Finding Peace in Uncertain Times: Amma

There is no doubt in my mind that Amma has helped me the most in finding peace in uncertain times; by her presence, her teachings and the opportunities to apply those teachings, her music, her guidance when I have questions, the example she sets in living a life of service and the community of people I have in my life because of her.

As I am dealing with my own health problems, as well as living in the world during a pandemic, I am grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to learn persistence, flexibility, letting go, being like a bird perched on a dry twig, and being in the moment. While my mind still goes into overdrive, most of the time I am able to find a centered place within me.

As I am writing this, I am remembering a prayer I wrote in the mid to late 90’s. It is still my prayer.

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

[Amma means mother]

Sanskrit Writing Practice #5

Not too long after the pandemic began and we were told to stay home, I started writing one of the 108 Names of Amma ten times in Devanagari (the script used to write Sanskrit words) each day. Many of the “names” relate to one of Amma‘s characteristics. The list was written by a devotee decades ago and is frequently used as a chant before meditation or singing.

If you notice differences between the transliteration and the Devanagari script know that more information about that is provided in my last Sanskrit writing post.

Line 76

ॐ त्याग वैराग्य मैत्रयादि सर्व सद्वासना पुषे नमः
om tyaga vairagya maitryadi sarva sadvasana pushe namah
… who encourages the cultivation of good qualities such as renunciation, dispassion, love, etc.

Line 80

ॐ सुभाषित सुधा मुचे नमः
om subhashita sudha muche namah
… whose speech is as sweet as ambrosia

Line 88

प्रोत्सादित ब्रह्मविद्या सम्प्रदाय प्रवृत्ताये नमः
om protsahita brahmavidya sampradaya pravrittaye namah
…who encourages the learning of Brahmavidya, the science of the Absolute through the tradition of the guru-disciple relationship

Sanskrit Writing Practice #4

Not too long after the pandemic began and we were told to stay home, I started writing one of the 108 Names of Amma ten times in Devanagari (the script used to write Sanskrit words) each day. Many of the “names” are events in Amma‘s early life or one of her characteristics. The list was written by a devotee decades ago and is frequently used as a chant before meditation or singing.

I have been having health problems, not related to covid, so it has been a week or more since I last wrote any Sanskrit. I finished line 78 last night. In this post, I will share lines 71 and 78.

I frequently make errors when I write. Usually by the 10th time I write the line, it is correct but not always, I still slip up. I also have discovered there are occasionally discrepancies between the transliteration and the Devanagari versions. Since I don’t know which is right, I just write it the way it is in the various books I am using. I also do not differentiate between the different kinds of “a”s, “i”s, “u”s, “n’s, “sh”s (and a few others) when I write the transliteration in blog posts. And last, there are occasionally times when letter combinations I use when I write the Devanagari script are different than the keyboard I am using for the post.

Line 71
सुप्रसन्न मुख़ाम्भोज वराभयद पाणये नम:
suprasanna mukhambhoja varabhayada panaye namah
… who has a bright, beaming face, as beautiful as a lotus flower, and who holds her hand in the posture of blessing

Line 78
प्रेमभक्ति सूधा सिक्त साधू चित्त गूहजूषे नम:
premabhakti sudha sikta sadhu citta guhajushe namah
… who resides in the cave of the heart of the pious that are drenched with the nectar of devotion

Sanskrit Writing Practice: Post #3

It has been 58 days since I started writing one of the 108 Names of Amma in ten times in Devanagari (the script used to write Sanskrit words) each day. Many of the “names” are events in Amma‘s early life. The list was compiled decades ago and is frequently used as a chant before meditation or singing.

In my last Sanskrit post, the lines related to Amma having had a vision of Lord Krishna. In this post I am using three lines that follow the one about Amma having had a vision of the Divine Mother holding an instrument called the veena. So these three lines are about what happened once her vision disappeared.

Day 48

देवी सद्य: तिरोधान ताप व्यथित चेतसे नम :
devi sadyas tirodhana tapa vyathita chetase namah
…whose heart was burnt in the fire of sorrow on the Divine Mother’s sudden disappearance,

Day 50

त्यक्तान्न पान निद्रदी निद्रादि सर्व दैहिक धर्मणे नम:
tyaktanna pana nidradi sarva daihika dharmane namah
… who gave up all bodily activities like eating, drinking, sleeping, etc.

Note: In doing this post, I see that I didn’t write pana in any of my sentences. Whoops.

Day 51

कुररादि समानीत भक्ष्य पोषित वर्ष्मणे नम:
kuraradi samanita bhakshya poshita varshmane namah
whose body was nourished by the food brought by birds and other animals

Note: I only wanted to use three lines in this post. Day 49 was “… whose sorrowful wailing was rending the ears of the four quarters.”

