I bow down to my beloved Amma to whom I owe my life and my joy. Salutations to all my brothers and sisters here and watching online. I'm in deep gratitude to Srinivas for making sure Amma Live is up and running. I've participated daily since Swamiji Dayamrita invited me nearly two years ago. My life-breath during this time of absence from Amma.
This month of July is my 30th anniversary of meeting Amma. July 1992 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had just moved to Santa Fe in late May. A new friend I'd met at a book store invited me to go to Amma. I wanted nothing to do with gurus, but a few days later I called her and said, "Let's go on the first morning of the first of the four days, just in case I like it."
We drove several miles out of town on Old Santa Fe Trail and parked among the ponderosa Pine trees. The big top tent at the top of the hill seemed to float just off the ground. The backdrop of a tall, castle-shaped hill made the whole scene feel like a kind of heaven. Inside the tent, the floor was carpeted with scores of Persian rugs. After some time, a small group wearing white began chanting Om Amriteshwaryai Namah. Then there was a profound silence. And Amma walked in. The vision of Her lit me up with a feeling of holiness.
I sat about 12th in the new person's line, up close to Amma. I felt I knew Her from before, but I had no idea where or how. It was a sense of deep familiarity. A feeling of comfort. I felt protected somehow in my new person's line to the side of the tent. All else was a chaos of darshan lines. One for the handicapped. One for mothers with babies and one for everyone else, all bunched together down the middle. Amma was peacefully hugging each person as if She had all the time in the world. Just only NOW.
As I'd noted, I had not wanted to meet a guru. I'd lived in an ashram in the Pocono mountains, Pennsylvania, for several years in the 70's. There was a lot of abuse in that ashram, and I never wanted anything to do with this sort of thing again. Yet I still practiced yoga and meditation daily, and had a center where I taught yoga and offered puja to the deities–Ganesha, Krishna, Saraswati, Shiva. I used to have a lot of faith and had been very devotional, especially in my teen years, but after my experience in the 70's ashram, I'd come to no longer believe in a Jesus or a Krishna or a Buddha. These were just fairy tales, not real. There could be no such thing as Divine in Human form.
But now, after an hour or so, as I watched Amma hugging people, my eyes filled with tears because all at once I knew that I'd met Divine in a human form. I had no explanation other than a profound knowing. A coming home to myself. I could believe in fairy tales again.
After about two hours I found myself in Her arms. She held me tightly and said, "Ma ma ma ma" into my ear. I said, "Ma ma ma ma" in response which made her laugh. And so I also laughed. That was it. I was happy. Amma and I had communicated "Ma Ma Ma" to each other.
Someone had told me that during darshan I only needed to think about what I wanted and Amma would know. I had been planning that moment for my next darshan, but was unsure whether to ask for Realization or for my asthma to be healed. It hadn't occurred to me that I might be able to ask for both.
The four days passed in a joyous blur. During Devi Bhava on the last night, the lights in the tent were low, adding to the sense of mystery. When they opened the curtains onto Amma, I was sure I'd been transported to Devi Loka. There was a great brightness, a glow, an energy radiating from Amma. I sat transfixed amidst the miracle of Amma and the chaos all around Her that also was infused with brightness. I was in bliss. But, I was an early to bed person. And an early riser. Without getting darshan, I pulled myself away from the magic inside the big top tent at midnight.
The next morning, I woke up desperate to be with Amma. I could not stop crying. I had to cancel my clients. I was a basket case. I lay down prostrate in front of my altar and begged Amma to help me come to Her in India. The next day I got a call that my storage shed had been broken into. Two European oriental rugs were stolen. It turned out they were insured for exactly the value of a round-trip ticket to India. I ended my lease. Put everything into that same storage shed. Put a warning sign inside the shed, "Guarded by a Powerful Shaman!!" By October, I was off to India. I had no idea what would become of me at the end of the four months, but I had no concern about it. I just had to be with Amma.
I rode the all-night train ride from Madras, as Chennai was known then, and then a wild rickshaw ride from the Kayankulam train station to the backwaters. And then the peaceful canoe trip across the water to the ashram–all memories etched in my mind. I was housed in the Kali dorm, right above Goddess Kali's sanctum sanctorum. The toilets, showers, and a long metal sink for brushing teeth, was down a long labyrinthine hallway, at the front of the temple building. The dorm, and the 30 or so of us in bunk beds, was the perfect bumping and stone polishing machine that Amma so often speaks of.
