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Do Hindu Gods too seek Moksha?

The concept of God is very multifaceted in Hinduism. At the grand perspective, we have Brahman (or Parabrahman) — the only existing, all pervading God beyond name and form.

Then we have functional God forms (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) who are verily the manifestation of Brahman considered with separate identity for the tasks of Creation, Protection and Destruction. They are ever existent.

Perspective 1: Such a functional God is beyond boundaries and limitations. He is ever perfect. He is nitya mukta – ever free.

Perspective 2:  

Then we have the concept of Avatar — God descending to earth in human form.

When God comes down to earth as an Avatara Purusha He may sport a lila (play) of doing tapas (undergoing austerities) and attaining liberation as a human being, before starting teaching others. Some avatars may even sport a lila of taking instructions from Gurus too. E.g. Rama learning Yoga Vashistha from Rishi Vashishta; Krishna learning Kundalini Yoga from Rishi Sandipani; Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa learning Nirvikalpa Samadhi from Totapuri.

Perspective 3: 

Then we have the concept of God residing as in-dweller in each one of us.

God as an indweller in all keeps himself totally hidden on account of the ego of the individuals. When an individual, getting Viveka & Vairagya (Discrimination & dispassion) starts seeking the truth about his true status, he starts yearning for Moksha. “At that point of time God appears as the external Guru and and turns the mind of the seeker inwards; God the indweller pulls him in from inside” (as stated by Ramana Maharshi)

Brief Life History of Shirdi Sai Baba

Who is Shirdi Sai Baba?

Shirdi Sai Baba (~1838/42-1918) was a very unique Avatar of God; he was a realized saint who knew his oneness with God. His Avatar perhaps was ordained to foster Hindu Muslim unity, though a vast majority of his devotees were essentially Hindus even during his times, as it is now; he lived in Shirdi (which was not his birthplace) for almost 60 years. Shirdi is in Marathwada region where Islamic population too is considerable.

He emphasised ‘Sabka Malik Ek‘ (God of all people is one). Saibaba was, in all probability, had no formal education, but he had extensive knowledge on Bhagavad Gita. His life and utterances reflected the highest truth of Vedanta. He was also very knowledgeable in Koran.

It is widely believed that his Guru was a Muslim fakir (a Sufi saint), who too was a knower of God. Sai Baba dressed up like a Fakir and lived in a dilapidated mosque. That lead some people to think that he was a Muslim Fakir.

Sai Baba did not put any of his teachings in writing; he never gave any discourses; however, his sayings have been recorded by his followers.

Sai Baba often hinted that he did not come to teach, but to awaken. He brought this awakening through his unconditional love towards his followers. Surrender to him unconditionally and he will never let you down –that was the level of confidence he imbibed into his devotees. Baba’s response to his devotee’s call for help is as eager, as ardent and as urgent as the devotee’s call itself. His sayings too stand testimony to this. It is true even today.

The way devotees throng at Shirdi in thousands on a daily basis and in lakhs on festive occasions despite the passage of more than a century after his departure from the world stand testimony to this assurance and faith.

Crowd of devotees waiting for Darshan at Shirdi Sai Samadhi. (Inset: Image of Sri Sai at his Samadhi mandir)

Birth and Early years

Little information was available from Sai Baba about his origins. Connecting historical happenings during his period, it is believed that he was born somewhere between 1838 to 1842.

There was no solid proof available about Sai Baba’s place of birth, religion or caste during his lifetime. Sai Baba never revealed anything about his origins to his devotees.

Two evidences from people who lived close with Sai Baba at Shirdi lead researchers to believe Sai Baba was a Hindu — one, he had his ears pierced and two, he was not found circumcised.  In later period, researcher (Shri V.B,Kher, a Sai devotee and a biographer of Sai) based on several hints collected from Sai Baba’s conversations with devotees in his authentic biographies, by visiting places mentioned there, meeting people etc,  was able to reasonably deduce where his birth place is.

It is believed to be villege Pathri, situated in Parbhani district of Maharashtra, some 150 km south east of Daulatabad. Connecting events of the distant past with family histories learned from aged residents of the village, the researchers also felt that a boy born in a Brahmin family of Bhausaris (Shukla Yajurvedi Brahmins of Koushika Gotra) who had reportedly left his home at an age of about five with a Muslim Fakir was Sai Baba in all probability. They also located the ruined house  of the Bhausaris at Pathri. The name of the Sufi Fakir who became the custodian and spiritual master of the young Brahmin boy was (deduced to be)  Roshan Sha Mia.

The family deity of Bhausari family was Hanuman. After picking up bits and pieces from Sai Baba’s utterances, Baba’s deep knowledge of Hinduism, his practice of celebrating Ram Navami regularly at Shirdi during his final years and the liking he had on Hanuman and a couple of other coincidences, Shri V.B. Kher satisfied himself on his findings. Shri Kher bought the piece of land in 1978 from a descendent of Bhusari Brahmin family at Pathri. Construction of a Sai temple there began in 1994 and On 19th October 1999, the Sai Janmasthan Temple was inaugurated.

Sai Janmasthan temple at Pathri, Maharashtra.

So, it is now more or less an agreed belief that Sai Baba was a Brahmin by birth. Even if he were to be a Muslim, Islam does not have any scope or provision to worship any person as God.

Saibaba reportedly traveled across several places of Marathwada along with his Fakir Guru. He (according to his own statements) was under the care of his guru for 12 long years and served him with love and humility and received love and blessings from his guru in abundance.  It is also believed that Sai Baba was indeed ‘born perfect’ and his innate divinity got just rekindled by association with such a formal Guru. Several statements of Saibaba reveals that he remained in a state of Advaita (a state of non-duality — being one with God) and uttered them with utmost authority and assurance.

It is learnt that Baba, after remaining a wandering monk upto his age of 25 to 30 and before coming and settling Shirdi, was staying in Aurangabad and he was the spiritual master of a fakir by name Bade Baba or Fakir Baba for 12 years. Incidentally,  many years later,  Bade Baba returned to stay with his erstwhile master at Shirdi in the year 1902.

Arrival at Shirdi

Sai Baba arrived for the first time at Shirdi some time the year 1868-1872, when he was around 25 to 30 years old. He was a serene looking young man, tempered by a disciplined life of tapas and austerity. He came to Shirdi along with a marriage party of Chand Patil of Dupkhed; Chand Patil (a muslim)  had brought Sai Baba along with him, to attend the marriage of his sister with one one Hamid of Shirdi.

How did Chand Patil get acquainted with Sai Baba?

The story goes that Chand Patil met Sai Baba on his way from his village towards to Aurangabad while going by walk after he unfortunately lost his mare. He met this young man (Baba) looking like a fakir under a tree, who told him that his lost mare was just in the nearby vicinity, close to a stream there. Patil went in search and was surprised to find his mare there. As he returned to the young Fakir to thank him, he found him preparing his hookah by getting a piece of burning charcoal and also some water by simply digging into earth! The fakir shared the smoke with the traveller too. Impressed by these miracles, Chand Patil took the Fakir reverentially with him to his home to be his guest. Subsequently, he also took him to the marriage ceremony at Shirdi to bless the couples.

