Thursday, February 24, 2011

Amma: The woman who's hugging the world

To some, Amma, or Mata Amritananda Mayi, is a living incarnation of a goddess. I’m still figuring what she is, but I sure am amazed by what she does. This is a description of my time at her pink palace ashram in India…

From the balcony of the 12th floor candyfloss-coloured appartment block I’m calling home right now, all I can see is coconut palms. They slink all the way into the smoky distant horizon, and the wide, open sea. I can almost hear Amma's throaty giggle as she chose the paint for the walls of all the buildings here. Of course the 'mother of the universe's' house is baby pink. Below me is a temple dedicated to Kali, the Hindu Black Goddess of birth and death. On the roof are little meditation shacks housing white clothed devotees and the occasional black raven surveying the dusty grounds of the ashram.

I guess around 5000 people are filling the walkways, food canteens, temples and great halls of this bustling village. On my first day here, I found myself in a state that I can only describe as drunk. I was unaware that places like this existed.  Love is really ‘in the air’.
Indian people hold hands with each other, and their heads wobble in this wonderful way which seems to indicate neither no, nor yes. And boy do Indian people love to sing. It’s the main devotional practice here – thousands gather every night in front of a stage where Amma sits, singing songs to the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. I sit there on the floor in amazement amongst the 3000 strong choir, singing my little heart out.  

I am learning what a woman can be. The force of Amma’s living, unconditional love has made her organisation an amazingly efficient redistributer of wealth. With donations from her ‘devotees’ worldwide, she was able to give $50million for aid relief to Asian countries after the Tsunami, as well as millions to Haiti, Africa and even New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.

She walks her talk. Sometimes she spends 15 hours straight hugging people in her 'darshan' sessions. Yesterday I walked through the hall where Amma was hugging, many times throughout the day…

12pm - On my way to lunch - I look up at the stage. Amma is hugging a mother and child tight to her chest, her eyes squeezed shut, smiling face.

2pm - On my way to yoga - I look up at the stage. Amma is listening intently to three men. To her, they are the only people on earth right now.

5pm - On my way to dinner - I look up at the stage. Amma is cuddling an elderly man as if he was her long-lost love.

8pm – On my way to get water - I look up at the stage. And suddenly I get it. She treats at everyone as if they were her long-lost love! I remember once talking to my dear friend Dustin about what it would be like to love everyone as much as you did your 'first love'. I think Amma might know the answer.

She walks on stage at night like a lioness, beating time with her stick, hand on her hip, jaw firm. It's a tough love she gives out, to everyone. One that wakes up the parts of us which need watering whilst encouraging the budding plants already thriving in our hearts to flourish into an Eden with space for everyone.

I’m going to hug more.

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