Onam: a beautiful memory of the past and a bright hope for the future

25 September 2018, Amritapuri Ashram

(excerpt from Amma’s Onam Message)

Onam is usually a time of celebration. However, this Onam, our minds are weighed down with grief. Many people lost their lives in the recent floods and landslides here in Kerala. Many people lost their homes and everything they had. It is heart-breaking that such a tragedy struck at this time of year when everyone should be rejoicing. Let us pray that the departed souls may rest in peace and that the living may find relief from their suffering.

Onam is a beautiful memory of the past and a bright hope for the future. It is also a joy in the present moment. Onam is a celebration of completeness. It is part of the agrarian tradition, celebrated together, with feasting and games. It also contains devotion and spirituality and unity and love. May this unity, love and joy last forever.

Onam is the time when people decorate their front yard with beautiful floral designs called pookkalam. When we make a new design each morning, we wipe away the previous day’s pookkalam without any sadness. We just try to make the next day’s pookkalam even more beautiful than the last. Similarly, my children should try to stop living in past experiences, make the best use of the present and look forward to the future. Then you will be able to experience the beauty of life.

On Onam day, we welcome the iconic Mahabali and Mahavishnu—the devotee and God. There is a deeper truth behind the Lord incarnating as Vamana—a small boy. Our bodies have grown, but our minds have not. If our mind is to grow and become as expansive as the universe, we should first have the heart of a child. Only a child can grow. A child’s enthusiasm, optimism and alertness are important qualities for a spiritual aspirant. If we are alert, we will never lose our way on the spiritual path. We will be able to learn lessons from any experience.

To overcome the ego completely, one needs the grace of the Guru. Even if one is able to control the gross ego through spiritual practices, the subtle ego that “I am an accomplished spiritual practitioner” can grow. We will not become completely free until we have transcended this ego as well. It was his ego that the Lord asked Mahabali to surrender. The Lord was not punishing Mahabali. On the contrary, He was showering His grace upon him.