|Mātā Amṛtānandamayī Devī|
4 April 2009
27 September 1953
Parayakadavu, Alappad Panchayath, Kollam District, (now Kerala), India
- 1 Life
- 2 Darshan
- 3 Teachings
- 4 Bhajans
- 5 Charity work
- 6 Controversies
- 7 Attacks
- 8 Awards and honours
- 9 Positions
- 10 Publications and documentaries
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
Mātā Amṛtānandamayī 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. She has six siblings.
As part of her chores, Amṛtānandamayī 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. Amṛtānandamayī also began to spontaneously embrace people to comfort them in their sorrow. Despite the reaction of her parents, Amṛtānandamayī continued. Regarding her desire to embrace others, Amṛtānandamayī 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."
Amṛtānandamayī rejected numerous attempts by her parents to arrange for her marriage. Her life took a different path instead. In 1981, after spiritual seekers had begun residing at her parents' property in Parayakadavu in the hopes of becoming Amṛtānandamayī's disciples, the Mātā Amṛtānandamayī Math (MAM), a worldwide foundation, was founded. Amṛtānandamayī continues to serve 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, Amṛtānandamayī began to conduct programs in countries throughout the world. She has done so annually ever since.
In 2014, for the first time in history, major Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian leaders, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist leaders (including Amṛtānandamayī), met to sign a shared commitment against modern-day slavery organized by the Global Freedom Network; the declaration they signed calls for the elimination of slavery and human trafficking by the year 2020.
In July 2015, Amritanandamayi delivered the keynote address at a United Nations Academic Impact conference on technology and sustainable development, co-hosted by Amrita University. The event was attended by delegates from 93 international universities. In Amritanandamayi's address, she requested the scientific community to infuse its research with awareness and compassion, stressing the importance of keeping the aim of uplifting the poor and suffering in mind when undertaking technological research.
Amṛtānandamayī's form of giving darshan is hugging people. As to how this began, Amṛtānandamayī said, "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." Amṛtānandamayī has embraced more than 33 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, Amṛtānandamayī 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.
Amṛtānandamayī's darshan has been the centerpiece of her life, as she has received people nearly every day since the late 1970s. Given the size of the crowds coming to seek Amṛtānandamayī's blessings, there have been times when she has given darshan for more than 20 continuous hours.
In the book The Timeless Path, Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri, one of Amṛtānandamayī's senior disciples, wrote: "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." Amṛtānandamayī 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 different methods toward the same 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. Amṛtānandamayī has said that these practices refine the mind, preparing it to assimilate the ultimate truth: that one is not the physical body and mind, but the eternal, blissful consciousness that serves as the non-dual substratum of the universe. This understanding itself Amṛtānandamayī referred to as jivanmukti [liberation while alive]. Amṛtānandamayī said, "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."
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Amṛtānandamayī has recorded more than 1,000 bhajans, or devotional songs, in 35 languages. She has also composed dozens of bhajans and set them to traditional ragas. Regarding devotional singing as a spiritual practice, Amṛtānandamayī 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." Amṛtānandamayī has said that in today's world, it is often difficult for people to attain deeply focused concentration in meditation. A person can be aided in reaching this level of concentration with bhajans.
Embracing the World, Amma's network of charity organizations, provides food, housing, education, and medical services for the poor. This global network exists in 40 countries around the world, and has built and/or supported schools, orphanages, housing, and hospitals throughout India. In the United States, the organization has provided soup kitchens and hot showers for the homeless, books and hospital visits for prison inmates, and support for victims of domestic violence. The organization also raised $1 million in aid for Hurricane Katrina victims. The hospital located on the territory of Amma's ashram in Kerala offers medical care on a sliding scale, allowing people to pay what they can afford. This is often a minimal percent of the total medical cost.
Clean the Ganges program
On September 11, 2015, Amritanandamayi donated $15 million USD to the Government of India's Namami Gange "Clean the Ganges" program for the specific purpose of constructing toilets for poor families living along the Ganges River.
