A night of laughter

Amma in Talasseri

Bharata Yatra 2004

Friday, 13 February 2004 — Talassery, Kerala

Talassery is a small fishing community where you can always see kids playing football and fishermen mending nets on the shore. Amma’s relatively small ashram there is just across the road from the beach. It was built six years ago. Amma installed a Brahmasthanam temple there in 1999 and, a few years later, an Amrita Vidyalayam school was built down the road.

Amma in Talassery

The night before the 2004 Talassery Brahmasthanam Festival began, Amma called her children to come and sing bhajans in Kannada and Tulu on the ashram’s roof.

When the bhajan singing was over, Amma asked Her children to tell Her some jokes. “Amma wants a joke!” She said. “But it needs some spiritual significance!”

As most people are shy to speak in front of Amma, everyone sat in silence. But Amma wasn’t having it. She suddenly thrust the microphone into the hands of one brahmacharini sitting at Her side. “Please, please!” Amma encouraged Her in English.

Slowly the brahmacharini started her story: “There were three men who all had habits that irritated the people around them. One of them had infected eyes, so he was always waving the flies away that itched his eyes. The second one had a runny nose and was always picking it. The third one had sores on his underarms and was always scratching them.

“One day, all three decided to try and stop their bad habits. As they sat in front of their hut, the one with the infected eyes could not stand it anymore. He thought of a trick. He screamed and waved his hands in front of his eyes saying, ‘O there is a snake! There is a snake!’ Then the second one immediately started wiping his nose, saying, ‘Yes, did you see its nostrils?’ Then the third pointed and, taking the opportunity to scratch his sores, said, ‘And did you see it run there?’

Amma cracked up laughing and then made the girl mime the joke’s gestures a second time. The spiritual significance, the brahmacharini explained, is in the fact that no matter how hard we try to rid ourselves of them, our bad habits always seem to come back to us.

Then Amma encouraged a second brahmacharini to talk. ‘Oh, Amma!’ she said dramatically. Amma gave her a sweet smile and then directed her to keep the microphone right in front of her mouth so that everyone could hear her clearly. She told an old story about a saint from Rameshwaram.

The saint was lying down in a field with his head on a pile of mud, quietly contemplating the nature of the Self when he heard two giggling voices. It was Vani and Rema, the two goddesses. “Ah, there is that famous saint from Rameshwaram who renounced all his riches,” said Rema.

“But see, he still has some attachments,” said Vani. “He still wants a pillow for his head to rest on!”

The saint was shocked when he heard this and, as soon as the sound of the voices died down, he stood up and then laid down somewhere else, making sure his head rested on the solid ground like the rest of his body.

A little while later, he heard Rema’s voice again. “Ah, there is that saint again. You see,he has renounced everything—even the mud he was using as a pillow.”

“No, he still has some attachments,” said Vani.

The saint could not believe his ears. What attachments could he possibly have?

The voice continued, “He is still attached to what people think about him!”

The evening continued like this for some time. Although a Satguru, when Amma is laughing and joking, She truly becomes a child. And those sitting at Her side are taken along with Her to that state of innocence where past and future are gone and all that exists is the beautiful moment at hand.