Is Amma’s Support for Women’s Rights A Fraud? A Letter from Srividya Sheshadri

MYTH: Amma only pretends to care about women’s rights. In reality she treats them as second-class citizens, with fewer rights and privileges than men.

REALITY: Women in Amma’s organization have been empowered to serve in management positions as well as many schools and institutions, where they manage men as well as women. Amma has also empowered women to break many traditional gender barriers, from serving as priests to working as plumbers. Amma’s programs in women empowerment have transformed the lives of more than 100,000 women.

Srividya’s experience implementing women empowerment programs under Amma’s guidance proves that these allegations are unfounded. The reality is that Amma is deeply committed to empowering women—within her ashram, within all of her institutions and within society as a whole. The following is her first-hand account:

My name is Srividya Sheshadri, and I am from the United States. I have been working as a social-science researcher at Amrita University since 2008, and I became the leader of the research team for Amrita’s Women Empowerment (WE) Project in 2012.

It was after graduating with a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University that I felt drawn to join Amma’s global humanitarian organization, Embracing the World, for its commitment and focus on social service. And while I have known Amma for the last 26 years, my experience since moving to India and working at Amrita University’s AMMACHI Labs[1] has reaffirmed what I have always known to be true about Amma: that her entire life is dedicated to selflessly serving others, and a big part of that service is about empowering women. I am writing this to share my experience in the field, which has helped me appreciate all that Amma does.

Amma Is the Embodiment of Women Empowerment

The concept of “empowerment” often becomes convoluted—there are many interpretations as to what “empowerment” means. However, the tangible impact of Amma’s initiatives upon the lives of women in India has shown me first-hand what empowerment really is. Allow me to share some personal experiences to show you what I mean.

I had the privilege of being a part of a very small team that trained and certified India’s first-ever batch of female Assistant Plumbers through our computerized vocational training tool (revolutionized by the application of haptics and simulation technology for skill development.)[2] Not only was Amma the visionary behind this path-breaking effort, she also personally guided and motivated the female pioneers. Her faith in the women’s capacity to succeed in this field also strengthened my resolve that age-old social norms can be broken.

When many of the women who were a part of our first batch of plumbers signed up, they didn’t know that they would be ultimately learning plumbing; they thought they would just be learning how to use a computer.  When they came to understand the actual syllabus of the course, many of them continued only because of their trust in Amma and the credibility of MA Math.

But soon we witnessed their motives for staying in the course broaden. Initially, they were enthused by using computers for the first time—something they never imagined they would ever do. A few had computers in their own homes but were forbidden by their husbands to touch them. This had made them fearful of technology and had deepened their insecurities. However, as the course progressed and they saw that they were actually learning how to be plumbers through the computers, there was a perceptible transformation in their self-esteem. Within a few months they were cutting pipes for the first time, installing faucets, repairing toilets and tiling bathrooms. As their hidden talents were gradually uncovered, you could see that they started to really believe that they were capable of anything.  Within a span of just six months, we witnessed the transformation of these women from being so timid that they were afraid to even touch a computer mouse to being able to boldly stand on the stage of an auditorium, filled with an international audience, and demonstrate their mastery of plumbing skills.[3]

I remember being surprised by the women’s unwavering determination. I would have never expected any of these women to take up a technical vocational trade in a male-dominated field.  But Amma was their inspiration. She made it clear that she believed in them, covering all the expenses of their education—from training to tools. Amma personally instilled in them the courage to face any challenges that arose by counseling and encouraging them along the way. Even the discouraging remarks from members of their community, who were unable to conceive of the concept of female plumbers, did not sway their determination.

Women Empowerment

Srividya in discussion with graduates of the Ettimadai WE Center in their tribal colony.

Today, I continue to be in awe of these ladies, who didn’t just successfully complete a computerized plumbing training course (three months training followed by a three-month apprenticeship) but who also then put their skills to use, working for the past two years as full-fledged plumbers.

