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Amma in Sanjose

25 – 29 Nov, San Jose, California – America Yatra 2016

Amma arrived to the San Jose Fairmont in California for the first time Friday after the Thanksgiving Holiday to a winter wonderland – an ice skating rink and a Downtown Christmas extravaganza with twinkling lights outside and a hall packed with newcomers to experience Amma’s loving and compassionate embrace inside! There were two days of public programs and a retreat. People from all walks of life were at the program on Friday and Saturday – Silicon Valley high tech crowd, Movie Stars from Los Angeles, Latinos, Indians, and Devotees from all across the United States joined Amma in San Jose. Perhaps due to the ease and accessibility of a hotel in downtown San Jose, there were many new faces who came for the first time, as well as special needs guests. Although it rained outside a few days, it was warm and festive in the hall.

Amma was welcomed on Friday’s program by a number of social workers who help the under-privileged and needy in San Jose, and work on Mother’s Kitchen with us. On Saturday night, San Jose City Council member and California State Assembly member elect, Ash Kalra welcomed and garlanded Amma, and gave her an honorary plaque, stating what a privilege it was to receive Amma in San Jose and how her love and compassion for all beings is much needed at this time. Council member Kalra was on the San Jose City Council since 2008 and is moving to Sacramento for his new role on the State Assembly.

Amma’s retreat was wonderful – with people learning the IAM Meditation, satsangs, meditation, Amma serving dinner to all, and passing out delicious poppadum to the big and little children in a festive atmosphere.

The devotees were thrilled that Amma surprised them with singing after the program one night and danced after the program another night. The energy was ecstatic as she slowly turned to the tribal music, dancing with her eyes closed as if in another world.

On Tuesday night, prior to Amma starting the Atman Puja for World Peace, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo welcomed Amma to San Jose, although he joked there were thousands of others who had beat him to it, looking around the crowded hall! Mayor Liccardo said he would be interested in working with the MA Center to do Mother’s Kitchen and collaborate on possible future projects.

-Dass

 

 

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Thanksgiving in Detroit with Amma

20-23 Nov, Detroit, Michigan – America Yatra 2016

Amma visited Detroit, USA for four days of programs including a three day retreat and Devi Bhava. The programs were held at the Marriott Hotel in the iconic Renaissance Center complex along the Detroit River bordering the US and Canada.

The public programs on the first day were packed with devotees from across the US and Canada. Many were on holiday for the Thanksgiving break.

The evening public program included satsang and bhajans. At the end of darshan, Amma stood up and gracefully danced to the traditional Baduga song.

The three day retreat started on Monday with an evening program. Towards the end of darshan, Amma encouraged Eknath (a young man with special needs who has known Amma for many years) to sing. He happily took the microphone and sang ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘What a Wonderful World’ while the crowd clapped and sang along.

The second night of the retreat was high-lighted by a question and answer session. Amma then sang Hari Narayana Jaya Narayan, before heading to the dining hall to serve everyone a delicious meal. Later, cultural performances by Amma’s devotees entertained the gathered crowd. As Amma left the stage at the end of darshan, she playfully clapped peoples hands along the path.

Devi Bhava was on Wednesday evening and finished early morning Thanksgiving Day. Amma then left the hall to travel to San Jose for the next stop on the November US Tour.

-Dass

 

 

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First melt in love and then be molded by knowledge: Amma in Munich

15 – 17 Nov, Munich, Germany – Europe Yatra 2016

Despite freezing temperatures, hundreds of Amma’s volunteers awaited Amma’s arrival at the Zenith Halle in Munich on the evening of 14 November, at what would be the final program of her 2016 European Tour.

Amma served the assembled volunteers a prasad dinner and spoke on the different spiritual paths toward the goal, including the path of devotion and the path of knowledge. She said every path has its own place and we cannot say that one is superior to the other. Talking about the importance of the path of love, Amma explained that the experience one gains through advancing in that path is in fact not different from the path of knowledge. People may give long speeches about spiritual experience, Amma said, having read the scriptures, but unless one has experienced the truths of the scriptures, one is merely like a tape recorder or a parrot. Just as a goldsmith melts the ore to shape the gold ornament, Amma explained, we have to first melt in love and then be molded by knowledge.

