13 February 2002, En route to Mysore
The first stop on Amma’s 2002 Mahayatra was Mananthavadi, Kerala, where a Brahmasthanam Temple was installed last year. The ashram and Amritavidyalayam School are nestled in the Nilgiri hills among lush rain forests and coffee and tea plantations. Those travelling with Amma had been road weary and tired from the long and winding journey.
As they entered the ashram, however, many of the travellers commented that there was something in the atmosphere as they were feeling suddenly revived. That “something” was soon evident as they began to mingle with the local devotees. Love was in the air. Love of the devotees who had been preparing for months for this day when Amma’s Precious Lotus Feet would grace the ashram premises. Many of them had been sacrificing their own comforts – and even necessities, including sleep, in order to receive Amma in a royal way. The decorations were simple yet artistically arranged to create a festive mood. And the ashram was cleaned so well that even the dirt floor of the Temple compound felt clean to sit upon. The five daily archanas were attended by large numbers of devotees whose fervent chanting created a spiritually charged atmosphere in which the most restless minds could quickly attain focus.
It seemed to me that the morning of our departure from Mananthavadi, spirits were high among everyone travelling with Mother. This must have been due to the special atmosphere at the Brahmasthanam Festival (I am presuming all spirits were high, mine was anyway). On boarding the bus I realised that Mother had turned up the heat just slightly, as two buses had been taken out of the eight-bus convoy. This meant that it was going to be tight squeezing everyone into the buses. We stopped approximately 3½ hours into the trip to Mysore to have lunch with Mother. Some of us were a bit groggy from falling asleep in the bus and some of the westerners were a bit sore from sitting so long in seats designed for Indian bodies while travelling down long bumpy roads. Some others were suffering from mild motion sickness. However, little did we know that these physical discomforts were about to be completely erased from our minds. We stopped at an absolutely beautiful location, just a short walk through the forest to the most delightful river in the middle of nowhere.
The river had rocks of all different sizes laying half immersed in the water from one side of the river to the other. This made a tempting pathway for the brave through the mini rapids. Trees on the banks leaned over into the water, their leaves just about to touch the water’s surface. Some of us took the opportunity to meditate on the riverbank or on the large rocks in the middle of the river.
Some went swimming, while others just waded or had a snooze on the bank under the trees. The weather was great and most importantly all you could hear was the sound of nature. It was so quiet and peaceful. Mother’s Grace had once again delivered us to paradise.
We were there for some time relaxing by the river in anticipation of Amma’s arrival when we heard the voice cry out “Mother is here”. It seemed at this point that there was no more motion sickness or grogginess. Some of the group ran toward the voice, kicking up the dust behind them, while others took the opportunity to leave the nature just as they found it, in peace. Mother’s chair was placed in a clear area surrounded by trees. Half the group had already seated themselves around Mother when I arrived and the familiar circular pattern of devotees had begun to emerge around her. Those that arrived a little later were standing at the back, while others who were a little closer were kneeling. Then there were those that were sitting closer and very tight to make the most of each and every square inch of space near Amma, who was right in the centre. While we were getting comfortable (or accepting our discomfort) Amma’s gaze scanned the entire gathering.
While some of the brahmacharis were preparing to serve lunch, Amma asked for a story. We all remained silent. Everyone’s full attention was on Amma but no one was jumping at the opportunity to tell a story. A few minutes passed and as people handed their plates through the crowd towards the brahmacharis serving out lunch, a true story emerged about a brahmachari who is responsible for handing out the darshan tokens at Amma’s programmes.
The duty of this disciple is to give out only the number of tokens that has been decided beforehand. However, the scriptures say that it is the duty of the disciple to protect the guru’s body and this particular brahmachari is very concerned about Amma’s rest. Sometimes fulfilling this duty of a disciple goes against Amma’s goal of giving darshan to as many devotees who desire a darshan. This brahmachari makes it a point to check on Amma’s health soon after each darshan begins. Only then will he decide whether he will give out the allotted number of tokens. There have been times when he has given out only half the number of tokens decided upon! You see, he does not want Amma to go through any more discomfort. Amma has explained to him that she wants all her children to receive darshan. Amma asked him to promise to give tokens out to the very end. His reply to Amma was “Yes Amma I will give tokens out to MY very end!” As this was explained to all of us Amma roared into laughter and our laughter followed.
While the stories were being told all eyes are focused tight on Amma. Even when the brahmacharis were sending back full plates of food through the crowd, we could barely pass them on as we were fully soaking up the magic of sharing this joyful time with Amma.
The stories had finished and the 15th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita was chanted while the last plate found its rightful owner. The chanting stopped and we waited for Amma to take the first bite before we started eating.
While we were eating, Amma looked around and all of a sudden and started to wave at the trees to her left. It was as if she was waving to close friends. We all looked. There were two monkeys sitting quietly observing Mother. When Mother waved the monkeys started to move and jump around. We were looking at the monkeys and back at Amma, back at the monkeys then back at Amma. Amma then looked up toward the sky and again, as she did while we were getting seated, Amma looked at the landscape as if she was one with it. I looked over to my left and noticed that an eagle had landed in a large tree. No words were spoken as we sat watching Amma and listening to the sounds around us.
It was time to go. We watched her get up and move quickly back to her mobile camper-van. We slowly followed making our way back to the buses, walking in silence, and with our hearts happy.