during times of distress. If you pray to God in times of both happiness and sadness, you will no longer have to experience any suffering. Even if some suffering should come to you, it won’t appear as suffering. God will look after you. If you can pray to Him with an open heart and shed a few tears out of love for Him, then you are saved.”

The Power of Group Prayer

“Group chanting and prayer is very powerful. It can change anything. The lost harmony of the human mind can be restored only through a selfless attitude supported by prayer, meditation and chanting of mantras.”

Crying to God

“Children, pray and shed tears as you think of God. That is the greatest sadhana. No other sadhana will give you the bliss of divine love as effectively as sincere prayer.”

“If you can’t cry at first, say the words again and again and make yourself cry. A child will pester his mother to make her buy what he wants. He’ll keep following her around and he won’t stop crying until he has the desired object in his hand. We have to pester the Divine Mother like that. We have to sit there and cry. Don’t give Her a moment of peace! We should cry out, ‘Show yourself to me! Show yourself!’ When you say that you can’t cry, it means that you have no real yearning. Anyone will cry when that longing comes to them. If you can’t cry, make yourself cry, even if it takes some effort.”

“Say that you are hungry but you don’t have any food or money. You will go somewhere or do something to get food, won’t you? Cry out to the Divine Mother and say, ‘Why aren’t you giving me tears?’ Ask Her, ‘Why don’t you make me cry? Does it mean that you don’t love me? How can I live if you don’t love me?’ Then She will give you strength, and you will be able to cry. Children, that is what Amma used to do. You can do the same.”

“Such tears are not tears of sorrow. They are a form of inner bliss. Those tears will flow when the jivatman (individual soul) merges with the Paramatman (Supreme Self). Our tears mark a moment of oneness with God. Those who are watching us may interpret it as sorrow. For us, however, it is bliss.”

Amma on Selfless serivce

“The beauty and charm of selfless love and service should not die away from the face of this earth. The world should know that a life of dedication is possible, that a life inspired by love and service to humanity is possible.”

“Behind all great and unforgettable events is the heart. Love and a selfless attitude underlie all truly great deeds. Behind any good cause, you will find somebody who has renounced everything and dedicated his or her life to it.”

“Children, it is doubt and fear that has torn us away from true joy and immortality. However, that lost, forgotten joy can be regained if we just make the effort to be selfless. Immortality, which is our true state, can be rediscovered through the attitude of selfless love and selfless action. ”

“Do your work and perform your duties with all your heart. Try to work selflessly with love. Pour yourself into whatever you do. Then you will feel and experience beauty and love in every field of work. Love and beauty are within you. Try to express them through your actions and you will definitely touch the very source of bliss.”

“Selfless service and repeating your mantra is enough for attaining the goal. If these are lacking, however much penance you do, you will not be able to attain the goal. If you do spiritual practices without performing selfless actions, it will be like building a house without any doors, or a house that doesn’t have a path to enter. Be courageous. Do not be idle.”

Selfless Service is a form of Sadhana

“Service is also a form of sadhana. If you claim that you have attained perfection after doing sadhana sitting in a certain place, Amma will not accept that. Getting out into the world and doing service is very much a part of sadhana. If we want to eliminate the enemies that lurk in the innermost depths of the heart, we have to serve the world. Only then will we be able to tell how effective our meditation has been. Only when someone gets angry with us, will we know whether we still have anger in us.”

“Service should be seen as sadhana, and should be an offering to God. Then, if someone opposes us, we may feel some slight hostility, but we can get rid of it through contemplation. “Who in him was the object of my anger? Didn’t I get angry at him because I took myself to be the body? What have I learned from the scriptures? Which world (spiritual or material) am I travelling to? How could I feel any ill-will towards that person after declaring that I am not the body or the mind, but the Atman (Self)?’ We should do this type of self-examination repeatedly. Eventually, we will stop feeling anger towards anyone. We will feel remorse, and that will lead us on the right path.”

