A mere pigeon?

16 August 2001, Amritapuri

Last Tuesday, a mangled bird lay nestled on Amma’s lap while She meditated.

An injured pigeon in Amma's lap

No, not exactly Her lap. Mother sat in the half-lotus position, with Her right Foot on Her left thigh, sole upturned, as She usually does for meditation. When a little girl brought the wounded bird, Mother (Who had already met the pigeon at the previous Devi Bhava) took it gently, kissed it softly, kept it wrapped snugly in its golden cloth and white towel, and set it securely on the sole of Her Foot. Resting Her left Hand on it, She continued to meditate

The scriptures speak of the Feet of a Mahatma as a symbol for the Supreme Truth. It is to show our reverence for this Truth and for the Great Soul who guides us to It that we touch the Guru’s Feet. But a pigeon, of course, doesn’t comprehend this; the wounded bird could not have grasped the preciousness of its position, nor the incredible compassion and humility of Mother, Who was cuddling the suffering one so simply between Her Foot and Her Hand.

Amma taking care of an injured pigeon

Maybe the pigeon had been involved in an encounter with a cat or dog; we don’t know, but the poor fellow had lost all the flight feathers from its right wing, and its head seemed to dangle, as if the neck had been badly injured or even broken. Some of the ashramites had taken it in, and were caring for it. It was the natural thing to bring this suffering creature to the Mother of Compassion. Throughout the meditation session, Mother held the bird.

It stayed quiet, and now and then She would reach Her right Hand over and gently stroke its head or lift its beak. When meditation finished, She took up a letter that someone had left on Her cot. Continuing to hold the bird, She read the letter, and began to speak, gesturing animatedly, while at the same time, carefully holding the bird firmly in place.

She was the picture of total shraddha, doing Her duty as a Teacher and expressing Her nature as the Compassionate Mother, both at the same time, and each perfectly, neither sacrificed to the other. Some ten minutes later, while a brahmachari was translating Mother’s teachings, the bird began to struggle. Mother at once unwrapped the coverings and caressed the pigeon, moving it now to the middle of Her lap. She opened a packet of sacred ash and applied it to the bird’s wounds: shoulder, under the wing, neck. Amma appeared to be fully engrossed in ministering to Her suffering charge, when suddenly She looked up and interrupted the translator, making a correction to what he was saying (never mind how Someone Who claims not to speak English can discern errors; w’’ve all seen Her slip that mask, on occasion). Correction made, She returned to treating the bird.

Amma taking care of an injured bird

There is something about this juxtaposition that must be recognised: a wise Teacher, sought out by heads of states, who addresses throngs of tens of thousands and who also sits on Her humble cot to teach whoever comes into the temple on a Tuesday morning; and a tender Healer, whether of bodies, hearts or minds, who sits caressing a dull grey pigeon, giving it the same loving attention we have seen Her give to us.