…she says that we are not different in any way from Her, just that we are only ignorant about our true nature”
Q & Ans: Brahmachari Shraddhamrita Chaitanya
Brahmachari Shraddhamrita Chaitanya first met Amma in 1989 and has been living at Amma’s ashram in Kerala, India since 1993. He received Brahmacharya initiation (the equivalent of becoming a monk) from Amma in 1997. He has a bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and had worked for a few years in the software industry before joining Amma’s ashram. He has been actively involved in coordinating scientific research and social welfare projects in Amrita University (Amma’s University in India).
Brahmachari Chaitanya, who is currently in Mauritius, has done tours of Europe, New Zealand and Asutralia conducting spiritual talks, retreats, meditation sessions and question-answer sessions. He is currently one of the national coordinators of the IAM Technique meditation groups in India. He spoke to Mauritius Times about his own “connection” with Amma, astrology and spirituality…
Q: Amma is known all over the world as the “hugging saint”. What is there in that hug that brings “millions of people around the world to fling themselves into her arms”?
Ans: For those fortunate souls who have already had the privilege of receiving Amma’s darshan (hug), I don’t have to explain it to them. For those who are awaiting to meet Amma, it’s very difficult to describe it in words. I would say it is like trying to explain what honey tastes like to a person who has never tasted anything sweet in his or her life. A poor attempt at this description would be like this… Visualise all the selfless love of all the mothers (past, present and future) in the world and visualise that love expressing through one single body. This is what one feels when being hugged by Amma.
* What about yourself personally? What happens for an Electrical and Electronics Engineer and, I presume, comfortably employed in the software industry to leave everything to join Amma’s ashram? What were the push and pull factors?
When I was a student of engineering, some of my friends were followers of Amma. They were constantly telling me to meet Amma. Somehow it did not happen till three years after hearing about Amma that I met finally met Her. I recognised that She was my Guru when I had Her darshan. After my studies, when I asked Amma what to do, She told me to try and get a job. So for a few years I worked as a software professional. However there was a feeling growing in me that my life was meant for a spiritual purpose. When that feeling became a conviction, I asked Amma and She graciously permitted me to join Her ashram as a monastic disciple.
The pull obviously is the selfless Love and Compassion which Amma exudes. The push factor was that I had been interested in meditation and other spiritual practices from a relatively young age and in Amma’s presence I understood that She was the Guru who could guide me.
* Why did you turn towards Amma’s ashram, not to any of the scores of others which jot the spiritual landscape of India? Mere coincidence or geographical proximity?
Amma is a unique Guru, in the sense that most of the time She is out there with us giving hugs and consoling people for almost the whole day. Her life therefore is an open book. Despite having stayed in Amma’s ashram for more than 25 years, I have yet to see one single action of Amma which one could term as selfish. This is the reason that I turned towards Amma and Her ashram.
* What do your interactions and observations inform you about the reasons that bring people – both Indians and foreigners — to the Ashram? Have these to do with insecurity, ill health, or unhappiness?
Yes, different people come to Amma for different reasons. There are sincere spiritual practitioners who come seeking spiritual guidance and progress. There are people who come seeking mental and emotional solace and strength to face the inevitable storms of life. All of them who approach Amma receive what they need in full measure.
* Psychologists and sociologists are now talking in terms of the “unhappiness epidemic”? Is modern lifestyle the reason so many are unhappy? Or are we the real reason for our unhappiness?
Amma says that the mind alone is the cause for our unhappiness and the mind alone is the cause for our happiness. An undisciplined mind will lead us down the path of unhappiness. A mind disciplined by spiritual practices coupled with the practice of doing selfless work for the betterment of others also is the surefire path to ever increasing happiness.
Amma’s followers have been practising this and have experienced ever increasing happiness and peace in their lives.
* We see a lot of foreigners, especially westerners, flocking to seek solace from Amma and from other India’s ‘saints’ and ‘Godmen’. What is there in the East’s teachings that they could not tap in the West?
In the West they have experientially understood that fulfilling material desires alone doesn’t lead us to a state of permanent happiness. So they look towards the wisdom of the East which says that happiness doesn’t come from external objects, events and relationships but that it comes from within us. Spiritual practices help us tap this inexhaustible source of happiness. True Gurus like Amma demonstrate it every moment of their lives. To experience the truth of this paradigm shift, a lot of people come to Amma.
In our tradition, we use the word Satguru to indicate the person who can remove our ignorance about life and the nature of happiness and empower us to experience a life full of love and joy. Amma never claims to be different from us. She says that we are not different in any way from Her, just that we are only ignorant about our true nature.
* But there are many more of the poor than those enjoying relative comfort who are to be found all over the place – in India and elsewhere – whose material needs have yet to be or are partly addressed. That might require another approach, or even teaching. How do Amma’s teachings help in that regard?
Amma’s teaching is that the foundation of spiritual practice is selfless service. A mind endowed with the qualities of Love and Compassion alone can benefit from other spiritual practices like meditation, etc. Amma walks the talk. She is doing selfless service all the time and inspiring Her disciples and followers to do the same. If you have a look at the website www.embracingtheworld.org you can see the amount of selfless service which is being done all over the world by Amma’s followers.
* Your programme in Mauritius indicates that you are also devoting some of your time here helping people learn and understand more about their astrological bearings and identity. What’s the point of doing these astrological readings?
Everyone’s life is a mixture of good and bad times. Astrology gives an indication of these times and helps us prepare to meet the situations. It’s like looking at the weather forecast and seeing that it’s going to rain. Then we take an umbrella whenever we go out.
When people are suffering they tend to become depressed. Just knowing that the times of suffering are limited and having an approximate idea as to when their sufferings would end becomes a source of great peace to them.
* Would it be correct to say that astrological readings bring out the individual’s uniqueness and help provide motivational guidance so that he or she is better equipped to meet life’s challenges?
Yes, definitely. This is one of the main purposes of astrology. Many a time when someone comes for a reading they discover that their charts show their strengths and weaknesses in an impartial manner. It’s like looking in a mirror to examine oneself.
* Does spirituality sit well with astrology?
The root of spirituality lies in the Vedic tradition. Jyotisha or astrology is also a part of the Vedas. So astrology is an invaluable tool in spiritual life. It enables us to have an idea of the karma with which we were born to face in this lifetime and lead a life accordingly. We can then see that this life is an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past lives and also an opportunity to seek a state of happiness for others and oneself.
* Finally, which type of astrology is believed to be the most accurate in predictions?
For accurate predictions the time of birth has to be very accurate. In some of the charts that one looks at for predictions, if the time is off even by two minutes, it can cause different interpretations. The tradition of astrology which I have been trained in is Vedic astrology. A well-trained astrologer in this tradition will be able to give a lot of good advice regarding future life events.
* Published in print edition on 4 May 2018