News at Wise Earth Publishers
To be outside of the ashram, and know that Holy Mother Amma has returned to Amritapuri from her foreign tours, brings a certain agony. This year it was particularly intense, as She was returning to India from the US yatra (pilgrimage) in time for Guru Poornima. This is the day to annually honour the great blessing of having the True Teacher in our lives. Many take gifts to their Teacher, and many receive initiations on this day. The chance to formally express one's consecration and dedication, to give one's love and gratitude to Such a One, is a most relish-able, cherish-able, delight.
In truth, there is nothing we can do for our Amma, that does not benefit ourselves first and foremost. As Gandhi once observed,
``Selflessness may be the purest form of selfishness.”i
It has been a few years since our Holy Mother was in the ashram for this day. A friend notified us of the possibility in May, and we began thinking how we could wangle our schedules and events that needed to happen, for return to India.
There were obstacles facing our timely return to Amritapuri, namely, Linkesh's thesis defence, and his work on the Crisis Communicator, which is still upcoming. Unsure of dates, and ever hopeful of a sudden reprieve from duties abroad, and a quick rush back to India, we were unable to definitively say we would be able to host Guru Poornima until the 3rd week in June, when it became clear that Link's thesis defence in Portugal would be in the later part of July.
There were dreams, signs, all beacons and portents of Holy Mother's Grace to us in the effort. Our location, Alvkarleby, is pristine, and uniquely suited for a spiritual community life and adoration of the Face of God as Nature.
Alvkarleby is a rural village with a history that dates back to the early 1400's, if not earlier. The Alvkarleby church, dedicated to the Divine Mother as the Blessed Virgin Mary, has been cherished in the town since the 1470's; the altar has an elaborately carved folding altar of Mother Mary made around 1490. The expression of both Mother and Child is very sweet and innocent - a view of woman hood from over 533 years ago!
We were thrilled to learn that the Divine Mother is worshipped here. Holy Mother Amma has taught us that it is good to be in a place where there is a temple, the people will be more dharmic and God Fearing.
In the mid 1600's iron works began , the rushing Dalvalen river providing water power, and with jobs and energy available, more people moved to the town. Below are photos of the Dalaven today, and in the past. Sweden's first Hydroelectric Dam was here in Alvkarleby, in 1911. Dams have reduced the flow, but the Dalavan is still a strong and rushing river.
Our section of Alvkarleby, is known as the Alvkarleo Bruk. `leo' means island and `Bruk' means the industrial area. The Bruk consists of workers housing and several factories, formerly for the iron works. Each apartment had an apple tree, a section of the barn, fields and meadows for garden and hay, and people were known to keep a cow and a pig. There is a strong community feeling, by virtue of close living with one another and the Earth, although the careful kinship ties with the Earth have since suffered with the advent of unbridled capitalism and consequent consumerism.
The little red building in the Bruk (above) became our Prayer House. Historically, the building was a place for social education and reform efforts such as alcohol prohibition, service to other ideals, as well as activities such as clubs and musical events. We were told by some village members that the building had not really been used since 1940. It is now viewed as part of the historical legacy of the Bruk to the town.
Nonetheless, for us, it was our Prayer House. We were amazed to see that it was in reasonably good condition, had been painted within the last 2 years, and was useable with a little elbow grease and some construction work on the entrance, some laundering, etc. We made inquiries with our landlord, and found it was freely available to the community. Joy seized us to know such a gift was here, that we could love our Amma in!
Recalling how on Amma's 50th Birthday, She had said that so many people gathering in prayer, was a small light, lit in the darkness, we thought to make the event a Prayer Day for World Peace and Harmony, combined with Guru Poornima. Due to people's schedules, we made it for Sunday, the 21st of July, which was the day before the astrologically appropriate Guru Poornima day.
The week before the event, Link and I began cleaning the prayer hall, in preparation for decorating it when more people arrived. It was quite passable by Thursday, and a light rain came when we had finished, with two incredibly beautiful and clear double-double rainbows. They went from directly infront of our rooms to directly opposite the Prayer Hall. This is a photo of it!
