Valmiki Ramayanam in Audio Form for Tamil Children — தமிழில் வால்மீகி ராமாயணம் – ஒலி வடிவில்

Most probably for the first time, Valmiki Ramayanam for children is now available in audio form in Tamil, as a serial, narrated in the most child-friendly tone and texture in the Internet, available for free listening.

அனேகமாய்த் தமிழில் முதன் முறையாக வால்மீகி ராமாயணக் கதை, குழந்தைகள் கேட்பதற்கென்று ஒலி வடிவில், இணையத்தில் ஒரு தொடராக வரத்தொடங்கியுள்ளது.

Deepika Arun, is one of the most famous Audio book narrators, whose Tamil audio books are very popular in her Kadhai Osai Channel (both in Youtube and other podcast channels), is rendering the story of Ramayana through her Podcast for Children — Chittukuruvi in famous podcast sites like Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast etc.   In fact, this podcast contains many children stories in Tamil narrated by Deepika.

ஒலி வடிவில் தமிழ்க் கதைகளை வழங்கிவரும்  கதை ஓசை ஒலிப்புத்தகத் தளத்தின் மிகப் பிரபலமான கதை சொல்லியான தீபிகா அருண், தமது அருமையான குரலில் தமிழில் ராமாயணக் கதையை தமது “சிட்டுக்குருவி போட்காஸ்ட்”  மூலம் ஸ்பாட்டிஃபை, கூகிள், போட்காஸ்ட், ஆப்பிள் போட்காஸ்ட் போன்ற தளங்கள் வழியே சொல்லத் தொடங்கியுள்ளார். அவர் குழந்தைகளுக்காகவென்றே சொல்லியுள்ள பல பிரபல கதைகள் ஏற்கனவே ‘சிட்டுக்குருவியில்’ இருக்கின்றன.

This Tamil Valmiki Ramayanam audio series for children is now available at Spotify. It has started from the auspicious Pongal Day, 15th January 2023.  Each episode will be for about 15 to 20 minutes and are scheduled to be released weekly, every Sunday. New listeners can register at Spotify free of cost and continue to listen it every week.

இப்போது தமிழில் வால்மீகி ராமாயணம் ‘ஸ்பாட்டிஃபை’ தளத்தில், இந்தப் பொங்கல் நன்னாள் (ஜனவரி 15, 2023)  அன்று தொடங்கி, முதல் அத்தியாயத்தை வெளியிட்டுள்ளார். இனி வாரா வாரம் ஞாயிறன்று ஒரு அத்தியாயம் வெளியிடுவது எண்ணம். புதிய ரசிகர்கள், அத்தளத்தில் தங்களைப் பதிவு செய்துகொண்டு, இலவசமாக இக்கதையைக் கேட்டு மகிழலாம்.

(Links given at the bottom of this article)

அதற்கான இணைப்புகள் கீழே தரப்பட்டுள்ளன.

The story is being written by writer ‘Sandeepika‘ (who also writes in English by name C.V.Rajan).  Beginning with the popular story of Ratnakar, the bandit who turned into the poet Valmiki, the narrative will continue, reasonably elaborately with Bala kandam,  Ayodhya Kandam, Aranya Kandam and so on. The narrative by Deepika is in a very children-friendly conversational tone, in simple Tamil, with enough dose of emotions and voice modulations.

இந்தத் தமிழ் ராமாயணக் கதைத் தொடரை  எழுதுபவர் எழுத்தாளர் சாந்தீபிகா. சி.வி.ராஜன் எனும் பெயரில் எழுதும் எழுத்தாளரும் இவரே. ரத்னாகரன் எனும் காட்டு வழிப்பறிக் கொள்ளைக்காரன், வால்மீகி முனிவராகப் பரிணமித்த கதையிலிருந்து தொடங்கி, ஓரளவு விரிவாகவே பால காண்டம், அயோத்தியா காண்டம், ஆரண்ய காண்டம் என்று கதை தொடரும். குழந்தைகளுக்கு எளிதில் புரியும் வகையில், மிகுந்த நட்புணர்வுடன், எளிய பேச்சுத் தமிழில், உணர்ச்சிகரமாகவும், கதா பாத்திரங்களுக்கு ஏற்பக் குரல் மாற்றியும் வெகு சுவையாக இக்கதையை வழங்குகிறார் தீபிகா அருண்.

Narrator Deepika Arun says, “The Itihas Ramayana has been living with us across thousands of years, enthralling kids and grownups alike, teaching dharma, values, morals and devotion to children generations after generations. Ramayana and Mahabharata continue to be the most popular bed time stories for children from time immemorial, verbally told by grandmas, grandpas and also parents.  Is it not a wonder by itself?  Present day parents are not able to spend enough time with their children to narrate stories. Even many parents may not remember the whole story of Ramayana with all its details and nuances to tell their children. I thought it will really benefit parents and children alike if Valmiki Ramayana, which is the source of all other Ramayana forms,  is narrated verbally. Unlike seeing a tele serial of Ramayana, the verbal narration will kindle lots of imagination in children to mentally form their own images of the scenes and characters.”

The author C.V.Rajan adds, “As for as I know, Rajaji was the pioneer in writing Ramayana and Mahabharata keeping children in mind as the potential readers, in addition to adults.  In fact, I grew up reading Rajaji’s Ramayanam. But he, just like Kambar who wrote the Tamil magnum opus Kamba Ramayanam, opted to end the story with Rama Pattabhishekam (crowning of Rama as the king), after he annihilated Ravana and returned to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. It may be because most children and adults love stories that end in a happy note.  But Rama’s story will not be complete unless Uttara kandam is also narrated. Uttara kandam covers the detailed story of the Rakshas Ravana and also Rama abandoning Sita in the forest. The story goes on till the end of Rama’s life.  I do believe that we should not shy away from narrating these stories too to children.  Only then Rama’s story will be complete. Let children too try to grasp the nagging questions behind Rama leaving Sita at the hermitage of Valmiki. ”

Tamil children and parents are welcome to enjoy Valmiki Ramayanam episode by episode narrated in Deepika’s sweet voice. Here are the links:

தமிழ்ப் பெற்றோர்களையும் குழந்தைகளையும் வால்மீகி ராமயணக் கதையைக் கேட்டு மகிழ வரவேற்கிறோம். கீழ்க்கண்ட இணைப்புகளை சொடுக்குங்கள்:

1) Introductory Chapter 1 – Valmiki’s story – அறிமுகம் 1 – வால்மீகி முனிவரின் கதை

2) Introductory chapter 2  – The evolution of Ramayana Story- அறிமுகம் 2 – ராமாயணம் உருவான விதம்

3) Bala Kandam 1 – Arrival of Rushyashringa Rishi for conducting Ashwamedha Yaga – பால காண்டம்: அசுவமேத யாகம் நடத்த ருஷ்யசிருங்க முனிவர் வருகை

4) Bala Kandam  2 – Avatar of Rama – பால காண்டம் – ராமர் அவதரித்தார்

Amma’s Amma — Damayanti Amma and her role in the life of Mata Amritanandamayi

Damayanti Amma.

The blessed biological mother of the Divine Mother Mata Amritanangamayi Devi gave up her mortal body and merged in Amma on 19th September 2022, at the ripe old age of 97.

In the holy life history of Amma, the role played by Damayanti Amma is quite significant indeed, particularly during the formative years of Amma. Damayanti Amma was a very strict mother and a bundle of values. Amma in fact used to mention that her mother was a guru for her who taught by example, as well as through her strict regimen. Amma frequently used to share many of her childhood anecdotes to explain them.

Damayanti Amma was very particular to instill several values to her like loving and worshiping nature as God, protecting and preserving nature, the importance of hard work, loving and serving others, giving first priority to others’ needs, intolerance towards wasting anything, frugal living,  worshiping everything as a form of God, lovingly feeding guests and strangers, concern and care for others in the society etc.

Damayanti Amma’s native place is Bandarathuruth which is about  6 km away from Parayakadavu (the native place of Amma’s father Sugunanandan). 20 year old Damayanti got married to 21 year old Sugunanandan and arrived at Idamannel house to raise her family.

Damayanti Amma was very devoted to God right from her childhood. She used to follow strict austerities including abstaining from taking food a couple of days in a week. Interestingly, there were incidents where, on such ‘upavas’ days, tender coconuts would fall on their own by evening from the coconut tree, and Damayanti Amma would finish her ‘vrata’ by drinking the coconut water.

Since she was quite adept in following strict austerities, she was fondly called ‘Pattathi Amma’ (Brahmin lady) by the neighbors.

The first (girl) child born to the Damayanti-Sugunanandan couple was Kasturi. They had a boy next, named Subhakan. The third child unfortunately died on delivery. 

In the forth delivery, Damayanti Amma was blessed to give birth to the avatar of the Universal Divine mother, Amma, who was given the name of Mata Amritanandamayi Devi by her devotees. The name given to the girl child by the parents was Sudhamani.

When Damayanti Amma was bearing Amma in her womb, she had indeed received several ‘hints’ about the arrival of an extraordinary person through her. Lord Shiva, Devi and Krishna appeared In her dreams  She also had a dream where someone comes and gives a golden image of young Krishna.  Sugunanandan too had dreams in which Devi appeared.  Though the naïve couple shared their experiences with each other, they were not really equipped to understand the significance of the dreams, until very much later in life.

A few days before the delivery, Damayanti Amma had yet another dream in which she experienced giving birth to Lord Krishna and the little Krishna drinking her breast milk.

Sugunanandan owned a small hut closer to the seashore in addition to his house Idnamannel. As per the local norms, Damayanti Amma normally went to her mother’s house for the delivery, some days before the expected due date. But, this time, during the final month of pregnancy, Damayanti Amma very unexpectedly felt the symptoms of an imminent delivery. She had no one with her to assist in delivery, and it happened rather quickly at the hut.

The new-born child did not cry. Damayanti Amma got worried whether this delivery too ended in a stillbirth. As she worriedly looked at the new born baby, the baby looked at her and smiled! It was indeed a pleasant and very unusual surprise for Damayanti Amma. By that time, a neighboring woman came rushing, to extend help to Damayanti Amma. 

Thus Damayanti Amma gave birth to the Universal divine mother on 27th September 1953, Sunday, at 9 AM in the star Karthika.

But it was indeed a serious concern that the newborn baby did not cry for a while. Added to the woes, the baby was bluish black in color. Its fingers showed some symbol (known as chin-mudra) and legs were found folded in Padmasana. Fortunately, the baby started crying after a while and it brought some relief to the mother and the family. Soon the baby was named Sudhamani. 

Only after the passage of one year, Sudhamani’s skin color changed from bluish black to dark. Sudhamani did not crawl at the normal time of seven months, but sooner, she got up and walked and without much delay, she started to run too. However, she started to talk from 6 month onwards. From the age of two, she started chanting and singing Lord Krishna’s name; at the age of four, she started to compose and sing a couple of lines bearing Lord Krishna’s names. Sudhamani was short in size and she was fondly called ‘kunju’ by one and all.

This dark-skinned little girl was very obviously different from any other child in the locality; but, unfortunately, for the fair-skinned Damayanti Amma and her two elder children, Sudhamani unusually dark skin remained a matter of overt and covert dislike, and it did show in their treatment towards the child.  Of course they were  ordinary village folks who had their own biases, and it was natural.

Sudhamani went to local primary school and studied up to fourth standard. Damayanti Amma had a series of childbirths.  After Sudhamani, she gave birth to Sugunamma, Sajini, Sureshkumar, Satheeshkumar and Sudhirkumar. Damayanti Amma also had some three stillbirths in between these children.

The series of child births and deliveries did have their impact on Damayanti Amma’s health. She became very weak both physically and mentally. The family was quite big and the household chores were physically taxing and never ending.  She had to take care of the cattle too. Poor lady, with a frail body and deteriorating health, how would she manage? The family machine had to squeak and run somehow, and she opted to pull in the dark and puny Sudhamani into doing household work very rigorously, right from a very young age,  giving minimum priority to her education.

However, little Sudhamani was very intelligent, had a sharp intellect and wonderful memory capacity. Despite heavy household work, she managed to do her studies very well. As we know, she had a deep love on Lord Krishna right from very young age; amid her household work and study at schools, she did find time to chant Lord Krishna’s name and sing his glories with tearfilled eyes. Many times, her focus would turn inwards; losing external consciousness, she would sit still in samadhi like a statue. 

