Amma (Sudhamani was her original name meaning ambrosial jewel) was born into a low caste in the fishing village of Parayakadavu in the district of Kerala. She was born on September 27th, 1953 her birth was unusual in that on being born she did not cry but smiled. Also her parents were shocked to see her skin at birth was dark blue. They were worried she was sickly, but she turned out to be a healthy child, although her skin changed to be much darker than other children.
From an early age Amma appeared to be quite different from the other village children. She had a strong devotional element, it is said even by the age of 5 she was spending much of her time singing devotional prayers. Amma says ever since she can remember she has had a great attraction to repeating the name of God. Whatever she was doing her lips appeared to be moving in silent prayer. However, the spiritual inclinations of Amma were not always appreciated by her parents. In particular they disliked her generous, compassionate nature and scolded her for sharing food with the untouchable classes and giving away belongings of the household. At the age of 9 she was taken away from school and given many onerous household tasks to do. Jobs she did with cheerfulness and willingness.
“If we penetrate deeply into all aspects and all areas of life, we will find that hidden behind everything is love. We will discover that love is the force, the power and inspiration behind every word and every action. This applies to all people, irrespective of race, caste, creed, sect, religion or of what work people do.”
As she grew older her mystical experiences intensified. At times she became so absorbed in spiritual practise she began to attract followers who felt something in her profound state of consciousness. In particular she would often identify with the Hindu Avatar Sri Krishna, during these meditations devotees would say she took on the form and characteristics of Sri Krishna. At this time and later many miraculous healings have been attributed to Amma which have been documented by various sources. However it is interesting to know that Sudhamani (Amma) has said:
“I am not interested in making believers by showing miracles, I am here to help you find the real truth, and to find liberation of the Self (Soul) through the realization of your eternal nature.”
Although uneducated, Amma teaches aspirants in the ancient traditions of yoga and Vedanta. Through her own realisation she teaches the ideals of renouncing a false sense of ego. She encourages seekers to concentrate on the divine, true nature of man, through this an aspirant is able to overcome obstacles and attain realisation. By the end of 1979 a group of sincere seekers wished to remain in the presence of Amma and devote themselves to spiritual practise. This small group formed the nucleus of an informal ashram. Soon after Amma started to give strict instructions to her monastic disciples to help them attain spiritual progress. This includes rising at 4.30am and spending a set amount of time in meditation, kirtan and selfless service.
During the past 35 years her main focus has been to travel and offer her unconditional love to people from all walks of life. It is estimated that Amma has hugged over 25 million people. On some days she has hugged up to 50,000 people in a day, often working for up to 20 hours. During these meetings, people come from different religions and walks of life. She never tries to convert anybody to a particular religion. She says that.
“ My sole mission is to love and serve one and all.”
“There is always a lack of love. It has always been Amma’s wish that her life should become love and compassion itself.”
Although brought up in India with its rich tradition of Hinduism and Hindu Saints Amma does not consider herself to be any particular religion. When asked what her religion is she replies.
“My religion is love and service.”
In India to accommodate her many disciples and provide a focus for their spiritual practise a large six storied temple was built. Called Amritapri Ashram, it provides a simple living environment for those who wish to follow the monastic lifestyle of celibacy and meditation. The organisation of Amma is also heavily involved in humanitarian work offering aid to the poor and disadvantaged. At times Amma has taken part in this work herself showing that humility is one of the most important aspects for a spiritual seeker.
In recent years Amma has offered lectures at the United Nations and World Parliament of Religions. She has also spoken at the Global Peace Initiative of Women religious and Spiritual Leaders and in 2002 she was awarded the 2002 Gandhi-King award for Non-violence.
Amma: Healing the Heart of the World
- Amma: Healing the Heart of the World at Amazon.com
- Amma: Healing the Heart of the World at Amazon.co.uk