For those who don't know much about Guru Poornima this is a brief explanation of the principles behind it.
Significance behind Guru Poornima
Guru Poornima is common to Sanathana Dharma (Hindu-ism), Sikh-ism, Jain-ism, Budhh-ism, and is celebrated in all countries where these faiths are adhered to. Muslims in India also honour Guru Poornima. That pretty much covers all of Asia, South Asia and East Asia, many parts of Central Asia, numerous islands and other territories. As Asians have spread all over the world, they also host Guru Purnima in their newly adopted lands; announcements of the day's festivities by groups in different universities in the USA, in the temples of the faithful around the world, etc, are quickly making Guru Purnima a world wide event.
In Hinduism, the day is tied historically to the birthday of Sage Vyasa, on the full moon day of the lunar month of Ashadh, in the Hindu calendar. Vyasa is credited almost inconceivably, with prolific scripture authorship of the 18 Puranas, the Mahabharata, and with organizing the Vedas. `Vyasa' however, also means `compiler', so it is perhaps more likely that different `vyasas' throughout history were involved with the effort, rather than a singular individual, and each wrote the title of their profession as compiler – vyasa. In India, those drawing pictures of the dieties, working with Scriptural texts, are self-effacing, and do not put their personal name, (the `by me! I did it!') on their works of art and literature.
Let it suffice to say that the Scriptures are also recognized as being a Guru, but, as all who have a living Guru can testify, personal experience and context go much further than words.
In Buddhism, Guru Purnima is tied to the day Lord Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath, after gaining enlightenment.
For the Sikhs, the Granth Sahib, their Holy Book, is considered the final Guru. Sikh temples are simply beautiful; one washes hands and feet before entering, and anyone is free to read from the Granth Sahib. Their Guru, through their Holy Book, is accessible to all.
To those following a path of wandering asceticism in Buddhism and Jainism, the day also marks the beginning of the four months of necessary confinement in one location due to monsoons.
About the Guru
The Spiritual Teacher, is the Guru, the One who removes our ignorance, leading us from darkness – gu, to inner light (awareness) – ru; the Guru, the One helping us to gain awareness and understanding about the presence of Truth and Reality within and without us. They are called the Sat Guru, Sat meaning, Truth. The concept of Guru, as the One who has the power to remove our ignorance, is also honoured on this day in the `lesser' teachers, our academic teachers and those who teach us the arts and skills, which in India are also held to be sacred. It can be understood even more loosely and generally, as those who remove our ignorance about any particular matter.
In India, the relevance of the Guru to one's life is profound. The essence of the Guru, is something that is within us and without us everywhere. This elemental essence, is called the Guru Tattva, and has been likened to a mechanism. When we experience it in our lives, we call it Grace. It is natural to the cosmos, and expands our awareness. In and around the personage of Holy Mother Amma in the thought of Her, and for those who have the blessing to consider her their Guru, the Guru Tattva is experienced.
To have a living Sat Guru – the True Teacher, in one's life is to have a rock of support, of succour and love throughout the vicissitudes of life. To have a wise and loving mentor to whom one can always turn. To have an eternal Best Friend. The real Lover who is the best lover, because the Love is Purest. The true Mother, Father, the Real Wealth of life. The One Person. The Sat Guru's divine light of reality and selfless love continually uplifts the disciple, continually inspires towards expansiveness, righteousness and self improvement, for it is only in our own purest self, in what we really are that we can know our oneness with the Guru. The Guru continually bathes one in a love that is experienced as Divine.
Poornima refers to the full moon. Observing the lunar orb throughout its waxing and waning, India's ancient Seers and astronomers noted 16 blemishes in the light upon it, and also, 16 areas in the human mind that can prevent the full expression of the truth within us from shining out.
India's metaphysical scientists have studied Nature carefully, and saw three inherent qualities or gunas within her. The three gunas are: that which uplifts us, is pure and peaceful, sattva; rajas, the energetic quality of nature; and tamas, the inert quality of Nature. Due to the imbalance of the rajas and tamas further blemishes arise which prevent the effulgence of truth and love from radiant display in our characters, actions, and outlooks. These are seen as six inner foes: lust, anger, greed, desire, pride and envy or jealousy.
