Toronto, Canada

Sep 14: Amma's birthday and Onam with Dayamrita Chaitanya

Onam pookalam (flower petal design)

Complete Focus and Compassion: The Requisites for Enlightenment - Notes from Dayamrita Swamiji's discourse

Human beings are exploring the ocean and outer space. They more they explore, the more they realize how little they know about these things. They have not penetrated into their depths. Similarly, the longer we are with Amma, the more we realize that all we know of Her is but the tip of the iceberg. Amma has appeared to us in the garb of a mother, teacher, friend, and Guru, yet She is beyond all these roles. When you go to the ocean, you can only bring back as much water as your vessel can hold: a infinitesimal fraction of the waters of the ocean. Similarly, when we go to Amma, we understand only as much as our mind can hold.

Once there was a man from North India who recognized Amma as his Guru as soon as they met, yet he was not able to get a mantra from Amma or ask Her a question during that first meeting. After that meeting, he longed to return to see Amma again, but he did not get the opportunity. Sometime thereafter, the man took a pilgrimage to Rishikesh with some friends. There, they visited a great yogi who was living in a cave. The man and his friends prostrated to the yogi who was meditating in the cave, wearing only a loincloth. After some time, the yogi opened his eyes and said: “Why have you come?” The man’s friends shared their various questions and requests with the yogi. When the man’s turn came, the yogi did not wait for him to answer. He said: “I know what you are going to ask me, and I know who your Guru is. Your Guru is the Divine Mother Herself. You should ask Her for a mantra.” Showing Amma’s picture, the yogi continued: “You see - I have Her picture and I am meditating on Her. Better you should ask Her for a mantra, not me.” Astonished, the man went to see Amma they very next week and got a mantra from Her.

Amma has come in this human form so that we can interact with Her and be in Her presence. Nonetheless, we cannot really understand who or what Amma is. Simple observation shows that Amma’s body is not like ours. If we tried to sit and embrace people as Amma does even for one hour, we would be suffering. Nonetheless, Amma gives darshan for whole days non-stop, and has done so for over forty years, yet is always fresh and smiling. In all these years, Amma does not want to take even a single day of rest. She once severely scolded me (Dayamrita Swamiji) for adding a rest day to Her schedule. She was thinking only of all the people that She did not get to give darshan to on that day!

On our birthday, most of us remember how our life began, and reflect on the journey we have travelled up until now. On Amma’s birthday, we feel grateful that Amma took this human form and came amidst us. Once a journalist was interviewing Amma, and asked: “Amma, what do you do in your free time?” Amma replied: “What time are you talking about?” The journalist was perplexed and did not reply. Amma said: “My time is your time. I am here because of you.” Amma exists in the body because of our sankalpa (pure wish) and Her blessings. Amma’s birthday reminds us of when we first met Amma, and how our spiritual life with Her began.

When I first met Amma, I had no idea about spirituality. I thought spirituality was only charlatans showing some magic tricks, and taking naive people’s money. I was deeply skeptical, and thus not inclined to meet any spiritual masters. Nonetheless, I went to meet Amma with some of my aunts. I was going through a lot of problems at the time, but I had no thought that Amma should help me with these problems. Before going to meet Amma, I told my aunts: “Don’t tell Amma anything about me. If she knows everything as you say, she does not need to be told anything about me.” So together, my aunts and I waited to meet Amma. Since I was the only male member in our group, I was carrying in my hands a basket of fruits to offer to Amma. When we finally reached Amma, Amma began speaking with my aunt, and continued for about 30 minutes. My hands became tired of holding the heavy fruit basket. I thought to myself: “If Amma is so compassionate, why is she making me wait here so long, holding this heavy basket?” Amma immediately turned to me and said: “Son, you have a problem.” My aunt replied: “It is not one problem, it is several problems! But he doesn’t want me to tell you about them.” Amma just smiled, and asked me to put the fruit basket down. In that moment, I understood that Amma knew my problems, and would help me without my asking for help.

When we met Amma, most of us were swimming in the ocean of samsara with no idea where to go or how to get there. Amma pulled us out of this ocean of suffering, and lifted us up into her ship. Once we are on the ship, we need not worry about how fast we are going or what route we are taking. We can leave that to the ship's captain. But we should always remember our destination and goal: liberation. Liberation is the realization that the beings around us are not separate from us. I used to think that self-realization meant that I would be constantly blissful, with many people to serve me, and no need to look after the physical body. Over the years, my understanding has changed.