Unfortunately, none in the locality knew what spirituality was, what it meant to be in deep devotion to God  and what was meditation. Naturally, Damayanti Amma could not understand her dark little daughter’s quirky behavior; at the best, she could only conclude that Sudhamani had some mental problems; it would be prudent and economical to put an end to her education and utilize her full time in doing domestic chores. In fact, it suited Sudhamani’s school-going siblings very well, as they could unburden all their share of work on the head of the dark skinned and cranky Sudhamani! Thus Damayanti Amma stopped Sudhamani from going to school midway during her 5th standard.

Sudhamani had to get up early in the morning at 3 AM to start her domestic chores. If she was found sleeping late, Damayanti Amma would pour a pot of water over her. Sudhamani had to sweep the house and surroundings, bring firewood, cut vegetables, start cooking, wash utensils, wash clothes, cut and bring grass from nearby backwaters, bring drinking water from the common village tap, feed the cows, clean the cowshed and so on. Her chores would continue never-ending till 11 PM. 

It was during this period that Damayanti Amma played the role of an extremely tough and demanding guru to teach many things related to doing the domestic work in the most appropriate way. She taught dos and don’ts of right behavior and practices. Amma used to recall many such teachings of Damayanti Amma, in later years during her interaction with her devotees.

Stress on hard work

If, at any point of time, Sudhamani displayed any lack of interest or sluggishness in doing work, Damayanti Amma would say, “If you feel lazy to do work,  God will stop giving any work to you. Unless one works, one would not get food to eat. If you don’t get work, then you will die of hunger. Hence, we should always pray, ‘God, please give me work always’. All people indeed pray that way”.

Guilelessly, Sudhamani believed what her mother told and she would indeed pray, “O Krishna, please always give me your work”. Perhaps it is out of this prayer that Amma, till date, is getting loads and loads of work and is serving the society without any rest! In a way, aren’t we, the beneficiaries of Amma’s tireless work, indebted to Damayanti Amma?

Awareness and attention about even little things

Damayanti Amma had keen awareness about so many things. If Amma spilled a few grains while cleaning the rice, Dhamayantiamma would say “Are you capable of creating one rice grain yourself? Then how can you carelessly waste it?”. Even a match stick should not be wasted unnecessarily. If Amma had to light up fire, she had to go approach a neighbor and if they had got fire at their kitchen or at their wick lamp, fire should be obtained from there.

Damayanti Amma demanded perfection even in mundane work like sweeping the front yard. The sweeping must be impeccable, not leaving a dry leaf here or a pebble of stone there. The swept marks of the broomstick should create a visibly pleasing pattern on the ground.

Brooms were normally made at home by bundling the light and thin sticks of coconut leaves.  While brooming, it was natural that some of these thin sticks would get loosened and fall to the ground. If Damayanti Amma noticed any sticks fallen like this, she would  beat Amma, saying, “If you lose one stick a day like this, then in one or two months, it would amount to losing a whole broom. That is utter carelessness”

While grinding ‘masala’ in the grinding stone, Amma would loudly chit chat. That was not acceptable. “When you chit chat, there is a chance that your spittle may drop on the preparation and it is very unhygienic”. So sying,  Dhamayantiamma would give a beating or two, if Sudhamani does not keep her mouth shut.

Seeing God in everything

For Damayanti Amma,  a piece of paper is an aspect of the Goddess of Learning, Saraswathi. If someone puts a foot over it, it amounts to showing disrespect to Goddess Saraswathi. Dhamayanti Amma would insist on picking the paper, touching it on the head and showing respect to it.

God’s aspect indwells in every object, and whenever you use something you should have a worshipful attitude towards it — this is what Damayanti Amma taught Sudhamani. Even today, we can see Amma touching her chair and then touching her forehead as a mark of respect before sitting in it; Amma would touch the microphone when ending her bhajans as a mark of respect to it. Such habits got ingrained in Amma’s psyche, thanks to Damayanti Amma’s strictures.

Damaynti Amma would say, “Rivers are like Devi. One should not urinate in them”. Though there were no rivers in Amma’s locality, the backwaters were literally the rivers for Amma. When Amma got into the backwater for bathing, the sudden chillness would invariably trigger an urge to urinate. But, she would remember Damayanti Amma’s words, and instantly, as if putting a switch off, Amma would control the urge to urinate. Amma  used to mention this umpteen times during her satsangs.

Serving guests – ‘Atiti devo bhava’

Dhamayantiamma truly treated guests as Gods. She would unhesitatingly sacrifice her food to feed a guest. It is her practice to set aside a portion of food, to feed guests who may drop in unannounced. After cooking, she would not immediately serve food to her children. She would wait to see if any guests would come and only later she would feed her children. There were also occasions when cooked Kanji would turn out to be insufficient for the family after feeding the guests. On such occasions, Damayanti Amma would mix scraped coconut with remnant rice water (Kanji Vellam) and give it to Sudhamani, who was yet to eat.

If guests come home with a shortage of clothes, she would give away her new clothes to the guest. In the limited space inside their house, guests would always get priority to lie inside the house, and Dhamayantiamma and other family members would opt to sleep in the courtyard. 

A beggar coming hungry knocking at her doors would never be turned away.

During Sabarimala seasons, pilgrims from adjacent places who go by foot to Sabarimala would pass by. Damayanti Amma would make sure to serve them Kanji and curry. 

Caring for others needs 

Being a fishermens’ hamlet, most men of the locality earned their living by fishing in the sea. Many families lived a hand-to-mouth existence, based on day to day earnings to run the family. At times, it would get very late for the men to return from the sea after their daily catch. They had to sell the fish, get cash, buy groceries for the day’s food and come home. Cooking would commence only after that. 

There  were families with ten to twelve members in a house including children and old people in the neighborhood. They would be waiting hungrily right through the day, till the head of the family arrived. On days like this, Damayanti Amma would cook some extra food, good enough to eat for four to five children. She would send the food through Sudhamani to the neighbors house saying, “Poor people; they have been fasting right through the day. Let them not not go without food.”

The sense of togetherness with neighbors that Dhamayantiamma displayed too was so striking. As we have seen earlier, Damayanti Amma used to send Sudhamani to bring fire from the neighbor’s house, to avoid wasting a match stick. She would instruct Amma that if the house she visited was untidy, she should sweep that house; if utensils were there uncleaned, she should clean them before coming back home with the fire.

Preserving Nature – Never take anything in excess from nature

Once a pilgrim to Sabarimala had arrived, and Damayanti Amma served him Kanji. It was the practice in the village to use a folded leaf of a Jackfruit tree as a spoon for consuming the kanji. Damayanti Amma asked Sudhamani to fetch a jackfruit leaf for the purpose. When Amma went near the jackfruit tree, she saw a small branch of the tree had broken and fallen on the ground. It had some sixty leaves in it. Sudhamani picked up the branch and brought it to Damayanti Amma.

On seeing it, Damatyanti Amma started beating Sudhamani immediately. After a while she said, “I told you to bring just one leaf. Who asked you to break a branch and waste so many leaves? What right do you have to do such an injustice to the tree?”

Only when Amma explained that the branch had already broken, Dhamayanti Amma stopped beating her.

Quoting this incident, Amma said in later years, “From this experience, I learned three things. First, we should allow all plants and trees to live their full life as ordained by God, two, as the leaves purify the air we breathe, they are extremely important to us and three, taking anything more than our essential need from nature is adharma”.

Motherly instincts

Having given birth to eight children and rearing them up, Damayanti Amma had motherly instincts ingrained in her psyche. To explain this, Amma used to quote the following incident. 

Once, Damayanthi Amma and Sudhamani were engaged in some chores near the sea shore. Suddenly Damayanti Amma’s blouse became wet due to oozing of milk from her breasts. Damayanti Amma said to Sudhamani, “I think the baby sleeping in the hammock inside the house has woken up and is crying; go and bring the baby immediately”. Amma rushed to the house and indeed she found her baby sibling writhing and crying in the hammock. 

Right from the age of ten, till her reaching twenty, Amma was fully engaged in the ceaseless domestic works for ten years. On one side, she had abundant energy to do all of them like child’s play and on the other side, she lost her sleep at night, as that was the time she could be back in communion with her beloved Lord Krishna. She would call out Krishna, sing bhajans, cry out for getting his darshan profusely shedding tears and dance in ecstasy.

Discipling the ‘thief’

In the daytime, Sudhamayi used to go to other houses in the village to collect discarded vegetable skins to feed their cow.  She saw firsthand how people were suffering from hunger and poverty. She saw old people suffering from sickness and discard from other family members. Amma’s heart would melt seeing their plight. She would steal money, food, groceries, and, at rare times, even golden ornaments from her house and give to the suffering people in the surroundings.

While Damayanti Amma too had a soft heart for the suffering people and extended help to them, it was always within the means and limitations of her large family. On the other hand, Amma’s acts were sheer largesse, totally unmindful of the family’s financial status. From the point of view of the highly principled Damayanti Amma, stealing money and goods from the family (irrespective of the motive) amounted to having criminal tendencies; It amounted to utter lack of good conduct and character, which deserved severe punishment.  Hence, whenever Sudhamani’s largesses got exposed, she received severe beatings from Damayanti Amma.

Damayanti Amma would also complain to Sugunanandan about the adamant daughter’s excesses and Sudhamani would get further punishment from her father too. 

Once, when Amma was six years old, Damayanti Amma was complaining to her husband about Sudhamani’s misbehavior. Little Sudhamani lost patience and shouted at her mother, “Are you my mother or mother-in-law?” No wonder the parents were shocked to hear Sudhamani’s outburst.

Damayanti Amma’s predicament

People reading Amma’s life history may tend to form a mental picture of Damayanti Amma as a heartless and spiteful woman. But the reality must be understood without bias, considering the time period and the location of these incidents. 

Parayakadavu village and the surroundings were hamlets of fishermen and their community had its own social norms of behavior and cultural moorings. It was quite a male dominated society, and the girls were subject to severe strictures and restrictions, primarily aimed to ensure their safety and good name. 

Girls were meant to be married off as early as possible and they should have modesty, sound character, be soft spoken, be feminine,  be excellent in domestic chores and so on. 

Girls should not talk aloud nor laugh noisily. They should show respect to all menfolk irrespective of whether they were older or younger. A young girl should not sit in front of even her younger brother, if he was standing. Girls should not speak to strangers. Whether on work or study, girls should return home before dusk. Sweeping the floor in front of men was considered an act of disrespect. When a woman sweeps the floor and a man happens to come by, she should stop sweeping and hide the broomstick behind her back!

 Dhamayanti Amma was very particular that her daughters should never get any bad name. Otherwise, parents would get the blame for not rearing their girls with proper cultural mooring.

The Tomboyish ‘Little Kali’

But Amma was made of sterner stuff! She was tomboyish in many ways. The ‘little Kali’ many times tended to be rebellious to her mother’s strictures. If Dhamayanti Amma says “You should not do it”, Amma will say “I will”. If Dhamayanti Amma shouted at her, Amma would shout back  louder than her! If Dhamayanti Amma came to beat her, Amma would grip her hands and  try to thwart her from hitting her! All these would naturally bring Dhamyanthiamma to boiling point and instead of getting one beating, Amma would end up getting 10 beatings!

Amma also displayed the tendencies of ‘little Krishna’. When hungry, Amma would gulp down curd and milk, and to avoid getting noticed, she would generously add water.

Amma used to say in later years, “If Amma had received so much of beatings those days, it was more due to Amma’s adamant behavior at young age.” 

In her young age, brimming with energy, Amma would not differentiate a work which was normally considered to be in the domain of men.

Guests would keep on coming to Dhamayantiamma’s home at all odd hours and whoever came had to be served with tea. That was the strict rule of hospitality of Dhamayanti Amma. Firewood  would be constantly needed. If nothing was immediately available, Sudhamani would not hesitate to climb a coconut tree nearby to pull out a dry branch hanging there! If Damayanti Amma noticed it, she would boil with rage. “Come down and I will treat you the right way”, so saying, she would be ready, with a stick in hand. 

“If you are going to beat me, I will stay here permanently, and will not get down!” — Amma would shout back.

Exasperated, Damayanti Amma would quip, “If your behavior is going to be like this, I will marry you off only to a tree-climber!’ 

There was also an occasion, when, perhaps Damayanti Amma would have wondered whether a boatman was the right match for her incurably adamant daughter! This incident happened when Amma was fourteen years old.

