Amma’s insight into man-woman relationship

On a Tuesday Satsang at Ashram – some time in August/ September 2012

On this Tuesdays’ satsang, a western woman asked question on the issue of men molesting girl children and also about wife-beating done by men. She wanted to know how such men should be treated by society.
Amma was at her elaborate best in answering the question. She touched multiple aspects of man-woman relationship, the cultural differences in India and in western countries on this issue, the status of women in the past and present and her own childhood experiences and observations. In a rare moment of slackening of guards, she hinted on her “all knowing status” by virtue of her divinity too!
Amma was unequivocally clear that those who abuse children and wife are handled as per law. But she felt that while the act should be condemned, the actor should not be. There may be deep-rooted psychological complications in men who sexually misbehave with little children and such men should be subjected to mental treatment with care and concern.
While analyzing why men always feel superior to women and by that count, resort to beating wife as a matter of right, Amma said that it all got nurtured from the traditional role of men being the bread winner and a protector of woman who are by nature physically weak and vulnerable. Women too are to be blamed for this state of affairs, since, women, in their role as mothers, somehow treated men as superior creatures over their female siblings.
Amma said lots of changes for better has happened in societies across the globe over a period of time and women too have now got ample opportunities and avenues in education and employment. Thus men are not sole bread-winners any longer. Amma felt that this reality has been understood by at least 60-70% of men.
But the feeling of one-up-manship has been nurtured in men across so many generations that it is quite deep rooted in men’s genes. So it is only a question of time that the others too will accept equality and behave better. It is a slow process and it will happen. Amma was rather against women “fighting” for their rights. The changes should come through the path of love and understanding and not by confrontational ways.

Amma was equally frank in saying that empowerment of women too has its ill effects in society; women are losing their innate qualities of loving kindness, patience and motherhood . Their financial independence coupled with lack of patience and forbearance now tend to make them too arrogant with men and in this process, disintegration marriage and family life are caused by women too in the present society.

Amma felt that while this trend is quite palpable in west, it is slowly catching up in India too.

Amma said that in case of Indian woman, she could advice them to be more forgiving, patient and forbearing, because, culturally, in India, woman have the tendency to sacrifice their personal whims to quite some extent for the sake of the family and the future of the children.

But when it comes to advising her western children, Amma felt that she needs to be more careful and guarded. In west, the idea of personal freedom and sense of rights of the women are strongly rooted. Western women may not be able to digest Amma’s guidelines in line with what she gives for Indian women.

While talking about how men were treated as though superior to women and how their egos were pampered, Amma shared many of her early days’ scenario in her household and around.
In those days, women were prohibited from showing broom stick to men. If a woman was sweeping the floors and a man entered the scene, the woman was supposed to hide the broomstick else it would be deemed insulting men.If a brother, be even a younger one, grew taller than a girl, the girl was expected to stand when the brother enters the room where the girl was seated.
If any male guests were coming to a house, the girls were expected to remain unseen to them. It was infra-dig for men to wash their plates or clothes. It was the duty of female members in the family to wash the food plates and dresses of men. The sense of superiority that males enjoyed was more or less fostered and nurtured mostly by the elderly womenfolk in the families.Perhaps since males were the sole breadwinners and protectors of the families, women extended so much extra respect for males that naturally ended up bloating up their egos.

In those days, males could not tolerate or digest verbal onslaught of women. Amma had heard some males saying, “Oh! That loud-mouthed woman scolded me so much! Should I ever live in this world after hearing those words from these lowly women? Oh what a shame; better to commit suicide!”

(Late Sri Sugunanandan – Amma’s father)

Amma’s mother Dhamayanthiamma was always protective about her husband Sugunananthan. She always displayed a sense of respect towards him and she would never accept any complaint about him if made by her children. While she herself might have some personal grouse against him, but would never allow children talking ill of their father; she would almost blindly side with her husband in such situations.
There was always a thread of love with a strong sense of duty and responsibility to the husband that women displayed those days.
To explain the type of attachment her mother had with her father, Amma narrated this amusing incident:
Hardly a few years back there was a knock at Amma’s room at one night around 9 PM. When the door was opened, Dhamayanthi Amma was standing there with a cloth bag tucked under her arm. She came into Amma’s room saying, “I am fed up with your father; I can’t live with him any more; I have packed my essential dress and I have come here to stay with you; I will not go back to him”.
Amma listened to it with a sense of amusement and made arrangements for Dhamayanthi Amma to stay in her room along with Swamini Amma (Soumya).At around 3:00 AM early next morning, Amma heard noise in the bathroom as someone was taking bath. It was Dhamayanthi Amma. After her bath, Dhamayanthi Amma said “OK. I am going back”.
Amma asked her “Why? You said you have left your husband and are going to stay with me?””Who will make tea for the old man in the morning? He is so much used to taking that tea early” so saying, Dhamayanthiamma left while Amma watched with utter amusement. That was the type of love that existed in the older generation.”

