As Kerala is still emerging from the darkness cast by the recent monsoon floods that claimed nearly 500 lives, rendered thousands homeless and caused untold property and crop damage, Amma’s 65th Birthday Celebrations were aimed at assisting the people to recover from the tragedy.
In her satsang, Amma stressed the lessons taught by the flood, which she said were humankind’s helplessness in the face of Nature’s incredible power, the imperative need for humans to stop abusing the environment, and the infinite power of compassion and selflessness inherent in the human heart.
Lessons of Nature’s Power & the Power of Unity, Compassion & Service
From Amma’s 65th Birthday message
27th September 2018 — Amritapuri, Kollam
“The state of Kerala is still reeling from the shock of witnessing the massive floods that took place this past monsoon season. At this tragic time, words have no place. All we can do is rise to the occasion, think positively and take to action. This is the most important thing now.
Amma’s heart is deeply pained when she thinks about those who lost their loved ones and livelihoods in the disaster. Amma feels their pain and prays to the Paramatman that they may regain their self-confidence and attain happiness, peace and prosperity.
When people are undergoing such an extreme crisis, just feeling sorry for them is of no use. We should also empathise with them and express that empathy through love and selfless service. The response and service we saw invoked by the floods is living proof that the mental strength and compassion needed for this empathy is always alive within us.
When the rain beat down incessantly, flooding the rivers and starting landslides, turning Kerala into an ocean of disaster, people here forgot all divisions. Separations of caste, creed and religion disappeared. Thoughts of rich and poor, high and low, all vanished. Party politics faded away. All thoughts and actions flowed in one direction, toward a single goal. Due to this, people had no difficulty in understanding and supporting one another. Moreover, they found the strength to overcome all obstacles. Hearts came together as one, and only compassion flowed. Actually, it overflowed, and we saw a second ocean rising from the floods— an ocean of compassion.
Here, at our university, too, several hundred students worked together for days on end to help rescue people trapped in life-threatening situations. They established a Help Line and worked its lines 24 hours a day, without caring about food or sleep. They were able to bring timely help to many people in many areas. What invoked their unified response was the love and compassion they felt towards those trapped by the floods. The selfless love they experienced made their actions extremely beautiful and successful, and an inspiration to everyone.
During those days, they did not think of “me” and “them.” The power of compassion raised them to the unified awareness of “we.” It was this awareness that guided them forward. If we can always kindle this miraculous force within us, our lives will flow as smoothly and beautifully as a river. This doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles, but those obstacles will not be able to stop us. Life will move forward like a river’s flow, going around and beyond everything, overcoming all obstructions.
With his limited strength and intelligence, man cannot stop natural disasters from happening. However, we can extend a hand to help and heal those who have been plunged into misery by these catastrophes. During such times, we are spontaneously able to express our compassion and love through our words and deeds. This strength is inherent in us. That is why it awakens in crises such as this. Only that which is inside the mind can come to be expressed outside. However, people are unable to sustain the bright flame of compassion and the strength to face and overcome any obstacle that they feel during such crises. These soon die away. Before we know it, people begin diverging back into their religious, political and communal groups. They start finding fault and clashing with each other. How much time and energy is wasted in such useless conflicts.
In each natural disaster, there is always a message. Three of the most important ones are:
If we understand these truths, we will be able to cultivate humility in our thoughts, actions and perspective, and in our approach towards Nature. Then the realisation will dawn on us that “Nature is not against man; she is a trusted friend who only desires mankind’s welfare.”
Our desires have increased one by one, and in our rush to fulfil them, we have been abusing Nature. What we are seeing now is Nature’s retaliation. When we lost our dharma, Nature lost hers too. Just as each nation has a set code of laws, the universe too has a set code of conduct called dharma. It is this code that maintains the harmony of life. This code of conduct is applicable to all countries and all people equally. For example, there is a set of road rules that we all have to obey when we drive. If we do not obey them, saying, “I will drive however I like,” then we will only be endangering ourselves.
This is the age of the computer and Internet. Man’s excessive fascination for technology and the many illusions he builds around it is giving him a false sense of security. The recent floods taught us that however important science and technology may be, they will never be able to replace the quality of humanity. Many people had houses equipped with all modern facilities but could not stay in them. Many had cars but could not drive them to safety. Many had ATM cards but could not withdraw money. Many had mobile phones but did not have the electricity to charge them. Man will never be able to achieve complete security by relying on machines. We have to find the real security within ourselves. Technology is a good servant but a dangerous master. When our relationships with the world are defined solely through machines, we are pawning our very consciousness to the unconscious machine. We should be using machines and loving people. Never allow the trademark of our society to become “Use people and love machines.”
The more space we create in our heart for others, the more happiness and contentment we will feel. The law of the universe and of life is selflessness. This is why selfish and egoistic people are unable to wholeheartedly enjoy life and be happy: because their behaviour is out of tune with the law of the universe. This creation unfolds to the same tune and beat. Understanding this, when we fall in line with this law, peace, happiness and prosperity automatically become ours.
The love and compassion that overflows from our heart is the power that leads us to victory. How was Kerala saved from the great floods? What saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people? It was the love and compassion that filled the hearts of people all over. This strength destroys all barriers and joins all hearts on a single string. May this love and compassion ever illuminate our hearts.”
After conducting a group prayer for world peace, Amma also paid tribute to heroic individuals who had lost their lives saving others in the floods, and provided Rs. 100,000 to their families. A certificate of commendation was then given to the hundreds of Amrita student-volunteers who had manned the 24-hour Amrita Help Lines during the floods — answering more than 25,000 calls, connecting more than 100,000 flood victims with food, water, rescue, shelter and other forms of aid. The women from 13,000 AmritaSREE SHGs also pooled the funds they normally use traveling to Amma’s birthday and instead donated it to Amma’s ashram for Kerala flood relief initiatives.