M?t? Amrit?nandamay? Dev?
Amma in 2010
27 September 1953
|Founder of||M?t? Amrit?nandamay? Math|
|Literary works||Awaken Children (1-9)|
Compassion: the Only Way to Peace
|Honors||Gandhi King Award|
M?t? Amrit?nandamay? Dev? (born Sudhamani Idamannel; 27 September 1953), better known simply as Amma ("Mother"), is a Hindu spiritual leader, guru and humanitarian, who is revered as a saint by her followers.
M?t? Amrit?nandamay? is an Indian guru from Parayakadavu (now partially known as Amritapuri), Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, in the state of Kerala. Born to a family of fishermen in 1953, she was the third child of Sugunanandan and Damayanti. She has six siblings.
As part of her chores, Am?t?nandamay? gathered food scraps from neighbours for her family's cows and goats, through which she was confronted with the intense poverty and suffering of others. She would bring these people food and clothing from her own home. Her family, which was not wealthy, scolded and punished her. Am?t?nandamay? also began to spontaneously embrace people to comfort them in their sorrow. Despite the reaction of her parents, Am?t?nandamay? continued. Regarding her desire to embrace others, Am?t?nandamay? commented, "I don't see if it is a man or a woman. I don't see anyone different from my own self. A continuous stream of love flows from me to all of creation. This is my inborn nature. The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering."
Am?t?nandamay? rejected numerous attempts by her parents to arrange for her marriage. In 1981, after spiritual seekers had begun residing at her parents' property in Parayakadavu in the hopes of becoming Am?t?nandamay?'s disciples, the M?t? Am?t?nandamay? Math (MAM), a worldwide foundation, was founded. Am?t?nandamay? continues to serve as chairperson of the Math. Today the Mata Amritanandmayi Math is engaged in many spiritual and charitable activities.
In 1987, at the request of devotees, Am?t?nandamay? began to conduct programs in countries throughout the world. She continues to do so annually.
Am?t?nandamay?'s form of giving darshana is hugging people. As to how this began, Am?t?nandamay? said, "People used to come and tell [me] their troubles. They would cry and I would wipe their tears. When they fell weeping into my lap, I used to hug them. Then the next person too wanted it... And so the habit picked up." Am?t?nandamay? has embraced more than 33 million people throughout the world for over 30 years.
When asked, in 2002, to what extent she thought her embraces helped the ills of the world, Am?t?nandamay? replied, "I don't say I can do it 100 percent. Attempting to change the world [completely] is like trying to straighten the curly tail of a dog. But society takes birth from people. So by affecting individuals, you can make changes in the society and, through it, in the world. You cannot change it, but you can make changes. The fight in individual minds is responsible for the wars. So if you can touch people, you can touch the world."
Am?t?nandamay?'s darshana has been the centerpiece of her life, as she has received people nearly every day since the late 1970s. Given the size of the crowds coming to seek Am?t?nandamay?'s blessings, there have been times when she has given darshana for more than 20 continuous hours.
In the book The Timeless Path, Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri, one of Am?t?nandamay?'s senior disciples, wrote: "The [spiritual] path inculcated by Amma is the same as the one presented in the Vedas and recapitulated in subsequent traditional scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita." Am?t?nandamay? herself says, "karma [action], jñana [knowledge] and bhakti [devotion] are all essential. If the two wings of a bird are devotion and action, knowledge is its tail. Only with the help of all three can the bird soar into the heights." She accepts the various spiritual practices and prayers of all religions as but different methods toward the same goal of purifying the mind. Along these lines, she stresses the importance of meditation, performing actions as karma yoga, selfless service, and cultivating divine qualities such as compassion, patience, forgiveness, self-control, etc. Am?t?nandamay? has said that these practices refine the mind, preparing it to assimilate the ultimate truth: that one is not the physical body and mind, but the eternal, blissful consciousness that serves as the non-dual substratum of the universe. This understanding itself Am?t?nandamay? referred to as jivanmukti [liberation while alive]. Am?t?nandamay? said, "Jivanmukti is not something to be attained after death, nor is it to be experienced or bestowed upon you in another world. It is a state of perfect awareness and equanimity, which can be experienced here and now in this world, while living in the body. Having come to experience the highest truth of oneness with the Self, such blessed souls do not have to be born again. They merge with the infinite."
