Last week during darshan, I remained at Amma’s side for some time. It wasn’t long before a middle-aged woman came for darshan. She was from central Kerala. It was her first time meeting Amma. She told Amma that early this year her husband had been fishing around 3:00 a.m., casting his net from the boat, when he suddenly had a stroke and fell into the mud of the shallow waters. In tears, she explained that he had become stuck in the mud and drowned. She said she didn’t know what to do. Their eldest child, who was in his mid-twenties now, was permanently brain-damaged from a shock he had received from a faulty electrical outlet when he was only three. Because she had to do everything for him, from putting on his pants to brushing his teeth, she told Amma that it was impossible for her to work. She said that sometimes he could become violent, flying into a rage for no perceivable reason. Earlier she could handle it, but the older and stronger he became, without her husband around, the more unmanageable it was becoming. Her family’s sole income comes from her youngest son, who repairs car stereos. Amma dried her tears and called a devotee from her area and asked him to try to arrange some financial and infrastructural support for her and her family.
Not long after that, a long-time devotee from Northern Kerala came for darshan. Her husband had been one of the first people to invite Amma to their hometown. He passed long back, killed in a political clash. Since then, their family’s income has been limited. Still the mother had managed to get their daughter enrolled in a nursing school, and the girl had just graduated. The problem is that now the girl either has to pay an Rs. 150,000 bond to her school or work for its hospital at 33 percent beneath the standard starting wage for three years—Rs. 8,000 a month, instead of Rs. 12,000. Her other child is autistic. She says that he can chant the Lalita Sahasranama flawlessly—that he even corrects her when she makes pronunciation mistakes. But, despite being 29, he cannot be left unsupervised for even a minute. On this day, the mother had come to ask Amma’s guidance for what to do with her daughter.
Soon after, a middle-aged man came up to Amma. You could tell by his puffy skin and the yellowish tint to his eyes that he was suffering from hepatitis. He told Amma that it was his second flare-up since contracting the disease seven years ago. He said he used to work in retail sales, but that now, with his liver 70-percent destroyed, he can no longer maintain a job. He had had to get a tube inserted to drain out the water from his abdomen. Now his legs get swollen. His doctor told him recently that he is in dire need of a liver transplant within the next three months. Married with a son and a sick mother to look after, he had come to ask if he would be able to get some help from Amma for the liver transplant at Amrita Hospital. Amma entrusted an ashramite to look into the still-smiling man’s case and do the needful.
Amma has often said that we should listen to the life stories and woes of at least 10 people who have come for Amma’s darshan. In that way, Amma says, we will be able to develop compassion. Just hearing these three stories, I felt a bit overwhelmed. How much suffering is there in this world? How many such burdens have people laid at Amma’s feet? I remember someone once asked Amma why sannyasa is considered a harder path than that of a gruhasta (householder), and Amma responded that while a gruhasta is only responsible for one family, the Sannyasi is ultimately responsible for the entire world. I am not sure if all Sannyasis see it this way, but Amma in her total renunciation has taken up the struggles of countless individuals, countless families. Even if you don’t consider the charitable assistance the ashram provides for people like this, Amma has dedicated her entire life to being there for such people—being a shoulder to cry on, an ear that is always ready to listen, a smile to take inspiration from….
talk by Swami Dhyanamritananda – in Amma’s presence, Amritapuri, 25 Nov 2020
यस्य स्मरण मात्रेण ज्ञानमुद्पद्यते स्वयं स एव सर्व सम्पत्तिः तस्मै श्री गुरवे नमः By whose thought, knowledge is manifesting in my mind, he alone is my wealth to that Guru my prostrations
My prostrations at the sacred feet of Jagadguru Amma Pranams to Amma’s dear children around the world.
Virat Rupa Darshanam Previous Satsangs happened here have given us a glimpse at Amma’s Universal form, the ‘Virat Rupam”. Amma is not just this beautiful 5-feet figure wrapped in a white sari, that we see in front of us. These Satsangs help us recognize that Amma is much more than this physical form we see.
