18 – 21 March 2008 — Kolkata, West Bengal
Sri Durga Ma—clothed in red, each of her eight hands clutching a weapon—bore witness to Amma’s first Brahmasthanam Festival in her Calcutta ashram. For all three days of the program, the large Durga murti graced the dais where Amma sang bhajans, gave satsang, led meditation and manasa puja, and of course gave darshan. It is Durga, Kali and Tara who are the most beloved forms of the Divine Mother in West Bengal, and for the devotees assembled for the festival, Amma was the embodiment of all of them.
On the first night, a number of philanthropists, social workers and industrialists took part in the program, including Rajendra Kumar, IAS (Principal secretary, PHED), and Dr. Shekhar Chowdary, the director of Indian Institute of Managemet (IIM) Kolkata. Speaking about Amma, Dr. Chowdary expressed his inability to comprehend Amma’s infinite personality. “I’ve read about her and have heard about her,” he said. “But I still don’t feel I understand her!” He then compared Amma to Kolkata’s late-19th century tri-murti of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda, adding “Amma is a true master, one who has mastered all the paths to God.”
After praising Amma’s charitable works in the state—the Amrita Nidhi pension program, Amrita Kuteeram housing program and Amrita Vidyalayam schools—Chowdary concluded, “When I think of all the work done by Amma throughout India and in parts of the rest of the world, I cannot but think that Amma is an avatar—God in human form.”
Chowdary’s statements were punctuated with the extension of the Amrita Nidhi pension program in West Bengal by another 500 beneficiaries—30 widows and handicapped people receiving their first allotments directly from Amma’s hands.
It was then time for Amma’s satsang and bhajans, during which Amma treated her Bengali devotees to a number of songs in their mother tongue, including versions of “Ananda Janani” and “Amma Baramma.”
8 March 2008 – Jaipur, Rajasthan
Amma’s annual visit to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, was marked by the Ashram giving away keys to 79 houses it constructed for the homeless in Janapur. The Minister of Education of Rajasthan, Sri. Ghanashyam Tiwari, helped distribute the keys to these houses during Amma’s program at Suraj Maiden in Adarsh Nagar.
The houses are part of the Ashram’s Amrita Kuteeram program, which has already see the constructed and distribution of more than 30,000 such homes throughout India in the past 10 years. Ultimately the housing colony in Janapur with comprise 1,000 homes.
In his address, the minister related a personal experience. He told of how last year Amma had warned him that soon problems could arise in his state, telling him “Don’t worry; they will soon pass.” Sure enough, he said, the problems did come in the form of riots in the name caste and politics. But just as Amma had said, the situation soon subsided. Tiwari concluded by telling the people assembled that they should have deep faith in Amma.
Amma addresses Jaipur International Women’s Summit
8 March 2008 — Jaipur, Rajasthan
Amma addressed a gathering of women religious and spiritual leaders at a summit in Jaipur today: “Making Way for the Feminine for the Benefit of the World Community.” The event was organized by the Global Peace Initiative of Women and held at Clarks Amer Hotel.
In her address, “The Infinite Potential of Women,” Amma called on the need for women and men to come together in unity, accepting, respecting and valuing each other’s differences. “Alienating women from matters of finance and politics is to discard half of the intellect and strength of society,” Amma said.
Amma also stressed the importance of women holding on to their innate femininity and qualities associated with motherhood. “It’s true that women must move forward, but they also need to turn back to consider the child following in their footsteps, not discarding their parental responsibilities. For the sake of her children, a mother should have at least some patience. It’s not enough to give a baby space in her womb; she must also give it space in her heart.”
The meeting was convened by Dena Merriam and co-chaired by Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell and Sister Joan Chittister. Participating in the event were many young people from around the world.
Upon the conclusion of her address, Amma met privately with representatives from areas of conflict throughout the world, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Turkey, and several African countries. Amma offered them her full support, saying that she would bless their initiatives and provide every help she could.
In 2003, Amma addressed the organization’s first summit, whereupon she was awarded the Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence.
22 February, Bharata Yatra 2008 — Secundarabad, Andhra Pradesh
“A mother gives amrita [nectar] to her children; this is indicated by Amma’s name itself,” said Dr. T. Subbirami Reddy, Union Minister for Mines. “Just by getting her darshan we are filled by that shakti [divine energy].” Dr. Reddy was addressing the 30,000 or so people who’d come for Amma’s one-night darshan program at Parade Grounds in Secundarabad on 22 February. “Beauty is not permanent, money is not permanent, but God’s shakti is permanent,” he continued. “And Amma is showing that through giving her Amrita to millions all over the world.”
Dr. Reddy also helped Amma distribute scholarship stipends to children from impoverished agricultural families living in the rural regions surrounding the Twin Cities of Secundarabad and Hyderabad. The distribution is part of the Ashram’s Vidyamritam Program—the provision of 100,000 scholarships throughout India to children of agricultural families living under the poverty line. Many of the children had previously been forced to discontinue their educations due to their parent’s inability to afford even the most basic of school fees. In response to Vidyamritam and other Ashram social-service projects, Dr. Reddy said, “It may be the first time in the history of the world someone is doing something like this.”
Once darshan started, 1,500 Vidyamritam enrolees came forward to receive Amma’s embrace. Some came with their parents, but others came alone, as their parents had committed suicide due to due to financial despair and inability to repay agricultural loans.
Smt. Panabaka Lakshmi, the minister for Health & Family Welfare of Andhra Pradesh, was also on the dais, as was the district collector of Hyderabad, Sri. Chandravadan; the additional private secretary to the chief minister, Sri. P. Subrahmaniam; and the chairman the State Bank of India, Sri. O.P. Bhatt.
