“No one becomes pure and selfless overnight; it involves time and concentrated effort, coupled with tremendous patience and love. Do your actions in the world, without forgetting that your find goal in life is to break free from all bondage and limitations. Always ‘remember that you have a higher goal to attain.’
“Love is the very foundation, beauty and fulfillment of life. If we dive deep enough into ourselves, we will find that the one thread of universal love ties all beings together. As this awareness dawns within us, peace alone will reign.” – Mata Amritanandamayi
Her Sanskrit name translates into Mother of Immortal Bliss. Around the world, she is identified as a living saint. Wherever she goes, she attracts crowds that seem to get larger as more and more people learn about her unconditional love and compassion. The press has nicknamed her “the Hugging Saint,” because of her famous hug-blessings, which she has given tirelessly since she was a teenager. Ammachi’s popularity has risen to a point where in India she has been known to hug more than 19,000 people in one day, sitting sometimes for more than 20 hours without taking a break. Her Western tours attract a few thousand, and Ammachi makes herself available to anyone wishing to receive her darshan, a Sanskrit term meaning an audience with a saint or sage. All her datshans are free – she does not charge for this service.
At the invitation of Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary General, Ammachi represented a select delegation of “preeminent religious leaders” at the Millennium Summit for Religious and Spiritual Leaders in August 2000. Timothy Conway, Ph.D., author of Woman of Power and Grace, describes Ammachi as “one of the most glorious lights to appear in the history of religion.”
“Just her stamina – embracing these millions of people one by one, day after day, without a break, all over the world – is some kind of divine gift,” he writes. “No mere human resources could accomplish this.”
Here I was, standing next to this living saint in the presence of more than 2,000 devotees with music in the background. This interview took place in Ann Arbor, Mich., at the end of November last year. Ammachi, whose ethnic language is Malayalam (a South Indian dialect), spoke to The EDGE through her interpreter, Swami Amritswarupananda, who is one of her close helpers. Upon completion of the interview, several devotees mentioned to me that Ammachi rarely gives interviews and that I was indeed fortunate to be granted such a privilege.
Beloved Mother – I thank you for taking time in your busy schedule for this interview. Words of wisdom from a divine being like yourself are so necessary, especially in our present troubled times. I have seen you lovingly embrace and comfort thousands of people. What is your purpose for doing so?
Ammachi: Human beings are born to experience pure love, and they never get it. They are searching to experience it from birth until death. Ainma’s main purpose of interacting with people and hugging people is to awaken the pure love in them. In today’s world, both men and woman need motherhood, the nurturing motherly feeling, the feminine energy. By receiving this energy, it will make them independent and free. The only way we can feel free is by feeling the pure love within. When Amma hugs people, she is also transmitting a part of her spiritual energy to them, so they can awaken to the pure love within.
Amma sees everyone at all times, as an extension of her own true nature of self – just like looking at a mirror. When you look at a mirror, you see your own true image; likewise, Amma sees her own image or her own self in everything and everybody. This is her way to awaken people to their true love and, consequently, bring them closer and closer to God and to their own true divine nature.
It seems there is not enough time to awaken people to change the world to a better place of peace and harmony. What are your feelings about that?
Ammachi: The harmony and peace is always there – that is God’s nature. There is a pre-existing harmony in everything. The problem is the human being. It may be true that one single Incarnation of God may not he able to bring that peace and harmony in the entire world. It’s only because of that harmony that they could create in the world and in people’s mind that the world still exists and that there is always a balance. Otherwise, things could be much worse.
These mahatmas – or great masters these divine beings transmit the peace and harmony in human existence or in the day-today lives of people within the laws of karma, so there is some harmony and some peace, and that creates a balance. Even though there are so many negative occurrences, there is always some balance.
Suppose you remove some rocks and some sand from a mountain or from a hill. You are creating a decrease in the formation. Whatever little you can contribute towards making a change will make a big difference – the change should happen within each person. The change will only happen outside once we change within ourselves. We must remember that man is not an island, totally isolated and disconnected from others. We are all part of a universal chain, or the universal consciousness. What happens to one happens to all.
Trying to change the world is like trying to straighten the curly tail of a dog. Try as you might, it will still go hack to its natural curl. Your hands will become stronger from the exercise of trying to straighten the curly tail. Although you max’ not he able to change the world, you would have acquired more spiritual strength within – and that alone will make a difference in the world. We live in a calculative world and have a calculative mind, and in such a world, ego dominates. Our circumstances will continually change. It is out of our control. It is more important to change our attitude, which we have control of.
What type of meditation would you recommend to awaken mankind to divine love and compassion?
Ammachi: One single practice may not suit everyone, as each human being has their own samskara (wheel of life), their own mental constitution or inherent tendencies from past lifetimes. Each one needs something different. There is the path of karma, selfless action, the path of love and devotion, the path of training the mind and the path of Yoga, mantra and tantra this is what the various saints advocated.