No one knew the name of this Fakir. The story goes that when he arrived at Shirdi and got down from the cart, the local Khandoba temple owner and priest Bhagat Mhalsapati saw him first and welcomed him “Ya Sai!” (Welcome Sai) and this name Sai stuck. (The word Sai or Sain/ Sayi denotes Lord,God, saint, husband (beloved) or Fakir. Baba means father). Incidentally, after a couple of  years of arrival of  Sai Baba, Mhalsapati accepted Sai Baba as his Sadguru and became a lifelong devotee to serve Him.

After the marriage, the party with Chand Patil left Shirdi, but Sai Baba stayed back. Initially, Saibaba stayed at the outskirts of Shirdi in Babul forest for nearly 2.5 years, then under a neem tree for four to five years. During this period, he was deeply immersed in Self, ignoring rain and shine and living day and night in the open.

Living under Neem tree and Guru Sthan

According to another version of the story , it is said that he came to Shirdi much earlier, when he was about 16 or 17 years old and  lived with his Guru near the neem tree without much of public gaze across 12 years.

Sai Baba had mentioned about the existence of the tomb of his guru underground adjacent to the neem tree. When dug, four earthen lamps and a japa mala were found there. Baba prevented further digging as the tomb of the guru existed further below. Sai Baba mentioned the existence of a tunnel there where he did his tapas without getting disturbed from the outer world. His utterances on this matter were not so clear whether he was mentioning about his Guru and his life in the present Avatar or in his previous birth. This tunnel reportedly extended upto the Masjid to which Saibaba shifted to live later.

Later he shifted to the dilapidated Masjid where he lived permanently thereafter.

During these early years, Sai Baba had no proper food. He would go for alms and be content to eat whatever people gave him. However, a kind-hearted lady by name Bayajabai somehow seemed to understand the high spiritual status of Sai Baba and she took a vow to feed Baba before she ate her food. She would take the meals for Baba. go in search of him near the neem tree oand surrounding places in the jungle, locate him and feed him.

People by and large thought he was a mad Fakir, till a well known Vaishnava Saint by name Gangagir Bua, who often visited Shirdi, met Baba; he could grasp Baba’s true stature of divinity and he spread word.  Two other sadhus who lived in Shirdi at that time by name Devidas and Janakidas too started liking the company of the saintly Sai Baba. Soon, one by one people started going to him and were amply rewarded by his blessings.

Living at Dwaraka Mai (Masjid)

An old photo of entrance of Masjid (Dwarakamai). Sai Baba seen at the right extreme.

Mhalsapati, Kashiram Shimpi and Appa Jagle of Shirdi were the earliest disciples of Sai Baba, who surrendered to him and served him with devotion.  It is by their efforts that Sai Baba shifted from the neem tree to the dilapidated Masjid in Shirdi; This masjid became his permanent abode till the end of his life, spanning about 60 years. He named the place Dwaraka MaiMhalsapati became the closest of all and he served his Master till Baba left his mortal body.

An artist view of Sai Baba sitting inside the Masjid (Dwarakamai).

 In fact, it was Sai Baba who attracted devotees and ardent seekers living in distant places by creating circumstances in their lives or by sending word to them to come and meet Him. He said that his relation as  Guru with some of his disciples started a couple of births ago and he was duty-bound to take care of them and lead them to enlightenment across births.

After his permanent occupation at Dwaraka mai, more spiritually inclined seekers like Appa Kulkarni, Nana Saheb Dengle, Chidambar Keshav, Madhav Rao Deshpande, Nanasaheb Nimonkar, Nanasaheb Chandorkar, Das Ganu and others frequently visited Sai Baba and accepted Him as their Sadguru and surrendered to him.

By the grace and blessings of Sai Baba, Das Ganu  (real name Shri Ganapat Dattatreya Saharabuddhe) a former policeman left his job, surrendered to Sai and later blossomed into a great poet, singing the glory of his guru through his kirtans. He was hailed as a santkavi.

It was through Nanasaheb Chandorkar (a well educated person in Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures) that the outer world came to know of Sai Baba’s extensive knowledge on Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures of Hinduism.

Abdul, the Muslim disciple of Sai Baba too came to Sai Baba through his calling. Abdul was earlier a servitor of Amiruddin fakir of Nanded. It was through Abdul that the world came to know of the extensive knowledge Sai Baba had on Islam, the Koran, Sira— the life of Mohammad, Sunna (code of conduct) , hadith (traditions), sharia (laws) and so on.

Common people started coming to Sai Baba in large numbers for curing them of their ailments and seeking solutions to their worldly worries. During his early days, Sai Baba prepared some indigenous medicines and gave to them. People got cured miraculously and they spread words; more and more people came to him for the purpose.

The Dhuni and Udi as prasad

At Dwaraka mai, Sai Baba started a Dhuni — a fire place where he arranged to keep a sacred fire burning perpetually. Baba stopped preparing and giving medicines;  instead, he started giving the ash (Udi) from the Dhuni as his prasad.  Sai Baba’s udi prasad soon became a ‘cure all’ medicine for many people, including people having mental problems. Through the udi, what they really received was the unconditional love and divine blessings from Sai Baba.

As Baba’s popularity grew, people started bringing food for him to the Masjid and gradually, the need for him to go around the village for seeking alms came down.

Sai Baba as a Saint and Sadguru

Baba radiated divine love; his compassion flowed unconditionally towards all those who came to him with faith and trust hoping their problems to get solved. Spiritually inclined seekers who came to him, grasped his divine nature and surrendered to his feet considering him to be their Sadguru.

Baba remained a unique blend of all religious faiths and he did not discriminate people based on religion, sect, caste, race, sex or language. He strengthened the faiths of devotees to their respective religions and guided them individually on spiritual practices suited to each one’s capacity, calibre and taste.

He taught his devotees self-restraint, detachment, faith in God and faith in guru.Without being preachy, he taught philosophy, devotion, spiritual discipline, morality, right conduct for daily life and fellow-feeling towards all living beings.

He encouraged sadaks whose worldly duties were over, to live with him and concentrate on sadhana for spiritual enlightenment.  He discouraged youngsters from relinquishing worldly life out of over-enthusiasm without the necessary mental strength for renunciation.

Many devotees of Lord Dattatreya who came to him considered him to be an avatar of Dattatreya. Akkalkot Swami (Shri Swami Samarth)  was a highly revered and a contemporary saint of Sai Baba who was considered  an Avatar of Dattatreya. Many of his devotees held Sai Baba in very high regard. It is said that Akkalkot Swami directed some of his disciples to go to Sai Baba for guidance after his departure.

Likewise devotees of other God forms (Lord Ganesha, Hanuman and so on) too considered Saibaba as the divine Avatar of their personal Gods.  Some such devotees, who had taken vows to make certain money offerings to their deities in times hardships faced in their lives,  conveniently forgot to make the offerings to their deities once they came out of the difficulties. When they came to Saibaba, there were several instances where Baba asked for and collected such money from them!

Sai Baba strongly condemned religious conversions. Once a person who had  converted to Islam from being a Hindu came to Sai Baba for his darshan, Sai Baba slapped him on his face saying, “Are you not ashamed of changing your father?”

Baba’s daily Life – Simplicity personified

Saibaba always donned a Kafni (long full sleeved kurta), wore a langot (waist band) and covered His head with a piece of cloth. He sat on a piece of sackcloth, and his bed too was a sackcloth. He wore his dress till they were torn and turn to become rags. He always said “Poverty is better than Kingship, far better than Lordship. The Lord is always brother of the poor.”