Added to this are the ills of arrogance, which are seen in eight types of conceit, known as mada. We can become arrogant and conceited by concepts of self importance due to our familial pedigree, our education and expertise in a given arena, our wealth, pride, our physical appearance, the energy, intolerance and over-confidence of youth, false concepts of our position in relation to others, and even ideas about how spiritual we are, our sadhana or practices, or even our penance.
On Guru Poornima, the vision of the moon is unmarred, fully radiant with the sun's rays. The Sat Guru's Being reflects fully the light of the sun. We likewise have the capacity to purify our minds to express the unadulterated light of the Sun of truth and love within us. It is to purify the mind and thereby free the heart to express our own true inborn divinity, that the help of the Sat Guru is cherished and eagerly sought. Continually reaffirming our innate divinity to us, the Guru shows us our foolishness in regard to who and what we think we are. In this process, the wondrous light of the Guru's pure wisdom and love in our lives is indispensable.
Swami Sivananda, the enlightened Master, who founded the Divine Life Society in Rishikesh, was a strong upholder of the principles behind India's ancient sciences and traditions. Able to express his ideas fluently in English, his works are online. He gave this description of the relevance of the Guru to our personal life:
``It is only the Guru who will find out your defects. The nature of egoism is such that you will not be able to find out your own defects. Just as a man cannot see his back, so also he cannot see his own errors. He must live under a Guru for the eradication of his evil qualities and defects.”
Those of us who have been blessed to be in Holy Mother Amma's presence, to have received initiation from Her, or who simply recognize Her within their hearts, know that She is and infinite force of deluging, oceanic love, of such purity and magnitude, this world has never seen a parallel. To be with Her is to live with all the joy and wonder of a child's Christmas morning, when we wake to open all the surprise gifts. The experience of Her grace in our lives, removing obstacles, bringing understanding, placing our feet firmly upon the path of dharma, showing us our true nature, de-brainwashing us from our false self-identifications, is the mechanism of Her tattva at work in our lives.
Why Holy Mother Amma is called`Amriteshwari' & hailed with, `Om Amriteshwaryai Namaha'
Amma's public name is Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, meaning the Mother of Nectarous Bliss. She is recognized also as Amriteshwari, and one of our Ashram chants, is Om Amriteshwaryai Namah.
We say Amriteshwari, as Our Amma, Amritanandamayi, is Iswari, a holder of 8 siddhis or metaphysical powers. The stories of people's observations of the siddhis are innumerable. However, it should be clearly understood that Holy Mother Amma attaches no importance to having siddhis, and does not flaunt them in any way. A true Sat Guru only uses these gifts for the positive benefit to the world and disciples. Being pure and selfless, they have no `ulterior selfish motives'. Amma has stressed again and again, that the real siddhi is to gain equal vision and equanimity of mind or self realisation. Nonetheless, for the record, my family has personally witnessed eight siddhis under Amma's operation, the 6th, Prakamya, by acute sensing of a palpable presence, and awareness of Her Eye upon us, at other times by seeing Her within, in the `mind's eye.'
These eight siddhis1 are: 1) Anima- the ability to make the body minutely small, atomic, 2) Mahima- the ability to increase the physical size or perception of Her body, 3) Laghima- the capacity to make the body as light as a feather, 4) Garima, the ability to make the body heavier than stone, 5) Prapti – the capability of securing anything wished, anything, 6) Prakamya – the power of being present while unseen, or invisible, 7) Vashitwam – the capability to attract and control others, and 8) Ishitva2 – one who possesses Lordship, which is why such Great Souls are addressed as Lord. We say Lord Rama, Lord Jesus, Lord Krishna, and I have always known, My Lord Amma. Lordship means they have complete control over all their senses, complete control over their mind, control over the elements, fire, water, earth, sky, and air; over disease, sleep, aging. Such a Personage can see the past, present and future of all people, can see and hear anyone in the world, and understand the languages of birds and animals, among other phenomenon3.