The very existence of our physical body depends on so many other things: fresh air, water, and the plants and animals that give us our food, clothing and shelter. We depend on the contributions of so many people: from our birth parents who gave us our physical body, to the farmers who grow our food, to the garbage collectors who take our trash. Even crows and vultures help us by keeping our environment clean and free from dead animals. In reality, we owe our own existence to the existence and selfless giving of all beings in creation. The scriptures say that we are indebted to five mothers - Pancha Mata: 1) Deha Mata (parents who gave the physical body and raised us), 2) Go Mata (cows/animals who give us food), 3) Desh Mata (fellow citizens who help us), 4) Bhu Mata (Mother Earth who supports our life), and 5) Veda Mata (the Scriptures who teach us). I add Guru Mata: the Mother-Guru who is holding us, protecting us, and helping us walk the path to liberation.

When times are tough, we may doubt whether Amma is aware of our struggles, and whether She is helping us. Often times, it is only much later that we can look back and see the helping hand of grace in our lives at that time. Once a devotee was traveling in the foothills of the Himalayas when a snowstorm came. All the roads were blocked with snow, and it would take two weeks to clear them. The devotee began to worry that food and water may run out in the village where he was trapped. He realized that the airforce was there, and hoped there might be the possibility of being airlifted out. The wing commander, however, was refusing to fly anyone out due to the high number of requests, and the danger of flying helicopters in such weather conditions. Four days passed. The devotee began praying to Amma, and chanting Guru Gita for two days continuously. After that, the devotee went to a tea shop and happened to meet the wing commander. They struck up a conversation, which turned to the topic of Amma. The wing commander was fascinated, and asked for more stories of Amma. At the end of their conversation, the wing commander told the devotee: “Come see me tomorrow. Some helicopters are flying out of here. I will make sure you are on one of them.”

Amma teaches us that one of the most important things in life is to have gratitude. We may wonder: why Amma has accepted us as Her disciple or devotee? We do not seem able to pass even the most basic competency test. The only thing Amma truly expects from us is to show compassion to our fellow beings and to Nature. Once a disillusioned young man travelled to a distant monastery to meet the Master there. He told the Master: “I am tired and disappointed with life. I seek enlightenment and freedom from all suffering, but I am not capable of doing endless meditation and austerities. If I try that, I will just revert to my old way of life, though I know there is no happiness in it. Is there a shortcut to enlightenment?” The Master says: “Yes, there is, provided you are genuinely determined. Is there anything that you have really studied or focussed upon in life?" The youth said: “I came from a rich family and have not had to work or study much. But I have really enjoyed playing chess.” The Master asked his attendant to bring a chessboard, and a sword. The Master then called one of his monk disciples who knew how to play chess. He told the monk: “You have sworn obedience to me. I will now test your obedience. Play chess with this young visitor. If you lose, I will cut off your head with this sword. If you win, I will cut off the young visitor’s head with the sword.” The Master looked dead serious.

The game began. The youth felt the sweat running down his back, as he played for his life. He focussed only on the chessboard, and the rest of the world disappeared. Suddenly, the monk made a weak move. The youth launched a powerful attack, and captured one of the monk’s pawns. After doing so, the youth stole a look at the face of the monk. The monk’s eyes and face were intelligent, alert, and wonderfully serene, evidencing his years of austerities. The monk made another weak move, and was clearly losing. Instead of feeling elated, the youth was comparing himself to his opponent, the monk. The youth thought: “I cannot let this man die. If I die, the world loses nothing. I have only wasted my time and achieved nothing. This monk, on the other hand, has been leading a hardworking, disciplined life. If he is lost, it will be a loss for the whole world.” A wave of compassion flooded the youth, and he deliberately made a wrong move, leaving his position open for attack. Seeing this, the Master suddenly leaned forward, toppled the chessboard over, and said: “There is neither a winner nor a loser here.” Turning to the youth, the Master said: “You need only two things to achieve enlightenment: complete focus and compassion. Today, you have showed me that you have both of them. At first, you were entirely absorbed in the game. Out of that focus arose compassion. You were ready to sacrifice your life. Stay with me, engage in all practices, and your enlightenment is assured.” May Amma give us the strength and courage to continue on the path, remaining ever focussed on the goal, and showing compassion to all beings.

Om Amrteswaryai Namah