For Amma the state of oneness with all of creation is not a philosophy or a spiritual principle to follow – it simply is the only way she knows how to be. From her simplest day to day exchanges with people to her huge charitable projects, she brings no sense of “I” or “me” into the equation. No matter what your faith or belief system, if you spend any time with Amma you will be astounded by her unbounded compassion. Her every aspect, action, word and even her exhausted body that embraces thousands of people a day are all vehicles of sacrifice for the benefit of others.
Lifetimes of good karma that I had accumulated culminated in an opportunity to experience Amma’s extraordinary selflessness in my own home. A few years ago, Amma came to my home town in Geneva, Switzerland to receive the Gandhi-King award for Non-Violence at the United Nations. I have no words to express the extraordinary opportunity that Amma granted my family to host Amma and her traveling companions for two days of meetings, speeches and press conferences.
Throughout the conferences and meetings I noticed how many of the organizers and participants in the event held their United Nations badges with an air of importance and accomplishment, in stark comparison to Amma’s deep humility.
At one of the first private events where Amma was to speak, Amma was delayed considerably because the press had held her up with questions. All the dignitaries from around the world were asked to wait patiently for Amma to arrive. You could hear the collective sigh of awe in the small room when Amma’s tiny figure humbly stepped into the room. I noticed though that Amma’s face was pained, as she apologized for the inconvenience she had caused everyone because she was late.
Jane Goodall, the master of ceremonies and the recipient of the last Gandhi/King Award introduced Amma as “God’s love in a human body”. When it was Amma’s turn to receive the award, Amma blessed the large award trophy but did not take it for herself, despite several attempts by Jane Goodall. Each time Amma would touch it and bless it and then step away. Finally, one of Amma’s assistants came up on stage and took it on behalf of Amma. Amma never talked about, nor made a show of not taking the award either. Like Mother Nature, Amma’s gives away her bounty, she does not take anything for herself, not even an award or credit for promoting love and non-violence.
To our surprise and joy Amma readily agreed to pay a visit to our home after the conference was over.
Amma came to our house straight from the main award ceremony. My conscious mind only remembers looking out of the window as my brother’s white car, with Amma inside, drove up outside my parent’s house. The rest of the three hours or so that Amma spent in our home occurred in another dimension, as surely I left my body/mind once Amma stepped into my parent’s home.
Amma was amused and joked that I was giving her a bath, as I nervously performed the Pad Puja (customary washing of the guru’s feet). My sister struggled with the huge fire in the Aarti plate (waving of fire) as she had put way too much camphor. The garland that I put around Amma was kind of saggy as the flowers were not the right kind to start with and had not survived the night. Ok, so the greatest event of all my lifetimes, welcoming Amma to my home, was not off to a good start by any standards. Fortunately, for me Amma’s presence had allowed me to step out of my worrying, perfectionist mind.
Amma went straight to the Puja (prayer) room in the house (she knew exactly where to go). She sat in front of my mother’s alter and prayed for a long time and ended by singing a beautiful Devi bhajan (spiritual song).
Amma then called all my family members present for a private meeting in a separate room, where she answered questions, laughed and told stories. When we finished she went straight to the dinning room where all the food was laid out. My heart sank and I seriously almost passed out when I looked over and saw that there was nothing but scraps left in the serving bowls on the table. We had been asked to cook for a few of Amma’s people, but it looked like more than forty people had followed Amma into our home and miraculously been fed while we were meeting with Amma.
For Amma, we had been told only to prepare Apam (south Indian pancake). It had not occurred to me to set aside a plate for Amma, as is the custom. Amma was not fazed by the empty bowls and happily filled her plate with whatever bits and pieces of rice and vegetables she could find.
She ignored the chair covered in a lovely silk sari that we had prepared for her and sat down on the floor. She took the food and mixed it up all together, took one small bite and then proceeded to feed small morsels to all the members of my family with her hands. When almost all the food on the plate had finished she took the last bite for herself.
At some point while Amma was feeding us, I returned into my mind/body “I” self. My first thought was to chastise myself, “Renu you are such a big screw up, look at all the mistakes you have made, the list was long”. I did not realize that I had apologized to Amma out loud. Amma turned to me making a face suggesting shock and disappointment, “how can you say that, I am your mother, I am your family, I am not a guest in your home”.
Suddenly, Amma was up and ready to go. I ran after her. She was already out of the front door, bare foot. I ran up to her put my head on her shoulders and wept, “Amma this is all too much, too much….”. She patted my head and laughed, as if her visit was no big thing.
Amma and her party were leaving for her next public program in Italy directly from my parent’s house. Amma was traveling in a camper (R.V.) and the events in the parking lot embody an even deeper shade of Amma’s unbounded love and generosity. Despite the long day she had already had and the long journey ahead, Amma stood at the door of the camper and looked at us with utmost compassion, as she knew we could not bear to let her go. We all still had our hands extended, our eyes pleaded for just a little bit more of Her love. She went into the kitchen of the camper and came out with some cashews in a Ziploc bag and started put them in our extended hands. She then made a very sad face and said, “all finished”. We saw her disappear from the camper door and a few seconds later she was holding a Tupperware filled with dried chickpeas, which she started to put into our extended hands.
There was nothing left for her to give in the camper, her other children were waiting for her in Italy, so Amma with great sadness, again repeated “all finished”.
It was a long and blissful good-bye and suddenly she was gone, leaving us to once again engage in the world of duality – where thoughts of “I” and “mine” and “me” overwhelm our every move, even our efforts to be selfless and spiritual.