What comes to mind Sri Krishna’s words from Gita “No one can truly understand me” न मे विदुः सुरगणाः प्रभवं न महर्षयः अहमादिर्हि देवानां महर्षीणां च सर्वशः 10.2 Neither the gods, nor the great sages know my origin because I am the origin of the gods and the great sages in all respects
As requested, I will try to share what little I have on this auspicious day.
Fortunately for me, my mother is extremely hardworking, knowledgeable and wealthy. And I managed to get Amma’s Credit Card. I will swipe it and try to see what I will get.
A computer engineer made many robots. they were different in shapes, colors and abilities. They all competed and talked about their creator. “Do you know how great my master is?” The engineer laughed when he heard these comments. When Amma smiles during our satsangs, I am reminded of this anecdote.
Seva in 30 + departments As I look back at these years, I recall having had the opportunity to serve in over 30 departments. from Housing project to computers, from toilet cleaning to playing handbells, from crowd control to baby feeding, from juice stall to photography, from orphanage to the international office, from the printing press to web development, from Gita class to mobile application development, Amma brought me up through 30 diverse sevas. There were a lot of lessons, experiences, and learning in each of this seva. I shall share a few experiences here.
Hegemony & Silent revolution The first time I heard Sri Rudram was in the 8th grade. I was interested in learning it, but the brahmin teacher refused to take me as a student as I was not a brahmin. This made me even more determined. I managed to find a book, along with a cassette recording. I started learning Rudram by listening to it. In the same way, I learnt Chamakam, Purusha Suktam and many others.
The students of this Brahmin would recite these mantras during the evening pooja at a nearby Shiva Temple and I would stand near the dias and recite along with them. The students were puzzled and would stare at me. The teacher refused to teach me, but he couldn’t stop me from chanting. Looking back, I think it was this evil hegemony, where the learned refused to disseminate knowledge, that led to the decline of Indian culture.
If you observe closely, you can see how Amma is leading the renaissance of Indian culture. Amma has ushered a revolution through temple installations, community worship, Lalita Sahasranama, manasa puja and promotion of women priests. Amma has truly empowered everyone to have a direct connection to God, devoid of any religious middlemen. She doing a silent revolution here.
It is better to fail early During my college days, I used to skip classes to play Cricket and because of this I failed in the exams.
For the first time in my life, I got the bitter taste of failure. I was not able to bear the shock.
If you have never lost in your life, then you lost an opportunity to learn a big lesson. It is better to fail early, is my opinion. We will not be able to bear the shock if the failure occurs at a later stage in life.
I was in great distress. A well-wisher advised me to read the Bhagavad Gita. He said that it is the best antidote for sorrow.
To deal with my sorrow I came home, picked up the Bhagavad Gita book, sat down and read the entire Bhagavad Gita in one go.
The verse where Lord Krishna says, you are just an instrument of mine, inspired me.
In 3 months I cleared all my exams.
Vedanta & perfection of life. Few days later, I attended a Gita Jnanan Yagna (convention) by Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati! This was my 1st time attending a discourse on Vedanta.
Thus, I learned the Bhagavad Gita and Mandukyopanishad sitting at the feet of Swami Chinmayananda.
The mantra taught by Swamiji then, is still fresh in my mind. नान्तःप्रज्ञं न बहिष्प्रज्ञं नोभयतःप्रज्ञं न प्रज्ञानघनं न प्रज्ञं नाप्रज्ञम्। अदृष्ट-मव्यवहार्य-मग्राह्य-मलक्षण -मचिन्त्य-मव्यपदेश्य-मेकात्मप्रत्ययसारं प्रपञ्चोपशमं शान्तं शिवमद्वैतं चतुर्थं मन्यन्ते स आत्मा स विज्ञेयः ।। Mandookya 1.1.7 Neither inward knowable, nor outward; not knowable from both. Neither consciousness, nor unconsciousness, nor unknowable. Invisible by sense organs, non-interact-able, incomprehensible by the mind, not having any characteristics, inconceivable, unmentionable, the substance of the conception of the single self, end point (of all), peaceful, auspicious, non-dual, deemed as fourth, he is self (Atma), he is to be realized. That principle is here, in front of us.
This Gita convention was a turning point in my life. Gita helped me discover the ultimate goal of life.
