Roadside satsang

Amma with devotees on the roadside

17 January, 2004 — Sivaganga – Chennai

Amma left the stage in Rameshwaram at 9 am yesterday morning, and after a brief stop at a nearby devotee’s home and then a visit to the holy Rameshwaram Temple, immediately departed for the next stretch of the journey — onward towards Chennai!

As this would be a long distance drive — over 350 km — there was a sleepover midway in the small town of Sivaganga where a devotee hosted Amma and those traveling with Her. Rested and fed lovingly (and well!) by Amma’s local Sivagangadevotees, we started off refreshed at the next dawn.

One of the most cherished features of touring with Amma is the occasional roadside stop that is made, where Amma will serve lunch to everyone and give satsang. It’s exceptionally intimate, as there are never more than a few hundred devotees and ashramites on tour at a time. Around Amma, this is a rare number, and the intimacy of these stops is always memorable.

Today a nice shady spot under a tree-full of monkeys was found. One of the first things Amma did was talk to these curious creatures, who were no doubt wondering what all the fuss was about! “Namah Sivaya” Amma called out to one of them watching us from above. He responded by either offering namaskaram with his hands, or scratching his nose?? it was hard to tell.

Amma then offered everyone lunch with Her own hands. Those of the group that bring their own tiffins write their names on its side, so that Amma can read it out for them to come get their prasad.

Sometimes people forget to do this, and instead of a name there’s a sticker of some kind, or a manufacturer’s label, or nothing at all. Then, like today, Amma calls out, “Post No Bills! Where are you, Post No Bills?” or “Sagar Housewares!” or for the blank vessels, “Nobody! Come get your food, Nobody!” It’s always very funny, and Amma especially gets a major kick out of this. Her innocent, unrestrained laughter sends contagious ripples through the gathering.

After our food, Amma asked us to explain the cause of the world’s suffering, and the way out of it. One person said that we suffer due to having desires and expectations. When these aren’t fulfilled, we experience sadness or anger, and through this we lose our happiness and peace of mind. Another person added to this, saying that by having expectations we are creating a division between ourselves and the Lord. It is this sense of separation that is the real source of our suffering, and the only way to go beyond suffering is to remember our oneness with the Divine. When there is only One, there can be no desire or expectations, and hence no suffering.

A young woman mentioned very sweetly that Amma’s children are always so eager to serve Her, and that this is good? But Amma wants us to see Her in everyone, and to love and serve them with that same enthusiasm and humility. She told Amma that this is hard sometimes, and asked Amma very prayerfully for the strength to do this better.

One western man told Amma that he feels that many in the west have closed hearts, saying that there doesn’t seem to be any innocence there anymore. Amma responded by saying that this isn’t correct. “Amma’s western children do have innocence, but it is just covered over with emotional scars. The family structure in the west is different than that of India, and many in the west were raised by a stepmother or stepfather, because their biological parents got divorced when they were still young. This has created problems because one simply doesn’t receive the same love from a step-parent as one would from ones real parents. So, many in the west have never had this love.”

A small group of very poor local villagers who happened to live nearby also came out of curiosity over the sudden crowd. Amma arranged for meals to be given to them as well, and as She was walking toward Her car to leave, gave each of them prasad and asked after their well-being. Then, with amazing efficiency, the entire scene was restored to it’s original non-descriptness. Supplies were quickly loaded and no trash or any evidence other than our dusty footprints, a peaceful air and the rumours of monkeys was left to tell of our visit. Amma and the group were quickly off, to be in Chennai by nightfall.

– dass