Question: Why do the scriptures give so much importance to seeing and being physically close to a mahatma (spiritually enlightened being)?
Amma: Mahatmas are those who have become one with the eternal truth underlying the universe. We must not consider them ordinary mortals. They are the visible manifestations of God. Even though God is all-pervading, we experience divine qualities in the presence of mahatmas. Even though there is wind everywhere, we feel its coolness under a tree.
When we are in the presence of a mahatma, our noble qualities and character are awakened. In that presence, a positive change takes place in us without our knowing.
If we light a lamp in a cave that does not admit any light, the darkness therein is dispelled. In the same way, our inner darkness is dispelled in the presence of a Guru. Even though the sun radiates light and heat everywhere, we still need fire in order to light a lamp in our house. Likewise, even though God is all-pervading, we still need a Guru to light the lamp of wisdom in our heart.
If we spend some time in a place that makes incense sticks, the fragrance of the incense will linger on our bodies even after we leave the place. We don’t need to do anything in particular for that to happen. In a similar way, mahatmas transmit their spiritual values and virtues to others by their very presence.
Spiritual progress that cannot be attained through pilgrimages and austerities can be had from the presence of mahatmas. We might be able to perform austerities for years together. However, the blessing of a mahatma’s presence is much harder to come by. Therefore, if we ever get such an opportunity, we must never waste it. We can gain from one darshan or one touch of a mahatma, the benefit that we cannot gain even after 10 years of austerities. However, we must approach mahatmas without arrogance but with humility and faith. Only then can we benefit from their sacred presence.
Mahatmas are sources of power. They are embodiments of divine consciousness. A magnetized piece of iron becomes capable of drawing other iron filings. In the same way, a mahatma can make even an inert object sentient.
Lord Rama instructed Hanuman to bring a Shivalinga to Rameswaram so that He could install it there.1 Hanuman travelled everywhere in search of the best Shivalinga. He did not return even when the auspicious hour for installation was dawning. In order not to let the auspicious time pass uneventfully, Goddess Sita moulded a Shivalinga from mud, and Lord Rama enlivened it with His vital breath. Just then Hanuman returned with the Shivalinga. When he learnt that the installation ceremony was over, he became downcast. Seeing his sorrow, Lord Rama said, “Don’t give too much importance to the installation ceremony. Remove the Shivalinga that has been installed, and we can install the one you brought.” Hanuman then tried to remove the Shivalinga that Rama had installed, but he was unable to move it even an inch, no matter how hard he tried. This shows the power of a mahatma’s sankalpa (divine resolve). The sankalpas of mahatmas are powerful enough to transform even a clod of mud into the divine. Because mahatmas are one with the supreme consciousness, any sankalpa they make becomes fulfilled.
A woman who was grieving over the death of her husband went to a mahatma and devoutly prostrated before him. The mahatma blessed her by uttering the words ‘sumangali bhava’ (‘May you remain happily married’).
Hearing this, the woman said, “O Lord, my husband passed away last night. In this life, I will not marry another man. How then can I remain happily married?”
The mahatma replied, “Please return home. You will find your husband alive.”
When the woman returned home, she saw her husband sitting up on the deathbed. Such is the power of a mahatma’s words. It is not that they speak the truth but that Truth rushes to fulfil their words.
Hearing this, some might ask, “If that’s the case, why can’t mahatmas resurrect all those who have died? People die even in their presence, don’t they?”
Life and death are the laws of nature. Mahatmas do not act against the laws of nature. However, in certain situations, their compassion is aroused and their resolves bear fruit.
1 Rama is the hero of the Ramayana and an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Creator in the Hindu Trinity. Sita is His consort. Hanuman is Lord Rama’s ardent disciple. The Shivalinga is an elliptical icon of Lord Shiva, the Destroyer in the Hindu Trinity.
AMMA’s Message – “Greatness of a Mahatma” was published in Amritanubhavam (2019, Amriteswari Society: Singapore)