|Mātā Amṛtānandamayī Devī|
4 April 2009
27 September 1953
Parayakadavu, Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, (now Kerala), India
"There is one truth that shines through all of creation. Rivers and mountains, plants and animals,the sun, the moon and the stars, you and I—all are expressions of this one Reality."
Mātā Amṛtānandamayī Devī (Devanagari: माता अमृतानन्दमयी देवी, Malayalam: മാതാ അമൃതാനന്ദമയീ ദേവീ)(born as Sudhamani Idamannel on 27 September 1953), primarily known simply as Amma ["Mother"], is a Hindu spiritual leader and guru, who is revered as a saint by her followers. She is widely respected for her humanitarian activities. She has been described as "the hugging saint."
- 1 Biography
- 2 Darshan
- 3 Teachings
- 4 Bhajans
- 5 Books and publications
- 6 Controversies
- 7 Attacks on Amritanandamayi
- 8 Positions
- 9 Awards and honours
- 10 Documentaries on Amritanandamayi
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Amritanandamayi is an Indian Guru from Parayakadavu (now partially known as Amritapuri), Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, in the state of Kerala. Born to a family of fishermen in 1953, she was the third child of Sugunanandan and Damayanti. Like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sudhamani displayed an intense love for God right from very tender age. Her favourite God was Krishna. She started praying, crying and shedding tears seeking the darshan of Krishna and she composed and sang impromptu several devotional songs on Lord Krishna right from childhood.
Her education ended at the age of nine, when she began to take care of her younger siblings and the family domestic work full-time.
As part of her chores, Amritanandamayi gathered food scraps from neighbours for her family's cows and goats, through which she was confronted with the intense poverty and suffering of others. She would bring these people food and clothing from her own home. Her family, which was not wealthy, scolded and punished her. Amritanandamayi also began to spontaneously embrace people to comfort them in their sorrow. It was not permissible for a 14-year-old girl to touch others, especially men. But despite the reaction of her parents, Amritanandamayi continued. Regarding her embracing of others, Amritanandamayi commented, “I don’t see if it is a man or a woman. I don’t see anyone different from my own self. A continuous stream of love flows from me to all of creation. This is my inborn nature. The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering.”
Despite numerous attempts by her parents to arrange her marriage, Amritanandamayi rejected their efforts. In 1981, after various seekers had begun residing at her parents' property in Parayakadavu in the hopes of becoming Amritanandamayi's disciples, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM), a worldwide foundation, was founded. Amritanandamayi serves as chairperson of the Math. Today the Mata Amritanandmayi Math is engaged in many spiritual and charitable activities.
In 1987, at the request of devotees, Amritanandamayi began to conduct programs in countries throughout the world. She has done so annually ever since.
Darshan means "to see" in Sanskrit. In the Hindu ritual tradition, it refers to seeing the sacred. This typically corresponds to seeing the sacred in the image of a deity while at temple. It is believed that, in beholding the image of a deity, onlookers absorb through their eyes the powers of that deity. Darshan hence is believed to have the capacity to bring good fortune, well-being, and grace to those who participate in the act. Members of Amritanandamayi's following use the term specifically in reference to receiving a hug from Amritanandamayi.
Amritanandamayi has been giving darshan in this manner since her late teenage years. As to how this began, Amritanandamayi says, "People used to come and tell [me] their troubles. They would cry and I would wipe their tears. When they fell weeping into my lap, I used to hug them. Then the next person too wanted it... And so the habit picked up." Amritanandamayi's organisation, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, claims Amritanandamayi has embraced more than 32 million people throughout the world for over 30 years.
When asked, in 2002, to what extent she thought her embraces helped the ills of the world, Amritanandamayi replied, "I don’t say I can do it 100 percent. Attempting to change the world [completely] is like trying to straighten the curly tail of a dog. But society takes birth from people. So by affecting individuals, you can make changes in the society and, through it, in the world. You cannot change it, but you can make changes. The fight in individual minds is responsible for the wars. So if you can touch people, you can touch the world."
Amritanandamayi's darshan is the centerpiece of her life, as she has received people nearly every day since the late 1970s. With the size of the crowds coming to seek Amritanandamayi's blessings increasing, there are times when she gives darshan continuously for more than 20 hours.
