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Amma, Embracing the World

August 12, 2011 by  
Filed under lifestyle


Amma Mata Amritanandamayi DeviAs I’m motioned towards the floor, pleasantly asked to kneel behind other huddling devotees, the overwhelming tempest of activity swirling around this single individual sparks mixed emotions of apprehension and exhilaration. Crowds of believers, both young and old, have descended on Toronto’s Doubletree by Hilton hotel, all to bear witness to the worldwide spiritual leader now sitting before me. The woman known as “mother;” the woman now offering me her embrace: Amma.

It wasn’t until I casually strolled into the congested lobby, however, that the scale of the night’s event actually revealed its weight. A seemingly endless line of chatter and anxious anticipation filled the foyer: a mass congregation for Amma’s Devi Bhava, and the final night of her 25th North American tour.

Born Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, this renowned guru is celebrated by millions around the world for her selfless humanitarian efforts and spiritual guidance, but is perhaps best known for her marathon public programs where she sits for hours, hugging all those desiring her touch.

Her various charities, all housed under the Embracing the World foundation, have selflessly provided over $60 million US in free health care to two million people, provided 32,000 scholarships to impoverished children, and offered disaster relief to thousands plagued by natural catastrophes.

After a lengthy speech of rousing anecdotes, metaphors and pertinent wisdom, Amma sits at the head of the hall, surrounded by her following of volunteers and swamis. Many in the crowd clap, chant and pray to the rhythmic music echoing throughout, waiting to join the other 31 million she has hugged before. Some softly sob at the mere sight of her, while others sit silently in deep meditation, perhaps focusing on her recent words.

Finally, my time has come. Although feeling out of place, Amma’s attendants supportively offer cordial smiles, gesturing towards their treasured entity with guiding arms.

Suddenly, I’m affectionately wrapped in Amma’s motherly hold. She speaks softly in her native Malayalam tongue, tenderly kisses my temple and hands me an apple; a mysterious gesture, I am told, that is both rare and profound.

It is said that around Amma, things just happen. It is also said that Amma knows everything about you. I don’t think this is meant literally, however, but more as a statement of her understanding and sympathy towards our needs, our hopes and the love we all crave. And while I’m unsure of what the apple meant, curiously enough, I was quite hungry at the time, and Amma hates wasting food.

Embracing The World
Amma’s various not-for-profit charities are collectively known as Embracing the World (ETW) and engage in a variety of humanitarian, environmental and social endeavours around the world. From providing medical supplies to those affected in the Haiti earthquake in 2010, to providing $1 million US to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund in 2005, to building 40,000 homes for impoverished individuals in India. Other programs work on providing education to children, empowerment to women and tree planting as part of the United Nation’s Billion Tree Campaign.


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