Don’t miss a single opportunity to serve

“Children, do you know what expectations Amma has of you? You should be like the sun, not like a firefly. Fireflies make light merely for their own needs. Don’t be like that. Selflessness is all you should ever wish for. You should be the ones who raise their hands to help others, even at the moment of your death.”

“Children, don’t miss a single opportunity you get to serve others. Nobody should have to wait patiently to receive our help according to our own convenience.”

“Children, having a selfless attitude will uplift us. By helping others we are, in fact, helping ourselves. On the other hand, every time we do a selfish action, we are harming ourselves.”

Isn’t it their Karma to Suffer?

“If it is someone’s karma to suffer, consider it your karma to help him.”

Selflessness is the Goal

“Children, selflessness is the goal to be attained. Action coupled with meditation, japa, chanting, and other spiritual practices are the means to attain the state of selflessness. There should always be a balance between meditation and action. Action alone cannot take you to the goal. Action performed with an attitude of self-surrender and love is the right path. Action should be well-rooted in the essential principles of spirituality, otherwise it will not take you to the goal. Only action performed with the right attitude can take you to the state of selflessness.”

“A medical student is not a doctor. It takes years of concentrated study and preparations to become a good doctor. But during the period when he is still an intern, we might call him a doctor even though he hasn’t yet received his degree. Why? Because it is the goal he will reach at the end of his studies. Whatever he does is done as a preparation towards that goal. His aim is to be a doctor; he constantly remembers this and makes every effort to attain that final goal. He refrains from any action or situation that could create an obstacle on his path. Likewise, our final goal is selflessness, but we haven’t reached there yet. We do our duty and perform our actions with that state as our goal. Even though our actions at present are not selfless, we call them selfless, in the same way as we might call a medical intern a doctor. But this is still our period of training, and we have a long way to go before getting there. We should be fully intent on the goal; we should avoid any unnecessary thoughts, and whenever we perform an action, we should try to desist from being attached to the action or its fruit.”

“Action performed with a spirit of selflessness is far superior to action performed with selfish motives. A person who is inspired by the ideal of selflessness is less attached to the action and more dedicated to the ideal of selflessness. This attitude of selflessness has a beauty of its own. As you feel the bliss and joy of selfless action more and more, you enter deeper and deeper into a state of selflessness and meditation. So in the beginning, just feel inspired by that very ideal. Love the ideal; be inspired by it. In the beginning it is a conscious and deliberate attempt. As you feel more and more inspired by the ideal of selflessness, you start working from your heart. By the very performance of the work, a joy will spring forth from deep within you. Eventually it will become spontaneous.”

Do your work with sincerity

“Children, you must do your work with sincerity. Whether you consider it significant or insignificant, whether you like it or not, you should do your work with interest and love. When you work in this way, when love begins to flow into all that you do, your work becomes sadhana.”

“Don’t miss the opportunities you come across to perform unselfish actions. You will then gradually gain mental purity and devotion. As you proceed with diligence, you will attain more clarity of mind and a deeper understanding. This will finally lead you to the state of perfection, the state of Self-realization.”

“If you can, clean some dirty public place without anybody’s insistence. Do it just out of concern for others. That action becomes a beautiful piece of work. Your pure attitude beautifies the work. An unknown feeling of joy springs forth within you as a result of doing it.”

Selfless Service and Meditation

“Along with doing selfless action, one should also find enough time to contemplate, meditate and pray. As you try to perform selfless actions, friction and conflicts are bound to occur. It is inevitable for these things to come up, especially when you work in a group. Friction and conflict will sometimes cause your mind to be agitated. This, in turn, might cause your enthusiasm and vigour to diminish, and you may feel less inspired by the ideal of selflessness. Anger, hatred and thoughts of vengeance are bound to arise. In order to remove all such negative feelings and in order to keep yourself always in the right spirit, you must meditate, pray and contemplate. You should not let any thoughts block your spiritual growth. You should not have any ill feelings towards anyone.”

