Amma: More than an embrace
The world-renowned spiritual and humanitarian leader Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, also affectionately known as Amma (mother) will be visiting Mauritius on 1 and 2 April 2011. Amma is no stranger to Mauritians as she has been visiting the island from 1987, and every time she comes thousands gather to listen to her discourses, listen to her sing, pray and meditate and of course to get a hug from her. She has this unique way of meeting each and every person who comes to her: one is assured of her hug, and loving words spoken in one’s ear, however large the crowd may be. Altogether in her life, Amma has embraced and comforted more than 31 million people.
For those who come to her seeking spiritual guidance, they find in her a person who understands them totally and guides them according to their individual spiritual path. To those who suffer from other kinds of problems in life, her words of advice lift their spirits and give them the strength to face difficult situations without breaking down. She also listens to those who come to her seeking material help and tries her best to help them out. Her humanitarian mission has spread the world over and her arms of compassion continue to reach out to more and more people across the globe. While being awarded the Gandhi King award for Peace and Non-violence in the United Nations, Geneva, in 2002, Jane Goodall, the UN Messenger of Peace and world-renowned primatologist described Amma as “God’s love in a human body.”
In fact, Amma’s humanitarian mission began right from her childhood. When Amma was just nine years old, her mother became ill, and Amma was withdrawn from school in order to help with household tasks and the care of her seven siblings. As she went door-to-door gathering food scraps from neighbours for her family’s cows, she was confronted with the intense poverty and suffering that existed in her community, and in the world beyond it. Where Amma encountered people in need, she brought them food and clothing from her own home. She was undeterred by the scolding and punishment she received from her family for doing so. Amma was deeply affected by the profound suffering she witnessed. According to Hinduism, the suffering of the individual is due to his or her own karma — the results of actions performed in the past. Amma accepted this concept, but she refused to accept it as a justification for inaction. Amma contemplated the principle of karma until she revealed an even more profound truth, asking a question she continues to ask each of us today. “If it is one man’s karma to suffer, isn’t it our dharma (duty) to help ease his suffering and pain?” With this simple yet profound conviction — that each of us has a responsibility to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate — Amma moved forward with confidence in her life of service and compassionate care for all beings, uniquely expressed by the motherly embrace she offers to all who seek solace in her arms.
It is so striking to see the humanitarian work that has been done by the organization -inspired by one woman – Amma. She has been able to encourage thousands to take up the path of service and not just take from society but also to give and share something in return. The former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam offered this testimony to the power of what Amma has accomplished: “I want to share with you what I have learned from Amma: Giving. Go on giving. It’s not only money. You can share knowledge. You can remove the pain. Every one of us — the rich and poor — can give. There is no greater message than Amma’s giving to all the people of the world.”
Amma’s humanitarian projects keep growing and growing with each year passing. To date Amma’s organization has constructed 100,000 houses for the poor and downtrodden across India. The monthly pension program reaches out to another 100,000 widows and financially disadvantaged women as well as disabled people across India. Nearly 120,000 children of farmers in crisis receive monthly scholarships. The organization manages nearly 5000 self-help groups for women, each having 25 members, who are given vocational training and also helped to get bank loans so that they can start their own enterprise and be financially independent. The 1450-bed state-of-the-art hospital (AIMS) in Kochi that has already treated more than 2 million patients free of charge. The organizational also runs professional colleges, schools, research for a better world; orphanages, care homes of terminally ill patients; environmental and nature protection programs.
Amma’s compassion has long since spilled over India’s borders in the form of an international network of regional charitable organizations collectively known as Embracing the World, currently active in more than 40 countries around the world. It was Embracing the World that provided immediate relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina in the United States, providing $1 million USD to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Relief Fund, and which last year sent immediate aid to victims of the Haiti Earthquake, providing several shipments of medical and emergency shelter supplies and scholarships for 30 children affected by the disaster. And it is Embracing the World that is on the verge of opening the doors of a new care home for 108 children in Nairobi, Kenya – the Amrita Watoto Boma, to be inaugurated in April 2011 during Amma’s visit.
Her well-wishers in Mauritius also have been taking part in social projects like renovating one of the wards in the Victoria hospital, providing monthly pensions and monthly food provisions for many poor families on the island, visiting old age homes and orphanages, etc. Even now Amma has already begun sending aid to refugees in Japan, who are reeling under the effects of the massive earthquake and the ensuing Tsunami.
Amma’s organization has been granted Special Consultative Status to the United Nations, and after witnessing firsthand some of the NGO’s projects, Mr Olara Otunnu, former President of the UN Security Council and Chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission commented, “I was very struck by how much of what is generated, how much of the money that is mobilized, actually goes and benefits directly those in need. This is remarkable. It was very striking for me how she managed to get that formula right. She acts on the spontaneous and instinctive. And that has given a lot of speed and momentum, cut out the bureaucracy, and made it possible to inspire people and to move with them to actually provide timely and quality support to those in need. And I think international NGOs and UN agencies have something to learn from the work of Amma and what she has been able to build.”
Amma teaches that everyone — rich or poor— has the power to make a difference in the life of another, and that no selfless gesture is insignificant. Rather, Amma says, it is the selfless actions we perform for one another that hold the keys to true peace — peace in the individual, peace in the community and peace among diverse cultures, nations and faiths.
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For more details regarding Amma’s visit to Mauritius, please contact:
Mata Amritanandamayi Centre
St Jean Rd – Quatre Bornes
Ph: 4662718, 7647476