Frequently Asked Questions

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    Amma’s Public Programs FAQ

  1. Who is Amma?
  2. What is Darshan?
  3. What is Devi Bhava?
  4. What language does Amma speak. Will I be able to understand the proceedings?
  5. Do I need to be religious or subscribe to a particular religion to attend the program?
  6. Is the venue handicapped accessible?
  7. Will there be food available at the venue?
  8. What is considered appropriate clothing for the event?
  9. What is Seva or how can I help?
  10. What is IAM?
  11. Are there additional customs or regulations I should be aware of?
  12. General FAQ

  13. Why do we bow?
  14. Who is a Mahatma, an Avatar or Satguru?
  15. Why do people bring gifts to Mother?
  16. Why do we remove our shoes?
  17. What is the significance of the Guru’s sandals and feet?
  18. What is a mantra?
  19. What is the significance of the waving of the light?
  20. What is the Sacred Ash?
  21. What is Puja?
  22. What is Pada Puja?

Who is Amma?

On the morning of the 27th of September 1953, in a small poor fishing village, Parayakadavu in the Quilon district of Kerala, a baby girl was born. Her parents gave her the name Sudhamani. She came into this world not in tears as babies usually do, but with a beaming smile on her face, as if prophesying the joy and bliss she was to bring to the world.

Sudhamani spent the years of her childhood and teens immersed in intense spiritual practices in order to present a living example for the world. Even as a small child, she could often be found absorbed in deep meditation, totally oblivious of her surroundings. By the age of five, she had already begun composing devotional songs laden with deep mystical insight. Another quality that was clearly manifest in Sudhamani from this tender age was her love and compassion toward her fellow human beings.

Mata Amritanandamayi, or Amma, as she is affectionately known, is an inspirational example of selflessness. Her life is dedicated to serving others as an expression of her boundless love. Amma teaches that the Divine exists in every living being. She believes anyone can experience that divinity by expanding his or her love to embrace and serve all beings.

She has inspired millions around the world to practice her teachings, open their hearts to the experience of God as an inner presence of divine love and started innumerable humanitarian services. For her outstanding contributions to the world community she has earned international recognition and is recognized as an extraordinary spiritual leader by the United Nations and by the people all over the world. Here is a short video about Amma titled “Embracing the World.”

Cannot see the video? Get the Flash Player to see this video.

For information about Amma, her life and her teachings, please visit the links below:

For a biography of Amma’s life, you can read “Healing the Heart of the World” by Judith Cornell.Back to FAQ Home

What is Darshan?

Darshan means “to see” and traditionally, a Master is seen but not touched. And in India, women do not touch men in public. But Amma’s darshan emerged as a loving mother’s embrace, beginning when She was only a teenager and held and comforted the lonely and suffering in Her village, and extending up to the present day.

Amma makes herself available to anyone wishing to receive her blessing. There is never any charge, and no one is turned away. Hour after hour, day after day, year after year - for over thirty years now, She has been embracing all who come to Her. Man or woman, sick or healthy, rich or poor, regardless of religious faith, caste, young or old: even the very elderly, even Her own parents, regard Her as their very own Mother. Amma now travels across India and to over a dozen countries throughout the world. Everywhere She goes, She gives darshan to all who come to Her. For more information on Darshan, please visit this link.Back to FAQ Home

What is Devi Bhava?

The Devi Bhava program is a celebration of the Divine Mother. During Devi Bhava darshans, Amma dresses in colorful saris and exquisite ornaments like the Divine Mother. Many attendees report a subtle charge around Mother and bhajans being effused with a different energy during Devi Bhava. For more information on Devi Bhava, please visit this link.Back to FAQ Home

What language does Amma speak. Will I be able to understand the proceedings?

While Amma speaks Malayalam, all of her talks are translated into the language of the area she is visiting either by one of the Swamis or an interpreter. Bhajans are sung in Malayalam, Hindi, Sanskrit and English. Translations of these bhajans are available at her bookshop.Back to FAQ Home

Do I need to be religious or subscribe to a particular religion to attend the program?

Although she was born and raised in India, Amma doesn’t subscribe to any particular religion. She says that her religion is love and embraces everyone equally regardless of religion, faith, age, caste, health or status.

I am a mother. Motherhood is beyond religion. - Amma

Thousands of people of all beliefs and walks of life attend Amma’s programs around the world to receive her blessings and imbibe her words of wisdom as she shares her divine inspiration.

True religion is a language forgotten by modern man. We have forgotten the love, compassion and mutual understanding taught by religion. The basic cause underlying all the problems that exist in the present day world, is the lack of love and compassion. All the chaos and confusion that prevail in an individual’s life, at the national level and in the world as a whole, exist only because we have failed to practice true religious principles in our day to day lives. Religion should become part and parcel of life. Religion needs to be revived, it needs new life and vitality. Then only will love and compassion dawn within us. Love and compassion, alone, will wipe out the darkness, bringing light and purity to the world. - Amma

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Is the venue handicapped accessible?

Yes. When you enter the parking lot, the parking volunteer will ask you if you need special parking. You will then be directed to the lot closest to the hall entrance. Please inform the host or hostess who is stationed at the entrance to the hall that you have special needs or disabilities. They will seat you in a special section close to Amma and you will be assisted to Amma for darshan as needed. Persons with disabilities may also be dropped off at the entrance to the hall. Parking assistants will be available to help you.

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Will there be food available at the venue?

Yes. Meals are available at nominal cost and there is usually an area where snacks and drinks can be purchased. All proceeds go to Amma’s charitable activities.Back to FAQ Home

What is considered appropriate clothing for the event?

Out of respect for the Indian culture, we recommend modest dress. For examples, tank tops, shorts (for men or women), tight leggings or clothing and short skirts are not recommended.

