Every mother feeds her child which needs no mention. Obvious truism it is to say so. In the natural order of the species each mother feeds her own offspring. Very much cares for them, nurtures the same with concern till the time that they are on their own and are able to fend for themselves in the wider world.
Granting this obvious fact of life, it is extraordinarily uncommon, to be more precisely unique, that a person regards every being as one’s own child and pronounces caring for them as such. It is not merely the humans, but all the living beings and the entire existence to be deemed as one’s own offspring and relating to these as such in a truly motherly way was never seen earlier. Nor do we find a precedent of this sort even in our ancient scriptures. Our ancient lore only made a mention of such motherhood in the universal mother ‘Jagan Matha’ more in an idealistic manner as a concept that was never lived up to in a human form as such.
All of us have seen JILLELLAMUDI AMMA in real life, in real time in flesh and blood living up to this ideal which was perceived and even experienced by all of us. This is so to the point that most of us regarded AMMA JILLELLAMUDI, and loved HER much. more than our own natural mothers. This being so, very truly for any mother the child’s feed and food is of utmost concern and much more so for our divine mother. AMMA accorded the greatest priority to feeding HER children, above all else.
It is common knowledge to the visitors that AMMA many a time insisted on having their food first, even before having HER darshan that bestows all auspices on HER children. Sometimes, without speaking SHE used to gesture about having their food in the darshan with HER hands. Even in the final moment of bidding farewell to all HER much loved children and lying in state for the final look of HER by the children, SHE is to repose in a cavernous tray of the Annapurnalyam in which rice is put in huge quantities to be served for all. This final concern of HERS on our feeding was too touching and heart rending that brought copious tears for most of the near and dear.
On the occasion of the anniversary of Annapurnalayam some of these thoughts about feeding by AMMA pass through the mind, with a nostalgic reminiscence that borders the pensive at times. This gives us the much wanted feeling AMMA no longer feeds us in a physical form. Any such experience is only mystic from now on for the future generations of AMMA’S children to be bestowed by the icon in the temple.
Well to recall fondly there were many such instances of AMMA feeding us that need be captured for the benefit of the posterity.
AMMA has always been festive and joyous on the times of weddings which SHE personally performed at Jillellamudi, at times, SHE herself choosing the bride and the groom, summoning the parents of each. Parents responded with alacrity when SHE herself played the role of the match maker, with the implicit belief that AMMA knows the best interests of all for the better for all times to come more than any human matchmaker. Viewed in this manner, individual choices are also of little relevance which are relegated and surrendered to AMMA’S will.
Such being the case, AMMA always personally attended to the marriages performing the same in jubilant mood adding to the merriment of the wedding celebration. Many of these marriages were performed on the dais in the dining area of Annapurnalayam.
As part of the celebrations, the marriage feast termed ‘Duvvapu Banthi’ is a very special occasion in which every near and dear, the kinfolk, as also the residents of the ‘House of All’ at Jillellamudi were to join. The food was served in AMMA’S presence on the dais, every one savoring HER benign grace along with the food.
To recall once again, AMMA were to mix the rice, curries, condiments, soupy liquids, snacks and even sweets all put together in a very large basin. SHE mixed with HER hand this special mixture of rice and all the dishes being served on that day which becomes a large lump sum in the basin.
Then one after the other, all those present filed past AMMA in a queue stepping over to the dais. AMMA fed each one of them a handful of such mixed rice. This had a singular taste of its own, nothing like that of any other dish known to us. This was delicious and every one licked his hands off when the rice mixture was finished. This tasted superb and delicious that is never known before to us human beings, nor could we ever know in the future. Presumably, AMMA’S touch and grace gave this mixture such a unique flavor and taste that shall be remembered and cherished for one’s lifetime.
As always, one or two skeptics used to comment on this mixture which were hardly heeded and fell by the way side. Some of the curious wanted to know and understand this process and taste which were of little avail. This was carried on to such an extent that one girl in the ‘House of All’ attempted the same but could not contain such rice mixed with all food items and gave up vomiting. This proved beyond a point that the singular taste was only imparted by AMMA or so to say emanated out of the love of HER divine, universal motherhood and nothing else.
Another important occasion AMMA did this was when food was served to AMMA at the time of performing obsequies. All the items prepared along with rice were always served to AMMA with all the side dishes placed in small receptacles. All these along with rice were arranged in a large basin and offered to AMMA. This was often done in AMMA’S chambers placing a small table before HER cot on which SHE rested. Sometimes, even dishes relished by the departed soul were earnestly included in such servings before AMMA.
AMMA here again mixed all the dishes along with the rice with HER hand which always becomes a sizeable quantity. From this mixture AMMA fed all those present along the kith and kin of the departed soul who were always present on the occasion. Every one lapped up the quantity served by AMMA deeming the same as holy offering (prasadam) and a few looking for another helping. The taste was exceedingly good, to uniquely describe something of its own that everyone looked for more.
