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Magazine : Mother of All
Language : English
Volume Number : 9
Month : October
Issue Number : 4
Year : 2010

St. Augustine records in his Confessions that as he sat one day by the sea in meditation a radiant child appeared before him, and asked what he was doing. The saint replied that he was trying to understand reality. The child proceeded to dig a small hollow in the sand, then to fetch water from the sea and pour it into the hollow. After some time, the saint became curious and asked him the purpose of this activity. The child told him that the ocean being so vast he wanted to fetch it all into his small hole to contemplate it in its entirety. The saint laughed and explained to him that his task was impossible foolish, said the child. “No less foolish” than your attempt to comprehend reality with your own finite understanding……” Reproduced from Matrusri (English), November, 1985.

This is how one feels, contemplating Amma and trying to give expression to one’s experience of her. There is a sense of vastness, of unimaginable depths which will never resolve into mere ‘understanding’. The reasoning reflective mind does not begin to approach her. She indicates most potently what the Galilean sage indicated to his followers in the words. ‘Only when you become a little child shall you enter the kingdom’. This too, Mother implies is not in our hands: for even if we feel that this total innocence and trust is beyond us, we are nevertheless her children and just as Jesus spoke of the providential care of the father who watches over even the fall of a sparrow, so may we feel the unobservable protection of the mother who blesses us all according to our true need.

So may I simply share, inadequate as they may be, some personal impressions and reminiscences.

I had first heard of Amma through a South African friend who had made various visits to Jillellamudi and expressed a kind of simple faith in Her spiritual influence on him. From that time, though, I could form no clear picture from what he said. Her name was somehow lingering at the back of my mind. Later on, I put up for a day or two in a friend’s house in Mahabalipuram, on whose wall was a captivating photograph of Amma, heavily bedecked with flowers, smiling serenely. There was also a copy of Amma’s talks, in English, which I read through, spellbound, during a sleepless night, with the ocean roaring in the background. There seemed to be a special flavor in those words which I had never quite tasted before; the subtle authority of a jnani coupled with the simple affection of a mother. Funnily enough, I forgot all about this until, some weeks later, in another part of the south the same friend turned up and invited me to join in an expedition to Jillellamudi itself. I found myself agreeing at once, with that sort of inner feeling: O, yes, of course. I was waiting just for this’. A kind of inevitability about it.

When I first went to pay respects to Amma, I was rather nervous, not knowing what to expect, or what kind of ‘etiquette’ revealed here. As I entered Her room, She was sitting with a little girl. They were playing on a kind of small ‘pin-ball’ board. Having bowed, I just sat down and looked on. There was something compelling about Amma’s expressions as She played with the child. For a while She would appear totally absorbed in the game, as if she were trying to win it; then She would suddenly become nonchalant, flipping the ball haphazardly as if She didn’t care. I don’t know how long I watched this in fascination, seemingly unnoticed by either player. After some time Amma tossed the game aside. I was wondering if I ought to say something, but just then the lunch bell rang below and Amma indicated to me, with that searchingly kind and solicitous look of Hers. So hard to describe, to go and take food. Quite apart from what I might have been imagining, I was deeply struck by the sense of absolute naturalness, of freedom about her; by the equal eye of her acceptance. It was sort of obvious that I did not need to represent “myself” in any way to such a one, she already knew all about me, it felt, more than knew about myself. And she simply wanted me to eat my food……..

One thing about jillellamudi is that it is such a small and intimate environment that one can never forget why one is here as one might do in more expansive or more scenically attractive holy places. Amma’s presence is so enormous, reaching into every corner. I was feeling at that time especially that she heard every word I said and knew every thought passing through my mind. Usually I had just been roaming about the land settling here and talking up whatever life-style came to hand. But here there was no need for a life-style and (outwardly at least) no variety of distractions from the business of simply being in Amma’s sphere, being under her wing. At times I felt a strong mood of oppression and constriction, even a strong urge to sleep or to run away. But inwardly Amma was helping me to see this for what it was: Simply the sickness and self-pity of the ego when it is denied its usual scope for indulgence and is forced to recognize a greater authority and a deeper guidance. For even as this kind of mental confusion was going on (and I am still far from free of it) there was arising a deep love and thankfulness towards Mother (which may I please never be free of) an indefinable joy in concentrating on her, and especially in chanting her name. Every darshan was different and meaningful in its own way: sometimes I would feel tense and impure and unable to meet her eye. Other times I just found myself gazing helplessly at her. Sometimes inwardly agitated and wondering if she noticed; other times (especially in the evening under the stars when we would sit quietly around her couch) bathed in a luminous tranquility. When the innermost heart seemed to whisper: Yes all is well and all is well, there is nothing to regret and nothing to attain; be healed, be blessed it was as if phases of awareness and insight which one might ‘strive’ fruitlessly for through all kinds of sadhanas and experiments of life just arose naturally, unselfconsciously, in Amma’s simple presence.

