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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.

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Where can I find a real guru? All popular gurus of today seem to be rolling in wealth, immersed in materialism, running multi crore institutions and doing globe trotting

Divine grace is needed to get the right guru. If the seeker is earnest, he will get the right guru at the end for sure.

A truly realized Jnani can be a pauper like Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi or a king like Janaka Maharaja. Sri Krishna, an absolute total Avatar of God was living amidst worldly pleasures and materialism but nothing touched him.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa lived a poor man’s life; he could not even touch money with his hand. He lived such an exemplary life of renunciation. But think of Swami Vivekananda, his prime disciple, to whom Sri Ramakrishna transferred all his shakti before leaving his body and the way he “extracted work” from Vivekananda!

Vivekananda roamed all around India as a penniless mendicant; he got the divine prompting to go to USA again as a penniless person. He swept the west like a storm, brought wealth, started Sri Ramakrishna Mission and Math, built Belur Mutt, built a grand temple for Sri Ramakrishna there, set up several branches of the mutt, engaged his brother monks into various social service activities, built educational institutions and other institutions for the welfare of the downtrodden men and women.

Like a tempest he worked ceaselessly and built a huge institution and left his body when he was just 40 with total detachment as a true Sanyasin!

Think of Swami Sivananda. He was floating in wealth as a popular doctor in Malaysia. He was gripped by thirst for spirituality, came to India, got initiated into Sanyas, did tapas at Rishikesh, lived the life of a begging monk and got enlightened.

He served the poor and sick monks of Rishikesh. He started Sivananda Ashram – ‘Divine Life Society’ from a humble hut and built it into a huge Ashram comprising of a temple, a hospital, a photo studio, a Yoga Institute, a Vedanta Institute, a printing press and he had an office manned by some 40 typists with typewriters to handle all his correspondence and writing!

Swami Sivananda once said, “If I can serve 100 people unobtrusively or serve thousands of people through advertisement, I would choose the latter”. Same Swami Sivananda, when his ashram was gripped with financial difficulty, said, “I have no qualms if we have to shut down everything and we can always go back to our old simple ways by taking food at Annakshetra”. That is the sign of a mahatma.

Likewise, there are indeed Gurus of today that the media may project as billionaires rolling in luxury, materialism and worldliness, but they may be totally untouched by any of them even today.

Kali yuga is such that even Ashrams cannot totally escape some pomp, show, commercialization and materialism. If the head of the ashram is a pure realized soul, everything can remain in balance. The institutions may have to be run by ordinary people with ordinary morals (who are yet to be evolved) and some of them may bring bad name to the Mahatma who runs the institutes too! But true Mahatmas accept all sorts of people out of compassion to elevate them spiritually.

As I said, it requires divine grace — the grace to know the difference between the right Guru and a fake Guru, to differentiate the wheat and the chaff.

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How does a seeker get his right guru? How to seek him? How to approach him? How will you know that he is the right guru?

For some people, Guru comes on his own in their life. They are blessed. They have done their homework in their previous births!

Others tend to search for a Guru. They may finally find a Guru of their liking, but only time can tell whether they have ended at the right place, or it is only a temporary shelter till they find the permanent one. The reality is that when the search is earnest, the right Guru actually finds them, sooner or later, in first attempt or later attempts!

A serious seeker, intentionally and consciously searching for a Guru should sincerely answer many queries.

Each of us have different tastes, temperaments, capacity of intake w.r.t. religion and spirituality.

  • How much of spirituality do you want?
  • How much of worldly life do you still want to enjoy?
  • Is your search of a guru or a saint simply for finding solutions to your current worldly problems and to get His blessings to escape from them?
  • Or is it higher and more purposeful to understand the goal of life and just not materialistic?
  • If you want both, how much of balance between the two is acceptable to you?
  • How much of sacrifice are you prepared to do to acquire real spiritual knowledge?
  • What is your mental inclination towards Bhakti? What is our taste towards Jnyana? Are you attracted by yoga?
  • If you have bhakti, are you confined to a specific God form or sect only (like emotional bonding to Shiva/ Vishu/ Shakti and tend to think other Gods as lesser Gods?).
  • Would you be more comfortable and content to follow rituals, do formal worships, chant slokas and so on as a devotee rather than read scriptures and break your head with matters like soul, Atman, Brahman, Nirvikalpa Samadhi and so on?
  • Do you have a family Guru by tradition? Do you have liking and respect for him? Would you be contented to follow him or you want something better?
  • What is your exposure to spiritual books? How much of exposure do you have towards our scriptures in general? Have you read Ramayana and Mahabharata reasonably well?
  • Have you read Bhagavad Gita? Do you find its teachings making an impression in you or having an influence on you?
  • Have you got any idea about the Hindus ideologies like Advaita, Vishistadvaita and Dvaita?
  • Have you got exposed to any of the life and teachings of Avatara Purushas, Mahatmas and saints like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda, Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, Kanchi Maha Periyaval, Shirdi Saibaba, Satya Saibaba, Ma Anandamayi, Swami Shivananda, Papa Ramadas, Swami Chinmayananda, Shringeri Shankaracharyas, Nisarga Datta Maharaj, Mata Amritanandamayi or any such saints of recent history?
  • Do you feel highly attracted or influenced by any of their lives and teachings? Do you feel like surrendering and seeking their guidance (even if they are no longer alive)?
  • Would you be happy to follow the living disciples of any of the above Gurus who are not alive now? Or do you wish for a living Sadguru’s guidance only?
  • Do you know the difference between a Guru, Acharya and a Sadguru?