The Importance of adequate age difference between Husband and wife

Amma continued on the subject with a keen sense of ‘worldly wisdom’ that has practical relevance, not understood by the present day generation.”In olden days, it was the prevailing practice that the husband was about 8 to 10 years older than the wife. It had some real logic. When the husband is much elder, the woman naturally tends to show respect for his age and maturity. Unlike a person of the same age, husbands too were able to deal with their wives in a more matured mindset when women show their idiosyncrasies.  Biologically too, the sexual needs of a woman are keener and much more sensitive, which could be satisfied better by a more matured man. That way, the age difference is advantageous.”

When Amma spoke thus on a very subtle and delicate subject, it is quite natural that many in the gathering had their dose of wonder! Perhaps grasping this, Amma said:”When I was talking like this on this very sensitive subject in another gathering in the past, someone asked me, “Amma! You were a Brahmacharini and how on earth do you know all these subtle nuances of man-woman relationship? Even many householders like us do not know of the importance of what you said now!”
“Do you know how I escaped from this question? I said to her:  “You see, a car driver may not know what is wrong in the car when a car suddenly breaks down on the way. But the engineer who designed the car would surely know the correct cause of a breakdown!”

This reply of Amma brought a spontaneous round of applause in the gathering. Only very rarely Amma speaks openly of her all-knowing-power (Sarvagnyathvam) born out of her divinity. Those who were present in this day’s satsang caught that rare moment and it naturally triggered the instant applause!Related reading: What is the ideal age gap between a husband and wife?

Just not enough if you are good- you should have good common sense too!

29th September 2012 – Saturday

Amma was in a very humorous mood in today’s satsang. After she finished narrating the incidence of a brahmachari getting bitten in the fingers by a mentally troubled person, she went on to narrate yet another incident involving a brahmacharini.

Amma said that this brahmacharnini L- is an extremely kind-hearted person, who loves to run to the help of anyone needing help and succor.

One day, a physically handicapped old man came to see Amma and was walking up the stairs with difficulty with his crutches. Brahmacharnini L- was so overwhelmed with the suffering of that person that she wanted to extend a helping hand to him and make him seated.

Saying “Aiyo paavam” (Oh what a pity) she received one of his crutches. While the man was struggling to stabilize himself with a single crutch, our Brahmacharini, in an excited state to somehow help the person to stabilize, extended her hand, saying another “Aiyo”  and took off the other cruch too, without applying her mind to catch hold of the person before removing the other crutch!

Right infront of her eyes, the old person, with nothing and none to support him collapsed on the floor, while our Brahmacharnini could only help crying out a big and louder “A-I-Y-Y-O…”

Amma was at her mimicking best when she enacted all this with her actions and voice. The whole crowd burst into laughter.

Amma was saying that it is not just enough if you are a good and kind-hearted person. You should apply your mind and act with presence of mind and shraddha; otherwise, your act of charity too may only collapse like this!

Say No and still end up in Amma’s holy feet!

24th Septermber 2012 – Monday

In today’s evening Satsang with Ashram Inmates, Amma continued to discuss the subject of saying no (or yes) appropriately based on the situation after due discrimination. On Monday and Friday beach satsangs, Amma usually poses a question related to spirituality, gives brief hints on what she thinks about them and then would ask Ashramites to respond with their real life experiences on the subject.

The lanky and fun-loving senior brahmachari D- took the mike to the amusement of Amma. He started narrating the story of how he ended up in Amma leaving his home and hearth behind. His funnly line of argument was that he said NO but still ended up in the rightful place for him!

He was a much pampered child of his parents and was having every need of him taken care of lovingly by his parents. Years ago, when he was in his late teens, his parents came to know of Amma and they wanted to visit Amma at her Ashram at Vallikkavu. They insisted their son too to accompany them. “You see, this woman Amma is said to be intoxicated with divine love, she reportedly sings soul stirring bhajans in a melodious way; we want you to come with us”. But young D- said adamently a firm no.

His parents nevertheless visited Amma, had her darshan, heard her soul stirring bhajans and returned home. They told the young man excitedly : “It was such a wonderful experience; it is a pity that you missed visiting her! However, we mentioned to her about you and sought her blessings for you; we prayed to her to straighten you out. She said that she will take care of you”

“Oh! She will take care of me and straighten me?  Fine. Nice enough” was his retort.

A few months afterwards, some of his friends stated talking to him about Amma. They were speaking very high of her and She was making a house visit to one of her friend’s house sooner. This time, young D-was interested. He was now curious to see the lady who had promised his parents that she would take care of him. So he went to see her.

