The Tree of Knowledge
Darshan: Meeting Amma
Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, lovingly known as Amma, was in Mauritius for the Brahmasthanam Temple festival held on 1 and 2 April, 2011. We enjoyed two blissful days of satsang (talk), bhajans (devotional singing), special pujas, meditation sessions and darshan. Devotees flocked to Mata Amritanandamayi from across the country for her darshan and took part in the ‘Rahu Dosha Nivarana puja’ and ‘Shani Dosha Nivarana Puja’. The ‘dosha pujas’, performed after interactions with devotees, were meant to overcome harmful influences of planetary phases on devotees’ lives. Brahmasthanam Temples are unique temples born out of Amma’s divine intuition. These temples have been consecrated by Amma herself at various places in India and abroad. These temples symbolize the one God that manifests as various deities. One monolith is installed in the sanctum-sanctorum (Garbhagrah) and on its four sides are carved the figures of Devi, Ganesh and Shivalinga and Rahu.
In a divine vision, Amma clearly saw how she could mitigate the miseries of modern man by reviving and revitalizing the age-old tradition of temple worship. The Brahmasthanam (the abode of Brahman) temple is the outcome of that divine vision. This new type of temple with a new mode of worship was created to alleviate human suffering, educate people in the true principle behind temple worship, show the unity underlying diversity and help unfold the divinity within each one of us. The worship in the Brahmasthanam temple focuses on the importance of unselfish love for God, the value of performance of worship and rituals by devotees themselves, the special power of congregational yajnas (collective worship), and the performance of daily pujas conducted according to the injunctions of the Shastras (scriptures).
Amma’s darshan is unique. Darshan means “to see” and traditionally, a Master is seen but not touched. And in India, women do not touch men in public. But Amma’s darshan emerged as a loving mother’s embrace, beginning when she was only a teenager and held and comforted the lonely and the suffering in her village, and extending up to the present day. Amma makes herself available to anyone wishing to receive her blessing. There is never any charge, and no one is turned away. Hour after hour, day after day, year after year — for over thirty years now, she has been embracing all who come to her. Man or woman, sick or healthy, rich or poor, regardless of religious faith, caste, young or old: even the very elderly, even her own parents, regard her as their very own Mother.
Amma’s hugs and kisses should not be considered ordinary. When Amma embraces or kisses someone, it is a process of purification and inner healing. Amma is transmitting a part of her pure, vital energy into “her children”. It also allows them to experience true, unconditional love. When Amma holds someone it can help to awaken the dormant spiritual energy within him/her, which will eventually take that person to the ultimate goal of self-realization. In India Amma has been known to individually embrace over 20,000 people in one day, sitting sometimes for over 22 hours. Over the past 35 years, she has embraced over 26 million times!
Timothy Conway, PhD, author of the book ‘Women of Power and Grace’ and expert on spiritual figures, describes Amma 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. No mere human resources could accomplish this.” Hers is an unconditional love which expresses itself through the unique vehicle of her darshan: being ushered into the awesome presence of a Master, the sheer power of Her gaze, the indescribable sweetness of Her smile, the hug that ensconces one in eternity, the earthy voice whispering words of assurance, the gentle nuzzle on the cheek, and the gift of prasad.
Each person’s darshan is a fresh experience because Amma herself is ever fresh – spontaneous. Amma listens to our spoken words and unspoken thoughts, hugs the devotees and whispers a word or two in their ears. She knows exactly our need of the moment. With a pause here, a glimpse there, she instills moments of transformation. This is the testimony of thousands.
Seeing nothing as apart from my own Self,
A single unity, and merging in the Divine Mother,
I renounced all sense of enjoyment.
Mother told me to ask the people
To fulfill their human birth. Therefore,
I proclaim to the whole world
The sublime truth that She uttered,
‘Oh man, merge in your Self!’”
Amma’s mystical poem Ananda Veethi describes her transcendental experience of attaining union with the Divine. “Seeing nothing as apart from my own Self “— this was Amma’s vision, that everything in creation was part of her own self. At that time the Divine Mother also imparted to her a mission — to ask the people to fulfill their human birth through the message “Oh man, merge in your Self!”
This message lies at the heart of all of Amma’s institutions and charitable activities. Amma’s “children” manage her projects with the faith that they will be transformed through their service to the world, gradually transcending their personal likes and dislikes and becoming more compassionate and selfless; more closely identified with the Universal Self, the Atman.
Amma has never sought to convert anyone; hers is not a sectarian mission. But Amma has always stressed that along with a new home, a pension, an operation or a meal, the beneficiaries of her charitable projects receive a compassionate smile and a kind word from those who serve them. In this way those who give, those who receive, and those who look on—all are transformed by the selfless love and sense of universal kinship, blossoming in an experience of essential unity amid apparent diversity—the oneness in the Self.
Amma has a desire
Everyone in the world should be able to sleep without fear, at least for one night.
Everyone should be able to eat to his fill, at least for one day.
There should be at least one day when hospitals see no one admitted due to violence.
By doing selfless service for at least one day, everyone should help the poor and needy.
It is Amma’s prayer that at least this small dream be realised.
For Amma, Advaita (non-dualism) is not a mere philosophy, but something to be lived. As such, Amma’s every thought, word and deed resound with that greatest of truths: everything within and without is divine. Accordingly, Amma oversees a massive matrix of humanitarian activities. Hospitals for the sick, homes for the homeless, disaster relief, orphanages, hospices, free pensions, suicide-prevention, employment programs… the list is endless. Influenced by Amma’s example and experiencing her pure love, thousands upon thousands of people from around the world have been inspired to take up a life of service — giving whatever time or money they can spare in order to help others. It is the seed of love Amma has planted within them beginning to sprout that has brought this about. This has been Amma’s vision from the beginning.
Amma says, “In today’s world, people experience two types of poverty: the poverty caused by lack of food, clothing and shelter, and the poverty caused by lack of love and compassion. Of these two, the second type needs to be considered first — because, if we have love and compassion in our hearts, then we will wholeheartedly serve those who suffer from lack of food, clothing and shelter.” This is the secret behind the success of Amma’s charitable social services. They cross all barriers of nationality, race and religion, and have attracted the attention of the world community. In 2005, Amma’s organization, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, was given special consultative status by the United Nations
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