One day, Amma was returning from Vallikkavu and came to the backwaters to take a rowing boat (‘kadathu vallam’) to reach home. (There was no bridge those days and boats were the only mode of transport). Boatmen had retired for lunch time.Some elderly women and children were waiting for the boatman for a long time. One woman was lamenting that her children were hungry at home; she had just bought the provisions and she could cook only after returning home. If the wait were to be longer, the children would have to suffer in hunger. She was feeling restless.

Amma could not tolerate the woman’s mental anguish. She decided to row the boat herself, even though she had no experience in rowing the large Kadathu Vallam;. The bamboo stick was too heavy and too tall for her small stature! It was indeed a tough man’s job! But undaunted, Amma started pushing the boat using the stick, keeping the women seated in it. Soon the boat was swaying this way and that way dangerously, but still started progressing towards the opposite shore!

Seeing what young Sudhamani was doing, people started gathering at both the shores wondering as to what would happen. Will she end up capsizing the boat and sinking all into the backwaters? Or will she manage to reach the opposite shore? Dhamayanthiamma too rushed to the banks of the backwaters hearing the commotion going around!

Sudhamani somehow successfully managed to cross the backwaters and reach the bank! There was excitement all around, but Dhamayantiamma was totally nonplussed! Oh, what a shame this Sudhamani had brought to the family! Doing things that only males were supposed to do! If she was so rough and tough, who would ever come forward to marry her?! Moreover, if she had ended up in capsizing the boat midway, what a calamity would have befallen! Needless to mention that Amma got her choicest beatings from her mother that day!

But Amma was least bothered about the beatings she received that day; she was quite happy to have helped the women to reach home and feed her hungry children.

The joy of one-day freedom

During many of the Onam festivals in the ashram, Amma invariably would bare her childhood memories associated with Onam. 

“Onam is one festival that I enjoyed thoroughly during my childhood. Girl children, who were normally subjected to so many restrictions, would get a one-day freedom on Onam. In addition, we got a new dress only during Onam and there will be plenty of payasam (sweet pudding) to drink. I would freak out into the streets shouting and laughing at the top of my voice. I would run around madly around the village, play day long with friends, sway in the swings for hours together, and return home only at dusk, dead tired! “

That was one day when I was totally free from the clutches and strictures of Damayanti Amma.

However, it did not mean that Amma would meekly submit herself to Damayanti Amma’s commands and demands on other days. She would argue word for word and whip up her mother’s anger more and more.  

Any other normal girl, out of inability to tolerate the pain of beatings, would have cried out and sought pardon for her mischiefs and promised not to repeat her mistakes. But the little Kali would many times remain like a statue, without reacting to the bodily suffering received from the beating.  This again had the potential to infuriarate Damayanti Amma further. 

Task of managing the tempest

Poor Damayanti Amma! What could she do? She or her husband could never comprehend the unusually stubborn demeanor of their dark skinned daughter. They had to get their married one after the other. Who would come forward to offer their sons for marriage to their family? That was the prime concern that eroded the heart of Damayanti Amma like acid. The only way she knew was to discipline her adamant daughter through severe punishments.

Perhaps, had Amma’s lilas been constrained to the family only, she could have at least attempted to hush them up. Unfortunately, they were enacted at relatives’ houses too.

In those days, it was very difficult to get house maids on pay to do the domestic chores, since job opportunities for girls with better salary were available in coir making, fishnet repairing etc. 

Hence, girls who had discontinued schooling and got trained in doing domestic work were much sought after. Damayanti Amma was getting pressure from her parents and other blood relatives to relieve Sudhamani for a few hours daily and send her to their houses for doing their hosehold chores. Damayanti Amma, had to oblige to their requests. 

Sudhamani was sent to her grand-mother’s house at Pandarathurth. Every day, she had to walk 6 km for this purpose and Sudhamani utilized it for chanting her beloved Krishna’s name and immersing herself in the joy of it.   

During her stints at her grandma’s house, and subsequently, at the age of 14 at her Mother’s elder sister’s house and later, at the age of 15 at her uncle’s house  at Karunagapally, Sudhamani continued with her old ways. She took  pity on the poor people around. She started helping them by supplying rice and other provisions stealthily from her hosts’ houses. She got caught and received punishments there too. Thus,  after earning bad name from those relatives’ houses too, Sudhamani returned home permanently at the age of sixteen.

At that time, Damayanti Amma’s health deteriorated further and Sudhamani had to take the full brunt of all the household work at her head. Along with it, her mad devotion to lord Krishna too grew proportionately. Her obstinance and fights with Damayanti Amma too grew and consequently the punishments as well. Amma added fuel fire to her parents’ irritation through her habit of calling other elders in the surroundings as ‘father’ and ‘mother’ while calling her own parents as step-mother and step-father!

Damayanthi Amma’s repeated efforts to get Sudhamani married off ended up as failures again and again.

Time passed by. Amma’s first Krishna bhava darshan happened and it started continuing. Her reputation as a woman ‘possessed by Lord Krishna’ spread in the neighborhood villages and people started coming to have her darshan and seek solutions to their problems in life. 

Subsequently, Amma received a glimpse of Devi Parashakti’s captivating form and she was then caught in a mad whirlwind of deep longing to have her Devi’s darshan again. Amma came out of her house once for all and lived in the open, losing external consciousness most of the time. With her exit, her utility as a full time domestic servant of Idamannel house came to an end.

Damayanti Amma and Sugunanandan were driven by conflicting emotions in their love-hate relationship with Amma. At times, they were awed by the divinity displayed by Amma; at times they felt it was all just lunatic. Parental love overpowered them to protect and nurture their daughter. But the opposition Amma faced from a huge group of rationalists, in addition to the strong opposition of Amma’s activities by their own son Subhagan dismayed and troubled them. 

With Amma receiving Devi’s darshan finally and getting the experience of Devi merging in Her, Amma’s cyclonic and maddening sadhana period came to an end. Amma started giving Devi bhava darshan too. Her divinity was getting accepted more and more by the people living near and far. Lots of devotees thronged to her and have her Krishna bhava and Devi bhava darshans.

 

Yet, Amma’s parents faced problems both socially and financially in getting their other daughters married. Subhagan’s untimely death by committing suicide also shook them emotionally. Adding fuel to the fire, educated and young men from the surrounding towns were deeply drawn towards Ammas’ divinity and they started to frequent Amma and even wished to stay with her in her divine company for the sake of their spiritual progress. So many times, Damayanti Amma and Sugunanandan really wished that her daughter were ‘normal’ like any other village girl in the village.

The end of storm

However, as time passed, all the oppositions and negativities subsided. Slowly and steadily, Amma’s parents started to fully grasp Amma’s divine disposition, and it finally dawned to them how fortunate they were to give birth to the Universal Mother. They started actively involving themselves in supporting Amma fully in the evolution of the Ashram and taking loving care of Amma’s new children who came from far and wide and opted to live with her in quest of spirituality.

Husband and wife relationship

Apart from recalling Damayanti Amma’s ways in teaching her fundamental values and disciplines,  Amma also used to talk highly of the loving bond that existed between Damayanti Amma and Sugunanandan.  Of course, like any other married couple, Damayanti Amma too had her bickering with husband, but they were never too serious to disturb the deep marital bond. 

Amma used to mention the following incident that  happened in recent years —  maybe some 15 / 20 years ago when Damayanti Amma and Sugunanandan were aged.

One night, Damayanti Amma left her house, came to Amma’s room and knocked at the doors. When Amma inquired what happened, Damayanti Amma said, “Your Achan an I had a serious fight. There is no point in living with him any more. Please let me stay with you here”, Amma smiled and instructed her assistant Lakshmi to make necessary arrangements for Damayanti Amma to sleep there.

Next day, before dawn, Amma was busy reading letters received by her from devotees. Damayanti Amma woke up, came to Amma and said, “I am going. Your achan would feel restless if he does not get his morning tea. Let me go and prepare tea for him”.

Amma had a hearty laugh.

Whenever Amma talks of the present day couples who fight with each other on petty matters and go to the extent of seeking divorce, Amma would quote the above incident to cite what type of marital bond existed between the couples of older generation.

Across years, Damyanti Amma and Sugunanandan watched how their daughter’s name and fame spread across the world; they proudly witnessed the amazing growth of Amma’s ashram and the multitude of Amma’s philanthropic institutions across the globe. 

Sugunanandan passed away in 2010 at the age of 84. Damayanti Amma continued to live under Amma’s shade for the next 12 years. She had physical ailments to cope with and she was mostly indrawn, having least communication with the external world. 

Finally she left her frail body and merged in Amma at 97.

How does one prepare for Girivalam (Giri Pradakshina) at Thiruvannamalai? Seeking advice on stay, items needed to carry with, making reservations etc.

Thiruvannamalai is a reasonably big town. There are plenty of hotels to suit various budgets. If you want to stay in some Ashrams (like Ramanasramam, Yogi Ramsurath Kumar Ashram, Seshadri swamigal ashram etc) you have to make advance inquiries. Search and get details from the respective websites. Ramanasramam normally puts the condition that those who intend to stay there should be devotees of Ramana Maharshi.

Food is generally good in most Tamil Nadu towns, but they will be predominantly south Indian. If you look for north Indian food, do Google search and locate appropriate hotels to stay.

For going to Annamalayar Temple or for ‘girivalam’ (Giri Pradakshina), modest Indian dress code is desirable. For men the dress code is Shirt & full trouser, Dhoti or Pyjamas with upper cloth. For women the preferred dress code is saree or half-saree with blouse or chudidhar with pyjama and upper cloth.

Thiruvannamalai is normally a hot place. October, November, December are rainy seasons. I don’t think it rains heavily in Thiruvannamalai. December, January and February are nice, reasonably cool times. Not so cool needing sweaters! But if you intend to go on Girivalam early morning in these months, some extra protection may be needed. Once the sun comes out bright, it gets hot.

I noramally prefered starting the girivalam early morning by 4 AM , and ending by 10 AM. Girivalam should mean walking only. Taking a round in two-wheeler, auto, or taxi is of no use. If you are staying somewhere in the route of Girivalam, you can start from there and end there. (I normally stayed at Ramanasramam and started and ended my pradakshina at it, after visiting the Temple which is in the route). Many people begin the walking from Arunachala temple and end it there.

(picture courtesy: Temples In India Info )

There is yet another temple known as the Adi Annamalayar temple somewhere at half the travel route. It requires a little extra walk from the girivalam path to reach the temple and comeback to track. There are several small lingas to worship en route.

Almost half of the girivalam route actually constitutes a couple of busy main roads of Thiruvannamalai. The other side is more peaceful, scarcely crowded, with much less traffic. It is more scenic, greener, rural and serene. It is also a tarred road only.

You can carry drinking water with you and some fruits and snacks if you prefer. You will find lots of alms seekers en route and, if you prefer to donate some money to them and also to the small-temple priests, please carry loose cash in small denominations.

The ideal way to undertake girivalam is to go alone, chanting your mantra and filling your mind with devotion. Ramana Maharshi recommends slow walking. He says girivalam is walking-meditation. Of course the Arunachala hill is always there in your vicinity as you walk around, and the hill is verily the physical manifestation of Lord Shiva.

If you are going with a company, it is better to avoid unnecessary chitchatting and concentrate on chanting your mantra.

Many people say that doing girivalam on the full moon night is highly rewarding. But it will be an extremely crowded affair, with lots of noise and commercial distractions. I personally prefer to avoid it, since the girivalam is meant for personal spiritual experience, and not to be treated as a picnic or fair.

All the best to you for a peaceful and spiritually enriching pilgrimage.

What actually triggers bad karma?

Whatever good deeds and bad deeds we do automatically create good and bad karmas (rather fruits of karmas). But the actual play of that fruit of karma takes place at a time unknown to us.

When you ask ‘What triggers bad karma’, I believe you are asking when exactly the fruit of a bad karma comes into effect.

It is not easy to give answer to this, as the course of karma is beyond our grasping. But my guru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi has given a hint about it. She says, at such times when our egotism peaks, bad karma’s effect will start manifesting. So we should always be careful about the dirty plays of our ahankar.

