Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: December 7-10, 2019

Prasad Assist Seva

For the last few years, I have done a stage seva during darshan, in addition to my café seva. The stage seva I was originally asked to do was a prasad givers assist. That job had many components.

I sat near the door to the stage where Amma sits when she is giving darshan (hugs). I motioned to the prasad givers that were seated in a line in the auditorium when it was time to come up on the stage. I needed to be sure that there were always six prasad givers on the stage; one handing Amma the candy and ash she gives to those who come to her and five in line waiting to do the same. I also had to make sure the line below stayed full and trained anyone who hadn’t given prasad before.

That job also entailed running around looking for people to join the lower line and I knew I wasn’t up for that this year. When I said that, I was offered another prasad assist job and took it. On Sundays and Thursdays from 2-3, I am the person who practices giving prasad with each person as they come through the prasad giving line. I also make sure there are always three people in the prasad giving line closest to Amma. When one person finishes, I have to immediately send another person to join the line. That is easier said than done since the shifts may only be 1-2 minutes and there are plenty of people blocking my view.

The details of both of the prasad givers assist jobs change regularly. Sunday was the first day that I did the new one. In addition to practicing prasad giving with each volunteer, and sending people into the line close to Amma at 1 or 2 minute intervals, I had to ask each person if they were a renunciate or a karma yogi. If they said yes, then I gave them a token and explained that when they gave the token to the person timing, they would be given two-minute shifts instead of one minute. I also had to use a talley counter to count the number of prasad givers going through the line. There were even more components to the job, but I hope I have said enough to give you the impression that I was multitasking.

Changes I didn’t mention before:

  1. The swami rooms are now located in the building behind the auditorium.
  2. In the past, if you didn’t use an Indian SIM card for three months you had to order another one. It could take several days to get it. Vodafone has changed that now. I hadn’t used that SIM card since last January. I discovered that I could recharge my phone if I bought a 28-day package. For about $4, I was able to get 2.5 GB of data a day, as well as unlimited calls and texts in India.. There is no limit for the number of times I can recharge. I was able to get my phone recharged as soon as I got to the ashram and soon afterwards I was able to use my Personal Hot Spot to connect to the internet.

Sleeping

I’m still sleeping a lot. Hopefully I’m catching up from the months of exhaustion I’ve been experiencing.

Weather

It stopped raining three days after I arrived. It’s hot. I am so thankful for the fans.

Darshan

Saturday and Sunday were public darshan days. On those days it is common for groups of women to come for darshan together. They are often teachers at one of Amma’s schools. They are always very striking because they wear the same saris. On Saturday, there was a group that was in red and gold saris. They were beautiful.

Since they live at the ashram, Western visitors usually wait until the end of darshan before they go to Amma for a hug. I waited in a nonmoving line for three hours Saturday evening. Thankfully we were in chairs. It was long and I am not a patient person. But of course, I knew the wait was worth it. When I was in Amma’s arms, I was HOME.

As I thought of what I was going to say in this post I thought of a song I wrote many years ago. I wrote the words in English and then Meera translated them into Malayalam. I sang it for Amma in 1998 or 1999.

amma ende karangal ennum ninne sevikkatte
amma ende manass˘ mantrathāl nirayename
amma ende vākkukal ennum ninne pukazhthette
ende hridayam ānandam kond˘ nrittamādatte

ende sneham prakāshamāyi ennenum thilangatte
amma ende vishvāsam valarnnu kondirikkatte
ennenum ammayepole āyi varename
amma itinnu vendi mātram nyan prārthikkyunnu

Mother, may my hands be in service, my mind fill with mantra
May my voice forever sing your praise, my heart dance with joy
May my love shine ever brighter, my faith ever grow
Mother, may each day I become more like you, only for this I pray
Only for this I pray

I wrote about this song in a December 27, 2014 post. At that time I included a voice recording of the song. I decided to include it in this post as well. Please excuse my pronunciation errors.

Monkey

There was commotion in the back side of the café on Tuesday morning. There was a monkey sitting there. The building is open to the air so the monkey could have gone inside if it wanted to but it didn’t do that. It was blocking people from going up the outside stairs though.

I saw the monkey when I finished my shift an hour later. It looked so small and cute. I know that monkeys can turn aggressive in an instant, so I stayed away from it.

People were taking pictures of the monkey when I got my own food. I resisted the temptation to do the same, choosing to eat my breakfast instead.

Later, I told Chaitanya, who runs the Western kitchen, that if the monkey had wanted the food I was serving when I worked, I wasn’t going to get in its way. She supported that way of thinking!

In the early years, there were rarely or never monkeys around. However, after the 2004 tsunami Amma built a bridge between the ashram and the town across the backwaters so that people on the peninsula could evacuate easily. (See the photo of the bridge at the top of this post.) Monkeys can cross the bridge too, so they are on the ashram grounds from time to time.

Amma serves lunch

On Tuesday’s Amma comes for meditation and a question and answer session. Afterwards, she serves lunch to all of the residents and visitors. In the past, she handed each person their plate individually but there are now thousands of people. For the last few years, she has handed the plates of food to a brahmacharini at the beginning of a line and the plates are passed down a series of lines until everyone in the auditorium has one. No one eats until everyone has their meal. In fact, no one eats until Amma has had a spoonful of her own food.

I usually participate in one of the plate passing lines but I decided not to do it that day. Maybe I will make a different choice next Tuesday.

To read other posts in this series click here.

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