Before meeting this simple woman from the south of India, I had no idea that a saint could still be in flesh & bones. I was used to seeing people becoming saints long time after their deaths. I didn’t search for a saint, but was thirsty for the truth. And then she came to me. For the non-believer, that’s the fruit of my imagination, but for anyone else, it is a blessing. Realizing any new concepts is acutely difficult for one who has no personal experience. I know and appreciate that difficulty like anyone else.
I was introduced to Amma by a person who qualified Amma as a true saint, a Guru that walks her talk & teaches Love by as a simple a gesture as hugging people who were coming to Her without taking any break for whatsoever reason. Hugging them, and loving them equally & went as far as calling them “my children”. I thought to myself “Really?” I had to see to believe. No, Amma doesn’t take break. Doesn’t go to the bathroom. She is offered some snacks & drink, and she actually accepts some, but often I saw her refuse the food & drink, or even made faces like she was being forced to eat. Often Amma accepts things from us in order to satisfy us so we are not hurt. She does a lot just to please us, you have no idea!
It’s been 6 years since I first met Amma & yes just like any skeptic I took my time. I can now safely testify, that saints can be living beings. No more waiting long after their death to venerate them, one can can do it while they’re in flesh and bones. Amma travels the world to console & love. Well, she is exceptionally good at consoling and loving. Only personal experience can tell the difference between a saint & a normal person.
Amma teaches Love, and that Love you can find it in any scriptures. She doesn’t have any one religion, except Love, the essence of all religions. For some, Amma is like honey. They drink & savor her nectar, and get everything they need from that. For others, they need that Amma punishes them so they can correct themselves – because a Guru teaches in various ways depending of the person’s mind. Also, that same mind can misinterpret Amma’s ways because there are no way to understand her. The ego misleads the seeker.
That is why Amma’s ways often lead to confusion and people not understanding that, says wrong things about her. It is not because Amma didn’t look at you during darshan, that she gave you less than others. It is not because she didn’t talk to you that she doesn’t know what’s in your heart. Yes, Amma’s attention is often towards monks or devotees that talks to her non-stop. If she answers, that’s because she knows that’s what they need. Sometimes, she won’t even answer and would skip to another question. It is not because Amma makes you a monk (brahmachari) that you become better than someone that doesn’t wear yellow or orange clothes. If they still ask questions, that’s because they haven’t reached the goal, and Amma’s darshan doesn’t make us saint just by her touch – that would be too easy. We are still imperfect; Amma is only a tool, a guide, to lead us to the goal. With necessary efforts we can go toward God (type here the name of your choice) with her help & blessings.
Many have complained about her selling too many things, sometimes too expensive, items during our tours. But is there anybody forcing us to buy them? These items are available because the demand is there. The profits goes to charities. Oh yes, the dolls! That bothers so many people! Let me explain: Amma is a Guru (but will never tell you “Hey buddy! I’m a Guru, I’m a Saint – Worship me!”. Never! It is up to you to decide! Some use these dolls to feel a connection with her that they aren’t feeling while they aren’t in Amma’s physical presence. I know people who are following Amma ever since she came to North America and never felt attracted to the dolls. Some receive their darshans once in their life and that’s enough for them. Some can’t live without it and move in her ashram or follow her. We are all different with different needs.
The first time I visited to Amritapuri, I found a harsh place! For other first timers, they found heaven. I found renunciates there rude & pushing others in order to be closer to Amma. It’s just the way some people are bred to be. We run into such characters just about everywhere in our lives. Thankfully, the majority were very sane & educated people! I soon realized it was only Amma’s way to force us face my inner issues and teach me to be tolerant and more patient. Friends also told me that Amma took mentally challenged persons in her ashram in order to take care of them, at least they would have a shelter, food to eat and be followed regularly by a doctor. Amma knew by taking them under her wings that they wouldn’t be living in the streets. I met some myself & spend time with them. If this place was commercial & made to funnel funds, why would there be such a mix of cultures and people? Wont it be one squeaky clean place dishing out ready-to-be-served spirituality? Instead we find a place open to all without distinctions, where we face our inner struggles & rewarded with the find that will eventually take us to the truth – our inner sanctum.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to analyze the lives of those who left Amma, from people who have personally known them. And its the same story repeating itself, every single time. Unable to face their inner demons, they found themselves scurrying to find a safer haven to hide. The bigger the ego, the bigger would their attempts be to make their cases against this this saint, desperately hiding behind their own issues. Some realize it, some don’t.
At the end of the day, it is up to us to decide if we accept ourselves the way we are or just leave.
It is up to the heart if these truths sticks or not. But, one day the realization has to dawn. Amma doesn’t hold me against my will. I know she will love me even if I don’t love her back.