An evening at the Gurukula in Kodungalloor

In November 1998, three Western devotees of Amma visited the children to document various aspects of their life. Their interaction with the children is the context for the story which follows.

5 P.M. We arrived on a cool Saturday evening. The quiet sandy playground is suddenly full of bustle. Br. Dhyanamrita Chaitanya, or “Swami” as the children call him, has arrived and the children run towards him to offer their pranams. They are soon tucking themselves under his arms and holding his hands. Everyone gathers together, sitting on the sand in the cool of the evening. There is an air of happy expectation. The children are eager to hear their older brother. He used to visit and talk to them. After chanting the opening prayers, Swami begins Satsang with a question. (Here are some excerpts)

# Swami: What is spirituality?
* Children: ‘We can enjoy bliss.’ ‘ We know what can make us happy’. ‘It’s what makes us one with others.’
* Swami: It’s so simple! Spirit You All . SPIRIT-U-AL. You are the spirit, not the matter. You are something different from the body. You are the Atman. OK. Now why do you meditate?
# Children: ‘To get protection from Amma’. ‘To get darshan from Amma.’ ‘To get love’. ‘We get more concentration in our studies and in everything we do.’ ‘To get shraddha’. ‘To come closer to the Truth.’
* Swami: Every one is correct!
# Children: How to get concentration? How was Ravana able to meditate for 10,000 years? (Ravana is the demon king of Sri Lanka in the Hindu epic Ramayana.) We can’t even meditate for 10 minutes!
* Swami: You tell me how was Ravana able to meditate for 10,000 years?
# Children: Not being near anyone, he could chant the mantra!
* Swami: If I put you in a room, could you meditate?
# Children: Yes! Just close your eyes and let your mind go to God.
* Swami: If we have determination, if we really want God, we can get concentration. But our determination is not that intense always. We are trying to love God. Ravana did not love God, he was angry with God. So he could get concentration easily. But despite his tremendous concentration and willpower all his efforts failed.
# Children: If Ravana had everything, what did he want?
* Swami: If you were Prime Minister, could you meditate with intensity?
# Children: No, it’s not possible. There would be too much publicity around me. I’d have too many comforts…
* Swami: It should be possible. The wise kings and sages kept their minds away from comforts. But we are different. During meditation, if my leg hurts, I want to comfort it, and if I’m hungry, I get some food. But they didn’t do that. They could meditate. They had the willpower to reach their goal – लक्ष्यबोधम् . They were so concentrated that they didn’t think about their bodies or anything else at that time. They had intense concentration and love for God so they could achieve their goal.
# Children: But what to do about our anger?
* Swami: It is easier for us to be angry than to love. To love is difficult. We are trying to love God, which is why it’s more difficult. If you fight with a classmate, you won’t forget that person. You’ll have much concentration on him. That’s why Ravana could concentrate. It was from jealousy and anger. But he lost everything in the end. Without forgiveness, we cannot love; without love, we cannot calm the mind. What we have to practice is to worship God with love, then we get everything.

It’s time for bhajans, and everyone concentrates inwardly. The sun has just gone down. Now, the moon and Krishna’s lamp on the altar are the only lights. After the singing, we are united in the silence of meditation. Everyone’s concentration has been intense. We are bound in spirit—all are one. Over tea and snacks, the children gather close to Swami.

All the previous formality disappears as the quest for answers and their contact with him continues. Br. Jayashankar, the ashram pujari, arrives. Soon he has a boy sitting on his lap, while a little girl, Amrita, is nestled under Swami’s arm. He affectionately tickles her head.

The satsang continues under the night sky.
#Children: Where does anger come from? Don’t the gods get angry?

* Swami: The gods get angry out of compassion. The teachers and the gods get angry for our own good. But we don’t see the motive behind it. The teacher is compassionate. She just wants you to study well. It’s not a selfish desire that brings about her anger. But normally anger comes from desire. Where does desire come from?
# Children: It must come from ignorance.
* Swami: Yes, ignorance is the root cause, and desire is the secondary cause. (Mimicking) I want a chocolate! If I don’t get it I’ll get angry! My mummy doesn’t send me things from Dubai, so I’m angry!
But if I drop the desire, what then? Then there’s no anger — it won’t be there. Your mind will be peaceful. Live life’s situations as if you were chewing gum: take only the juice and the sweetness, and throw the rest away.
If you’re angry you can’t remember things. You should be careful and develop your memory, so don’t find fault with others. Don’t be angry, Don’t smoke and don’t drink.
# Children: Can we get moksha (liberation)?
* Swami: Definitely. Your moksha is liberation from the 5th grade to the 6th grade! from the 7th to the 8th, from 9th to 10th, even from this Amrita Vidyalayam to college! You shouldn’t waste your time at Amrita Vidyalayam, then you will get moksha from Amrita Vidyalayam. In the same way, if we live with the ultimate Goal in mind, we can get moksha. But we must have that desire for the Goal. Have desires, but for the right things – for moksha, not for mosa (something inferior or bad). But we can work without selfish desires. Look at Amma. She has no desires.
# Children: So she has no moksha? (laughter)
* Swami: That’s right. She has no moksha because she is beyond moksha. Amma sees only God. That is why everyone comes to Her. If you also realise God, everything will come to you.
# Children: Why do we go to the temple?
* Swami: Because we cannot see God here, but we do see God in the temple. But if you have that devotion, if you see Him in your heart and everywhere, like Amma does, then you don’t need to go. Why do you go to the 1st grade, and not to the 12th grade straight away? You don’t have the knowledge of 11th grade! The temple is like a kindergarten. After going there you learn about God. Then you can go to God. But now, if I sit here and close my eyes and I can see God, then I don’t have to go to any temple. God is residing in our heart. He is of the nature of Love.
# Children: Why do we feel that maya (illusion) exists? Maya is something that is unreal. So why do we feel it is real?
* Swami: Because our minds have not expanded enough, we lack awareness. Concentrate on making use of your life for the benefit of others. Always have a smile! Amma is helping us.

It’s getting late. We are called for dinner. Swami has been with the children for four hours, but they clamour for more. Their quest to know seems insatiable.

–Ramya K