However, in my search for perfection in life, a Gita sloka shattered all my preconceived notions. आब्रह्मभुवनाल्लोकाः पुनरावर्तिनोऽर्जुन। 8.16 O Arjuna, all worlds including the Brahma loka, are subject to constant change.
I realized that I cannot not find perfection in the outside world.
Later, I was blessed with the fortune of learning Isha, Kena, Kada, Prasna Upanishads and many other chapters of Gita directly from Swami Chinmayananda.
My children should grow up spiritually I was very close to Swami Chinmayananda; he has visited my home thrice. For many of my questions, Swamiji would give me written replies. In some classes, he would use me as an example in the lecture and make fun of me. This was Swami Chinmayananda’s way of showing affection and he had the liberty to do so as I was dear to him and swami for me.
When I decided to join Amma’s ashram, I went to meet Swami Chinmayananda and said, “Swamiji, I have decided to join Amma’s ashram as a Brahmachari, I need your blessing.” Swamiji said, “My children should grow up spiritually, wherever they may be.” He blessed me.
I think she is a fraud There was a time when I would go to Chottanikkara temple. A Sanskrit teacher at the temple informed me, “A lady called Amma has come here. If you want, you can meet her. She has dark complexion. But I have heard that she is into drugs and smuggling. And I think she is a fraud.” I said, “I don’t want to see any frauds” and I left without meeting Amma. That was Amma’s first visit to Ernakulam in 1985.
But, when I got back home, I found a book lying in the house – Amrita Sutra. It was an 8-page book containing Amma’s biography and teachings. I picked it up and started reading. Amma describes Brahman, Maya, Pranayama, Kundalini, Brahmacharya and self-control etc. using very simple language with unique examples.
I wondered, Amma has studied only till 4th grade, and she has neither studied the scriptures nor does she have a guru; then how is she able to talk about such complex issues in such simple terms.
A piece of advice in the book really impressed me. “Dear children, I am not asking you to trust a God who is sitting above the clouds or to trust Amma. You believe in yourself. Everything is within you.” This advice attracted me towards her. I thought, “Only a person who has known one’s true self alone can make such a statement. Yesterday, I heard she was a fraud, but then how can such a person say this?” So I decided to meet Amma and find out for myself.
I saw Amma and she smiled After lunch the next day, my friend called and said, “Amma is coming to my house. Are you coming?” I got to the house around 4 o’clock in the evening. Amma was sitting on a coat in a small room and was giving darshan, there were 4 or 5 people near her. My whole body started shaking. My knees started knocking against each other. I wondered “What is happening?” I looked around, no one was paying any attention to me. My mind was calm; however, my body was trembling. By doing Pranayama, I tried to control my body. I did not see this happen to the people who were near Amma. Since I was wearing Dhothi, no one could see my knees knocking.
Standing by the door, I saw Amma. A dark figure wrapped in a white sari. Amma raised her head and looked at me and smiled. Oh … what a smile!! I have never seen such a beautiful smile in my life. Straight away, I fell in love with her.
Both ashram and Amma’s physical body, have undergone a lot of changes. New buildings, tsunami, floods, protests, awards, critical praise, books about and against Amma. Thousands have come and gone, but one thing remains unchanged – something that time has never stolen from us. Amma’s smile from 1985, still lingers in my mind.
First Darshan The first thought that came to my mind when I saw Amma was, “Amma is not the person she appears to be, she is something other than this form” I still do not understand who she is. Perhaps, I will never be able to truly understand Amma. The mind can only comprehend something that is lesser than itself.
Amma gave me a hug and a kiss. She also whispered something into my ears. I felt She is my Mother.
For the first time in my life, I felt the soothing touch of love. I later felt that this love has a fragrance and that it is protecting me and I was blissful. This love was able to kindle a divine feeling in my heart. Later, I realized that this pure love is God.
