Mata Amritanandamayi, affectionately known as ‘Amma’, is celebrating her 60th birthday this year – by continuing to embrace all who come to her, and launching numerous charitable and research initiatives.
Amma is considered a Mahatma, or ‘great soul’, in her native India, and has spent her life spreading the message of ‘Compassion in Action’, serving humanity, and inspiring millions to follow in her footsteps. In the past forty years, Amma has embraced 33 million people worldwide, travelling from continent to continent, alleviating the pain of the poor, and of those suffering physically or emotionally. Hour after hour, day after day, and often into the early hours, Amma accepts all who come to receive her embrace; consoling, listening, and offering advice. Pushing her physical body to its limits, without ever a complaint, Amma helps hearts to blossom, one embrace at a time. In this age of selfishness, greed and suffering, Amma is a beacon of light and inspiration.
“Amma is the embodiment of pure love. Her presence heals.” – Dr. Deepak Chopra, M.D.
As a young child, in Kerala, India, Amma was deeply affected by the profound suffering she witnessed. After long contemplation she concluded that as long as there are people who suffer, it is our responsibility to ease their pain. With this simple yet profound conviction—that each of us has a responsibility to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate—Amma moved forward with confidence in her life of service and compassionate care for all beings, uniquely expressed by the motherly embrace she offers to all who seek solace in her arms.
“Motherhood, in its ultimate sense, has nothing to do with bearing a child, but with love, compassion and selflessness. It lies in totally giving to others. If we look at Amma’s life, this is what we see.” – Amma
While coming from a Hindu tradition, Amma’s message is universal. She does not ask anyone to believe in God or to change their faith, but only to inquire into their own real nature. Amma teaches that the divine exists in everything, sentient and insentient. Realising this truth is the essence of spirituality—the means to end all suffering. She says ‘Spirituality is not a religion. It is the underlying principle of all religions.’
Her tireless spirit of dedication to uplifting others has inspired a vast network of charitable activities, through which people are discovering the deep sense of peace and inner fulfilment that comes from serving others. In fact, while Amma is embracing thousands of people in one sitting, she is simultaneously running her volunteer-based charitable organisation ‘Embracing the World’. Endowed with special U.N. consultative status, ETW engages in strengthening human rights while supporting the U.N. Millennium Goals.
Amma’s embrace, given to tens of millions of people, is the engine that has powered the rapid growth of this global humanitarian organisation. Every project is started after someone brings their problem to Amma, and every volunteer joins after being inspired by Amma’s compassion.
People inspired by Amma are actively carrying out humanitarian initiatives on six continents. And the global community has begun to take notice: Amma’s vision, work and leadership have been praised by major media outlets as well as Nobel Peace Prize laureates, senior officials of the United Nations, presidents, and key figures in the battles against poverty and climate change.
Embracing the World has built more than 45,000 houses for the homeless, treated 2 million patients for free, has a huge network of social care projects, as well as responding to a number of natural disasters….the Asian Tsunami, the Kashmir-Pakistan and Gujarat Quakes, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the United States, to name a few.
In the words of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus after meeting Amma in January 2012 in India, “Amma has done more for the poor then many governments.”
Celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Marion Cotillard and Russell Brand meet Amma each year and support her humanitarian efforts. This year in Washington D.C., Amma embraced members of the U.S Congress at the Capitol Building, including civil rights legend John Lewis who was moved to tears. Jim Carrey tweeted after meeting Amma in June “I was feeling down about life n’ love. Ammachi gave me back my smile. Darkness can not compete with her.”
This year on September 27th, in celebration of her 60th birthday, Amma launched several new ETW projects, including the planting of 600,000 trees, pensions for 59,000 impoverished women, personal safety devices for women and the unveiling of state-of–the art biotechnical tools like implantable heart-beating patches for heart-attack patients.
It is almost inconceivable to think of the accomplishments, when most of us find balancing our home and work life a challenge! When asked where she gets the energy to help so many people while also building and running a massive humanitarian organisation, Amma answers: “Where there is true love, everything is effortless.”
For her humanitarian work, Amma has won an accolade of international honors such as the Gandhi King Award for Non Violence in 2002, previously won by Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela; and in 2006 the Interfaith Centre of New York’s James Parks Morton Interfaith award, previously presented to the Dalai Lama.
Amma’s message is love, and it is the underlying principle for all she does.
“As long as there is enough strength to reach out to those who come to me, to place my hand on a crying person’s shoulder, Amma will continue to give darshan. To lovingly caress people, to console and wipe their tears until the end of this mortal frame—this is Amma’s wish.” —Amma