In the book The Timeless Path, Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri, one of Amritanandamayi's senior disciples, writes: "The [spiritual] path inculcated by Amma is the same as the one presented in the Vedas and recapitulated in subsequent traditional scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita." Amritanandamayi herself says, “Karma [action], jñana [knowledge] and bhakti [devotion] are all essential. If the two wings of a bird are devotion and action, knowledge is its tail. Only with the help of all three can the bird soar into the heights.” She accepts the various spiritual practices and prayers of all religions as but various systems for the single goal of purifying the mind. Along these lines, she stresses the importance of meditation, performing actions as karma yoga, selfless service, and cultivating divine qualities such as compassion, patience, forgiveness, self-control, etc. Amritanandamayi says that these practices refine the mind, making it fit for assimilating the ultimate truth: that one is not the limited body and mind but the eternal blissful consciousness that serves as the non-dual substratum of the universe. This understanding itself Amritanandamayi refers to as jivanmukti [liberation while alive]. Amritanandamayi says, "Jivanmukti is not something to be attained after death, nor is it to be experienced or bestowed upon you in another world. It is a state of perfect awareness and equanimity, which can be experienced here and now in this world, while living in the body. Having come to experience the highest truth of oneness with the Self, such blessed souls do not have to be born again. They merge with the infinite."
Amritanandamayi has recorded more than 1,000 bhajans in 35 languages. She has also composed dozens of bhajans and set them to traditional ragas. Regarding devotional singing as a spiritual practice, Amritanandamayi says, "If the bhajan is sung with one-pointedness, it is beneficial for the singer, the listeners, and Nature as well. Later when the listeners reflect on the songs, they will try to live in accordance with the lessons enunciated therein." Amritanandamayi says that in today's world, it is often difficult for people to get one-pointed concentration in meditation, but this concentration can be attained much easier through devotional singing.
Books and publications
Amritanandamayi's disciples have transcribed her conversations with devotees and spiritual seekers to create approximately a dozen books of her teachings known as "Awaken Children". The addresses she has delivered at various international forums have also been published in book form. Beginning in April 2011, a bi-weekly message from Amritanandamayi has appeared in the Lifestyle section of the Express Buzz Sunday supplement of the New Indian Express newspaper. She also writes a regular blog in the spiritual publication Speaking Tree.
Some controversies about Amritanandamayi are:
Book by Sreeni Pattathanam
Sreeni Pattathanam, the Kerala-based head of the Indian Rationalist Association, wrote Matha Amritanandamayi: Sacred Stories and Realities, a controversial critique first published in 1985. The author claims that all the miracles of Amritanandamayi are bogus and that there have been many suspicious deaths in and around her ashram that need police investigation.
On 9 August 2002, Deshabhimani, a Malayalam daily newspaper owned by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), published a similar account, demanding investigation into the same deaths Pattathanam found suspicious. On 24 September 2002, Deshabhimani officially apologised for the report, publishing an article titled "Report that Suspicious Deaths at Amritanandamayi Math Are Growing Was Incorrect." The article stated: "We now state with conviction that there was nothing suspicious about deaths that happened in the Math. Some of the deaths mentioned in the article did not even take place at the Math." The article goes on to describe how relatives of the deceased had personally contacted Deshabhimani in order to correct the misinformation conveyed in the article. In several cases, the deaths were of elderly people, and the editors explained how the relatives had contacted Deshabhimani to explain how they were at the bedsides of the people who supposedly had died suspiciously during the time of their passing.
In 2004, the Kerala State Government sanctioned criminal prosecution of Patthathanam, the owner of the publishing company and the printer of the book on grounds that religious sentiments had been offended and for the derogatory and defamatory contents in the book. The order followed directions from the Kerala High Court to the Home Department for considering an application by T.K. Ajan, a resident of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math. CPI leader, Thengamam Balakrishnan protested the move against Pattathanam.
Source of foreign aid
In June 2007, Shantanu Guha Ray wrote on Tehelka weekly that Amritanandamayi Math, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdas, and other NGOs and religious organisations had large annual turnover of INR crores. In June 2007, novelist Paul Zacharia wrote on Tehelka that Amritanandamayi goes scotfree from scrutinies on money with foreign strings.
In May 2008, the president of Kerala Yukthivadi Sangham, U. Kalanathan urged the state government to conduct an enquiry into Amritanandamayi's assets. He said the sources of the her income and its utilisation should be investigated.
In June 2008, writer Sukumar Azhikode demanded the state government to probe the source of foreign aid received by her organisation. He said Amritanandamayi was being used as an instrument by vested interests around her. He accused that her sources of income are suspicious.
Attacks on Amritanandamayi
In August 2005, Amritanandamayi was attacked by a man named Pavithran. He was sitting with other followers praying and singing in front of Amritanandamayi. He then rushed to Amritanandamayi with a knife, but was overpowered by a group of disciples. Amritanandamayi's disciple Amritaswarupananda Puri said Pavithran was of "unstable mind." Amritanandamayi, who forgave Pavithran, said, "All those who are born will die one day. I am going ahead keeping this reality in mind. I will carry on. I will continue to give darshan to the devotees coming here to meet me."