“Only action performed with an attitude of selflessness can help you to go deeper into meditation. And real meditation will happen only when you have become truly selfless, because it is selflessness that removes thoughts and takes you deep into the silence.”

“If a sadhak (spiritual aspirant) does not work, they are cheating the world and cheating God in the name of spirituality.”

Share what we have with others

“We should recognise those in need and help them. We should give to those who have lost their health and cannot work any longer, those who are handicapped, children who have been abandoned by their parents, those who are sick but don’t have the resources for treatment, those who are old and have no family to help them. That is our dharma (duty), and we should not expect anything in return for our help.”

“It is all right to give money to ashrams and other institutions that serve the world. They will not waste that money. Institutions like ashrams spend money on charitable projects; but even in this case, we ourselves should not give just to become famous for giving. We should see it as an opportunity to serve God. The merit from giving a gift will come to us, in any event. When we make a gift, only we should know about it. Isn’t there a saying that the left hand shouldn’t know what the right hand is doing?”

“We should share whatever we have with others, and we should try to contribute to the welfare of society in some way. It is through giving that we progress on the spiritual path. If we hoard our wealth, our spiritual development will be stunted, and slowly our lives will wither away. The blood that is pumped by the heart is circulated and distributed evenly throughout the whole body. What would happen if our circulation were to stop? We would collapse and die. Likewise, whatever we have should be circulated and shared. We shouldn’t hoard our wealth because then society becomes stagnant, and cannot grow as a whole. It is through selfless sharing that the flower of life becomes beautiful and fragrant.”

Serve without expectation

“We should serve others without any expectations whatsoever. When others throw thorns at us, we should be able to throw flowers back at them. When they give us poison, we should give them payasam (sweet rice pudding). This is the kind of mind we should have. The purpose of serving the world is to develop that sort of mind.”

What the world needs

“What the world needs are servants, not leaders. Everyone’s wish is to become a leader. We have enough leaders who are not real leaders. Let us become a real servant instead. That is the only way to become a real leader.”

Amma on different Spiritual paths

“Though there are many paths, there are mainly only four: bhakti yoga (yoga of devotion), karma yoga (yoga of action), jnana yoga (yoga of knowledge) and raja yoga (yoga of controlling the mind and senses). The purpose of all yogas is control of the mind, which means thoughts. Whatever may be the path, attainment of the goal is possible only if the vasanas (habits) are attenuated. It cannot be said which path is best because each one is great and unique in its own way.”

“All paths lead to the same goal, and all paths incorporate devotion or love as essential to the practice.”

“All yogas aim at samatva bhava (attitude of equality). What is known as yoga is samatva. There is no God beyond that, whatever may be the path. That state should be attained.”

“Any spiritual path, whichever it may be, involves renunciation. Without practising renunciation, the desired benefit will not be obtained.”

“Whatever the path is, sadhana should be performed and should be known through experience.”

“The field that is the mind should be irrigated with the water of devotion, so that the seed of knowledge can be sown. Then we can harvest the crop of liberation.”

Q: Which Path Should I Follow?

“Which path to follow depends on the spiritual disposition one has inherited from the previous birth. This birth is a continuation of the previous one. Whatever path you follow, the mind should flow spontaneously towards it. Love is necessary. To approach a perfect master is another way to find your path.”

“You cannot simply adopt any path that you feel like. Each one will have a path, which they followed in the previous birth. Only if that path is followed will one progress in one’s practice.”

“Different people’s experiences cannot be the same. They can only happen according to each individual’s unique mental constitution, the path he follows, the amount of effort he or she puts forth, and the samskaras he or she has inherited from previous lives. What you experience now is not a beginning; it is a continuation of the past. Also, you must remember that the Guru gives only what is needed, and that whatever he gives is for your own good.”

Which is the Best Path for Westerners?

Question: “Amma, which path is the best for Westerners?”

