Toronto, Canada

Oct 22: Amma's Birthday and Diwali Celebration with Br. Ramanand

Mother and daughter offering flower petals at the altar

A double festival of light, laughter and innocent joy

Brass lamp decorated with jasmine garland

On Sunday, October 22 at 3:00 PM, Amma's Toronto Satsang had the good fortune of celebrating Amma's birthday and Diwali together with Br. Ramanand. Over one hundred people attended, including several families from the Toronto Amrita Bala Kendra. The presence of so many children filled the satsang with a light and happy energy. Ramanandji began the satsang with the opening prayers, and a short guided meditation to help the devotees relax and focus. Ramanandji then sang Innallo Karthika Nalu, in honour of Amma's birthday, and Gajamukha Gajamukha, invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesh.

Before beginning the Guru Pada Puja (ceremony to worship the Guru's feet), Br. Ramanand explained the symbolism of this sacred ritual: when we worship the Guru's feet, we remember and revere the Divine qualities that the Guru stands for, such as unconditional Love, Truth, Purity, Compassion, and Wisdom. During the puja, we bathe the Guru's feet or sandals with precious liquids such as water, milk, yogurt, ghee, honey, and rose water. Each of these offerings has symbolic significance: the water represents simplicity. Water is ubiquitous, yet absolutely essential to all life. Simplicity is similarly essential on the spiritual path. Milk represents humility: the first food given to babies, milk is simple, yet contains all the sustenance we require. Likewise, humility nurtures our spiritual development.

Roses arranged on platter to make a heart

Yogurt is an impure form of milk: it is milk that has been transformed by contact with bacteria. Nonetheless, yogurt remains nutritious and beneficial. Thus, yogurt represents our ability to see the good in impure things. Ghee or clarified butter is butter that has been heated and purified of all solids. Ghee thus symbolizes the consciousness of a spiritual aspirant that has been purified through the heat of tapas or spiritual practices. Honey can be stored indefinitely and always remains good and sweet. It represents the quality of Beginner's Mind, that is ever-fresh, enthusiastic, and open to learn. Finally, rose water is simple water that has been imbued with the fragrance of roses, a flower symbolizing Love. Similarly, when our thoughts, words and actions are imbued with Love, our presence becomes a gift to all of Creation.

Br Ramanand giving a talk

As Br. Ramanand performed the Guru Pada Puja, symbolically bathing Amma's feet with these precious liquids, everyone chanted the Guru Stotram and the Guru Paduka Strotram, sacred verses honouring the Guru. The group then chanted Amma's 108 names, visualizing that, with each name, a beautiful flower was offered at Amma's feet. The puja concluded with Arati, waving the sacred flame before the Guru's beloved form.

After the puja, Ramanandji sang Krishna Govinda Gopala, his beautiful voice filling his audience with devotion and longing. The children of the Amrita Bala Kendra followed by singing Namami Kalike. Their sweetness and sincerity was very touching, and everyone applauded them. Ramanandji then sang Meri Jhoppidi de Bhag, a bhajan describing Sabari's joy when Lord Rama came to her hut, and tasted her berries. The festival of Diwali or Deepavali celebrates Lord Rama's return to his kingdom of Ayodhya after 14 years in exile. Deepavali means 'row of lights' in reference to how Lord Rama's subjects lit up Ayodhya with thousands of tiny lamps to welcome Him home. The story of Lord Rama's trials and triumph illustrates the victory of Good over Evil.

Boy lighting a small oil lamp

In his discourse, Br. Ramanand noted that the greatest gift we can give Amma for Her birthday is our attachments and negativities. Amma's greatest joy is seeing her children grow spiritually. At present, we tend to think only of our needs and desires, but never our shortcomings. In order to grow, we must recognize our negativities and attachments, and find ways to reduce and redirect them. Amma says that negativities are not true qualities, but rather only the absence of a positive quality. For example, greed is only the absence of generosity. We can therefore reduce our negativities by cultivating the opposite positive quality. Ramanandji pointed out that our negativities cannot be completely eradicated, as they are a part of the Play of Creation. Nonetheless, if we wish to achieve true happiness and freedom, we must harness both our positive qualities and our negative qualities in the quest of Self-Realization. For example, if we must be impatient, we should be impatient to realize God.

Diwali lights on trayBr. Ramanand explained that we must feel that everyone around us is a form of God, and realize that they are helping us, even when they seem to be troubling us. He told the story of his difficulty in making his connecting flights in order to arrive in Toronto on time for this satsang. In the end, he realized that many of the obstacles he faced were actually conspiring for his good. Indeed, he increased his trouble by trying to circumvent them. Ramanandji concluded that, when facing adverse circumstances, we must remember that Grace is the gift, but Acceptance is the wrapping paper.

Kids playing with sparklers in the dark

Ramanandji concluded the satsang with two stirring bhajans: Only Love, followed by Vara De. He then lead everyone in the closing prayers and Arati to Amma. The devotees were treated to prasad and a delicious dinner. Since it was Diwali, the festivities did not end there: after dinner, the children and adults came outside to light dozens of small oil lamps, creating beautiful displays of Light in the midst of darkness. The children of the Amrita Bala Kendra excitedly lined up to receive sparklers. They danced around on the lawn, laughing and waving their little fireworks. The atmosphere was pervaded with joy and delight. In the bhajan Only Love, we sing: "Every word of kindness brightens up the dark." May all of Amma's children become flames of kindness, patience, and generosity, brightening all the world.

Om Amrteswaryai Namah

Balcony lit up with diwali lights