Living and Learning in Amritapuri: Jan 3-5, 2016


Swami Ramakrishna

I saw Swami Ramakrishna a few days ago for the first time on this trip. He is the swami that oversees Amma groups in North and South America and in Chennai, India. He may be responsible for other areas of the world too.

The reason I hadn’t seen him in Amritapuri was that he has been in Chennai helping with the flood relief efforts. If I understood him to say that the water had hit as high as 23 feet on the outside of the buildings and that there had been 8 to 9 feet of water inside the houses. Amma sent 500 volunteers to help. They rescued people from their homes, provided medical aid, food, clothes, blankets, cooking stoves, etc. Amma also donated $749,000 to the government for use in their ongoing relief efforts.


Many people in the ashram spent the days after New Year’s getting ready for Amma’s North Kerala tour. The caravan consisted of 11 buses of ashramites as well as numerous supply trucks. The crowds are huge at these programs and there is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done during them. Take a look at the size of one of the many cooking pots.

Kanji Making

The tour group left the ashram at 4:00 a.m. on the 5th. There are still a lot of people in the ashram but so many fewer than when Amma is here. It is nice to have some days of comparative quiet before I leave India.



I really enjoy seeing sadhus when they come to Amritapuri. Sadhus ascetics/holy people who wear saffron and often wander from place to place. They dress in different ways. The sadhu in this picture reminds me of some of the sadhus I see here, even though he is wearing clothes that are primarily yellow

(Photo Credit: “People of Varanasi 005” by Antoine Taveneaux – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -)


One difference this year is that I have seen two female sadhus. I found them even more intriguing. This picture reminds me of them. The color and type of cloth she is wearing is more typical of what sadhus wear than the man in the picture above.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia.



Seva (volunteer work)

Prior to the Christmas play, I helped sew and iron costumes. On and off throughout the trip, I have also helped Chaitanya in the café by doing some of the prep work for dinner. My job has been to butter stacks of bread and cut buns. I also chop up capsicum for salads and other menu items.

I had worked in the café as a cashier for 15 years, or more. I stopped doing that job three years ago when I was having so much trouble with my blood pressure. This week, I decided I wanted to work at the café once again. Nowadays, people receive a token when they order their food. My job is to get the food from the kitchen window and then call out the token number.  When the person comes to the counter I take their token and give them the food.

Each night, we serve so many people in a short amount of time. It’s fun! I think I will do that job again next year.

A couple of times this week, I also helped with processing the Matruvani magazines. Matruvani is one of the magazines published by the ashram that goes to devotees all over the world. If I remember right, when I first came here in January of 1990, they were sending out 40,000 copies a month. The pages came on big pieces of paper and had to be folded by hand. At some point, each publication would be checked to make sure every page was present and in order. After they were cut and stapled together, we would then fold a piece of paper around them that served as a mailing envelope.  Next we would paste on the address labels, using our finger and some watery paste. There weren’t that many people living here in those days, so a mailing of 40,000 was a major endeavor. I remember working on them past midnight.

Now the ashram publishes about 350,000 Matruvani magazines as well as many other publications each month! The work is still a major endeavor and much of it is still done by hand. In addition to all of the components that had to be done in the past, they now have zip codes (called pin numbers here) to contend with.  My job this week was to paste on checking labels that verified that the zip codes in each packet had been properly sorted.

Flexibility, Ingenuity

There was one story that I debated about sharing. After all, I don’t want you to think I’m crazy. I’ve decided to share it anyway. My hair grows really fast in India. My bangs had been getting longer and longer and were at the point where they were really annoying me. Two days ago, I had just had it. I had forgotten to bring scissors this year so didn’t know what I was going to cut it with, but I was going to find a way.

I could have found someone who had scissors but that would have taken effort and the scissors probably would have been dull anyway. Regardless, I didn’t want to look for scissors, I wanted it fixed NOW. I thought about the items I had in my room that could cut my hair.  I realized the only thing that could cut anything was a pair of nail clippers. That seemed absurd but I used them anyway. While it isn’t a good cut, I have to say it ended up looking way better than when I use scissors! If someone would have told me I would be using nail clippers to cut my hair, I wouldn’t have believed them.


I will end this post with some photos.

(Click gallery to make pictures bigger.)

To read the earlier posts in this series go to:

17 thoughts on “Living and Learning in Amritapuri: Jan 3-5, 2016

      1. The plants grow here at an amazing rate. I assume that is probably due to the heat and humidity of being in the tropics. And the shakti (spiritual energy) of the ashram may be a factor as well. A lot of healing happens here.

        I don’t know why it grows faster but perhaps those are some of the reasons.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know about emoticons either although my new iPhone has them so I will learn, at least on the phone.

      A photo was further than I was willing to go! 🙂 But if I had a photo of this one and one when I use scissors I’d probably do it. I will go get it cut properly after I get back to Seattle but I won’t be in a big rush. It looks okay……

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What an interesting post…soooo much information, Seeing photos of Sadhus reminds me of books I’ve read but this brings it all to life! Good for you finding a way to cut your bangs…I can so relate…I must try that. When I first moved to Toronto the first five years were quite warm through the winter compared to what I was used to in Quebec and my hair grew faster. So I can only imagine how it would grow in India with all that heat:) Your sunsets are glorious, Karuna. I may use one for a haiku…truly stunning. I won`t tell you what it makes me see or fee so you can read it in a haiku:) Have a good night, Karuna.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I look forward to reading the haiku. I so wish I could take a photo to show you what the sunsets really look like. It seems impossible to capture how gigantic that red sun is every night. It was stunning tonight.


  2. I love the photos. I rejoice at seeing a female Sadhu for the first time. The nail clipper story is such reminder of how my ability to be innovative and creative is increased when at the ashram. Is it inspiration? Or …… If necessity is the mother of invention then India continuously nurtures it! 😎


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