Sri Mata Amritnandamayi Devi was born in 1953 in a small fishing village south of the state of Kerala. Since she was a child she dedicated herself to writing and composing songs.
His dedication to the spiritual world and his devotion to others earned him recognition from his neighbors. and, at the end of the seventies, it began to have disciples, both local and foreign.
In 1993, Amma was elected one of the presidents of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, held in Chicago. Two years later she was invited to speak at the 50th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations.
In 2002 the The United Nations awarded him the prestigious Gandhi-King Prize for Nonviolence.
Amma has launched a wide network of charitable activities across Indiaalthough it is in Kerala, in the southwest of the country, where its most important humanitarian work is focused.
The volunteers of the non Governmental Organization Mata Amritanandamayi Mathchaired by Amma, are working on the creation of schools, In the management of orphanages and medical centersthe construction of households free, the installation of lighting and supply of drinking water, and in the distribution of food among families without financial resources.
They also teach specific training so that less advantaged people can enter the labor market and can improve their quality of life.
With bright eyes and a perennial smile, Amma is much loved inside and outside her native India. Amma kindly answered our questions.
the power of hugs
Why do you dedicate yourself to hugging people?
–My purpose is to awaken love and motherhood within each being, whether male or female. Human beings are born to experience this pure, divine love, but there is an absence of this love in the world. No matter what the society, religion or culture, today there is a deficit of that love. My hug is not only a physical hug but I intend to hug to awaken each person’s inner nature. It is a gift that I want to offer to all people and I do it through hugs, but also through meditation, songs…
Just as the sun does not need the light of a candle, God does not need anything from us, but I believe that by offering help to those who really need it, I am serving God. For me everything is God, that is why I serve, to the best of my ability, all people, because I understand that each one of them is God. My mission is nothing more than to serve and give love to everyone.
What do you feel when you hug someone?
–If you see a hundred pans full of water, you see a hundred reflected suns, but in reality it is the same sun that is reflected a hundred times. In the same way, I see each person as a reflection of my own being and, therefore, I love him as much as I can love myself. For example, if you hurt your left hand, instantly your right hand goes to the left to help or relieve it because you feel that both are yours, they are a whole. When I hug I feel the same.
–What do you think a person is looking for when they come to you to be hugged?
– It depends on each person. Most come for a spiritual search, to try to deepen their spirituality. Other people come for personal, emotional, work problems… and they offer me their problems, honestly and without hiding.
How do you see the world we live in?
–In today’s world, people are becoming trapped in themselves and do not give themselves to others. The solution is to open their hearts, but they also don’t know that the key to open it is within themselves. When I speak and hug a person, I can feel their pain as if it were mine, their joy as if it were mine, and I also see and want to make them see that their strength lies within them, that they should not look for it outside. My purpose is to awaken the consciousness of each person so that they can search for their own vital energy.
–When did you realize the power of your embrace?
–First of all I want to point out that I am not the only one who has received this gift, this capacity is within each one of us. We all have that divine potential, it just depends on how we use that inner energy. For example, a carrier and a scientist use the same tool, the head, but for different purposes. The same happens with that divine potential, each person uses it differently.
A life given to others
Do you remember how your humanitarian work began?
–It started in my village, on the coast of Kerala (India), where the majority of the inhabitants were fishermen and totally depended on the sea to live. If they did not get enough fish to eat, they would go hungry that day. When I was 7 or 8 years old, I used to visit about fifty houses a day to collect money to feed the cows in my house.
When I went to the homes I saw how the families lived, some in abundance and others in famine. Other people were sick, some old people had been abandoned by their families… There was no birth control, so many families had 10 or 11 children and couldn’t feed them. So I started giving food from my own house to families, to the elderly alone… while wondering why some had so much and others had nothing.
The traditional answer in India is that people suffered because of their karma, because of their past actions. But I was not satisfied with this answer. For example, if you see someone fall into a pothole, you can stare and do nothing, thinking that their karma wanted it that way, or offer them the help they need to get up again. Resigning myself to the facts is not enough for me, it is not enough. You can do a lot for another person, but you have to really want to do it.
–How can we open up more to others and improve as people?
–Most people base their lives on emotion and this must be balanced with the mind and contemplation. To achieve this balance, each person must focus on a specific path, not try many paths without delving into any, because they remain on the surface. If a person focuses in one direction, he can accumulate a lot of vital energy.
With an example, perhaps it can be better understood: we can be like a river with streams, which little by little loses flow and, therefore, strength (this is the case when we think about many things at all times), or we can keep all the flow in the same river so that it generates a lot of energy and this can be well used. People have an infinite inner energy capacity, but many times we don’t know how to channel it or we simply don’t know how to recognize or value it.
And why do you think this happens?
–According to Ayurveda there are three types of people in the world, which are called with Sanskrit words: tamasic, rajasic and sattvic. Tamasic people are asleep, they live in dreams; the rajasic type person is very active, but he is too concerned with his ego; and in the sattvik people the pure heart prevails and, therefore, the divine energy becomes more evident. It is as if we have different light bulbs with different levels of light. Thus, people show that divine light with different intensities.
Many religions use the example that we are a pencil of God, who uses us to do his work. All spiritual practices, all religions exist to help each person create their space of inner silence from which all their actions must spring. If you have a handful of seeds in your hand, they will not sprout if you have not planted them in the ground before. In the same way, the spiritual teachings are not things that are read in a book and that’s it, but rather they are teachings that must be cultivated every day.
But there are conflicts that seem to come from religion…
–The purpose of a religion is to help us observe the true nature of all things while constantly remaining in the depth of our authentic being. In that state, all differences disappear. There is no single path that leads to God.
“What is harmful is not that there are many religions and beliefs, but to think that they are different and that one of them is superior to the others.”
–Behind his embrace, a whole movement of volunteering and helping others has emerged. How was this altruistic organization born?
–It arose like a flower. It was nothing organized, everything was spontaneous. For example, if someone is hungry you can’t just sing them a song, you have to do something to help them get food. First you have to take care of the body so that people are willing to listen to spiritual truths. For me there is no difference between the material and the spiritual, they are the same, because the spiritual life teaches us how to live balanced in a material world, how to move forward in life when any obstacle arises, how to emerge strengthened from bitter experiences.
For example, if a person who knows how to swim goes a little into the sea, surely this activity will provide him with a rewarding and fun experience, but if you throw someone into the sea and he does not know how to swim, it can be a horrible experience in his life. In the same way, if we have a strong spiritual base, we have valid tools to face and, many times, overcome the obstacles of life.
After interviewing herhugged me, or rather, We hug. A warm, enveloping and sincere hug.
As soon as I did, I felt two things: the sandalwood scent of her white clothes, and the tenderness and love that it transmits my real mother when she hugs me, Perhaps that is why she is popularly known by the nickname of Amma: Mother.
Amma: “Today people are trapped in themselves and do not give themselves to others”