Amma: “Whether it is in the East or in the West, one’s spiritual path can only be indicated according to one’s inherited spiritual disposition and mental constitution. One path cannot be announced in a public address as the one and only path for all. The advice given is particular to the individual. Each person is a patient with a different disease. Some people are in the beginning stages of a disease while others are in the middle stages. In addition, we find people with chronic diseases and still others who are half-cured. Therefore, the treatment for each person cannot be the same. The medicine will be different and the dosage will vary. But generally speaking, the path of devotion is the easiest and least complicated. While anybody can love, not all can do pranayama (breath control) or hatha yoga (yogic postures). Only certain people endowed with a certain mental and physical constitution can do these. But love has no prerequisites. Whoever has a heart can love, and everyone has a heart. To love is an innate tendency in human beings.

“The path of love, otherwise known as the path of devotion, is the best path for Western children. Of course, this is a general statement. In the West, society is such that people, even from early childhood, are intellectual and take an intellectual approach to everything. It is the product of their ‘modern’ education. They are fed with all kinds of factual information about the empirical world, and the emphasis is on science and technology. So their analytical minds are well developed, but their hearts are dry. In most cases, the hearts of people in the West remain underdeveloped and imperfect. The head is big, but the heart is shrivelled up and dry.

“The path of bhakti teaches love. First, you develop one-pointed love towards God. When that love becomes the centre of your life and as the devotional practices become more and more intense, your vision changes. You come to understand that God dwells as pure consciousness in all beings, including you. As this experience becomes stronger and stronger, the love in you also grows until, at last, you become That. The love within you expands and embraces the entire universe with all its beings. You become the personification of love. This love removes all dryness from you. This love is the best cure for all emotional blocks and for all negative feelings. Therefore, Amma thinks that the path of love is the best for Western seekers.”

Which is Superior, Bhakti or Karma Yoga?

Question: “Which is superior, bhakti or karma yoga?”

Amma: “We can’t really say that bhakti yoga and karma yoga differ from each other, because a true karma yogi is a real devotee, and a true devotee is a real karma yogi. Every action isn’t necessarily karma yoga. Only those actions performed selflessly, as an offering to God, can be called karma yoga. Neither does doing four circumambulations, raising your arms, and offering salutations to the deity qualify as bhakti. Our minds should dwell on God, and our every action should be a form of worship. We should see our beloved deity in everyone, and offer them our love and service. We should surrender to God with all our heart. Only then we can say we have bhakti. A true karma yogi keeps their mind on God while engaged in each action. We should have the attitude that everything is God. Then it is bhakti. On the other hand, if we think about other things while we are doing puja (ritual worship), then the puja cannot be considered bhakti yoga, because it is just an external action and not real worship. But even if our job is cleaning lavatories, if we chant the mantra while working, with the attitude that it is God’s work, then it is both bhakti yoga and karma yoga.”

Why does Amma place so much importance of the path of devotion?

“There are many reasons why we should consider the path of devotion the most suitable path for most people. First of all, it gives much contentment to the practitioner. A contented person will have enthusiasm and vigour. Such a person will be very optimistic and endowed with an adventurous mind. Their attitude is that life and everything that happens in life is a gift, and this gives them immense patience and strength. Unlike those who pursue other paths, such a one does not believe that happiness is a right to which he or she is entitled. As far as they are concerned, there are no rights, there are only gifts. This attitude helps them to accept everything as a gift, both good and bad, and also instils them with courage and faith. Such a person will have a loving and compassionate heart, a childlike innocence and a pleasing nature. Not wanting to injure anyone or hurt anybody’s feelings, he or she cannot harm anyone. They will also have the power to renounce comforts and pleasures for the happiness and peace of others. He or she will experience the same problems in life as everyone else, but he will have the mental ability and balance to remain calm and quiet when adversity arises. He or she practices acceptance, for such a one’s attitude is that life and everything that happens in life is a gift, not a right.

