Opening To Love

When I was twenty years old I fell in love with God. Our love lasted only one summer, but it was a passionate affair full of joy and light. Every time I sang in prayer I was overwhelmed with pure rapture. The world was a beautiful place full of life, color and beauty. God was magnificent, ever-present and devastatingly glorious.

©Keith Smith
At the end of that summer I left my privileged life in London and started to travel, visiting some of the poorest countries in the world. A few weeks into the adventures, some friends and I were in Kenya. One night we camped out on the most breathtaking land I have ever seen. As the sun set, bright colors ripped across the sky, painting the most magnificent portrait of God. My heart danced in ecstasy at the sight. The moon rose, we fell asleep and that night our campsite was violently attacked by a rabid hyena. A newly-wed woman was bitten. She died three weeks later. Shortly thereafter, a good friend in the community was violently raped by her teacher. The local authorities did nothing. We also feared that another friend had contracted AIDS; fifty percent of the community we were living in carried the disease.

All of this was nothing compared to the poverty. Everywhere we went there were dirty, starving children begging in the streets with no one to look after them. People lived in houses built from scraps of trash. I was experiencing the sorrow of the world for the first time—I was betrayed by my true love.

I moved from city to city and country to country in search of a way to heal my heart. Every time I moved I experienced temporary joy and excitement. When the misery returned, I would move again in search of a new adventure. Over the next six years I lived in thirteen different cities, in seven different countries on four different continents. I witnessed oppression, terrorism, civil war and occupation—Love became a fantasy, lost in a savage world. My heart slammed shut.

I decided that if God didn’t care, then neither should I. When I heard people praying I would close the door to my room and cry.

I remember the afternoon before I met Amma. I felt completely hopeless and alone. I was secure in my belief that love was nothing more than lust and that God was mentally sick. I had spent the whole day, and the day before, watching violent TV re-runs and waiting until I could quit my job and move someplace else. I was suffering from mild depression and terrible anxiety.

Then I met Amma.

I remember my friends only got me into the car because they bribed me, saying, “There is really good chai…” So I was willing to go… only for the chai. I spent the entire car ride to the program in Toulon trying to convince them that this Amma thing was idol worship and really not a good idea. They just rolled their eyes and reminded me about the chai.

Then She walked into the room. This tiny, beautiful black woman in a white sari. She touched my hand. My whole hand. I still remember. That night I went for darshan. It felt as though Amma planted a seed into my heart, and over the next twenty-four hours it sprouted. The next day I was desperate to get back to Her. I went for darshan again that night and broke down crying. I heard Amma’s voice so clearly in my mind: “My darling daughter, it is not God who is twisted, it is only your mind.” I sat in the post-darshan seating area hysterically sobbing. God was beautiful after all… I yearned to be close to Her again. Amma kept looking at me and laughing. Every time She did this, I would laugh with Her for a moment. Then the violent tears would come back again, shaking my whole body to the core. I grieved for the years lost to so much anger and pain. I had been completely stuck and hopeless, but now She was breaking me free. She looked at me over and over again, eyes sparkling with joy and compassion.

Several years passed. My life transformed. Every time I saw Amma one more layer of pain would evaporate like smoke. Layer after layer of suffering just slid right off.

I moved to Amma’s ashram in India. When I first arrived, I remember sitting on the floor doing seva and spontaneously breaking into giggles. I just could not believe that heaven existed on earth, and here I was sitting right in the middle of it.

Amma deals with the suffering of the world by serving. She has orphanages, schools and charity hospitals. She builds houses for the homeless, feeds the hungry, gives pensions to widows, and provides disaster relief all over the world… the list goes on and on. When I encountered a world of suffering I got lost in desperate grief. When Amma sees suffering She transforms it.

When we traveled on the South India tour this past year we stopped for some time in one of Amma’s orphanages. These children had nothing, but because of Amma, they now have a future filled with hope. When She sang, they all stood up and danced in bliss. They reached out their small hands to touch Her. She held their hands, looked deeply into their eyes and danced along with them.

What I have come to realize is that the problems of life will never just evaporate. We live in a world full of pain and darkness. Sometimes it hurts, it is true, but with Amma’s grace and the proper understanding we no longer have to choose to suffer.

When Amma holds me in Her arms, the truth becomes so clear: love is real. I hadn’t known that. Before I met Amma, I had never actually experienced love. She shows me that no matter how dark the world may be, underneath it all, there is only love.

Amma makes life simple and beautiful. She is an expression of compassion, completely selfless and wholly good. She gives me the strength that I need to face each day with joy and gratitude. Amma is a beacon of pure light and I truly believe that if we are open, Her love will heal everything.

Thanks to Amma, every day is a miracle.

— Sumeeta