Guarantee card Once all the members of my family, along with a group from Ernakulam, decided to visit Vallikkavu. They wanted me to join I asked, “What’s there?” They said, “Bhajans“. “I’m not interested in Bhajans. I have better things to do.” I went ahead with my planned activities as at that time I was the secretary of the Chinmaya Yuva Kendra
This was the 1st time I said “No” to my birth mother and she was very sad. They went to Vallikkavu and came back after seeing Amma. My sister started describing Amma’s bhajans, and Swamiji’s songs. She said, during bhajans it feels as if Devi and Krishna are in front of you. With a tone of indifference, I said “…OK”. Seeing that there was no change in my attitude, my mother said, “I told Amma about you.” “Aha, what did you say?” “Amma, please straighten my son.” “And what did Amma say?”, I asked “Amma said that she will take care of you” “Well, I was looking for someone who could straighten me, I’m glad Amma agreed”
When Amma says “I’ll take care” that is a guarantee in itself. It is the practical commentary of the verse from Gita – तेषामहं समुद्धर्ता मृत्युसंसारसागरात्। 12.7 I will lift you up from the Ocean of Samsara.
Praying without faith Had my birth mother realized that her prayers would one day come true, she would not have prayed like that. Often, we pray without complete faith. Do we pray without faith? Yes. Often, we pray without complete faith to get temporary relief from whatever predicament we are facing. Since the prayer is born out of sorrow, it is often heartfelt and sincere.
Amma’s divine laughter Those days, Amma would visit various places in Ernakulam for programs. She would come upto 4 times a month and I would always go to see her. I wanted to hear Amma call out “Ammaaa Ammaaa” and her divine laughter “Ammaahahahah” during Bhajan time. It was Amma’s bliss overflowing. I get goosebumps when I hear Amma’s divine laughter and kept coming for more. For me, this was the highlight of Bhajans.
As I started seeing Amma regularly, my family stopped. They opposed my visits.
Amma’s house visit Once after a program in Ernakulam, I asked Amma if she would visit my home. Amma agreed and I got into Amma’s van and reached home.
I was pleasantly surprised to see my family welcome Amma. They showed no disrespect towards her. My father performed Pada Puja and received Amma.
My birth mother is a devotee of Lord Shiva. Due to my association with Chinmaya Mission, I would greet everyone by saying “Hari Om”. But that was not acceptable for my mother and she would greet with “Namah Shivaya”. Her understanding was not based on God principle.
During house visits, Amma usually sings Amba Bhavani Jai Jagadambe…. so, can you guess which bhajan Amma sang when she came home? “Hari Om Namasivaya, Hari Om Namasivaya”
Spirituality is life itself I have read Amma’s biography many times and memorized almost all her conversations.
I understood that spirituality is not an escape from life, in fact it shows you how to live effectively in this world. You must earn your livelihood by hard work and not become a parasite. Spirituality is about living effectively whether you are on the battlefield, in a game or living in a forest. Spirituality is not confined to a monastery.
‘“Loving the cow, for the sake of its milk” Contemplating on this teaching of Amma helped me see through people’s affections and the masks fell away. I decided that my life should not be like that. आत्मनस्तु कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति (ātmanastu kāmāya sarvaṃ priyaṃ bhavati) It is for one’s own sake everything else is loved. Meaning of this Upanishad mantra became clearer to me.
She taught me to see God in the wind, in the clouds and in the rain. It was through Amma’s teachings that I could convert Bhagavad Gita hymns into a life-embracing philosophy. Through her laughs, plays, songs, dance, sweet words, gentle touches and hugs, Amma is sharing her happiness. Amma celebrates life. Amma is a living model for attesting the fact that spirituality is the fragrance of life, it is life itself.
Amma knew even the smallest incidents When I started going to the ashram, there were problems at home and my family opposed my visits to the ashram. On different occasions Amma would ask me, Son, what did your mother, father or sister say. She would always ask about the person who created an issue at home that day. Once Amma asked, “What did your friends say?” All my friends had come together and argued with me as to why I should not go to the Ashram! What amazed me was the fact that Amma knew even the smallest incidents that took place in my house.
Anyway, I wanted to test Amma and decided to do it myself. Does Amma know everything in my mind? I needed to make sure of that.
