Amma’s interfaith speech is “Ugran, Adipoli”

Rabbi Leah Novick

10 June 2006 —San Ramon, California, USA

Rabbi Leah Novick

The first evening Amma was giving darshan at the MA Center in San Ramon, California, she did not give a live talk. Surrendering to the requests of her devotees, Amma allowed a video of her delivering the speech she had recently delivered at the Interfaith Center of New York to be played instead.

For the next 20 minutes, everyone watched and listened to Amma speak—on screen—about “Understanding & Collaboration Between Religions.” Looking out at the thousand or so people seated in the hall, it was clear that long-term devotees and newcomers alike were deeply moved by Amma’s words.

A few mornings later, when Amma arrived at the darshan hall, among the usual crowd of devotees waiting for her were 10 people holding signs written in Malayalam, Amma’s native language. The signs all read: “Amma’s speech in New York was ‘ugran adipoli.’ It touched everyone’s heart.” ‘Ugran adipoli’ is Malayalam slang, roughly equivalent to America’s “totally killer!”

Amma of course could not help but smile at her children’s expression of their appreciation for what Amma had said in her address.

The signs had been arranged by a Jewish rabbi {news} named Leah Novick, who has been a devotee of Amma’s for more than 15 years. “It was my longing to tell her what a brave speech that was, that this is the speech that all the religious leaders in the world should have been making,” Rabbi Leah explained later. “I think we religious leaders needed to hear this… Most religious leaders know people really want the wide path—the path of tolerance, the path of compassion. But I think that people are afraid that they will be rejected by their own groups if they go too far out in saying that ‘the emperor has no clothes,’ that our old forms are not really working for us anymore.”

“Most of us [religious leaders] have plenty of opportunities to make speeches together, but we need to pray together and be together and eat together. People are afraid they will lose their own colour, that they will lose their own quality, if they interact too much. I think part of what Mother has been teaching us by embracing us all is that whatever we are, whatever our path is, she makes us better at it. She helps to liberate us so we can be better Christians, better Jews or whatever we chose. Mother doesn’t ask me to do puja; she encourages me to do the work that I do in my path.”

“I thought the speech was dynamic, courageous and very much needed. And I hope that it is going to be a groundbreaker in terms of bringing those groups together that were in New York that night to do some work together—in the Middle East, in Malaysia, in Indonesia, in Darfur … wherever. As Mother said, I think that we do come together when there is a crisis, but we need to keep coming together when we are just living day-to-day life.

“My prayer has been that human beings will not have to keep on learning from pain and suffering and loss and death, but that we can learn the way we learn here [around Amma] from having so much love around us, so much harmony and peace, that this would be our new way of absorbing. What Mother has shown us with her hugs and kisses is what I study in the Kabala [Jewish mysticism]; they say you can’t learn it from the books, you have to take it in the way you take in your mother’s milk, and that’s what Mother has given us, an opportunity to learn by direct contact” Novick concluded.

Mike Johnson, a 43-year-old retired member of the U.S. Navy who has been a devotee of Amma’s for more than a decade, was similarly moved by what he heard. “Do you see what Amma has given us here? Basically, it is an exact blueprint for how to get through our problems! And all we have to do is do it. I cried when I heard it. She was pushing the envelope, saying things that certain people did not want to hear… but she still said them. Now we just need to make the decision to do it. It’s not beyond our grasp to do so. It’s not beyond our grasp to end a lot of wars, terrorism, and religious fighting.”