I have a philosophy. It is to go where I am invited, to walk through open doors rather than push against the ones that are closed, to listen to my intuition to hear the call.
Some weeks ago I had an email from a charming American called Meredith. Would I like to come and meet Mata Amritanandamayi, otherwise known throughout the world as Amma, or Mother, whilst she was visiting London? I asked my daughter, Hayley. Should I go? Hayley had met Amma in Kerala whilst studying Ayurvedic nutrition earlier this year. Her response was instant, ‘Hell, yes! Can I come?’ Meredith, being generous and open, agreed. No problem at all.
I do not have great expectations of some spiritual teachers. I prefer to think that consciousness is reflected in our actions rather than the numbers of devotees. I had however heard H.H. Drukpa speak at the premiere of Pad Yatra, a film about an ‘eco’ spiritual pilgrimage across the Himalayas (See http://www.padyatrafilm.com). The Gyalwang Drukpa is spiritual head of the Buddhist Drukpa Lineage. He is a wise and joyful being. Hearing him speak made me smile deep to the core. That smile, like sunshine in the belly, lasted for days.
An extraordinary passage of humanity
We sat by her side and watched Amma hug people for two hours. She hugged babies, young children, young people, old people, sick people, sad people, happy people, deferential people, casual people – people of every race and hue. She hugged men, something a woman, let alone a spiritual teacher does not do in Hindu tradition. Women rubbed their makeup on her white robe. She dried tears, received simple offerings of rose petals and fruit, gave gifts, blessed photographs of relatives, gave solace and joy, and soothed the very sick… It was one of the most moving and humbling experiences of my life. I could have sat there and witnessed this extraordinary passage of humanity for days.
‘For a period I knelt before this extraordinary being and time stopped’
Then unfolded an extraordinary two hours of my life. Whilst Hayley and I sat and watched Amma do her work, she began to talk to us, between hugs. She spoke with detailed knowledge about environmental pollution and the changes in agriculture in the last 50 years; bees, pesticides and colony collapse; the importance of seed saving, heritage seeds and natural fertilisers; the dangers of hybridisation; tree planting (her organisation has planted millions of trees); the vital importance of teaching children – they are the ones who will bring the change – engaging schools, education, involving business in ecological projects; how planting edible gardens and eating from them, even if it is only once a week, is so important as it will change peoples’ attitude to food; worm composting, compost toilets, sanitation; recycling; simple water filtration methods and disease; appropriate technology; local transport; simple living and materialism…
Maybe I had expected spiritual darshan or an esoteric reply to my question, certainly the briefest of ‘press’ audience. Instead Hayley and I were able to listen and absorb very practical wisdom… nothing but nothing was remotely flaky or what is disparagingly termed ‘woo woo’.
Then Amma spoke to me of her childhood. She had been brought up simply in a village and her mother had taught her to respect nature and respect the devas of the hills and rivers. She knew that Creator and Creation are One and nature is the Creator’s highest expression. The most important thing we can do is to teach our children to revere the sacredness of nature.
An ocean of unconditional love
An Indian woman was desperate to pranaam to Amma – just for a moment… please. Could Hayley and I move aside? We couldn’t come between the devotee and her guru. We moved back. Would we like to be hugged, mother and daughter together or individually? For a period I knelt before this extraordinary being and time stopped. She embraced my daughter first and then me. As I sank deep into her arms and she whispered in my ear, I felt unconditional love flowing through me and contact with vast, profound spiritual power.
That night I went home and slept like a baby, a long and dreamless sleep embraced by an ocean of unending, formless consciousness, in the arms of the Mother. I stayed with that ocean of unconditional love for days afterwards.
What temptation it would be to drop everything and go knocking at Amma’s ashram door in Kerala seeking more! But the answer to my question was answered so fully. I knew what path I had to follow: We must persist however difficult it may seem and find any opportunity to teach our children about the sacred nature of Creation, whilst cultivating our ‘Garden’.
© 2013 by Maddy Harland, the co-founder and editor of internationally acclaimed Permaculture Magazine – practical solutions for self-reliance – you can find out more and download a free copy at www.permaculture.co.uk If you want to support this magazine please subscribe or give a gift subscription to a friend.