“Children, as far as Mother is concerned, the path of devotion is the best and the easiest since most people are predominately emotional in nature. Not only that, bhakti marga (path of devotion) has no complications like the other paths. There are no harmful techniques or complications involved in love. Simply love the Lord. Love is not aggressive; it is a constant flow. ”

Jnana Yoga

“Jnana is intellectual knowledge while vijnana is transcending the intellect, negating even that as untrue, and affirming pure experience alone as the Supreme Truth.”

“It is hard to become established in jnana without devotion. With gravel alone we cannot build anything; we need to add cement as well, and make concrete. We cannot build the steps leading to God without adding the binding quality of love.”

Question: “Does Amma have the opinion that the different names and forms of gods and goddesses are real?”

Amma: “What Mother would like to say is that names and forms are needed for people like us with the kind of mental calibre that exists today. It will help our spiritual growth. Do not say that ours is the best path and all other paths are wrong. If a person’s choice is tea, have it, fine and good. Let those who do not like tea drink coffee, lemonade or plain water. Why should we bother our heads about people’s personal preferences? Why should we say that tea alone is good and all other drinks, bad? The purpose is to quench the thirst. Therefore, whether it is meditation on the Supreme with attributes or the Supreme without attributes, the goal is to attain perfect mental peace in any circumstance. Give up all such doubts about gods and goddesses and do your sadhana.

“Look children, Amma knows very well that all names and forms are limited and that God is nameless, formless and attributeless. Still, the sweet and blissful feeling that one gains from singing the glories of the Lord is an incomparable and inexpressible experience.

“All the names and forms, whatever they are, are only creations of the mind for one who has gone beyond the mind. But this is not the case for one who has not reached the state of perfection. He or she may say that all names and forms are unreal and that Brahman alone is true and real. However, if they have not experienced perfection, it is meaningless to go around declaring the unreality of forms.

“Everything is Brahman, that is right. But have you realised That? It is like a blind person saying that there is light everywhere. Why do you talk unnecessarily about some thing that you have no idea about at all? You constantly experience the world and its objects, but you talk about something which you have never experienced.

“Advaita (non-duality) is the state in which there is only One. It is the state in which you spontaneously see everyone as being the same as your own Self. It is not something you talk about; it is a state to be experienced.”

“When we worship Rama, Krishna or Christ, we adore the eternal ideals which manifest through Them. If they were mere individuals, nobody would have worshipped Them. When they are worshipped, a true seeker is not adoring a limited individual but the same all-pervading cosmic intelligence which you believe is the only Truth.

“For a person who has gone beyond maya (transitory world of names and forms), everything is Brahman since he or she constantly experiences It. But for a person who lives in maya it is not so. He or she has everything around them. Thus, he or she must put forth a deliberate attempt to come out of it. He or she should try to convince themselves that the world and the pleasure-giving objects are flickering and dreamlike.”

Comment: “There is no Rama or Krishna”

Amma: “Everyone ultimately reaches the same place, but you need an upadhi (limiting factor) for doing sadhana. How can you say there is no Rama or Krishna? Even if you don’t see Ochira on a map of India, can you say there is no place called Ochira? Our sense of Advaita is just limited to our words. It is not possible to bring it into our experience without devotion.”

Tantric Sadhana is the most misunderstood path

“Amma would say that tantric sadhana is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted paths. In the name of tantric sadhana, people start drinking, engaging in sex and other licentious and irresponsible behaviour. What is involved in tantric worship is an offering. The fact is, the principle behind the worship is what is to be offered. This offering is not external; it is internal. You offer your individuality, or your ego, to the Divine. Furthermore, the references to sexual union in the worship are not to be taken as something to be done by a male person and a female person. It is the final union, the union of the jivatman (individual self) and the Paramatman (the Supreme Self). It is symbolic. It symbolises the union or the integration of the feminine and masculine qualities, the union of Purusha and Prakriti, the merging of the mind into the supreme reality. It is the attainment of a perfect balance between the inner and out natures of the sadhak. It is the experiencing of and becoming established in all-pervasiveness, which ensues from the union of Shiva and Shakti.”