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Archive for May, 2011

“They alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive”
Swami Vivekananda, known in his pre-monastic life as Narendra Nath Datta, was born in an affluent family in Kolkata on 12 January 1863. His father, Vishwanath Datta, was a successful attorney with interests in a wide range of subjects, and his mother, Bhuvaneshwari Devi, was endowed with deep devotion, strong character and other qualities. A precocious boy, Narendra excelled in music, gymnastics and studies. By the time he graduated from Calcutta University, he had acquired a vast knowledge of different subjects, especially Western philosophy and history. Born with a yogic temperament, he used to practise meditation even from his boyhood, and was associated with Brahmo Movement for some time.
 
With Sri Ramakrishna
At the threshold of youth Narendra had to pass through a period of spiritual crisis when he was assailed by doubts about the existence of God. It was at that time he first heard about Sri Ramakrishna from one of his English professors at college. One day in November 1881, Narendra went to meet Sri Ramakrishna who was staying at the Kali Temple in Dakshineshwar. He straightaway asked the Master a question which he had put to several others but had received no satisfactory answer: “Sir, have you seen God?” Without a moment’s hesitation, Sri Ramakrishna replied: “Yes, I have. I see Him as clearly as I see you, only in a much intenser sense.”
Apart from removing doubts from the mind of Narendra, Sri Ramakrishna won him over through his pure, unselfish love. Thus began a guru-disciple relationship which is quite unique in the history of spiritual masters. Narendra now became a frequent visitor to Dakshineshwar and, under the guidance of the Master, made rapid strides on the spiritual path. At Dakshineshwar, Narendra also met several young men who were devoted to Sri Ramakrishna, and they all became close friends.

Difficult Situations
After a few years two events took place which caused Narendra considerable distress. One was the sudden death of his father in 1884. This left the family penniless, and Narendra had to bear the burden of supporting his mother, brothers and sisters. The second event was the illness of Sri Ramakrishna which was diagnosed to be cancer of the throat. In September 1885 Sri Ramakrishna was moved to a house at Shyampukur, and a few months later to a rented villa at Cossipore. In these two places the young disciples nursed the Master with devoted care. In spite of poverty at home and inability to find a job for himself, Narendra joined the group as its leader.

Beginnings of a Monastic Brotherhood
Sri Ramakrishna instilled in these young men the spirit of renunciation and brotherly love for one another. One day he distributed ochre robes among them and sent them out to beg food. In this way he himself laid the foundation for a new monastic order. He gave specific instructions to Narendra about the formation of the new monastic Order. In the small hours of 16 August 1886 Sri Ramakrishna gave up his mortal body.
After the Master’s passing, fifteen of his young disciples (one more joined them later) began to live together in a dilapidated building at Baranagar in North Kolkata. Under the leadership of Narendra, they formed a new monastic brotherhood, and in 1887 they took the formal vows of sannyasa, thereby assuming new names. Narendra now became Swami Vivekananda (although this name was actually assumed much later.)

Awareness of Life’s Mission
After establishing the new monastic order, Vivekananda heard the inner call for a greater mission in his life. While most of the followers of Sri Ramakrishna thought of him in relation to their own personal lives, Vivekananda thought of the Master in relation to India and the rest of the world. As the prophet of the present age, what was Sri Ramakrishna’s message to the modern world and to India in particular? This question and the awareness of his own inherent powers urged Swamiji to go out alone into the wide world. So in the middle of 1890, after receiving the blessings of Sri Sarada Devi, the divine consort of Sri Ramakrishna, known to the world as Holy Mother, who was then staying in Kolkata, Swamiji left Baranagar Math and embarked on a long journey of exploration and discovery of India.

