AMMA -Embracing the world
Mata Amritanandamayi, better known as Amma, is an Indian spiritual guide and benefactor. Mostly known for her talent for embracing people to instil compassion and spiritual energy, up to now she has hugged a cool 32 million people.
Amma’s main aim is to soothe suffering people by trying to heal their karma; she thinks that it is our duty to help other people in order to weaken their pain. Amateurs may suspect that she is the classic guru who nestles naive people, and that during her meetings fainting and screams would be commonplace. In order to erase this idea, which is brought to you mostly by media, here are some noteworthy data about Embracing the world, Amma’s relief organization:
45.000 houses built for the homeless, in 75 places in India
40.000 scholarships for youngsters in need
1.600 families relocated from the slums into new flats
1 million trees planted since 2001
2,6 millions people freely nursed since 1998
10.000 million poor people fed every year in India and 100.000 abroad (75.000 in the USA)
59.000 widows and disabled people receive a monthly economic support thanks to ETW
100.000 poor women have been helped to start their own entrepreneurial activity from their home
500 orphans housed in India and 50 in Kenya
And even more tens of ecological, educational, research and help projects.
AMMA IN ITALY (Nov 2013)
I found out about this event in October, a month before Amma arrived in Italy, thanks to a friend who told me about it. I became immediately interested in the intriguing situation and I promised to myself that I would participate, in order to tell the story myself.
The day of the departure I realized I hadn’t been sleeping for days but, more convinced than before, I set off. The event was in Malpensa Fiere, near Milan. I was inside only a few minutes when I decided to go straight to Amma’s place, on a small stage in the middle of a hall; after having received a first warning about the use of cameras I went to the press agency, where I received my authorization to shoot, my badge and the excellent advice of Francesca, the media-relator, who guided me around the exhibition hall, showing me every detail. On the way back to the stage, I took a couple of pictures of Amma, surrounded by tens of people waiting for her hug, and several assistants.
On stage, people were waiting, curious, some of them meditating, and it was quite hot. Ah…I forgot, in order to get on stage, everybody had to take off their shoes. Unlike the waiting crowd, thanks to my press badge I could skip the queue, which would have lasted hours, and go straight to have my hug. I slipped into queue among the first ten people and walked on easily. As I reached the first rows, I knelt down, to be on the same level as Amma, since she was sitting. As I got close I could feel an increasing smell of roses, which grew until I realized I was in her arms.
A sweet hug, I didn’t think about anything, peace…I moved away, thinking it was over, but she embraced me again, whispering and repeating a short mantra. I thanked her while she gave me some rose petals, a lemon candy, a tiny red apple and a wood bracelet decorated with beads, amber and steel. As I came back into the crowd I perceived dazzled looks around me: Lucia and Francesca told me that Amma usually doesn’t give bracelets away, and other people confirmed the same thing. I began to feel something similar to an amused thankfulness. I bit the apple, which replenished my sugar levels, and apparently also my spiritual energy, as suggested by a kind lady who practises Reiki, while my friend Marco added that perhaps Amma cleaned my karma. I was floating in a conscious state of tranquillity, and as I entered the communications corner, the catering and the merchandising areas, essential parts for supporting the event; I realized that a breeze of hilarity and magnetic unselfishness was gradually saturating the air. All the operators, from the “cutting-vegetables” to the security staff, were voluntaries and I spotted many nice kids wandering about with boards which read “volunteers wanted for…”. I began to see everything with brand new eyes.
I met several other people while I was sitting in front of the stage to write this article. Some of them were foreigners. They told me of their personal history with Amma, having been her followers for more than ten years, sometimes even twenty. A huge group of musicians with Caucasian and Asian features sang wonderful mantras in front of us and, while tablas and sitars were playing, wonderfully and repetitively, I began to count Amma’s hugs: Amma embraces people for about ten seconds, while it takes about fifteen seconds for every person to reach her, embrace her and go back, which means that she embraces about four people per minute, two hundred and forty per hour…which means almost a thousand hugs every four hours! Amma usually does two “embracing shifts”, one from the morning to the afternoon, the other in the evening until the night.
Even if I was far from the stage, thanks to a big screen I was able to see Amma’s movement thanks to a big screen. It is interesting to see how she behaves differently with each and every person, going beyond the physical appearance: the child, the ill, the curious, the pious, the couple, the crying woman, the sneaked-in photographer…Amma is happy, she is strong, she is cheerful. She suffers, she rejoices, she laughs, she cries.
Split spirituality from the benefactor reality and religions, beat your own prejudices…and find out that, if a single woman has been able to instil well-being in 30.000 people in three days with a simple hug or with her mere presence – and throughout the world she helped, is helping and will help many more – there is still hope.