The first step in spiritual life is to have compassion. A person who is kind and loving never needs to go searching for God. God rushes toward any heart that beats with compassion-it is God’s favourite place.
Spiritual leader, humanitarian and visionary Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, known throughout the world simply as “Amma”, has served the world-community for decades, imparting wisdom, strength and inspiration. Through her extraordinary acts of love, inner strength and self-sacrifice, Amma has endeared herself to millions and inspired thousands to follow in her path of selfless service.
It was 30 years ago that Amma first travelled out of India, Singapore being the very first country that She set foot on. After Singapore, Amma then went on to embrace the entire World.
Truly a citizen of the world, Amma holds free public programmes throughout India, Europe, the United States and Australia, as well Japan, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Africa and South America. In her talks, she offers words of wisdom and guidance on both personal fulfilment as well as the most pressing matters of our time. From climate change to terrorism, cross-cultural tensions to poverty and women’s rights, Amma’s observations invite each of us to get involved in the process of rebuilding a concerned and caring society.
To this day, Amma concludes her programmes by embracing each person attending the event. Far from a brief book-signing or walk along the rope line, these personal, one-on-one meetings take up the vast majority of Amma’s time. Amma has given this motherly embrace, known as her darshan, to more than 36 million people throughout the world. She has been known to give darshan for more than 22 hours without interruption.
The most personally accessible spiritual leader alive today, Mata Amritanandamayi may well be on a first-name basis with more people than anyone else in the world. When people pour out their hearts to Amma, she offers them emotional solace, spiritual guidance, and concrete solutions to their problems. Receiving Amma’s embrace, many feel inspired to offer selfless service to those in need. In this way, this simple yet powerful act as a mother’s embrace – has become both catalyst and symbol for the growing international network of humanitarian initiatives that is Embracing the World.
Amma was born in a poor fishing village in Kerala, Southern India, on 27th Sep 1953. She was named Sudhamani, which means ambrosial jewel. Her father sold fish to make a living. Her mother was a homemaker.
Sudhamani’s birth was predicted by a Seer (clairvoyant) who said that Amma’s birthplace would be transformed into an international centre, drawing people from all over the world. Her mother related that Sudhamani was born not crying, but with a beaming smile on Her face. At six months, She could walk and talk, and by the age of three She was constantly singing. By the age of five She was composing beautiful, profound hymns to Her beloved Krishna.
At the age of nine, Sudhamani’s mother fell ill and She was forced to stop schooling so as to be able to help with household tasks. One of the tasks was to go around the village and collect food. It was at this time that she witnessed sickness, poverty and lonely elderly people who had no one to care for them. She resolved to help everyone within Her power. The love and tenderness She showed others earned Her the name ‘Amma’ meaning Mother.
By Her late teens, Sudhamani was abiding in the experience of inner bliss. By 1975, at the age of 22, she was fully established in the state of Supreme Love.
One day in September 1975, Sudhamani was walking home holding aloft a bundle of grass. She overheard the final verses of the Srimad Bhagavatam from a neighbouring house. The reading had come to an end and the devotional singing had just started. Sudhamani stopped abruptly, appearing to listen intently to the singing. Suddenly, She ran towards where the devotees had gathered. Overwhelmed by divine bliss, it is said that Sudhamani’s inner identification with Lord Krishna transformed Her features and movements into those of the Lord.
Regarding the onset of the Krishna Bhava (the divine mood of Krishna and oneness with the Lord), Amma has said that one day She strongly felt the urge to be absorbed in the Supreme Being without returning. Then She heard a voice from within saying, “Thousands and thousands of people in the world are steeped in misery. I have much for you to do, you who are one with Me.”
In 1979, when Amma was 26, Amma’s first monastic disciples came to reside permanently with Her. The disciples named Her Mata Amritanandamayi (Mother of Immortal Bliss). When more and more young men and women, inspired by Her selfless compassion, began coming to Her to seek spiritual guidance, an ashram was founded. Thus, in 1981 the construction of a few thatched huts next to Amma’s family home marked the beginning of the Math (monastery), Amma’s ashram.
Despite adverse reactions, Amma followed Her heart, later explaining, “A continuous stream of love flows from me to all of creation. This is my inborn nature. The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering.”