Discovery of Real India
During his travels all over India, Swami Vivekananda was deeply moved to see the appalling poverty and backwardness of the masses. He was the first religious leader in India to understand and openly declare that the real cause of India’s downfall was the neglect of the masses. The immediate need was to provide food and other bare necessities of life to the hungry millions. For this they should be taught improved methods of agriculture, village industries, etc. It was in this context that Vivekananda grasped the crux of the problem of poverty in India (which had escaped the attention of social reformers of his days): owing to centuries of oppression, the downtrodden masses had lost faith in their capacity to improve their lot. It was first of all necessary to infuse into their minds faith in themselves. For this they needed a life-giving, inspiring message. Swamiji found this message in the principle of the Atman, the doctrine of the potential divinity of the soul, taught in Vedanta, the ancient system of religious philosophy of India. He saw that, in spite of poverty, the masses clung to religion, but they had never been taught the life-giving, ennobling principles of Vedanta and how to apply them in practical life.
Thus the masses needed two kinds of knowledge: secular knowledge to improve their economic condition, and spiritual knowledge to infuse in them faith in themselves and strengthen their moral sense. The next question was, how to spread these two kinds of knowledge among the masses? Through education – this was the answer that Swamiji found.

Need for an Organization
One thing became clear to Swamiji: to carry out his plans for the spread of education and for the uplift of the poor masses, and also of women, an efficient organization of dedicated people was needed. As he said later on, he wanted “to set in motion a machinery which will bring noblest ideas to the doorstep of even the poorest and the meanest.” It was to serve as this ‘machinery’ that Swamiji founded the Ramakrishna Mission a few years later.

Decision to attend the Parliament of Religions
It was when these ideas were taking shape in his mind in the course of his wanderings that Swami Vivekananda heard about the World’s Parliament of Religions to be held in Chicago in 1893. His friends and admirers in India wanted him to attend the Parliament. He too felt that the Parliament would provide the right forum to present his Master’s message to the world, and so he decided to go to America. Another reason which prompted Swamiji to go to America was to seek financial help for his project of uplifting the masses.
Swamiji, however, wanted to have an inner certitude and divine call regarding his mission. Both of these he got while he sat in deep meditation on the rock-island at Kanyakumari. With the funds partly collected by his Chennai disciples and partly provided by the Raja of Khetri, Swami Vivekananda left for America from Mumbai on 31 May 1893.

The Parliament of Religions and After
His speeches at the World’s Parliament of Religions held in September 1893 made him famous as an ‘orator by divine right’ and as a ‘Messenger of Indian wisdom to the Western world’. After the Parliament, Swamiji spent nearly three and a half years spreading Vedanta as lived and taught by Sri Ramakrishna, mostly in the eastern parts of USA and also in London.

Awakening His Countrymen
He returned to India in January 1897. In response to the enthusiastic welcome that he received everywhere, he delivered a series of lectures in different parts of India, which created a great stir all over the country. Through these inspiring and profoundly significant lectures Swamiji attempted to do the following:

 to rouse the religious consciousness of the people and create in them pride in their cultural heritage;
 to bring about unification of Hinduism by pointing out the common bases of its sects;
 to focus the attention of educated people on the plight of the downtrodden masses, and to expound his plan for their uplift by the application of the principles of Practical Vedanta.

Founding of Ramakrishna Mission
Soon after his return to Kolkata, Swami Vivekananda accomplished another important task of his mission on earth. He founded on 1 May 1897 a unique type of organization known as Ramakrishna Mission, in which monks and lay people would jointly undertake propagation of Practical Vedanta, and various forms of social service, such as running hospitals, schools, colleges, hostels, rural development centres etc, and conducting massive relief and rehabilitation work for victims of earthquakes, cyclones and other calamities, in different parts of India and other countries.

Belur Math
In early 1898 Swami Vivekananda acquired a big plot of land on the western bank of the Ganga at a place called Belur to have a permanent abode for the monastery and monastic Order originally started at Baranagar, and got it registered as Ramakrishna Math after a couple of years. Here Swamiji established a new, universal pattern of monastic life which adapts ancient monastic ideals to the conditions of modern life, which gives equal importance to personal illumination and social service, and which is open to all men without any distinction of religion, race or caste.

Disciples
It may be mentioned here that in the West many people were influenced by Swami Vivekananda’s life and message. Some of them became his disciples or devoted friends. Among them the names of Margaret Noble (later known as Sister Nivedita), Captain and Mrs Sevier, Josephine McLeod and Sara Ole Bull, deserve special mention. Nivedita dedicated her life to educating girls in Kolkata. Swamiji had many Indian disciples also, some of whom joined Ramakrishna Math and became sannyasins.