If you earnestly get the answers to these queries from your heart, you will at least know where you stand and what you expect.

If you seek help and suggestions from people who already have gurus, you will invariably end up listening to a sales-promotion talk recommending their Guru for you too! It is exactly like people offering free medical advice when you tell them about some ailment you are having!

In olden days, people were less informed, had better humility, faith and sense of surrender. Spiritual knowledge or ideas were not freely available. Like arranged marriages, people easily accepted their traditional Gurus and got better. Only earnest Mumukshus (ardent seekers of Moksha – liberation) went around searching for Gurus. But times have changed now.

It is better to acquire some spiritual basis by reading books or listening to their talks/ videos unless you are blessed with a Guru who comes on his own in your life. Personally, I got my spiritual fundamentals firmed up by reading books. I was immensely influenced by reading Deivaththin Kural (Tamil, from Kanchi Paramacharya), The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi, Swami Shivananda, Exposition of vedanta from Swami Chinmayananda and so on.

The more and more I read them, the more I got a clearer picture of my own mental leanings, tastes, strengths and weaknesses, idiosyncrasies and limitations. And I would say divine grace started working on me to guide me to seek my Guru. I found my life being lead from one step to another to lead me to my Sadguru.

I am just sharing what happened to me. Divine grace is the real thing and it acts differently in different people. I know that there are umpteen ways and inscrutable happenings through which so many others have come and landed at the feet of my Sadguru.

The same is true for those who have found their own living Gurus in the present and in the past.

Bhagwan Ramana with his western disciple Sadhu Arunachala

If you get a feeling that such-and-such person could be potentially your Guru, visit him and offer yourself there with humility. He may or may not be your final Guru. Sri Ramamaharshi gives one indication – If your mind finds total peace when you are at the sannadhi of the Guru, he is most likely to be your Guru.

If disturbances and doubts are there, perhaps he is not your Guru. May be his grace will guide you further to end up at your right Guru’s feet. May be he could still be your Guru, too but your time has not arrived!

 

 

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

You don’t have to break your head too much on the correctness of your judgment. The earnestness and humility are the vital needs. Sri Ramakrishna used to say “Suppose a person goes on a pilgrimage to Puri by walk from his village; he is not familiar with the directions and roads; somewhere he might have turned a wrong direction and missed his path. But as he inquires, somebody will always correct his mistake and redirect him to the right path. Quickly or belatedly he is sure to end up in Puri. Don’t worry”.

Search – earnestness – humility – surrender –grace . This is the working reality of getting the right guru.

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Understanding the role and purpose of Guru in Hinduism

The word “guru” in general means a teacher in Sanskrit. In the generic sense any teacher, whether the one who teaches worldly knowledge or the one who teaches spiritual wisdom, is a guru. But normally, from the point of Hindu religion, a guru is one who teaches you spiritual knowledge, who initiates you into a spiritual path or who guides you along the path of a spiritual quest. A highly learned Guru with deep knowledge of the scriptures is also called an Acharya.

Great spiritual masters of Hinduism are of the firm opinion that the human birth is rare and the purpose of the human birth is to attain God or realize one’s atman, which are one and the same, viewed from two different perspectives.

This is the ultimate goal to be attained and it is varyingly termed as God realization, self-realization, attaining the knowledge of Brahman, attaining birthlessness/deathlessness (“Moksha” “Mukthi” “samadhi” “nirvana” “sakshatkar,” etc. in Sanskrit).

Hinduism emphatically states that a guru is a must for learning and experiencing spirituals truths.

The following points will help you to understand the role of a guru in Hinduism.

“Satguru” – The guru of the highest order

Purely from the spiritual point of view, worldly knowledge is considered a lower level of knowledge and even such a “lower” knowledge requires teachers to make students comprehend the subjects clearly. Obviously, the ultimate spiritual knowledge, which is the very goal of life to be attained, requires qualified spiritual masters to teach and guide the earnest spiritual seekers.

