Coming home to the Mothers Heart
My first Darshan with Mata Amritanandamayi Devi
I will never forget how hot and humid the weather was, that day in July 1999. I was sitting in a college gymnasium in Rhode Island- waiting, in the heat, for Amma. There were many others, hundreds in fact, who were also there--sweating and breathing--some moving--some stationary, but everyone, hot. In fact the only consistent movement, it seemed, was the breath that was inhaled and exhaled by each one there.
I remember looking around and wondering who all these people were, where did they come from, what drew them here to this day, this very hot day, to sit and wait so patiently. What drew me there?
I first heard of AMMA in 1993 or 1994 when I lived in Sedona Arizona, through a wonderful couple who were AMMA devotees. They were explorers of the Eastern traditions as was I at that point, and we fell into a deep and lasting friendship. We spoke of Sai Baba, Sri Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, Mother Meera, and Amma. Meeting the two of them was food for a parched and hungry soul, as I had been drawn to the Eastern traditions and teachings all of my life. I loved reading about the life of Buddha and his enlightenment experience under the tree. I have had many wonderful times with God under trees and it made perfect sense to me that Buddha should have his big moment with God, there.
I was baptized into the Roman Catholic religion, and did enjoy the rituals and energy of the weekly mass at church. But I didnít care for or even understand some of the many rules and implications of what would happen to you in this life, if you didn't follow their dictates. I never understood the teaching that we are complete sinners, doomed to a life in hell or worse--nebulous purgatory--- if you didnít shape up. For me, God was present everywhere, in the sky and the trees, the birds and the water--just everywhere in everything and everyone.
I stood in line along with many others, to receive a token, a numbered indication of my personal time with her. There was some chaos within the token giving arena, but it seemed to be controlled and with a purpose. As this was my first time, I was given a lower numbered token. And now I was sitting in a fold-up chair in the rear of the gymnasium--observing and reflecting, in the heat. My dear friend Karen, who was there with me, was sweating away as well. One of us had brought a small personal fan and we delighted in the movement of the hot air. We used the fan sparingly, as we didnít want the batteries to run out. And when we could actually muster the energy to speak, we commented how we had never been anywhere that was as hot as this gymnasium.
To pass the time, we took small walks in the gymnasium and perused the many wonderful and attractive items and books that were for sale. I did purchase a wallet size laminated photo of Amma in Devi Bhavan mood that I still have today, in my car. Everything was bright and colorful and I experienced a memory of a childhood longing. I used to wish that I had long beautiful black hair instead of my blond-brown hair. When I was young, every time I saw a woman with long dark hair, I felt happy.
The raised platform or stage at the other end of the room had a large mysterious boxed-in area upon it that had walls of beautiful cloth. I had never seen anything like it before, and yet it seemed to invoke some sort of a memory sensation within me. And suddenly, AMMA was there- I can't remember now where she entered from--she was just there-- now sitting upon the stage on a small raised platform. I was immediately intrigued and happy that I had come there that day. There were swami's there with her as well and I really liked the color of their robes, for it took my mind to the Eastern traditions that I felt such a kinship with.
Now my attention was brought to the brass trays that were in front of us all, as there was to be a Puja..something I had never experienced (in this life anyway). The small fires were lit and throughout the entire gymnasium, the sight of all the fires was very beautiful. I remember thinking how appropriate the fires were, as it matched or replicated the physical atmosphere so well. A blessing of water followed that, and then various devotees collected the trays. I know there were songs sung as well, but the interesting thing, is that in remembering this first meeting, some of the details have vanished from my memory. All I seem to remember is Her, on the stage. Then the curtains closed for some time, enfolding her within the drapery of beautiful cloth.
After a while, the curtains opened and I remember gasping at the beauty of what I saw with my eyes and the emotional impact the vision had on me. And there I was, now in the Darshan line, which seemed to move ever so slowly, for the air was still thick with heat and humidity. She was dressed in a very beautiful elaborate garment with a tiered crown or headdress. As I stood there, watching her every move, I mused that she must certainly be very comfortable in the heat, and feels right at home. It was now evening and there was a few large fans set up in areas of the gym-certainly functioning--and still the air hung like a wet blanket.
While waiting in line I experienced a memory of the gift and blessing of traveling to Lahore, Pakistan in 1974, to visit a long time pen pal. I was there for 3 weeks in November, so the heat was tolerable, but I remember knowing how hot it must feel in the summer. I felt right at home in Pakistan and loved being so close to India. Years later when I first read the book, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda, I literally wept when I read of his time in Lahore and realized deeply, that I had been there too. My heart overflowed with emotion that could not be contained.
Before I knew it, I was going up the stairs to see Her. I was asked to remove my glasses, and so I did, giving them to the able assistant. The other assistants swept me up into the moving line of those waiting to receive her Darshan. As I watched others kneel before her and receive their embrace, I hoped I would be able to get up ok, for I have arthritis in my knees. My concern about getting up and down seemed to be the biggest thing on my mind. I didnít want to hold up the efficiently moving line, and heaven forbid, fall or trip or anything else horrible right in front of her and the whole auditorium. And my second pervading thought was if I would be able to find or see the assistant that had my glasses!
In an instant I was there, at her feet, seeing her smile, feeling so very loved with my face right up against her chest. She was speaking something in my right ear, which even though I could not understand it, was very comforting. Her embrace was Divine and when the embrace stopped and I moved, my face and her face was only inches apart. Her dark eyes seemed to see right through every inch of me, including my soul. Time itself seemed to have disappeared from my awareness and if it hadn't been for the assistant's moving my physical body, I would have simply stayed where I was.
I was helped up to my feet and did somehow find my glasses and managed to walk off the stage and down the staircase. I then suddenly felt that I had to sit down and found an empty chair close to the stage. I sat there, feeling nothing in particular, kind of digesting the whole experience, when suddenly, a wave of energy went though me along my entire spine and it felt like my insides moved into another position.
I sat there for a while, feeling different, although not exceptionally different, but yet, very serene. I happily rejoined my friend Karen, and we drove home to Connecticut sometime later on that night. On the ride home, I realized that I didn't trip or fall while I was in process of kneeling before her, and felt great relief and gratitude. I was not to see AMMA again, until 2006--physically that is!