Following the demonstrated success of our innovative technology to train individuals in vocational training and life-skills using computers, AMMACHI Labs decided to scale the project to empower 3,000 women in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. We decided to call the expanded version the Women Empowerment Project (WE). With support from the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and Amrita University[4], the WE Project was inspired by Amma’s vision for “a world in which women and men progress together, a world in which all men respect the fact that, like the two wings of a bird, women and men are of equal value.” [5]

Within 18 months, the WE Project met its goal of providing vocational training to more than 3,000 women struggling to find financial independence. We did this through our cutting-edge computerized vocational-education technology curriculum [6]. The immediate results have been moving, to say the least. The women impacted by the WE Project speak for themselves:

Sreelekha, Changanasseri WE Center Graduate (Batch 1):

“I was never involved in any social initiative like this before taking the course. The WE project is a platform for vulnerable women like myself to voice an opinion and come out of the self-oppressed state we live in. If we can provide the right environment women like me will definitely voice their opinion.”

 Sunitha, Meppadi WE Center Graduate (Batch 8):

“Women Empowerment is not just about having the freedom to whatever we want. It’s also about having the self confidence and courage to do whatever we are capable of. The desire and ability to move forward in life has to come from within ourselves.”

Savithri, Madurai, WE Center Graduate (Batch 2)

“People would go out of their way to avoid inviting me anywhere*… While I’m still not invited to attend any functions, I feel welcome at the WE Centre. For the first time, I’ve started to go out to other places, like my children’s school and college. Through this course, I left a life in jail and stepped out into the world again.”
(*Savithri was widowed early in her marriage and as per the custom of her community, widows are considered a bad omen and often forbidden to attend any social gatherings.)

These projects have not only challenged the traditional barriers that limited women and people from lower-caste communities, but have also set new trends and expanded the cultural social psyche, bringing it closer to one that accepts and treats men and women equally.

Amma Is the International Development Expert

While academicians cite vocational education as a pathway out of poverty, our initial pilot studies exposed the need for something beyond vocational training to help ensure employability. What we learned through experience, Amma has always known, as evidenced by her multidimensional concept of poverty:

“In today’s world, people experience two types of poverty: the poverty caused by lack of food, clothing and shelter, and the poverty caused by lack of love and compassion. Of these two, the second type needs to be considered first—because, if we have love and compassion in our hearts, then we will wholeheartedly serve those who suffer from lack of food, clothing and shelter.” [7]

Having been with the project and having witnessed the participants’ transformations from the very start, I know without a doubt that the only reason it is has been and continues to succeed is through Amma’s visionary leadership in breaking the barriers of poverty.

When they started the course, it was apparent that their worldview and view of their own capacity was confined mainly to the gendered-static roles as wife or mother or wife/mother-to-be. Having been mainly confined to their homes, they lacked opportunities to broaden their horizons. This course helped them to gain a new, much broader view of their own capacities and possibilities.

The Impact

The thousands of women impacted by the WE Project are a testament to Amma’s vision and commitment to helping marginalized communities.

And the spectrum of impact is wide: Women who were widowed for years, feeling lost and purposeless, are now driven to succeed; women whose husbands didn’t trust or believe their wives could survive in the world without them, have demonstrated that they are just as capable; women who were left with the responsibility of providing for their own family after being abandoned by their husbands now have the means and courage to do so; women who felt socially and geographically isolated now have a bond with their community; women who were help-seekers are now help-providers, paying it forward. All of the 3,000-plus women that have been trained via the WE Project have an improved quality of life in at least one way or another.

Another inspiring project is Amrita SREE (Amrita Self-Reliance Education & Employment) initiative, which facilitates the formation of self-help groups for women. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Amma immediately recognized and addressed the need for vocational training and empowerment, particularly for women. The devastation and loss had forced many women into a role for which they were unprepared. Amrita SREE was launched with the goal of empowering women with a sense of security and financial stability through vocational training and community support. Since 2004, the program has helped more than 100,000 women throughout India to form self-help groups and start their own businesses in a variety of trades such as beautician, snack-production, tailoring, nursing, driving, handicrafts, electronic repair and more.

The WE Project and Amrita SREE are just two of the many humanitarian initiatives Amma has launched that are now in full swing. Real people are benefiting and real lives are transformed. My experience confirms that Embracing the World is an amazing NGO with significant reach and the impact to deliver on what it sets out to do. I am so grateful knowing that the work I do is significant, fulfilling and meaningful.