Amma – Mata Amritanandamayi – Biography – Life Timeline with Photos

(Digital art Courtesy: Hiral Varun)

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  • She is called Amma (Mother).
  • She hails from a little fishermen’s hamlet in Kerala, India. She is hardly educated up to primary school. She is now a world-renowned Hindu saint and a globally recognized philanthropist. She travels across the length and breadth of India and also across the globe every year to meet people. She is known as the Hugging Saint. She is a ceaseless fountainhead of divine love.
  • She embraces each and every individual who comes to her for her darshan. She spends 10-14 hours a day, at least 4 days a week in meeting and hugging people who come to see her in thousands. She has been doing it ceaselessly since the age of 22/23. (She is now 65 as in 2018). She has hugged more than 33 million people across the world.
  • She is an unconditional giver. All the people in this world are her sons and daughters. She gives pure love to the world suffering in scorching selfishness; she heals people both physically and mentally.
  • She spreads spirituality to earnest seekers as a Sadguru. There are several tens of Sanyasis and hundreds of Brahmachari / Brahmacharinis living in her Ashram at Amritapuri, along with hundreds of household devotees (both Indians and foreigners) who are doing spiritual sadhana (meditation, mantra japa, devotional singing, studying shastras like Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads etc) and also doing selfless service, leading a very frugal and simple life, under her guidance.
  • She serves the poor and the downtrodden. She runs hospitals, orphanages, schools, colleges, and research institutions. She is always there with a helping hand extended, whenever and wherever there is a natural calamity.
  • Here is an attempt to showcase, for the sake of historical records, what she has been doing year after year in her action-packed life ever since her birth. No wonder she is hailed as an Avatar of divine mother Parashakti; the power she radiates is immeasurable; what she has accomplished and what she has been doing is simply beyond the grasp and capacity of not only ordinary human beings but also scientists, rationalists, and agnostics.

1953  – 27th September  

  • Sunday, after 9 AM (in star Karthika) The Holy Avatar of Amma happens – The girl child, later named Sudhamani (Later Mata Amritanandamayi) was born to Dhamayanthi Amma and Sri Sugunanandan as their 3rd child at Parayakadavu, a fishermen’s hamlet in Alappad, Kerala. Her birthplace, in future, acquires the name Amtitapuri.

1957 (Age 4)

  •  ‘Kunju’ (Little) Sudhamani frequently turns inwards, forgetting the outer world and goes to a meditative state.

1958 (Age 5)

  • Sudhamani starts going to elementary school. She is soaked in Krishna bhakti most of the time even at such a tender age.

1960 (Age 7)

  • Sudhamani starts composing devotional songs on Lord Krishna. Most of the time her dress is wet with tears she sheds crying for her beloved Krishna.

1962 (Age 9)

  • Sudhamani discontinues school (in a couple of months after joining 5th standard) and takes charge of doing all domestic chores since her mother falls sick. In all her free time, she is immersed in the devotion of Sri Krishna.

1966 (Age 13)

  • Sudhamani starts going to her Mother’s elder sisters’ house for doing their domestic chores. Sudhamani gives the families’ rice to the poor and gets the wrath of the relatives.

1968 (Age 15)

  • Sudhamani was sent to her uncle’s house in Karunagapally for doing their domestic chores. Here too she starts giving food and provisions from the house to the poor and needy and gets punished for her charity.

1969 (Age 16)

  • Sudhamani returns to her parents’ house and gets fully engaged in doing all domestic chores from 3 AM in the morning till 11 PM and also immerses herself in intense sadhana and Krishna Bhakthi. She also serves the poor people in the village and distributes food and provisions stealthily from her house. Gets punished frequently for this charity.

1970 (Age 17)

  • Sudhamani learns tailoring at a Christian Institution attached to a Church (for about 3 years) in her spare time. She goes into meditation at the graveyard next to the church. The old priest in the Church gets highly impressed by her character and devotion to God.  He predicts she will come up as a great lady in the future.

  • Sudhamani loses sleep crying and singing for her beloved Krishna. Her family members get highly disturbed by her behavior. They think she is mentally deranged.

1975 (Age 22)

  • Sudhamani’s intense prema bhakti on Krishna ends up in a divine experience of Lord Krishna merging in her.

== Oil painting == Lord Krishna appears before Amma and merges in her. Amma realizes her oneness with Krishna.

  • 5th March  1975 – Sudhamani first Krishna Bhava (involuntarily expressing the divine mood of Lord Krishna) at the courtyard of her neighbor  Sri Ratnam’s house where Srimad Bhagavada parayanam was going on.

== Oil painting == Amma reveals her Krishna Bhava to people gathered to listen to Srimad Bhagavatam.

  • On the next Bhagavata Parayanam day, based on demands from people to prove her divine power, Sudhamani does a miracle by converting water to milk and also to panchamritam when she shows Krishna bhava again.
  • Soon regular Krishna Bhava darshan to devotees begins at the cowshed area next to her house.

  • Later a simple temple (Kalari) comes up in the cowshed area where her bhava darshan took place.

  • Soon after, Sudhamani gets Devi Parashakthi in a divine vision for a brief while. She immerses in deep Prema Bhakti to seek Devi’s vision again. Sudhamani’s behavior turns very weird bordering on madness.
  • Her family members could not understand her divine madness and get very disturbed. Her elder brother Subhakan, who could not accept Sudhamani’s bhava darshans and her divine moods, orders her to get out of the house. In order not to trouble the family members, sSudhamani opts to stay outdoors all the time, be rain or shine. She was out of body consciousness most of the time; animals and birds start giving her company with love and they bring food to her too.

== Oil painting == Sudhamani ordered out of the house; Animals and birds give her company in the open.

  • September 1975 – After 6 months of intense longing, she gets the vision of Devi once again and Devi immerses inside her. Amma sang her experience and the divine commandment she received from Devi thus in her song ‘Ananda Veedhi’

. . . . . .
Smiling, She became a Divine Effulgence

And merged in me. My mind blossomed,
Bathed in the many-hued light of divinity
And the events of millions of years gone by
Rose up within me. Thenceforth,
Seeing nothing as separate from my own Self
And merging in the Divine mother
I renounced all sense of enjoyment

Mother told me to ask people
To fulfill their human birth.
Therefore I proclaim to the whole world
The sublime truth that She uttered
‘oh man, merge in your Self!”
. . . . . . . . . 

Sudhamani resolves to dedicate her life totally to mitigate the suffering of the people and serve one and all as embodiments of God.

  • Amma (Sudhamani) begins giving Devi Bhava Darshan too in addition to Krishna Bhava Darshan. She hugs each and everyone who comes to her for darshan, hears their woes and offers solace.

  • Amma starts facing lots of opposition from and harassment from The Rationalists  Movement (‘Committee to remove blind beliefs’) who consider her bhava darshans as fake with an intent to fool people and make money.
  • By 1975 year-end – During one Krishna bhava, Amma predicts that she will be having lots of devotees coming to her from far and wide, including from abroad. She also predicts that she would travel all over the world many times.
  • Prabhakara Siddha Yogi, a famous avadhuta with extremely weird behavior, who was believed to be living across a couple of centuries, comes and visits Amma. He recognizes her as Kali Mata.

Amma with Prabhakara Siddha Yogi

1976  (Age 23)

  • Harassment, public ridicule, attempts of physical attack and attempts of murder happens to Amma from locals and members of the Rationalist movement. Amma’s family members feel highly disturbed about such happenings. Amma faces such opposition for the next couple of years with evenness of mind.
  • Based on Sugunananda’s prayer during Devi bhava to relieve her daughter from Devi’s possession, Amma falls into deep samadhi the next day and could not be revived to life despite all efforts. Conceding to intense prayers and inconsolable crying of her devotees and family, she comes back to life after 3 hours.
  • Unnikrishnan (Amma’s first resident brahmachari of the ashram, later Swami Turiyamritananda Puri) meets Amma and starts staying in the temple.

Swami Turiyamritananda Puri (Br. Unnikrishnan) was the earliest permanent resident of the ashram who came in 1976.

1977 (Age 24)

  • Amma visits Madurai Meenakshi temple with devotees. She goes into deep samadhi for about 1.5 hrs in front of Meenakshi sannadhi.

1978   (Age 25)

  • Dattan the leper starts visiting Amma during Bhava Darshan and his acute and deep wounds of leprosy gets cured over a period of time by Amma’s licking of his wounds.

> Click this picture to see the video clipping showing Amma licking the wounds in Dattan’s body and face

  • June 1978 – Amma’s elder brother Subhakan, who could not understand or accept Amma’s spiritual moods, and seemingly lunatic behavior, was strongly against his sisters’ divine bhavas and was extremely mentally disturbed. He commits suicide. Amma had to face negative propaganda and criticism from the rationalists and the public on account of this happening too.

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How do you get Mantra Diksha from Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi?

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The readers coming to this answer perhaps know already about Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, a living Sadguru among us, who has devotees, followers and admirers in millions across the globe.

Her thousands of earnest devotees and spiritual seekers know her as an Avatar – a divine incarnation of mother Parashakti; She is a Brahma gnyani; a true yogi; a jivan mukta. For many western devotees, she is a living proof that Jesus Christ did exist. She is like a large ship that can take numerous earnest devotees who have unconditionally surrendered to her across the sea of samsara.

There are thousands of devotees across the globe who have taken Mantra Diksha from her and chant their mantras regularly and engage in earnest spiritual practices.

Which Mantra does Amma give as Diksha?

Amma accepts earnest devotees from any walk of life, from any sect of Hinduism (be Vaishnavas, Shaivas, Shaktas or whatever), having whatever Ishta Devatas (favourite God forms) they love. To suit their taste and leaning, Amma gives mantras of their respective ishtas (Like Shiva Mantra, Vishnu mantra, Rama mantra, Krishna mantra, Gayathri Mantra, Devi Mantra and so on). In fact, Amma gives diksha to Christians, Buddhists etc. too, with mantras to suit their respective faiths and tastes.

There are plenty of Amma devotees for whom Amma herself is their Ishta. For them, Amma gives mantra originating from her own name too. In other words, Amma encourages and guides people to progress spiritually through their respective faiths, and there is nothing like a cult-feeling associated with her Mantra diksha.

In Mata Amritanandamayi Math, no one other than Amma is authorized to give Manta diksha.

When and where do you get diksha from Amma?

Amma’s ashram headquarters is in Amritapuri, Kerala, India. Before Corona pandemic, Amma used to be travelling across India and the worldduring major part of every year over the last 3 decades. However since 2020 (till the date in which this post is originally written) Amma has been staying in Amritapuri Ashram only.

Wherever Amma’s darshan programs get conducted (be it in Amritapuri or whatever place Amma visits), people, while receiving Amma’s darshan (which is her loving hug) can request Amma for Mantra Diksha. Amma instantly knows the past, present and future of a devotee the moment she hugs him, and depending on the person’s ripeness for receiving the mantra, she may accept the request. Please note that she may not respond with yes to some people; she may tell some people to come back to her in future with the request.

The truth is that, nowadays, out of her extreme compassion, Amma normally agrees to give Mantra diksha to a vast majority of people who make the request, unmindful of their spiritual limitations or shortcomings.

Once Amma’s nod is obtained, the person will be taken to a designated Sanyasi of the Ashram who interacts with the person to get information about his Ishta Devata (Favorite deity) on whom he wants the mantra. Then he gives the respective Mantra Card (associated with that deity) along with an instruction card. He gives necessary guidelines further.

The person is to wait, till Amma finishes giving darshan to all the devotees who have taken darshan tokens that day.

Please note that this wait may be quite long. Thousands of devotees come to Amma to take her darshan and the darshan program may extend till midnight or even till early hours of the next morning.

Except for this waiting, the Diksha process is rather an extremely simple and quick affair with virtually no procedural strings attached. People waiting for taking Mantra diksha will be taken to Amma, after she completes giving darshan (i.e. hugs) to all those who had come to her on that day/ night. The sanyasi assisting in diksha will tell Amma on what Ishta Devata the person wanted the mantra (by looking at the Mantra Card). Amma will hug the person and utter the respective mantra in his ear. She will then shower flower petals on the person’s head.

The ceremony is over!

Any further clarifications or instructions, if any (more than what is given in the Instruction sheets) can be had from the sanyasi assisting in diksha.

Please note

  • there are no strings attached — no expectations whatsoever from the person seeking Mantra
  • no formal ceremonies are preparations involved – except for the long wait, till midnight or beyond it.
  • no other qualification needed, except Amma’s initial approval.

Generally, there are no strict dos and don’ts specified. People are expected to chant the mantras as much as possible, whenever possible, wherever possible. Chanting with earnest devotion and sincerity will bring more dividends. Regularity and earmarking specific time for chanting and meditation are encouraged. As Amma gives lots of significance to Lalita Sahasranama chanting, Amma’s devotees are always encouraged to learn Lalita Sahasranama and do the parayana or archana regularly.