During his early years, Saibaba went out for begging his food; whatever solid and liquid food items he was given, he collected them separately, brought them to the Masjid, kept them in open pots and ate from them. Those who came to him and those who did service to him (like cleaning the masjid premises) could also partake the food from the pots. Dogs too came to him and had their share from the collection.

In later periods, as the number of close devotees increased, devotees brought food for him from their homes to the masjid and the need for going out for daily alms stopped. Using the provisions that people brought, Saibaba sometimes cooked the food and offered it as prasad to the devotees. The prasad he made at times contained meat too that non-vegetarians devotees partook from him.

Baba’s close devotees always worshiped him and revered him as God. As part of the daily routine in Dwarakamai, an aarati (formal worship with lighted lamp) in the noon and one aarati at night was performed to Sai Baba by close devotees (like Mhalsapati) amidst chanting of hymns. Of course, this practice was not to the liking of some people of the Muslim community in and around Shirdi.

Baba had no personal wants or needs. For so many years, Baba never had any need for money. During his later years in life, Sai Baba accepted dakshina (offering of money) from his devotees. Whatever Sababa received — be food, provisions or cash, he distributed amidst the visiting needy devotees and also to his close associates who served him and had families to take care of. Many devotees observed that the money Sai Baba distributed daily to others appeared to be more than what he used to receive as dakshina!

When Sai Baba attained Samadhi, a Policeman present on duty at Dwarakamai at that time officially took charge of Sai Baba’s possessions and according to the report, Sai Baba had just 16 rupees with him in his possession!

Baba and miracles

Baba in numerous miraculous ways played the role of God, a mentor, a Guru, a guide and a savior in the lives of devotees who surrendered to him with unflinching faith. Practically all devotees of Baba had some miraculous experience or other in their lives  to come out of worldly worries and calamities. Such experiences redoubled their faith on His divinity and helped them to tread the path of dharma and spirituality.

Baba’s devotees experienced that He knew every detail of their lives without the need of telling him; Baba read their good and bad thoughts and constantly warned them from going astray.  When caught up in deep troubles, Baba heard their prayers and came to their rescue in some way or other, in some human form or other wherever they were. Sai Baba willingly took up the bad prarabdhas (effects of bad karmas of the past) of some of his devotees on himself in order to reduce their suffering and burden.

There were many instances when Sai Baba blessed progeny to childless couples, saved devotees from accidents and life threatening diseases, protected them from financial disasters, helped them in getting the right match in marriages and so on.  Reviving the dead to life was also performed by Sai on one or two rare occasions.

Very occasionally, Baba also openly displayed a few miracles. Here are a few of them:

  • Baba in deep Samadhi bordering on death for 3 days. This happened in the year 1885. Sai Baba had a severe bout of asthma; he called Mhalsapati and said, “I am going into samadhi; please take care of my body for 3 days”. Mhalsapati stayed day and night with the motionless body of Sai that looked almost dead. Some people in Shirdi believed that Sai Baba was dead and wanted to cremate his body. But Mhalsapati stood very firm. Baba regained outer consciousness after three days.
  • Stirring boiling food with bare hands. Devotees had witnessed  Sai Baba sometimes cooking Prasad for feeding the gathering in a large pot. He would simply use his hands instead of a ladle to stir the boiling contents in the pot.
  • Arresting spread of Cholera. During 1910, Shirdi was affected by Cholera. A few people died. One day Sai Baba was seen single handedly grinding a sack of wheat in a hand grinding stone. Local ladies came to assist him and when the work was over, they attempted to take the flour with them to their houses. Sai Baba scolded them severely and asked them to collect the flour and spread it along the borders of the village. Wondering why, they obeyed his words. Sai Baba clarified later that by this weird gesture, he had prevented spreading of Cholera in Shirdi.  After this incidence,  no death occurred on account of Cholera in Shirdi.
  • Preventing Plague deaths. In 1911, plague epidemic broke out and it started affecting Shirdi too. At that time, seven or eight buboes appeared in Baba’s body and he got fever. His devotees got scared. Baba used his own medicine (ghee) for applying over buboes which he recommended to others too. Baba assured them that neither He nor anyone in Shirdi would die on account of plague and he had taken up the calamity on himself to ward off the epidemic. It was proved true.
  • Bringing holy waters. Once, Das Ganu thought that he should go to Prayag for a bath, and came to Baba to get His permission for doing so. Baba replied to him – “It is not necessary to go so long. Our Prayag is here, believe me.” When Das Ganu placed his head on Baba’s Feet, out came or flowed streams of water — of Ganga and Yamuna, from both the toes of Baba.

Baba’s two Biographers who were direct devotees

Shri Govind R Dabholkar was a Brahmin by birth and he was a 1st class Resident Magistrate in Borsad before he retired. Nana Saheb Chandorkar was his friend and due to the later’s insistence, he came and met Sai Baba initially with some reluctance in the year 1910. He was bowled by Sai Baba’s radiating divinity and his thirst to have a guru came to an end. He started visiting Baba regularly. in 1916, a year before Sai Baba’s departure, Shama, a friend of Dabholkar and an ardent devotee of Baba convinced Baba for the need of having an authentic biography of Him written and Baba gave his blessings to Dabholkar for writing it.

With the help of all close Sai devotees, Dabholkar collected information about Sai Baba’s sayings, leelas and miracles from the real life experiences of many devotees for 13 years from 1917 to 1929. He wrote Shri Sai Satcharitra in Marathi in the form of verses and they first got serialized in Sri Sai Leela magazine from 1923 (6 years after Sai Baba’s Maha Samadhi). Shri Sai Satcharitra complete in book form came out 1929. Sri Dabholkar passed away in the same year.

After his retirement, Dabholkar served Sai Baba very sincerely till Baba’s Mahasamadhi and afterwards managed very skillfully and efficiently Sai Baba’s Shirdi Sansthan till his death in 1929.

Shri Sai Satcharitra was the first authentic source book on the Avatar and leela of Shirdi Sai, and it was written not as a biography in chronological order, but in the form of a Pothi, a religious book. It contained 53 chapters and 9308 verses. This book, in later years, got translated into English and  other Indian languages.

Sri Vaman Prangovind Patel (Later Swami Sai Sharan Anand) was one of the most faithful and true disciples of Sai Baba. He was  a Gujarati Brahmin by birth, studied B.A., L.L.B and worked as a solicitor at Mumbai. When Vaman was five, Sai Baba (identified by his mother as an unknown person who appeared before her as a Fakir) saved his live from acute diarrhoea by giving sacred udi. Vaman as a youth longed for getting a Guru who can assure him of getting direct perception of God; he first met Sai Baba at Shirdi when he was 22 years old, in the year 1911.

He visited Sai Baba again in 1913 and was was retained by Baba to be with him for 11 months. Baba engaged Vaman in reading scriptures like Jnaneshwari under his guidance, made him do Gayathri Purascharan and seek alms from the local households.

