A New Year shrouded in darkness

Amma with devotees on New Year's Eve

31 Dec 2004, Amritapuri

Amma in the ashram hall on New Year's Eve 2004

For the first time in five days, the temple bell rang three times—announcing to all the ashramites that Amma was coming to the bhajan hall. It seemed to many that the bell was announcing the rain, as it came exactly as the bell was sounded. Everyone—the ashramites and the visiting devotees—ran to sit near Amma’s peetham.

When Amma arrived at 11:15, Her mood was a little distant. She was not crying, but if you looked closely you could see Her eyes were wet. The grief of the past five days weighed heavy in the air.

Amma started with two bhajans in Hindi, one to Sri Ganesh, “Kripa Ho Teri Vigna Vinashaka,” and one to Sri Krishna, “Arati Kunja Vihari.” The Ashram sound system had been damaged in the flood, so only a minimal setup was used. At times, it was difficult to hear Amma over the sound of the rain hitting against the roof of the bhajan hall.

Then Amma sang “Kodanukoti” a very old Malayalam bhajan in the raga charukeshi [mood of sorrow]. The song is about how distant God seems to remain no matter how intense one’s austerities. O Eternal Truth, mankind has been searching for you for millions and millions of years… When Amma sung such lines, Her voice become one with the raga, causing many of the ashramites and devotees to shed tears.

The song finished at 11:55 and Amma asked everyone to close their eyes and start chanting the peace mantra lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. With the events of the past week fresh in everyone’s mind, it was clear the prayer was coming from the bottom of everyone’s heart. As Amma chanted, Her body slowly rocked back and forth in Her chair.

When the chant ended 10 minutes later, Amma began to speak. “With very heavy hearts, we are welcoming the New Year,” Amma said. “We cannot rejoice at this moment, and this is not a time to rejoice. This is a time to invoke love and compassion in our hearts. The dead are not going to come back, but we can give love and consolation to those who are living.

“In this New Year, which is shrouded in the darkness of sorrow, we should light the lamp of love, service and compassion, and with faith move forward.

“Man can achieve anything; he can even become God, but one second is enough to lose everything.”

Amma went on to say that human effort has its limitations, and that God’s grace is more important. “Children, understand the goal of life and proceed.”

At one point Amma confessed that She didn’t know what to say—”My heart is empty.”

Amma then led everyone in a short meditation. When it was over, Amma’s mood seemed lighter somehow, and She sang “Ananda Janani,” a celebration of the glory of the Divine Mother. Towards the end of the song, Amma raised Her hands over Her head and started clapping. Everyone in the hall did the same. How quickly the mood had gone from darkness to light.

Amma then stood up and called everyone to come and get prasad. For many visiting the Ashram during their Christmas vacation, it was the first time they had received Amma’s darshan.