By Prabhath P November 2001 In this age of cynicism and fragmentation, one woman, born in an obscure south Indian village to poor fisher folk, has mesmerized the world with her potent message of active loving and giving. Amma, as she is affectionately called, hugs the world and the world hugs her back in tearful joy EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH SWAMI AMRITASWARUPANANDA PURISwami Amritaswarupananda Puri, Amma’s first sanyasi (monk) disciple and Vice Chairman of the Mata Amritanadamayi Math in Kollam, Kerala, India, on Amma: How did you come into contact with Amma? I didn’t perform well in my final year exams in college. I was persuaded by some people from my village to meet Amma. At that time, the ashram was a small place. I came only because I’d get a chance to sing and find out whether I’d pass or fail in the exam. I never ever imagined I’d become a monk. Anyhow, I met Amma and sang. At the very first meeting, she just looked into my eyes and I experienced infinite compassion and love. I was transported to another world beyond space and time. Then Amma told me that I’d pass in my exams. But by that time, I was completely disinterested in my exams. Miraculously, I passed. Later, Amma asked me to get a Master’s degree in philosophy. After that first meeting, I realized that my life had completely changed. I knew that my purpose was something higher. It was a burning inspiration to know God. Since then, I’ve been with Amma. What is the essence of Amma’s mission? It is love and compassion. That is the main goal. That is what Amma is doing in her day-to-day life and through the activities that the Math implements all over the world. How do you think Amma is able to move so many people? It is the love that people feel when they get close to Amma. Sometimes it is just a touch, look or a word. Love is actually immensely powerful, it is pure energy. There is a big difference between the love an ordinary person feels and what a true master expresses. When Amma touches you, looks at you or says something to you, it creates an entirely different world. It reveals so many layers of consciousness because it comes from a higher realm of being, the real source. It is a personal experience. That is why people throng to Amma and leave everything to serve her. When people come to meet Amma for the first time, even if the meeting is short, the impact is so powerful that their whole life is transformed. Most people don’t have a clear experience of love in their lives. The kind of love we normally experience-between husband and wife or between parents and children and even between lovers-is just an infinitesimal part of the love we really have. So there is infinite possibility if you are able to tap into the higher realms of consciousness. Then you can transmit it to others. According to Amma, what is to be done for the future good of humanity? I think Amma is already doing it concretely. It is not an idea. It is already practical. It is very tangible as far as Amma and her followers are concerned. Are there any special methods of meditation prescribed by Amma? I don’t think one method will suit everyone because each human being has a different culture and mental constitution. The physical structure and inherited tendencies are also different. It is not proper to say that everyone should realize God or the Self. According to each one’s capacity, you can try to know yourself better. For this, one needs spiritual practice or sadhana. Great masters always recommend methods according to each one’s mental constitution. Even in the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna gives instructions according to the mood changes of Arjuna. The Gita is applicable to everyone. But it is not just one path. In the Gita, we find karma yoga, bhakti yoga and jnana yoga. These are all perfect paths that will take you to God if you practice sincerely. But one path is not enough for everyone. Like all genuine masters, Amma instructs according to each one’s mental constitution or temperament. What is Amma’s prescription to solve the problems of this world? All great masters down the ages have been trying to suggest solutions. But ultimately it is a question of practicing them. For everything there is a cause. Find the cause and treat it. But how many people who talk about spiritual values and essential principles of life practice them? Amma is doing a lot of work. She puts many lives on the right track. The lives of millions of people all over the world have completely changed after meeting Amma. The change has happened and is happening. That is the truth. Millions of people from all over the world and all walks of life flock to meet Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, affectionately known as ‘Amma’ or ‘Ammachi’, meaning Mother. What is the secret of her magnetic