Amma, Look at me & Smile My height was always an advantage. I would stand around 20 feet away from the darshan stage and look at Amma. This was my test. I would silently call Amma 3 times in my mind. If Amma can really read my thoughts, then she will look at me and smile. Before the 2nd call, Amma stopped darshan, raised her head and gave me a smile. “Well, that’s nothing!” And I was not ready to accept this as proof, as smiling comes naturally for Amma. So, that’s not a big deal. I can’t be sure that she smiled at me, right?” So I decided to try this again, but this time from Amma’s left side. I called, “Ammaa, Amma” Amma turns to her left side and gave me a smile. “Hmmm.. maybe her neck is hurting as she has been giving darshan; also she may have turned as prasad is passed from her left.” I started to find reasons to justify her gestures in response to my prayer. So I went to Amma’s right and repeated this. Amma would stop Darshan, raise her head and look at me and smile. I thought, “Well… Amma is giving darshan and so she naturally looked to the right.” Though I enjoyed Amma’s attention, I was not ready to believe that Amma was answering my prayers. I decided to take this a step further. This time, I stood behind her! Called “Ammee” Lo and behold, Amma turned around and gave me a smile! Remember, my prayers were happening in my mind, not outside.
I realized that Amma is aware of my thoughts. I stopped my experiment. This then became our game. Wherever I called her in my mind, no matter how busy she was, Amma would look at me and smile. This became our sweet, secret game.
I have been playing this game for the longest time, but Amma has never lost in this game! You can also try this! Even if 1000 people call her at the same time, she is capable of making all 1000 happy at the same time. Such is our divine mother who is sitting here.
Will you accept me as a disciple? Sometimes after the Devi bhava, Amma would walk alone around the Ashram at night and one night she went from Kalari to Achan’s house. When Amma would come out after Devi Bhava she looked even more splendid. I wanted to see Amma one more time and waited for her and fell asleep on the sand under the Henna tree in front of the Kalari. It must have been about 4 AM in the morning when Amma returned. Amma woke me up. When I saw Amma, I jumped up. “Son, didn’t you go? Don’t lie on the sand.” Right there I asked “Amme, will you accept me as a disciple?” Amma nodded her head. “Amma will you help me with my sadhana (spiritual practices)?” Amma said “Yes, I will” I thought that I cannot be in Amma’s physical presence all the time, what will happen to me then? I will lose my wits and so I need a Guru who can help whenever I need help. With this thought in mind, I asked her, “Amma will you help me no matter where I am?” Amma answered that she will help and will also protect me as well. I surrendered myself at Amma’s feet and prostrated. Amma took my hand and kissed. And so, I got my ticket to board ‘Amma Airlines’.
From then until today, tears never welled up in my eyes, due to Amma’s blessing & grace. I have never had to worry or grieve in my life.
Which is greater, Guru or Guru words? When I used to visit , in the 1st day Amma would sweetly ask, “Swami, how are things?” Amma was the first to call me Swami. After 2 or 3 weeks, Amma would scold and ask me to go back home. I would leave crying, but had a feeling of relief as well, as Amma did not say, “Don’t come back.” This way I used to be back after a week and so managed to stay here for 3 weeks a month. I do not want to leave Amma nor disobey her either. I was in a dilemma. And I asked Amma, which is greater, Guru or Guru words? My loophole behind this question was that Amma would say, of course Guru is greater. I was expecting this answer so I could stay back here, and it was ok to disobey Amma’s words. However Amma’s answer was unexpected, she said “Son, Guru and Gurus’ words are not two; It is like honey and its sweetness. ” This cleared my confusion, and I began to obey my Guru’s words.
Silent eloquence of Brahman In those days when you paid the university just 25 rupees for a semester; I was enrolled in a computer course which cost 6000 rupees. You can imagine the mental agony of my parents when I skipped these classes. Perhaps their sorrow reflected in Amma because every time I would skip classes and come here, Amma would ask me to study. I would ask Amma, “What should I study?” What is the benefit of this education which is only aimed at earning a livelihood? There is no guarantee that you will get a job despite spending so much money, time and energy. Why do you want me to study this? Isn’t there just one thing to study, knowing which everything else is known. Shouldn’t I be studying that? This was the thought behind my question.
Amma answered in silence. I interpreted it to be the silent eloquence of the Brahman.