Last Days
In June 1899 he went to the West on a second visit. This time he spent most of his time in the West coast of USA. After delivering many lectures there, he returned to Belur Math in December 1900. The rest of his life was spent in India, inspiring and guiding people, both monastic and lay. Incessant work, especially giving lectures and inspiring people, told upon Swamiji’s health. His health deteriorated and the end came quietly on the night of 4 July 1902. Before his Mahasamadhi he had written to a Western follower: “It may be that I shall find it good to get outside my body, to cast it off like a worn out garment. But I shall not cease to work. I shall inspire men everywhere until the whole world shall know that it is one with God.” 

Vivekananda’s contributions to World Culture
Making an objective assessment of Swami Vivekananda’s contributions to world culture, the eminent British historian A L Basham stated that “in centuries to come, he will be remembered as one of the main moulders of the modern world…” Some of the main contributions that Swamiji made to the modern world are mentioned below:

1. New Understanding of Religion
: One of the most significant contributions of Swami Vivekananda to the modern world is his interpretation of religion as a universal experience of transcendent Reality, common to all humanity. Swamiji met the challenge of modern science by showing that religion is as scientific as science itself; religion is the ‘science of consciousness’. As such, religion and science are not contradictory to each other but are complementary.
This universal conception frees religion from the hold of superstitions, dogmatism, priestcraft and intolerance, and makes religion the highest and noblest pursuit – the pursuit of supreme Freedom, supreme Knowledge, supreme Happiness.

2. New View of Man:
Vivekananda’s concept of ‘potential divinity of the soul’ gives a new, ennobling concept of man. The present age is the age of humanism which holds that man should be the chief concern and centre of all activities and thinking. Through science and technology man has attained great prosperity and power, and modern methods of communication and travel have converted human society into a ‘global village’. But the degradation of man has also been going on apace, as witnessed by the enormous increase in broken homes, immorality, violence, crime, etc. in modern society. Vivekananda’s concept of potential divinity of the soul prevents this degradation, divinizes human relationships, and makes life meaningful and worth living. Swamiji has laid the foundation for ‘spiritual humanism’, which is manifesting itself through several neo-humanistic movements and the current interest in meditation, Zen etc all over the world.

3. New Principle of Morality and Ethics: The prevalent morality, in both individual life and social life, is mostly based on fear – fear of the police, fear of public ridicule, fear of God’s punishment, fear of Karma, and so on. The current theories of ethics also do not explain why a person should be moral and be good to others. Vivekananda has given a new theory of ethics and new principle of morality based on the intrinsic purity and oneness of the Atman. We should be pure because purity is our real nature, our true divine Self or Atman. Similarly, we should love and serve our neighbours because we are all one in the Supreme Spirit known as Paramatman or Brahman.

4. Bridge between the East and the West: Another great contribution of Swami Vivekananda was to build a bridge between Indian culture and Western culture. He did it by interpreting Hindu scriptures and philosophy and the Hindu way of life and institutions to the Western people in an idiom which they could understand. He made the Western people realize that they had to learn much from Indian spirituality for their own well-being. He showed that, in spite of her poverty and backwardness, India had a great contribution to make to world culture. In this way he was instrumental in ending India’s cultural isolation from the rest of the world. He was India’s first great cultural ambassador to the West.
On the other hand, Swamiji’s interpretation of ancient Hindu scriptures, philosophy, institutions, etc prepared the mind of Indians to accept and apply in practical life two best elements of Western culture, namely science and technology and humanism. Swamiji has taught Indians how to master Western science and technology and at the same time develop spiritually. Swamiji has also taught Indians how to adapt Western humanism (especially the ideas of individual freedom, social equality and justice and respect for women) to Indian ethos.