Again in 1916, Vaman stayed with Baba for 3 weeks when he was blessed with valuable spiritual experiences. In 1946 (some 28 years after Sai Baba’s maha samadhi) Vaman wrote two books in Gujarati on the life of Baba — Sai Leelakhyan and Shri Sai Baba. After his wife and daughter passed away, Vaman  took up Sanyas (with the monaistic name Swami Sai Sharan Anand) at the age of 64. He lived to ripe old age (93 years) and passed away in 1982.  3 more books of him  Sainathne Sharane, Brahma Parimal and Siddhamrit got published posthumously.

His books exemplify his great devotion to Sai Baba and they remain one of the best sources of information on Shirdi Sai.

Sathe Wada – The first dormitory for visiting devotees

Over years, as Sai Baba’s residence in the Dwaraka Mai Masjid became permanent and devotees from outstation started coming in large numbers, Baba’s devotee Hari Vinayak Sathe bought the land covering the sacred neem tree, Gurusthan and adjacent areas. In 1908, he constructed a wada (traditional mansion) there which was called Sathe Wada. The wada served as the sole resting place for visiting devotees, till the time Dixit Wada too came up.

Dixit Wada – the second dormitory for visiting devotees

Kaka Saheb Dixit, a rich solicitor from Mumbai first met Sai Baba in the year 1909. He became an ardent devotee of Sai Baba and decided to settle in Shirdi to live the rest of his life in the holy company of Baba. He bought land adjacent to Gurusthan and constructed Dixit Wada,   to be his residence as well as a resting place for people visiting Sai Baba from distant places. The Wada was constructed and inaugurated on the day of Ram Navami in the year 1911.

Sai Baba and Muslims

Devoted Muslims

As we saw already, Sai Baba had two earnest devotees who stayed with him were Muslims – Abdul and Bade Baba (Fakir Baba).

Sai Baba had many other Muslim devotees who considered him as a Pir (A Sufi Saint) or Awliya (An Islamic guardian/ protector).

From 1911, when Ram Navami celebrations (with a procession ending at  Dwaraka mai masjid) became an annual festival celebrated with fanfare at Shirdi as per suggestion of Sai Baba, some Muslim devotees headed by one Amir Shakkar too pitched in with a Sandal Procession (Urus festival) on the same day; Hindus and Muslims participated in both processions, thereby building a good interfaith comradery.

Discordant Muslims

In 1894, some intolerant Muslims with the support of Kazi of Sangamner assembled with lathis in order to attack the devotees who worshiped Sai Baba as God inside the masjid. Mhalsapati, who used to do the  daily aarati was in a fix and he did not know what to do. However, Sai Baba summoned him inside and asked him to proceed with his daily worship. The militant assembly of armed Muslims stood there transfixed, unable to move their limbs! They got scared of Sai Baba’s divine power and retreated never to attempt any such move there after.

Some 20 years after this incidence, a fundamentalist Pathan was dead against Hindus worshiping Sai Baba and he sought Sai’s permission to massacre all the Hindus sleeping at the Chavdi. Sai Baba told him to cut His throat first before attempting to do any harm to Hindus. A few days later, with hatred brimming on Baba, the Pathan came to attack Sai Baba with a large stick. Sai Baba simply caught him by his wrist and the pathan fell to ground losing all his power.

Muslims also created trouble when Sai Baba attained Maha Samadhi. (This is covered later in the article).

Construction of Buti Wada – and the end of Sai Baba’s avatar

Gopalrao (Bapusaheb) Buti, The man who built Buti Wada where Sai Baba’s samadhi exists.

Gopalrao Buti was an extremely rich devotee of Sai Baba who hailed from Nagpur met Baba in 1907.  From 1910, he shifted to Shirdi permanently to live with Sai Baba and was contemplating to build a house for him there. One night, Baba appeared in Buti’s dream and asked him to construct a Wada (Mansion) with a temple in it.  Very surprisingly, in the same night, Baba appeared in Madhavrao Deshpande’s dream and said “Let there be a wada with temple so that I can satisfy the desires of all”. Both were sleeping in Dixit Wada when this happened.

When they shared the experience with each other, Buti decided to build a grand mansion with black stones. With Sai Baba’s blessing and also approval of the building plan, the construction started in 1915. Buti wanted to install, in the sanctum sanctorum, Lord Muralidhar (Krishna playing flute) there.

Madhavrao supervised the construction of the ground floor. Sai Baba visited the site while construction was in progress and offered some suggestions too. Sai Baba once said “When the temple is built, we shall inhabit it and ever live in joy there!”

While the construction was nearing the end, Sai Baba fell sick and his condition started deteriorating. Gopalrao Buti became restless. He wondered whether Baba would live to see the temple, let alone come and stay there as promised by him. “If Baba is not going to live there, what is the point in constructing this wada and temple?” he thought.

Baba’s close devotees nursed him with all love and care, but there was so sign of recovery. Baba’s last words were: “Take me to the wada. I would feel better there”.   But before his devotees could shift him, He breathed his last at 2:35PM on 15th October 1918 at the Masjid. News spread quickly and all close devotees of Sai Baba thronged at the Masjid.

Unfortunately, there were discordant opinions in conducting the last rites for Baba’ body  between Sai’s Hindu devotees (who were in majority) and the Muslims.  The Muslim devotees headed by Bade Baba did not want Hindus to touch Sai Baba’s body and they wanted to take the body to kabari-sthan as per Islamic rites. Against Muslims’ stiff resistance, Sai’s devotee Laxman Bhat performed puja to Sai’s body as per Hindu traditions and applied tilak at Sai’s forehead. Hindus planned to shift Sai’s body to Buti Wada and place it in a samadhi and started necessary digging work work there.

Mamledar (Revenue administrative officer) of Kopargaon mediated between Hindus and Muslims and a compromise was arrived. Muslims finally yielded and allowed the Hindu devotees to proceed with their Samadhi plan at Buti Wada on the condition that Muslims would be given continued access to Masjid and also to Sai Baba’s samadhi, to which Hindus gladly agreed.

On 16th October evening, Sai Baba’s body was taken ceremoniously in procession to Buti Wada and placed in the sanctum sanctorum where originally an idol of Lord Muralidhar had been planned to be installed. Saibaba’s body was laid and a samadhi was built there.

Sai Baba had said earlier:

  • “I never forsake anyone who relies on me.    If you cast your burden on me, I will bear it.   My eye is ever on those who love me.”
  • “Remember my words even when I am no more. My bones will assure you from my samadhi. It will communicate with you, it will respond to him who surrenders to it.”
  • Here, in Shirdi, my men will come like ants“.

It is indeed true — even after passage of a century!

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IF Krishna was an Avatar of God (Vishnu) how come he did so much adharma in Kurukshetra war?

Krishna was an avatar — God descending to earth in human form and his mission was to restore dharma. The dharmas expected to be followed and ensured by the kings — the kshatriyas — at that historic time was at its lowest ebb. It was so hopelessly worse that it was virtually beyond correction by any other diplomatic means.

Krishna, with his role as a Raja Tantri, had already exhausted three of the four political means – Sama-dhana-bedha in trying to avert the war and finally, only dhanda was left in the form of Kurukshetra war; it was the massive punishment and annihilation of most of the kshatriya clan that ruled the various countries in Bhartavarsha at that time.

It must also be taken into note that Krishna’s avatar was triggered by Mother Earth (Bhooma Devi)’s request to Lord Vishnu to reduce bhubhaaram – the dead weight over earth on account of excessive presence of evil doers. And Krishnavatar happened with an agenda of massive destruction.

