Amma's 2015 Australian Tour Update - 2015
"Even though God is all pervading, a Guru's presence is unique. Even though the wind blows everywhere, we enjoy coolness only under the shade of a tree. Likewise, a Guru is necessary for those of us who live in the scorching heat of worldly existence. The Guru's presence will give us peace and tranquillity." (Amma)
The preparation and welcoming
After three long years without receiving the benefit of seeing Amma's divine physical form, Australian devotees were finally able to experience the peace and tranquillity of Amma's unique presence in April. The Australian tour was shorter than in previous years – for the first time, Amma did not visit Queensland because we were not able to secure a suitable venue that fitted in with Amma's overseas schedule. Consequently, Amma just visited Sydney and Melbourne.
Many local devotees are aware of our great fortune in having had Amma visit Australia for well over twenty years, given the relatively small number who see Amma here, as compared with many overseas locations. One devotee quipped that visiting Australia might be seen as annual leave for Amma's entourage, for whom the Australian tour is relatively easy compared to the programs and huge crowds in various overseas locations.
The preparation for Amma's tour was similar to anywhere else in the world – a solid core of devotees eagerly doing the work needed to make the venue ready and worthy of Amma's presence and the conversion within hours of a basketball court, public hall or other arena into a truly beautiful temple fit for Amma.
Many people commented on the visual beauty of the Sydney 'temple' (normally a basketball court) with its burgundy coloured stage and backdrops, juxtaposed with a lovely soft-coloured carpet. Likewise, the Melbourne 'temple' (normally a racecourse) was beautiful, with a wonderful 'eco garden' and other decorations welcoming Amma.
Reverend Bill Crews, a minister of the Uniting Church, welcomed Amma to Sydney at the first evening program. Reverend Crews founded the Exodus Foundation and through this and other means has for decades assisted the homeless, needy and abandoned youth. He also established the first Australian modern youth refuge and the first Australian programs to reunite adoptees and birth parents, as well as the first program to assist parents at risk of abusing their children. With these credentials, he was well-placed to welcome Amma, the ultimate humanitarian, and gave her a very warm and personal welcome.
Given the frequent negative perceptions of politicians, it was wonderful to observe the warmth shown by three politicians welcoming Amma to Melbourne, who all displayed considerable compassion for humanity and reverence for Amma.
A devotee commented on how fortunate we are to benefit from retreats with Amma. Retreats are only held in the USA and Australia, and they are truly joyful occasions – three evenings and days with Amma, when she is so accessible to everyone. The talks by Amma and the Swamis, the divine bhajans, the IAM program, the question and answer session, the evening meal where Amma personally feeds all and then eats with the children, and the many hours of simply being able to bask in Amma's presence while She unhurriedly gives darshan – these all form a perfect recipe for a timeless weekend with our divine Mother. The icing on the cake at the retreat this year was when, late in the evening, Amma sang a new bhajan in which everyone could participate.
As Swamiji once said, life around Amma feels like one big party, and it certainly felt like that this year – particularly at the Retreat.
Dharma and love
At the first evening of the Melbourne Retreat, Amma discussed the many dharmas that all humans have to fulfil in their lives, in relation to their partners, children, parents, friends, work colleagues and managers, and so on. Amma emphasised that the reality is that we belong to no one but God. Awakening this awareness is our supreme duty. Amma said, "Dharma is the attitude that considers the needs and feelings of others. We are all links in a single chain, and we all impact on each other. If we change first, then others will follow our example."
Amma also had a message for parents. She stated that a mother approached a mahatma with a three-year old. She asked the mahatma, "When should I start teaching my child key values?" The mahatma responded, "You are already three years late." Amma explained that by the time children are 8 – 9 years old, they have already learned 70% of what they will learn. Values should be inculcated in children when they are still impressionable.
Amma discussed the fact that there are different levels of love, and that loving everyone without expectations is the highest form of love. She stated, "All of our actions reverberate throughout creation – we should therefore watch all our words and actions. Over two billion people on earth live below the poverty line. However, what is needed is not an economic revolution but a revolution of the heart, seeing all as simply part of ourselves."
The question and answer session
One of the wonderful elements of Amma's retreats is the question and answer session. This gives devotees an opportunity to ask Amma personal questions, which She inevitably answers in a way that has meaning for all present, not just the person asking the question.
One person asked Amma: "Should we have an attitude of surrender with physical conditions, or should we do a lot of work to heal ourselves?"
Amma replied that in fact, we need both self-effort and surrender. "Ailments will come – even the great masters had them. We need to develop the attitude, "It is not my wish but Yours, my Lord. Don't become mentally weak – face your situations with confidence, courage and a smile if possible. Whether we laugh or cry, the days will go by. Remember that laughter is the music of the soul."
Mother further said that when something goes wrong, we shouldn't think that it's a curse. On the contrary, we should take it as a blessing and try to see the message in it. "If we observe a rainbow, it may only have some seconds of life, yet it makes so many people happy. It's the same with a butterfly – it lives only a few days, but makes so many happy. A flower gives joy to so many and spreads its fragrance everywhere."
Amma finally said that life is difficult, and demands great patience and care - we should try to deal properly with our challenges. We should try to have a positive attitude as much as possible.
Another person asked Amma to comment on the fact that there have been many predictions of natural disasters during the year. Amma folded her arms and smiled. She said, "Such predictions are not new. There are some every year. We should also remember that we have been torturing Mother Earth. Nature has become a heart patient, and has lost its balance. It is our wrong doing which has caused this."