Swamiji’s Contributions to India
In spite of her innumerable linguistic, ethnic, historical and regional diversities, India has had from time immemorial a strong sense of cultural unity. It was, however, Swami Vivekananda who revealed the true foundations of this culture and thus clearly defined and strengthened the sense of unity as a nation.
Swamiji gave Indians proper understanding of their country’s great spiritual heritage and thus gave them pride in their past. Furthermore, he pointed out to Indians the drawbacks of Western culture and the need for India’s contribution to overcome these drawbacks. In this way Swamiji made India a nation with a global mission.
Sense of unity, pride in the past, sense of mission – these were the factors which gave real strength and purpose to India’s nationalist movement. Several eminent leaders of India’s freedom movement have acknowledged their indebtedness to Swamiji. Free India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote: “Rooted in the past, full of pride in India’s prestige, Vivekananda was yet modern in his approach to life’s problems, and was a kind of bridge between the past of India and her present … he came as a tonic to the depressed and demoralized Hindu mind and gave it self-reliance and some roots in the past.” Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose wrote: “Swamiji harmonized the East and the West, religion and science, past and present. And that is why he is great. Our countrymen have gained unprecedented self-respect, self-reliance and self-assertion from his teachings.”
Swamiji’s most unique contribution to the creation of new India was to open the minds of Indians to their duty to the downtrodden masses. Long before the ideas of Karl Marx were known in India, Swamiji spoke about the role of the labouring classes in the production of the country’s wealth. Swamiji was the first religious leader in India to speak for the masses, formulate a definite philosophy of service, and organize large-scale social service.


Swamiji’s Contributions to Hinduism

1. Identity:
It was Swami Vivekananda who gave to Hinduism as a whole a clear-cut identity, a distinct profile. Before Swamiji came Hinduism was a loose confederation of many different sects. Swamiji was the first religious leader to speak about the common bases of Hinduism and the common ground of all sects. He was the first person, as guided by his Master Sri Ramakrishna, to accept all Hindu doctrines and the views of all Hindu philosophers and sects as different aspects of one total view of Reality and way of life known as Hinduism. Speaking about Swamiji’s role in giving Hinduism its distinct identity, Sister Nivedita wrote: “… it may be said that when he began to speak it was of ‘the religious ideas of the Hindus’, but when he ended, Hinduism had been created.”

2.Unification
: Before Swamiji came, there was a lot of quarrel and competition among the various sects of Hinduism. Similarly, the protagonists of different systems and schools of philosophy were claiming their views to be the only true and valid ones. By applying Sri Ramakrishna’s doctrine of Harmony (Samanvaya) Swamiji brought about an overall unification of Hinduism on the basis of the principle of unity in diversity. Speaking about Swamiji’s role in this field K M Pannikar, the eminent historian and diplomat, wrote: “This new Shankaracharya may well be claimed to be a unifier of Hindu ideology.”

3. Defence:
Another important service rendered by Swamiji was to raise his voice in defence of Hinduism. In fact, this was one of the main types of work he did in the West. Christian missionary propaganda had given a wrong understanding of Hinduism and India in Western minds. Swamiji had to face a lot of opposition in his attempts to defend Hinduism.

4. Meeting the Challenges:
At the end of the 19th century, India in general, and Hinduism in particular, faced grave challenges from Western materialistic life, the ideas of Western free society, and the proselytizing activities of Christians. Vivekananda met these challenges by integrating the best elements of Western culture in Hindu culture.

5. New Ideal of Monasticism:
A major contribution of Vivekananda to Hinduism is the rejuvenation and modernization of monasticism. In this new monastic ideal, followed in the Ramakrishna Order, the ancient principles of renunciation and God realization are combined with service to God in man (Shiva jnane jiva seva). Vivekananda elevated social service to the status of divine service.

6. Refurbishing of Hindu Philosophy and Religious Doctrines:
Vivekananda did not merely interpret ancient Hindu scriptures and philosophical ideas in terms of modern thought. He also added several illuminating original concepts based on his own transcendental experiences and vision of the future. This, however, needs a detailed study of Hindu philosophy which cannot be attempted here.
 
UNIVERSAL TEACHINGS OF SWAMI VIVEKANANDA

SEE GOD IN ALL
This is the gist of all worship – to be pure and to do good to others. He who sees Siva in the poor, in the weak, and in the diseased, really worships Siva, and if he sees Siva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary. He who has served and helped one poor man seeing Siva in him, without thinking of his cast, creed, or race, or anything, with him Siva is more pleased than with the man who sees Him only in temples. 

GOD IS WITHIN YOU

It is impossible to find God outside of ourselves. Our own souls contribute all of the divinity that is outside of us. We are the greatest temple. The objectification is only a faint imitation of what we see within ourselves.

PERSEVERE IN YOUR SEARCH FOR GOD
To succeed, you must have tremendous perseverance, tremendous will. “I will drink the ocean,” says the persevering soul, “at my will mountains will crumble up.” Have that sort of energy, that sort of will, work hard, and you will reach the goal.