On 1 August 2012, a 25-year-old Bihari law student, Satnam Singh Mann, attempted to barge onto the podium of Amritanandamayi at her ashram in Kollam. According to police, he was screaming and reciting words in Arabic at the time. He attacked security guards and then was overpowered by devotees, who handed him over to the police. After appearance before a magistrate on 2 August, Mann was kept in custody at a Kollam sub-jail, where he exhibited more violent behavior. The police transferred him to a district hospital in Kollam, and then, on 3 August, he was transferred to the Mental Health Centre at Peroorkada. On 4 August, he was found unconscious in his cell and was taken to the Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, where he was pronounced dead.
Mann's death was considered "mysterious." Kerala BJP president, V. Muraleedharan, demanded a CBI probe, stating that Mann's death prevented him from being questioned regarding the motivation for his attacks and that his death may have been a cover-up for a religiously-motivated or terrorist attack. Sources from Mann's family stated that he was brought to the hospital from the jail in a severely tortured condition, with more than 30 injury marks on his body. Social activist Agnivesh observed that Mann should have been treated with compassion by the ashram. He said there was not anything seriously objectionable in Mann's past and he had not insulted or abused anyone. He said the ashram must have said something to the police because of which they overdid things. Crime Branch Inspector General B. Sandhya was given the responsibility to probe the murder. She visited the Mata Amritanandamayi ashram and recorded statements from devotees. She also met Amirtanandamayi. The Crime Branch report, submitted in court, revealed that Mann was beaten by a warden, an attendant and four other patients for fighting with a cell mate at the mental hospital. The report says they Mann was struck with a thick cable wire and lock and his head was bashed against a wall. It says there were 77 bruise marks on his body, mainly on his head and neck. The warden and the attendant were arrested in connection with the murder. The report was officially submitted to the Kerala High Court on 25 September 2012, stating: "The post-mortem report, medical report, casesheet, CCTV records, circumstantial and scientific evidence clearly prove that the death was a custodial murder."  Doctors had confirmed serious injury marks on Mann's body before taking him into custody. When addressing the press after Mann's death, Mann's relative Vimal Kishore said that when he had visited Mann in the Karunagappally jail he had seen no injuries on his cousin. Mann's father, Harendra Kumar Singh, announced to the press, "It looks like a clear case of murder in judicial custody." He also added that Mann never showed any mental problems in school.
- Founder & Chairperson, Mata Amritanandamayi Math
- Founder, Embracing the World
- Chancellor, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University
- Founder, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS Hospital)
- Parliament of the World's Religions, International Advisory committee member
- President Swami Vivekananda's 150th birth anniversary celebration committee, India
Awards and honours
- 1993, 'President of the Hindu Faith' (Parliament of the World's Religions)
- 1993, Hindu Renaissance Award (Hinduism Today)
- 1998, Care & Share International Humanitarian of the Year Award (Chicago)
- 2002, Karma Yogi of the Year (Yoga Journal)
- 2002, Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence by The World Movement for Nonviolence (UN, Geneva) · 
- 2005, Mahavir Mahatma Award (London)
- 2005, Centenary Legendary Award of the International Rotarians (Cochin)
- 2006, James Parks Morton Interfaith Award (New York)
- 2006, The Philosopher Saint Sri Jnaneswara World Peace Prize (Pune)
- 2007, Le Prix Cinéma Vérité (Cinéma Vérité, Paris)
- 2010, The State University of New York awarded Amma an honorary doctorate in humane letters on 25 May 2010 at its Buffalo campus.
- 2012, Amma featured in the Watkins' list of the top 100 most spiritually influential living people in the world.
- 2013, Awarded first Vishwaretna Purskar (Gem of the Word Award) by Hindu Parliament on 23 April 2013 at Tiruvananthapuram (India)
- 2013, Awarded proclamation on behalf of the State of Michigan to Amma commemorating Amma’s 60th birthday, the official proclamation describes Amma as a true citizen of the world and recognizes Amma’s charitable works worldwide.
Documentaries on Amritanandamayi
- 1999 River of Love: A Documentary Drama on the Life of Ammachi
- 2000 Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends – "Indian Gurus" (BBC-TV)
- 2005 Darshan: The Embrace – directed by Jan Kounen
- 2007 In God's Name – directed by Jules Clément Naudet and Thomas Gédéon Naudet
- South Asia | Devotees flock to hug Indian guru. BBC News (24 September 2003). Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- Amma: The hugging saint, Cathy Lynn Grossman (2006). USA Today. Retrieved on 19 February 2008.
- Cornell, Judith (2001). Amritanandamayi: Healing the Heart of the World. New York: HarperCollins.
- Amritanandamayichi – A Biography of Mata Amritanandamayi by Swami Amritaswarupananda, ISBN 1-879410-60-5
- http://www.embracingtheworld.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ETW2012.pdf | page 7, “I don’t see if it is a man or a woman. I don’t see anyone different from my own self. A continuous stream of love flows from me to all of creation. This is my inborn nature. The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering.”
