Published On: Mon, Sep 19th, 2016

“It is not the mode of transportation that matters, but your ability to enjoy.”- Sri Mata Amritanandamayi

Exclusive Interview * Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma)

 Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma) started her spiritual journey throughout the world in 1987. She has travelled across six continents to spread spiritual discipline among the people. After reaching a country, she used to travel only through roads and so far covered millions of kilometres in vehicles.  Smartdrive interview is planned in such a way as to shower light on Amma’s travel across the world. Excerpts from the exclusive interview to Smartdrive, the no. 1 automobile magazine in Kerala.

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Last year (July 2015) Amma delivered the keynote address at United Nations Academic Impact conference. The speech emphasizes on the importance of uplifting the poor through technology. Could you please share Amma’s vision in making the world more beautiful through technology?

Amma:The world is already beautiful. Humankind just needs to avoid destroying that beauty. Already so much damage has been done, both to the environment and society. So, it is more of a process of restoring the beauty of the world—a process of undoing the damage that we have already done. The technological advances we have achieved in the past should be applied to rectify the mistakes we have made, and to safeguard the world’s resources for the future—both natural and human resources. A famous person once said, “If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.” Technology can be applied for the sake of the physical (basic needs), mental (spiritual) and intellectual (education) health of humanity. For the sake of Mother Nature, we primarily need to apply technology to bring about a difference on the physical level, like nano-solar and other technology to help reduce our carbon footprint and to promote sustainable agricultural methods. But Nature also has a “mental” dimension, or a subtle body, which can be harmonized by spiritual vibrations. Mantra japa, meditation and prayer are the spiritual technology that can neutralize much of the harm humanity has done to Nature. Such spiritual practices will refine the minds of those in scientific professions, helping them to come up with more beneficial innovations as well as inspiring them to use their innovations to compassionately uplift the downtrodden.

 

Amma during her travel through rural India

Amma during her travel through rural India

Amma’s form of giving darshan is by hugging people. She has embraced more than 35 million people throughout the world for over 30 years. How far this embrace helped the world to recover from its maladies?

Amma: Darshan is unconditional giving and forgiving. I don’t expect anything from anyone in return, including a change in their conduct. To understand the transformation better, you would have to ask the people how they feel. Even so, countless people have given up addictive habits, like smoking and drinking. Many who were on the verge of suicide have transcended such feelings of desperation and started living lives of fulfillment, beneficial to society. Many youngsters have abandoned wasteful ways, and started saving their money so that it could be applied towards helping the poor, like providing education and food to the needy. All of the wars, conflicts and social injustice in the world originate from the human mind. Thus, what the world needs most is compassionate hearts, full of love for humanity as well as the inner strength to serve. In fact, all of us have that pure love within us, but it normally remains in a dormant state.

Amma's devotees used to travel along with her in buses

Amma’s devotees used to travel along with her in buses

Through darshan, I am helping people to awaken to that power of love, which is the most profound force in effecting social transformation. It is only because of the selflessness and self-sacrifice of millions of devotees around the world that our organization has been able to offer some service to society. Instead of creating “vicious cycles,” these devotees and volunteers are creating “virtuous cycles” around the world. Because of their selflessness and self-sacrifice, we are feeding one crore people annually in India, and more than one-and-a-half lakh people annually in North America. They have constructed more than 47,000 homes for the homeless in 75 locations throughout India;provided more than Rs. 540 crores in free medical care; more than Rs. 475 crores in disaster relief; and are providing pensions for one lakhwidows and people with disabilities. In 101 villages across India, they are working to provide clean drinking water and sustainable agricultural solutions; proper homes, community centres and streetlights; as well as scholarships and literacy through tablet technology and tutoring. The transformation of countless hearts has enabled us to provide free medical care to more than 40 lakh people since 1998. They are keeping more than 51,000 children in school worldwide, through scholarships in seven countries. I also encourage our university faculty members to focus more and more on research that will help the poor and needy, and will promote sustainable development. They have risen to the challenge, and now a great deal of research is going on in Amrita University.

What modes of travel does Amma use to have while traveling across the world? What are the preferred choice of food during the journey? Doesn’t she feel tired during the tour? Please share the experience of the most devastating travel and how she overcome it.