TRUST COMPLETELY IN GOD

Stand up for God; let the world go.

LOVE OF GOD IS ESSENTIAL

Giving up all other thoughts, with the whole mind day and night worship God. Thus being worshipped day and night, He reveals himself and makes His worshippers feel His presence.

Hero Of Youth

Vivekandanda Kendra
“Let us proclaim to every soul..- Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached.Arise, Awake from hypnotism of this weakness.
None is really weak; the soul is infintes, omnipotent and omniscient. Stand up, assert yourself, proclain the GOD within you, do not deny him!
Too much of inactivity, too much of weakness, too much of hypnotism, has been & is upon our race. O ye morden Hindus, de-hypnotise yourselves.
The way to do that is found in your own sacred books. Teach yourself, teach everyone his real nature, call upon the sleeping sould and see how it awakes.Power will come, glory will come, goodness will come, purity will come, everything that is excellent will come when this sleeping soul is roused to self-consicous activity.
Ay, If there is anything in the Gita that I like , it is these verses, coming out strong as the very gist, the very essence, of Krishana’s teaching “He who sees the supreme Lord dwelling alike in all beings, the Imperishable in the things that perish, he sees indeed. For seeing the Lord as the same, everywhere present, he does not destory the self by the self, and thus he goes to the highest goal.”


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“My vision is a violence-free stress-free world”
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian leader, spiritual teacher and an ambassador of peace. His vision of a stress-free, violence-free society has united millions of people the world over through service projects and the courses of The Art of Living.

Born in 1956 in Southern India, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was a gifted child. By the age of four, he was able to recite parts of the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Sanskrit scripture and was often found in meditation. His first teacher Sudhakar Chaturvedi, had a long cooperation with Mahatma Gandhi. By the age of seventeen in 1973, he had graduated with degrees in both Vedic literature and physics.

Founding The Art of Living and The International Association of Human Values
Sri Sri entered a ten-day period of silence in Shimoga located in the Indian state of Karnataka. The Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful breathing technique, was born. With time, the Sudarshan Kriya became the centerpiece of the Art of Living courses.

Sri Sri founded The Art of Living as an international, non-profit, educational and humanitarian organization. Its educational and self-development programs offer powerful tools to eliminate stress and foster a sense of well-being. Appealing not only to a specific population, these practices have proven effective globally and at all levels of society.

In 1997, he co-founded the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) to coordinate sustainable development projects, nurture human values and coordinate conflict resolution in association with The Art of Living. In India, Africa and South America, the two sister organizations’ volunteers are spearheading sustainable growth in rural communities, and have already reached out to over 36,000 villages.
 

Inspiring Service and Globalizing Wisdom
A noted humanitarian leader, Sri Sri’s programs have provided assistance to people from a wide range of backgrounds – victims of natural disasters, survivors of terror attacks and war, children from marginalized populations and communities in conflict, among others. The strength of his message has inspired a wave of service based on spirituality through a huge body of volunteers, who are driving these projects forward in critical areas around the globe.

As a spiritual teacher, Sri Sri has rekindled the traditions of yoga and meditation and offered them in a form that is relevant to the 21st century. Beyond reviving ancient wisdom, Sri Sri has created new techniques for personal and social transformation. These include the Sudarshan Kriya® which has helped millions of people to find relief from stress and discover inner reservoirs of energy and peace in daily life. In a mere 29 years, his programs have raised the quality of life for participants in 151 countries.
 

A Figure of Peace
As an ambassador of peace, Sri Sri plays a key role in conflict resolution and spreads his vision of non-violence at public forums and gatherings worldwide. Regarded as a neutral figure with a sole agenda of peace, he represents hope to people in conflict. He has received particular credit for bringing opposing parties to the negotiating table in Iraq, the Ivory Coast, Kashmir and Bihar. He was appointed the Chairman of Reception Committee for the 500th anniversary celebrations of the Coronation of Krishnadevaraya (by Government of Karnataka, India). Sri Sri is also a member of the Amarnath Shrine Board (appointed by Government of Jammu and Kashmir, India).

