In my last Living and Learning in Amritapuri post, I mentioned that I knew I would have many experiences during my remaining days here. From my perspective, every moment I’m in Amritapuri is packed with challenges, lessons, opportunities and gifts.
I wrote that post on Saturday, January 7. The following day was the day I had been asked to be the first person to hand Amma prasad, the candy and ash that she gives people coming to her for a hug. I was excited to be given that opportunity.
Amma starts darshan at 11:15, but we must be prepared for anything that might occur, such as her arriving early. I was asked to come to the auditorium stage at 10:30. The person in charge of the prasad lines went over the process with me. I learned, to my surprise, that the person who hands Amma prasad first, moves to another prasad seva when they are finished.
The second seva involves handing prasad packets to the devotee who will be giving Amma the packets next. Receiving them ahead of time means the person is ready to give the prasad to Amma the minute they get to her.
Handing Amma the packets was as wonderful for me as it always is, but the lesson came with the second part of the seva. There are many sevas on the stage but the last time I have done one of them, except for a few years when I helped people who needed to sit on a stool during their darshan (hug), was when I was on one of the 1995 Indian tours.
The prasad process has gotten so organized in the last 21 years. I suspect that many of the positions were created primarily to give people a chance to sit near Amma. I realized how much I have missed by not participating in those sevas. It is another example of how my “staying busy”pattern has not been to my benefit. There are two more darshan days before I leave Amritapuri. I’m going to try to sign up for one of the other stage sevas.
I had wondered if I would be able to sit on the floor for thirty minutes and when it turned out to be forty-five, I was even more concerned. By the time my shift was over, both of my feet were asleep. I had some problem getting up and I stumbled onto someone in the process. I need to figure out a more graceful way to exit the stage!
When I first stood up and turned to leave, I noticed that there were 20 or more Ayyappa pilgrims about to get darshan. I generally burst into tears whenever I see these men dressed in black. I considered their presence at that moment as a very personalized gift to me.
I have seen very few Ayyappa pilgrims, who are devotees of Lord Ayyappan, son of Shiva, this year, but the rest of that day and the next I saw them repeatedly. I suspect they were on their way home from their yearly pilgrimage.
Story #2 in Overcoming Myself will give you more information and some photos about the Ayyappa’s yearly pilgrimage to Sabarimala and Story #3 contains a song I wrote about my experiences with the Ayyappa pilgrims. I still haven’t sung that song for Amma. I wonder if I ever will.
To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.