Thankful for Amma’s grace and the planetary alignment that enabled me to capture the Devi’s arrival to “AMMA Central” in Marlborough, Mass., I rushed back into the stark trade center for the start of the program. Inside, the padapuja was underway, a traditional Hindu ceremony worshiping the feet of a guru. Amma’s senior disciple, Swami Amritaswarupananda, bathed her feet with blessed water, anointed her arches with oil, placed blossoms between her toes, then piled loose flower petals high on her feet. Devotees adorned her with long garlands of brilliant blooms, one after another, until she seemed to be covered in flowers, then waved burning incense and oils before her. All the while, chanters recited the 108 names of Mother.
(We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the padapuja, but check out this video of the ritual from Amritapuri TV, the Amma organization’s broadcasting network.)
‘Compassion Is Becoming Extinct’
When it was time for satsang, Amma delivered her teaching in her native language of Malayalam, and Swami Amritaswarupananda, one of her earliest followers, translated it. A Spanish translation was shown on monitors mounted throughout the massive hall. Amma would speak passionately and animatedly for 10 minutes or so, then Swami would interpret, and so on for about an hour. A combination of poor sound, an echoey hall, and Swami ‘s slight accent made it difficult to discern all the words, but the overall message was a familiar one. Amma spoke of a society reeling in chaos and heartache because of a creeping lack of compassion, kindness and respect for one another.
“Compassion is becoming extinct,” she said. “Society without compassion is like a spacecraft without a booster rocket. We need a booster rocket of compassion.”
She implored us to turn away from negative habits and cultivate an attitude of gratitude and understanding for all beings. She urged us to not “become our emotions,” and to practice meditation to control our reactions to life’s challenges.
“Emotions are like clouds in the sky,” she said. “They are always changing from moment to moment. We are not those fluffy clouds. We are the sky they pass through.” Meditation, she said, helps us be the sky.
Amma’s message is encapsulated in the oft-repeated Hindu prayer chant that has become the motto for her humanitarian organization (Embracing the World): “Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,” which translates roughly to “May all beings everywhere be happy and free.” Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
Speaking gently but firmly, with liberal sprinklings of parables, metaphors, and personal stories from her life, Amma spoke of love, intellect, ego, karma, and grace. Here are seven of our favorite quotes from the program:
“We are not individual islands, but links in a common chain.”
“Ego brings us bad karma. All of our actions should bring joy and happiness to others.”
“The intellect is like a sharp pair of scizzors cutting through the heart. Humility is more important than intellect.”
“Love gives meaning and sweetness to life.”
“We must all become lights in the lamp of the world.”
“Just like food and water, spiritual understanding is necessary for life.”
“Without grace, nothing is possible.”
When the satsang was over, Amma settled into her seat and her swamis took their places on stage around her. Musicians appeared from the wings and joined the “band” on stage. It was time to sing…To continue reading “Blessings, Bhajans & Bear Hugs,” please see: The third article in the series: Pt. 3 – Devi Bhajans, Sung by the Devi (Photos/Video) Also see: The first article in the series: Pt. 1 – The Arrival (Photos/Video Link) The fourth article in the series: Pt. 4 – A Hug, A Kiss and A Glance (Photos/Video Link) View a short video of Amma singing Shyam Devi. Follow us on facebook to see all the pictures from Amma’s Public Program.