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AMMA (Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi)

FOUNDER, Em­brac­ing the World Mata Amritanandamayi Math Am­rita In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sci­ences

CHAN­CEL­LOR, Am­rita Univer­sity

Spir­i­tual leader, hu­man­i­tar­ian and vi­sion­ary Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, known through­out the world sim­ply as Amma, has served the world-com­mu­nity for decades, im­part­ing wis­dom, strength and in­spi­ra­tion. Through her ex­tra­or­di­nary acts of love, in­ner strength and self-sac­ri­fice, Amma has en­deared her­self to mil­lions and in­spired thou­sands to fol­low in her path of selfless ser­vice.

Truly a cit­i­zen of the world, Amma holds free pub­lic pro­grams through­out In­dia, Europe, the United States and Aus­tralia, as well Ja­pan, Sri Lanka, Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia, Canada, Africa and South Amer­ica. In her talks, she of­fers words of wis­dom and guid­ance on both per­sonal ful­fill­ment as well as the most press­ing mat­ters of our time.

From cli­mate change to ter­ror­ism, cross-cul­tural ten­sions to poverty and women’s rights, Amma’s ob­ser­va­tions in­vite each of us to get in­volved in the process of re­build­ing a con­cerned and car­ing so­ci­ety.

To this day, Amma con­cludes her pro­grams by em­brac­ing each per­son at­tend­ing the event. Far from a brief book-sign­ing or walk along the rope line, these per­sonal, one-on-one meet­ings take up the vast ma­jor­ity of Amma’s time. Amma has given this moth­erly em­brace, known as her dar­shan, to more than 34 mil­lion peo­ple through­out the world. She has been known to give dar­shan for more than

22 hours with­out in­ter­rup­tion.

The most per­son­ally ac­ces­si­ble spir­i­tual leader alive to­day, Amma may well be on a first-name ba­sis with more peo­ple than any­one else in the world.

When peo­ple pour out their hearts to Amma, she of­fers them emo­tional so­lace, spir­i­tual guid­ance, and con­crete so­lu­tions to their prob­lems. Re­ceiv­ing Amma’s em­brace, many feel in­spired to of­fer selfless ser­vice to those in need.

In this way, this sim­ple yet pow­er­ful act - a mother’s em­brace - has be­come both cat­a­lyst and sym­bol for the grow­ing in­ter­na­tional net­work of hu­man­i­tar­ian ini­tia­tives that is Em­brac­ing the World.


Mata Amritanandamayi was born in a re­mote coastal vil­lage in Ker­ala, South In­dia in 1953.

Even as a small girl, she drew at­ten­tion with the many hours she spent in deep med­i­ta­tion on the seashore. She also com­posed devo­tional songs and could of­ten be seen singing to the divine with heart­felt emo­tion. De­spite her ten­der age, her com­po­si­tions re­vealed re­mark­able depth and wis­dom.

When she was nine years old, her mother be­came ill, and Mata Amritanandamayi was with­drawn from school in or­der to help with house­hold tasks and the care of her seven sib­lings. As she went door-todoor gath­er­ing food scraps from neigh­bours for her fam­ily’s cows, she was con­fronted with the in­tense poverty and suf­fer­ing that ex­isted in her com­mu­nity, and in the world be­yond it.

Where Mata Amritanandamayi en­coun­tered peo­ple in need, she brought them food and cloth­ing from her own home. She was un­de­terred by the scold­ing and pun­ish­ment she re­ceived from her fam­ily for do­ing so. She also be­gan to spon­ta­neously em­brace peo­ple to com­fort them in their sor­row. Re­spond­ing to her af­fec­tion­ate care, they be­gan to call her Amma (Mother).

Amma was deeply af­fected by the pro­found suf­fer­ing she wit­nessed. Ac­cord­ing to Hin­duism, the suf­fer­ing of the in­di­vid­ual is due to his or her own karma — the re­sults of ac­tions per­formed in the past. Amma ac­cepted this con­cept, but she re­fused to ac­cept it as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for in­ac­tion. Amma con­tem­plated the prin­ci­ple of karma un­til she re­vealed an even more pro­found truth, ask­ing a ques­tion she con­tin­ues to ask each of us to­day. “If it is one man’s karma to suf­fer, isn’t it our dharma (duty) to help ease his suf­fer­ing and pain?”

