4 January 2005, Amritapuri
“My children are my strength.” This is what Amma told a group of reporters from Delhi who came to interview Her regarding the 100 crores (news) She has announced to spend on tsunami-relief in South India. The answer came in response to a question regarding how Amma was able to commit such a large amount in aid.
“The brahmacharis work 18 hours a day,” Amma said. “They do all the driving and the construction and operate the earthmovers. There are no contractors. All the materials—like bricks, windows, doors, tables, chairs, beds—are made by our brahmacharis. The electrical, plumbing and structure is all done by our brahmacharis. This is nothing new for us. Right now, we are building Amrita Kuteerams [free houses for the destitute] in 47 sites throughout India—14 villages in Tamil Nadu, Kadappa in Andhra, Ajanta Nagar in Pune…. There are some 2,000 ashramites here. They work day in and day out, and they don’t take any payment for their work.”
“I have many good children,” Amma said, referring to Her millions of devotees around the world. “They all do what they can.” Amma went on to say that even some small children make dolls or small statues and sell them so that they can give the earnings to their beloved Amma. “Some children—when presented with money on their birthday or when their parents tell them that they can have an ice cream—say that they would like to give that money to Amma instead, telling their parents how Amma can use it for supporting poor children. Other children come up to Amma and offer their savings, saying that it can be used to buy pens for poor students. Amma doesn’t want to accept this as other children who have nothing to offer may then feel sad but when Amma sees the goodness of their hearts, She has no choice. The government alone cannot do everything. Would these children give this money to the government with the same love as they would give to Amma? Other non-governmental service organizations have to come up to help, as they have in this recent disaster.”
Amma went on to explain how when the government allocates money for relief projects, much of it is dissipated in wages. Amma likened the situation to pouring oil from one glass to another down a line. “In the end, you don’t have any oil left,” Amma said. “All of it has been lost, sticking to the sides of all the glasses. This way, 1,000 paise become 100 paise by the time it reaches the people. Whereas if we get 10 paise, we add our effort to it and the money multiplies. Amma is not blaming the government; of course, government employees need to make a living and the government machinery needs to be maintained.”
Amma explained that She attributes all of the Ashram’s success to the renunciation and selfless service of Her children—that She has never spent time calculating whether a project She has felt inspired to undertake is feasible or not before starting it. When Amma has felt the need, She has committed and by grace they have always come together. As examples, Amma cited AIMS, the Ashram’s super-specialty hospital for the poor in Cochin, and the three villages the Ashram completely rebuilt in Bhuj after the 2001 earthquake. Amma said, “So I am sure this also will materialise.”
When a journalist from Rastriya Sahara asked Amma what Her moolamantra was meaning what was the secret of Her success. Amma suggested that maybe it was that people are finding in Her what is essential for all, but what is missing in them. When prompted further, Amma said it is ‘Love’.
“There are two types of poverty,” Amma added. “Material poverty and poverty of love and compassion. If love and compassion are awakened, then the other kind of poverty is also done away with.”
“I don’t lay any claims to having done anything,” Amma said. “It is my children who have made all this possible. My children are my wealth; they are my strength.”