How Pongal Festival is celebrated in Tamil Nadu

Pongal or Thai Pongal is a very traditional festival of Tamil Nadu, existing in practice perhaps across a thousand years or so.  It is essentially a harvesting festival, celebrated as a way of thanksgiving to Sun God and Lord Indra, for having blessed the people with good harvest, by giving essential rains and shine.

 

It is traditionally celebrated as a 4-day festival. The main festival is the Pongal or Surya Pongal which falls on the 1st Day of Tamil month ‘Thai’ (That’s why the name Thai Pongal),  which mostly and typically falls on the 14th January. It is the same day of Makara Sankranti, which is typically celebrated in most other parts of India. In Tamil Nadu too, this festival is called Sankranti by some sects of people like Brahmins.

Makara Sankranti or Pongal is the time when Sun begins its northward travel called Uttarayana, when the sun enters the 10th house of the zodiac Makara Nakshatra (Capricorn).

The 4-day Pongal festival is strictly not a religiously oriented festival. Even though the intent is to worship Sun God, it cannot be classified as a festival celebrated by a sect of people who consider their prime God as the Sun. As it is not strictly religious, there are no specific worship procedures, chanting of Mantras, undertaking of upavas (fasting), or religiously visiting temples and conducting any specific worship. Though a harvesting festival, it is celebrated by all classes and castes of people and people of all sorts of professions. 

It is more of a celebration and thanksgiving and enjoying good food — with Sarkarai Pongal being the prime item, and chewing sugarcane in gay abandon, as much as one’s teeth permit!.  The procedures and practices of celebrations may have several variations from place to place and class to class.  However, the 4-day structure is almost universal.

Most villagers buy new clothes for the entire family for the Pongal festival, though such a practice has become absent amid urbanites.

Pongal season indeed signifies the end of the previous harvesting period. Rice harvesting is usually done by November/ December. Sugarcane harvesting starts taking place by January, and naturally, sugar cane has a prime place in Pongal celebration.  Jaggery made out of sugarcane is the prime ingredient in preparing the Sakkarai Pongal. Tuber plants like Ginger, Turmeric, Chembu (Taro root), and sweet potato give their yield in this period. Typical rural vegetables like avarai, bananas, pumpkins, etc too are available in abundance in this season, paving the way for festive feasts.

1st Day — Bhogi Pongal

Preparations for celebrating Pongal festival start much before the arrival of the festival day. At least a week or more ahead, people thoroughly clean their houses up and down, remove cobwebs, sweep and clean the house and surroundings and give a thorough wash of the house. People who can afford,  arrange to freshly whitewash their houses. People discard old, unusable items, including old clothes, bedsheets, garden wastes, papers, and whatnot. The discarded, combustible items are kept in a pile, meant for burning bonfire on the Bhogi Pongal day. Bhogi Pongal signifies “pazhaiyana kazhithalum, puthiyana pukuthalum” (as said in Tamil meaning getting rid of the old and ushering in the new). It signifies the arrival of freshness in life through the Pongal festival.

The bonfire is generally lit early before dawn. In some places, children play a ‘ganjira’ like percussion instrument (cheaply made with cardboard, plastic sheet etc) by dancing arround the fire.

People also wear new clothes on this day and eat a good vegetarian feast. Depending on family traditions, the items in the feast generally include Moar Kozhambu (made out of butter milk), curries made out of rural seasonal vegetables, Boli (a round, soft, stuffed sweet),  the typical Vadai-Payasam-Appalam, and the like.

The negative side of bonfire-done-too-much

Certain traditional practices symbolising something auspicious like the Bhogi bonfire, unfortunately, are carried out in excess by some sections of people, particularly in large cities like Chennai.  As a mark of celebrating Bhogi, many people started burning old tyres, waste oily rags etc  that produce highly polluting smoke. In the past couple of decades, the day of Bhogi dawns with a thick smog enveloping the entire city, with visibility coming down so terribly, that even flights could not take off or land till  9 AM. 

See this Video: Smog engulfs Chennai on Bhogi day as bonfires spike pollution levels

It has now become customary for the Police to issue warnings in advance before Bhogi day not to indiscriminately burn old tyres and other polluting wastes.

2nd Day – Pongal / Surya Pongal / Sankranti

Preparation of Sakkarai Pongal dish and offering it to Sun God is the main event on the Pongal day. In villages, it is the practice to use a freshly bought earthen pot for cooking the Pongal. In villages, the cooking is normally done in the open right under the sun using firewood as the fuel. The suggested time of cooking is normally mentioned in the Almanac which coincides with the time of entry of the Sun into the Makara Nakshatra. But not all people may follow this schedule and the cooking may take place at their convenient mealtime too.

Also, non-peasant families and dwellers in town and cities, depending on their affluence and traditions, may not cook in the open. While many such people cook Pongal in their kitchens, the clay pot also gets replaced by a large Bronze Pot (‘Vengala Panai’) which is almost exclusively used for cooking on the Pongal day only. 

It is generally the practice to decorate the pot (whether earthen pot or bronze pot) with a belt-like garland that consists of Inji kothu (freshly dug out ginger), manjal kothu (freshly dug out turmeric), a piece of sugar cane, some flowers, a ripe banana, a half-piece of broken coconut, etc. People also apply Kumkum, saffron, sandalwood paste, and religious symbols like namam, pattai, etc depending on their religious leanings.  Some people may also use artistically painted earthen pots, in addition to decorations.

See this video that shows a typical decoration done on a bronze pot: 

பொங்கல் பானை வைக்கும் முறை | Pongal Paanai Decoration

Preparation of Sakkarai pongal (dish)

If pongal is prepared in the outer courtyard, the place is thoroughly cleaned and decorated with kolam. The place is also decorated with sugar canes, flowers, and festoons. While some people follow the practice of digging earth and using it as the fire pit, some use bricks to set up the cooking place. Rice prepared from freshly harvested paddy is normally used for preparing pongal on this festive day.

Initially, washed rice water is boiled in the pot and fresh milk is added to it. When this milk boils, the froth rises up and is allowed to overflow from the pot. This phenomenon, in Tamil, is known as ‘ponguthal’ (swelling) and it is from this word that ‘Pongal’ came. This overflowing is considered an auspicious sign of abundance. Children and elders shout “Pongalo Pongal!” when this occurs. Ladies do ‘kulavai‘ (making a ”loolooloo‘ sound with their tongues) and some men may blow the conch. Immediately after this happens, rice and green gram dhal are added and further boiling continues. Then grated jaggery is added. Cardamom, cashew nuts and dried grapes too are added. Ghee too is added in good measure and when fully cooked, the pot is taken away from the fire.

Then a laddle of this pongal is placed on a plantain leaf along with sugarcane pieces, bananas, betal leaves, etc. They break a coconut, show camphor aarati and offer all these to Sun God, praying for his blessings. 

Celebrating and cooking pongal in rural India — See this video:

PONGAL CELEBRATION in Village by farmers | We celebrate Our Traditional Festival in Our Village

In many families, it is also the practice to cook ‘Ven Pongal’ (White, salty pongal, with pepper)  side by side. People may also prepare a sambar or a Koottu (mixed vegetable curry with gravy) to serve as a side dish. 

Once the offering is over, the entire family members sit together and relish the pongals served in banana leaves. 

People exchange Pongal greetings with friends and relatives. In the olden days.  Children used to buy Pongal Greeting Cards from shops and mail them to their near and dear ones. The cards used to contain different pictures like Gods and Goddesses, temples, natural scenes, Pongal festival scenes. Every boy or girl will have a good collection of such cards as their prized possessions in their cupboards. Such practices have become extinct in the present age of social media. 

In the olden days, All India Radio used to broadcast special entertainment programs for the festival day. Nowadays, it is the TV Channels that vie with each other to dish out plenty of special programs and movie shows.  Once the offerings and eating are over,  most people get glued to their TVs for good or bad for the whole day!

Those who succeed in getting disentangled from the grip of TV  may visit temples in the evenings to offer their prayers on the festive day. 

Some towns and villages have the practice of arranging Kabaddi competitions as part of the celebration of the Pongal festival.

3rd Day –  Mattu Pongal

As the farmers’ life is intrinsically connected with cows and bullocks, the third day of the Pongal festival is dedicated to worshiping and thanks-giving to the cattle. The cowsheds are thoroughly cleaned and washed. The cows and bullocks are washed thoroughly and then decorated with saffron, kumkum, flower garlands, netti malais (Garlands made out of pith stem), and so on. People also clean up the horns of cows and bullocks and paint them in beautiful colors. The ropes (‘Mookanaan Kayiru) that are used to tie the cattle are also freshly bought to replace the old ones on this festive day.

On this day too, villagers prepare pongal dish in fresh pots, offer it to God, and then feed the pongal along with bananas to the cows and bullocks. Only after feeding the cows, pongal is eaten by the family members together.

Bullock carts too are cleaned, washed, and decorated with flowers and leaves of ginger, turmeric and sugarcane plants. In the evenings, farmers’ children take a joy ride in their bullock carts.

(See this video: PONGAL CELEBRATION | Mattu Pongal | Grand Tamil Special Festival Celebrate in Village by farmers

Another video: Mattu Pongal Celebration in Tamil | மாட்டுப்பொங்கல் (2019)

Decorating the cows and bullocks with colorful garland made of ‘Netti’ (Pith stem) was a traditional practice existing across generations in many villages. These eco-friendly garlands have unfortunately been widely replaced by plastic garlands in the present times. Consequently, this has affected many families that have been traditionally making  some seasonal income by making ‘netti malai’s.

See this Video: 

மாடுகளை அலங்கரிக்கும் ‘நெட்டி மாலை’ / NETTI MAALA for COWS

Jalli Kattu celebration on Mattu Pongal

Jallikkattu or Sallikkattu or Manju Virattu is a traditional bull-catching sport, existing in Tamil Nadu perhaps across many centuries, which is part and parcel of Mattu Pongal festival.  It is considered as a prestigious ‘Veera Vilaiyattu‘ (Game of the bold and courageous youths) and only certain places in Tamil Nadu have been traditionally nurturing this sport, against objections from certain quarters. This sport is in vogue only in Pudukkottai, Sivagangai, Trichy, and Madurai districts, particularly at places like Alanganallur, Avaniyapuram, Sholavandan, Palamedu, and the like.

Certain specific local breeds of bulls like Kangeyam,  Puliyakulam, and Malamedu are carefully nurtured by the owners of the bulls and they take pride in the girth and ferociousness of their bulls that are not easy to conquer by the youth in Jallikkattu.

Many such bulls are released one by one from a narrow entrance called Vadi Vasal, to an adjacent ground where many youths eagerly await their arrival. The ferocious bull, once released, runs at breakneck speed. Several youths try to catch hold of the bull’s hump, while the bull uses all its might to throw them away using its sharp horns or by shaking its body.  If any youth succeeds in holding the hump continuously for 30 seconds or running across 15 meters without losing the grip, he is considered a winner and is gifted with prizes. If the bull manages to throw him off and escape, the bull is the winner. There may be some variants in the sports from location to location.

As it is well known, several youths get seriously injured and some even end up in deaths. People from the animal rights movement too have their objections to this game. Anyway, amid such controversies and objections Jallikkattu remains a passion in Tamil Nadu, as it is strongly linked to a tradition of display of bravery among rural youths. 

Here is a video of Jallikkattu:  

All about Jallikattu

In certain districts like Nagercoil, there is also a tradition of conducting bullock cart races (Rekla race) as part of the Mattu Pongal celebration.

Also on 3rd day – Kanu Pongal

Most Tamil Brahmin families have a tradition of celebrating ‘Kanu Pongal’ on the third day (which is different from Kanum Pongal of the 4th day). It is rather a curiously funny tradition followed by women, who pray for the welfare of their brothers on this day. They do this practice after taking bath and wearing fresh sarees. They spread the leaves of  Manjal (turmeric) either at the back yard near the well or at the terrace. They spread small balls of the remnants of the previous day’s Sakkari Pongal, cooked rice (colored in yellow, red, etc) along with finely cut pieces of sugar cane, banana, and betel leaves. They pray to God for the well-being and prosperity of their brothers. The leaves are left as it is with the intention that crows and ants may consume the food items. 

