Sunday January something or other, 2009
Yesterday we left Cochin and Heavenly Homestay. Mr. Patrick was not happy to have us going to Amritapuri. Here's the story: The other day he came into our room and hemmed and hawed - in malayalayam - then launched in. We could understand about 50% of what he said but the jist of it was that he loved it that we had been doing a little work at Mother Teresa's Orphanage. He told us that he had spent 5 years as a young man in service to the works of Mother Teresa. He told us that for him, Christ is #1 and Mother Teresa is #2. And then he began to weep with utter devotion. I realized then that he, in his East Indian bones, knows what it means to be in sacred and devotional relationship to a True Teacher (Guru). And like many true devotees feel, his Guru is the Best Guru. So he went on to tell us that Mother Teresa is a Big Tree and Amma – although a good and “straight” woman - is a little tree. He did not particularly feel that is was wholesome for us to be going to her ashram. Mr. Patrick is a very protective and very sweet man. His wife is strong and practical. He is in love with God – his wife takes care of business.
He feels that Mother Teresa is completely Real and deeply simple – completely in service to the poor. And that she has nothing backing her up but legitimate charitable donations. Ammachi, according to him, is backed up by tremendously rich people and even by the mafia. I don't know about all of this – what is meant by “the mafia” here is not necessarily the same as back in the U.S. “Mafia” could mean organized evil or it might mean “capitalists” or it could mean big wheelers and dealers who love God and love Ammachi. One thing is for sure, Mr. Patrick loves Mother Teresa and loves Jesus. I'm down with that.
The car ride south from Cochin to Quillon and Amritapuri was as uneventful as a car ride in India can be. I get seriously inspired and delighted by traffic here – I think I may have to write a whole blog entry about the flow of Grace and Shakti that governs the movement of a multitude of forms most wondrous down the crowded narrow streets of India. But for now....onwards to Ammachi's ashram.
Our cab driver, Mr. Wilson, a devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, had never been near Amritapuri. He is a good friend of Mr' Patrick so I can only assume that he was a little nervous and distrustful. Nevertheless, he skilfully found his way through jungle and backwater roads, through tiny poor and very poor villages. He kept apologizing when he would get a little lost – Oh Brother! I had to laugh! His version of getting lost is my version of knowing EXACTLY where I am. Finally we see, looming in the distance, a HUGE golden bridge across the river. Eli, Mr. Wilson and I all exclaimed simultaneously. He said something in malayayam....we just said “wow....this is crazy!” We had arrived at Amma's ashram.
We said farewell to Mr. Qilson – (our 4 hour cab ride cost us $40 U.S – obscenely low in the US – obscenely expensive here.) We crossed the golden bridge and entered a veritable beehive of activity. Amma's asram is reclaimed backwater land. There is so much water in Kerala that if you reclaim any of it it is yours. There is such a huge story here but as I sit in line for the internet use I have only about 5 more minutes to type and only 5 minutes to use the internet so I will try to express the remarkable nature of this place.. It is a small city.....hundreds and hundreds of people are here from all over the world – but mostly Indians. There are hospitals (Western and Ayurvedic) there are schools and colleges, Oh it goes on and on – her charitable works go on and on – amazing. All of this has grown up around Amma's birthplace – a hut on the ocean. Her family tried to beat sense into her but she was – from birth – crazy in love with God. Finally her family changed their attitude and gave her a cowshed in which to pray and chant. Devotees started to come.. Next a small house / ashram was built. Then it just grew and grew. Amma is the “Hugging Saint”. She gives darshan all over the world and will spend sometime 24 hours or more hugging people. She is an incarnation of the Divine Mother, it is said. As she hugs each person, she whispers a blessing in their ear. She must have hugged billions of people by now.
Eli and I wandered around, finally found our way to International check-in and got a room – which is VERY much like a prison cell – but we have the combination to the lock. We settled in a bit and then went to get food. We stood in line and then got to a big bin into which people were putting the dishes from which they had just finished eating. They washed their dish (with soap I was hoping) and returned it to the bin......I decided to “not worry” and took a dish from the bin. The Indian server put a scoop of rice, the next one a scoop of dahl,.....and so on......next time I will bring my own dishes from my pack as I realized they weren't exactly hygienic – didn't see any soap being used. I don't want to repeat the bad hepatitis that I got in China from similar behavior 25 years ago.
Amma is in residence = rare these days as she tours the world so much – so Eli are once again are held by and amazed by grace. We did darshan.......when she hugged me she whispered in my ear Ma Ma Ma Ma Ma Ma Ma. Well, if you have been following my blog lately– or my psyche (unlucky you) for the past year, you will know how amazing it is that she chose to whisper that. (It is OK that I'm telling this – it's not like a secret mantra or something – Eli ahd a different experience and different phrase whispered – don't think he will have time to type so I'll say it was not bad but not great – his experience.
This morning I woke up at 5 am to the sound of the 100 names of the Mother being chanted – so beautiful.....one of those names is Maria / Mary. I went down to get chai and then joined the many who were gathered on the beach for meditation...Also did some Yoga. and I stood in line for our time with her.......it was outrageous – my time is almost up....
Here, the love of God takes the form of the love of Ammachi, Jesus, Shiva, Ganesh, and more.
OK – may not be able to do this again soon -we shall see.....