The Hindu religion was founded on monotheism and divine omnipresence. This divinity can occur in many forms, but sometimes, it can occur in people. Amma is one of these people. Religio had the opportunity to hear firsthand from a senior disciple who met with Amma on what the encounter was like—one that changed his life for the better.
Religio Magazine: When was your first encounter with Amma, and what was it like? How long have you known Amma?
Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri: I met Amma for the first time in 1978. I had a job at the bank. The reason I went to see Amma was because she was holy and divine, and people go to her to get their prayers answered. I was trying to go back to my hometown to my family in a remote village, even though I grew up in the city, so I went to see Amma. She had been meeting people at the time. I went inside, and it was an overwhelming atmosphere. It was a small temple and there were people standing and waiting for Amma’s blessing.
I wanted to tell her everything, but I couldn’t say a single word. It was so overwhelming. I just started crying for no reason. Everything was going well for me, so there was no reason for me to cry. Still, I was crying and I couldn’t control it.
She [Amma] was to manifest her oneness with any deity. She often renewed her deity with Lord Krishna. A person who has realized her divinity can manifest any god in her, in Hindu tradition. One truth manifests in different names and forms. There are people are in Krishna, there are people who are in Ganesha, there are people who are in Devi, Rama, but for some reason, she manifested her identity in Krishna daily.
When I observed Amma again the next time, Amma asked me to sit by her side and meditate. Even though I went to temple and was religious, worshiped, I had never meditated. I closed my eyes, and after some time, I realized that I wanted to move to a new space. Because it was such a small temple, I didn’t want to take much time for the other devotees. I then opened my eyes after what seemed like a few minutes, and wanted to observe. I went down, and at that time, everything was almost over, and a leper came to see Amma. His whole body was ruptured. He was a beggar.
Some of the wounds were deep, and there was puss everywhere. You couldn’t go near him, or even look at him. I was shocked, because I was thinking I also may get infected. I wanted to run away because it was a small temple. But I couldn’t run away because of other people, so I just stayed there to see what would happen.
To my surprise and shock, Amma just welcomed him in and hugged him. She held him on her lap. She then asked him a few things. The leper had very deep wounds, with blood and puss, so she just put her mouth on there and sucked the puss from the wound. She spat the puss from him. She did that a few times, with some other deep wounds. And I saw this; even a doctor wouldn’t do this! They always take some precaution, with gloves and everything.
I couldn’t sleep for days. She was hugging any person. I kept thinking, Amma is not a human being. It must be god. It made me think, what kind of compassion and love is this? Even if a family member suffers from this, no one would do this. There was such a strange smell coming from the body. Made me think. I can’t remove this thought. How can she do this? That made me think that something is here, something extraordinary, because there is such compassion and such love.
The next time I came back, I was working and going and back and coming back, I realized that she’s not a human being. I didn’t know much about spirituality nor what was going on. But there was so much love and compassion and so much peace in a person. I kept coming back and I never looked back. Now it’s been 36 years that I’ve been with Amma.
RM: When people come to Amma, they may come from different backgrounds with different problems, but they leave with the same peaceful mind. Why do you think that is?
SRP: Even though the problems are different, when the problems are removed, you go back to the original state. With problems, peace is disturbed. When disturbance is removed, temporarily at least, you are your original self for some time and feel peace. Of course it goes up and comes back again. In Amma’s presence, in the power of love, all of these problems are saved, temporarily.
As long as you are in the world, it’s difficult to maintain that same amount of peace. It’s like charging your battery. You feel disturbed, upset, and frustrated and all these things affect us. Whenever you have time then spend time in Amma’s presence.
RM: How has Amma’s teaching changed your view on life today?
SRP: Amma says not to expect anything from anyone. Expectation leads to disappointment, and disappointment leads to anger and frustration. You do whatever is your work and don’t expect anything. Just do your duty. It is difficult to live with expectations. Put forth your effort and try to enjoy the effort, try to enjoy the action you’re doing. The result of action and the outcome can be anything.
One action can have five possible outcomes. We entertain only one expectation, but there are other possible outcomes. If other outcomes happen, then you’re upset. It dampens enthusiasm if you focus on the result and not on the effort. Hope for the result. Amma says to focus on the effort.
Nobody is perfect in the world. No one is going to allow the person to do freely. Emotions and attitude change people’s attitudes. Don’t expect others to love you. Reach equilibrium within your mind.
RM: Why do you think Amma’s teaching is universal, and is able to transcend race and nationalities?
SRP: Amma doesn’t talk about particular gods or religion. She loves talking about love, compassion, and helping others, which is common amongst other religions. Christian observances are different, but even Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself. Go deep into any religion and you find love and compassion. Externally there may be different observances, but if you go deep there’s actually no religion.
RM: What does Amma teach about love and compassion?
SRP: To love and to be loved. Hindu, Muslim, Christian, that love they feel when they come to Amma. It doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s a peace of mind for me and you.
RM: Today there is a lot of war, especially war because of religion. People are dying and children are dying. How can we resolve this issue?
SRP: If you stay [in religion] superficially, you will find controversy and differences. If you go deeper into religion, that can make all the difference.