By Graham O’Connor
When I first met Amma, I didn’t think much of it. To me, Amma was just a sweet lady who gave me a hug and a small chocolate. The chocolate was my favourite part. But after that I did not see Amma for another two years.
In 1996, I once again found myself going to see Amma, this time in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was there I became hooked… on Amma. During the first evening programme, I heard Amma sing bhajans for the first time. I was immediately mesmerized by the bhajans; I loved the sound of Amma’s wonderful voice. I felt a deep appreciation for the music itself. That night, I wished the bhajans would never end.
During the two days that followed, Amma continued to draw me towards Her. On the afternoon of the second day, I heard that Amma was going to meditate with everyone on the roof of the hotel. My friend and I went up there to check out the place. We didn’t plan to stay. Just then Amma appeared on the roof, seemingly gliding as She walked towards Her seat. When Amma reached Her seat, She immediately called the two of us to sit next to her. Amma knew about our plans to not stay for meditation. By making us sit next to Her, we got “trapped” into staying for the whole meditation. We then became a part of Amma’s play.
After a couple of minutes, it started to rain heavily. Amma asked us to continue meditating even though that would mean that everyone would get drenched. One of Amma’s attendants quickly got an umbrella and tried to place it over Her head, but Amma pushed it away forcefully. She did not tell us to do something and do something else Herself. Amma practises what She preaches. She teaches all of us by example.
After the meditation was over, Amma looked at my friend and me. Seeing that we were both completely drenched from head to toe, She took the edge of Her sari, and carefully and tenderly dried us off. I felt as though Amma truly was a mother to me.
Over time, I felt I was developing a closer inner connection with Amma. However, it is the nature of the mind to doubt, and I began to have doubts about the relation between Amma and me. How could I really know that I was Her son? I decided to put Amma to a test. Inside my own head, I said to Amma: “Amma, if I am really Your son, You must give me some sort of sign to show that You know what I am thinking.” For the rest of that day, I hoped to see the sign that I had prayed for. But no such sign appeared. That night, when I went for darshan, I was sad.
Amma received me in Her usual loving fashion. She then started whispering in my ear, “My darling, darling, darling, darling son!” I felt that She had failed my test because that was the same thing that Amma always whispered in my ear. Just then, Amma pulled me back, glared deep into my eyes like they were movie screens displaying everything that had ever passed through my mind. Finally, She burst out laughing, brought me close to Her once again, and was almost yelling in my ear, “My son, my son, my son!” Tears began to flow from my eyes as I walked away, embarrassed that I had ever doubted Amma. Yet, I was overjoyed that Amma had given me a sign—I was Her son!
That experience revealed the barriers my mind placed between Amma and me. Had I not always been Amma’s child? Of course, I am Amma’s child! We are all Amma’s children. Amma does not create any barriers. As Amma says, “Just as the nature of a river is to flow, it is Amma’s nature to love.” Amma is the river, She is taking all of us, the coarse rocks that we are, polishing us with Her love, and thus bringing out our inner beauty.
We all have the ability to love like this but our minds create barriers that block the flow of love. Though I am still not free of these mental obstacles, Amma has made such an immense difference in my life. When we see Amma, we see an embodiment of Truth; this Truth has led me to question my own life. What am I doing with myself from day to day? Where is my life headed? Am I working towards any goal? What purpose do my actions serve? Amma has inspired me to try to reach out in my local community, help those in need, and be compassionate towards all people.
During my recent visit to Amritapuri, I witnessed the ashram’s celebration of Onam for the first time. This was yet another example of how Amma leads Her devotees. Over 5,000 people came that day to receive lunch prasad from Amma. Before that, She gave a satsang, sang a few bhajans and danced in bliss. Thereafter, She served each and every person there a plate of prasad. In this way, Amma has inspired many in my community. Amma’s ashrams in America have started soup kitchens, where many devotees go on a weekly basis to serve food for the homeless and hungry. Amma’s love is contagious. It is spreading rapidly, curing the hatred, pain and suffering that have been engulfing the world.
On Amma’s 50th birthday, I look back in awe at all that She has done. Amma started from the seemingly most hopeless circumstances. But She has touched millions of lives, and started countless charities for people throughout the world. Amma is a shining example of what one person can do.
None of us can compare ourselves with Amma, but if all of us come together to put forth just a fraction of Amma’s effort, just imagine what a difference that would make! I thank Amma for all that She has given and for all that She continues to give. I pray that Amma will free us all from that ignorance that is keeping us from being at peace.
1. A festival celebrated in Kerala