On September 27, 2015, Amritanandamayi pledged that her NGO would dedicate the value of another $15 million USD to toilet construction and other sanitation efforts specifically in the Indian state of Kerala.
Tamil Nadu Flood Relief
On December 9th, 2015, Amritanandamayi donated 5 crores of rupees ($736,486) to the flood relief fund established by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Additionally, at Amritanandmayi's direction, 500 volunteers from the Mata Amritanandamayi Math helped to rescue victims and distributed food, clothing, medicines, and other essentials.
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 claimed that all the "miracles" of Amṛtānandamayī were falsified. It was further written that there had been many suspicious deaths in and around her ashram that required 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 went on to explain that relatives of the deceased had personally contacted Deshabhimani in order to correct the misinformation conveyed in the original article. In several cases, the editors noted the relatives had contacted Deshabhimani to explain they were at the bedsides of elderly kin who had died of natural causes, with no suspicious aspects regarding the passings.
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 libelous statements 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 Amṛtānandamayī Math. CPI leader, Thengamam Balakrishnan protested the move against Pattathanam.
Source of foreign aid
In June 2007, Shantanu Guha Ray wrote in Tehelka weekly that Amṛtānandamayī Math, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdev, and other NGOs and religious organisations had large annual turnover of INR crores. In June 2007, novelist Paul Zacharia wrote on Tehelka that Amṛtānandamayī is free from the typical scrutiny on money that has foreign connections. In May 2008, the president of Kerala Yukthivadi Sangham, U. Kalanathan, urged the state government to conduct an enquiry into Amṛtānandamayī'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 alleged that her sources of income are suspicious.
Allegations by Gail Tredwell
In 2013, Gail Tredwell, a former disciple of Amṛtānandamayī, self-published a memoir of her 1980-99 tenure in Amṛtānandamayī's ashram. She made some allegations in this memoir as well as media interviews which preceded and followed the release of the book. The allegations, including the claim that Tredwell was physically assaulted by Amṛtānandamayī, have not been substantiated. Both Amṛtānandamayī and representatives of her ashram denied the allegations, saying that they were untrue and were aimed at exacting revenge for unfulfilled desires. In an interview in April 2014, Amṛtānandamayī spoke in depth about the incident, saying, "Even now, Amma is only filled with love for that daughter. I am praying that virtue and goodness come. Time will shine forth the truth."
In August 2005, Amṛtānandamayī was attacked by a man named Pavithran. He was sitting with other followers praying and singing in front of Amṛtānandamayī. He then rushed to Amṛtānandamayī with a knife, but was overpowered by a group of disciples. Amritanandamayi's disciple Swami 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 law student from Bihar, Satnam Singh Mann, attempted to barge onto the podium of Amṛtānandamayī at her ashram in Kollam. According to police, he was screaming and reciting words in Arabic. He attacked security guards and then was overpowered by devotees, who handed him over to the police.
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.
- 2014, Chosen as one among the 50 most powerful women religious leaders by The Huffington Post.
- Founder & Chairperson, Mata Amṛtānandamayī 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
- Member, Elijah Interfaith Institute Board of World Religious Leaders
Publications and documentaries
Amṛtānandamayī'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 Amṛtānandamayī 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.
Various documentaries have been made about her:
- 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
- Cornell, Judith (2001). Amritanandamayi: Healing the Heart of the World. New York: HarperCollins.
- Amsden, David (16 August 2012). "The Hugging Saint". Rolling Stone. p. 2. Archived from the original on 22 January 2014. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
- 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 Mātā Amṛtānandamayī 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.
- "Pope Francis And Other Religious Leaders Sign Declaration Against Modern Slavery". The Huffington Post.
- "Reduce divide between science, spirituality: Amritanandamayi". Business Standard.
- "'Bridge Gap Between Science, Spirituality'". The New Indian Express.
- Kuruvilla, Carol. "This Week In Pictures: Faith In Practice Around The World, November 9–15". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
- rediff.com: The Rediff Interview/Mata Amritanandmayi. Im.rediff.com (2 August 2002). Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- "rediff.com: The Rediff Interview/Mata Amritanandmayi". rediff.com.