With this sim­ple yet pro­found con­vic­tion — that each of us has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to lend a help­ing hand to those less for­tu­nate — Amma moved for­ward with con­fi­dence in her life of ser­vice and com­pas­sion­ate care for all be­ings, uniquely ex­pressed by the moth­erly em­brace she of­fers to all who seek so­lace in her arms.

In Amma’s com­mu­nity, how­ever, it was not per­mis­si­ble for a 14-year-old girl to touch oth­ers, es­pe­cially men. Amma ex­plains, "In In­dia, women are ex­pected to re­main in the back­ground. It is said that 'Even the walls should not hear them.' My fam­ily could not un­der­stand my way of reach­ing out to peo­ple; they had no idea of the spir­i­tual prin­ci­ples." But de­spite ad­verse re­ac­tions, Amma


- Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia Naren­dra Modi on the oc­ca­sion of Amma’s 60th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions, in which the Hon. Prime Min­is­ter in­au­gu­rated a broad ar­ray of in­no­va­tive, hu­man­i­tar­ian-ori­ented prod­ucts from the re­search di­vi­sion of Am­rita Univer­sity.

fol­lowed her heart, later ex­plain­ing, “A con­tin­u­ous stream of love flows from me to all of cre­ation. This is my in­born na­ture. The duty of a doc­tor is to treat pa­tients. In the same way, my duty is to con­sole those who are suf­fer­ing.”

Amma says that love ex­pressed is com­pas­sion, and com­pas­sion means ac­cept­ing the needs and sor­rows of oth­ers as one's own.

For more than 20 years, Amma has been a reg­u­lar key­note speaker at in­ter­na­tional fo­rums con­cerned with world peace and re­li­gious har­mony, where she has been hon­ored with awards and ac­co­lades for her vi­sion and ex­am­ple. In 1993, the Par­lia­ment of the World’s Re­li­gions Cen­ten­nial named her Pres­i­dent of the Hindu faith. She ad­dressed the United Na­tions’ Mil­len­nium World Peace Sum­mit, and was pre­sented with the 2002 Gandhi-King Award for Non­vi­o­lence by UN Mes­sen­ger for Peace Dr. Jane Goodall and the late UN High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights, Ser­gio Vieira de Mello. In 2006, Amma, along with 2005 No­bel Peace Prize win­ner Mo­hamed ElBa­radei and ac­tor/hu­man­i­tar­ian Richard Gere, was pre­sented with the James Parks Morton In­ter­faith Award by the In­ter­faith Cen­ter of New York for her role as an out­stand­ing spir­i­tual leader and hu­man­i­tar­ian. In 2014, Amma joined Pope Fran­cis and 10 other world re­li­gious lead­ers in a cer­e­mo­nial sign­ing of a dec­la­ra­tion against hu­man traf­fick­ing and slav­ery.

Em­brac­ing the World is a global net­work of hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tions in­spired by the In­di­a­based hu­man­i­tar­ian ini­tia­tives of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math. Their cen­ters through­out In­dia wel­come the poor as their guests and serve them hot meals. In this way the vol­un­teers also get to know the peo­ple and their prob­lems. Those in need of fur­ther as­sis­tance are helped with fi­nan­cial aid, med­i­cal care, hous­ing, tu­tor­ing and more.

For them, shel­ter means more than a roof over one’s head. Be­yond con­struct­ing houses, they work to build en­tire com­mu­ni­ties, com­plete with town halls, roads, elec­tric­ity, wells, sewage sys­tems and clean drink­ing water. Their homes for or­phans and un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren are staffed by ded­i­cated vol­un­teers who fo­cus on build­ing the chil­dren’s self-con­fi­dence and in­ner strength and en­cour­ag­ing them to pur­sue their dreams. 47,000 houses have been built in more than 75 lo­ca­tions through­out In­dia by them.

Em­brac­ing the World’s Am­rita Hos­pi­tal is ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing out­stand­ing med­i­cal care, re­gard­less of one’s abil­ity to pay. The hos­pi­tal of­fers cut­tingedge health­care ser­vices for those who would other­wise have nowhere to turn.

Since open­ing its doors in 1998, Am­rita In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sci­ences and Re­search Cen­tre (their ter­tiary care hos­pi­tal in Kochi, Ker­ala) has pro­vided more than $85 mil­lion worth of char­i­ta­ble med­i­cal care; more than four mil­lion pa­tients re­ceived com­pletely free treat­ment. Am­rita of­fers so­phis­ti­cated and com­pas­sion­ate care in a serene and beau­ti­ful at­mos­phere, and is rec­og­nized as one of the premier hos­pi­tals in South Asia.