As usual the programs in Munich were crowded, with extensive media coverage including an interview with the newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, as well as a feature on Munchener TV.

Being the last program on the tour, many of Amma’s children came from all over Europe to see Amma for the last time before she left the continent. Amma left her children with exhortations to protect our fragile planet. In her satsang, she said, “In the last 25 years, we have finished off nearly 40% of the Earth’s natural resources. We don’t know how long the rest of the resources will remain. Understanding the seriousness of the situation, we need to practice activities like tree planting. Trees are like air-conditioners of the Earth – they purify the air we breathe.”

In particular, there were many people from the nation of Slovenia at Amma’s program in Munich. They had translated Amma’s song “Everyone in the world (should sleep without fear)” into Slovenian, and asked Amma to sing it. Therefore, on the second night of her programs, when the darshan had come to an end, though she had already sung a full set of bhajans earlier that evening, Amma told the bhajan team to bring the instruments and set up the microphones.

Though Slovenia is a small country, and in those moments, as Amma sang her beautiful prayer in the mother tongue of Slovenia, for the thousands of people from dozens of nations, Slovenia was the most important nation on Earth, and their language the most beautiful. Everyone joined in – people from all over the world singing in this language spoken by just two million people. Amma’s song brought tears to the eyes of every Slovenian there that night, and to many others as well. It was truly a reminder that Amma speaks only one language and that language shines in and through every other language – for it is the language of love.

As the curtains fell on Amma’s 2016 European tour, one could see the sadness on the faces of many of Amma’s European children. But as Amma always mentions, where there is love, distance is not a barrier, and Amma’s European children will carry countless beautiful memories of this tour, which will remain forever as precious jewels in the treasure chest of their hearts.

-Dass

 

 

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Buon Appetito – Amma in Milano

11 – 13 Nov, Milano, Italy – Europe Yatra – 2016

Amma’s programs in Italy were held at a packed Malpensa Fiere in Busto Arsizio. The entrance of the venue was beautifully decorated with lights and festoons to show the joy in the hearts of the volunteers who were gathered to welcome Amma to Italy. Up on arrival, as was her custom throughout the tour, Amma served food to all the assembled volunteers. After leading them in the Brahmarpanam prayer, and before taking a bite, Amma surprised and delighted her Italian children with a spontaneous “Buon Appetito!” – meaning “enjoy your meal” Hearing this, the crowd of devotees exclaimed with delight and appreciation.

 

On all three days, the program hall filled to capacity. Each time Amma entered and left the hall, the crowd erupted in sustained applause and cheers that seemed to never end. The tone had really been set on that first night, and throughout Amma’s stay there, Malpensa Fiere became like a festival of joy. It was not an entirely Italian festival – there was a huge contingent from Greece, and in addition to participating fully in the program, they brought a Greek flavor to the event, enthralling the crowd with an offering of their own singing and instrumental performances.

Busto Arsizio Mayor Emanuele Antonelli formally welcomed Amma to Italy and expressed his appreciation for her visiting and supporting the people of Busto Arsizio, saying, “It is an honour for me to welcome Amma to Busto Arsizio. I’m very touched by meeting Amma. In Amma I perceive the sweetness, the grace, the generosity, the spirituality of a really extraordinary woman. Thank you also for the many very important activities Amma carries out and coordinates, and especially for the support she has given to our town, in particular to people with employment problems.”

Also during Amma’s visit to Italy, a special Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Amrita University and top-ranked Italian University of Trento. In celebrating the MoU, Trento University Professor Maurizio Marchese, “Amrita University and the University of Trento have been collaborating for some years now. During this period of time we have had the lucky opportunity to meet young students, professors and researchers from Amrita University. What really impressed us is the quality level of competence of these young people and above all the enthusiasm of their professors and researchers, as well as what is inspiring them. I would like to remind you here of something Amma said which impressed me very much. ‘Action, knowledge and devotion are essential. If action and devotion are like a bird’s wings, knowledge is like the tail and its rudder, its direction. Only with the help of the three of them can we manage to take off and fly very high.’”