- "'Amma' in Australia: India's hugging saint spreads love down under". BBC News. 24 April 2012.
- "Guru fights world's 'poverty of love,' one hug at a time - CNN.com". CNN. 22 August 2007.
- 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
- "The Hugging Saint". Rolling Stone.
- "The renowned hugging saint known as Amma draws crowds wherever she goes". Chicago Tribune.
- "The 2002 Karma Yoga Awards". Yoga Journal.
- "35,000 bags of garbage collected in Sabarimala clean-up". IBN Live. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
- "Amritanandamayi Madhom to clean up Sabarimala". The Hindu. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
- "Amritanandamayi math to take part in cleanliness". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
- "Sabarimala clean-up: 35,000 bags of garbage collected". Retrieved 2 October 2015.
- "Can $15m worth of toilets finally clean up the Ganges?". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
- PTI. "Mata Amritanandamayi Pledges RS Crore for sanitation work in Kerala". The Economic Times. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
- "Mata Amritanandamayi Math Donates Rs 5 Crore for Chennai Flood Victims". New Indian Express. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- 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, p. 6.
- "Rationalist association leader to be prosecuted". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 28 January 2004. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "Move to prosecute rationalist leader criticised". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 29 January 2004. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "The People's Paper". Tehelka. 30 June 2007. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "Tehelka - The People's Paper". tehelka.com.
- "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.
- Philip, Shaju (8 March 2014). "CPM-backed Kairali TV airs interview of author who alleged sex abuse at Amritanandamayi ashram". The Indian Express. Archived from the original on 26 March 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- "'Withdraw Controversial Book on Mata Amritanandamayi'". The New Indian Express. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- "Amritanandamayi scandal: Kerala leaders break silence on book". Firstpost India. 22 February 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- Jacob, Jeemon. "‘Many people who possess information against Amma are terrified to come forward’". Tehelka. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
- "Amma and her organization terrorize and intimidate people: Gail Tredwell". Dool News. 24 February 2014. Archived from the original on 8 April 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
- "Gail Tredwell’s interview goes viral". The Times of India. 9 March 2014. Archived from the original on 30 March 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
- K, Jayaprakash (22 February 2014). "Spiritual conundrum: Book claims 'hugging saint' ashram murky world of sex, money, power". DNA. Archived from the original on 27 February 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
- "Rumpus in the ashram". Retrieved 26 April 2014.
- "Mata Amritanandamayi Refutes All Allegations". The New Indian Express. 23 February 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
- "My life is an open book, says Mata". The Hindu. 23 February 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
- "Mata Amritanandamayi says the institution was an 'open book', dismisses allegations". IBN. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
- Raghunath, Rashmi (16 April). "Sneham Matram". Grihalakshmi: 21.
അമ്മയ്ക്ക് ആ മോളോട് ഇപ്പോഴും നിറഞ്ഞ സ്നേഹമേയുള്ളൂ. നന്മയുണ്ടാകട്ടെ, നല്ലതുവരട്ടെ എന്നു പ്രാർത്ഥിക്കുന്നു. കാലം സത്യം തെളിയിക്കും.Check date values in:
- "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.
- "Kerala: 'Ashram gatecrasher died after assault'". Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- South Asia | Devotees flock to hug Indian guru. BBC News (24 September 2003). Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
- [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
- "Vishwaretna puraskar presented to Amma by Hindu Parliament". amritapuri.org.
- Blumberg, Antonia (8 March 2014). "50 Powerful Women Religious Leaders To Celebrate On International Women's Day". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 9 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
- "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.
- Alon Goshen-Gottstein, PhD (22 May 2007). "Elijah Interfaith: Board of World Religious Leaders". elijah-interfaith.org.
- 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)
- Warrier, Maya (2005). Hindu Selves in a Modern World. London: Routledge Curzon. ISBN 9780415339889. An analytical treatment of the movement, from an academic perspective.
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