Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: January 8, 2017

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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!

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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.

Living and Learning in Amritapuri- Dec 7-9, 2014

Sunday December 7

Today was a public darshan day. Amma’s form of giving a blessing to those who come to her is to give them a hug. The crowds were larger than normal as she had been gone from the ashram since the beginning of October.

Amma started giving hugs at 11 a.m. and continued until 2:30 a.m. on Monday.  Many groups sang bhajans during that time; it is quite a festive occasion.   During the public darshan programs, those of us who are staying here have the opportunity to hand Amma prasad for a short period of time. The prasad that Amma gives those who come to her is a packet of sacred ash and a piece of candy. The prasad packets are bundled in groups of three and the prasad giver hands Amma the bundle. It is a good opportunity to practice concentration since Amma may need the prasad at any time; the range is probably between 10 seconds and 2 minutes. I do my best to never take my eyes off of her hand. I love this seva (volunteer work). Several years ago, my inner voice started spontaneously saying “home” every time I handed the prasad to her…..home, home, home.  To me serving Amma in this way is home. Continue reading “Living and Learning in Amritapuri- Dec 7-9, 2014”

Overcoming Myself

Last Thursday morning brought another challenging prompt from Sreejit at The Seeker’s Dungeon. This time the prompt was to answer the following question: “Tell us about your experiences with overcoming yourself.”  I knew immediately what I would write about.

My post will actually contain three different stories. The first two are very different from each other and in the third the two come together, addressing a way I am working to “overcome myself.” Continue reading “Overcoming Myself”