This brings to mind a story related to me by a couple who had moved near Amma from Kozikode in the early 1970's, and stayed near her for nearly 15 years. We have to understand the spans of time that Amma is working in, at this point it is for generations. Once they accompanied Amma on an visit to their town. A distraught woman, who had not seen or heard from her son since he had gone abroad, begged Amma to give her some news of him. Amma told her, that ``Amma does not see him.” Mystified by this, she turned to the couple, who had then to explain the painful fact that her son was no more in this world. This fact was confirmed some months later.
In late 1969, in order to develop awareness in us of Her capacity to help us, when Holy Mother Amma first began her public work, She manifested the `panch amritam' (the delicious sweet pudding made of rice, milk, rose, bananas, and nuts); people hailed it as a miracle. Amma declared that She didn't see it as a miracle. She refused to manifest more things, declaring that She had come to remove our ignorance about the purpose of our lives and the truth within us, not make a circus show. Understanding the most subtle laws, nothing in the material or immaterial worlds is beyond her sway. Interestingly, the next day, the Lord Krishna temple in Guruvayoor over 200 km away, published a list of articles missing from their stores that matched the ingredients.
As the publishers at the Divine Life Societyii noted:
``Miracles are not miracles for the Yogi. They are natural and almost inevitable in the plane of consciousness in which he lives. Therefore, he is not even aware of his own psychic and spiritual powers, any more than we feel that being able to walk, talk or see is a wonderful power.”
Even more than this, Holy Mother Amma has been found to have Aishwarya, and we chant “Om Amriteshwaryai Namaha” after mantras and prayers in the ashram.
We have to understand what Aishwarya means to understand as far as we are able, who and what is Holy Mother Amma. Sri Aurobindo gave this description of Aishwarya in his Record of Yoga dairyiii:
``Aishwarya is effectiveness of the Will acting on object or event without the aid of physical means. It may work
1. by pressure or tapas [spiritual force] of the chaitanya4 [pure consciousness] straight on the object
that has to be affected
2. by pressure or tapas of chaitanya on the Prakriti [energy power that creates the cosmos] (either the
general world-Prakriti or Prakriti in the object itself) to bring about directly the result intended
3. by pressure on the Prakriti to bring about circumstances which will compel indirectly the result intended.
4. without pressure by mere thought that is will, the ajna [or ajnanam] of the Ishwara which Prakriti automatically obeys.
The last is the highest power of Aishwarya5 and its supreme state of being; for here Chit & Tapas [pure consciousness and spiritual force] become one, as in the Will of God Himself. ”
We do not realize who and what Holy Mother Amma is, nor the significance of the experience of Her in our lives. Perhaps it is because She is too humble before us, before our ignorance. She does not seek to `wow' us with Her power, although Her Divine Authority is undeniable. When asked by reporters and journalists how it is that she can go on, day after day, meeting each person with the same deep intensity and freshness, our Holy Mother Amma humbly replies, ``It is because I am plugged into the Source of power.” We don't realize what this means. It is a deep statement, the contemplation of which is guaranteed to bring about great inner joy.
Swami Shivananda asks:
"Do you realize now the sacred significance and the supreme importance of the Guru's role in the evolution of man? It was not without reason that the India of the past carefully tended and kept alive the lamp of Guru-Tattva. It is therefore not without reason that India, year after year, age after age, commemorates anew this ancient concept of the Guru, adores it and pays homage to it again and again, and thereby re-affirms its belief and allegiance to it. For, the true Indian knows that the Guru is the only guarantee for the individual to transcend the bondage of sorrow and death, and experience the Consciousness of the Reality."
Holy Mother Amma, the one in whom Aishwarya stands complete, tells us:
``All yogas (methods of contemplation seeking union with truth and love within us) aim at samathava bhava – an attitude of equality – equal vision of all. There is no God beyond that, whatever may be the path. That state should be attained.”