The world is such that when practitioners of adharma happily go on doing evil acts with no qualms, no one would have the guts to question them; but if people who follow dharma were to resort to any deviations in dharma on account of a higher purpose (restoring dharma) they will be flooded with criticism.

But an Avatara Purusha is nothing but God and God is beyond dharma and adharma. By virtue of this status, Krishna was not like any other ordinary sensitive person who tries to uphold dharma by patiently bowing down to evil (like Yudhishthira) ; naturally he played his divine lila with his head held high to annihilate the adharma by bending and breaking dharma too here and there when it was so needed for the grander purpose.

Deaths, destruction and annihilation of kshatriyas – Kurukshetra war

We must also take due note of two more happenings.

  • Dharma won finally, alright, but it did cause great casualties to Pandavas’ side too. Krishna saved just a future offspring of pandavas — the fetus in Uttaraa’s womb (later born as Parikshit). All the 5 children born off Pandavas to Draupati got killed in the post war ambush executed by Ashwatthama. Except perhaps Bhima, the Pandavas were not really very happy lot after the war was over. It took yeoman effort to elders and wisemen to persuade the grief-stricken Yudhshthira to ascend to the throne.
  • Krishna’s own clan of kshatriyas — the Yadavas, Vrishnis and Andhakas too were not any better when it came to following dharma. Their deterioration was already happening and it took some 40 years more for Krishna to ‘wind up his show’. Time came to annihilate all his clan too and he stood in the forefront to execute one of the bloodiest mutiny in Dwaraka. Finally, the whole city of Dwaraka was consumed by a tsunami and Krishna ended his avatar by allowing a lowly hunter to hit him with an arrow at his toe. What an anticlimax to the grandest story of an avatar!

It is outright foolish to imagine that Gods Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma or Avatars like Rama and his ardent devotee Hanuman are similar to some independent misguided kshatriya kings who would come and fight against Lord Krishna to frustrate the “unethical games” played by Krishna!

The concept of Avatar in Hinduism

A fundamental belief in Hinduism is that God descends to earth to take birth as human (or other) forms whenever the good and pious people suffer and the evil ones have an upper hand. The word Avatar means descending (to earth). God descends to earth based on the needs of time, protects the good, destroy the evil and restore dharma (righteousness). Such a person/ being is known as an avatar. An Avatar of God takes birth in earth in some form (human form and also other forms) and carry out a specific mission and then return to the heavenly abode.

At the core of Hinduism, God is only one. He is called Brahman in Upanishads. Brahman is beyond name and form, all pervading, all encompassing and all knowing. Everything living and non-living are verily different expressions of Brahman. The entire cosmos is an expression of Brahman. Brahman is smaller than the atom and yet bigger than the cosmos.

Since Brahman encompasses everything, any concept of God with name and form is also within the scope of Brahman only. In Hinduism God with name and form is also real and such a God is known as Ishwara.

Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the sustainer) and Shiva (the destroyer) are the three prime forms of God conceived in Hinduism. In Hinduism’s Vaishnava tradition, Vishnu is considered the one and only prime God and he is verily the Brahman. In this tradition, Brahma was created by Vishnu for the purpose of creating the entire universe. In Shaiva tradition, Shiva is considered the one and only prime God and He is verily the Brahman. He is the Supreme Reality; He is the one who creates, sustains and destroys.

We also have Shakta tradition where Divine mother Parashakti is considered the Prime God and she is the one who creates, sustains and destroys.

As per the above concept, the Prime Gods (be it Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva or Shakti) are NOT really avatars (even though some scriptures call them Gunaavatars (Brahma representing Satva Guna, Vishnu, the Rajo Guna and Shiva, the Tamo Guna). They are eternal Gods, not subjected to birth cycle.

Interestingly,  in the 4 Vedas inclusive of  Vedanta (Upanishads) which are the earliest sources of spiritual scriptures, there is no concept of Avatar being mentioned! The concept of Avatars came into vogue only in later historic periods of Itihas and Puranas (scriptural mythologies).

In Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the Itihas Mahabharata (that is like a Purana containing historical cum mythological story), the concept of God arriving from time to time to protect the righteous people and punish the evil doers gets mentioned. It comes through the statement of Lord Krishna, who is considered the Avatar of Vishnu:

Whenever there is decay of righteousness, O Bharata,
And there is exaltation of unrighteousness, then I Myself come forth ;

For the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil-doers,
For the sake of firmly establishing righteousness, I am born from age to age
.”

                                                                                              –  Bhagavad Gita 4-7&8

Avatars Of Vishnu

In Puranas primarily, Lord Vishnu has been attributed to taking Avatars. His 10 Avatars are considered to be important which are listed below:

(You can click on the respective names to know more details)

1) Matsya  2) Kurma  3) Varaha    4) Narasimha   5) Vamana 6) Parashurama  7) Rama  8) Krishna   9) Balarama  10) Kalki.

Kalki Avatar is yet to happen and is expected to take place in this yuga (Kali Yuga).

However, Srimad Bhagavatam which is one of the most widely accepted Puranas as an important reference book in the matters of Hinduism’s mythologies associated with practical  teaching of devotion, dharmas and philosophies, Vishnu’s avatars are not restricted to 10, but the following 14 more are also included.

(You can click on the respective names to know more details)

11) Sanaka 12) Sananda 13) Sanatana 14) Sanatkumara, 15) Narada, 16) Nara, 17) Narayana 18) Kapila, 19) Dattatreya, 20) Yajna, 21) Rshabha, 22) Prthu, 23)  Mohini, 24) Garuda, 25) Dhanvantri, 26) Vyasa, 27) Buddha

Scope of divine expression in Avatar – Purna, Amsa and Kala

In scriptures it is said that divine/spiritual power (Chaitanya Shakti)  in the various creations gets expressed in different measures. They are expressed in kalas. As per this concept, plants have 2 kalas, animals 2 to3 kalas, human beings 5 to 6 kalas, saints and sages 7 to 8 kalas and so on. Sri Rama Avatar is said to have taken place with 12 kalas. Sri Krishnavatar is hailed as a Purna Avatar  where the highest measure of 16 kalas got expressed through this avatar.

An Amsa Avatar is where a partial divinity gets expressed. Thus Kapila, Kurma, Balarama etc are considered to be Amsa Avatars.

Then there is also a mention of Shaktiavesha Avatar where in God’s ferocious aspect gets expressed in an Avatar that engages in large scale destruction of evil forces. Parashurama Avatar is stated to be such.

Avatars are countless

Srimad Bhagavatam also states that Avatars are countless. Such a statement too is logical considering the fact that Puranas were written thousands of years ago. Naturally, more Avatars coming to earth is quite in order because Avatars, by definition come to earth whenever dharma is in danger and the wicked and evil forces are in the rise. Avatars do come to show the right path of dharma suited to changing times.

Avatara Purushas

Thus in Hinduism, ardent devotees hail several Mahatma’s of later periods as Avatara Purushas. Their lives and teachings too become extremely important as puranas and scriptures. Unlike old puranas and shastras that are in Sanskrit language, the Avatara Purushas give teachings in their local languages and their teachings are far more simpler to comprehend and to put to practice in life because they are in tune with the needs of the time. Invariably, their teachings are totally in resonance with the different aspects of scriptures.