Amma:Of course, going abroad is always by air. However, once I reach a country, whether it is the US, Europe, Australia or any other continent, the rest of the entire tour is always by road. Within India also I always travel only by road, right from Amritapuri, all the way up to Kolkata. When Amma travels in India and abroad, hundreds of people travel with her in several buses and other vehicles. We carry our own kitchen tent, the required utensils, big cooking vessels, plates, cups, chairs, sound system, etc. When the entourage reaches the programme venue in each city, the volunteer staff members set up everything and start cooking very early in the morning. It’s an all-day-through-late-night affair. One who visits these kitchens at Amma’s programme venues in India and abroad will have a tangible experience of how work can be transformed into real worship. These kitchens are places of festivity.

 

Amma's devotees used to carry cooking utensils during her travel and used to set up temporary kitchens at the places of camping

Amma’s devotees used to carry cooking utensils during her travel and used to set up temporary kitchens at the places of camping

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The Europe and Northern India tours are in the beginning of winter. In almost all cities, the kitchen is in tents outside the main hall. But, the atmosphere is ecstatic; people sing and dance. To them it feels as though they are not really working yet they are working very hard, but there is no tension. Rather, the playfulness imbued in the work acts as an antidote for any tension or negativity. If you ask for a logical explanation for such a joyful experience, to be frank, there is none. No matter what country it may be, Amma’s favourite food is that which is prepared with love. While the body takes the physical toll of the long darshan hours, when people are waiting longingly for a loving embrace, I forget everything and cannot remain still. I feel an uncanny restlessness to go to them.

Amma used to spend hours for showering blessing on her devotees. What is the secret of her magical energy? Doesn’t she feel discomfort while sitting for darshan for hours?

Amma: A mother does not feel tired while taking care of her baby, but a babysitter can easily become bored. I don’t feel that I am like a battery that will die away after it has been used for some time. I experience a constant connection with the source of all power. Amma doesn’t see darshan as a job, but rather as an offering of love, so she doesn’t get tired. We never feel tired or bored when we do something with love. I see everything and everyone as an extension of my own self. So, when you see others as you, there is no feeling of two; there is only one.

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How can you discard yourself? Do you feel bored with yourself? When the lower form of love is purified through spiritual practices, it gradually transforms itself into the purest form of energy. Love is a ladder. You can either stay at the lowest rung, or you can keep climbing until you reach the highest peak of love. In that state you become just a beautiful and pure presence, like a river or wind.

A devotee handsover food to Amma during a travel

A devotee hands over food to Amma during a travel

The Amritanandamayi Math undertakes charity works all over the world. What are the recent initiatives undertaken by the math?

Amma: There are so many on-going projects all over the world. I don’t plan anything ahead of time, which is the normal way of the world. My way is to respond to a situation. When a situation arises, I just respond. It is like a call and response.For me, compassion is everything. It is the first and last step. Everything revolves around that centre.

Since Amma’s life itself is a spiritual journey through the world, how far the physical travel through the world helped her to find out the true meaning of life?

Amma: For me, life has no other meaning other than compassion. If there is a one-word solution for most of the problems that humanity faces today, it is “compassion.” Life has no meaning of its own. We create meaning and purpose to it. Life is like a blank canvas. God has given us the brush and paint. God won’t tell us what to paint, but will show us how to paint.

 

Amma with her devotees in US

Amma with her devotees in US

Did Amma meet any accidents during these journeys? What is the opinion about the transportation in India and the countries she had visited?

Amma: By divine grace, there were no accidents until now. The travel experiences in India and outside the country are different, mostly cultural. It is not the mode of transportation that matters, but your ability to enjoy. The inner capacity to enjoy all situations, good or bad, is most important. If you evaluate your travel experiences only by the quality of the roads, vehicles, etc., you may say, “West is the best.” Of course, foreign countries have a much better system compared to India. They have good roads, better vehicles,faster trains and so forth. In India, too, except in Kerala, roads outside have improved a lot. We also have almost all the branded foreign cars available here. Each country has a uniqueness in its culture, people, their customs and habits, their festivals, etc. That is what makes it beautiful. Looking from that angle, the entire world is like a flower. Each petal is a nation. That is how I see it.

 

Amma with her devotees in India during a travel

Amma with her devotees in India during a travel

Amma can be described as a travel saint. How far she might have travelled during her lifetime? Could you please tell us it in kilometres? Also the number of countries she had visited, the number of people she met and interacted.

Amma:Journeyed through all six continents. Visited and held programmes in so many countries. Travelled millions of kilometres. Personally met and interacted with millions of people. I can’t be specific. I simply don’t do it. It is not my way.

Amma in US

Amma in US

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