Through his initiatives and addresses, Sri Sri has consistently emphasized the need for reinforcing human values and recognizing humanity as our highest identity. Fostering interfaith harmony and calling for multi-cultural education as the remedy for fanaticism are significant parts of his efforts to achieve sustainable peace on our planet.

His work has touched the lives of millions of people around the world, going beyond the barriers of race, nationality and religion with the message of a “one-world family”; that inner and outer peace are possible; and that a stress-free, violence-free society can be created through service and the reawakening of human values.

Art of Living Foundation

Founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,The Art of Living Foundation is a not-for-profit, educational and humanitarian NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) engaged in stress-management and service initiatives. The organisation operates globally in 151 countries.

The organisation’s programmes are guided by Sri Sri’s philosophy of peace: “Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world Peace.” help individuals get rid of stress and experience inner peace, The Art of Living Foundation offers stress-elimination programmes which include breathing techniques,meditation and yoga. These programmes have helped millions around the world to overcome stress, depression and violent tendencies.

The Art of Living Foundation has spread peace across communities through diverse humanitarian projects, including conflict resolution, disaster relief, sustainable rural development, empowerment of women, prisoner rehabilitation, education for all, and environmental sustainability.


Vision

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s vision of a violence-free, stress-free society has expressed itself in numerous service initiatives that inspired volunteers worldwide to carry these forward with his guidance.
 

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of The Art of Living Foundation, inspires thousands of people across the world. He plays many roles for many people – as a humanitarian ambassador, spiritual leader or a meditation teacher, as well as a peace advocate.
For three decades, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been engaged in:

  • Promoting human values
  • Fostering interfaith harmony
  • Building communal unity
  • Encouraging social responsibility
  • Spearheading humanitarian causes

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has designed special courses which teach effective and practical techniques for emotional and physical wellbeing. He has rekindled the traditions of yoga and meditation and offered them in a form that is relevant to the 21st century. Beyond reviving ancient wisdom, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has also created new techniques for personal and social transformation. These include the Sudarshan Kriya® which has helped millions of people to find relief from stress and discover inner reservoirs of energy and peace in daily life. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar travels the world teaching people these techniques, and Art of Living courses have already touched the lives of millions of people.
Sri Sri‘s work sees him addressing audiences of diverse nationalities and backgrounds, including the United Nations, prison inmates, corporate management teams, ailing farmers and school children. It is also not an uncommon sight to see people from warring nations sitting side-by-side in one of Sri Sri’s programmes or addresses.
People say that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar leads through example, whether it is travelling through floodwaters to inspect rehabilitation efforts in Bihar,; urging misguided youth to join mainstream society and work for social development; or meeting people at satsangs (music and meditation gatherings) every evening and answering queries on overcoming life’s challenges. His focus is always on fostering human values and building communal unity through his philosophy and ideal of a one world family.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s life is a story of dedicated efforts towards making this ideal a reality.

World Venerates Wisdom

The world has venerated the wisdom and vision of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar by honoring him with numerous awards and honors. His vision of a violence-free, stress-free society through the reawakening of human values has been recognized and appreciated the world over. Over the years, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been bestowed with several national and international awards, including the top state honors and awards instituted by governments and reputed organizations.

Five universities in India and one from Sri Lanka have honored Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with honorary doctorate degrees in recognition of his service to humanity.

While several cities in the US and Canada have also honored him by declaring a day during his visits to the cities as ‘Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Day’, some countries have bestowed him the honor of ‘illustrious visitor’. Washington DC honored his visit to the city in 2007 by marking that week as ‘Human Values Week’. He has also been accorded honorary citizenship by some US and Canadian cities. In 2006, during his visit to Jaipur, India, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was handed the symbolic key to the city by the mayor of Jaipur.

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My Desire:
Everyone in the world should be able to sleep without fear, at least for one night. Everyone should be able to eat to his fill, at least for one day. There should be at least one day when hospitals see no one admitted due to violence. – Amma
Mata Amritanandamayi is a great spiritual leader, who is affectionately known as ‘Amma’ by her followers. People have a lot of reverence for her. She was born as Sudhamani on 27th September1953 in a small village of Parayakadavu. Also called the “hugging saint” by the people, she is a wonderful woman with a beautiful soul. Well, in this article, I will present you with the biography of Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. 


