We first met Ammachi when she visited Vancouver, Canada, in 1991. At that time, we could’ve had her audience as often as we wished during the course of a day. Now, the line-up numbers in the thousands and, if we’ve had her darshan (or audience) once this year, we have to go to the back of the line.
In India, crowds are ten times what they are here in North America.
As a phenomenon, Ammachi, in my view, is an Avatar. What that means is that, whereas we are ascending to God, she is God descended, in the same way that Sri Ramakrishna, Jesus Christ, or Buddha was. Jesus said “I came from the Father into the world.” If I’m right, so did Amma.
She’s performed many of the miracles that Jesus did – feeding a multitude from a small vessel, healing the sick, including lepers, calling the dead back to life, etc. When a man tried to stab her with a knife, the knife rebounded on him instead. She visited him in the hospital before he died.
The most obvious miracle that she performs regularly is sitting in front of us for six to ten hours a day, day after day, receiving and hugging thousands of people with enthusiasm. While we faint from fatigue, eat regularly, and drink often, Ammachi does not get up, eat or drink once.
Her darshan line holds immense significance for me. I think that approaching her by the line-up symbolizes the return of the prodigal child to the welcoming Parent. Our imperfections and her universal love become clear through the experience. I think it also symbolizes the last few lifetimes before we merge again with God.
For me, the purpose of life is for God the Formless to meet Itself through the enlightenment experiences of Its created forms, us finger puppets. God being Formless and the only One, cannot experience Itself. Who is there in the formless realm, where no subject and no object exists, to experience? Who is there to be experienced?
Through participating in the darshan line, I experience the return of the created form to the uncreated Formless, fulfilling the form’s purpose in life, the reason for which it was created – that God should meet God.
Darshan is the main focus of a visit to Amma. But, unlike many master teachers, she provides not only darshan (the sight of her), but also what the scriptures all sparshan and sambhashan. Sparshan is the touch of her; and sambhashan is conversation with her. These three – sight, touch, and conversation – each carry mystical blessings, the most obvious being the transfer of karma in the form of sickness or misery from the devotee to the master.
She also freely provides mantras. Most masters will only bestow a mantra on a devotee after the latter has proven him or herself; thus few mantras are bestowed. Bestowing a mantra means that she agrees to take upon herself the karmic burden of limitless numbers of beings. Allegedly her blood is more toxic from taking on people’s karma than any of us could possibly imagine or endure. Beings like her are very rare.
Now you may be skeptical of Ammachi and say, “Anyone can bestow limitless mantras.” But consider this: The person who bestows a mantra on another, by a universal law, takes on that person’s karma. Amma knows this and still she bestows many, many mantras so, inescapably, she carries limitless karma on her shoulders. And yet her energy is beyond bounds and her love universal.
People familiar with God in His/Her Incarnation as Sri Ramakrishna will recall that the Avatar of Dakshineswar was too sensitive a being even to touch an unclean person without feeling immense pain. But God in His/Her Incarnation as Amma receives everyone and talks to and touches them.
In India, she provides pensions to tens of thousands of widows, lodging, parenting and education to thousands of orphans, scholarships to children of impoverished parents, free hospitals for the poor, free housing to those impacted by natural disasters, and on and on. She provides some of the same services to countries like Kenya and Mauritius, if I recall correctly.
She has been awarded honours from universities, charitable foundations, and, if I’m right, the United Nations. In this world today, she is the one figure I can think of who occupies a world stage. Although she’s never mentioned 2012, I’m sure she’ll play a large part in it.
Enough said. I’m always deeply moved by our annual pilgrimage to Amma.
I’ll be moving slowly today, but should be up and running by tomorrow if I don’t return to things sooner. I haven’t Amma’s stamina and a visit to her is always stirring and leaves me feeling abstracted and turned inwards.
I also am aware of how a visit to Amma works. It is as if a seed is planted in the devotee. I’m aware of a gradual sensation of mellowing and expansion that is happening inside me. Slowly, slowly, I am feeling more tenderness and inclusiveness occurring. I may need to rest and not engage too quickly with things so as not to cut off the developing state.
The most I can do, it seems, is read a moving book like the Bhagavad-Gita or Paramahsana Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi.
I hope this finds you well.