As for the feast of Kanu Pongal, it consists of specially made rice preparations like Puliyodharai, Coconut rice, Curd rice etc. Another prominent item is the Kadamba Koottu (also called Kanu Koottu) which is a multi-vegetable curry with gravy.  The specialty of this koottu is that all the ingredients are all traditional rural vegetables available in abundance during the season. The kootu normally consists of Plantain (Vazhai kai), stem of plantain (Vazhai thandu) , white pumpkin, yellow pumpkin, flat beans (avaraikkai), Taro root (Chembu), sweet potato, brinjal, ladies fingers, mochai (bean nuts)  and grated coconut.

Here is a video showing the preparation of the typical Kadamba Koottu:

Kadamba Kootu / Pongal Kootu

Note: In some rural family traditions, such a  multi-vegetable koottu, known as Koottu kaai Kozhambu is prepared on the day of Pongal.

4th Day — Kanum Pongal

 

Pic: Kanum Pongal crowd at Pondy

“Kanum’ in Tamil means seeing. It is the festival day for outings — to visit places, fairs, friends and relatives. Rural people visit adjacent towns and cities to see beeches, movie theatres, amusement parks, temples, zoos, museums, trade fairs, and other tourist-attractive places along with all their family members and kids. The sale of sugarcanes will be very brisk on this day, as youth and children enjoy ‘chewing and viewing’ wherever they go! 

Popular tourist spots like Marina beach will witness a sea of people who come to see the seas on the Kanum Pongal day. As a consequence, tons of trashes are left behind, creating a nightmare for Corporation staff to clean up on the next day!

See this video — Kanum Pongal crowd at Chennai Marina beach

Thousands throng Marina Beach in Chennai to celebrate Kaanum Pongal

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Amma’s stories on managing anger and other emotions – 2

[If you have not read the previous 15 little stories of Amma under this topic, you can read them here:  Amma’s stories on managing anger and other emotions – Part 1 ]

1.  Insignificant victory

An young man received call for a prestigious job interview, which he was eagerly waiting to receive for months. He had to travel to a distant city where his interview was scheduled. For that, he had to travel by air and the travel plan involved changing a plane at an intermediate station. Once his first flight descended in the intermediate airport, the next plane was scheduled to depart after a gap of half an hour. As he was waiting at the departure lounge for the flight, he felt  hungry; he decided to utilize the time gap to have a quick bite.

He went to the Restaurant there and ate some fast food. When the bill came, he was shocked as the amount was Rs 500, which was too hefty for him.  He went to the cashier and argued with him: “Hey! This is very unfair. I have not eaten anything heavy to demand such a high payment”. After arguing for a while, the cashier decided to pacify the customer and offered a 100 Rupees reduction. But the young man was not happy. He kept on insisting that the bill was still unfair. He was very particular not to spend more than Rs 300. After lots of arguments, finally, the cashier agreed for Rs 300.-

The young man was very happy. He felt very proud of himself for arguing so strongly and smartly saving Rs 200.- in the bargain. He walked proudly towards the departure gate. There he came to know that the flight had departed about 5 minute ago!

Forgetting the very significance of his journey for which he had indeed been waiting for months,  the young man had wasted his precious time  in arguing, just for saving  a small amount of money!

[Amma: “Some people tend to complain that time was not favorable to them. The fact is, time is always favorable. Only we are not in tune with the time.”]

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 1)

2.  Why so excited?

A middle aged person and a young man were walking around a flower garden.

The young man asked his father excitedly in a loud voice, “Daddy! Isn’t this the flower called rose? Ah how beautiful it is!”

The father too spoke in an equally excited voice, “Yes my dear son! This indeed is the rose!’

“Is n’t its color known as pink, daddy?”

“Yes! Indeed!” said the father. The son pointed his hand towards the lawn and said, again loudly full of excitement, “Is it not the grass daddy? Isn’t its color called green?”

“Yes! My son. You are absolutely right!” The fathers voice too was equally loud and excited.

The young man continued to point one after other and they talked excitedly about each.  In a nearby bench, an old man was seated. He had come to the garden seeking silence and mental peace. He felt irritated by the loud-mouthed talking by the father and his grown up son. With obvious expression of his irritation and disapproval, the old man said, “I came to this garden in search of some mental peace. Many people who visit this garden too are like me.  When you two people talk so  loudly oblivious of your surrounding, people like me have lost peace. Your dull headed son keeps on asking insignificant things and you are so excitedly replaying “yes my son!” to all his questions! Why don’t you go to some doctor and find a cure for your son’s retarded behavior instead of coming here?”

Hearing this, both the father and son stood there, stupefied for a while. Then the father said, “I am sorry. My son is not mentally retarded.  He had been blind right from birth. Only two days ago his eyes were operated in order to bring eyesight to him. After the operation, at the time of removing his bandage, I had this desire to show him some really beautiful and heart-warming sights for the first time as he sees this world. That’s why I brought him here. This is the first time in his life that he is seeing all these beautiful things around here. That’s why he was talking so excitedly about them. I too was overwhelmed with joy when I my son has got his eyesight and naturally, when he asked the questions, I was equally excited and spoke so loudly.  Suppose we got back  the wealth that we had lost long back, how much excited we would become! In the same way, we totally forgot our surroundings; kindly excuse us”.

Hearing this, the old man felt extremely bad and ashamed about his hasty judgment and the way he had let out very hurting words against them. He immediately sought their pardon. He took a resolve that, in future, he would not get angry at others by framing his own preconceived judgements.

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 1)

3.  Revenge – Is it worth?

Once a person heavily drunk drove his car that ended up in an accident. A young man on the road got killed in the accident.

The mother of the young man who died started crying uncontrollably when she heard the news.  He was her only son and his loss at his prime youth was unbearable to her. Despite the passage of several days and months, her sorrow did not reduce. It soon turned to anger — anger against the person who killed her son in the accident. She want to take revenge on him. She wanted to kill him; her heart started boiling with such a desire.

A few days passed this way. Gradually her mind cooled down; she was able to think more logically into the idea of  avenging her son’s death. She thought, ‘What will I really gain by killing the drunkard? Will I ever get back my son? If my son’s accidental death could cause so much grief in me, then it will be natural that if I kill the drunkard, his mother and family too will grieve the same way. What will I gain by causing those innocent people to suffer mentally by my act of vengeance? Let them not face the same fate as I had faced’. Now her mind became calm.

She thought further: ‘What was the cause of my son’s death? Was it not the drinking habit of the person who drove the car? If he were to be a sober person, he would have driven the car carefully and my son would not have died. So the real problem is drinking and driving. If I could do something to make a few people aware of the evil consequences of drinking, to that extent the society would get benefited.’

She discussed the matter with some of her friends and wellwishers. They too came forward to support her enthusiastically. Soon she started a small Social service group through which she conducted sessions  with people to propagate the evils of drinking. She dedicated her time considerably for this mission. Within a few years she was running a large organization dedicated to propagate the evils of drinking across the nation.

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 1)

4.  A shift in mindset

[NOTE:  This is actually a real life story — from the life of  young Ramakrishnan (now Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri,  one of Amma’s seniormost sanyasis)  during the early days of his association with Amma.]

As a college student Ramakrishnan had a goal of studying medicine and becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, he lost the opportunity to join MBBS by scoring just one mark below the selection cutoff level in the entrance examination.  He became dejected and depressed because of it.  He had no interest in joining any other course. After few days, due to compulsion from his family, he applied for bank job. He got the job.

Even after joining duty, the frustration about not becoming a doctor as per his dreams continued to affect him.  He could not deal with his bank clients with courtesy or friendliness; he could not smile at others.  He understood that such a behavior was not right.

He went to his beloved Guru (Amma) and confessed about his mental turmoil. He said, “Amma, my mind is not in my control; even on petty matters, I get angry. I am not able to behave respectfully with the bank’s clients.  With this mental state, I don’t think  I will be able to continue in my job for long.  Amma. what should I do?”

Amma listened to him patiently. Then consoling him, she said, “My son. Suppose I send a person who is close to me, to you to the bank seeking some assistance from the bank, how will you deal with him?”

Ramakrishnan said, “Of course I will receive him warmly and offer all possible help to him”.

“If so, you must do one thing. Think of every customer who comes to you seeking Bank’s help as though he is a person sent personally by me. If you develop such an attitude, you will be able to behave friendly and nicely with every person approaching you”.

From that day onwards, there was a sea of change in Ramakrishnan’s behavior. He was able to see every person coming to him for banking help as though he was sent by God (his guru) and was able to serve them with courtesy. Anger and frustration left him once for all.

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 1)

  5.  The King gripped in fear

 Once there was a King, who was extremely afraid of his enemies. He built a fort for him and lived inside a high security palace. His living room was surrounded by thick walls on all sides with just one small window opening, through which he would communicate with others.  Once a Sadhu visited the palace and he wanted to personally meet the king to get some alms. As he looked harmless, he was allowed to see the king after he was put through all the security tests by the king’s guards.

When the king was informed of the arrival of the sadhu, the king agreed to see the visitor through the small window opening.

The sadhu said, “O king! I came to meet you to get some alms. But I am really surprised to see you living here in this room, so secluded and alone. May I know what your problem is?”

The king said, “My enemies are extremely powerful. If I live like any other king, I am afraid that they will attack and kill me . So I am staying securely in this fully protected room.”

The sadhu laughed and said, “O king, you are already dead”.

“What do you mean?”

“You are virtually inside a tomb, except that your tomb has just one small opening!” — so saying the sadhu left the palace laughing aloud.

(Source: Amma’s satsang dt 18/12/21)

6. Mother’s valuable advice

Once a person asked a famous social worker, “Sir, I have been observing you since long; I have never seen you  getting angry with anybody. You are composed and pleasant in all circumstances. May I know how it is possible for you”.

The social worker said, “In my young age, I too was a very short tempered person. Once I had an angry fight with my friends and I came back home fretting and fuming. Noticing my agitation, my mother asked me what happened. After I explained to her, she said, “If you get angry simply triggered by the words of someone and if you express it,  it means you have become an underdog in front of that person. If you get angry again, it only means the other person has defeated you. Dear son, you must remember this always”.

“After that Incident, whenever I am in a situation where I could get angry, my mother’s words will flash in my memory. Her face and words will appear right in front of me. If I get angry again, it only means I lack patience. Otherwise, I would contemplate on what the other person uttered that infuriated me. I will think:  “Why did he say so? What is the reason for him to get angry with me? Why did he use such harsh words against me?  Is it because of his ignorance? Is it an intentional display of his ego?”

“By thinking so, I would refrain from retaliating. As I stand unperturbed, it is he who gets defeated and not I. Now he would start thinking, “Despite my getting angry, this fellow has remained unmoved, I have become a fool now. My true color has been exposed”. It is this way that I learned a valuable lesson from my mother’s advice. That’s how I am able to face any situation with even mindedness” .

[Amma: “Children, we too should face every situation in life like this.“]

(Source: Amrita Ganga – Satsang)

7. The secret technique!

Once a husband and wife who stopped talking to each other on account of a fight between them.  They slept separately in two bedrooms. The wife stopped doing any service to her husband and kept away from him as much as possible.

One day, the wife came running to her husband shrieking in fear and embraced him. The husband consoled her, spoke soothing words to her to drive away her fear.  As the wife was afraid to go and sleep in her bed, she opted to sleep in her husband’s room.

After a couple of days, the same thing repeated. Again the husband showered his affection on her and allowed her to sleep with him in his bed.

This way, their mutual bitterness melted away. Soon they were on talking terms. The wife started serving food to her husband and taking due care of his needs. Their relationship returned to normalcy and joy and intimacy returned in their life. 

Watching these happenings, their daughter asked her father with wonder, “What has happened papa? You were not talking with each other for long, and suddenly mother is back to normal and you have become a happy couple once again. What magic did you do?”

The father said, “If you promise me not to reveal anything to your mother, I will tell you the secret”. The little girl promised so.

“You know your mother is not afraid of anything in this world, except for cockroaches. Last week, as I was coming home, I was pondering how to end the cold war between us, and suddenly I noticed a cockroach near our house. I caught it and brought it home and placed it on her bed that night without her knowledge. When your mother came to sleep, she noticed it and started shrieking out of fear and came to my room. She had no courage to sleep alone in her room and hence slept in my room. I repeated the same exercise after a couple of days and it worked!”

8. Acceptance

[NOTE:  This is actually a real life story that happened at Boston in one  devotee’s life.]

During one of Amma’s US tour, there was Amma’s darshan program at Boston.  One of Amma’d devotees, who came by his car to attend the program, met with an accident on the way.  Though he was not wounded, he had to spend the whole night in the Police station. He could reach the program venue only the next day.