On the morning of the 27th of September 1953, in a small poor fishing village, Parayakadavu in the Quilon district of Kerala, a baby girl was born. Her parents gave her the name Sudhamani. She came into this world not in tears as babies usually do, but with a beaming smile on her face, as if prophesying the joy and bliss she was to bring to the world. 
Sudhamani spent the years of her childhood and teens immersed in intense spiritual practices in order to present a living example for the world. Even as a small child, she could often be found absorbed in deep meditation, totally oblivious of her surroundings. By the age of five, she had already begun composing devotional songs laden with deep mystical insight.
Another quality that was clearly manifest in Sudhamani from this tender age was her love and compassion toward her fellow human beings. Though only a child, Sudhamani did whatever she could to ease the suffering of her elderly neighbors. She washed their clothes, bathed them and even brought them food and clothing from her own home. This habit of giving away things from her family’s house landed her in deep trouble. However, no amount physical abuse or punishment could stop the expression of her inborn compassion. She later said, ” An unbroken stream of Love flows from me towards all beings in the cosmos. That is my inborn nature.” 
‘Amma’ as she is known all over the world today, has inspired and started innumerable humanitarian services. She has earned international recognition for her outstanding contributions to the world community. She is recognized as an extraordinary spiritual leader by the United Nations and by the people all over the world.
Though Amma makes no claims herself, those who watch her closely notice that she is the greatest example of her teaching. Her disciples and believers imbibe her teachings by just watching her. 
For the past 35 years Amma has dedicated her life to the uplifting of suffering humanity through the simplest of gestures – an embrace. In this intimate manner Amma had blessed and consoled more than 25 million people throughout the world.
When someone asked Amma why she receives every person who comes to her in a loving embrace Amma replied, “ If you ask the river,’ why do you flow?’ what can it say?”
Amma spends most of her waking hours receiving the distressed and all who come to her for comfort, day after day without a break.
Once a press reporter asked Amma how was it possible for her to embrace each and every one in the same loving way, even if they were diseased or unpleasant. Amma replied, “ When a bee hovers over a garden of varied flowers, what it beholds is not the difference between the flowers but the honey within them. Similarly Amma sees the same Supreme Self in each and every one.”
As Dr. Jane Goodall, while presenting Amma with the 2002 Gandhi-King Award for Non-violence said, ” She stands here in front of us. God’s love in a human body.”

Early Years

“From birth itself I had an intense love of the divine name. I would repeat the Lord’s name incessantly with every breath, and a constant flow of divine thoughts was kept up in my mind irrespective of the place I was or the work I was attending to”, says Amma. At the tender age of five she used to sing beautiful songs on her beloved Lord. Often she went into the woods, to sit alone and meditate. Or, during normal childhood play she might stop and become withdrawn and meditative. Her parents would scold her for not being playful. They wanted her to fit in with the other children with the village. The family was also disturbed by her constant singing and chanting, and it bothered them that her lips were constantly moving, as if she was talking to herself. This was odd behavior for a small child, and they feared that she had some mental illness. The family didn’t understand that Sudhamani’s lips were moving in silent prayers.

Because of Sudhamani’s dark skin, and her strange, unchildlike behavior, she was viewed by her parents as inferior to the other children. Her schooling ended when she was nine and she had to take care of the domestic work full-time. In addition to the arduous job of looking after her own family, she served the elderly, the poor and sick neighbors with love and care. Her parents were horrified to see her mingle with untouchables and forbade her to give away any more of their food, but she continued to do so despite their punishments. Some villagers called her “the crazy girl” given that she worked and sang in longing worship, often slipping into profound God-intoxicated states. Amma never had a spiritual mentor or guru, nor was she exposed to philosophical books. Her unmistakable Self-realization and wisdom seemed to spark from a constant remembrance of God.

