8 June – 20 June 2004 – San Ramon, California, United States of America
For Amma’s devotees in the United States, Her programmes at the M.A. Center in San Ramon, California are always very special. The ashram is tucked amidst the rolling, golden hills of northern California. Its dirt roads and wooded lake help one remove their mind from the hustle and bustle of modern life. If one is lucky they may even spot a deer or two at wandering about at night. And as Amma spends nearly three weeks every year there, the land is pervaded with the peace that comes with a Mahatma’s footsteps.
This year found on average 3,000 people coming every day for Amma’s darshan there. To the devotees’ delight, on many nights Amma answered their spiritual questions before singing bhajans. Amma’s answers were so spontaneous, articulate and often humours—no matter what the question. One evening a man asked Amma, “Where did God come from?” To which Amma replied, “It’s like asking your tongue where the sound came from.”
Each night, Amma sang at least one song in English, and by the end of Her stay there had also sung in Spanish, Hebrew, Farsi and Portugese.
In the early morning hours as Amma finished darshan, She would often talk with devotees, cracking a joke or two. One night, someone played Amma a short video of the brahmacharis back in Amritapuri. Amma smiled seeing the faces of Her children so physically far from Her.
More than 1,000 people participated in the San Ramon retreat, during which Amma walked out into the golden field to answer many of Her children’s questions. She then served everyone a plate of prasad dinner. More than 250 devotees also took the time to learn Amma’s Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique during the retreat. There were also talks by Swami Amritaswarupananda, bhajan classes by Swami Purnamritananda and, of course, lots of time for darshan. In fact, there was so much to do, one devotee joked that Amma may have to considered extending the day to 25 or 26 or 27 hours.
The devotees put on many performances for Amma as She gave darshan—a hula dancer, a teenage jazz clarinetist, a juggler, two breakdancers. And on the two Devi Bhavas, one of Amma’s daughters and her band played reggae and funk “bhajans” for Amma that had the younger devotees joyfully dancing on the temple’s balcony. In fact, when Swamiji sang “Amritavahini” at the end of the Devi Bhava on the 20th—Amma’s final San Ramon darshan until November—one thought the temple’s second floor might collapse! It seemed a quarter of the 6,000 devotees who’d come were dancing.
All in all, it was a blissful two weeks with Amma. But before everyone knew it, it was over, and Amma was stepping into Her camper to drive on to Los Angeles. As She waved goodbye from Her camper’s doorway, Amma reached out and pulled Her hands to Her chest, as if She were pulling all Her Bay Area children inside with Her. One man then called out, “Amma, don’t go!” And Amma, with a voice full of concern, said in English, “No! No! Not going, not going, not going.”