Br. D- concluded with a mock sarcasm “You see, I said a firm no when my parents asked me to me to come to Amma, but that no has really ended me ultimately in her holy feet!”

On 29th Sept 2012, when Amma continued discussions on the same subject, Brahmachari D- too wanted to continue his experience. After meeting Amma, his whole view point about life got changed; he was gripped with a desire to leave his worldly life and end up permanently in Amma’s Ashram.

When he took up the matter with his parents,  the response was a firm NO from his parents! The same parents who wanted their son to be “set right” by Amma, were not simply prepared for it! When he broached the subjects with his friends who had earlier recommended and influenced him to visit Amma, were too unanimously of the opinion that he should NOT go and end up in the Ashram.

When every one was saying no, it was now the turn of Br. D_ to say a firm YES (“I have decided to go”) and then come to Amma for good. All who had earlier recommended him to visit Amma have now turned against him and none of them were coming to Amma subsequently!

So, Brahmachari D_ is prescription for progressing in spirituality under a Satguru like Amma is that when every one in the outer world says “no”, you should say “yes”!

Amma quipped with laughter “His parents wanted me to make him straight; I have been s-t-r-a-i-g-h-t-e-n-i-n-g,   s-t-r-a-i-g-h-t-e-n-i-n-g and and still continuing..”

The dire need for using discrimination (Viveka Buddhi)

                                          Meditation with Amma at Amritapuri beach

29th September 2012- Saturday

Saturday is not the day of Amma’s Satsang at the beach. But Amma, out of her compassion to meet the inmates, which she does on every Mondays (at evening at beach), Tuesdays at Kali Temple and Fridays (at evening at beach), perhaps wanted to compensate her absence on Friday. The whole of Thursday (27th September, her birth day) right from 9:00 AM till the next day 10:10 AM, Amma had spend more than 25 hours at a stretch at the Special birthday venue at the University grounds. Right from 3 PM on 27th she was giving non-stop darshan to several tens of thousands of devotees.

Leaving behind all the stresses and strains like a child play, Amma was at the beach on Saturday, and she was at her jubilant best too.

After the usual Ma-Om Dhyanam session of about half-an hour duration with the inmates,  Amma continued with the current subject of discussion that has been going on for the past 2-3 satsangs. It was about the importance of spiritual seekers saying “no” when the situations demands (and “yes” under different circumstances) based on viveha (discrimination)Amma was emphasizing that an earnest seeker should always be vigilant; he should always have shraddha (watchful awareness) and he should know what is right to do and what is not.

Amma said just to please someone or to get acceptance in a company or by succumbing to peer group pressure, if an youngster says “yes” to smoking, it may lead him to other vices one after the other — drinking, drugs and what not and his whole life may get shattered.

For the past several satsangs, Amma has been reiterating the dire need for shraddha and viveka buddhi for the Ashramites. You may be a very nice person otherwise, but if you are not vigilant enough, you may get into trouble.

Amma started hilariously describing a recent happening in the Ashram, with her dramatic facial expressions and actions that created peels of laughter in the gathering.

Amma said that a few days ago, a mentally disturbed person came to the Ashram with a purported desire of settling down as a Vanaprastha householder in the Ashram. His worried wife and mother too were there together with him in the darshan queue. Even before he could open his mouth before Amma, the wife wanted Amma not to concede to his request because she has lots needs and desires to be met in the outside world. Amma reassured her that She would never take people just like that and started probing deeper into the man’s troubles. It was reported that he seemed to behave as though mentally disturbed, after a recent bout of fever, but Amma suspected a deeper and long existing ailment in him that caused his quirky behavior.  Amma suggested a thorough medical check-up for him and assured them that everything will be alright sooner. Amma made him sit behind her for a while.

Amma mentioned that after Amma retired to her room after darshan was over, the person suddenly got very violent; he was shouting at his wife, started spitting at her and behaved uncontrollably.  Lots of people gathered around, including some brahmacharis, who wanted to intervene with good intentions. One Ashramite, assuming that the man was under fits, started frantically searching for a iron piece to be given in his hands (as there is a common erroneous belief that people affected by fits get calmed down when they grip a piece of iron). And lo, he could only locate a knife and without thinking a second time, he thrust the knife into the hands of the man in fits!

More chaos! (When Amma narrated this with her gestures, the whole gathering at the beach was rolling with laughter). Then a group of brahmacharis somehow managed to pin down the violent man and snatch the knife from his hands.

And there, adjacent to the man was Brahmachari S, who was always known for his calmness and serenity, who was never seen expressing anger or outward emotions. And people saw him for the first time with eyes bulging out in anger and tell-tale facial expressions of pain, anguish and rage. Reason?