Their com­mit­ment to serv­ing the poor has at­tracted a ded­i­cated team of highly qual­i­fied med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als from around the world. The 1,300bed ter­tiary care hos­pi­tal houses 43 spe­cialty de­part­ments.

In 2016, they broke ground on a new 2,000-bed Am­rita Hos­pi­tal, slated to be the largest hos­pi­tal in the Delhi-NCR area. The new Am­rita Hos­pi­tal will be have a min­i­mal car­bon foot­print, zero waste­water dis­charge, and will even­tu­ally be so­lar­pow­ered. The ma­te­ri­als used in con­struc­tion will be en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly, and the cam­pus’ nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment will be pre­served with 70 per­cent of the land planned as green ar­eas filled with na­tive plants and trees as well as bodies of water. The new hos­pi­tal and med­i­cal col­lege will have an em­pha­sis on ma­ter­nal, in­fant and child health­care and will in­clude a highly spe­cial­ized mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal with ma­ter­nal and fe­tal medicine and all pe­di­atric sub­spe­cial­ties. This is a fea­ture that most hos­pi­tals in In­dia lack as many pri­vate hos­pi­tals do not see ma­ter­nal care as mon­e­tar­ily sus­tain­able. The re­search hos­pi­tal will fo­cus on low cost health­care so­lu­tions for In­dia’s poor and will be a teach­ing hos­pi­tal.

Amma is deeply com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing equal ac­cess to val­ues-based ed­u­ca­tion. To that end, Em­brac­ing the World and their par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, run more than 75 ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions serv­ing more than 100,000 stu­dents across In­dia.

They have been pro­vid­ing vo­ca­tional train­ing since 1989. Af­ter the 2004 In­dian Ocean Tsunami, they be­gan fo­cus­ing on train­ing women in par­tic­u­lar. This turned out to be a smart in­vest­ment - re­search has shown that em­pow­er­ing women with vo­ca­tional train­ing and eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity is one of the most ef­fec­tive means to re­duce poverty through­out en­tire com­mu­ni­ties.

Amma’s em­pa­thy and con­cern for dis­as­ter sur­vivors is so com­plete that she re­sponds to ev­ery aspect of their sit­u­a­tion - not only ful­fill­ing their ma­te­rial and emo­tional needs, but also keep­ing an eye on their fu­ture. Their pro­vi­sion of long-term sup­port for dis­as­ter sur­vivors has car­ried thou­sands through the darkest pe­ri­ods of their lives into the light of a hope­ful fu­ture.

Amma has ob­served that ear­lier in our his­tory, there was no spe­cific need for en­vi­ron­men­tal preser­va­tion ef­forts be­cause hu­man­ity saw di­vin­ity ex­pressed through na­ture, and there­fore treated the nat­u­ral world with rev­er­ence and re­spect. Their ef­forts in en­vi­ron­men­tal preser­va­tion are grounded in the idea that while car­ing for na­ture is in our own best in­ter­est, it is also the right thing to do.

Em­brac­ing the World re­searchers at Am­rita Univer­sity are part­ner­ing with se­nior sci­en­tists in the world’s lead­ing re­search uni­ver­si­ties to in­no­vate new uses for ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy and to

in­vent en­tirely new prod­ucts and ap­proaches to solv­ing some of the world’s most press­ing prob­lems - from dis­as­ter man­age­ment to en­sur­ing ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion to the man­age­ment and cure of dis­ease.

Over the past 25 years, they have learnt a lot about ef­fec­tive de­liv­ery of aid to those in need, and have built an in­fra­struc­ture ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing a broad range of hu­man­i­tar­ian ser­vices on a mas­sive scale. Amma has al­ways said that it is her dream that one day, ev­ery­one in the world would have their ba­sic needs met. Now, for 101 vil­lages spread through­out ev­ery cor­ner of In­dia, they are do­ing ev­ery­thing to make that dream come true. The Self-Re­liant Vil­lage Pro­gram (Am­rita SeRVE) is the big­gest project they have ever un­der­taken, and in many ways, it’s the cul­mi­na­tion of ev­ery­thing they have ever done.

To hon­our Amma on Her Birth­day, which falls on 09/10/2017, we ded­i­cate this is­sue to AMMA.


- Amma

Source:Shri. Vaithi­anathan Subra­ma­nian, Chen­nai.

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