The Absence of Plastic

Towards the end of January in 2017, I cleaned out the three birdhouses in my back yard. They all had nests inside but I noticed that none of them had been used; one was barely begun and another I judged to be abnormal.

the 3 bird nests

The one I considered abnormal had practically filled the whole bird house. The top of it was flat and solid, there was no place for a mother bird to lay or sit on her eggs. Like the others, that birdhouse was made of many natural materials, but it also included many small pieces of plastic.

I ended up taking that bird nest apart. I soon discovered it contained a tremendous amount of plastic. Below you will see a photo of the plastic that I found in that one nest.

I wondered if the bird’s brain had been poisoned by the plastic and if that was why the top was flat. My heart ached when I thought about the many ways humans contaminate nature.

This experience occurred soon after we started working on restoring the Greenbelt property that is adjacent to my house. The land at that time was full of trash, big and small, and there were a lot of small plastic pieces in and on top of the ground.

It was near nesting season, so we decided to invite the Bala Kendra group from our Amma satsang to do a Greenbelt litter pickup work party. It was amazing to see how much trash the children gathered in an hour’s time.

In the years since then, numerous truckloads of garbage have been removed from the property.

This year, when I cleaned out the bird houses in preparation for nesting season, I found that two of the houses were practically empty. Only one contained a complete nest. It didn’t look like it had been used, but at least it had been built normally; there was a cup indentation on top, a place for the mother bird to lay her eggs.

I didn’t take apart the nest this time but the absence of plastic was very noticeable. I only saw one small piece on the outside of the nest and another small piece at the bottom of the cup.

***

You can read the full story about my 2017 experience in a three part series. It includes many more photos, some of them microscopic. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Day 38 and 39 Sanskrit Writing

In a recent post, I wrote about having decided to use a beautiful chant consisting of 108 characteristics of Amma as a spiritual practice and an opportunity to start writing in Sanskrit again. My plan was to start at the beginning of the chant and write each line 10 times in Devanagari (Sanskrit script) … completing one line per day.

Today is the 40th day of that practice. I decided to share my journal pages from Days 38 and 39 with you. (I choose to write using a pen so you will see numerous corrections.)

Many of the lines in the chant are about events that happened during Amma’s early life. That is true of these two lines.

Day 38
वियोग शोक सम्मूर्व्व्हा मुहु: पतित वर्ष्मने नम:
om viyoga shoka sammurccha muhurpatita varshmane namah
… who often fell down unconscious due to the grief of non-union with Krishna

Day 39
सारमेयादि विहित शुश्रूषा लब्ध बुद्धाये नमः
sarameyadi vihita shushrusha labdha buddhaye namah
… who regained consciousness by the proper nursing given by dogs and other animals

Writing Sanskrit as Spiritual Practice

During the previous decade, I attended Sanskrit classes for about five years. For a while I even attended two classes a week. My goal was to be able to converse in Sanskrit.

I became discouraged, however, when class after class of Indian students zoomed past me. I may have known more Sanskrit when each class began, but many of the Indian students’ native languages were rooted in Sanskrit so they were able to easily able to develop a Sanskrit vocabulary. I couldn’t do that. I progressed in my studies, but the time came when I was no longer willing to dedicate the hours it would take to reach my goal; besides, I was no longer convinced my goal was even possible.

One day during the current pandemic, it occurred to me that I could write in Sanskrit as a form of spiritual practice. It had been a long time since I’d written the Devanagari letters and I knew I would enjoy doing that once again.

Many years ago, a devotee of my spiritual teacher, Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi), wrote a beautiful chant consisting of 108 characteristics of Amma. I realized I could focus on one line of that chant each day by writing it in Devanagari script ten times. I have been doing that exercise for the last 28 days!

In the past, I often wrote about my Sanskrit studies on this blog. I decided a few days ago that I would do that again. But each day, I determined that my writing wasn’t good enough or the line of the chant wasn’t the right one. Today, I decided that since my purpose was to share the process, nothing about it had to be perfect.

I picked the 24th and 25th lines of the chant to share:

om nissabda janani garbha nirgamadbhuta karmane namah (Salutations to Amma who did the miraculous deed of keeping silence when she came out of her mother’s womb.)

om kali sri krishna sangkasha komala shyamala tvishe namah (Salutations to Amma who has the beautiful dark complexion reminiscent of Kali and Krishna.)

I hope the pandemic ends before I reach the 108th day, but even if it does, I may continue this practice until I have finished the last line.

I will end my post with the following prayer:

Om Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings in the world live in peace

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
Peace, Peace, Peace

Happy Vishu!

Today is the Zodiac New Year in India. In the state of Kerala, that day is called Vishu. Amma sent this message on Vishu a few years ago. It seems a very fitting way to begin this post.

The color of Vishu is yellow. In honor of Vishu, I’m going to post a series of yellow flowers I have taken over the years.

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Beautiful flowers
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And I will add a yellow vegetable and a yellow leaf!

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Happy Vishu!