When he came to Amma for darshan, people around Amma mentioned to Amma about the accident he met with. Amma lovingly inquired, “Son, did you get hurt? Are you okay? Are you upset?”

The man replied, “No, problem Amma, I am quite fine. Also, I didn’t have to spend money on a hotel room as I spent the night in the police station!”

[Amma:  “The Guru teaches us how to see things in their respective places. If we try, we can make our lives positive. Everything has a positive side to it. In this incident, the person was able to take it positively and even was able to joke that the situation had even helped him save money”.]

9. Right treatment

Once a  drunkard went to a bar  ordered his favorite drink. The waiter in the bar brought a glass of  the drink and place it before him.  The drunkard drank half of it in one gulp, and threw the balance  at the  waiter’s face.

The waiter became extremely angry and started shouting at the drunkard.  Hearing the abusive words,  the drunkard started crying. 

The waiter asked, “Why are you crying?”

The drunkard said,  “Unfortunately, it has become a habit for me to drink only half a glass and through the balance drink at the waiter space. I know pretty well that this is a very bad and evil habit. Unfortunately, however much I try,  I am not able to change this  behavior.  I am sorry about this.  I know I must change this.  Can you help me in some way?”

The waiter thought for a while and then said, “Don’t worry;  my brother too  had one such evil habit; he tried on his own to set it right, but could not succeed.  Finally I took him to a psychiatrist  known to me.  The psychiatrist gave him treatment for 3 months and at the end of it, my brother totally got rid of  his is  habit.”

The waiter then wrote down the address of the psychiatrist in a piece of paper and gave it to the drunkard.  Profusely thanking him,  the drunkard took the address  and went away.

A few months passed. The same drunkard came back to the bar and ordered his favorite drink. Remembering him,   the waiter asked, ” Hello! Did you go to the psychiatrist? Hope you have undergone treatment and got rid of your problem.”

The drunkard nodded his head.

The waiter served him the drink in a glass.  The drunkard gulped down  half of it,  and,  like the previous time,  he splashed the remaining drink at the waiter’s face. 

The waiter became uncontrollably angry  and shouted, ” You reckless rascal,  I thought  you would have turned good after going to the psychiatrist; But there is no change in your behavior. Why ?”

The drunkard replied, “It is not right to say  that I have not changed. There is indeed a change in my attitude after the treatment.   Earlier, I used to feel  very guilty after throwing the drink at the waiter’s face,  but after treatment, I got rid of the guilty consciousness.  Now a days I don’t feel bad at all about my habit!”

The waiter said, ” It means you definitely require totally different treatment;  and I am good enough to give the treatment to you”.

The waiter took a stick in  his hand and started beating the drunkard black and blue.

(From Amma’s Janmashtami satsang 2022)

Amma’s stories on the power of Love

1. The lonely child

[Amma: If there is some thing that can rid us of fear and give us the power to move forward overcoming all hurdles, it is love.]

Once there lived in a village a widowed milkmaid with her little daughter. She sold milk to the residents of a kingdom who lived inside a well guarded fort. The fort was on top of a small hill and her village was situated outside, at the foothills.

One evening, after she finished selling milk inside the fort, she got delayed. As she returned to the exit gate, she found the gates locked. She appealed to the guards to open the gates for her, saying, “I have left my little child alone in my hut. It is already late in the evening. If I don’t return before dark, my daughter would be gripped in fear and start crying; if something happens to my daughter, there is no point in my living any more; please take pity on me; please allow me to go out!”

But the guards were extremely rigid and they refused to open the gate for security reasons. They told her to stay somewhere inside for the night and leave once the gates open early at sun-rise.

Overwhelmed by disappointment and grief, the woman left the place and started frantically searching for some way or means to escape from the walls of the fort.

In the next day morning, the guards opened the gates. They were surprised to see the milkmaid waiting outside the gate with her milk cans to enter into the fort! They were taken aback. How on earth did she manage to sneak out of the walls of the well protected fort on the previous evening?

The took her to the king.Upon inquiry, the milkmaid explained her predicament and anguish on the previous evening. She told the king that after a thorough search, she found out a small crack on the wall of the fort through which she escaped. The king was curious to know where the weak spot was and he went along with the maid to see the location.

The king was extremely surprised to notice that it was almost impossible to notice the existence of such a small crack in the wall through which a person can escape with difficulty. It was indeed a very dangerous endeavor to climb the wall to that cracked area; further, on the other side, the slope of the hills were really treacherous and it was indeed a very dangerous task to descend the hills that way. It really looked to be a superhuman effort to accomplish it.

The king asked her, “Were you not gripped by fear to escape through this extremely dangerous path in darkness?”

The milkmaid replied, “There was only one thought in my mind last evening. I have got to got out somehow or other from here and reach my little daughter. I know how scared she would be if I were not to reach her before night. I totally forgot about the safety of my own life; there was no place for fear in my heart at that time”.

2.  Tuned mind

[Amma: “True love or relationship depends on the depth of inseparable sense of togetherness. Such a deep emotional bond happens in the mind and hence it cannot be measured. In proportion to that feeling of togetherness, it manifests in the outer physical plane too. People having such a deep love on each other will have resonating thoughts too. A husband will understand the wife thoughts even before she expresses them; so does the wife.”]

Once a husband was sitting in his room at his house deeply engrossed in some office work that he had brought home on a holiday. He was feeling tired and wanted to relax for a while. However the work was so urgent that he had to finish it off and hand over it to the office the next day.

He was fighting sleep and trying hard to concentrate. He thought, “If only I get a good cup of coffee”. He knew his wife was busy cooking at the kitchen. It was an odd time when he did not normally drink coffee. He did not want to disturb his wife.

As he resumed work, his wife appeared in his room with a hot cup of coffee in her hand! The husband was surprised! “How come you know that I longed for a cup of coffee?”. The wife said, “I just felt you needed a cup of coffee; that’s all!”

(Source: Arul Mozhigal-8 Tamil)

3. For her sake

One young man used to go by his motorbike to meet his lover regularly.  Driven by the urge to meet his beloved girl, the young man used to drive rashly, without bothering to obey traffic rules. Even if he sees Red light at traffic signals, he would just ignore it drive ahead without stopping. Many times he met with small accidents on account of his rash driving.  But he never bothered about them.

One day, he was driving his bike with one of his friends sitting at the pillion. His friend knew about the man’s rash driving habits. On that day, the young man stopped his bike at one of the traffic junctions when he noticed red signal. He took out his girl friend’s photo from his pocket and looked at it lovingly while waiting for the signal to turn green.

His friend was really surprised. ! “Hey! What happened to you? I have never seen you stopping your bike at signals?”

The young man replied, “All these days, due to my excitement to meet her, I drove fast, ignoring signals. I never bothered about traffic rules or other vehicles. The only thought that occupied my mind was to meet her as fast as possible. But of late I have started thinking: ‘If, because of my rash driving, I were to meet with an accident, will it not throw her into grief?’. Now, with such a thought arising in me, I have started to drive responsibly, obeying traffic rules!”

[Amma: “Like this, if we are driven only by our selfish likes and dislikes, we feel rules and regulations are unnecessary. But when we take into consideration others’ interests and concerns, we get awareness and patience; then we understand the need to follow rules and regulations.”]

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 2)

 

The Role of Sri Ramakrishna in the revival of Sanatana Dharma (Tamil)

பாரத சனாதன தர்மம் புத்துயிர் பெற்றதில் ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ண பரமஹம்சரின் பெரும் பங்கு

ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ண பரமஹம்சர் ஒரு மகாத்மா மாத்திரமல்ல, அவர் ஒரு அவதார புருஷரும் கூட. தனது நெருங்கிய பக்தர்களுக்கு, தாம் ஒரு அவதாரம் என்பதை அவர் வெளிப்படுத்தியிருந்தார். இந்து மதத்தில், அவரைப் பெரிதும் போற்றுவதற்கான பல காரணிகள் உள்ளன, அவற்றில் சிலவற்றை இங்கே சுருக்கமாகக் காண்போம்:

  • அவர் வாழ்ந்த காலத்தில் (1836–1886) நம்மை ஆண்டு கொண்டிருந்த இருந்த ஆங்கிலேயர்களின் ஆதிக்கத்தின் காரணமாய் மேற்கத்திய / கிறிஸ்தவ மதத்தின் தாக்கத்தால் பெரிதும் பாதிப்படைந்திருந்த நமது சனாதன தர்மத்துக்குப் புத்துயிர் தந்த மகான்களில் அவர் முக்கியமான ஒருவராக இருந்தார்.
  • இந்து மதத்தில் உள்ள பன்முகப்பட்ட மார்க்கங்களும் — அதாவது பக்தி மார்க்கம் (அதில் பல கடவுள் வடிவங்களை வணங்குவது உட்பட), ஞான மார்க்கம் (ஜீவாத்ம பரமாத்ம ஐக்கியத்தில் முடிவுறும் அத்வைத தத்துவம்), யோக மார்க்கம் (பதஞ்சலி முனிவர் காட்டும் அஷ்டாங்க யோகம்), குண்டலினி யோகம் (தாந்திர மார்க்கம்) — என்று எல்லாமே இறைவனை அடைவதற்கான வெவ்வேறு முறைமைகளே, அவையெல்லாமே உண்மையானவையே என்று உலகத்துக்கு நிரூபிக்கும் ஓர் முன்னுதாரண புருஷராக அவர் வாழ்ந்து காட்டினார். தீவிர நம்பிக்கையோடும் சிரத்தையொடும் ஏதேனும் ஒரு வழியைத் தேர்ந்தெடுத்து முழுமனதுடன் சாதனை செய்தால் அவ்வவ் வழிகளின் மூலம் பூரணத்துவத்தை அடையமுடியும் என்பதை அவர் பறைசாற்றினார்.
  • அவர் வாழ்ந்த காலகட்டத்தில், தாந்திர மார்க்கம் என்பது மிகவும் இரகசியமாக இருந்த ஓர் ஆன்மீகப் பாதையாக இருந்தது. பலரும் தவறான நோக்கங்களுக்காகத் அந்த மார்க்கத்தைத் தேர்ந்தெடுக்கும் ஓர் நிலைமை வங்காளத்தில் காணப்பட்டது. தன்னுள்ளேயே சிவ-சக்தி ஐக்கியத்தை அனுபவித்து அடைவதற்கான வழிமுறை என்கிற போர்வையில், நெருக்கமான ஆண்-பெண் உறவோடு தொடர்புடைய சடங்குகளைச் செய்யவும் ,மீன், மது, மாமிசம் இவற்றைக் கூடுதல் சுகிக்கவும் தந்திரம் வழி கோலியது.ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ணர் இந்த பாதையிலும் துணிந்து இறங்கினார். வயதில் மூத்த பெண் குருவான பைரவி பிராமணயின் நேரடி வழிகாட்டுதலின்படி தாந்திரீகத்தின் கடுமையான நடைமுறைகளைப் பயின்று சாதனைகள் செய்து மிக உயர்ந்த ஆன்மீக அனுபவத்தைப் பெற்றார்.
  • இந்த சுய அனுபவத்தின் அடிப்படையில் அவர், ‘(பலராலும் கண்டிக்கப்பட்ட) தந்திரம் கூட கடவுளை அடைவதற்கான ஒரு பாதைதான்’ என்று அறிவித்தாலும், அதை தனது சீடர்களுக்கு ஒரு சாதனா மார்க்கமாகப் பரிந்துரைக்கவில்லை. பெரும்பாலான மக்களுக்கு அந்த பாதையில் சென்று உயர்நிலையை அடைவதைவிட விட வீழ்ச்சியடையவே வாய்ப்புகள் அதிகம் இருப்பதாக எச்சரித்தார்.
  • அவரது அடிப்படை மனப்பாங்கிலும், ஆன்மீக ருசியிலும் அவர் ஒரு தேவி/ காளி உபாசகராகவே இருந்தார். அவரது ஆன்மீக சாதனா காலங்களின் தொடக்கத்தில் தட்சிணேஸ்வர் பவதாரிணி காளி கோவிலில் பூசாரியாகப் பொறுப்பேற்று) தீவிரமான தபஸ் செய்து, பவதாரிணியின் தரிசனம் பெற்றார். தேவி அவருள் ஐக்கியமானாள். அது முடிந்த பின் அவர் வங்காள வைணவ மார்க்கத்தைக் கடைப்பிடித்து ராதா-கிருஷ்ண பக்தியில் தோய்ந்தார். ஸ்ரீ ராமர், தேவி சீதா, கிருஷ்ணர், ராதா, அனுமன் போன்ற பல தெய்வங்களின் தரிசனங்களைப் பெற்றார். இந்த கடவுள் வடிவங்கள் அனைத்தும் நிச்சயமாக தமக்குள்ளேயே இருப்பதை அவர் உணர்ந்தார்.
  • தோதாபுரி எனும் அத்வைத ஞானியின் சீடராக ஆகி, நாம ரூபங்களைக் கடந்த இறைவனைத் தியானிக்கும் முறைமை பயின்று, நான்-நீ எனும் இரட்டையைக் கடந்து சச்சிதானப் பிரம்மத்தில் ஒன்றாகிவிடும் நிர்விகல்ப சமாதி அனுபத்தைப் பெற்றார்.
  • இந்து மதத்தின் பல்வேறு பாதைகள் மூலமும் இறை அனுபவத்தை ருசித்த அவர், இஸ்லாம் (ஸூஃபி) மற்றும் கிறிஸ்தவ மத மார்க்கங்களிலும் சாதனைகள் செய்தார். அந்த பாதைகளும் கடவுளை அடைவதற்கு வழிவகுக்கும் என்பதை அவர் அனுபவபூர்ணமாக உணர்ந்தார்.
  • இத்தகைய பல்வேறு வகைப்பட்ட சாதனா முறைகளின் மூலம் அறுதி உண்மையை உணர்ந்த அவர் “எத்தனை மதங்களோ, அத்தனை வழிகள்” என்று அறிவித்தார்.அவர் விஷ்ணுவின் பக்தர்களிடையே ஒரு வைணவராக இருந்தார்; தேவியின் பக்தர்களுக்கு மத்தியில் ஒரு சாக்தராக இருந்தார்; அவர் இயேசுவின் வழிபாட்டாளர்கள் மத்தியில் ஒரு கிறிஸ்தவராக இருந்தார். அத்வைதிகளுக்கு மத்தியில் அவர் ஒரு ஞானியாக இருந்தார். யோகிகளின் பார்வையில் அவரும் ஒரு யோகி.வெவ்வேறு மாறுபட்ட மத நம்பிக்கை, இஷ்ட தெய்வ நம்பிக்கை, பல்வேறு பட்ட ஆன்மீக ருசிகள் இவற்றைச் சுமந்து கொண்டு ஆன்மீக வழிகாட்டலை நாடி அவரைச் சந்திக்கும் பேறு பெற்ற ஒவ்வொருவரும், ‘அவர் தங்களுடையவர்’ என்று நினைக்கும் விதத்தில் அவரவர் பக்குவம், மனப்பாங்குக்கு ஏற்ப, அவர்வர் நம்பிக்கையைக் குலைக்காமல் எளிமையான ஆன்மீக உபதேசங்கள் தந்து அவர் வழிகாட்டினார்..
  • “பெரும்பான்மை மக்களுக்கு ஏற்றது பக்தி மார்க்கமே’ என்றே அவர் உபதேசித்தார். அவரவர் தம் இஷ்ட தெய்வத்தை முழுமனதுடன் பக்தி செய்வதன் மூலமே பூரணத்துவம் அடையமுடியும் என்று அவர முன்மொழிந்தார்.
  • தீவிர ஆன்மீக நாட்டத்தோடு கடவுளை அடைய முனையும் சாதகர்களுக்கு ‘காமினி மற்றும் காஞ்சனப் பற்றுதான் (அதாவது பெண்ணாசையும், பணத்தாசையும் தான்) இரு பெரும் தடைகள் என்றார் அவர். இவ்விரண்டையும் கைவிடாமல், ஆன்மீக ரீதியில் வெற்றி பெறுவது ஒருபோதும் சாத்தியமில்லை என்று அவர் உறுதியாக, ஒளிவு மறைவின்றி, அலுக்காமல் உபதேசித்தார்.
  • அவர் திண்ணைப்ப் பள்ளிக்கூடத்தில் அடிப்படையாய் எழுதப் படிக்கக் கற்றதைத் தவிர வேறு ஒன்றும் படித்ததில்லை. பரம எளிமையான, கள்ளம் கபடமில்லாத ஓர் பிராமணர் அவர். அவர் பேசியதெல்லாம் சாமானிய கிராமத்து மக்கள் பேசும் எளிய வங்காள மொழி மட்டுமே. அவர் தம் கையால் பணம் காசை நிஜமாகவே தொடமுடியாத ஓர் நிலையில் இருந்தார். நாளைக்கு என்று எதையும் சேர்த்துவைக்கும் மனோ நிலை இல்லாதவராகவும் இருந்தார்.
  • தமது 24 ஆவது வயதில் ஐந்து வயது சாரதையை அவர் மணந்தார். சாரதை வயதுக்கு வந்து, தம் பதினெட்டாவது வயதில் கணவரோடு சேர்ந்து வாழ (ராமகிருஷ்ணர் தங்கி வாழ்ந்த) தட்சிணேசுவரக் கோவில் வளாகத்துக்கு வந்து சேர்ந்தார். அவளிடம் அவர், “இந்தக் கோவிலில் உறையும் பவதாரிணி காளியும், இங்கே ‘நகபத்’தில் (வாத்திய மண்டபத்தில்) வாழும் என் தாயும், நீயும் ஒன்றே” என்று சொல்லி, அவளும் நகபத்தில் தங்கி வாழ ஏற்பாடு செய்தார். காம உணர்வும் உறவும் ஏதுமின்றி ஒரு கணவனும் மனைவியும் சேர்ந்து ஓர் உயரிய ஆன்மீக வாழ்க்கை வாழ முடியும் என்கிற ஓர் அற்புதமான முன்னுதாரணத்தை உலகுக்குத் தரும் விதத்தில் அவர்களது வாழ்க்கை அமைந்தது.
  • 12 ஆண்டுகாலம் பல்வேறு ஆன்மீக மார்க்கங்களின் வழி சாதனைகள் செய்து இறையானுபவத்தை எல்லா மார்க்கங்களின் வழியேயும் அடைந்த ராமகிருஷ்ணர் உலகிற்கு உபதேசிக்கத் தயார் ஆனார். ஆனால் சீடர்கள் எங்கே? அவர் தமக்கான சீடர்களை அனுப்பி வைக்குமாறு அன்னை காளியிடம் அழுது பிரார்த்தித்தார். அப்போது ஒவ்வொருவராய் அவரது இளம் சீடர்கள் – உலகியற் கல்வி படித்து, அதே சமயம் ஆன்மீக சம்ஸ்காரங்களோடு இறைவனைத் தேடும் இளைஞர்கள் அவரை நாடி வர ஆரம்பித்தார்கள். அவ்வாறே இல்லற பக்தர்களும். பலரும் அவரை நாடி வந்தாலும் அவரது “உள் வட்டத்து’ பக்தர்களும் சீடர்களுமாய், அவரை அவதார புருஷராக உணர்ந்து அடிபணிந்தவர்கள் சுமார் 33 பேர்கள் தாம்.
  • அவர் எப்போதும் கடவுளைப் பற்றியும், இறையானந்தத்தைப் பற்றியும், பக்தி, ஞானம், யோகம், ஆன்மீக சாதனைகள் இவை பற்றியுமே தம்மை நாடி வந்தவர்களிடம் வாய் ஓயாமல் பேசினார். அவர் பேசியதெல்லாம் பரம எளிமையான மொழிகள். அன்றாட வாழ்க்கை உதாரணங்கள் மூலமும், குட்டிக் கதைகள் மூலமும் அவர் ஆன்மீகத்தை உபதேசித்தார். பகவத் கீதை, உபநிடதங்கள் எல்லாம் படித்தும் தத்துவம் புரியாத பண்டிதர்களும் கூட, சம்ஸ்கிருதம் ஏதும் அறியாத பாமரரான அவரது அடி பணிந்து அவர் தரும் எளிய அனுபவ விளக்கங்கள் மூலம் ஞான ஒளி பெற்றனர்.
  • ராமகிருஷ்ணரின் உபதேசங்கள் அவர் வாழ் நாள்கழிந்த பிறகே வெளியுலகம் பரவலாக அறியும் வகையில் தான் அவரது அவதார நாடகம் அரங்கேறியது. அவர் தமது 50 ஆவது வயதில், தொண்டையில் வந்த புற்றுநோயின் காரணமாய் உடலை உகுத்தார்.
(மேலே படத்தில்:ஊணுறக்கம் துறந்து கடுந்தவத்தில் ஈடுபட்ட ராமகிருஷ்ணரின் துறவிச்சீடர்கள்)
  • சுவாமி விவேகானந்தரின் தலைமையில் ராமகிருஷ்ணரின் 16 சீடர்கள் உலக வாழ்வைத் துறந்து சன்யாசம் மேற்கொண்டனர். அவர் காலமான பிறகு பரம எளிமை வாழ்க்கையை மேற்கொண்டு அவர் காட்டிய வழியில் கடும் தவம் செய்தனர். ராமகிருஷ்ணர் காலத்துக்குப் பிறகு சுமார் 34 ஆண்டுகள் சாரதா தேவியார் உயிர் வாழ்ந்தார். அவரது தெய்வீகமான அருளும், ஆதரவும் ராமகிருஷ்ணர் உருவாக்கிய துறவியர் சங்கத்தை வழி நடத்தின. ராமகிருஷ்ணர் காலமான பிறகு பல ஆண்டுகள் கழித்தே ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ணா மடம் சுவாமி விவேகானந்தரால் உருவாக்கப்பட்டது.
  • ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ணா மடத்தின் தொடக்கம் முதலே துறவும் தொண்டும் அம்மடத்தின் இரு கண்கள் ஆகின. பாரத துறவியர் மடங்கள் சமுதாயத் தொண்டு ஆற்றுவதை மடத்தின் செயல்பாடாகக் கொண்டுவந்த முன்னோடி சுவாமி விவேகானந்தர். அதற்கு அவருக்கு உத்வேகம் அளித்தது அவருக்கு ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ணர் கூறிய ஓர் உபதேசம் : “உலகில் வாழும் ஒவ்வொரு ஜீவனும் இறைவனே என்று கண்டு இறைவனுக்கு செய்யும் சேவையாக மக்களுக்குத் தொண்டாற்ற வேண்டும்”.
  • சாத்திரங்களின் சாரத்தையெல்லாம் உள்ளடக்கிய ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ணரின் உபதேச மொழிகள் பரம எளிமையானவை; அவையெல்லாம் அவரது காலத்துக்குப் பிறகே வெளியுலகம் அறிய வந்தது. அப்பணியைச் செய்ய ராமகிருஷ்ணர் தெரிந்தெடுத்து வைத்திருந்தவர் “ம-” எனும் புனைப்பெயரில் அறியப்படும் ஸ்ரீ மகேந்திரநாத் குப்தா எனும் ராமகிருஷ்ணரின் இல்லற சீடர் ஆவார். அவர் ராமகிருஷ்ணரின் உரையாடல்களை டயரிக் குறிப்புகளாக (ராமகிருஷ்ணரின் ஜீவ காலத்தின் கடைசி ஐந்து வருடங்களில்) எழுதி வைத்திருந்தார்.
ஸ்ரீ மகேந்திரநாத் குப்தா (ம-)
  • அவர், அவற்றை அவர் பிற்காலத்தில் விரிவாக்கி, “ஸ்ரீ ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ண கதாம்ருதம்” எனும் தலைப்பில் 5 புத்தகங்களாக வங்காள மொழியில் வெளியிட்டார். இவ்வரிய பொக்கிஷமாகிய நூல், ஆங்கிலம் (“The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna”) உட்படப் பல்வேறு மொழிகளில் மொழிபெயர்க்கப் பட்டுள்ளது. தமிழில் இது “ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ணரின் அமுத மொழிகள்” என்கிற பெயரில் 3 பாகங்களாகக் கிடைக்கிறது. இப்புத்தகம் ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ணா மடங்களில் குறைந்த விலையில் கிடைக்கிறது.
  • உலகெங்கிலும் உள்ள தீவிர ஆன்மீக சாதகர்கள் மத வேறுபாடின்றி இன் நூலைப் படித்து மிக எளிமையாக இந்து மதத்தின் ஆன்மீகத் தத்துவங்களைப் புரிந்து கொள்கிறார்கள்.