Ideally, only a God-realized (or self-realized) soul, who is truly a knower by personal experience, could be the perfect guru. Such a guru is called a “Satguru.” A Satguru is none other than God himself descended in human form or a human who has attained the highest level of spiritual knowledge – who has “obtained” the divine authority to transmit his knowledge to the earnest seekers who surrender to him. According to Sri Ramakrishna, a great religious master, a Satguru is like a huge steamer that can safely carry a lot of people across a turbulent river.

Hinduism advocates the concept of “Avatar” – God descending to earth in human form from time to time to establish righteousness in the world, to satisfy the longing of earnest worshipers and to provide appropriate spiritual guidance to people in a way most suited to the period and circumstances of the descent.

The Avatar and his immediate and handpicked lieutenants who fully imbibe his teachings, who are empowered to carry forward his teachings function as Satgurus. However, it need not be interpreted to mean that Satgurus are always associated with the arrival of avatars.

Multiple gurus may also guide at different levels

But practically, not all spiritual seekers are really keen enough to reach the ultimate goal or fit enough to reach it. But spiritual attainment being the goal of human life, people at different levels of spiritual inclination have to be guided to the path at varying degrees of “capacity of intake” and “capacity of assimilation.”

Reincarnation (rebirth after death) is one of the fundamental concepts of faith in Hinduism. Accordingly, Hinduism recognizes that it may take several births for a seeker to attain the ultimate goal. Bhagavat Gita, one of the greatest books of essential Hindu spiritual knowledge recognizes this fact by stating that hardly one in a thousand strives to attain the highest and even among such earnest seekers, hardly a few are capable of reaching the goal.

It also leads to the fact that availability of Satgurus at all points of time and at all approachable geographic locations may not be practical. Naturally, people need to be guided by “less than perfect” masters who are quite good enough to guide the majority.

Hinduism is a very vast religion with scope for worshiping innumerable God-forms (who represent the ONE ultimate truth). There exist several major schools of philosophies, several sects and sub-sects that are suited to various tastes, traditions and preferences of religious followers. This naturally leads to a multifaceted system of availability of gurus.

The best starting point for seeking the guidance of a guru is to follow the culture and tradition of the family and in Hinduism, the traditional “family guru” serves this purpose. Generally, a “family guru” is a guru, most normally (but not too strictly) a “Sanyasi” (a monk who has relinquished worldly life) who comes in the Master-disciple lineage of a Satguru or a great spiritual master of yesteryears. These gurus are adept in the particular God they worship and the particular school of philosophy they profess. They initiate the seeker in the worship of the specific “personal God” of their sect and guide him in the fundamentals of religious disciplines to follow.

To avoid distraction and to ensure a better focus for an orderly religious progress, it is normally recommended that the seeker remains steadfast in his trust towards his guru, to the chosen personal God and to the school of philosophy he is instructed about.

But for a more curious and capable seeker, such guidelines are not too binding. Hinduism allows the freedom for one to choose his guru based on his temperament, taste and inclination. Hinduism also permits an earnest seeker to seek “higher guidance” from more than one guru based on his true progress. All the same, it is also emphasized that one should not be running behind one guru after another just because of one’s egotism that refuses to surrender to any form of discipline.

While it is important that one remains ever-devoted to his main guru, one can approach other gurus (called ‘upa gurus’ – i.e. supportive gurus) with due reverence and get specific guidance in some specific techniques of spiritual practice, to learn about alternative schools of philosophies or religious scriptures, to get doubts clarified and get advice on any hurdles faced in the path of progress.

At an exalted level, for the most avid seeker, even animals, birds and inanimate objects can teach a lesson or two in his spiritual quest (which he grasps by keen observation) and all of them are virtually his upa-gurus.

Faith and surrender to the guru are essential

Surrendering unquestioningly to one guru and attaining progress based on this very surrender and trust – this is on one side. Questioning and evaluating a guru and then surrendering to him and, at the same time, providing room for the guru to evaluate him so as to accept or reject him – this is on another side. Both are acceptable in Hinduism.

However, where the disciple is lucky enough (or destined) to end up or surrender at the feet of a Satguru, the Satguru, who transcends names, forms and schools of philosophies, will guide the disciple to the most appropriate “personal god” and school of philosophy best suited to him. What the disciple needs to do afterwards is to surrender his ego at the feet of his guru and remain steadfast in his faith, goal and commitment. It is also said that, in reality, it is the guru who seeks and gets the disciple. An earnest seeker may ultimately end up with a Satguru, though he may have had his initiation earlier from another guru.

Understanding initiation (“Diksha”) by a guru

Getting initiation (“Diksha”) from the guru is an essential element of the guru-disciple relationship. In general, “Diksha” is done by the guru by giving a mantra (a sacred phrase containing the name of a specific God beginning with “seed sounds” like “Om” and ending with “namah”). Gurus of a specific sect give a mantra suited to the specific sect.