In her public talks and in articles, Amritanandamayi has taken up several social issues, including the importance of selfless service, the need for inter-religious harmony, for environmental protection and of desegregating science and spirituality. She also regularly speaks on the importance of women's empowerment and gender equality as well as that of humankind cultivating what she refers to as vi?va-m?trutvam -- an attitude of motherliness towards all beings in creation, specifically through expressing compassion, patience and selflessness. She has also spoken out against human trafficking and forced prostitution, speaking at the Vatican and signing the Universal Declaration Against Slavery in an event organized by Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2014. And in 2018, under the patronage of Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, she participated in a similar event aimed at protecting children from abuse and predation via the Internet. In July 2015, Amritanandamayi delivered the keynote address at a United Nations Academic Impact conference on technology and sustainable development, co-hosted by Amrita University. There, she requested the scientific community to infuse its research with awareness and compassion, stressing the importance of keeping the aim of uplifting the poor and suffering in mind when undertaking technological research. She has spoken several times at the United Nations and twice at the Parliament of the World's Religions.
Am?t?nandamay? has recorded more than 1,000 bhajans, or devotional songs, in 35 languages. She has also composed dozens of bhajans and set them to traditional ragas. Regarding devotional singing as a spiritual practice, Am?t?nandamay? says, "If the bhajan is sung with one-pointedness, it is beneficial for the singer, the listeners, and Nature as well. Later when the listeners reflect on the songs, they will try to live in accordance with the lessons enunciated therein." Am?t?nandamay? has said that in today's world, it is often difficult for people to attain deeply focused concentration in meditation. A person can be aided in reaching this level of concentration with bhajans.
Amritanandamayi is founder and chairman of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math and the founder of Embracing the World. Embracing the World is a global network of local and regional charitable organizations and projects that has grown out of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math's India-based charitable projects. The organizations' focus is on providing the poor with the five basic needs of food, shelter, healthcare, education and livelihood. The organizations also conduct work in the fields of disaster relief and environmental protection as well as on conducting research and developing new technologies to help the poor and needy.
In India, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math provides 10 million free meals to poor people annually via its various centres. Likewise, Embracing the World feed more than 150,000 annually in North America through 49 centres that conduct a program called "Mother's Kitchen," started in 1987. Other feed-the-hungry programs exist in Mexico, Costa Rica, France, Spain, Kenya, Brazil, Slovenia and Australia. The Math is also currently deploying filtration systems with the goal of providing clean drinking water in 5,000 village centres throughout India, which would provide water purification to 10 million villagers.
Since 1998, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math has constructed over 47,000 houses for the homeless in 75 locations throughout India. It also runs an orphanage for 500 children in Kerala, and Embracing the World manages a children's home in Nairobi.
The Mata Amritanandamayi Math manages the 1,100-bed super-speciality hospital Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi, which it launched in 1998, as well as several other free healthcare clinics, medicine dispensaries, hospices in India. It is also in the process of constructing a 2,000-bed hospital in Delhi NCR. In total, the math has provided totally free medical care and surgeries to more than four million people since 1998. This includes super-specialty surgeries including heart surgeries, brain surgeries and kidney transplants. Aside from free treatment, Amrita Institute provides care on a sliding scale, allowing people to pay what they can afford. This is often a minimal percent of the total medical cost.
In 1998, the Math started a program titled Amrita Nidhi that provides lifetime pensions to destitute widows and to people who are physically and mentally challenged. As of 2019, a total of 100,000 people were enrolled. It also started AmritaSREE (Self-Reliance, Empowerment & Employment) in 2006. This program has helped more than 200,000 women form Self-Help Groups throughout India.