attraction and power? According to Amma, it is ‘pure selfless love’. Swamini Krishnamrita Prana, Amma’s disciple, agrees. An Australian, she first heard about Amma while staying at an ashram near Mumbai, India. She was in for a great surprise when she met Ammachi. She had seen only gurus who sat on pedestals at a safe distance from devotees who had to be content with touching the guru’s sandals. But here was a guru who hugged her with unconditional love and warmth at first sight. Swamini Krishnamrita describes how Amma once healed a leper by sucking the pus and blood from his sores. Such is her infinite compassion. In the words of Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri, Amma’s first sanyasi(monk) disciple: ‘Here is a mystic accessible to anyone and everyone with whom you can converse and in whose presence you can feel God.’ UNFLAGGING ENERGY Amma has been known to spend as many as 20 to 30 hours at a stretch, hugging devotees and visitors at her congregations. Clad in a snow-white sari, the beaming Amma literally holds thousands to her bosom, whispering in their ears, ‘my child,’ ‘darling son’ or ‘darling daughter’, listening to their troubles and their deepest spiritual longings, without pause for food or even a sip of water. Amma treats everyone alike, from the billionaire to the beggar, from the newborn to the elderly, from the antagonist to the ardent admirer. According to Swamini Atma Prana: ‘Each person who goes to see Amma, even if he or she be the seven-thousandth person in the darshan (divine glimpse) queue, will receive the same attention from her.’ This familiar closeness is so moving that many burst out in tears. Asked once whether she felt tired after giving darshan for so many hours on end to thousands of people, Amma replied: ‘Where there is love, there is no effort.’ She adds: ‘When you give more, your coffers are always full. You acquire the double of what you give.’ HUGGING CREATION Intrigued by this unusual guru, The Los Angeles Times asked Amma: ‘Why do you hug people?’ She replied: ‘This question is like asking the river, ‘why are you flowing?’ Does anyone ask his or her mother, ‘why do you hug me?” she replied. During a memorable discussion, the BBC had a doubt: ‘You hug millions of people all over the world, who hugs you?’ The answer was: ‘The entire creation hugs me.’ The ‘hugging saint’ has an explanation for her own famous hug: ‘From the outside it looks like an ordinary hug. But when Amma hugs people, she is transmitting a bit of her spiritual energy into them, which will help them feel Divine Love and open up more.’ Bill Schekner of the CBS also wrote that Amma’s hug is an expression of the need to embrace the world and flood it with love. Amma never forgets to emphasize the need for love. In a live interview aired on July 10, 2001, the NBC Today show host Ann Curry asked Amma about her impression of present-day USA and its need for the kind of compassion Amma teaches. Amma answered: ‘Whether in America or in any other part of the world, motherhood is not a quality that women alone should have. Men should also awaken to their innate feminine qualities, which is the need of the age. All over the world, people have an intense longing to experience pure love. They are in search of that love, but are not finding it. Rather, each person is becoming an object in the other person’s hand.’ MULTIFACETED MOTHER Apart from her famous accessibility, what adds to Amma’s infinite appeal to all kinds of people is her multidimensional nature. Different people experience Amma according to their own levels of evolution. For some she is the fountain of ultimate spiritual knowledge. For many she is the loving mother whom you can turn to in moments of crisis and to resolve everyday problems. For others she is a miraculous healer of illnesses. For a person who follows the path of devotion (bhakti yoga), Amma is a true devotee par excellence. One who pursues the path of knowledge (jnana yoga) perceives a perfect Knower of the Self in her. And for the one who follows the path of action (karma yoga), Amma is the ultimate karmayogi. But a person with a clear comprehension can see that Amma is a multidimensional integration of all these aspects. To her devotees, she is a Divine incarnation of the Mother Goddess. There are countless stories of wonderful transformations that happen in the lives of those who meet Amma. The story of Amma’s senior disciple Swami Amritatmananda Puri is an excellent example. He was born in a wealthy family of Kerala, India and grew up as a modern youth indulging in worldly pleasures. He remembers: ‘I had problems with my business. I came, not seeing Amma as a spiritual master, but to know my future. After darshan, all of a sudden, a great transformation occurred in my life. It w
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