Cooking and Prep Days
Friday and Saturday, guests came, most of whom were devotees, eager to help with the proceedings. Soon, we were 11; three tents were set up outside, for Reidar, Reza, Linkesh and Hermand, inside, we were three, Maria, Kerstin and myself, and two additional apartments in nearby buildings housed Kicki, Richard, Lotta and Ammika-Ma. One must not forget the cats, Murali Krishna and Theo Rama, who quickly and happily adjusted to their new freedom in Nature, far from the city life of Stockholm. Below are Reidar, Lotta and Ammika-Ma.
With many hands available, the guests became the Prep Team, and we made carrot Halva, jam cakes and ginger spice cookies on Friday. This was interspersed with swims, meals, endless laughter and joyous chatter.
The boys set up the tents, and created a more level walk in front of what was now our Temple. We prepared the Altar, with all of our teachers, and Holy Books.
With great joy on Saturday, we collected wildflowers from the plentiful meadows around us, and rose petals from rose bushes that have the fragrance of Madurai roses, for offering during Guru Purnima. We made rolls, pesto and pasta, and soaked the dal for Sunday.
The program began at 09:00 on Sunday. It was a cool 18C, but clear day. We all awoke early, and made rice and dal, for our group contribution to the potluck, and fresh coffee and tea were taken to the Prayer Hall, along with the refreshments.
Her Grace was flowing through every hand and the air around us. Amazingly, despite only having one toilet, and a limited hot water supply, the sanitary facilities were available in a timely fashion to each who needed them, which had been a concern.
Up early, those who needed breakfast ate, and we were all in the Prayer Hall by 08:45. The program was thus:
09:00 – 10:45 Devotional Songs and Prayers for World Peace and Harmony
10:45 – 11:15 Refreshments
11:15 – 12:15 Readings and Katha – Stories of the Guru
12:15 - 13:00 Guru Stotram, and Offerings to the Guru
At first, it was just all of us, then, local people began arriving, and we sang many songs ( Beatles reigned) to our Beloved: Give Me Love, Let it Be, My Sweet Lord, River is Flowing, Imagine, some beautiful Swedish bhajans, O Store Gud, and Sommarpsalm, and several Indian Bhajans. During refreshments more local people came and went, and some neighbours decided to stay to the end. One Mother wanted to know who Abdul Baha was, and I was grateful to know enough to be able to explain the tenants of the faith. His gentle and loving kindness radiates from his photo.
All in all, it was, no doubt, a smaller affair, but, the best was truly last.
As we singly offered our pranaams and flowers before the Altar, Her Presence became palpable to all.
We were hushed. Some wept, others meditated, and within moments, it was as though we were sitting in the ashram, after Guru Purnima there, such a beautiful feeling, so at ease, so relaxed.
Our efforts to be instruments had been accepted, and She, who is easily pleased with the least effort on our part, showered Her Grace, the Guru Tattwa, upon us.
As noted before, there is nothing we can do for Holy Mother Amma, nothing that we can offer, that does not benefit ourselves personally.
For me, who flounders between despair and despondency, when away from Her headquarters upon this Earth, Amritapuri, it was a breakthrough, to realize and become aware, with absolute certainty, beyond intellectual confidence, deep into the heart, that Amma is with us, is with us, is with us.
Increasingly joyous consecration was one of Her many gifts to all of us on this Guru Purnima in Sweden, 2013.
2 from the root Isha- meaning – Lord, from which is derived Ishwara or Ishwari, (in the fem.) hence, Om Amriteshwari). Interestingly, in India, Jesus Christ is known as Ishu, a clear indication that He held all the metaphysical siddhis, and knew India's spiritual sciences well.
3Other phenomenon includes also a complete grasp and understanding of whatever such a person wishes to understand. For example, the life and history of anyone they choose to know about.
4Chaitanya: Consciousness; intelligence; awareness; the consciousness that knows itself
and knows others; Pure Consciousness. (from: Sanskrit Glossary)
5 Aishwarya is also defined in the Sanskrit Glossary as: Dominion; power; lordship; divine glory; majesty; splendor; an attribute of God (Ishwara).
iGandhi, M.K., Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Navajivan Press, Ahmedabad: 26:278
iiiAurobindo, S., (). Record of Yoga, Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo. Vols.10,11. Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust. Pondicherry, India:20-21.