Devotion & Discipline

12 Jan 2003, en route to Chennai

Amma with the tour group

“Upanishad” means literally “to sit at the feet of” When one imagines the dialogues in the Upanishads, one can almost see the disciples seated humbly at the feet of the Master, gathered under a gigantic tree in full bloom. Such was the scene two days ago when, en route to Madras, Amma and Her entourage stopped by the side of the road under just such a flowering tree.

Amma served lunch to one and all before speaking about several spiritual topics. The following is excerpted from Her comments.

Though no questions were put to Her by the disciples, Amma, being not only our Master but our Mother, Herself asked a question. “What is real devotion?”

Amma’s children proposed various answers, including one Western devotee who humorously suggested, “When I look around, I feel that devotion is pure craziness.”

Amma answered thus:

“To love God, we need to develop the innocent heart of a child. This requires patience, enthusiasm, and optimistic faith. If you give a child a piece of charcoal and tell them it is gold, they will not hesitate to believe you. Even if a child becomes angry, he or she will immediately forgive and forget. One should try to cultivate the child’s attitude of living in the present, without accumulating the past or brooding about the future…

“All of you children sat down around Amma not caring about the sticks and stones and thorns on the ground. Though some of you may have fought for a seat close to Amma, you forget your differences quickly. This is an aspect of devotion that you should try to maintain at all times.”

About the do’s and don’ts of spiritual life, Amma referred to the tree that all were sitting under. “When this tree was a small plant, it could have been devoured by any passing animal. Now, it is so strong that you could even tie an elephant to it. It is only because this plant was protected as a sapling that it could grow to become the tree it is today. Similarly, we are beginners on the spiritual path. Therefore we need to follow the rules and regulations for our own protection.

“Some may ask if all these rules restrict our freedom. But real freedom needs maturity and discrimination. We should remember that while we have our desires, others also have their own. Our freedom should not impinge on another’s freedom. Imagine if a train which has been running on its tracks for so many years suddenly says, ‘Today, I want to be free. I don’t feel like running on the tracks anymore.’ This would cause a derailment, which would put an end to so many lives.”