Amma further said, "Don't be afraid of predictions, but do what you can to improve things. We should try to preserve nature, and plant as many trees as possible. In the last 25 years, we have exploited 40% of our natural resources, and we exploit nature to make weapons. There is creation, sustenance and destruction in our universe and this mysterious power has the ability to create and take away. Do what you can, rather than focussing on negative things."
A woman asked Amma to explain what the present moment really is, and how we can come to it and stay there. Amma answered this question with considerable humour and wisdom. She indicated that action is always in the present moment and is the only thing under our control – not the past or future. When we focus on our action, then we are in the present moment. Living in the moment is to focus on actions with full attention. Amma gave a funny example: "Imagine a clock which a clockmaker is trying to repair, and if the clock started speaking, "I don't want to count out 60 seconds continually – it's too hard, and I've had enough!" The watchmaker may tell it to take it a second at a time and the rest will happen naturally!"
Amma stated that currently, life is like someone driving with the left indicator on, putting their hand out to the right, and driving straight ahead! "This is how our mind is functioning in its current state. Imagine a person who was going to deliver a speech to an audience. He returned home to his wife and said, "My third speech was the best." His wife said, "You only delivered one speech." He replied, "No, my first speech was the one I prepared. The second speech was the one I delivered. And the third speech was the one I really wanted to say – that was the best speech." He wasn't in the present moment!"
Amma gave another wonderful example. "A person ordered a chocolate sundae at an ice cream parlour. He then saw a textile shop, and thought, "This morning I had a headache, which could be from the food I ate yesterday – maybe a dog urinated on the food." He then saw an expensive car, and was envious, thinking that he was so poor that he could never afford a car like that. Suddenly he realised that he had eaten the whole ice cream without having tasted anything – he had done everything with no awareness. While reading, we should read. While working, we should work. Even our next breath is not in our hands. Amma doesn't want Her children to be sad, which is why She gives these spiritual teachings."
In recent months, the Australian Government had pushed strongly for compulsory vaccinations of children. A questioner asked Amma whether it was appropriate to fight against that pressure, or to simply accept it. Amma responded that there are two sides to the argument of pushing for compulsory vaccinations. "There was a time when diseases such as polio, smallpox and whooping cough were very prevalent, and many diseases such as smallpox were eradicated or controlled through vaccinations and modern medicine. Of course, there are side effects. 98% of allopathic medicines have side effects. People want immediate relief. If one's temperature is 40.5, an injection/intervention is needed – however, this has side-effects."
Amma explained that in her childhood, cow dung was applied as a disinfectant to a wound, and would heal it. However, if that were done now, the wound would become septic. "Nowadays, the air is polluted, and water too. Pesticides are used, which the cows would eat. All foodstuffs such as grass and hay contain pollutants now, and some herbs we use are not as pure as in the past. Natural medicine should be prescribed according to the culture and constitution of a person. Every method has some drawbacks, and natural medicine is not as effective as it used to be."
Amma finally said that it is up to each of us to accept something if we like it, and to reject it if we don't. She also stated that at Amma's university, all sorts of scientific research is being carried out, and every effort is being made to prove the benefits of various interventions.
As always, Amma was perfectly serene, loving and compassionate to all who came to see Her. So many people had a direct experience of Her extremely powerful, unconditional love.
An event took place in Sydney which highlighted Amma's great compassion. One devotee involved with setting up the puja items had for many years brought two large rattan hand fans to the hall, which had belonged to an Amma devotee who had died many years before. She had wondered why she kept bringing these fans to the hall, thinking they could never be of any practical use. As it was, the power in Sydney stopped for a short while, and so the hand fans finally had a purpose – they could be used to fan Amma. When the devotee told Amma whom they had belonged to, and asked Amma if She remembered him, Amma responded, "Yes, I think of him every day."
A woman who came to see Amma in Sydney had a beloved sister who was dying. This was a great shock to her, as her sister had previously been well, and now she knew she only had a short time to live. She did a lot of seva (selfless service) while in Sydney, and participated in a puja being held by one of Amma's Swamis. She drew much strength and peace from this, and felt greatly lifted. She brought back a wash cloth and shawl worn by Amma and a rose petal for her sister, who felt very nurtured by this, even though she had never met Amma.
Her sister died soon after her return. She indicated that her time with Amma had greatly helped her to be fully present and supportive to her sister and other family members throughout the final days, rather than drowning in her own grief.
Organising devotees in Australia are always hoping to involve Australia's indigenous community in Amma's program. This has happened in various ways over the years, and occurred in a very powerful way in Melbourne this tour. At one of the evening programs, a well-known First Australian woman singer performed for Amma. She first chanted invocations in her mother tongue and then sang two original songs in English. Her powerful voice and heartfelt singing of devotion to Mother Earth echoed Amma's teachings and moved everyone deeply..
The above experiences are so typical of the thousands of profound experiences are continually experienced in Amma's divine presence.
Farewell, dearest Amma!
While there is always a sense of timelessness in Amma's divine presence, like everything, it must come to an end. Suddenly, we were all saying adieu to our beloved Amma with pain in our hearts and tears in our eyes. We of course understood that there were devotees in the next location waiting for Amma with joy in their hearts and tears of relief in their eyes. How blessed we all are to have such a divine being in our midst! Thank you, dearest Amma.