  • Shri Shankaracharya is hailed as an Avatar of Lord Shiva
  • Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is hailed as an Avatar of Radha.
  • Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is considered a divine Avatar with Devi’s amsa.
  • Shirdi Saibaba is considered an Avatar of God, whose appeal broke the barriers of Hindus and Muslims
  • Sri Satya Saibaba is considered an Avatar of Shiva-Shakti
  • Swami Vivekananda is hailed as an Avatar of Shiva by some of his guru bhais and devotees.
  • Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi – though he is a Purna Jnani (who is beyond the concept of Avatars) , there are some devotees who consider him an Avatar of Lord Subrahmanya.
  • Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) is considered an the Avatar of Devi Parashakti.

One commonly observed feature amidst these Avatara Purushas is that even though they may appear to follow a specific religious path, practice or worship during their evolving stages, their demeanor as realized mahatmas will not get cocooned to any limited school, sect or traditional compartments. Their  appeal and attraction towards earnest devotees will cut across all barriers; their level of spiritual knowledge will be so elevated and all pervading that they would be able to drive away doubts from the minds of different seekers with different tastes, temperaments and affinity to philosophies and concepts. Their appeal is universal. They attract people from other religious faith too.

Most of these Avatara Purushas are in fact swayambus — meaning, they were self-made, born with wisdom (not acquired through the teachings of a guru).

Please Note

It is quite natural in a vast and complicated religion like Hinduism (that has so many facets, tenets and schools) that there will be conflicts and disputes in accepting some great saints who are hailed as Avatara Purushas by one group of devotees, by the followers of other saints or people belonging to different other sects or schools of philosophies.

Instead of breaking our heads about these disputes, it is always better to focus on the core teachings of these great Mahatmas and see whether they are in tune with Sanatana Dharma’s time tested truths given in the various  scriptures and whether they are elevating their respective followers towards the higher goal of life — God realization/ self-realization.

 

Mata Amritanandamayi – FAQ on Amma

  1. Who is Amma?

Amma (meaning, mother) is Mata Amritanandamayi, a lady Hindu Saint, a God-realized (or self-realized) sage, a true knower of Universal Self (Brahma Gnyani) , who is considered an Avatar (God descended to earth in Human form, according to Hindu beliefs) and a Satguru (a spiritual teacher of the highest order) whose expression of divinity is through her unsurpassed expression of love towards all beings.

  1. How old is Amma? What was her original name? Where was she born? Who are her parents? Where is her place?

Bhavatarini Kali Temple, Amritapuri Ashram

Amma is now 64 years old . Her original name was Sudhamani. She was born on 27/09/1953 in a fishermen community, at a remote village (Parayakadavu/ Vallikkavu) near the Arabian sea about 20 km away from Kayamkulam town in Kerala State, in South India.

Her father’s name is Sugunananthan and her mother’s name is Dhamayanti. Sudhamani was their third child. Sudhamani had 4 brothers (one elder and the rest younger) and 3 sisters (one elder and the rest, younger).

It is in this small village is her Ashram Mata Amritanandamayi Math is situated. This place is now called Amtitapuri. In the limited strip of land between the Arabian sea and back waters, the Ashram’s sprawling complex comprising of a temple, a large Darshan Hall and a few multi-storeyed residential apartments for all her disciples and devotees is situated.

  1. Why is she called Amma?

The word Amma in Tamil and Malayalam means mother. She is considered the avatar of the Universal Divine Mother (varyingly called Parasakthi, Jagat Janani, Jagadamba, Rajarajeshwari, Parvati, Vaishnavi, Maha Maya, Kali and so on, who, according to holy mythology, is the divine consort of Lord Shiva). For Amma, every one in this world, irrespective of whether he/she is younger or older than her, is her child and all her children call her Amma. Amma’s love to her children is unconditional and she has no barriers of caste, color, creed, religion or anything else to express her motherly love to one and all. The young Sudhamani, who was later christened Mata Amritanandamayi by her devotees, thus became the mother of one and all and a “hugging saint” right from her 22nd age.

  1. Why is Amma called the “Hugging Saint”?

In Hinduism, going and seeing a God in a temple or seeing a Saint is referred to as having a “darshsan”. Darshan means seeing. In India, it’s the practice that great Saints stand or sit at a distance and his devotees will go and prostrate before him/ her to express their reverence. Some Saints will permit touching of their feet by close disciples. In Hinduism it is the practice to touch the feet of holy and elderly people as a mark of reverence and this touching of the feet of a divinely person is believed to bestow us good spiritual fortune.

It is also believed that any bodily touch of the saint will transfer one’s sins to the saints and this way one gets purified, but the saint who has accepted the sins will have to go through the physical suffering for having accepted the sins of others. So, except on very special occasions or considerations, all and sundry will not be encouraged touch the saints.

Amma’s way of giving ‘darshan’ is to individually embrace each person.

That’s totally absent in Amma’s case. Amma, out of her unbridled love on all her children, gives “dashan” to every individual by embracing him/ her physically. Whether one is healthy, clean or unclean – as unclean as a leper whose skin oozes with pus, Amma embraces one and all.

Perhaps the term “hugging saint” was coined by western media when Amma visited USA first in the year 1987.

  1. In Hinduism, isn’t it said that a Guru is needed for one to attain self-realization? If so, who is Amma’s guru?

Amma is a divine incarnation. She is a swayambu (self manifested); she is not of the normal class of spiritual aspirants who can seek the ultimate truth only through the guidance of a Guru.

But, Amma was soaked in the deepest divine bhakthi (love of God) right from her childhood. Her yearning to have a vision of her beloved God, Krishna was consuming her like a flame; she cried unceasingly for uniting with her beloved lord; her whole of waking consciousness was enveloped in that single thought. Songs praising her lord and begging for his darshan poured out from her lips involuntarily.

With all this at one side, she had abundant energy to do physical domestic work, which she did tirelessly for her family; her parents understood nothing of her divinity; they thought she was mentally insane. Her very dark complexion was a subject of distaste for them. They showed no interest to educate her formally. Apart from a little of primary education that enabled Amma to read and write in Malayalam (her mother tongue), Amma had no worthy “worldly” education to speak of.

This sort of unceasing and all consuming love of God, is called Parabhakthi in Hinduism. It is also known as Prema Bhakthi. Chaitanya Deva (a saint of Eastern India) had such a divine love for Krishna in the past. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, another saint of the past from Bengal had this divine love on his beloved Holy Mother Kali.

Through this power of Prema Bhakthi, saints realize God. That’s how Amma realized Lord Krishna; Lord Krishna merged into her and became one with her. At her 20th age, Amma became a realized soul.

  1. Then why is it said Amma is a divine incarnation of Universal Mother?

Amma, after realizing God in the form of Krishna (Purusha, the male principle) was then caught in a tempest of love on the Universal Mother (Prakriti, the female principle). It was her second phase of prema bhakti on God, now directed at the female principle. After going through a maddeningly intense “tapas” (severe spiritual austerities) to have the vision of her “true mother”, without virtually missing even a second to keep calling her “Amma”, amma realized her goal; she ultimately found Divine mother revealing her glorious form and eventually merging in her. It happened at her age of about 22.

  1. Wait. You say, Lord Krishna merged in Amma. Then you say, Universal Mother merged in Amma. But you said earlier that Amma is a divine incarnation of the Universal Mother. Isn’t all confusing?

