I left Seattle for Amritapuri, India at 5:50 p.m. on the 15th of August. Fourteen hours later, I arrived at the Dubai airport. While I was there, I received notice that Amma had asked the Amritapuri ashram residents and visitors to chant the peace mantra 108 times at 10 p.m. That mantra and translation is:
Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings in the world be happy
The chant ends with:
Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
Peace, Peace, Peace
Even though I didn’t know for sure why Amma had made that request, I assumed it was because of flooding that was occurring in the Kochi area. I decided I would also participate. I finished the chant minutes before boarding my plane to Trivandrum.
After the 14 hour flight between Seattle and Dubai, there is a 2 1/2 hour layover in Dubai, followed by a 4 hour flight to Trivandrum. Usually, I start the 2 1/2 hour taxi ride to Amritapuri as soon as I retrieve my baggage. This time, however, I was traveling with my friend Kumuda. When she comes to India, she spends a day in Kovalam so that she has a chance to rest before making the last leg of the journey. I decided I would also do that this time. Maybe resting at that juncture would reduce the amount of jet lag I experience.
We arrived at the hotel about 5 a.m. It is off-season now so the hotel was really quiet. In fact, we may have been their only guests! It was wonderful to lie down for a while and then walk to the beach for breakfast.
I hadn’t been to Kovalam since 1993 and at that time I had stayed in a different area. After we had breakfast, Kumuda showed me around. Two types of flowers caught my eye. They were so beautiful.
I also saw a vine on a trellis that was growing a fruit that looked like limes. I say “looked like” because the fruit was perfectly round and the skin was shiny. At first I wondered if it was an artificial plant. When I glanced at the leaves, though, it was obvious that the plant was real.
There was heavy rain from time to time on the day we were in Kovalam. When I checked the news that evening, I learned that 13 out of the 14 districts in Kerala had been put on red alert due to the rain. By morning, the last district was also on red alert. The worst flooding was in Kochi. [An article written on August 18 said the floods in Kerala were the worst in a hundred years. The article also said the flood had killed at least 324 people and 220,000 others had been displaced. Kochi airport was still completely submerged and was expected to be closed until August 26.]
The weather forecast predicted there would be thunderstorms the next day. I began to wonder if it would be safe to take the taxi ride from Kovalam to Amritapuri. When I checked the forecast the next morning, I discovered that it had changed. Now, it called for clouds or light rain during the time that we were planning the drive to the ashram. We left Kovalam at 5:30 a.m. and arrived at the ashram at 8:00.
I was grateful…. and relieved…. to be back at my spiritual home!
I checked in at the International Office and then took my luggage to my room. Shortly thereafter, I went to see Sreejit and Chaitanya, my son and daughter, who both live at the ashram. I love every reunion we have. It is always so good to be with them.
Being in a situation where flooding is possible, brings up memories for me of being in Amritapuri during the 2004 tsunami. After the tsunami hit, all the people from the nearby villages and the ashram were evacuated. Amma provided food and shelter for everyone at Amrita University and her nearby schools.
Many of the ashram residents and visitors and some of the villagers stayed at the Engineering College for five days. I remember witnessing the grief of the villagers who had lost family members. I also remember being thankful to have the clothes on my back and a mat to sleep on.
More than two hundred people had died in the village closest to the ashram that day and many more had died in other parts of India and beyond. Amma’ provided food, shelter, clothing, and medical care both locally and to Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. In the years that followed, she also provided job training and built many houses for tsunami victims. To read more about Amma’s 2004 tsunami relief programs click here.
Soon after I arrived at the ashram this year, I learned that Amma had sprung into action once again. Even though the first floor of her multi-specialty hospital (AIMS) in Ernakulum had flooded, it took in the patients from hospitals that had needed to be evacuated. Amma sent many of the ashram’s brahmacharis and brahmacharinis (male and female monks), as well as Western visitors who wanted to help, to AIMS to deal with the influx of patients and to do the manual labor needed to move everything from the flooded first floor of the hospital to higher floors. They also filled sandbags and dug structures to protect the hospital from future flooding. [ I haven’t seen those structures so I don’t know what they looked like.]
Amma has also started dozens of medical relief camps and provided water, food, clothes and bedding to people who needed it. Thirty out of 40 of her schools around the state have become relief shelters. She has also made a large donation to aid the government’s relief program. To learn more about the current relief efforts go to the Latest News section in Embracing the World.
After having breakfast, I went back to my flat and continued the process of moving in. At some point, I decided to go to the temple to watch Amma giving darshan to those who came to the ashram that day. [Amma’s form of darshan/blessing is to give hugs. She has embraced more than 37 million people world-wide.] When I visit India, I often wait for several days or even a week before I go to Amma for a hug. That day, darshan was being held in the temple and the crowd was much smaller than normal.
Usually, bus loads of people come to see Amma on darshan days. I realized that the devotees couldn’t get here because of the floods. And since the Cochin airport was closed, many of the international visitors weren’t able to be here either.
I decided I would go for darshan. Before long I was in Amma’s arms. Now I was truly …. and fully …. home.
Photo Credits: Amma’s Facebook Page