My most unexpected meeting with Amma, the renowned Indian spiritual master known as the “Hugging Saint” leads me to believe what the Yoga Masters say is so true: “When the disciple is ready, the Guru appears.” In fact, Amma appeared in my life several years before I met her physical form.
My family left India when I was just nine years old and I grew up without any real spiritual foundation, as my agnostic father rejected most Hindu traditions, festivities and rituals. When I first heard about Amma in 1995, I was in my mid-thirties and my husband (a nuclear physicist) and I were living an ordinary American suburban life. We were busy working and raising our two children, without any interest in spiritual pursuits. So, when a friend of mine told me about an Indian saint called Amma and her visit to Dallas the following weekend, I was surprised at the strong urgency and desire I felt to meet her. I had never ever made any effort to meet any gurus or saints in Austin, where I lived. However, here I was booking a hotel and driving four hours to Dallas to meet a woman whom I knew little about, except that she was recognized around the world as a living saint and humanitarian leader, who embraced everyone seeking her blessing.
Once I got to the program in Dallas, I felt very awkward and out of place. I had no idea that my life was about to be forever changed by a simple hug in Amma’s arms. My awkwardness and discomfort must have been apparent because I was approached by several women in white recognizing me as a new comer, “ Have you had Amma’s Darshan (embrace) yet?” They all asked the same question. I nodded my head and declined the invitation, as I was in no hurry to get a hug.
I sat close to Amma all night observing her embrace hundreds of people one after another and giving the same one-pointed loving attention to each person that approached her. In the background, the musicians played powerful devotional spiritual music, which I found very moving and comforting, as it reminded me of my childhood in India. It was very late in the night when I finally picked up the courage to get in the Darshan line. I inched forward on the floor closer and closer to Amma and was quite unprepared when it was finally my turn. Her attendants nudged me forward and almost thrust me into Amma’s arms. Amma, pulled me up close to her and wrapped her arms around me in a tight embrace as she whispered, “my daughter, my daughter,” lovingly in my ears. The embrace lasted only for a few moments, but it felt like an eternity, as in her arms the floodgates of some ancient pain and sorrow broke open and I began to weep like a child with her long lost mother. Amma, looked deeply in my eyes and gently wiped my tears before her attendants helped me up, so that Amma could receive the next person in line.
I was lost in the confusion of what I had experienced, as the tears continued to flow down my cheeks without hesitation. I only came to when I heard a very familiar tune coming from the musicians on the stage. They were playing a song that I had stumbled on to during my recovery from a serious illness.
You see a few years earlier, I had been diagnosed with a serious endocrine disorder. I rejected the prescribed radioactive iodine therapy to control the disease and instead followed a course of holistic therapies. In an effort to tackle the disease from all sides, I also signed up for some singing lessons at the local music studio, where my son took piano lessons, with the hope that perhaps it would open up some blockages in my throat. My voice teacher, a trendy young Jazz singer, was quite appalled at my inability to carry a tune. So, she recommended that perhaps I would do better if I sang in my native tongue. She was so convinced that this would help me that I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I had spoken English all of my life, even though my native language was Hindi.
For our second lesson she brought me a sheet of music with a song written in English, but the words were in Hindi, which she said some Indian friends of hers had given her. All my life, I have never been able to carry even the simplest tunes, but for some reason this song I could sing pretty well and I sang it loud and strong… day and night for several months… in the shower, in the car… whenever I was alone. After eighteen difficult months, my blood work came back normal and I was declared, ”cured.” I never gave another thought to that song that I had so enjoyed singing.
Until now… three years later a beautiful melodious voice on the stage was singing in Hindi..… “Aayee guru maharani, Mata Amrita Nandamayi” – “Welcome my guru, Mata Amrita Nandamayi (Amma’s name) into my life”.
It is indeed true what Amma says, “When a flower blossoms, the bees get naturally drawn to it. Similarly, those with spiritual samskaras (inherent karmic tendencies) are drawn to a Mahatama (spiritual master).”
When the karma is ripe the process of meeting your spiritual teacher and guru is as natural as breathing because the Guru simply appears in the life of the disciple.