What I have understood from my experience is that, to Amma, no individual is insignificant. Amma has offered her entire life to the selfless service of the world and inspires others to do whatever they can to help those in need.

For Further Reading:
Women Empowerment Project: AMMACHI Labs


[1] Amrita University’s AMMACHI Labs (Amrita Multi Modal Applications Using Computer Human Interaction) is a center of technological innovation breaking new ground in the field of computer-human interaction, developing application designed to improve quality of life for the least fortunate among us. See: www.amrita.edu/ammachi
[2] The computerized vocational education MES Assistant Plumbing course was developed completely in-house at AMMACHI Labs.
[3]A workshop on haptics and computerized learning for skill development in vocational education was held at Amrita University on January 3, 2012 as a part of an international conference on technology-enhanced education.
[4]MA Math is the parent organization of Amrita University.
[5] Excerpt from Amma’s keynote address delivered at The Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders in Geneva 2002.
[6]cVET and LEE were developed entirely in-house at Ammachi Labs.
[7] Excerpt from Amma’s speech, “May Peace & Happiness Prevail”, delivered at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Barcelona, Spain, 2004.



Categories: Amma Controversy, Amma Lies, Amma Scandal, Amma Truth, Amritanandamayi Lies, Amritanandamayi Scandal, Gail Tredwell, Recent, Women Empowerment

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8 replies

  1. Srividya Sheshadri’s posting on Women’s Rights beautifully encapsulates Amma’s commitment to empowering women.

    My responsibility is to secure collaborations for Ammachi Labs. The United Nations seemed a natural place to start, and sure enough, the UNDEF organizers recognized that Amma’s work allows women with low literacy to learn trades traditionally limited to men, thus qualifying them for more jobs and widening the scope for all women to gain financial independence.

    The women who have been trained as plumbers now want to start their own business, an idea that was unthinkable just a few years ago. Their confidence level is amazing! Maybe the most impressive result of their training is that these same women are now encouraging their children to stay in school and become educated. It is a cycle that can only benefit society as a whole.

  2. Srividya – thanks for writing an article about this. Working in Ammachi Labs, i too have been touched deeply by how Amma’s teachings are reflected in the work that is being done by not only Ammachi Labs, but by all of the other projects as well. I never thought that i would get the pleasure of being involved in something so special and profound, as working with the beneficiaries of the WE project. I really appreciate being able to witness how their needs are addressed in such a multifaceted way, not only providing them with training, but with education to help instill confidence in them and to give them the tools they need to make positive changes in their own lives.
    Before meeting Amma, i was already on somewhat of a spiritual path, doing meditation, yoga etc, but now that i’m with Amma and having the opportunity to participate in such amazing activities which benefit society, the path of spirituality has become, in addition to the meditation and yoga, a path of action – essentially compassion in action…again, thanks for writing this..

  3. Thank you, Srividya, Sneha and Jamie,

    and I would like to add that Amma’s influence and empowerment of women goes much further. Not only in the very concrete and tangible aspect is Amma changing the lives of so many women, but also in very subtle ways. Myself also having had the joy of being able to contribute to AMMACHI Labs, Tbefore that, two years ago, I was a teacher at the engineering college in Amritapuri. I can say that the difference of attitude among students who came from an Amma-devotee-background to others who did not, is quite interesting. Both, young women and men, clearly presented an attitude of much more reverence and respect towards women in specific, and society in general. Young women displayed good confidence in making careers and even travel, and even not necessarily getting married but continuing a life of service to the greater good – supported by fathers and mothers. Even in this day and age, in India this is extremely unusual. Young men displayed a general respect and sense of responsibility which was even more obvious; sons of families that had nothing to do with Amma, or were even opposing (yes, they do go to Amrita university nevertheless because it has an excellent reputation) were quite different in many visible ways, meaning more old-fashioned in the sense of entitlement and less general respect, regardless of character and personality.