Mission

Amma says, “ My sole mission is to love and serve one and all. Amma’s only wish is that her hands should always be on someone’s shoulder, consoling and caressing them and wiping their tears, even while breathing her last.”
The greatest miracle that takes place in her presence occurs in the hearts of those who come to her – the gentle, gradual awakening of love, compassion and selflessness, an awakening of one’s own inherent divinity.
She says, “ Mother is just an offering to the world and wants to be available to everyone.” Anyone who watches Amma on a day- to-day basis will understand the significance of this statement.
Amma always says that the purpose of human birth is to realize the Self or in other words, “ to realize who we really are”. This goal lies in the heart of all her institutions. Through the example of her own life of tireless service to humanity, Amma inspires her children to walk towards the goal of self-realization by serving the poor and the needy. She has inspired many humanitarian activities that have drawn the attention of the world community. In recent years, Amma has addressed the Parliament of World’s Religions in Chicago, the United Nations in New York and the Global Peace Initiative of Women religious and Spiritual Leaders, conducted at the UN in Geneva, where she gave speeches on the present day social problems and their solutions. It was there that Amma was awarded with the 2002 Gandhi-King award for Non-violence.
Amma has never sought to convert anyone. Her’s is not a sectarian mission. But Amma has always stressed that along with a new home, a pension, an operation or a meal, the beneficiaries of her Humanitarian activities receive a compassionate smile and a kind word from those who serve them. In this
way those who give, those who receive, and those who look on–all are transformed by the selfless love and sense of universal kinship, blossoming in an experience of essential unity—the oneness in the Self.

Teachings of Amma

In the book The Timeless Path, Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri, one of Amritanandamayi’s senior disciples, writes: “The [spiritual] path inculcated by Amma is the same as the one presented in the Vedas and recapitulated in subsequent traditional scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita.” Amritanandamayi herself says, “Karma [action], jñana [knowledge] and bhakti [devotion] are all essential. If the two wings of a bird are devotion and action, knowledge is its tail. Only with the help of all three can the bird soar into the heights.” She accepts the various spiritual practices and prayers of all religions as but various systems for the single goal of purifying the mind. Along these lines, she stresses the importance of meditation, performing actions as karma yoga, selfless service, and cultivating divine qualities such compassion, patience, forgiveness, self-control, etc. Amritanandamayi says that these practices refine the mind, making it fit for assimilating the ultimate truth: that one is not the limited body and mind but the eternal blissful consciousness that serves as the non-dual substratum of the universe.[15] This understanding itself Amritanandamayi refers to as jivanmukti [liberation while alive]. Amritanandamayi says, “Jivanmukti is not something to be attained after death, nor is it to be experienced or bestowed upon you in another world. It is a state of perfect awareness and equanimity, which can be experienced here and now in this world, while living in the body. Having come to experience the highest truth of oneness with the Self, such blessed souls do not have to be born again. They merge with the infinite consciousness.”

Charitable mission

Amritanandamayi’s world-wide charitable mission comprises a program to build 100,000 homes for the homeless, orphanages, relief-and-rehabilitation in the face of disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, free medical care, pensions for widows and disabled people, environmental-protection groups, slum renovation, care homes for the elderly, and free food and clothing for the poor, amongst others. These projects are managed and run by various organizations, including the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (India), the Mata Amritanandamayi Center (USA), Amritanandamayi-Europe, Amritanandamayi-Japan, Amritanandamayi-Kenya, Amritanandamayi-Australia, etc. All the organizations collectively are known as Embracing the World.

When asked about how her charitable mission’s development in 2004, Amritanandamayi said, “As for the activities, there was no planning. Everything happened spontaneously. One thing led to another on seeing the plight of the poor and the distressed. As Amma meets each and every person, she sees their problems face to face and tries to do something to alleviate their suffering. Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu is one of the important mantras of Sanatana Dharma, which means, ‘May all the beings in all the worlds be happy and peaceful.’ The spirit of this mantra was put into action.”

The majority of work is done by volunteers as a form of spiritual practice. “It is Amma’s wish that all of her children should dedicate their lives to spreading love and peace throughout the world. Real love and devotion for God is to have compassion for the poor and the suffering,” Amritanandamayi says. “My children, feed those who are hungry, help the poor, console the sorrowful, comfort the suffering, be charitable to all.”

Caring and Sharing
“The heart sends blood to every cell of the body, and in this way the cells are nourished. The same blood then flows back to the heart. If the flow is obstructed, the person will die. We need to learn this process of give and take from the heart. For the benefit of others, and also for ourselves, we should have the attitude of caring and sharing. We are all links in the chain of life. If one link is weakened, it will affect the strength of the whole chain.”

–Mata Amritanandamayi Devi

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