Most of us would get darshan every day in the small Darshan Hut, a rectangular building with walls of palm fronds. Maybe 150 devotees crowded inside. There were two overhead fans beating in the deep silence. Frankincense smoke rising behind Amma. Swamiji Geetamrita playing the harmonium and singing bhajans to the beat of a tabla. Amma chatting and laughing. Usually, I'd get darshan and leave to do seva of mopping Kali temple floor, wash my clothes, and learn Lalita Sahasranam from a lovely Indian woman who'd offered to teach me.
I'd awaken every morning to the sound of the 4 o'clock bell, take my cold shower, and be ready for archana at 4:30, which is when it started in those days. After archana I'd go up to the roof, which had no rooms or clotheslines at that time, but only a small pagoda with a palm frond roof. I'd do yoga and meditate on the rising of the sun. Sometimes I'd just go up there for the peace of it, sitting and listening to the sound of the waves. At a later time, my birthday was coming up, and I was up on the roof making mental plans to visit Kalady, the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya. All at once, I heard a loud inner voice that said, "Shankara was born here!!!" I knew the "voice" was telling me that Amma was Shankara. I didn't have to go anywhere. I was already where I needed to be.
Early on in my stay, I passed a note to Amma asking Her to help me with my anger problem. Amma burst out laughing and said, "Savitri!!!" I began to laugh as well. What a concept to laugh at my serious question. What fun to laugh and accept. But I wanted help, and so held my hands up in a shrug, "What to do?" Amma told me to throw my Amma doll. I didn't have an Amma doll, so I bought one of the small pillow dolls. I could not bring myself to throw Her. Amma teaches us to see Amma in everyone. I badly wanted to stop hurting others. To any of you whom I've hurt or harmed by my words or actions, please accept my deepest apologies.
Time was coming for me to leave. I'd come to be with Amma with the goal of Self-Realization, and I'd not gotten Self-Realized. So, I'd decided not to return to the ashram. I made my way to the darshan hut to say good-bye to Amma. But when I was in her arms, She wasn't paying a bit of attention to me. She was chatting with someone else and was about to let me go without saying goodbye. I panicked. I grabbed the attendant's attention and said, "Tell Her I'm leaving! Tell Her! Please!!" At that moment of my greatest desperation, Amma pulled me back in for a second hug. She put my head on her shoulder and said to me, in English, "Come back. Amma says, Come back!" I was stunned in disbelief. Amma Herself had told me to come back. She cared that much. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I sat in the back of the darshan hut, planning my next visit. I ended up making annual trips to the ashram, for several months each visit, until I ran out of money in 2005. Amma often used to say that man is revolutionary and God is evolutionary. My desire for Self-Realization, I began to understand, was an evolutionary process of gradually destroying vasanas and purifying the mind. And I now knew Amma will not let us go until the job is done.
During my next year in India, I was doing panchakarma with the first batch Panchakarma devotees. It was the first year of that program. The doctor had said the ghee would be an important part of getting rid of my asthma and also vomiting or vamana would help. For the first week of a six week program we were to drink a green medicated ghee in larger and larger amounts over 7 days. By the afternoon on the first day, I was feeling nauseated. Yet at the same time, I felt I was bathed in a golden light. On day three, I'd had enough of feeling nauseated, golden light or not. I went downstairs to tell the doctor I could not go on with it. The panchakarma room was on the second floor off the wing of the Kali Temple. The doctor opened the door a crack when I knocked. I told him, "I cannot continue." He said nothing, nodded his head from side to side in the Indian way and closed the door in my face. I lost it. I started swearing like a sailor, throwing metal cups, throwing anything I could find. Yelling at the top of my lungs. Then I spotted several brahmacharis running towards me. I got scared and quickly made my way back to the Kali dorm. I'd be safe there. Boys are not allowed. I wasn't sure what to do. Word had gotten around, and Bri. Suneeta (Bri Nirmalamrita) arrived to console me. Amma was in Australia.