In an over enthusiastic attempt to prevent the man from spitting at others, he had put his hand over his mouth and the man caught the bramhmachari’s fingers with his teeth and was applying his full jaw pressure on the fingers; Brahmachari S- could not do anything to wriggle his fingers out from the man’s vice-like grip of the jaw and that pain and anguish came through his facial expressions.

Amma, in her inimical way, with a doze of exaggeration perhaps, was emoting the facial expressions of the brahmachari to the utter entertainment of the croud!

Amidst all these fun and frolic, Amma made sure to drive home the point that one requires viveka Buddhi to handle such situations. How foolish it was to thrust a knife in the hands of a mentally disturbed person! How inappropriate it was to close the mouth of the person who seemed to be under the grip of fits!

A broad profile of Ashram Inmates in Mata Amritnandamayi Ashram at Amritapuri

There are a couple of thousands of devotees of Amma staying with her in the Ashram. One can find all sorts of people from all walks of life irrespective of caste, color and creed residing as Ashram inmates in Amritapuri. But for the fact that all those who are staying in the Ashram are Amma’s ardent devotees, one can find people with all sorts of personalities and idiosyncrasies living in the Ashram, as though a miniscule representation of the outside world!

           Kali Bhavatarnini Temple at Amritapuri Ashram

Ashramites can be broadly grouped into two categories — the celibates and the householders.The celibate ashram inmates comprise of  five or six sanyasins clad in reddish saffron (mostly the senior-most and first round of unmarried disciples of Amma), a few tens of procedurally initiated brahmacharis and brahmacharinis wearing yellow robes (who are potential sanyasins of the future) and several hundreds of brahmacharis and brahmacharinis clad in white. These people’s needs are fully taken care of by the Ashram. Currently one  lady Sanyasini (Swamini Krishnaprana) is an Australian. Several western Brahmacharis and Brahmacharinis (of origin USA, Germany, France etc) are also living permanently in the Ashram.

The above category of residents have dedicated their soul and life to Amma. They are all engaged in some form of service or other — either in the Ashram or in the institutions associated with the Ashram. Most of them also engage themselves in spiritual practices.

The next group of Ashram residents are the house-holders. Here you will find a wide hue of people: widows, widowers, destitute individuals, senior-citizen and middle aged couples living as if in ‘vanaprastha ashram’, middle aged couples living with their sons and daughters (who are studying or working in schools/ colleges/ instititutions run by the Ashram), parents of brahmacharis/ brahmacharinis, relatively young couples with their kids and single mothers/ fathers living with their kids (whose husband / wife may be living outside the Ashram).

                                           Arial view of Amritapuri Ashram

The house-holder devotees who live in the Ashram too, depending on their physical conditions and qualifications, are engaged in some form of work/ job/ service in the Ashram or in its associated institutions. Some of them, who have the essential need to have a source of income to support their dependents, work for salary; several of the rest, who are financially self-sufficient, do free service. Householder devotees too engage themselves in sadhana (spiritual practices) depending on their tastes, temperaments and leanings.Ashram provides simple living quarters to all the inmates.

Brahmacharis and brahmacharinis have to share their rooms with two or three colleagues. House-holders get a single-room, bath attached flat accommodation. Householders have to pay the flat’s cost and then own it.Simple, staple and basic food is available for all ashramites from the Ashram kitchen.

Householder residents (except in some specific cases based on needs as permitted by Amma) are to pay monthly for taking the Ashram food. Householders, if they so wish, can cook their food in their flats too. Canteens (both Indian and western), vegetable and fruit shops, grocery stores, juice stall etc too function inside the ashram to cater to the needs of the residents. Permission to live in the Ashram purely depends on Amma’s wish. Amma may allow some devotees to buy and own flats in Amritapuri, but she may not give consent for them to come and stay there permanently.  While even long-time devotees may not get Amma’s nod for their earnest request to come and stay in the Ashram, some relatively new bhaktas may get instant nod from Amma for a permanent residence at the Ashram! It would also happen in Amma’s divine lila where, very occasionally, some brahmacharis and residents of the Ashram may leave the Ashram after a few years of stay!

In addition to the above, there is yet another category of residence inside the Ashram. It is the hostels for the boys and girls (mostly for the first-year-students) of the Amrita University, whose campus is on the other side of the back waters adjacent to the ashram. Out of her infinite love for showing grace to the youth, it was Amma’s wish that these youngsters get a chance to live in the Ashram atmosphere, at least for a year. It is a great opportunity for the youngsters (irrespective of whether they grasp it or not) to attend Amma’s bhajans in the evening, partake the food made in the ashram and engage themselves in a little seva once a while whenever occasion comes.

What makes thousands of such people from all walks of life to leave all the attractions of the world and live in an Ashram like this? It Amma’s divine love. Only those who can open their hearts and soul can ever perceive it.