Amma and Me
How I first “met” Amma
I am living in a 15sqm Japanese shoebox in the suburbs of Tokyo. Everyday I take the train to work from the same platform, in the same carriage, squashed against the same faces and fall asleep on the same shoulders. One day an Australian girl hands me a book called “Holy Cow”. She tells me I will laugh a lot. It is one woman’s journey through India, telling stories of her experiences and the people she meets in a light and humourous way. It’s true, I do laugh a lot. One chapter of the book is about a saint called Amma, the so-called hugging mother of the 21st century. She recounts her meeting with Amma and how she had heard that she could perform miracles. She prayed for her breasts to get bigger and after receiving a hug from Amma they began to grow and grow until she realized that she was OK with her original size! Having never been gifted with big breasts, I wonder if I should go to India too and ask for my own spiritual boob job. The next day I walk out of my apartment at the same time I do everyday, only to see a huge billboard on the street leading to the train station. It has a picture of an Indian woman on it with the large letters AMMA below it. The rest is in Japanese. Could this be her? What is happening? I think about it all day. I dream of big breasts.
I find out, with help from Japanese friends, that Amma is in Tokyo the next day. Tokyo is like four cities in one. It is so huge. The venue is over the other side of the city. A one-hour train ride away. I don’t care. I go. It’s too coincidental. It’s a Saturday. I arrive there in the afternoon. It’s a small intimate place. There are tables selling a few books and mala necklaces. There is a very strong smell of incense mixed with curry wafting in the air. There are some westerners in saris, some Japanese people organizing things and then suddenly everyone stops what they are doing faces me and places their hands in prayer position. I look behind me and there she is standing. Right behind me. I also put my hands in prayer position. She is so tiny. She is right there in front of my eyes. All dressed in white.
“I am beamed back in time. Back to India. And then I melt.
I close my eyes and my whole being begins to dissolve.”
She is so beautiful. Like an incarnated angel. All my thoughts disappear as I look at her. Blank. I am mesmerized by her. I cannot look anywhere else. She throws flowers over my head and the heads of some Japanese people who seem to be shaking bells and praying at her feet. She swiftly wafts past me leaving an after smell of roses. She glides through the stream of praying hands with ease and grace and arrives to a little stage. Everyone follows her. Nobody can look anywhere else. She is a magnet. We all sit down. Some on the floor. Some on chairs. She begins to talk. Her voice is deep, solid, pure, clear and light. I have no idea what she is saying, I am just watching her every move. I have no idea what the Japanese translator is saying either. And then she begins to sing.
The tabla. The bells. Her voice. The smells. I am beamed back in time. Back to India. And then I melt. I close my eyes and my whole being begins to dissolve. I feel tingles everywhere and I listen as if I have never heard music before. Nothing has ever touched me so deeply. Tears roll down my cheeks. I feel a silent surrender into nothingness. I don’t know how long this lasts. Time is ungraspable. The music has stopped and there is a hush and unspoken rush as people begin to form subtle queues and walk one by one up to her to receive an embrace. I watch. I am fascinated by their faces as they leave her arms. Some in tears. Some dazed. Some elated. All clutching something in the palm of their cupped hands. After some time I join the queue. They ask me where my ticket is. Ticket? What ticket? They point me in the direction of the ticket lady. I look at the number on my ticket. It is very far away from the numbers currently queuing. They say I have to wait. I relish in an Indian Tali meal. Enjoying the music, the smells, the tastes. I am in heaven. I feel India. Such a welcome break from the Japanese ways. I sit for hours in the hall and I am aware that the last train home leaves very soon. I find it very hard to drag myself away without a hug. But the 100 yen in my pocket will never cover a taxi. I walk away in tears. I feel elated at the same time. I ride home. No boob job.
“Amma’s teachings are based on unconditional love.
She herself is a living testimony of that very quality.”
A few years later I go to do a ten-day Goenka meditation retreat in Italy. I am five months pregnant with my first child. Amma is in Milan. After the retreat is over Takis greets me from Milan central station and we are hosted by an old friend in the center of the city. Together with Laurino we make our way to a huge stadium the next day to spend the day there. It is the Japanese Amma experience multiplied by ten. It is huge. There are hundreds of people. There are many stalls selling all kinds of Amma memorabilia, books, incense, essential oils and so on. There is a huge food court. There are so many people dressed in white. And there she is. Talking, Singing. Directing. Embracing. People queue and flock to her side. Others sit in meditation near her. She is shining. She greets each person with freshness as if they are a long lost friend that she hasn’t seen for years. She meets everyone as if she knows them intimately.
In between embraces she is chatting, laughing and having in depth conversations with people around her. Its our turn to queue. While I am waiting I pray. I ask her, silently, in my prayer, if my baby is ok. I have been told there are some complications by a medic. As I approach her, someone asks me what language my mother tongue is and I say English. Suddenly I am thrust into her arms. I am there with my head in her lap for an eternity. She whispers mama, mama, mama in my ear and then says ‘baby OK’. She brings Takis into our hug and we walk away holding a small sweet with some rose petals in our hands. I am shocked. I am excited. I am overwhelmed and we are invited to sit near her. There is a cloak of silence around her as people sit, soaking in the radiance of her being. Tears roll down my cheeks once again and I know that this is not only an extra-ordinary being but that it is also a defining moment in my life. I have met her now. I have bowed in her lap. I have touched and tasted the Goddess. She is exquisite. The size of my breasts has paled into complete insignificance.
Amma in our lives
Since then I have tried to be near Amma as much as my life and commitments allow me to. I have spent time in her ashram in India, both with and without my children. I pop up in her destinations around Europe to feel and taste the familiar ambiance of her being. She comes to me in my dreams. She is in photos around my home. I ask for her guidance regularly. She has baptized all of my children. I bypass all of the craziness that can happen around her. The fanatics. The obsessed. Each time I try to zoom in on her essence only and not judge but allow my heart to open to her magic and light. I read her books. I listen to her songs. I chant my mantra. I try to stay focused on her teachings and what she is trying to make us understand about life and its many ups and downs. I start organizing small events in Greece with one of her Swamis. He carries her teachings and her spirit so eloquently around the world to places that she doesn’t visit. Slowly an intimate Greek Satsang group is formed and Amma’s teachings are brought to mainstream Greece. When one of my twin babies die in premature labour I call the Swami to ask for Amma’s blessing and wisdom. He calls me back after speaking with her. “Your baby was not meant to be incarnated on this Earth. She did the journey she needed to do to accompany her sister. Now she is merged as One with Amma. Name your other daughter Amrita – nectar of immortal bliss”. That’s her message. I weep. I know she is right. I follow. My baby is named Amrita. My other baby is named Angelica.
Amma’s teachings are based on unconditional love. She herself is a living testimony of that very quality. She is an inspiration and shows us all that it is possible to live like that. There are countless stories and mystical happenings that are shared amongst those who have come into close contact with her. She has no personal gains for fame or fortune. She embodies humility, simplicity, generosity, patience, compassion, endurance and a whole spectrum of other qualities that make her the Divine presence that she is. She is accessible. She is pure. She is grace. She is Amrita – nectar of immortal bliss. And she dedicates her entire life to spreading this light and love across the whole world. I am filled with gratitude that her teachings and shining example have played and still do play an enormous role in my life.
As we are not allowed to publish photos with Amma taken by the Ashram photographers, the photos here are of us either on tour with her or in Greece with the sangha and Swami Shubamrita.
For more information on how to find Amma each year on her Autumn tour in Europe see the link below: www.amma-europe.org/tour