A Teaching in Tears

1 January 2008 — Amritapuri

When Amma was delivering her New Year’s Talk, she suddenly began telling everyone about a family who had come for darshan the day before:

“A family of four came for darshan. The husband, who was an auto-rickshaw driver, had recently been paralysed by a stroke. He could no longer look after himself, much less his family. The wife had started working in different houses in order to take care of her husband and children. But she too had fallen sick and was no longer in a position to continue her work. They had taken loans from many money lenders and were in no position to pay it back. They had even borrowed money simply to come and see Amma.

“When the man and his family came up to Amma for darshan, Amma asked the man how he was doing. The man tried to tell Amma his sorrows, but every time he opened his mouth, he was choked with emotion. All he could do to express his heart was to cry.”

At this point, Amma simply stopped talking. She took a small hand cloth resting at her side, raised it to her face and pressed it to her eyes. She held it there for some time. All became silent; time seemed to stand still. Amma then removed the cloth and started to resume her talk, but the tears were too much, and she could not begin again. Amma simply sat there, allowing the tears to roll down her cheeks. Just like the man who’d come to her the day before, all Amma could do to express her heart was to cry.

For Amma, compassion is not mere rhetoric—not a flower to occasionally adorn her words. It is her very breath. From the pinnacle of Amma’s knowledge, Amma could choose to look at the happenings of this world as a mere mirage. And when it comes to herself—to her needs for food, to her needs for rest, to physical pain that Amma may be experiencing—that is exactly how Amma sees it: not real, a mere illusion. But when it comes to the suffering of the people of the world, Amma comes down to their level to hold them, dry their tears, to offer whatever is needed in terms of love and compassion.

Amma’s life is her greatest teaching—and tears are apart of that life. Just as Rama cried when Ravana kidnapped Sita, just as Krishna cried when he finally saw Sudama again, just as Jesus cried at Lazarus’ tomb, just as Buddha cried for the tiny bird, Amma’s tears are a teaching regarding the boundless love and universal compassion of a true mahatma. As Amma herself has said, “Feeling and expressing emotions and honestly sharing them without reservation only adds to an enlightened being’s spiritual splendor and glory. It is wrong to see that as a weakness. It should rather be considered as an expression of their compassion and love in a much more human way. Otherwise, how could ordinary humans understand their concern and love?”

Amma’s purpose is to pull the tide of humanity back to goodness, to dharma, to love, compassion, kindness—back to the culture of the heart. How to bring about this transformation? Amma gives the answer in sutra form: “Be compassionate.”

Eventually, Amma was able to continue. “We usually think about our own comforts, but while we enjoy pleasures in life, we should once in a while pause to think about the thousands of suffering people in this world. When we see people such as this man, we should try to reach out to them and help them. Even a smile and a few comforting words will give them so much solace. Cutting back on luxuries and, in turn, using the money saved to help such families is true worship of God. Such incidents should serve as reminders to us to have complete sraddha [awareness] in not wasting anything.”

Amma concluded her New Year’s Talk by leading the ashramites and devotees in a prayer: “O Paramatman, let there be no wars, violence or natural disasters this year. Let there be no death due to starvation or lack of medical care. Let there be no children who are unable to continue their studies due to poverty. Let the music of peace and harmony be heard everywhere. Just as we decorate our houses and surroundings with lights, let our heart remain effulgent throughout the year with love and compassion.”