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In Conversation With Mata Amritanandamayi (AMMA)

Ranjani Saigal

Reputed as tireless humanitarian, Mata Amritananamayi,  better known as “AMMA” or “AMMACHI” is an inspirational example of a life of selfless love and service. Despite limited resources, AMMA’s constantly growing list of service projects illustrates her miraculous ability to turn ideals into practical reality. Her extraordinary  love and compassion have attracted thousands of people from around the world to help bothe directly and indirectly to carry out this philanthropic movement in an organized way. Their dedication, devotion and selfless efforts have resulted in an impressive array of charitable activities. In addition to charitable projects AMMA has made extraordinary contributions in the educational and health care areas.

Personal History

Born in 1953, the daughter of a poor fisherman in the Kerala backwaters (a remote coastal area in South India along the Arabian Sea), AMMA has heeded the call to help others since early childhood.  At the age of ten, her schooling ended as she was forced into full time family chores.  Though treated as a “household slave”, AMMA dwelt in constant remembrance of God and never complained, although she adamantly refused to be married-off by her family.
As a young mystic, she began to attract crowds drawn to her God-intoxicated states.  In the early phases of her life, she confronted a traditional Indian society, who vehemently condemned her unconventional behavior.  (In India, the notion of a young holy woman hugging strangers is so unorthodox that one member of her own family attempted to kill her.  AMMA did not waver in her compassionate approach, and eventually former detractors became supporters.  In recent years, AMMA broke with the male-dominated religious tradition by allowing women to serve as priests in the traditional temples.

Recognition in the West

In 1993 AMMA was a selected President at the Centenary Parliament of World Religions in Chicago and in 1995 was a keynote speaker at the United Nations 50th Anniversary Commemoration. At the invitation of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, AMMA addressed the U.N. at The Millennium World Peace Summit, in 2000 as part of a select delegation of “preeminent religious and spiritual leaders”, In 2002, AMMA was greeted by a standing ovation at the U.N. in Geneva, upon being awarded the Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence, presented by Dr, Jane Goodall.

At, the 2004 Parliament of The World’s Religions in Barcelona, AMMA gave the closing plenary address with a discourse stressing the importance of harnessing “spiritual power” in an effort to rise above religious differences.

AMMA concluded her North American tour in New England. Thousands of devotees thronged the Best  Western Royal Plaza Hotel & Trade Center, in Marlborough on July 18 – 22 eagerly waiting to get an embrace from AMMA. AMMA was kind enough to speak to this Lokvani reporter.

There seems to be an increase in violence in the world. What is the reason for this?

The basic problem is the ego. Everyone is self-centered. Instead of being like water that can attain the shape of any vessel it has been poured into, people have become like ice – through which nothing can pass through. It cannot be molded.  This ego leads to a lot of conflict within the individual’s mind that manifests itself as wars and isolated terrorists incidence.

What can be done to prevent it?

It is important to transform hatred into love. Every individual has the capacity to be compassionate. We should work on tapping into that capacity. People should be more aware of spiritual values. These values should be built into the educational system.

There seems to be an increase in conflict even within the family. Divorces seem to be on the rise. What is the cause and how may this be prevented?

People are focused on the “I” and the “mine”. There is false pride. People consider the spouse as an object that can help them achieve their own selfish objectives. The person is transformed into a object.

People have a preconceived notion of how their wife or husband should behave. They are judgmental. This causes a widening of the gap between the husband and wife.

Each person should accept the other as they are rather the wanting to change them. One should look into the mirror and be aware of one’s own shortcomings.

What is the right way to bring up children?

Today you cannot force anything on the children. The world is a supermarket where the children have access  everything. It is very important for parents to give freedom to their children. But they should do this intelligently.  Parents should guide children intelligently in the supermarket of the world so that they choose to buy the right things. Often the problem is that the parents do not restrict a sugar cube from getting into the mouth of a child, but when the child  has it, the parents tell them not to swallow the sweet syrup.


For this reporter the interview was an amazing experience. AMMA did not stop the embrace of those who had come to receive grace even for a moment. She was very focused on the questions while unswerving in her desire to help those who had come to see her.  She was able to completely focus on the questions, listen to the translation and even comment on it and simultaneously focus on the needs of the person she was embracing.

Quotes from AMMA

No matter what difficulties we have to face, we should always have the awareness that we are resting in God’s lap, and that we are safe in God’s hands.

When someone is full of Love and Compassion he cannot draw a line between two countries, two faiths, or two religions.

We should worship God in the poor and suffering. Compassion to the world and devotion to God are not two but one; they are two faces of the same Truth.

True happiness is when the Love that is within us finds expression in external activities.

The opportunity to serve others should be considered a rare gift, a blessing from God. We should be happy and thank God for providing such opportunities.

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