Amma returns to Amritapuri

2 December 2001, Amritapuri

Even last night, the ashram was awash with anticipation. Last minute preparations were concluded, brahmacharis and brahmacharinis returning from branch ashrams and visitors streamed through the gates, and everywhere could be felt a palpable sense of joy. Everyone knew that the very next day, their Mother was returning.

By noon, brahmacharinis and devotees were gathered near the stairs to Amma’s room, some chanting the Lalita Sahasranama, some lost in meditation, some just anxiously waiting like little children.

Amma with a group of people

They knew that Amma had landed in Madras last night, and was flying into Trivandrum at 12:30 today. She was expected to arrive at Amritapuri by three o’clock, four at the latest. As the hour drew nearer, the crowds grew: the brahmacharinis gathering next to the stairs, the brahmacharis a step further away in the open air passage where many of them live and work.

Some of the brahmacharinis inquired if Amma had eaten something. “I am eating love,” She replied.

Amma would drive through this passage before parking in front of Her house. But soon, the lines stretched around the corner, past the new building being constructed adjacent the temple, spilling onto the steps of the temple itself and into the courtyard. And through the gates, beyond the flats, nearly to the road. The ones furthest to the road could be seen all the way to the temple, and everyone watched them keenly for a sign of Her approach.

Yesterday, the temple bell rang, signalling the start of a scriptural class, and here and there a few people could be seen heading toward the temple. Today, about 3:30 in the afternoon, that same bell rang, and not only the brahmacharinis but the brahmacharis, the resident householders, the computer students, the Western renunciates and residents, and the Western visitors came running. They came from everywhere. From the flats, from the school hostel, from the shop, from the canteen, from the kitchen, from the temple itself-wherever they might have been, Amma’s children of every stripe rushed to greet Her. Footsteps pounded over marble and sand in a literal stampede of love and devotion, a tidal wave of humanity cascading toward the Mother of the universe.

The bell did not lie: Shortly after it rang out, a car horn echoed its cry: Amma is here, here at last. Her white car made its way slowly through the throng of devotees: the driver careful not hurt the devotees who clearly had no thought for their own toes as they reached toward Amma’s outstretched hand. Amma Herself beamed with love for Her children as they did all they could to touch Her hand and arm, some burying their faces in Her open palm, reluctant to let go. The car slowly made its way toward Amma’s house, and whether they managed to touch Her or not, their faces lit up with joy, for all knew that if they weren’t graced with Her loving touch today, they will be tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. The car pulled to a halt before the steps to Amma’s room. With some difficulty a path was cleared for Her.

She made Her way slowly reaching out to as many as She could, holding a hand here, brushing a face there, casting loving looks all around, as far away as the spiral staircase, overflowing with daughters, and the brahmacharis flats lined with sons. An elderly ashram resident performed arati to Her at the base of the stairs, and even when She finally began to make Her way up to Her room, She paused halfway and surveyed-with love, affection, and something like satisfaction-the sea of Her children before Her.

Some of the brahmacharinis inquired if Amma had eaten something. “I am eating love,” She replied.

Catching sight of a Western renunciate who was videotaping the scene from afar, Amma called out to her.

Group of people looking at Amma

The crowd parted for this woman who routinely tapes Amma and scenes around the ashram. Now, the tables were turned: upon reaching the stairs, Amma gently turned her around and asked Her to film Her children. Many shouted for Amma to come down and join the picture, but Amma insisted that this time, only Her children be recorded. Amma Herself, eyes on the camera’s viewfinder, guided the camerawoman’s hands, Her other hand on her shoulder, the way a mother helps a child to ride a bicycle, or trace letters in the sand.

Amma leaned this way and that, making sure to capture each and every child on tape, even leaning low to capture the brahmacharis on their balconies. She said that She wanted to be able to see all these faces whenever She wanted. The camerawoman looked overjoyed beyond words to suddenly have Amma on the other side of the lens, to be able to share this dance of recording with Her.

Amma also called another renunciate who frequently takes still photos of Amma. The photographer focused the camera, Amma making sure that she was getting everyone in the frame. Then, when the picture was perfect, Amma reached around and snapped the photo Herself.

The moment captured forever, Amma slowly retreated up the stairs, bearing a look of great reluctance. After seven weeks of embracing Her children around the world, after a two-day flight from America, after making Her way through the crush of love-struck ashramites, no one begrudged Her taking a rest.

But as is Her way, even now She must not have closed Her eyes. Surely there were disciples waiting inside Her room with important questions, urgent decisions to be made, and as always, letters to be read. One things is certain: for the over a thousand children here at the ashram, their feeling is one: their Amma has come home.