-Dass

 

 

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We should give back at least as much as we take

7 – 9 Nov, Toulon, France – Europe Yatra 2016

When Amma arrived at the Omega Zenith arena in Toulon, Southern France on the evening of 6 November, fresh from the end of an all-night Devi Bhava darshan in Barcelona that had stretched deep into the morning of the following day, she was greeted by more than 1,000 volunteers. The volunteers had been hard at work preparing for Amma’s program at the Omega Zenith, which would start the following morning. 

They were eagerly looking forward to receiving a glimpse of Amma as she arrived, but no one expected what happened next – Amma walked right up onto the stage. Despite the hectic pace and long hours of the Barcelona program and the full day of travel, Amma wanted to serve her children a meal. The volunteers were overjoyed, and they had something for Amma as well. Amidst their labors, they had found time to prepare a very special gift. They presented Amma with a garland of paper hearts – each one inscribed with a prayer of gratitude, sharing with Amma their feelings of love and thankfulness for the positive changes and blessings she had brought into their lives. Amma looked through each prayer and held the garland to her heart.

Despite being held on three working days, the Omega Zenith was packed to overflowing on each day, with queues lined up well before the sun rose each morning. The feeling of the crowd was perhaps best captured on the final evening evening program. When Amma arrived on the stage for the final program, just as she was bowing to the assembled crowd, they spontaneously did the wave, back and forth across the stands, and their voices similarly erupted in cheers for Amma’s arrival. Looking on, one couldn’t help but feel inspired and heartened by this massive outpouring of love and appreciation for Amma and all that she represents – love, peace, compassion, kindness, patience, forgiveness, acceptance, faith. To see that it is still possible in today’s world to fill a huge arena with people who want peace in the world and to create peace in their own hearts and the hearts of all they meet is a balm for the soul.

 

In her talk, Amma reminded the assembled crowd of the importance of caring for the only world we have: “This world is a priceless garden with which God has blessed humankind and other beings. God has provided all the required resources and wealth for all of us to live healthy, happy and peaceful lives. God’s only condition was that we should give at least as much as we take. God has given all of us permission and blessings to enjoy and experience as much as we want, but God has also entrusted us with the responsibility of maintaining the beauty and resources of this garden, so we should not damage it.” Seeing the crowds that had gathered to receive Amma’s love and carry it forward into the world, one was filled with hope that Amma’s words would be taken to heart, and that ripples of love and compassion would spread through the garden that is our planet, and that the day would come that its original beauty and harmony is restored.

-Dass

 

 

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Corazón Solidario honored Amma for her humanitarian work

3 – 5 Nov, Barcelona, Spain – Europe Yatra 2016

After several years of programs in nearby Granollers, Amma was in the heart of Barcelona, where her free public programs were held at the Palau Sant Jordi, the third largest indoor arena in Europe. The Palau Sant Jordi is part of the Olympic Ring complex, built to host the 1992 Olympics. The arena is located next to the beautiful National Palace and the majestic Magic Fountain of Montjuic.

During Amma’s visit to Barcelona, she was presented with an award from the Spanish NGO “Corazón Solidario” (A Caring Heart). The organization choose one person a year to honor for their humanitarian work as an exceptional human being. This year, Corazón Solidario honored our beloved Amma for her life of service to others and her humanitarian work that helps millions of people all over the world. The president of the NGO, Emilio Álvarez, handed this Award to Amma.

For the past three years, Amma has been supporting children in nearby Granollers, with Embracing the World sponsoring underprivileged children who are unable to afford school cafeteria and transportation as well as medical care and after school programs. So far, 110 children have been supported in this way, and this year Amma presented a check with the donation from Embracing the World to Ms. María del Mar Sánchez, from Granollers City Hall, so that this project can continue.