    Having come to Amma only three years ago, I have seen the youth “out in the world” in Europe, Japan and India; and now I see the youth that grew up under Amma’s wings. And they are a beautiful youth coming of age now, both in the West and the East. I now have hope for the future again. To me, this is also a very important aspect of women empowerment – one that includes the sons as much as the daughters and will show its fruits in ten and twenty years from now.

    • Great comment – very true. The youth around Amma are wonderful in their holistic and balanced attitudes. The world needs a lot more of this balanced strength and minds that are a lot less fearful.

      One of my favorite memories – someone asked Amma why people were just not as orderly as they should be at the ashram in India. Amma said(hoping that I am rephrasing it properly): the children are all like unique creatures in the jungle. After I’m gone it will be like an office and all very organized. But as long as Amma is around she prefers the jungle and the uniqueness of each person as they are – there is a special beauty in that.

      I have to say that in my experience I’ve always only seen how much Amma has cherished the originality of each person – I’ve seen several instances where she was so delighted to see people being true to themselves.

  4. Gail makes her reader feel that Amma favours men more than women. This is not at all the case. Decades ago Gail, as one can make out from her book, was lording over it all. But then they were not more than a few hundreds those days. Amma’s mission has grown in leaps and bounds ever since. Now old Gail feels left out. So she picks up her pet pickable trendy topics from the air, inserts them into her book, and builds upon them with her own flesh and blood.
    In using her own flesh for this purpose she uses the grammar of suicide bombers: “I don’t mind dying but I must kill you!” Only Gail is playing with not life but honour; one’s own as well as that of respectable people. Gail has thus earned a disclaimer: she has no right say that someone doesn’t honour women.
    But she dares see flaws in a set up where woman-hood is revered and celebrated!
    Today there are over three thousand residents here. This includes householder families from distant Delhi to Kolkata to Bombay, not to mention the nearby states. This includes scores of entire families from IT set-ups abroad. This also includes persons from almost all the countries of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and Americas. Among them, among Indians for example, are retirees of both gender from various top administrative services, military services, officers, IT professionals, professors from several Universities and IIT as well. Among those from outside India too are academicians, software professionals, medical and para medical professionals, artists- musicians, instrumentalists, playwrights, performers of top quality- to name a few. And there are also people with no such high profiles. But all of us live like children of one mother, sharing joy and work. And we practice to see dignity in all labour, since an ideal ashram has only seva, and no job is menial.
    Amma inspires us to see oneself in others and serve the needy. Amma’s prescription for sadhana includes, among other things, selfless service. In Amma’s ashram under her able guidance both her renunciate children and householder children of all age groups and races, languages and countries, are engaged in one or the other of the numerous service activities carried on by the Ashram round the world.
    It is gladdening to see that women are in more number among her resident children. During meditation sessions with Amma, at that time when all residents sit with Her, we can see clearly how the women outnumber men. Whether it is the householders, or brahmacharinies or the western renunciates- women are simply twice more in number than men. Something any contemporary feminist would definitely have taken note of with awe.
    I thank God for coming to us in the form of Amma. The only reason why we so many women could renounce the everyday world, take to spiritual path, take to sadhana, take to at the same time active selfless service in society.
    Brahmacharinies, like brahmacharies, are from all parts of India and abroad; from rural to urban. Most of them are highly qualified. (There are n number of PGs and PhDs among ashram women today.) And those who opt for spiritual life too early in age, Amma has put them to study and secure degrees, and thus enabled them to work for social causes. A big chunk of brahmacharinies are Principals and teachers in the 56 Amrita Vidyalayam schools all over the country: schools known for imparting best value-based education. These schools have won accolades for academic and non academic activities at national and international levels. Dozens of brahmacharinies are on the teaching faculty at the Engineering, Management , Bio-sciences , and Arts-and-sciences Schools and departments at the multi-campused Amrita University. Several of them are engaged in and also leading teams in researches directed for the benefit of society in the university’s state of the art labs. Several of them are practicing doctors at Amrita Super Specialty Hospital in Kochi and at the Ayurveda college, Amritapuri. The heads of various departments at the university too are women!
    In the ashram Amma has set up departments where men and women have independent charges, and Amma is the person each one reports to. This may seem unbelievable but is very true.
    It is women who do maximum of the ashram publication work, for example, Matruvani in 9 Indian languages and 6 foreign languages, right from editing to DTP, so on up to mailing; the intermediary ‘heavy’ work of printing, of all the numerous books in a score of languages, is alone given over to the boys. Editors are both male and female.
    And, more than a score of brahmacharinies are the heads of ashram branches, engaged in perpetuating services in the other parts of the country and abroad.
    Amma teaches us to do work in the spirit of Karmayoga, the path that Sri Krishna preached Arjuna. Alas, the writer somewhere laments that Amma did not give her such a sermon when she was dramatically expecting for one; instead Amma asked her to fetch more bananas, the writer sneers. Any true disciple would have first seen his/her own shortcoming in not keeping ready enough bananas for the Guru to distribute Prasad! Then, any one of us here today would run with enthusiasm, thanking Amma for the opportunity to fetch her something. And soon see how through that we tested our own virtues of obedience to the Guru. (Gail misinterprets several times the topic of Guru’s test. The traditions have it that Guru knows us thoroughly. The occasion is a test of one’s own progress. This is so in all Guru- Disciple traditions all over the world.) If Gail had persevered today she would have been one of us learning Karmayoga in practice.
    One has to wait till one becomes eligible for receiving Precept from Master. Arjuna is too mighty a character for Gail to feel equal with, even to imagine for a while.
    In fact Amma is a model for not just ‘women’s lib’ but for total liberation from all bondage. In Her satsangs Amma constantly reminds us of the state of affairs that prevailed in earlier times in India and elsewhere, where women suffered a lowly status and men enjoyed a higher one. Amma stresses on the need to change this mental condition among both. On international platforms, more than once, Amma has given call to men and women to change, by aspiring for higher values such as love and compassion.
    However Amma the spiritual Guru never approves of ego, whether in men or in women. This is unlike pseudo feminists who mistake liberty for exchange of ego.
    If Gail was not entertained by Amma for her tomfoolery or indecent behavior, Amma cannot be blamed for being partial to members of another gender. ‘Humility, wherever it is, is valuable’ Amma says, ‘like a gem fallen in shit is still a valuable gem.’ If Gail didn’t have it, and didn’t wait to learn from the all- compassionate and all- patient Amma, she has missed her chance. She can scream foul now, but that would be like a dog barking at an elephant in a procession, walking elegantly on the royal road, carrying God’s idol in the palanquin, as in an Indian proverb.
    sandhya

