10 July 2001, New York
“Judith, why am I crying?”
It was the voice of a camera person who had been filming the Today Show’s interview of Amma and Judith Cornell, author of Mother’s new biography, “Amma: Healing the Heart of the World”. She had just been hugged by Amma.
Judith answered succinctly: “That’s no ordinary hug.”
The interview had ended. The cameras had stopped rolling, Mother had stood up, and proceeded-as is usual with Her-to hug anyone within reach. That turned out to be virtually everyone in the studio: producers, studio crew, reporters, representatives from the publishing company and timekeepers.
Before all this, Amma had been giving darshan outside the Rockefeller Center, the open plaza where the Today Show cameras outside the studio provide special moments during the popular TV news program. People surround the shooting area, and hold placards with their names or hometowns or favourite causes emblazoned on them, hoping the TV cameras might turn from the main event and zoom in on them, sending their images out to the world. On this day, one placard read, “Amma, We Love You!”
It was Tuesday morning, the 10th of July. Near the onlookers was something rather unusual: a small woman in white, seated on a chair and hugging people. Some of the bystanders moved over closer to see what this strange behaviour was all about.
“Who is She?” asked a Brooklyn accent near the crowd-restraining barricades. “They call her the “Hugging Saint,” answered one of the people just inside. “Come on-get a hug!”
Children, old people, men, women, and one lucky dog in the arms of his owner approached Amma there at one of the busiest crossroads of America, and She did as She always does everywhere around the world: She smiled into their eyes, held them close, murmured “Darling Daughter” or “Son, son,” and stroked their backs-well, in the case of the dog She patted his head and kissed him!
The Today Show, one of the most widely watched daily news programs in America, is known for being on the cutting edge, introducing new ideas, new writings and new people, to the general American public. For millions of people across the nation, this morning’s show would have been their first glimpse of Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. Curiosity aroused, they would have learned more a few minutes later when She and the author of the new biography were interviewed on the air.
From Judith Cornell’s answer to a question about her original scepticism about Amma, they would have learned how convincing Judith found the simple fact that year after year, day after day, and hour after hour, Mother keeps on hugging. Tens of thousands of people. Tirelessly. All over the world. They would have heard reference to Mother’s charitable activities like pensions for widows, homes for the homeless, orphanages and hospitals.
When the questioner turned to ask Mother what She had seen and understood about the nature of what’s happening in America, and the needs in this country for the kind of compassion that She is teaching, the viewers would have heard Her answer (translated by Swami Amritaswarupananda): “All over the world, people have an intense longing to experience pure love. They are in search of that, but they are not getting it. Each one is becoming an object in the other person’s hand.”
To open up their hearts, Amma goes all over the world, hugging. To judge by what people receiving those hugs say-people like the woman who asked “Why am I crying?”-one would have to conclude that She is having-to say the least-some success. As Cornell put it when asked about miracles attributed to Amma: “The greatest miracle is Her Love and compassion to millions around the world.”
That Love, that compassion, comes through no ordinary hug.