Another highlight of Amma’s program in Barcelona was the performance of the Sant Andreu Jazz Band, a highly accomplished youth jazz band, comprised of musicians aged from as young as 7 years old up to 20. The entire arena was spellbound by their lyrical, meditative performance, brimming with talent and obvious practice, dedication and focus. Listen to their offering to Amma.

For the past four years, inspired by Amma’s example, our volunteers working out of Barcelona, Spain have been running an outreach program with the nearby Quatre Camins prison. The prisoners learn and practice Amma’s IAM meditation, and engage in service and environmental projects both within and outside the prison’s walls. The prisoners say that Amma’s influence, through her meditation, teachings, and inspiration to serve, has made a big impact on their lives, helping to clear their minds and soothe their hearts {news}.

This year, two prisoners brought to Amma poems they had written to express their feelings for her and the difference she has made in their lives. One of the prisoners even rapped his poem for Amma. For now, we’ll leave you with his words:

A Song for Amma from the Prison (excerpted)

Sometimes I feel sad
1,000 things stick with me
in this material world
ruled by currency
but you break my barriers –
your humility without prejudice
envelops me in your arms
And I forget all judgment
Amid the darkness there is a shining light
Shining shining shining!
And this is love, this is LOVE!
A hug is neither power, nor food, nor money
But it is pure and true and love
Helping others is how we get more love
Melt your hate in a hug, to build peace
Within you there is a higher being
Invite him to create a better world!

AT THE LIGHT OF YOUR GAZE, AMMA
The prison was dark,
with gray bars on their windows,
and bits of dry land in the midst of sad dull pavilions.
You came and glided quiet and sweetly
behind bars, gates, ramparts and walls.
your loving gaze stopped on us,
prisoners of our fears.
And from the dizzying depth of your eyes
rays of divine love emanate
making our dead hearts
and dry lands blossom
Now the prison is no longer behind bars, you taught us
with your example to transcend them.
Dry lands have become magical gardens
Who worship Goddess Earth.
and our hearts opened to serve the world.
Amma, has turned the prison into a temple
and us into your servants.
Never stop looking at us, please Amma
Do not remove your sweet eyes from us
because your gaze dissolves the bars of our prisons
and now we know that there is light.

-Dass

 

 

 

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Amma, you have moved the world with your message of love

30 Oct – 1 Nov, Hof Herenberg, Germany – Europe Yatra 2016

Amma held programs at her center in Germany, the M.A. Center at Hof Herenberg in Brombachtal, for the second year running. Built on a horse ranch in the rolling hills of central Germany, the naturally tranquil atmosphere provides the perfect foundation for a retreat-like setting for an Amma program – devotees come from all over Europe and abroad to spend a few days in her presence. A warm, vibrant, community feeling pervades the air and conversations and interactions everywhere as devotees recognize each other and stop to exchange a few kind words. The program at Hof Herenberg calls to mind Amma’s ashram in San Ramon, California, along with the feeling at M.A. Center Chicago.

Amma was warmly welcomed to the area by Anni Resch, Deputy Head of District, Responsible for Social Affairs and Voluntary Work, as well as the Mayor of Brombachtal Mr. Willie Kredel and Mr. Stefan Kelbert, Mayor of the nearby city of Michelstadt.

Embracing the World and AYUDH have been very active with service projects in Michelstadt, including providing integrational activities for unaccompanied minor refugees, the renovation of the local Heilig-Kreuz-Park, visits to the local care home, setting up a permaculture garden, facilitating sustainability workshops at the Protestant Church Youth Days, and initiating the ‘RespAct’ project to combat cyberbullying at the Theodor Litt School.

In his remarks, Mayor Kredel said: “In a world shaken by terror, we are at peace here in Brombachtal. Peace is a word that consists of very few letters. It is easy to write, it is easy to pronounce, and it is also very easy to live according to it… I am convinced that if we drove out the five major enemies of peace – pride, greed, ambition, envy and anger – we would have eternal peace on earth. With people like Amma, with this level of social involvement, you don’t have to say much. I bow down to her with admiration. She is a wonderful woman.”