    • I have not read Gail’s book, and have no plans to do so. I have been told a lot of the contents, and for me that is enough. I get the idea. It makes me sad to think that Gail would feel encouraged to write such a book and to slander Amma’s name when there are so many millions of people who have benefited from Amma’s presence, compassion and generosity in their lives. And this makes me concerned for those who may now have doubts about Amma and this spiritual path. It is for you that I write this.

      Before I go on I want to say that in any walk of life, in any religious or spiritual path, people come and go, some people have faith, others lose it, and in the end we can only work on ourselves. At this time in our world’s history, it is normal to have doubts and question authority. All religions everywhere are faced with this.

      However for my part, if anything, this issue of Gail’s book is making my faith even stronger. It makes me want to hold on tight to what I have, as I can now see that one can veer from the path if one isn’t careful, looking to find fault with others for our own happiness.

      But just in case you are experiencing doubts…
      I understand what that is like. For most of my life I was an atheist/agnostic. So for those of you who are questioning your faith, or those concerned people who are trying to find out the truth about Amma, I can understand where you are coming from.

      But to live a life without faith, personally I never want to be there again. To not know there is anything out there, to not be able to feel God’s love, to live in doubt, this I definitely do not want.

      I was born and raised in a Christian religion where I was taught that God is all-knowing Love;that as you encountered challenges in your life, you need only remember this truth and things would get better. But in my teenage years, I started to lose this faith, and I found so many faults with religion, I lost interest. I looked for truth outside of myself and the church and joined the ranks of the atheists and agnostics.

