“Amma is the embodiment of pure love. Her presence heals.” [Dr Deepak Chopra]
An open-hearted, soul-nourishing unconditional embrace was my first Amma experience. When dear friends asked if I would like to attend the Amma conference explaining that I could receive what is known as an Amma hug, I jumped at the chance, knowing it would be lovely, but thinking it would be just a hug. It may be called a hug, but the reality was so much more, and, as she pulled me toward her, it felt as if I were melting into the arms of an angel. I have no idea what words she spoke to me as she held me for what seemed like an eternity, but it didn’t matter, the words just added to the…bliss.
Some come to hear her teachings or to offer service to her charitable works. Most people come to experience her embrace, which is her unique way of spreading love and comfort to the world. For whatever reason they come, most end up like me, being touched and inspired by the extraordinary humanitarian that she is.
Amma’s darshan (embrace) can be described as follows, “It allows people to experience true, unconditional love. When Amma holds someone it can help to awaken the dormant spiritual energy within them, which will eventually take them to the ultimate goal of self-realization”.
Amma was born in Southern India on September 27th, 1953. By the age of two she was singing devotional songs and spending her time immersed in Samadhi, a deep meditative practice. When Amma was nine she noticed the poverty and suffering that existed in her community and beyond. This motivated her to begin giving food and clothing from her own home, in turn incurring the wrath of her family.
It was around this time that Amma began to spontaneously embrace people to comfort them. People began to refer to her as ‘Mother’; she in response referred to them from then on as her children.
Amma never studied under a spiritual teacher or read philosophical texts, but spiritual seekers were drawn to her from all corners of the globe and some of these seekers became her first disciples. By 1981, an ashram was formally instituted at her birthplace, now known as the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, or Amritapuri. It is home to more than 3,000 devotees from around the world.
Mother gives darshan for hours at a time, with every moment of her life dedicated to cultivating a just and compassionate world, in which selflessness is the core. Amma has embraced more than 33 million people in the last 40 years and is revered throughout the world as one of the most outstanding humanitarian and spiritual leaders of our time.
Amma is indefatigable in her vision to nourish individuals and communities through her spiritual activities and humanitarian projects, overseeing an award winning network of international charities, and traveling the world tirelessly offering her support.
“The purpose of this body and Mother’s life is that her hands should always be on someone’s shoulder consoling and caressing them, wiping away their tears, even while taking her last breath.”
My own Amma experience took place in Dublin at the National Show Centre, where over the course of two days thousands of people were gifted with an Amma hug. Many chose to stay at the centre for the entire time the event was on, basking subliminally in the teachings, mantras, singing, and the aura of Amma love.
It truly is a special experience to be in the Mother’s presence and feel her grace. Many people just want to sit in quiet and meditate. For this reason an area of silence is maintained around Amma.
Regular visits to the food area to feast on the delicious fare on offer became a time to sit with strangers who soon became friends, sharing stories, joys and pain. Perusing the mouth-watering food stalls on one such visit, I bought two sweetmeats; returned to my seat and offered one to the stranger sitting beside me. She appeared startled initially, then explained, “For the last half and hour I have been willing a sweet to come to me”. Both of us were amazed yet not surprised, such was the magic woven around the small community we had all become. The weekend was full of such heart-warming stories of synchronicity.
The program included meditations, spiritual teachings, devotional singing, and ceremonial offerings to bring peace, and of course hours of darshan. While it was necessary to queue for a darshan token, those queing were filled with joy and excitement. Mother would hug tirelessly until everyone had had their embrace – this could be for up to eight or ten hours.
Amma’s programs are run entirely by volunteers– service (seva) is a spiritual practice– and such was the desire to contribute to this remarkable experience that there was a continuous stream of willing workers. Being a nurse, I volunteered in the first aid tent and found myself working alongside some amazing people, all with the purpose of supporting this incredible woman’s vision.
Following my Amma experience my heart has had an awakening I had not felt before. A spaciousness has opened up in my meditations and invigorated my desire to dedicate my spiritual practice to all those who are in pain, to the planet and beyond. While I had considered myself a compassionate person, the word and its application have deepened in my understanding.
So I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to have an Amma experience to take it. Even if you simply enjoy a good hug, you will be richer for the experience.
Joanne Greene is a qualified nurse, naturopath and freelance journalist.
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