Thursday, April 07, 2011

Metaphysical License: I love Amma

On the urging of one of my co-workers, I thought I should write a short recap of some highlights of a visit with Amma almost a year and 1/2 ago.  I had written the majority of this in November, 2009 and just came upon it.  I hope to see Amma when she returns to the Bay Area in 2 months, and in re-reading this I feel ever closer to that moment.

Wednesday 11/12/09: Darshan with Amma. Visited Amma's ashram in San Ramon: for an evening public session to be hugged by the most huggable person in the world. I'm accompanied on this visit by 2 French young women who are staying with us for the Fall as exchange students in the Bay Area. One is an art student, the other a therapist. They are willing to leave home in the middle of the afternoon for a 6+ hour adventure barely 1/2 hour from our house in Oakland to experience Amma's darshan. Part of the experience, not unlike the prep for a Grateful Dead concert, is getting there early, standing in line, being in another line; another lineup, this time in a chair where you'll sit during the first 2 1/2 hours of her evening's event; carousing around her center's outer buildings, dining hall and large meeting hall; waiting; eating some wonderful Indian food and drinking Chai; buying stuff in the marketplace around the perimeter of the hall; getting in the spirit of being in a South Indian ashram, and marvelling at how devoted her followers are. I've come here 6 times over the last 7 1/2 years and every face I remember is doing the same volunteer task - handing out tickets for the lineup to get darshan; controlling the aisles from the left side or the right side of the stage; offering information about the evening's program; helping others find seating, food, comfort. Most of the volunteers are wearing some form of Indian dress in white; some with pashmina shawls; some in saris - both American and Indian women; many with other signs of Indian spirituality - like the small beautiful seeded bracelets of sandlewood or rosewood. They are a constant and devoted bunch.

The meeting room ressembles a country church with balcony space on both sides and the rear, and seating on the main floor, surrounded on one side by a marketplace for Amma's books, videos and other Indian trinkets, and with educational information tables on the other.

When Amma arrives with her entourage she's royally greeted.  She makes her way down the center aisle, touched every now and again by those she passes by, feted with flowers and arrives at the stage where she's surrounded on a raised dais by a goodly number of beautiful Indian children and some of her spiritual devotees. One devotee then tells a  story of his life since he's met Amma - how she helped him understand that the only real change is from within - and how he's taken on her teachings. He's adopted her positive attitude of loving all and everything and it works.

Next comes an hour of singing bajans - spiritual songs of praise - praise to Ganesh, Shiva, Krishna, Mother Divine, the mother of all. Amma seems almost in a trance singing along with these hymns in Malalayam, Sanskrit, and other Indian dialects. The text of each song is displayed on monitors and the message of each song is the same: one of unconditional devotion to God/Mother. Amma is the all loving mother.

Then comes a guided meditation led by one of her students called simply Swami, then Amma's darshan. People in the hall get a little ticket when they arrive which determines their place in the line to get hugged by Amma. When a ticket range (typically 40 per letter-number combination) is done, numbers & letters on 2 posts either side of the room, are advanced and now that bunch gets to line up to be hugged. Not just lined up, but sat in chairs where you get to play an advanced form of musical chairs always moving forward to the goal. When you are within a couple chairs of the Amma, one of the volunteers makes sure to take your belongings & stow them; another asks your native language; a third asks: "are you single or with some one" - so as to efficiently organize the seekers. Finally you are on your knees, sitting on your heals and just behind someone who is being hugged. You move forward and basically fall into Amma's lap as she then cradles your head and chants something in Malayalam in your right ear. She looks at you a couple of times, squeezes you tightly and makes you feel like you are the most loved person in the world. She releases you and gives you a Hershey kiss or some other sweet. You stumble away.

A year before I hadn't seen Amma for several years. I wasn't feeling very good about my work, my company, my well-being in general. Not out of desperation, but rather the goal to divest myself of a certain despair, I decided to visit Amma. I needed to remember what it felt like to be loved by my mother, and she gave me that loving attention.And I haven't looked back since.  In a few short moments in her arms all pain desists, all worry vanishes, all fear is dispelled.  I felt one and only one thing: the love of my mother, of life, of God.  All the same, undifferentiated. 

Remembering, I feel strongly compelled to cry:  from the first moment I saw her that night, each subsequent visit, and even now when I'm writing, tears well up in my eyes.  Tears of joy.  Mother is home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful homage to Amma keep up the writing in this way. Stay in the love. sy