      There was absolutely nothing to draw me back to the church and religion. It wasn’t what my friends were doing and I saw religion as a crutch for the weak. As far as I could see, God didn’t exist. And as the years passed, I only saw more evidence that religion was a sham. One need only look at the scandals and abuse of the Catholic Priests, or at the “born again Christian” movement, which focuses so much energy on taking away women’s rights around childbirth, and what people choose to do in the privacy of their own bedrooms (regarding homosexuality). Not to mention their constant efforts to ban the teaching of scientific theories in schools and claiming that dinosaurs are a hoax. This did not seem spiritual to me, and I still feel this way around those issues. With this as my exposure to religion as a young adult, I had evidence to keep me from ever believing in God again.

      But being the adventurer that I was, in my early adulthood I did find myself exploring spirituality, as I would explore anything else, and I started reading books about it and having an open mind. I started to get an understanding that something more deep and profound than I could ever grasp was present. And I was moved. I got a taste of faith. It didn’t stay, but I definitely tasted it. I experienced it, and I let it go, forgetting it ever happened.

      I spent the next several years studying, living abroad, moving around a lot, and fulfilling my wishes and dreams so much to the point where I felt there wasn’t much more to explore. I’d seen the world. I climbed the steps of the Ivory Tower. I had a beautiful house in the country, a great job, I was very active, knew everything about modern music, vegetarianism, I had lots of friends, and I reveled in conspiracy theories and exploring understanding how humans and life itself worked, over countless glasses of wine with like-minded wonderful people. I was into leftist politics, animal rights, compassionate lifestyles, environmental issues, books, art, fashion, and intelligence.
      I knew that I had had a brush with God years before, but now, as before, I saw the whole God–thing as something for weak people, an opiate for the masses, and worse, systems of power and abuse.

      But with all my aspirations fulfilled on the outside, on the inside I was so sad, so lonely, and so bored. There was nothing I wanted to do in life that I hadn’t already done or was doing at that time. I just couldn’t sustain interest in anything. I could see in myself that I just didn’t have much ambition anymore. In fact, I had done so much to try to help nature, animals and people in need, and I really only saw that destruction was on the increase, not the decrease. And it’s not that I wasn’t making any effort. I went to a gym regularly, I was in therapy, I painted, played music, I hiked, I was involved in local conservation efforts, and I meditated.

      It was as if I was drinking so much water but I was not able to quench my thirst.

      But what did the faith look like that I had previously experienced? How did it feel? I only knew what it was like when I got another taste years later, and only at that time did I realize that I never ever wanted to let go again. How was it superior in any way to a life without faith? Well sadly, tragically, that’s the thing about faith. You can only taste its beauty when you are experiencing it. If you are not experiencing it, you have no idea. And the mind doesn’t relent on this. When people of no faith look at people with faith, they can only see it as brainwashing. As far as I can tell from my narrow perspective, those are the rules in this day and age.

      There is so much beauty in life, you can see it whether you have faith or not. You can look at an ocean sunset and feel so much love and peace, what makes a life knowing God any better or desirable? You can have achievements and success and loving relationships and all the same things whether you believe in God or not. And you can have all the bad luck and anger and resentment if you do believe in God. It’s not a golden ticket out of life’s woes. What is it then?

      Hindu philosophy says that the earth is currently in an age called, “Kali Yuga”, meaning the age of materialism and selfishness. I think that it’s easy to see the truth in that, whether you are a Hindu or not. Whether the universe is governed by some sort of omniscient force that has karmic laws and periods of apparent separation from this force, or whether we just accidently came into being, it’s plain to see that humans can have selfish and dark inclinations. Governments, religions, big business, and all these institutions that we wish we could trust, prove over and over and over again that they are often self-serving and selfish through multitudes of scandals and whatnot. And thus if you are paying attention to what is going on in the world around you, you learn quickly it’s best to question and raise your doubts. I would say that it is a healthy thing to do, to question. To use your sense of discrimination to find out the truth of what is really going on, in case there may be a chance to make a change for the better and you can contribute to that by whatever means you can.

      Maybe there comes a time when the soul just cannot be satisfied with things outside itself. It yearns to come home.