The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, was unable to attend the program as he has in the past. However he did send the following message in his absence: “Amma is translating the saying Manava seva Madhava seva [service to man is service to God] into practice in providing educational scholarships to 5,000 children drawn from families of poor and distressed farmers [from Andhra Pradesh] and inspiring the philanthropists to emulate such a noble cause.”
Darshan continued throughout the night, ending only past sunrise.
8 Feb 2008, Kannur, North Kerala, Bharata Yatra
The program in Kannur was held at the Jawahar Municipal Stadium which was crowded with devotees from all parts of the district. This was the second time Amma’s program was held in this venue.
Amma was welcomed with a ‘poornakumbham’ ceremony performed by Jayasuryan Bhattatirippad, and a padapuja by the film actor Vineeth along with his wife.
Present on the stage were the following dignitaries:
K. Sudhakaran, MLA; Bharatiya Janata Party State president P.K. Krishnadas; Kannur municipal chairman K. Upendran; Inspector-General of Police (North Range) A. Hemachandaran.
Scholarships were accorded by M.A.M. to as many as 4,000 farmer’s children between 10 and 15 from the districts of Kannur and Kasargod as part of the Vidyamritam scheme.
In her address Amma spoke about the need for love and compassion to bring about peace in one’s mind. She spoke of how people are afraid* when they hear of Kannur and how that should not be the case. She also reminded everyone of the fruitlessness of material achievement.
Darshan lasted until 11 am with people eagerly waiting all through the night to receive Amma’s blessings.
(*Political violence is common in the Kannur district and is highest in the state. )
13 Feb 2008, Bengaluru
When Amma arrived at the ashram in Bangalore from Talassery at 2.a.m. At the request of her children she sang two lines of ‘Mata Rani’ from her balcony
Amma conducted Brahmasthanam festival for two days with Satsang, bhajan, meditation and Darshan.
During the course of the program, Amrita Vidyalayam children presented different cultural programs for Amma including chanting of Vedic mantras. Amrita University students also offered wonderful dance & drama performance for Amma.
24 Jan, 2008, On the Road to Kumbakonam, Bharata Yatra 2008
On the way to Kumbakonam, Amma pulled over and stopped at a side road, with grassy fields on either side. The site was in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, the sun was setting. One could hear the sound of crickets chirping, along with the seldom sound of a truck passing by on the main road. A temporary light was put up from a generator, and the sound system team set up a small speaker and microphones.
All the residents and devotees rushed to sit near Amma. Once everyone was seated, Amma started narrating some incidents from the previous programs. She talked about the behavior of one brahmachari who was in charge of crowd control, and imitated his expressions. This evoked a huge roar of laughter.
Next, Amma began to sing some of the new bhajans; one in Tamil, one in Hindi, and one in Punjabi. After bhajans, plates of food were passed out to everybody.
After dinner, Amma again spoke on the mic. She said, ‘being in the world today is like being a child in a supermarket. There are so many enticing objects. How can one overcome the attraction to all of this?’
Many people gave different answers. One brahmachari said, ‘the best way is by chanting one’s mantra.’ One woman said, ‘when one goes through such problems, one should try to feel Amma’s presence within.’ Another woman said, ‘just try to feel Amma with you always.’ One man said, ‘I’ve heard Amma speak on the subject many times, but how much am I following? I would like to make a list of things Amma has asked me to do, and of those things that I’m really doing. I need strength to be able to do what Amma has said, I need Amma’s grace.’
Everyone clapped at the answer.
Finally, Amma shed some light on the subject. She said, ‘In all the works of Sri Shankaracharya, the two main qualities emphasized are viveka and vairagya (discrimination and dispassion). A small businessman will make a balance sheet everyday to evaluate his gains or losses, to make sure that he can carry on profitably. A big businessman need not do that. They can do that once in a while (because they an established business). We are all beginners. We need to take account everyday. A sadhak should constantly reflect on his actions.’
Amma stressed making spirituality practical in our lives. She said that some people might say, ‘I am the Atman (Self),’ but when adverse situations arise, they aren’t able to overcome them. The habit of reflection and evaluation of ones actions is the biggest gain.
Amma said, ‘One should do some japa, and also some meditation, but seva (selfless service) is also important. This is because the japa and meditation we do is for ourselves. But when we work for others, it is like breaking the seed’s shell (the ego).’
‘It is good to keep a daily journal of how much time we spend for japa, meditation, and seva. One can also reflect daily, for example, ‘Did I get angry today?’ ‘What was the reason?’
This kind of reflection is real meditation. Sometimes a person may sit and meditate, but as soon as the meditation is over, they get angry. In that way, all the energy gained by meditation gets dissipated. This is like creating a pile of sugar on one side, and creating a group of ants right nearby.’
Amma started to reflect on human birth. She said, ‘We have attained this human birth. Some people study for 20 to 25 years to gain a degree, then earn money and raise a family. By that time they are 50 or 60 years old but what have they actually attained? Not much. The real goal of human birth is to realize God. If life isn’t utilized for that, then what is the difference between humans and animals?’
‘When a lion travels, after a distance, it turns around and looks back. In the same way, we should look back and reflect, thinking, ‘Am I acting selflessly or not? When a turtle crawls, it leaves imprints in the sand. Likewise, we should leave the imprints of good deeds in our lives.’
Amma’s words filled the calm night, creating a reflective mood. The moon was shining above, Amma entered the camper to continue the journey to the next destination.