This morning when I read the Writing 101 challenge for Day #2, “If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?” my response was immediate. I burst into tears! I wanted to go to Amritapuri, India, the location of Amma’s main ashram. (Amma, a humanitarian and spiritual leader, is often called the Hugging Saint since she has embraced more than 34 million people worldwide.) It didn’t matter to me in the slightest that Amma is in the United States now, I wanted to go to her ashram in India.
For some time, I have been pondering whether I want to stay living in Seattle or move to India when I retire. I even wrote a post about it in March, I Will Know When I Know.
When I visited Amritapuri for the first time in 1989, it was very small. There were a few buildings, some of which were thatched huts. The temple was under construction. We started meeting there soon after I arrived, but the top floors weren’t finished for a couple of years.
At first, I wondered why Amma had built such a big temple. In the early days, when we came for evening bhajans (devotional singing), it was only half full. The answer to that question was revealed quite soon as it was filled to overflowing within a year or two. In the time that I have been visiting the ashram, it has changed from a small compound into a town, one that sometimes has 4000 people staying there, and another 2,000-20,000 visiting for the day!
When I visited that first time, Amma had just taken responsibility for an orphanage because the previous caretakers had been severely neglecting the children. This became the first of her humanitarian programs. Now there are orphanages, hospitals, clinics, schools, colleges, vocational training programs, disaster relief programs and on and on. They are collectively known as Embracing the World.
So, why did I have so many tears this morning? Why do I want to be in Amritapuri? Let me count the ways!
- It seems like Amritapuri is my soul’s home. Even when Amma isn’t there I feel so peaceful. It is like every grain of sand is imbued with her energy. (She was born on that land.)
- I feel joy much more frequently in Amritapuri than anywhere else.
- My adult children live there and I love being with them.
- When the plane lands at the Trivandrum, India airport I know I am home. I love the sweet, familiar smells. I feel like kissing the ground.
- The sound of the drums and horns during festivals.
- Elephants at the ashram, and on the streets whenever you drive in India.
- The divine light in the Indians’ eyes.
- The simplicity of living.
- Lack of the trappings of Western civilization.
- Being at the ashram can be an emotional roller coaster, because life’s lessons seem to come at a faster rate there than normal, but working through them usually happens faster too!
- I sleep at a level that is so much deeper there than anywhere else. It is like my soul is at rest.
- Music every day, most of the day.
- Amma’s smile. Amma’s hug.
- Feeling seen, known and loved.
- Being able to share my experiences through the emails I send back to Seattle (starting this year I will post them on my blog instead!)
- Because I have been going to the ashram since 1989, I know so many people. They are a major part of my family.
- Worms! (I love working in the worm composting area.)
- Spectacular beauty. The ashram is in Kerala and is very tropical.
- Incredible, and abundant, fruit
- Frequent new and often profound, experiences.
- Sounds of the birds, especially early in the morning and at dusk.
- Sounds of music from nearby temples.
- Helping to support Amma’s humanitarian projects in one way or another.
- Being close to the water- 3 minute walk to the Arabian Sea, 2 minute walk to the backwaters
- Plays and dances, especially the Christmas play.
- Life is always an adventure!
I could go on and on but I will share some pictures instead!
Will I ever live in Amritapuri? As I get closer to retirement, I will make that decision. But the instantaneous flood of tears when I read the Writing 101 Day 2 Assignment today certainly showed me the likely answer!