Ms. Resch reflected: “”Dear Amma, you have moved the world with your message of love and compassion, and you are still moving it. You speak of different religions, and you say that if everybody remembers the foundation of their own religion, the same values of love, compassion, humanity, hope – to name a few – will be found. If so many people come together everywhere, with Amma’s ideas, then peace will be possible for us to achieve and sustain. Amma, you move something in people, so they can spread an unbelievable energy, warmth and joy through your love. Thank you for being there, and thank you also for the many projects here in the Odenwald region. Thank you.”

After Devi Bhava concluded on the morning of November 2nd, devotees waited outside the temple hall, near the open door of the vehicle that would carry her to Barcelona. In their hands, they held heart-shaped balloons. Before Amma came, there was some friendly jostling and debate as to whose balloon Amma would take into her hand and let sail up into the sky. When Amma finally arrived at the door of the hall, she surprised everyone by gathering up each and every balloon into her hand, calling to mind the stories of Krishna and the gopis – though each would anxiously angle for his attention and love, in the end he found a way to make them all happy and feel that they were his favorite. Gathering the balloons to her heart, Amma held them close and let them all sail up into the clear blue sky. The three days in Hof Herenberg with Amma were uplifting and heartwarming for all who had the good fortune to be there – thus watching these hearts rise up into the sky, ever higher and higher, was a fitting end to Amma’s time there and a precious memory that will live in the hearts of Amma’s children forever.

-Dass

 

 

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Come quickly, my darling children

26 – 28 October, Paris – Europe Yatra 2016

Amma’s previous visits to Paris metropolitan area were held at an arena in Cergy-Pointoise. This year, Amma’s program was in Paris itself, inside the Boulevard Peripherique. Her first program there, a Wednesday, was scheduled to begin at 11:00 am. But the lines of devotees waiting to spend a few moments in her arms began well before the sun rose, and for the following three days, the lines formed an unbroken stream of humanity who had heard Amma’s call, “Come quickly, my darling children, you who are the essence of Om.”

In fact, Amma’s 3-day program began the night before, when she arrived at the venue after an all-night Devi Bhava program in Winterthur. On arrival, Amma came to the program hall and served food to all the assembled volunteers who had been hard at work to ready the facility for the tens of thousands who would walk through its doors over the next 3 days. Over the prasad meal, one of the devotees asked Amma about the importance of forgiveness. Amma replied that forgiveness actually helps the one who forgives even more than the one who is forgiven. Without forgiveness, Amma said, we are stuck in the cycle of action and reaction. When we forgive, it sets us free. Amma gave some practical tips as to how to practice forgiveness in our lives, and went on to conclude, “Whether we laugh or cry, days will pass by. In that case, why not choose to laugh?”

During Amma’s programmes in Paris, France, the United Nations officially made Amrita University India’s first-ever UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment {news}.

The European Union’s Director General of Education and Culture, Martine Reicherts, also came to see Amma during her 3-day programme in Paris.

There were many uplifting musical and dance performances offered to Amma and the assembled crowd over the three days – a highlight was an African drumming troupe whose performance on Devi Bhava got a huge portion of the crowd up on their feet and losing themselves in blissful dance as Amma, in Devi Bhava, beamed at her children and continued to welcome them one by one into her arms.

Amma’s Devi Bhava darshan stretched well into the fourth day, which happened to be Diwali. After the curtains opened and Amma emerged to say farewell to the thousands of devotees still gathered there, one by one, they turned on their mobile phone lights and held them up, as if each of them was remembering Amma’s words: “Try to make others happy, and don’t despair over all the evil in the world. Instead of cursing the dark, let us each light one small lamp.” It was a beautiful and spontaneous Diwali celebration and a joyous, touching and hopeful end to Amma’s time in Paris with her children there.

