its not every day you get hugged my a saint and on Wednesday i was fortunate enough to do just that.
Amma comes to New York every summer and although I had seen her before, this was my first hug. The first time I went I stood outside Hammerstein ballroom waiting for what looked like a raffle ticket. It was a ticket for your hug and the rest was a celebration. The first year I was there late and even though Amma hugs till dawn, I wasnt able to wait it out. Instead i sat up in the balcony and listened as Amma and her interpreters speak a Satsang, or inspiring words. Afterwards there is music, dancing and chanting. Its what is called Dharjan or devotional singing, and everyone joins in. Afterwards she begins to hug any and all that wish to be hugged. She does this for three days straight and on the third day shell stay up all night until everyone has received one. The first year after the Satsang I wondered through the building watching everyone. The feeling of just being in the presence of all of this, and watching Amma tirelessly hug and hug and hug. There are tables filled with people volunteering to help organize, serve prasad. There are meditation workshops, acupuncture and massage all for free.
There were other tables filled with teas, ointments oils and incense as well as clothing, jewelry and books mostly all blessed by Amma. I bought some jasmine oil and some sandalwood and went to find my boyfriend and bring him back to see. It was amazing. The second year I returned to hear another talk and attempt again to get a hug. I was late this time too. Instead I retreated to the basement where amazing smells of food wafted up the stairs. My favorite is the chickpea curry but there is so much to choose from. Lots of Indian fare, very cheap and well as local venders with vegan and raw fare. I spent a long time in the basement smelling and tasting and trying. It was amazing. But, even as my energy wained, Ammas did not. As the numbers started to dwindle down, its inspiring and humbling to see Ammas energy showing no sign of fatigue. She will not even pause until the last person has been received. All the while Amma sustains a beaming smile while lovingly embracing one after another after another. With each hug and smile, an obvious spark of her own energy is passed along.
So this year
i went early. I was still late, but I got there at around 9am. This year it had moved form the slightly dark and grungy Hammerstein to the white and clean Javits center but it didnt matter, the energy was the same. Ammas full name is Mata Amritanandamayi and she was born in a small fishing village In India. From an early age she started spontaneously embracing people to comfort them in their sorrow. All though it was not known for a young girl to hug people especially men, Amma refused to stop and said. "I dont see if it is a man or a woman. I dont see anyone different from my own self. A continuous stream of love flows from me to all of creation. This is my inborn nature. The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering. Today, the hug is her darshan. A darshan is means "to see" in Sanskrit and is a Hindu ritual tradition referring to seeing the sacred. But in this amazing instance, on top of seeing her, you are embraced. Amma has traveled the world and hugged over 31 million people in her lifetime. The umbrella of her humanitarian organizations is called Embracing the World and her charitable acts include building villages for people in severe poverty in India as well as giving massive aid to ones affected by natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis She was a generous donor to Katrina. She also builds hospitals and orphanages and brings clean drinking water and clothes to those who have none. There was no Satsang in the morning, but rather a short meditation followed by a simple yet loving mantra. Loka Samasta Sukino Bhavantu. May all beings everywhere be happy and free.
Her religion is love. I waited for about 4 hours for my darshan and when I finally felt myself in her arms I just felt an amazing sense of calm and thankfulness. Because its not everyday you get hugged by a saint. Check out more about Amma at amma.org