There is a very famous "spiritual teacher" named Mata Amrityanandamayi (better known as "Ammachi"). Before the Covid-19 pandemic, she would spend the better part of the year travelling around the world giving talks, singing devotional songs and blessing those who came to attend her free programs, with a "hug" (it's easy to see why she would have had to stop doing that...) Her hugs became quite famous. She would, in fact, remain in a stadium with 20,000 people and not leave until each person had received one of her divine embraces (generally without a break). It was widely reported that, all tolled, she had hugged over 30,000,000 worldwide.
She also became famous as an humanitarian. Her global network of local and regional charitable organizations, currently active in more than 40 countries is called (not surprisingly) "Embracing the World". A list of her honors and awards is below.
I once told a priest I had befriended about Amma, and although he had nothing but suspicion regarding Indian "gurus", he couldn't quite get his mind around the sheer numbers. So, he was sufficiently curious enough about why so many people would want to be hugged by her, that he actually got up early one morning, and accompanied me to the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. This was where over 20,000 people used to come each year to experience Ammachi's blessing (I also once went with the Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, who had a grand old time. But that's a whole other story).
While waiting for the blessing, Amma's organization played a very powerful film about her (which I'm told was created by a follower who also happened to be the head of marketing for Microsoft). It showed her non-touring life, which is a genuinely superhuman, non-stop, schedule of helping others and relieving whatever suffering she finds in the world; from building free homes (tens of thousands of them), to simply shoveling garbage for 10 hours to rid some section of India of excessive waste, and on and on and on. My priest friend was mesmerized. At one point, he leaned over to me and said, "You know, 48 hours ago she wasn't even on my radar. Now, there's nowhere else I'd rather be. This is Christ's teachings in action."
We had left early enough that morning to be one of the first in line for a blessing and, after Ammachi hugged the priest (she also whispers mantras in your ear during the hug), he stood up, but couldn't move. One is supposed to immediately get up and make room for the next person when finished. But he just stood there, immobile. Amma smiled and invited him to get yet another hug (itself highly unusual). And, as soon as the priest left the stage, he made a beeline for the bookstall where he immediately purchased a picture of her. When I asked him why he hadn't left the stage after the first hug, he simply said that it had been so long since someone had hugged him, he was so moved... he couldn't move. And then added, "She did something to me... Oh, a good thing. But something in me has changed." He went on to have at least one very remarkable experience related to her afterwards, which I'll have to leave for another time. But had become a definite fan for life.
I guess I'm relating all of this just to try and establish Ammachi's reputation and genuine spiritual greatness.
Now, it's is all leading up to a talk given by a monk, who lives in Ammachi's ashram in San Ramon, Calif. He, ironically, had met Amma while part of a documentary film crew which actually intended to expose her as a fake.
I guess this particular fellow was unconvinced...
In any event, one of the things that the monk shared with us was his first meeting with her. At that point in his life, he was so distressed by what he saw as the condition and state of mankind, his first question was, quite naturally, "What can I do to change the terrible shape the world is in?"
And Amma's reply (coming from someone who's entire life is devoted to alleviating human suffering) was this:
"The world is already perfect. Any fault you see in it is your own."
I'm not going to even try and make some kind of "authoritative" sounding sense of her statement. I don't feel qualified. Perhaps readers might want to offer there own take on it. But, my best guess is if one takes the whole concept of "projection", in the psychological and philosophical sense, to its ultimate conclusion, one probably would find oneself right where she says we are.
The world is God's Creation. Our perception of it is entirely our own.
Awards and Honors
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