Why am I not getting goosebumps So one day when I came to the ashram and Amma was giving darshan in the hut, I sang a bhajan for the first time. Until then everyone in the ashram thought I was a singer… well that changed quickly. You could say I recited the bhajan and not sang it. I had in fact changed the lyrics.
Remembering your name Amma, Why am I not getting goosebumps, Lost in your thought Amma, Why am I not forgetting everything?
No thirst, nor hunger, Even forgot to shower In your thought Amma; Why am I not forgetting everything?
I sang it after filling my stomach three times and taking a bath with oil and shampoo. Isn’t this Pure hypocrisy? Am I not a liar? I lack sincerity. How can I then expect Amma’s blessing? And even if I expect, how will I get it?
I asked Amma, Why can’t I forget thirst and hunger? When will I forget everything and remain established in Amma? Even today, it is the same question that I have for Amma!
Spirituality means being true and honest towards oneself. With others you can pretend to be anything, when we are alone, our consciousness will prick us and ask, “why this false posturing?” When we are in a crowd, we may not hear the voice of this conscience.
Wipe the tears of at least 2 people I had two options in front of me – either lead a material life based on spirituality or lead a 100% spiritual life. I had no idea which was better and could not choose. Fortunately, Amma made it clear for me. During each visit, Amma would explain the purpose of life and narrate experience and stories that revealed the futility of material life. The life stories of the renunciates and the attitude of their families gave me the necessary dispassion and strengthened my mind.
Amma asked me “Do you want to sacrifice this life for a wife and two children? In the end, they will also be in tears. Or would you rather wipe the tears of at least 2 people?”
My path was clear.
Later I read an advice of Amma: “Children in the coolness of the wind, the blossoming flower and in the moonlight, all is pervaded by god’s consciousness. The purpose of life is to realize this and for this, a group of young people will throw everything away and go into self enquiry in this Kali Yuga”
Yes. I’m ready, count me in, I told myself.
We do Pooja to see Devi During full moons, my family used to regularly conduct a Sri Chakra Pooja at home. On one such full moon day, I really wanted to see Amma and when I was about to leave home, My mother asked me to stay and do the pooja as my father was not at home and both my mother and sister were not in a position to do the puja. My mother did not want the pooja that was being performed for the last 8-10 years to be interrupted.. But I was stubborn and insisted that I wanted to see Amma, I got into a quarrel, left the house.
When I reached the ashram, Amma asked me, “What did your mother say when you left home?” I told her about my quarrel with my mother. What did you say? I said, “We do Pooja to see Devi. If you cannot see Devi, then what is the use of that Pooja? Once you have seen Devi, what is the use of further poojas?” Amma gave me a tight hug and said “My Dear Son” That hug was a testament of my faith in Amma.
Amma is always the same, we are the ones who need faith and conviction.
I remember an incident involving Kollam Ayyappan. Amma told him “Son, Saturn is bad for you and you need to do Shani pooja at a Brahmasthanam temple. He said with a laugh – I adore Adi Parashakti, the primordial power who rules the planets; Saturn, Mars or Rahu won’t bother me. I will do it for you, because you asked me to, but my faith is absolutely in you.
We need to realize and remember that the perfect Brahma Swaroopini is playing the role of Krishna and Devi here.
Bad time? Really? We often hear people around here say that it is “bad time” etc. Well, out of the approx. 84,00,000 species aren’t we lucky to be born as humans? Out of all the Humans born, aren’t we lucky that we are god seeking? Out of all the god-seeking aren’t we lucky to have a Satguru? Aren’t we extremely lucky that we get years/decades to live with a Satguru? Aren’t we blessed that our Satguru is in fact an incarnation? If you still consider yourself unlucky, then it is better to have been born as donkey, pig or worm and die like one.
The former Election Commissioner of India, TN Seshan came here in 1996 and said: “The power to guide Bharat sits here (pointing to Amma) clad in white. If we do not make use of Amma’s divine presence, history will blame us as the most idiotic fools ever to be born on earth. Please do not allow that to occur.”
