Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi—or Amma ("Mother"), the "hugging saint", as she is known—is loved throughout the world as an extraordinary humanitarian and spiritual leader who is transforming the lives of millions of people the world over both through her spiritual teachings and the living example of her life.
Sri Mata Amritanandamayi's caring, motherly embrace—known as her "darshan"—is the centerpiece of her life. Nearly every day, for more than four decades, Amma spends hour after hour, receiving people in this unique fashion, forgoing food and sleep—occasionally sitting for as many as 24 hours in a row. In Amma's arms people find the peace, love, strength and inspiration to face the challenges of life with a positive attitude. To date, more than 34 million people have sought her blessings in this form, and resulted in Amma being called the "hugging saint" in the media.
Moreover, seeing Amma's example of selfless compassion, many people come away from Amma's darshan feeling inspired to see if there isn't more that they could be doing to help others in need. In this way, an entire humanitarian movement—known as Embracing the World has arisen. Embracing the World projects include free medical care for the poor, homes for the homeless, pensions for widows and mentally disabled people, scholarships for impoverished children, environmental initiatives, and much more.
In Australia, free meals for the poor and homeless have been served regularly as part of an international program known as "Mother's Kitchen" since 1999.
There are also tree-planting and ecological cleanup days as well as blood-donation drives and visits to nursing homes.
All of this has arisen based on Amma's belief that compassion is the one-word answer to all the world's problems.
As Amma says, "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."
At the request of people living "Down Under", Sri Mata Amritanandamayi has been visiting Australia, bi-annually since 1990, holding free programs as well as retreats throughout the country.