Spirituality, as expounded by the great saints and sages of the past, is a very broad path. It accommodates all types of belief systems. You need to satisfy everyone. Amma usually looks at a person’s mental constitution and their inherent tendencies from previous lifetimes. People today usually have an inclination to words instead of Vedanta, the non-dual philosophy. In olden times, Vedanta was what they lived. They practiced it in their day-to-day lives. It was an attitude, a way of living. It was not just talking about the flower, but becoming the flower. In these tirries, people choose Vedanta as a form of escapism. Anima sees no difference between a tape recorder and modern Vedanta. It’s like repeating what they have learned, like a book with flowery words. If you write honey on a piece of paper and lick it, you won’t get the sweetness of the honey. You have to take the honey to taste the sweetness. These Vedanta truths are nice to hear. It gives you an intellectual satisfaction. They are not able to see others as a reflection of their own self. They are not able to practice the truth.
The language of love is the language of humility or humbleness. In today’s world, humility and humbleness are fast disappearing. We human beings are born in ego, live in ego, are brought up in ego and will die in ego. We need a certain degree 0f vision when we live in this world for achieving and attaining our goals in life. Amma has rip problem in accepting that. The analogy of ego should he channeled properly. In today’s world, what we see is mainly used for destruction.
Do you have a special message for our readers?
Ammachi: People think that God wants our offerings. God does not need anything from us. He is the giver. He is like the sun – the giver of light. Our concept of God is different. We think God is someone who sits above the Clouds. That is not true. He is pure consciousness. He dwells in everything and in every single living being. Thinking that God wants something from us is like showing a candle to the sun.
Instead of this strange concept of God we have, we should try and come down to the level of suffering people. There are millions and millions of people who are thrown in the midst of poverty and starvation. Animals don’t die of starvation, only human beings. When we look at our own needs, we should also see the needs of other people in the world sometimes. When we try to resolve our problems and issues at times – at least once, let us have an attitude of concern and compassion for the problems of the world we live in.
Devotee Claire Priya Frye of Santa Fe, N.M., on her perceptions of Amrnachi:
When did you first meet Ammachi?
Claire: I met Mother when she came to Taos, N.M., in 1989 and I have been with her ever since. She has been my primary spiritual teacher and guide. She comes to Sante Fe once a year. 1 have visited Mother’s ashram in India on two occasions; the last time was as recently as September 2001. Mother gave me the name Priya and also conducted my wedding ceremony in 1995.
Did you find any major changes in your belief system since you met mother?
Claire: I was raised Catholic and had a very fond relationship with the Catholic saints. I went to see Mother when she arrived in town for the first time. I had practiced the Buddhist awareness meditation for several years. I felt I needed More, although my Buddhist teachers were wonderful. When I met Mother, I knew she would he with me on my spiritual journey, which is inclusive of Buddhism and Christianity. I don’t consider myself to he a Hindu, although I am fine with the Hindu teachings and saints. Mother is more like my spiritual guide and intermediary, and she is with me at all times, whether I am in her physical presence or not. I have a very strong inner connection with her, and the growth that I have experienced is so difficult to put into words. She has come to me in so man stances when I needed her most.
In your dream state?
Claire: Yes, in my dreams and meditations. At other times, I feel her essence and a very strong presence in my work as a healer and counselor. She has turned up in my healing sessions, especially when people are dying or when children are in crisis. The most important thing that Mother does for my life is that she helps me to be more aware and feel a sense of love for others and for myself, too. The sense of awareness that I experience in her presence is something that she reflects hack to me. This enhances my ability to serve others in a more compassionate and loving way. She helps me to see where I am when I am not in the best place at times – and that is invaluable to me.
Amrnachi’s Secretary, Swami Krishnamrita Prana, on her service with Amma:
Your service with Ammachi spans several years. How long have you lived in India?
Swami: I learned about Mother when I arrived in India from Australia in 1982, and I have been with her ever since. Amina is timeless. You cannot measure time when you are with Ammna… a few years or many years mean very little. It all seems like a short time.
Ammachi has several charities. Will you name a few?
Swami: There has never been a being in history who gives so much to humanity. She always puts others first before herself. Her actions speak louder than words. She is a perfect example of selfless love. Her charities include: housing projects for the poor, medical institutes offering state-of-the-art surgery free of charge to the needy, orphanages and pensions for widows, which benefits 50,000 women – also, technical and other free education for the poor. In the United Stares, Mother’s Kitchen provides free meals to the inner city poor.
Which countries does Amma normally visit on her tours?
Swami: She visits United States in summer and then leaves for Europe. She visits 10 countries in Europe in one month. She also visits Mauritius, Singapore and Australia. She gets bigger crowds in Europe than in America. There are Amma centers all over the world and ashrams (temples) in several countries.
What are your most memorable personal experiences with Amma?
Swami: Mother says that we are always a beginner. It is like there is always the next bridge to cross. One can never judge ones own growth. There is always so much to learn. Others may he able to fathom where you are, but it is always difficult to put into words your personal experiences and your spiritual level.
People ask about Amma’s miracles. The greatest miracles are when people change after being with Amma – normal worldly people who have had some type of chemical or substance abuse, and others with major personal issues, either great trauma or tragedy in their lives. She does not push them, but inspires them by her example. It is so difficult to explain in words all her attributes. Even after 20 years, I am still in awe of her.
Please visit www.Ammachi.org for more information on Ammachi.