Personally, I can recall this on my own, the time of my father’s first anniversary that took place in Jillellamudi during May 1978 in AMMA’S presence when to be realistic the moorings of my stay with AMMA and Jillellamudi were beginning to be forged. Presumably AMMA assumed the responsibilities of my father for the family.
AMMA took care of me assuring that SHE will look into all the details of performing this first anniversary of my father which shall be left to HER and that I shall
not bother personally about the same. Even the invitation cards were printed at the Matrusri Press, Bapatla without my looking into the same or being concerned about the same.
As the years rolled by, AMMA’S physical condition did not permit this ritual of mixing rice with all dishes served and feeding the children in this manner slowly receded into the background. Even some dissuaded AMMA from doing this seeing AMMA’S physical condition which is strained by such efforts though it is delicious and enjoyable for us the children to eat the food mixed and served by AMMA.
This is the gross process of AMMA feeding the children with the staple food of rice and other dishes. There are subtleties involved too in the process that are perceptible at times and not at most other times.
In the early 1970s, could be in the year 1972 I was watching this process of AMMA mixing the rice with all dishes and feeding all the children present on the occasion. I was just standing near the dais leaning on the concrete post. The rice mixed contents of the basin before AMMA were fast depleting, as one by one filed past AMMA coming on to the dais. I was just curious and doubting whether the rice mixture in the basin shall last till all of those assembled there were fed.
I was avidly watching the feeding of children by AMMA in process and quick progress as a bystander. I could see the contents lasted till everyone was fed or given some portion of the rice mixture. To vividly recall, Brother Pannala Radhakrishna was one of the stragglers in the end, could be last but one or two and he also got a morsel of the rice mixture being fed by AMMA to his content. Reckoning the number of the persons present who were fed and the quantum of the rice mixture in the basin before AMMA, I could never rationally interpret the process, nor perceive the intricacies of this divine doing of AMMA. It defies our understanding as to how the rice lasted till everyone present was fed and how it was adequate.
It is befitting to recall a much widely exemplified or demonstrated experience of this kind that received general acclaim, well deserving notice of every one.
In the year 1973, AMMA desired as part of HER golden jubilee celebrations that one hundred thousand numbers of HER children be fed at a time on that truly memorable occasion. Arrangements were made extensively in the surrounding fields stretching up to seventy five acres with thirteen fireplaces for cooking and pedals for accommodating the people who come to take food in such large numbers.
However the thinking was varied on this occa- sion. The skeptics always doubted whether devotees in such a large number of one hundred thousand shall ever turn up for eating the food served. Others doubted the feasibility of such a singular feeding in such a large number at one point of time and one place in such a small village like Jillellamudi that is devoid of even the basic infrastructure those days.
With these mixed feelings every one or all awaited the momentous day. Soon after the day break within a few hours, a few people were slowly moving into the village for the occasion. Watching these stragglers coming in, some doubted about the number one hun- dred thousand coming together to partake of the food served. They were in the dilemma of doubt.
Yet as we approached the noon hours the number of visitors swelled into countless masses as if they were coming out of nowhere or even emanating from the very earth. The ever increasing numbers from then made the responsible persons almost insecure about the prospects of feeding them all.
At this moment Brother Ramakrishna spoke to Brother Gopal, the key person looking after this man moth feeding, to ring up the neighboring town Bapatla and arrange for a few lorry loads of rice.
AMMA overheard this and gave HER typical cryptic assurance. AMMA said in Telugu “Ippudu Meeru Bapatla Nunchi Tecchi Emi Pedtharu. Nenu Snanam Chesi Vashanu, Meeru Padandi”. To capture this in English “How can you ever feed all these numbers getting rice from Bapatla at this moment? Just move over; I will take a bath and come there to bless my children.” The implied counsel and urging admonition or motherly assurance was to keep watching the happenings as they roll on and little of human ingenuity shall be of much avail.
With this assurance from AMMA both the brothers Ramakrishna and Gopal heaved a sigh of relief and proceeded with the arrangements. AMMA came down in all HER resplendent glory to move in a jeep among the endless rows of the people eating the food, to give HER mother’s blessing to the countless children who assembled that day to eat the food served and be subject to HER boundless grace.
Later on from various sources like the bus tickets sold, and the number of servings made in the respective kitchens, it was reasonably affirmed that more than a couple of hundred thousand (two lakh) persons were fed on the occasion of AMMA’S GOLDEN JUBILEE in the year 1973. The remaining food was immersed in the drain ‘River Omkara’ to satiate the water borne species. This mammoth feeding was widely covered and carried over the print media which received resounding public acclaim that such a celebration of massive feeding is unique, historic and unprecedented.
I had a direct first person experience of this event having had a role in all the aspects of this celebration. I could observe even the plastic glasses issued for drinking water proliferated beyond any number to cover all those present. Though this factual experience was brushed aside by me with a rational bent of mind, AMMA confirmed this later on to me directly and personally.