As soon as Amma returned, I went immediately to pass a note about what had happened, how angry I'd gotten. I was terrified I'd be thrown out of the ashram. She was holding me very tightly. I could tell she was hearing about the story from a brahmacharini. I became more and more frightened as they talked for a long time. I tried to pull away, but Amma is strong. Then finally Amma looked at me and said, "Child, you look much better after only 3 days of panchakarma. Continue the program." I'd never experienced this kind of love and compassion. She loved me even with my terrible flaw of anger. And loved me enough to know what was good for me. Continue panchakarma. The doctor said there was to be no more ghee drinking, only in tablespoons-full daily, over the 6 weeks of panchakarma. At the end, I was asthma free and enjoyed the amazing lightness of being from the healing panchakarma treatments.
After a couple of weeks into panchakarma, a woman in the dorm began the program. She was suffering a lot emotionally. I asked Swamini Amma to please find her a room alone as the dorm was no place for her in the state, she was in. In the middle of the night, I was awakened by a flashlight shining on me. It was Amma! She had come to thank me for helping the woman find a peaceful place to stay. From this experience, I knew how deeply important it is to care for others.
From the dorm, we were in the perfect position to get the best seats on the stage on Devi Bhava nights, as the stage was just down the spiral staircase. As soon as the doors opened everyone rushed down. I sat wherever I could. One time I was sitting at the back of the stage, and thinking, "Amma, if you want me near you, I know you will make it possible." All at once a bramacharini came and took my hand to lead me up to sit next to Amma. After a while, an indescribable feeling of Love came over me. Everything and everyone was Love. All Divine Love. When devotees would bump me as they came up for darshan, I felt it as love pats from Amma. I stayed in this state for a few days. Naturally, I told Amma about it and asked Her if I could please stay that way. Amma said in English, "Amma happy." The experience faded. That was nearly 30 years ago. Now, in my older age, I tend to have a little more surrender, and so I can wait to dissolve in that Love. But also I want it badly and sometimes feel impatient. Nevertheless, I believe we all have the destiny to be the Love that is Amma.
I knew that at least part of my anger was due to my time as a fetus and a baby. From Swamiji Dayamrita's Maha Bharata class in the Santa Fe ashram where I lived in the late 90's and early 2000's, we learned that a pregnant mother should be surrounded with peace and beauty. He said that for a baby to develop a healthy mind, a woman who is pregnant needs to stay peaceful and in prayer and listening to bhajans and going to temple daily. Swamiji told how Duryodhana's mother Gandhari had beaten her stomach to cause her babies to be born early, before the Pandava cousins. Her son Duryodhana could not control his negative tendencies, nor did he want to. In my case my mom had been hysterical while I was a fetus, chasing after my father who was an alcoholic, and who'd often not come home at night. Then after I was born, I'd be in the crib upstairs in a little room all alone. I'd be terrified by their yelling in the middle of the night. This was my karma. By the Grace of Amma, I am relieved to say that I no longer have rage attacks, and I'm mostly able to hold back reactionary words. I understand that I must be totally free of anger, but I feel a lot of Grace in the evolutionary process of it. I realize that a little poison in the food, is still poison. Equally, the mind has to be completely free of negative reactions.
Amma in Her Guru Purnima Satsang said we should linger in the space between thoughts and actions, that in that space is the Guru and the Light, and that it can grow and grow. I was never able to find that space between thought and action, but I seem to be able to now and will try to practice this.
All that said, after my father left home at my age 5, my mother raised me and my 9 years older sister with good values. We had a mountain cabin where I was left to wander in the woods. When I was 5 years old while walking down a snowy trail I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of a Divine Presence. Looking back, I know it must have been Amma visiting me at that tender age. Time spent in nature is a sadhana for me. That's where I feel Amma is always with me. I have various blissful experiences in nature. One time I had a sensation that I was space and everything was space, still in form, but only space. I don't know what it meant, but it was a deeply peaceful feeling which came over me now and then.
In the later 90's, I got an idea to write a book that featured Amma and that dealt with the shadow side of our psyches. I asked Amma about the idea and She said "Yes." I was not a writer. I was a fibre artist and a counsellor. I am dyslexic and so numbers and words can be difficult for me. I was determined and did well enough in school to get into a good college where I was placed in dumbbell English the first year.