Amritanandamayi is founder and chancellor of Amrita University, a five-campus, multi-disciplinary research university that in 2019 was ranked as the eighth-best university in India by NIRF, is accredited with an 'A' grade by NAAC, and was selected as an "Institute of Eminence" by the Indian Government in 2019. Under Amritanandamayi's guidance, the university puts a strong focus on research-and-development to uplift the sick and poor. The Mata Amritanandamayi Math also runs a scholarship program that currently provides 50,000 scholarships for economically challenged children throughout India, and Embracing the World provides scholarships outside of India in times of need, such as in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Within India, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math has been involved in relief-and-rehabilitation efforts following natural disasters since 2001, and Embracing the World has come to aid in the wake of several disasters outside of India as well. Embracing the World has provided a total of $75 million in disaster-relief work since 2004. The disasters after which the Mata Amritanandamayi Math and Embracing the world have conducted relief-and-rehabilitation work include: the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami,Hurricane Katrina (2005), the 2008 Bihar flood, the 2005 Gujarat flood, the Maharashtra floods of 2005,Cyclone Aila of 2009, the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, the 2011 T?hoku earthquake and tsunami, the 2013 North India floods,Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the 2014 India-Pakistan floods, the May 2015 Nepal earthquake, the 2015 South Indian floods, the Puttingal temple fire of 2016,Hurricane Maria of 2017,Cyclone Ockhi of 2017, the 2018 Kerala floods, and the 2019 Kerala floods 
On September 11, 2015, Amritanandamayi donated $15 million USD to the Government of India's Namami Gange "Clean the Ganges" program for the specific purpose of constructing toilets for poor families living along the Ganges River. On September 27, 2015, Amritanandamayi pledged that her NGO would dedicate the value of another $15 million USD to toilet construction and other sanitation efforts specifically in the Indian state of Kerala. Amritanandamayi's organization has been cleaning the Pampa River and Sabarimala Kerala Temple pilgrimage site annually since 2012.
Sreeni Pattathanam, the Kerala-based head of the Indian Rationalist Association, wrote Matha Amritanandamayi: Sacred Stories and Realities, a controversial critique first published in 1985. The author claimed that all the "miracles" of Am?t?nandamay? were falsified. It was further written that there had been many suspicious deaths in and around her ashram that required police investigation.
On 9 August 2002, Deshabhimani, a Malayalam daily newspaper published a similar account, demanding investigation into the same deaths Pattathanam found suspicious. On 24 September 2002, Deshabhimani officially apologised for the report, publishing an article titled "Report that Suspicious Deaths at Amritanandamayi Math Are Growing Was Incorrect". The article stated: "We now state with conviction that there was nothing suspicious about deaths that happened in the Math. Some of the deaths mentioned in the article did not even take place at the Math." The article went on to explain that relatives of the deceased had personally contacted Deshabhimani in order to correct the misinformation conveyed in the original article. In several cases, the editors noted the relatives had contacted Deshabhimani to explain they were at the bedsides of elderly kin who had died of natural causes, with no suspicious aspects regarding the passings.
In 2004, the Kerala State Government sanctioned criminal prosecution of Patthathanam, the owner of the publishing company, and the printer of the book on grounds that religious sentiments had been offended and for the libelous statements in the book. The order followed directions from the Kerala High Court to the Home Department for considering an application by T.K. Ajan, a resident of the Mata Am?t?nandamay? Math.CPI leader Thengamam Balakrishnan protested the move against Pattathanam.