The logistics of this event were stupendous defy ing human capability, rational probability, available resource of men and material and above all the environmental constraints. Later on when we were glorying in this feat to the point that could border personal ego, AMMA revealed in HER own laconic way -“Prakruthi Sahakarinchindi Nanna”.
To present this in English AMMA declared that Mother Nature facilitated all this massive, mammoth feeding effort and its success. Nature is nothing but ‘Prakrithi’ and when it commingles with ‘Shakthi’ it hardly knows any bounds or limits of practicality, surpassing all human ingenuity. The ‘Sakthi’ being that of AMMA’S divine universal motherhood that is openly declared, decreed and ever manifest.
Now the veritable poser after going through all this is ‘could such unceasing effort of feeding and even magnificent effort of feeding hundreds of thousands of persons was only to quench hunger?” Such a response is too simplistic and a divine way, volition or act never tends to be limited in its scope or even the impact.
If so, it behooves us to pursue this line of thought to its logical completion. What could be the inner meaning of this ceaseless feeding of the children by AMMA to the point it received utmost attention seemingly prevailed over all other concerns. True apparently on the visible plane and practical mundane reality, hunger of the children shall be quenched by the mother always and it has been so over the ages.
To look within this could be AMMA’S medium of grace to reach and impact the person in all other ways of life. The food served is the simple, mundane, physical medium to reach the individual that helps his eventual phased evolution or reach to a higher self that is the inner true self.
First and foremost, many felt and experienced that the food served in Annapurnalayam has a therapeutic effect. Many found that it cured their persisting ailments had or being suffered till then. I for one always realize that a single meal at Annapurna layam and one night’s rest or slumber at Jillellamudi charges the physique and spirit in an unknown way. Fills the person with renewed energy and zeal in whatever one is addressed to or committed to do.
Even such renewed energy, let us say for a moment, is a gross effect or physical feature felt. If so what could presumably be the intrinsic effect or the subtlety of this process. After much reflection on this, we are inclined to believe that the process of partaking the food served in Annapurnalayam has much more far reaching impact and the way it acts is much more intrinsic than is superficially understood.
To elaborate, in terms of the conventional wisdom contained in our scriptures, the human body consists or is made up of five sheaths (Pancha Kosas) as they are termed. To put it very simply these five sheaths are overlapping and self containing one over the other. To clarify, these five sheaths are food sheath (Annamaya Kosa), biometric sheath (Pranamaya Kosa), mind sheath (Manomaya Kosa), intellectual sheath (Vijnanaya Kosa), and bliss sheath (Anandamaya Kosa).
These five sheaths are in the given order, viewed in either ascending or descending order for the sake of understanding. Yet, from the point of spiritual pursuit or sadhana, one obviously, necessarily has to proceed from the food sheath. This is the primary layer from which the life force (Prana),
mind (Buddhi), intelligence (Vijnana), come up and culminate in the bliss or blissful state (Ananda), more often termed in the spiritual parlance as infinite bliss-consciousness or (Satchidananda) the ultimate goal of all spiritual pursuit as is often understood.
Granting this, this entire process of the being (Jeevatma) begins with the food sheath which imbibes the food. The energy gained from this food leads or unfolds the path to reach and pass through the other sheaths. The only exception to this gradual unfolding could be that of the highly evolved, advanced yogis right from birth who are almost born with a divine trace ever since their birth.
Others have little choice but to evolve through their body or physique and scale up to the ego, mind, psyche, internal self and reach the level of consciousness or the seamless eternal self that is all pervasive and all encompassing. If so, for the ordinary lesser mortal food is the precondition for any further efforts towards higher evolution from within.
We can observe quite a few individuals who have come to AMMA, taking the food there, changing for the better over the years, be it either in their lifestyle, life mode or in some cases even in their value systems. This is the perceptible intrinsic change wrought over by the food consumed in Annapurna layam, which we have to concede with little hesitation or even a trace of doubt.
Further, of all the biological needs, food predominates without which all the other tasks or pursuits are nullified. Hungry men can do or achieve little in this world. Only when the individual is released from this primal need, can the human physique and psyche aspire for greater heights.
Thus food is the basic prescription of AMMA to meet all other needs or eventually realize the other higher ends or even attain spiritual advancement. We shall understand and appreciate AMMA’S constant and continual, ceaseless stress on feeding the children in which the other ends are implied or hidden to be fulfilled in course; so to say eventually in the wake of time.
Pray AMMA grace us and grant the endless supply of food for the homo sapiens, all the species and the entire existence for all times to come. Pray that this boon of AMMA be so bounteous that food of individual choice and of quality is made available to all living beings at all times as long as this creation endures and the existence continues.
sMy innermost supplication and humble ‘Pranams’ to AMMA’S holy feet with this earnest sub mission.