One requires a deeper understanding of Hinduism to grasp all these. In Hinduism, there is only one God, known as Brahman (also called Paramatman, the supreme Atman), who is all pervading, is without beginning or end, and is beyond name and form. But the same Universal being, when related to the physical realm of the world and the cosmos with names and forms, becomes the creater, sustainer and the destroyer. He, in this role, is attributed with names and forms and is amenable for worshiping as Ishwara (God). Hindus have the freedom to worship Ishwara in any form very dear to their heart.

A Hindu can worship God as Vishnu ( the protector), Shiva (the destroyer), the Shakti (the Universal Mother), or in any forms of divine incarnations like Rama, Krishna and so on. Ignoring names and forms, it is the same God who is the in-dweller in all beings as Atman, because the God and his creation are not two entities.

Depending on the extent of one’s self awareness, one perceives God as a separate entity as Ishwara (the Dwaita – duality concept) , or as Paramatman — the soul of the individual soul (Vishitadwaita – the qualified non-duality concept) and as Atman (one’s own Self, being the Absolute reality, with nothing second existing — the Advaita, non-duality principle).

All these 3 states are true in some way or other, depending on the extent of one’s realization of the ultimate truth. While Advaita, the non-dualistic state is the ultimate truth which is realized by a qualified seeker at an exalted state where the “I” consciousness becomes totally absent, the other states also become relative truths as one descends back to worldly consciousness — when “I” and “you” are perceived.

For a person of Amma’s level of attainment, Advaita is the state of attainment and state of being. But, purely out of compassion to serve the society and guide all earnest seekers to realize the ultimate truth, Amma descends to the mundane level and plays her divine act with all of us, like a person acting in a drama with different masks and makeup.

Amma, though, in her true state remains as Atman, with nothing secondary to it, she, at the relative level, sports a “bhava”, a divine mood. When, as a seeker, she loved the lord (Ishwara) in the form of Krishna (who is nothing but the all pervading Atman, but now worshiped with name and form), she realized her own Atman and it was experienced as if the Lord Krishna merged in her. The same explanation holds good for divine experience and mood –“bhava” as a divine mother.

Amma, though originally expressed her divine bhava as Krishna, she, later opted to express her bhava as Divine mother too. Still later, she opted to express only the divine mood as Universal mother – Devi Bhava and discontinued her Krishna Bhava.

It’s Hindu’s belief that God descends to earth to uplift mankind and show ways to salvation from time to time, based on the specific needs of the time. As Amma displays her divine bhava more as a mother, her devotees hail her as an Avatar of Universal mother.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says “Avatar is only for the sake of Bhaktas (lovers of God). Gnyanis (seekers of True Knowledge without sentimental emotion to forms of God) have no significance to the idea of Avatar”.

Thus from a bhakta’s viewpoint, Amma is an Avatar — the Avatar of the Universal Divine Mother. From the intellectual seekers’ view point, Amma is a Gnyani — Knower of Atman, a self-realized soul, a jivan mukta (one who has attained deathless state while being alive), or one who has attained, from a Buddhist viewpoint, Nirvana. For an earnest spiritual seeker looking for spiritual guidance, Amma is a Satguru.

8.  Let her be God, Avatar or whatever. What is that she has done for the world? In what way has she contributed for the welfare of the mankind? People say she is now heading a multi-million dollar empire?

Amma’s every breath is for the welfare of the mankind. She sets examples; she inspires countless people to serve the world. Thousands of devotees from all walks of life come to her and join her with their money and resources to serve the world in so many ways. That’s how so many of her institutions have sprung up.

She has inspired thousands of young  men and women to renounce worldly life and lead a life of brahmacharya, do spiritual practices and seva; countless householders have left behind their comforts of life to settle in the ashram and do service as well as sadhana.

Embracing the World is a global network of regional humanitarian organizations inspired by the  Mata Amritanandamayi Math. Embracing the World exists to help alleviate the burden of the world’s poor through helping to meet each of their five basic needs — food,  shelterhealthcareeducation, and livelihood — wherever and whenever possible.

If you want to know what she has done to the world, here is a brief list:

Disaster relief

Left: Post tsunami, houses constructed at Nagapattinam             Right: Flats constructed for tsunami affected people in Sri Lanka.

  • 2001 Gujarat Earthquake – Construction of 1200 earth quake resistant homes for the affected people.
  • 2004 Tsunami in India and Sri Lanka – built 6200 Tsunami-resistant houses, supplied 700  new fishing boats, constructed an evacuation bridge (in case of similar future calamities) , providing vocational training to 2500 victims and so on.
  • 2005 Hurricane Katrina relief in USA – donating $1 million to Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund
  • 2005 Earthquake in Kashmir – Free food and medical supplies
  • 2005 Mumbai floods, 2006 Gujarat floods, 2008 Bihar floods — Over $1.5 million spent in medical aid, food supplies and shelter.
  • 2009 Cyclone Aila, West Bengal — medical care and food supplies
  • 2009 Floods in Karnataka and Andhra –$10.7 million relief package including medical care, food, supplies and building of 1000 homes for displaced refugees.
  • 2010 Haiti Earth quake — Mediacl supplies, blankets, providing scholarship to students
  • 2011 Japan earth quake & tsunami — $ 1 million relief focusing on children orphaned in the disaster.
  • 2012 LPG Tanker & Fireworks disasters in south India —  Aid to families of dead and injured.
  • 2013 Uttarakhand floods — Rs 50 Cr0re relief package to construct 500 houses destroyed in the Uttarakhand  in 42 selected villages in the districts of Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi. Also cover educational scholarships, pension to widows and women empowerment activities.
  • 2013 Typhoon Haiyan relief at Philippines — Mata Amritanandamayi Center, USA donates 1 million dollar aid for people affected.
  • 2015 Chennai Floods — Supply of food and medicines, Rs 5 Crore donation to Chief Minister’s relief fund.

== Chennai Flood relief == Br. Abhayamrita Chaitanya distributing food packets to affected localities. Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri handing over cheque for Rs.5 Crores to TN Chief Minister Jayalalitha.

Free Housing

  • Completion of 45,000 homes for the poor throughout  India

Other Aid Projects

  • Providing 41,000 scholarships to children of impoverished farmers, with a goal to reach 1,00,000 students.
  • Empowering 1,00,00 women by providing startup capital, vocational education and access to micro credit loan
  • Organic farming initiative to support 10,000 poor people to grow organic vegitables in their own land.
  • Orphanages for 500 children in Parippally, Kerala and 50 children in Nairobi.
  • Yearly feeding of over 10 million poor people inside India, 1,00,000 people outside India including 75,000 in USA via Soup kitchens
  • Pensions for 59,000 destitute women and the physically and mentally challenged, with a goal to reach 1.00,000 such people.
  • Running 4 care homes for the elderly in India
  • Prisoner-welfare project in USA provides solace for prison inmates
  • 2015 — Rs.100 Crores donated for constructing toilets in the poorest villages surrounding the Ganges River as part of Swachh Bharat and Namami Gange project.
  • 2015 — Another 100 Crore project for constructing toilets in the houses of the poor in Kerala.
  • 2017 —  Rs.200 Crore project of providing filtered and clean drinking water to 5000 villages in India, to benefit 10 million people in rural areas.