For example, worshipers of Lord Shiva generally give a mantra associated with Lord Shiva. A worshiper of Vishnu will normally get initiated with Narayana mantra (or Krishna / Rama mantras).

Even though we are familiar with several mantras like Om Namah Shivaya or Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya etc, Mantras are normally communicated in secrecy by the Guru to the disciple. A disciple is expected to keep his mantra a secret and not to reveal it to any other person.

According to Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma), a sadguru while initiating a disciple with a mantra, transmits a little of his Prana shakti (vital force). It is like adding a little butter milk to milk to create curd. Chanting of mantra subsequently by the disciple is like churning the curd to obtain butter (realizing God).

A mantra is like a seed sown by the guru into the disciple. It is up to the disciple to nurture the seed to get the sapling, water it and protect it as it grows to a tree till it bears fruits. Likewise, it is the sacred duty of the disciple to repeat the mantra with devotion as many times as possible, follow the disciplines and practices specified by the guru, meditate on the God of the mantra and reap the spiritual benefits.

As for Satgurus, their way of initiation (by giving ‘diksha’ to someone) may take place in several forms. A Satguru is capable of gauging the spiritual capacity, taste and capability of a person and make an initiation best suited to the person. The initiation could be done by a Satguru by a mere touch of hand (“Hasta Diksha”); he may give the mantra in the disciple’s dreams (“Swapna Diksha”); he may initiate the disciple by a mere eye-to-eye contact (“Nayana Diksha”); he may initiate by an embrace (“Alingana Diksha”).

A Satguru is capable of judging which God form is best suited or best liked by the disciple and initiate him with the mantra of that God. He may initiate the disciple in worship of God with form or without form; he may simply initiate a capable follower in the path of self-inquiry.

A Satguru bears the burden of a disciple

Unlike a guru whose responsibility ends with initiating the disciple in the religious path, a Satguru bears the responsibility of the disciple who surrenders to him wholeheartedly. It is said that at the time of giving Diksha, a Satguru transmits a small portion of his vital energy (“Prana”) into the disciple. It is also said that the Satguru absorbs the accumulated karmas (good and bad effects of the disciples’ actions in the past) and makes him a “clean slate” to start his religious quest with full vigor. While the need for “self-effort” to be done by the disciple to attain the ultimate goal can’t be wished away, the Satguru makes the path much easier for the disciple to tread, by removing the obstacles coming out of his past deeds.

It is also said that a Satguru never forsakes his disciple, even if he tends to slacken his spiritual efforts or gets distracted away from his ideal; Satguru’s watchful eyes are always on him to goad him back to his track at the appropriate time.

The guidance from the “inner Guru”

Any religious discipline done by an earnest seeker is to realize God or Atman or Brahman who essentially dwells in the heart of every being. In the point of view of “Gyana marga” (path of Knowledge in Hinduism), everyone is essentially God and what the guru does is to remove the false coverings and sheaths that make one wrongly identify oneself with the body, mind intellect, etc. and ultimately to make one understand “you are that” (“Tatwamasi”).

It may not be practical for everyone to be physically with the guru always, take regular instructions from him and keep getting doubts cleared. It is said that an earnest disciple who lives away from a guru/Satguru, depending on his steadfastness and sincerity in his spiritual efforts, gets his guidance and course-correction right from his inner heart/sub-conscience. This inner voice or guidance is called the Inner Guru (“Anthra Guru”).

Sri Ramana Maharishi, the great sage of Tiruvennamalai used to say that the external guru pushes the disciple’s mental leanings (which tend to wander outwards) towards inside and the Indwelling Guru drags them inwards. It is ultimately the one and the same “Sachidananda” (Existence-knowledge-bliss i.e. Godliness) that works through both as the external guru and the internal guru.

What Swami Sivananda says about the need of a Guru

(Source: Autobiography of Swami Sivananda)

“The spiritual path is beset with many obstacles. The Guru will guide the aspirants safely and remove all sorts of difficulties they have to face. He will inspire the students and give them spiritual powers through his blessings. Guru, Isvara, Truth and Mantra are one. There is no other way of overcoming the vicious worldly Samskaras of the passionate nature of raw, worldly-minded persons than personal contact with and service to the Guru.

A personal Guru is necessary in the beginning. He alone can show you the path to attain God, who is the Guru of Gurus, and obviate the snares and pitfalls on your path. Guru’s Grace is needed by the disciple. This does not mean that the disciple should sit idle and expect a miracle from the Guru to push him directly into Samadhi. The Guru cannot do Sadhana for the student. It is foolish to expect spiritual attainments from a drop of Kamandalu water from the Guru. The Guru can guide the student, clear his doubts, pave the way, remove the snares, pitfalls and obstacles and throw light on the path. But it is the disciple himself who has to walk every step in the spiritual path.”

 

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