In June 2007, Shantanu Guha Ray wrote in Tehelka weekly that Am?t?nandamay? Math, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdev, and other NGOs and religious organisations had large annual turnover of INR crores. In June 2007, novelist Paul Zacharia wrote on Tehelka that Am?t?nandamay? is free from the typical scrutiny on money that has foreign connections. In May 2008, the president of Kerala Yukthivadi Sangham, U. Kalanathan, urged the state government to conduct an enquiry into Am?t?nandamay?'s assets. He said the sources of her income and its utilisation should be investigated. In June 2008, writer Sukumar Azhikode demanded the state government to probe the source of foreign aid received by her organisation.
In 2013, Gail Tredwell, a former disciple of Am?t?nandamay?, self-published a memoir of her 1980-99 tenure in Am?t?nandamay?'s ashram. She made some allegations in this memoir as well as media interviews which preceded and followed the release of the book. The allegations, including the claim that Tredwell was physically assaulted by Am?t?nandamay?, have not been substantiated. Both Am?t?nandamay? and representatives of her ashram denied the allegations, saying that they were untrue and were aimed at exacting revenge for unfulfilled desires. In an interview in April 2014, Am?t?nandamay? spoke in depth about the incident, saying, "Even now, Amma is only filled with love for that daughter. I am praying that virtue and goodness come. Time will shine forth the truth."
In August 2005, Am?t?nandamay? was attacked by a man named Pavithran. He was sitting with other followers praying and singing in front of Am?t?nandamay?. He then rushed to Am?t?nandamay? with a knife, but was overpowered by a group of disciples. Amritanandamayi's disciple Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri said Pavithran was of "unstable mind". Pavithran was also bruised and taken to a hospital immediately. Amritanandamayi, who forgave Pavithran, said, "All those who are born will die one day. I am going ahead keeping this reality in mind. I will carry on. I will continue to give darshan to the devotees coming here to meet me."
On 1 August 2012, a 25-year-old law student from Bihar, Satnam Singh Mann, attempted to barge onto the podium of Am?t?nandamay? at her ashram in Kollam. According to police, he was screaming and reciting words in Arabic. He was overpowered by devotees, who handed him over to the police.
Am?t?nandamay?'s disciples have transcribed her conversations with devotees and spiritual seekers to create approximately a dozen books of her teachings known as Awaken Children. The addresses she has delivered at various international forums have also been published in book form. Beginning in April 2011, a bi-weekly message from Am?t?nandamay? has appeared in the Lifestyle section of the Express Buzz Sunday supplement of the New Indian Express newspaper. She also writes a regular blog in the spiritual publication Speaking Tree.
Various documentaries have been made about her:
I don't see if it is a man or a woman. I don't see anyone different from my own self. A continuous stream of love flows from me to all of creation. This is my inborn nature. The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering.
Embracing the World is a global network of regional humanitarian organizations inspired by the India-based humanitarian initiatives of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math.
Embracing the World exists to help alleviate the burden of the world's poor through helping to meet each of their five basic needs -- food, shelter, healthcare, education, and livelihood -- wherever and whenever possible. We are especially focused on helping to meet these needs in the aftermath of major disasters.
Founded in 1998 by Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (known worldwide as AMMA), Amrita Hospital offers a full range of primary and specialty care medical services, with cross-specialty consultation. AMMA's vision of providing advanced medical care to the poor and disadvantaged was the inspiration for Amrita Hospital, which today is a 1100-bed (490 units) tertiary referral and teaching hospital, serving more than 10 lakh outpatients and more than 70,000 inpatients annually.
Since 1998, we have provided monthly pensions for widows and other women in poverty. In 2006, the project was expanded to benefit the physically and mentally challenged and now serves a total of 100,000 beneficiaries. ... Recognizing that disability and/or the loss of a family member can consign those in the developing world to a lifetime of hardship, our pensions have no expiration date--they are given for life..
Since 2001, Amritanandamayi Math has been responding to a number of natural disasters, providing both immediate emergency relief and implementing a long-term rehabilitation program...CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
75 million in disaster relief since 2004
Amma's reconstruction of three villages in Bhuj following the Gujarat earthquake of 2001 made a huge impact on the people of Bhuj...CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
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