3 December 2011

Mother Amritananadamayi at Karthigai Deepam 1982

The below narrative tells of Mother Amritanandamayi who with some 50 devotees visited Arunachala to attend the 1982 Karthigai Deepam Festival.

The story goes thus:-

"At the end of November 1982, Mother and a group of us went to Tiruvannamalai on a ten-day pilgrimage. This was the first time that Mother had left Her village for such a long time, and also the first time that the Krishna and Devi bhavas would not be held since their inception in 1975. We took a train on a Monday morning after the Sunday night bhava darshan and arrived the next day. There were about 40 or 50 of us, and we all stayed in the two houses I had built when I had earlier resided there. Mother gave darshan in the house in the daytime. Many devotees who were living in and around the ashram came to see Her. In the evenings She sang devotional songs in Ramanashram in front of Ramana Maharshi's tomb, or samadhi shrine as it is called.

On the morning after our arrival, a sannyasi called Kunju Swami came to visit Mother. He had been born in Kerala and was a disciple of the famous saint Narayana Guru, who had lived at the beginning of the century. Narayana Guru had brought him to Tiruvannamalai when he was a young man and had entrusted him to Ramana Maharshi for his spiritual upbringing. He was now in his eighties. But Mother treated him like a five-year-old boy, and he enjoyed it, behaving like a child with his own mother. When he sat in meditation, Mother placed Her hand on his shaved head and danced a little "ditty" while going round and round him.

A friend of mine in Tiruvannamalai told me that when I had left to stay with Mother in the beginning of 1980, Kunju Swami had said, "Nealu would never have left this place until his death if the Mother there in Kerala were anyone but Parashakti (the Supreme Power)." And you could see in his expression that he indeed looked upon Mother as the Goddess incarnate.

It was the Karthigai festival day at Tiruvannamalai, and it was customary for the devotees who had come to take part in the festival and circumambulate the holy hill Arunachala. To complete the circumambulation of Arunachala, one has to walk more than 12 kilometres. It was only the day before that we had climbed all the way up and down the hill with Amma, and thus that day all of us were feeling tired. So none of us stirred to do the circumambulation.

That day Mother suddenly bolted out of our residence all alone. This was obviously an escape; She clearly did not want anyone to follow Her. Since I was the only person who saw Her leave, I immediately grabbed some bananas, cookies, and drinking water, put them in a bag and ran after Her. Having witnessed Mother's lack of body-consciousness, I knew that She might very well get lost. I followed Her from a distance as She walked around Arunachala Hill, obviously in an intoxicated mood. Seeing me running out of the house, all the others followed on my heels. Mother was walking at a very rapid pace and gradually She disappeared into the distance, leaving us behind.

We immediately hired a horse-cart and started driving around Arunachala Hill, looking intently for Amma. The previous day, while climbing the hill with Her, we had come across many caves on both sides. Amma had gone into some of them to meditate and it was only after much urging that She could be persuaded to come out. While descending from the mountain, Amma had said, "I don't feel like coming down, but thinking of you children I am restraining myself." So we guessed that Amma might be sitting in one of those caves. But how to find Amma among the numberless caves on this vast hill? Everyone was worried.

The horse-cart finally reached the hill. After travelling a few miles, we suddenly caught a glimpse of Amma's form, walking far ahead of us on the road. When we had driven up fairly close to Her, we got down off the cart. It was a glorious sight to see Amma. She was swaying to and fro while walking, as if drunk. Her whole body was vibrating, and Her hands were forming sacred mudras (mystic hand poses). Her eyes were half closed and a blissful smile glowed on Her face. It looked as if the Goddess Parvati were circumambulating Lord Shiva! We followed Amma and instructed the horse-cart to follow us. We began chanting Vedic mantras and loudly singing bhajans. The hills echoed with our chanting. The bliss of samadhi that radiated from Amma, together with the joy of singing and chanting, blessed all of us with a sublime experience.

After we had followed Amma for some distance, She turned round and cast a glance of indescribable love at us. Her gaze held so much compassion and power that it seemed she was burning away all our karma and vasanas (deep-rooted tendencies). Slowly Amma came down to our level. Soon She was laughing and talking with us affectionately. A little tired by the long walk, She sat down under a tree at the roadside for a few minutes. Despite our suggestions, She refused to get into the horse-cart, and was soon up and walking again. Thus we all walked for the full eight miles around the hill.

Towards the end of the circumambulation, we saw a snake charmer playing his flute by the side of the road. Amma went and sat before him, watching with great interest as the snake danced to the music of the flute. Like a little child, Amma asked, "Children, why don't snakes have hands and feet?" Her innocent question made us all laugh. She Herself then gave the answer: "In their previous lives, they may not have used their hands and legs properly. Children, keep in mind that such a birth could come to anyone who misuses what God has given him."

Now her facial expression had completely changed, revealing the seriousness and majesty of the Guru. "Children," She continued, "Amma knows that you love Amma more than anything else. You cannot think of any form of God other than Amma. Therefore, you do not really have to circumambulate the hill. However, you must become a role model for society and should set an example for others to follow. In olden days, people were able to see God in their gurus. But in the present age, not many people have that power of discernment. This is why conventional rites and rituals are required for the ordinary person. Society can learn from your example how to follow these practices. So, in the future, always honour those rituals in order to uplift mankind. Amma Herself does these practices to teach you the proper path."

We all sat in chastened silence, absorbing Amma's words. After a few moments, Amma continued, "Children, don't be sad thinking that Amma is always correcting you. Never think that Amma doesn't love you. It is only out of Amma's overflowing love for you that She instructs you. Children, you are Amma's treasure. When Amma renounced everything, there was only one thing that She couldn't renounce -- and that was you, my children. It is only when Amma sees you becoming the Light of the world that She feels truly happy. Amma doesn't require your praise or service. Amma only wants to see you acquire the strength to bear the burdens and the suffering of the world."

"Mother's profound, nectar-like words brought our egos crumbling to the ground. Falling at Her feet we prayed, "O Mother, please make us noble! Please make us so pure that our lives may be sacrificed for the salvation of the whole world."
For the Karthika Deepam, a sacred fire was lit on top of Arunachala Hill, representing the light of spiritual illumination blazing forth in the darkness of ageless ignorance. We all went to the town one morning to see the chariot festival. Images of the local deities were placed in a huge, ornately carved wooden chariot more than 100-feet tall, and a procession was made through the streets with people pulling the chariot by rope. It was a joyous occasion and a sight to behold.

While Mother was standing on the balcony of one of the buildings to get a good view of the chariot, an avadhuta named Ramsuratkumar came to see her. He had been a disciple of the well-known Swami Ramdas of Kanhangad in northern Kerala. Ramsuratkumar was highly revered in Tiruvannamalai for his saintliness. Dressed in rags, he had a long, flowing beard and in his hand he carried a fan. In Mother's presence, he became like a little child, and looked upon her as his spiritual mother. This opened the eyes of the local devotees as to who Mother really was.

After 10 blissful days in Tiruvannamalai, we all returned to the Ashram (in Kerala)."

[By Swami Paramatmananda]

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