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Devotee Children from Distant Lands

Dr Tangirala Simhadri Sastry
Magazine : Mother of All
Language : English
Volume Number : 6
Month : July
Issue Number : 3
Year : 2007

(Continued from the previous issue)

During Amma’s tour to Madras and Ramanashram in Tiruvannamalai, a young man from England, à Graduate in Law, who was present there among the crowd, was particularly struck by Amma’s Graceful countenance and concluded that his long search for a spiritual Guru has come to an end. Having come to this conclusion, he followed Amma and her entourage to Jillellamudi.

This is Mr. James Campion for whom many of us are familiar after his arrival in Jillellamudi. He was so much drawn to Amma, that he decided to settle there. Very quickly he adapted to the place, the food and other aspects of life there, donning the traditional Indian clothes. In no time he became part of the institution, participating in all the activities of the institution, including the day-to-today administration. For some time he handled the management of Transport and administration of Himalaya with typical British punctuality and dedication. He had a house built for himself on the second floor of a building constructed by and for devotees from Visakhapatnam. His love and attachment to the institution was so much that he supported and continues to support the developmental activities taken up there from time to time

Having settled down there, making it his home away from home, he decided to enter the next phase of life. Thus he chose a girl from a Telugu-speaking family from Andhra Pradesh and married her in the traditional Hindu way in Jillellamudi. It was a grand celebration in which many of the brothers and sisters, even coming from distant places, attended the wedding. The womenfolk among the inmates took up the roles of Bride and Bridegroom’s party.

His contributions to the growth of the institution are many and he took part in many yagams and homams performed there when Mother of All July September, Amma was present physically. After his marriage he decided to set up his family in the town of Guntur. During his stay in Guntur he had his first child, a girl child. From there he shifted to Bangalore, where he had his second child, a son. After living there for a couple of years, he built a house in Mysore where he shifted his residence. Now he lives there with his wife Sandhya and the two children continuing his links as well as the same keen interest in the happenings and developments in Jillellamudi, visiting there occasionally and lending a helping hand whenever there is such an occasion and need. So, I would like to call him James ‘Champion’ instead of James Campion as he champions the cause of the institution in Jillellamudi and he is a good companion too. He is also Campion for the reason he helps (indirectly) run Medical Camps by the Matrusri Medical Center located in Jillellamudi.”

There were several other brothers from across the seas who made it to Jillellamudi during 1974-77 some of whom stayed for a couple of months. Notable among them are Ms. Leslie from Italy, Harry Kamsky (Bhim) from USA, Paulo of Italy, Antony Fisch (Shyam) from UK, Nigel from Italy, Raymond and Duncan from UK, Haiku of Japan, Suchi and Daniel from UK, Fred Schmitter from Amsterdam, Sonagiri (Jean-Marie Pierre) of France, Among these, Nigel loved to chant and play Amma’s namam on guitar for couple of hours. Bhim of the USA used to do gardening in the vegetable garden that was there for some time during those years. Terry from the UK also married a girl from the nearby town of Bapatla and settled there. Sonagiri of France remains in constant contact with the institution. Paulo, I was told, made a visit recently with his wife and child

Rodney Alexander Arms of New Zealand was another child of Amma who was in search of his moorings and on the lookout for a spiritual source on which to anchor his faith. He landed in Jillellamudi and the lap of Amma, the very source of life itself, on the advice of a friend in 1976. He continued his stay there near Amma for another four years through the devastating cyclone along coastal parts of Andhra Pradesh in 1977.

The stay not only helped him in sorting out his thoughts but also to pursue his interest in philosophical aspects. In this direction, having sought out the intellectuals among those who visited Amma and taken her own responses, he set out to compile the conversations the visitors had with Amma on various aspects, the diaries recorded and maintained there during those years. He was helped in this endeavor by one Mr. K.Gopasla Rao by translating into English, the conversations recorded in Telugu. A book ‘Talks with Amma’ compiled and Edited by him was finally published by the Matrusri Publications in 1980. A reprint of this book was brought out by Viswajanani Trust, Hyderabad through the Sterling Publishers of New Delhi and was released on 12th June, 2006 in Jillellamudi. He returned back to New Zealandin some time in 1979.1 understand that he now lives in a recluse, away from all the hustle and bustle of the city life, devoting all his time in spiritual pursuit.

Another young man, a graduate in Archeology from the USA of Jewish descent, arrived on the scene in Jillellamudi to satiate his spiritual hunger. This man is as familiar as Mr. James to many of the brothers and sisters in the Jillellamudi fold and through his book ‘Mother of All’ to many others outside the precincts of Jillellamudi. This is Richard Schiffman who was living in another ashram at the time he first heard about Amma- from an Indian acquaintance who had been to Jillellamudi earlier. This acquaintance described to him about Amma in glowing terms, the ‘House of All’ and the environment there. Though not impressed initially, all the same, he noted down instructions as to how to get to Jillellamudi (one can get many of the details of his journey to Jillellamudi and his subsequent experiences there from his book ‘Mother of All’)

He set out on his journey as directed. But when he arrived at Bapatla railway station and went to the Matrusri Printers opposite the station, the Manager of the press, an elderly gentleman, told him, to his utter surprise and disappointment, that Amma was not there in Jillellamudi and also he was instructed not to divulge the information on Amma’s whereabouts, lest Amma might be disturbed from the recuperation she was undergoing in a Nursing Home. A little later, however, on consideration that he was a foreigner who would have come from a far off place, he made an exception and revealed that she was in the Nursing Home of Dr. S.V. Subba Rao in Nellore, a coastal town on the trunk railway route from Bapatla to Madras (now Chennai). On hearing this he took the first immediate train bound towards Nellore, spent the night in a Lodge there and the next morning went looking for Dr. Subba Rao’s Nursing Home, Amma’s place of stay.

Having arrived there, he was ushered into a quiet and dimly lit room where he found four westerners. He had his first darshan of Amma there and struck by Amma’s utter simplicity, the unpretentiousness in such sharp contrast with the self-important demeanor of so many other spiritual leaders (Ref: Mother of All, by Richard Schiffman, p.13) he had come across before. He spent a week there in the company of other westerners and in the Divine presence of Amma and left the place to return to the ashram from where he undertook this journey.

He returned a few months later, this time reaching Jillellamudi, where he stayed and spent the better part of the next decade. During this stay he mingled with the rest of the inmates and very quickly he became part of the institution. He utilized most of his time in meeting people here, talking to the old-time visitors and gathering information on devotees’ experiences relating to Amma apart from experiencing himself, in full measure, Amma’s Divinity through several incidents and events, which he was witness to.

It was during this time that he scripted his magnum opus ‘Mother of All’, a book that dwells in detail on the Divine enactments and various facets of Amma as he perceived. This was first published in 1980 by the Matrusri Publications, Jillellamudi. He returned to his homeland in 1982, but made occasional visits to Jillellamudi until 1999 and has been in constant contact with the institution and brothers and sisters in the Jillellamudi fraternity. It is heartening to note that he revised the book ‘Mother of All’ in the US and brought out an elegant edition of this book through ‘Blue Dove Publishers’ of San Diego, California (USA) in 2001. (The copies of the Indian Edition of this book are now available from New Age Publishers of New Delhi as well as their authorized book stores in Chennai – the book is priced at, I understand, Rs. 395.00)

– (Concluded)

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