Some venues are air-conditioned and some have concrete floors. Since you will not be wearing shoes, you may want to bring a pair of socks for your feet and a pullover, shawl or sweater if you tend to get cold easily.Back to FAQ Home

What is Seva or how can I help?

Seva means “selfless service”. Amma says,

Lending a helping hand to a neglected soul, feeding the hungry, a compassionate smile towards the sad and dejected, this, is the real service, a manifestation of true Love. We should invoke God’s compassion in our own hearts and hands.

In keeping with Amma’s strong belief in serving others, during Amma’s tours, thousands of volunteers perform all the tasks necessary to ensure the smooth flow of Amma’s programs at each stop. Everything from hall set-up and breakdown, food service, bookstore, parking and cleanup is done by volunteers.

If you are interested in helping, you can locate seva opportunities by visiting http://www.amma.org/tours/amma-tours/seva-questions.html. You will be asked to fill out a form indicating the areas you would like to volunteer for, how many hours would like to give, your time preferences, etc. You will then be contacted by the seva coordinator for the areas you signed up for. If you are from the New England area, you can sign up directly for seva by using our own website.

The program hall will also have a Seva desk where you can view open seva needs and sign up on the spot.Back to FAQ Home

What is IAM?

IAM - Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique® is a simple combination of yoga, pranayama (controlled breathing) and meditation. For information on IAM please visit iam-meditation.org.Back to FAQ Home

Are there additional customs or regulations I should be aware of?

  • Children must be under the supervision of an adult at all times.
  • You should receive your token in the early part of the program.
  • Sleeping in the hall during the programs is not permitted (children are an exception to this rule). Sleeping anywhere on the program grounds in your car or camper is not permitted.
  • No use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs is allowed on the program premises. Also, no audio or video recording or photography is permitted.
  • Most venues do not allow pets in the hall.

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Why do we bow?

It is out of respect and humility that we bow before a holy being who has realized the Supreme Truth. Therefore, when we bow, we are honoring the supreme all prevading Truth that manifests in them.Back to FAQ Home

Who is a Mahatma, an Avatar or Satguru?

A Mahatma is a great being, one who is beyond all desire and who is established in the state of supreme detachment. He or She bows down to all existence and sees the one in the many.

An Avatar is an incarnation of God. They are fully aware from birth of their identity with God. The purpose of their birth is to help humanity evolve to the supreme state of Reality.

A Satguru is a perfect master who lives in the constant awareness of the supreme truth. The literal meaning of Guru is “remover of darkness” or one who removes the darkness of ignorance and leads one to the light of knowledge.Back to FAQ Home

Why do people bring gifts to Mother?

Mother does not need or want anything. If we bring a gift-flowers, fruit, an offering-it is a token of our renunciation of worldly attachment.Back to FAQ Home

Why do we remove our shoes?

In some cultures, shoes are removed before entering a holy place or an individual’s home. Removing one’s shoes in the presence of a holy being is also considered a sign of respect.Back to FAQ Home

What is the significance of the Guru’s sandals and feet?

The guru’s sandals can be compared to the scepter of a benevolent king. When we see the scepter, it remindes us of a king who rules the country with wisdom and love, and our mind immediately thinks of him with veneration. In a similar way, when we worship or offer our love to the guru’s sandals, our mind automatically gets filled with reverence and love for the guru. We benefit through an attitude of humility and love. By worshipping the feet or sandals with reverence, we are surrendering our intellect and mind to the guru and that allows our hearts to blossom.Back to FAQ Home

What is a mantra?

A mantra is a formula for invoking the grace of our chosen aspect of God. By repeating a mantra, the restless mind which usually dissipates itself in thinking of many things, clings to the thought of the mantra and becomes calm and concentrated. This calmness of mind is the prerequisite for intuitive spiritual experience. You can receive a mantra during Devi Bhava by asking the holy mother.Back to FAQ Home

What is the significance of the waving of the light?

Our minds must be focused in order to receive God’s grace. The sages, understanding the wandering nature of the mind, prescribed various ways to develop concentration. One of the ways recommended was to offer Aarthi (waving of the light)or to perform puja to the form of the Guru. The ringing of the bells, sound of the conch, and the waving of the lights are designed to bring the senses into focus, achieving a momentary oneness with the deity. The burning of camphor that is used during aarthi represents are ego or small self. When the camphor burns, it does not leave any trace; it merges into the air. In a similar way, devotees pray that their individuality will merge with the Divine, leaving no sense of seperation, like a river merging onto the ocean.Back to FAQ Home

What is the Sacred Ash?

Cow Dung is burned and mixed in water in order to make sacred ash. Sacred ash is blessed by a holy person and it can be used to alleviate physical, mental or spiritual suffering; it is sacred medicine. This sacred ash also known as “Vibhuti”, which has been blessed by Amma, can be worn between the eyebrows to deepen meditation, or on the forehead and throat. It is also said to be very healing when applied to ailing parts of the body. Often Amma will rub it on the afflicted area of a devotee’s body. Vibhuti is also used during puja, a form of ritualistic worship which is performed to purify the mind and express devotion. Many people use the ash by putting it on their chakras or by mixing it with water and drinking it.Back to FAQ Home

What is Puja?

Puja is the Sanskrit term that refers to ritual worship. Various substances such as milk, water, and flowers are offered to God.Back to FAQ Home

What is Pada Puja?

Paadam is feet in Sanskrit. When Amma arrives, She is greeted in the traditional Indian way of welcoming a saint or a Mahatma. Her feet are washed and anointed and a garland of flowers is placed around her neck. Divine energy enters the top of the head of the Guru and leaves through His or Her feet. Thus pada puja is the blessing of the Guru’s feet.Back to FAQ Home

~ Om Amriteshwaryai Namaha ~