- Millions flock to India's hugging guru. Thestar.com.my. Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- On 6 May 1981, "with a view to preserving and propagating the ideals and teachings of the Holy Mother, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math and Mission Trust was founded and registered under the Travancore-Cochin State Literary and Charitable Act of 1955, at Kollam, Kerala, South India." Amritanandamayichi – A Biography of Mata Amritanandamayi by Swami Amritaswarupananda, ISBN 1-879410-60-5
- (Amma's Charities). Embracing the World. Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- Babb, Lawrence. 1981. Glancing: Visual Interaction in Hinduism. Journal of Anthropological Research 37 (4):387–401; Eck, Diana. 1981. Darshan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. 2 ed. Chambersburg, PA: Anima.
- Fuller, C.J. 1992. The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Princeton: Princeton University Press
- rediff.com: The Rediff Interview/Mata Amritanandmayi. Im.rediff.com (2 August 2002). Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- The Timeless Path by Swami Ramakrishnananda, ISBN 978-1-879410-46-6
- Lead Us to the Light: A Collection of Mata Amritanandamayi's Teachings Compiled by Swami Jnanamritananda
- "The goal of all religions is one—purification of the human mind." ("Living in Harmony" By Mata Amritanandamayi)
- McGregor, Gretchen Kusuma, "In the Shelter of Her Arms," 2012, MA Center, page 199 | "It's hard to imagine, but now, in 2012, Amma has recorded well over 1,000 songs in 35 languages."
- Awaken, Children, Volume 2: Dialogues with Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi
- For My Children: The Teachings of Her Holiness Sri Mata Amritanandmayai Devi, page 70
- Mass Publicationas, Kollam, Kerala, revised edn. (The Malayalam language subtitle is "Divya Kathakalum Yatharthyavum".)
- "Report that Suspicious Deaths at Amritanandamayi Math Are Growing," Deshabhimani, 9 August 2002
- "Report that Suspicious Deaths at Amritanandamayi Math Are Growing Was Incorrect," Deshabhimani, 24 September 2002, Page 6
- "Rationalist association leader to be prosecuted". The Hindu. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "Move to prosecute rationalist leader criticised". The Hindu. 29 January 2004. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "The People's Paper". Tehelka. 30 June 2007. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "News, What's happening in kerala". Malayalam.webdunia.com. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "Writer demands probe into Amrita Mutt's wealth". Sify.com. 14 June 2008. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "Amritanandamayi unhurt in attack". Rediff.com. Retrieved 2012-08-08.
- Padanna, Ashraf. "Mata Forgives Attacker; disciples see larger design". Gulf Today. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- "Amritanandamayi unfazed by attack, to continue with darshan". Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- "Man attempted to attack Mata Amritanandamayi found dead under mysterious circumstances : South, News – India Today". Indiatoday.intoday.in. Retrieved 2012-08-08.
- "BJP demands high-level probe into Bihari youth's death, IBN Live News". Ibnlive.in.com. Retrieved 2012-08-08.
- "NATIONAL / KERALA : BJP demands probe". The Hindu. Retrieved 2012-08-08.
- "Brother suspects police hand in death of Bihari youth". Newstrackindia.com. Retrieved 2012-08-08.
- http://newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/article1239982.ece | "Satnam's death was custodial murder, HC Told," New Indian Express, 25-9-12.
- "Who we are". Embracing the World. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "About Amma". Amrita.edu. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre | AIMS Hospital, Kochi, Kerala, India". Aimshospital.org. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "ABOUT US / Honorary International Advisors | Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions". Parliamentofreligions.org. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- [dead link]
- Catalfo, Phil. (10 September 2001) The 2002 Karma Yoga Awards. Yoga Journal. Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- The World Council of Religious Leaders. Millenniumpeacesummit.com (4 April 2000). Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- The future of this planet depends on the women (Gandhi-King United Nations 2002)
- Home. Nonduality.com. Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- [dead link]
- ICNY. Interfaithcenter.org. Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- Amma Awarded Sant Jnaneshwara World Peace Prize @ Amritapuri.org. Archives.amritapuri.org (31 January 2006). Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- Entertainment | Film award honours 'hug guru'. BBC News (13 October 2007). Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- International Humanitarian Amma Receives SUNY Honorary Degree at UB – UB NewsCenter. Buffalo.edu (26 May 2010). Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- Watkins' Spiritual 100 List for 2012, Mind Body Spirit, Feb 2012
- Amma: Healing the Heart of the World by Judith Cornell, (William Morrow & Company, ISBN 0-688-17079-X)
- Messages from Amma: In the Language of the Heart by Janine Canan (Ten Speed Press, ISBN 1-58761-214-3)
- Getting to Joy: A Western Householder's Spiritual Journey with Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) by Karuna Poole (Shantini Center, ISBN 0-9643629-2-9)
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