A typical filtering package set up in each village for providing clean, filtered water under Amrita’s Jivamritam scheme.

Health Care

AMRITA INSTITUTE OF MEDICAL SCIENCES  (AIMS) (Ernakulam)

  • Not-for-profit 1,300 bed hospital (210 bed ICU) providing advanced health care to patients including free medical care for the poor.
  • serving more than 10 lakh outpatients and more than 70,000 inpatients annually. The massive healthcare infrastructure with over 3.33 million sq.ft. of built-up area, spread over 125 acres of land, supports a daily patient volume of approximately 3500 outpatients with 95 percent inpatient occupancy. There are 12 superspeciality departments, 45 other departments.
  • More than 2.6 million people have have received complete free treatment since 1998.
  • Telemedicine support for hospitals and more than 40 remote centres across India and parts of Africa.
  • Free health check up in remote areas providing preventive health care.
  • Five branch hospitals providing free care to the poor
  • AIDS care home at Trivandrum and Cancer Hospice at Mumbai
  • Free palliative in-home care for the terminally ill
  • Conducting more than 100 free medical camps annually throughout India
  • Providing 1,00,000 women with training to become in-home nurses in more than 6000 self-help groups
  • AYURVEDIC MEDICARE through Amrita School of Ayurveda (Amritapuri) with 160 bed hospital

Higher Education 

  • Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham (Amrita University) having 5 campuses with Schools of Engineering, Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Arts and sciences, Biotechnology, Business, Journalism, Ayurveda and Education. More than 20,000 students and 1,500 faculty members. (NAAC A grade University).
  • Amrita Research Labs and other research departments are continuously involved in developing innovations in communication, e-learning, computer sciences and Biotechnology.
  • 30 leading Universities worldwide including Stanford, MIT, NYU, EPFL in Switzerland, VU in Amsterdam, TU Munich, Roma Tre, ETH Zurich and the University of Tokyo cooperate with Amrita University to enhance higher education and research in India.
  • Institute of People’s Education provides job training and community development.
  • United Nations commended literacy-training program for the tribal populations

Elementary and Secondary Education

  • 47 Amrita Vidyalayam schools throughout India, providing value-based holistic approach to learning
  • A school for hearing-impaired children in Kerala

Spiritual, Cultural

Aerial View of Amritapuri Ashram 2017. The Arabian sea on the right, the TS Canal at the left and the middle strip of land is Alappad. Amritapuri Ashram is studded with multi-storeyed buildings.  The Amrit Sethu bridge can be seen at the left.

  • Mata Amritanandamayi Math – Amritapuri Ashram (Kerala India) is the international headquarters for Amma’s service work, which is carried out through hundreds of branch centers and service groups world-wide.
  • The Ashram houses several hundreds of Brahmacharis, Brahmacharinis, Householder devotees, monks, hostel students, westerners and so on.
  • IAM  (Integrated Amrita Meditation) Technique and Amrita Yoga are taught free throughout the world.
  • Spiritual books and magazines (‘Matruvani’) printed at the ashram in multiple languages are distributed to devotees across the country and world.
  • Regular shastra (scriptural teaching) classes are conducted in the Ashram.
  • AYUDH is the youth wing of Amma’s devotees and followers inspiring youngsters in  leading a balanced life including spirituality and seva as part of worldly life.
  • GreenFriends initiative cutivates reference for Nature and has arranged and inspired planting more than 1 million trees since 2001.

TO KNOW MORE ABOUT AMMA AND HER DETAILED LIFE TIMELINE, CLICK <HERE>

To watch Video on Amma’s global activities:

EMBRACING THE WORLD WITH HER ABUNDANT LOVE AND HUMANITARIAN ACTIVITIES

Why God permits evil in this world if he is truly all powerful?

If there is really any God and if it is really true that He is all merciful and compassionate as scriptures eulogize Him, then why on earth are there so many painful and incongruous things happening at all times — children and parents suffering from famine in some countries, little children getting raped, tortured and abused, animals suffering under cruelty of man, religions encouraging herd mentality in their followers, existence of glaring inconsistencies and inequalities in creation and so on?

This was the question raised in one of the Hubpages discussion forums, by a lady with a very soft heart who had been pained by many such realities of the world . She was wondering whether there is really any God; if one were to be there, would He ever allow all these glaringly painful goings-on?

There are a couple of different ways in which these anomalies and doubts can be analysed and answers found.

 

A) God-as-a-Loving-mother approach

When you are a very little girl, let’s assume you pinched your little younger brother out of contempt, out of sibling rivalry, not because of any omission or commission of his, but because you were angry that your mother loves him and cuddles him more than you.

When your mother comes to know of it, if she is a level headed woman, she will understand the reason, be patient with you and explain why you should not do such things. If you have a good heart that can understand, you will know immediately that what you did is wrong. Or your mother may warn you severely on your act and advice you not to behave like this in future.

If you happen to repeat such acts in the future knowingly or unknowingly, she may smack you at the back and warn you of more severe punishment if you don’t behave.

Now analyze the above in detail. There are three different ways you may react:

1) You may be endowed with a good heart that understands why what you did was wrong and you will not repeat it again.

or

2) You may understand what is wrong with you, know that it’s bad, but at some other occasion when your heart sinks to a lower level, out of an emotional an spurt, you may do the mischief again on your little brother.

or

3) You may not be willing to listen to any logic behind your act and your mother’s advice or warning and continue to repeat your vicious acts of vengeance in future, with increased degree of hatred. As your brother grows up, he too may start retaliating, thereby a sibling rivalry may grow to a lifelong contempt between a sister and a brother.

Now think of your mother. Whatever be your mode of negative behavior, is you mother going to dislike you and disown you? Will she not always try to reason with you, at times give punishment to you, at times act too magnanimous with you, at times get too angry with you –but will she not, as a mother, continue to love you and be concerned with your moral well being?

That’s the same thing with God. All of us are God’s children — be the doer of a heinous crime or the sufferer of the crime.

Just as a mother, God loves both the categories and his concern is only the right moral conduct and gradual evolution of all. He knows some of his children are good and some are bad. He knows that he cannot totally wash his hand off from his bad children.

We must also understand that the creation is too large, the canvas is too big, the children are too many, the acts of crimes are too varied, and the time period of God’s delivery of justice and consolation to the affected children or punishing the mischievous children is too wide for scrutiny by others who see “only a small duration of a very long movie.”

Hinduism states that this “long movie” is not confined to one birth. The “cause and effect” cycle goes on and on across several births. God’s way of consoling the affected and punishing the wicked has got its humanly incomprehensible time scale.

As an erring child, you may not be sure when your mother may behave soft with you or act tough with you. At times, you will expect your mother to beat you, but she may leave you with a warning. At times, for an insignificant mischief done by you, your mother may flare up and beat you disproportionately.

When such unpredictability exists with a human mother, why not it be so with the Universal Mother, the God? But, what looks to be unpredictable to you, may be very intentional in God’s scheme of things, because, he knows what’s best.

Hinduism calls all these unpredictability of creation as Maya. The act versus the fruits of act is dealt with in detail by Karma theory by Hinduism.

In a nutshell, an ordinary man cannot sit in judgment about God with his limited intellect. A finite scale cannot measure the infinite.