      But spiritual life is not a free ticket. I know that I want to keep my faith. I want to live this kind of life, and so I have to learn how to face life on life’s terms.Spiritual life can be very hard and relentless. You go through periods where you feel calm and strong and ready to face anything, and then other times you want to blame the outside world and you want everything outside of you to change to make you feel better.

      Because when you know that God exists, when you have faith, aside from the experience of the sweetness of devotion that is incomparable to all else, you have the understanding that you are not lost anymore. That you are coming into your true purpose in life.You feel your heart expanding in such a way that you can shed tears at any moment.You know that there is a purpose, and it is to be as true and loving and just as you possibly can. These attributes are who you truly are, and this the best and fastest way to finding your true nature, your oneness with everything.

      When I met Amma many years back, I got a glimpse of what I can only describe as universal truth and love. I knew in my heart I was having an authentic spiritual awakening, and that it was a most rare and beautiful thing. As if the angels were singing in my head, but this was of Sanskrit mantras and Oms. I felt that the universal love of God wants me back just as much and maybe much more than I yearn to be free of this life of unfulfillment. And here in front of me was my guide to start the journey back home, in the form of a cute little Indian lady called Amma. With her one glance I felt a wave of shock, as I knew in that moment that she knows me as no other on this planet. I watched her for hours, days, and saw her giving, giving, giving, comforting, and I was simply pervaded with this sense of selfless love. I recall talking to someone at the program. I proclaimed to them, ‘I shall never lose my faith again!’ And they replied, ‘Yes you will!’ They said that is how it is; you will fall into doubt from time to time. Inwardly I was fervently praying to God, ‘No, no, please, please do not let this happen again. I had it once and I’m sorry I did not know what I had. But now I do, please help me God, please help me Amma. God don’t let me lose you again.’

      So there I was, having this experience with Amma, with my heart gushing, feeling so tapped into Universal Love, and I was sure that I needed to introduce all my friends and family to Amma so that they too could have this same experience. And as it turned out some did, and some did not. Actually most did not, but everyone has more or less accepted my path as they can clearly see that Amma is a good person who does good work, and I have evolved as a decent human being too.
      Who, I ask of you, who out there has really had a good look at the works of Amma and cannot see all of the great things that she has done for people? You may not feel any spiritual juju but it’s pretty obvious through Amma’s extensive charities, and selfless 24 hour a day giving, that she is here to help the world and that many are trying to follow her immense footsteps.

      The weeks and months after I met Amma I was full of feelings of abundant love
      while having the celestial choir going off in my head. But I knew that like before when I had tasted the Divine previously, it was also going to require a lot of effort and discipline to walk a spiritual path. And that what I was currently experiencing was likely to be what is called a “state of grace”. I was not all the way home yet. In fact, I have quite far to go. I’ve still got this burdensome ego, and it is not going to go away just by wishing.

      And what does it mean to work on yourself? To learn to quiet the mind? To be even minded? It means you have to face the negative aspects of yourself and not act on them, and then over time and vigilant practice, to catch them before they even form into thoughts, and you need to open your heart to feel love and compassion. This is not easy. You need the willingness and discipline to do this, and it takes a long time and continual focus. It is truly along-term practice, and you don’t just get it by being in Amma’s presence (even if you are physically right next to her for 20 years.) You have to teach yourself to be mindful and aware of your thoughts. You have to make continual effort. You have to want it and desire it above all else. Amma is here to help and guide us, and set a great example for us, but she doesn’t do it for us. We have to make the effort. And we have to have patience.

      So coming back to my present lifestyle, I now live happily in Amma’s ashram in India, and I have dedicated my life to becoming self-aware and serving others. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to do so. I don’t have the same distractions around me that people of today have, and for this I am grateful. I have seen through my seva how the charity work that is done by Amma and the ashram so directly helps disadvantaged village women and society. The ashram teaches village people skills to make a living. The charities are so extensive and so many of the people that I have spoken with have seldom shared about the vast amounts of selfless service they do, it is absolutely mindboggling. You can read about it at http://www.embracingtheworld.org if you would like to see for yourself.

      Bhakti ta Jagadambe
      Premam ta Jagadambe
      Viswasham tanenne rakshikku Jagadambe

  5. Thank you Jane!!

    Tejo Ram

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