These are the words of an ancient Sufi master: the way cannot be preached and it is even taught in some cases by example and guidance which may be unknown to the learner’s ordinary faculties, if one is your teacher, he will make you benefit from his luminescence whether you know it at the time or not. He may discomfit you. That will be intended and necessary when you first meet him. He may seem to be very much like you. He is not.

Though I am only speaking of a short period of time chronologically, it seems to refer to an eternity. Those weeks leading up to Mother’s last birthday, during which seemed particularly intense. There seemed to be a subtle and penetrating magic everywhere, with the name of god constantly vibrating in the air and weaving through our dreams in the deep of night.. There was a kind of overwhelming Amma-ness about everything.

Shortly after the Birthday, I took a short trip, with my dear brother Paolo, to my old haunt of Tiruvannamalai.I left as if I was seeing that place for the first time with a crystal intensity, and Mother seemed to be everywhere. What is it? That elemental sense of oneness; Bhagavan, Amma; Father, Mother; fullness, emptiness. The Selfness of it; just one the thing which cannot come into these words, and yet nothing special, and yet everything special. That which is always here, unifying all teachings. ‘Seek, enquire, know thyself’; ‘Be effortlessly aware’. ‘Purify your heart with good works’. Simply celebrate the moment. And Amma says, ‘Take your food’. Just One.

Well, I seem to have rambled on and said nothing. There’s the underlying feeling that Mother works in us below the threshold of ‘conscious’ mind; there are memories which are not memories. This was beautifully expressed by Carlos Castaneda in his fables of spiritual apprenticeship. In one passage he describes his recovery of the memory, dormant in his ‘left-side’ awareness, of his preceptor, the ‘Nagual Woman’.

As I rested my head on a pillow. my memory seemed to clear up, then I knew who she was. She was the Nagual woman; the most important being on earth. She was the feminine analogue of the Nagual man; not his wife, not his woman, but his counterpart. She had the serenity and command of a true leader. Being a woman, she nurtured us.

I did not dare to push my memory too far. I knew intuitively that I did not have the strength to withstand the full recollection. I stopped on the level of abstract feelings. I knew that she was the embodiment of the purest, most unbiased and profound affection. I loved her more than life itself. What on earth had happened to me to have forgotten Her?’

Remembering, forgetting. And Mother says, ‘I have no forgetfulness. How strange it was to witness Her suffering in those ominous days of Her last illness. In one way it seemed impossible that such a one could really be involved in physical suffering, and in another way impossible that she should not, for nothing human could be alien to Her. One felt She simply was that suffering not separate from it. But who knows? As always with Amma, there was the sense of some mysterious leela being played out of which the mind could form no true judgment. I felt this even to the ‘end’. The morning, sister Bim, who had been attending on Her, told me that Amma was in much better spirits and seemed on the way to recovery. I felt a deep relief. In the evening I was sitting in the garden, just star-gazing in the gentle night. I heard a mysterious sort of roaring sound, as if some great wind were passing by, though without stirring a leaf. I was pondering on this when the fateful bell rang summoning us all upstairs. As I ran up, someone said to me ‘Amma died’. I remember feeling in that moment two things at once: the shock wave in the pit of the stomach, that She was actually gone, that it was actually possible for her to leave us; and simultaneously a kind of light, confident feeling that this was still another act in Amma’s Leela a curtain call, as it were that actually She could not leave us, that Amma died, made no sense.

Sitting in Her room that night, this was borne deeply in. There was no feeling that something was ‘dead’ which had been ‘alive’. These categories made no sense. The void which Amma leaves in full to the brim, and ‘time’ itself will take away the sting of Her physical absence. I recalled how Ramana Maharshi asked those gathered around his deathbed, ‘where could I possibly go?” How the sage Jakob Bochme when asked where the ‘soul’ goes at death, replied, ‘There is no necessity for it to go anywhere’. All One.

Well, this is too many words. Do you remember how St.John says at the end of his Gospel that if all his Master’s acts were recorded ‘the world itself could not contain the books that would be written?’ So with Amma. Beyond words, beyond memories, Her mystery is constantly unfolding to the hearts of all Her children. The very earth of Arkapuri is vibrant with Her Prema. She is feeding us all moment to moment. Is it not so?

Precious Mother, may the heart that seeks you and the heart that finds you be as one!


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