-Dass

 

 

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The core of every religion is Love   

21-13 October, Winterthur , Switzerland, Europe Yatra – 2016

Amma’s Visit to Winterthur, Switzerland is always a special one. The people of Switzerland go to great lengths to celebrate their heritage and offer traditional performances as offerings to Amma. In this way, in a gymnasium in Winterthur, the heritage of Switzerland meets the heritage of India, and both are celebrated and honored.

India’s Ambassador to Switzerland Smitha Purushottam pointed out the underlying principle that allows of this meeting of cultures to unfold: “I am deeply touched and moved by Amma’s work, her spirituality, her ability to bring all of you together, people from different nationalities, different parts of the world, and different religions also. Amma told me just now that the core of every religion is love, and I think that’s the most profound thing I’ve heard in a long time.”

The Ambassador was on hand for the formal program in which she and the renowned Swiss actress Ruth-Maria Kubitschek welcomed Amma to Switzerland. Ms. Kubitschek remarked, “We have forgotten that God resides within us, and Amma reminds us of our potential. Everyone can make a difference in the world today. We are not weak. And Amma is a great role model for all of us. Let us feel very happy and blessed that we can meet such a great soul today, and that she holds us close to her big heart. This really moves me deeply. Amma, I thank you for being here, for your spirituality, and for your great work. Thank you.”

The celebration of and union of cultural heritage was best illustrated by the sounds of the program – as Amma went on embracing people, in between the bhajans sung by the swamis and local devotees, there were offerings of the traditional Swiss Alphorn – a long wind instrument used to communicate from alp to alp. Then men with heavy bells came into the hall. The archaic harmony of the bells lured many guests into the hall. In the longest night of the year they were used to drive out the evil spirits. This was followed by traditional yodelers, practicing an original style from the Central Switzerland called juuzen. The origin of the Juuz can be found in the open countryside, while working in the alps. These sounds were so unique and striking that we felt that beyond mere description, they must be shared. As you review the slideshow below, we invite you to listen to the sounds of Switzerland and allow yourself to be transported those precious moments with Amma in Winterthur.

-Dass

 

 

 

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Amrita University gets UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality

UNESCO chair on gender equality and women’s empowerment for Amrita University

27 Oct, Paris, France – Europe Yatra 2016

During Amma’s programmes in Paris, France, the United Nations officially made Amrita University India’s first-ever UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment. The official bestowing of the UNESCO Chair took place before an audience of 8,000 people in Paris who were Amma’s programme.

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Special guests included Ruchira Kamboj, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to UNESCO; Dr. Peter Wells, Chief of Higher Education Section, UNESCO; and Gopinathan Achamkulangare, Inspector of the Joint Inspection Unit. Amrita University vice-chancellor P Venkat Rangan handed over the signed agreement on behalf of the university to Dr. Wells.

Dr. Peter Wells, Chief of Higher Education Section, UNESCO, said: “There is no greater force for development, resilience and peace in the world than girls’ education. Universities such as Amrita have a guiding and strategic role to play in this quest. This UNESCO chair will be at the crossroads of research and action, with the ambition to develop toolkits focusing on vital areas, from skills to health to climate change, on mobile technology applications, and better mapping of vulnerabilities. Amrita University and UNESCO share the same humanist agenda, and we look forward to a collaboration which advances the most important frontier for human rights, peace and progress.”

Ruchira Kamboj, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to UNESCO, said: “This is certainly the first-ever UNESCO chair in this discipline. What is truly remarkable is the strategy, where it is proposed to map out vulnerabilities of women and girls at various levels and from different perspectives, and through research, study, training, and an exchange of best practices, to find the best possible solutions, replicable by others. My thanks to Amrita University for the inspired idea and for the beautiful project. I am confident that through this chair, Amrita University will make sure that both the ceiling and the floor for women will be raised.”

Launched in 1992, the UNESCO Chairs Programme comprises a global network of more than 700 universities, across 128 countries. It promotes international inter-university cooperation and networking to enhance institutional capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work. Through the network, higher education and research institutions all over the globe pool their resources, both human and material, to address pressing challenges and contribute to the development of their societies.