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ANASUYA DEVI (1923-1985)

Dr. Timothy Conway
Magazine : Mother of All
Language : English
Volume Number : 5
Month : April
Issue Number : 2
Year : 2006

(…continued from last issue)

Amma’s teaching is characterized by an unrelenting emphasis on 1) the immanence of God as this entire play of forms, 2) a perfect contentment/equanimity over whatever happens in the world, and 3) a nondual devotion (abheda bhakti or parabhakti) toward God as the Cosmic Principle, with the realization that “All is HE, All is HIS doing.” For a few ripe souls on the wisdom path (jnana-marga), Amma would tell them to take God’s viewpoint: “You are all, all is YOUR doing,” but on the whole she was a consistent advocate of the “Other-power” idea as found, for instance, in Pure Land Buddhism that we are never ever the “doer” of actions, that the ONE alone who emanates this universe is the sole doer of all actions. These words of Amma have the effect of eliminating the “I/Thou” or “me/not-me” split which characterizes most people’s outlook, a dichotomy between an egocentric “me” “over here,” and a “God” and “outside world” “out there,” a dichotomy which brings untold suffering (over frustrated desires, inexplicable injustices, pain, grief, and so forth). Amma maintains a theology of complete nondualism. 1) refusing to accept the notion of a separate ego agent with “free will” and. 2) not defining God as the “creator, sustainer, transformer of the universe, but as the universe itself. With this latter emphasis on the complete immanence of God (THAT) as the world-appearance (THIS), Amma undermines the traditional ways of Indian Vedanta thinking (and certainly the theology of Western religions) which tend to emphasize the priority of a formless, transcendental principle (nirguna Brahman, Siva, the Noumenon) over above an “unreal” play of phenomena. Her transcendent Divine principle was so transcendent that it simply could not be found “elsewhere” beyond or separate from the immanent aspect of this Divinity! For Amma, THAT is not separate from THIS: Formless and forms. Shiva and Shakti are one. Therefore. She eschewed the distinctions employed by many Vedanta teachers and teachers in other traditions which value the formless, transcendent Reality as “more real” than the phenomenal world. This made for some unusual interchanges unlike what one typically hears between masters and disciples in India or in the Judeo-Christian Sufi Western world. We will hear Amma’s specific views subsequently; here, just as a brief example, we note that one of the earliest Western devotees to visit Amma, Marva Hemphill, had this conversation with Amma on September 4, 1968:

MH: Mother, tell me what God says (to you).

M: I do not see God anywhere. I haven’t seen Him: you are God to me! MH: Me?!

M: I am not seeing Him. I don’t believe that He exists (as some separate thing.) You are God to me. That is all. Whichever object or person might look at and with whomever might speak that is God to me. I have no desire to see Him for I have not felt that He exists…… You are not thinking that you are God, but feel so. You heard it said that he is in all, but feel He is All…..

MH: When all people worship you, what is your reaction? M: I feel that I am one with them….. When I feel that the worshiper and the worshiped are one in essence, where’s the difference? God’s creation is God Himself.

In short, everything Amma spoke actually confessed the ancient nondual (advaita) Vedanta truth that “All this is Brahman” (sarvam Brahman), the truth that, when perceived clearly, the world (THIS) is nothing but God (THAT) and should not be denigrated as something which is “not God.” This attitude. incidentally, is virtually identical to the outlook of many Ch’an/Zen Buddhist masters (especially as found in the views of someone like Dogen Zenji, the great 13 century Japanese Soto Zen Buddhist master), who refuse to make a distinction between a Buddha – principle separate from and underlying a manifest appearance: in the spirit of the early Mahayana Buddhist work, the Heart Sutra they realized that “form is emptiness, emptiness is form,” that all things/processes are Buddha-nature, and that, in the final stage of genuine spiritual realization, “mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers,” the perfect “full circle” enlightenment which a leading contemporary Korean Zen master, Seung Sahn, calls “just like this.” Because of these views, Amma (like the Buddha and the Ch’an/Zen masters) never advocated any “inward and upward” strategies of other-worldliness or life-denying asceticism. True renunciation, she would assert, is “love for all”.

Whereas this “World is God” panentheistic doctrine may sound to some Western ears as merely a form of pantheism. giving license to all manner of immoral indulgence, we must remember that, in Amma’s presence, people spontaneously adopted an unattached, uncomplicated, virtuous, godly life of selfless, joyful service to one another.

This leads us to the next point: in keeping with the notion that we are not separate ego-agents with free will, but that everything is happening according to the Divine Will, Amma rarely gives anyone any “advice” on “what to do” in order to become spiritually realized. At most, she would simply recommend that one equanimously and joyously experience whatever happens, painful or pleasurable, regarding all as God or Sakti (Divine Power). If one is meant to undertake a specific spiritual practice, the Divine Sakti will see to it that this happens. Otherwise, if the Sakti is not so ordained, all the “trying” and “willing” will only bring an egoic sense of frustration.

At the highest level of seeing things, a grand paradox prevails: people come to the spiritual Master with a great sense of dilemma that something is “wrong”, that they are not enlightened or not pure enough or not happy or whatever. Yet the real Master knows that everyone’s true identity is pure Spirit, absolute Being-Awareness-Bliss, not affected by the play of the personality, the body, the world-events. Thus, a true Master is not interested in “changing” or “improving” anyone. Such was the case with Mother. She regularly undermined people’s sense that something was spiritually wrong with themselves, and brought them to a place of contentment and peace with WHAT IS, the Will of God as manifested in whatever is happening in the world’s appearance (including one’s own mind). Now, most fortunately, it seems to be a universal law that whenever one lets go of trying to change something and simply flows contentedly with whatever is arising, then the previously judged “problematic” situation. spontaneously rectifies itself. Therefore, in getting people to stop negatively judging themselves and stop trying to change. themselves, Amma helped them to let God the sole Reality – transform everything into a more Godly fashion.

– (to be continued)

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