31 August 2020 – Amritapuri
Excerpts from Amma’s Onam message
For Keralites, the festival of Onam is a sweet experience, a sweet memory. Even elderly people unwittingly turn into children during the days of Onam.
Amma knows many of her children are sad that owing to the present circumstances they are unable to be here today. Amma knows that some of you, who have been coming here each Onam for 45 years now, to receive prasād from Amma’s hands, are deeply distressed. We have no choice but to obey the dictates of the time. Let us find peace in the thought that some goodness may be hidden in this situation. Seeing every one of your faces in my mind, Amma is including all of you in this Onam prayer.
Amma’s mother was quite strict in our upbringing and was very conservative about how we girls behaved as children—even though Amma never complied. Girls were not allowed to run. Girls were to walk so softly that even the earth should not feel their footsteps. Girls were not allowed to laugh loudly. Girls were to speak so softly that even the wall should not hear them. Girls had to stay inside after sunset. Girls over the age of 12 were not allowed to go to shops. Once their own brothers grew taller than them, girls had to go to their rooms when the brothers came home. These were some of the rules with which Amma was raised. However, even during those days of strict rules, Onam was a time when we girls could do as we pleased and no one would scold or reprimand us. We would laugh and play, scream and shout, and enjoy ourselves without caring if it was day or night! Imagine the joy of someone who has been in prison for several years and is suddenly released—our joy was even more, perhaps a hundredfold that!
A couple of houses away, everyone would come together and put up huge tree-swings. Up to 10 people could easily get on one swing and swing together. We would sing songs and play all the games of Onam like tuṁbituḷḷal, etc. Day and night, for all 10 days, the place would be in an uproar and we could run around anywhere we pleased. We would get new clothes. They would make all our favourite foods. Even the poor would try to sell some small possessions and somehow gather enough money to celebrate. Even if they would not have anything to eat the next day, they were sure to celebrate on Onam Day. They would have no thought about tomorrow; all they cared about was to enjoy and live in the moment that present day. Amma would always wish that every day could be like those Onam days. Amma often thinks: If only everyone in the world could be like that! When little children laugh and play without a care in the world, Amma often thinks that. They are secure in the knowledge that they have a mother who will call them and feed them when they are hungry. The mother will always watch over them and make sure they are safe from accidents or external threats. Due to this, the children are secure and have no other thoughts but to play and enjoy. In the same way, Amma often pictures all my millions of children as little ones who are jumping, running and playing, without a care in the world. Even quarrelling neighbours make up on Tiruvonam Day, and the children run to each other’s homes. Anger is forgotten. Thus, Onam Day has a strange allure that makes people set aside their past hatred and share their love.
Amma always says that God, humankind and Nature, and all living creatures equally share in celebrating the festival of Onam. The message of Onam is the message of love, friendship, prosperity, devotion and enthusiasm. The core teaching of Onam is that we can create our own happiness, even in the middle of all sorrows. Even in these difficult days of the pandemic, the message of Onam remains as relevant as ever.
This Onam festival creates an island of joy and enthusiasm in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and weaves a web of hope and dreams for tomorrow. On the other hand, there are certainly many challenges in the world today.`
But even so, perhaps it is in such times that the message of Onam is most relevant. Because Onam teaches us to be happy with what we have, to love one another, to share our sorrows, to hope for the best, and to dream of a better tomorrow. Moreover, Onam also brings us the message of sacrifice, devotion and surrender to God. This faith, optimism, joy, zest and enthusiasm are what we need the most now. Let us together try to awaken and rekindle them again.
Actually, this is an opportunity to realise that happiness is not something we get from outside, but something we create within. When someone makes a firm decision, “Come what may, I will be happy!” no force in this universe can make him unhappy. Hence, we should try to imbibe love and happiness and share it with others. Let us come together and become one, as a single mind in love, devotion and unity. This is what Amma has to say.
May all the actions we perform during this Oṇam season become such a divine offering. May the pookkaḷam we create to welcome Bhagavan be made of the flowers of love and compassion. May the decision to build a new life upon the foundation of dharmic awareness and God-remembrance be our new clothes for Onam. May the games of Onam lead as an example of sharing with others whatever gives us joy. Just as everyone comes together to play Onam games, irrespective of religion, caste or creed, may the feeling of kinship fill our hearts. May we all forget all our differences and come together as one mind in unity, love and joy. May the sun of love, happiness and contentment rise everywhere. May grace bless everyone to make this possible.