Writing a book for Amma was a great sadhana for me. Imagine learning grammar and creative writing while writing a book for Amma. I am a good example of how Amma has us do things we don't seem to be very gifted with, but then something happens, and we become Her instrument in the process. That said, at about ¼ the way through, I had grave doubts I could do it. I took the manuscript to San Ramon. But I did not want Amma to see it. I wanted to know that Amma knew every word, without seeing the manuscript. I kept it behind me as I went up the question line. My note read, "Blessed Amma, I am ¼ through the book. Please tell me if you would like me to add or subtract anything from what I've written, and please give me any suggestions." I did not say anything about my doubts or if I should continue writing the book. Amma did not ask to see the manuscript. Her answer was this: "It's fine as far as you've gone. Keep writing." She answered both my unasked question of should I continue, and She let me know She knew every word without needing to see the manuscript. I couldn't have known more joy than at that moment.
Then when the book was nearly done, I asked a friend to ask Amma in San Ramon about the book again. Was it ok? She said to him, "I am doing it." To me it meant She was everywhere with me, doing everything through me. I was literally not the doer, just as Krishna counsels Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita–"Be thou a mere instrument, O Arjuna." And surrendering to being a mere instrument was hard for me, as I had a lot of desire to publish that book. And I had a lot of thoughts that I was the greatest doer. Amma was showing me otherwise.
And as it happened, by Amma's Great Grace, in 2000, The Path of the Mother: With the Divine Guidance of the Holy Mother Amma was published by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House. An Amma miracle for a big publishing house to take me on, since I was not a seasoned writer.
Now fast forward to today. When I reached age 80, I began to feel a bit desperate that I'd not be able to think of Amma at the moment of death. In the ashram I stayed in, in the 70s, before I met Amma, we did not practice mantra japa. So, this was never a sadhana of mine, and it's hard for me to remember to chant my mantra. Amma says to start very young, and I am testimony to that advice. But I was determined, and so I took Swamiji Atmananda's Mantra I & II . Learning how to use japa beads and various techniques of mantra meditation, helped me considerably. But my mind still wanders away. I do a fantastic job of chanting mantra on my daily walks on the beach, as it becomes like a marching song. And Amma is often there at the beach, either walking with me, sitting on a log with me, or huge out in the water. One time on a beach near Ft Flagler where Amma used to give retreats, not far from where I live now, I saw Amma walking down the beach towards me, in the distance. It's so very true that wherever Amma has been, She is still there. In every grain of sand, if we are only aware.
As for older age seva, early on in the Pandemic, I began teaching journaling classes in the library to help people cope and not feel so isolated. I also started an ongoing journaling class with Amma devotees, about 12 of us writing on how our lives are guided by Amma. We still meet on Zoom. I also work with the Japanese translation team for Amrita Silence Retreats. The Japanese translation devotees need the satsangs and classes written out to make it easier for them to translate. Our dictation team serves that purpose. I also write to prisoners under the umbrella of Circle of Love Inside.
Recently, I started having an urgent longing to be with Amma. I thought maybe I should move into an ashram somewhere, but first I thought it best to ask Amma. She said: "Amma will tell you or give a clear sign when or if you are to move." I felt a deep sense of relief that I'm in the right place right where I was on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, and with a wonderful local satsang group. But this urgent need to be with Amma kept rising in me, so I booked a reservation to fly to India. I had no idea how I'd pay for it. The next day, a dear friend's husband called to tell me my friend had died and she'd left me almost enough money for the airfare. Money from an unexpected place got me to Amma first and now got me to Amma last. A full circle. And so here I am in Amritapuri for 25 days. I may not meet my dream of dying in Amma's arms and being cremated on the beach, but wherever I am at that time of passing, Amma will you please come to me. And please continue to help ripen my mind into the sweetness of devotion.
Amma thank you for the enormous Grace of giving a Satsang by your side. As little Bodham says, "Om Amriteshwaryai MaMa."
O Mother, come like a radiant, beneficent cloud,
through the pathway of
the open sky of my mind.