As Shankaracharya says अद्य अष्टमि इति नवमि इति चतुर्द्दशि इति ज्योतिष्कवादे विश्वशन्ति भक्त्या श्रु तेत्वहो तत्वमसीति वाक्यं न विश्वसन्ति अत्भुतमेतदेव। adya aṣṭami iti navami iti caturddaśi iti jyotiṣkavādē viśvaśanti bhaktyā śrutē tvaho tatvamasīti vākyaṁ na viśvasanti atbhutamēdēva. We are ready to accept with complete faith the words of all the astrologers but we will not believe when the scriptures say “Tatvamasi”. This is the greatest miracle.
I was not ready to give up the fortune and privilege of living with Amma.
I would rather live in a kennel Ever since, quarrels became a constant activity at home; Finally, I was at my wits end and one day I told my parents, Amma is my Guru and I don’t want any further discussion on this.
Once my birth mother said a lot of bad things about Amma and it was beyond what I could bear. I decided that I cannot stay in this house anymore. Amma is not letting me stay in the Ashram either. Nevertheless, there is no need to stay in the house of those who oppose Amma. I said that I would rather live in a kennel at a devotee’s house than stay here … and saying this, I left home.
I had learnt Lalita Sahasranama, Vishnu Sahasranama, Bhagavad Gita and Narayaneeyam under my mother’s tutelage. But now when I started my search for god, she turned against me.
Roll number 22 When I came to the ashram, Amma allowed me to stay here. My accommodation was with the brahmacharis. We were given Amma’s old saree to use a shawl to cover ourselves and this signified that we were brahmacharis. My roll number here was 22
I have not given you permission As I started living in the ashram, I began to get the feeling that something is different about Amma’s interactions with me. It was as though she did not recognize me as a brahmachari. It started becoming more apparent over a period of time and finally I asked “Amma, why are you treating me like this? Am I not a brahmachari here?” Her response shocked me, as she said “No, I have not given you permission to stay in.” When is Amma saying this…….. After 2 years!!! “What should I do Amma?” “You will not be allowed here unless you bring a letter from home.” I literally fainted. I had fought with my family and came here. Now Amma wants me to go back 2 years later and get a permission letter from my father!! No way!! I was certain that they will not fulfill my wish and I started to cry, however Amma hardened her stance. No Letter, No Stay. I was dejected and did not know what to do.
In Amma Guru Bhava and Mother Bhava manifests equally – Compassion & Dharma. Amma operates from either of these levels based on the situational need, that is why she is confusing compassion.
When I saw that there was no other way, I took Amma’s blessings and headed home.
Stop crying, start laughing I left after Devi Bhava darshan, wrapping up my crowd control duties. Wearing the same dirty shirt, l left by bus and reached home around 4 in the evening. I just lay in the courtyard of the house. After a long time my family saw me. My mother came towards me, but I covered my face and lay on the sand sighing. “What happened?” my mother asked repeatedly. I did not say anything and just kept crying. She asked me to come inside, but I did not. Few well-wishers who came to see me and tried to talk to me. The minute someone approached me I would start crying uncontrollably, when they turned, I would stop crying and start laughing. This scene kept repeating.
I was amazed at my own ability and asked myself, “Dude, how are you doing this?” “Am I not the one who is crying? How am I able to laugh immediately?” I just could not understand myself.
I lay there in front of the house in the sand. Mosquitos were feasting on me. My father came to the house at 9:45 PM. I hadn’t talked to anyone until then. I saw my father and started to cry My father asked, “Tell me, what happened?.“ I replied, “Amma said I cannot stay there anymore” “Good, you don’t have to go.“ “No, I want to go” “What if the ashram doesn’t want you?“ “They have agreed to let me in with your letter” “I will not give you a letter” I said, “I have to go to the Ashram, but if I cannot stay in the ashram then I will go somewhere in the Himalayas. If I am with Amma, you have chances of seeing me, however if I go to the Himalayas you never get to see me. I want to be with Amma in this life or the next. I must go.”
My father said, “Come inside first. Take a bath and eat. Let’s talk after that.” I said “No, I’ll come inside if you agree to write that letter” Our argument continued for half an hour. Finally, my father agreed. I happily took a bath and ate. I took a pen and paper and gave it to my father. He refused to write the letter then. He said, “I’ll give it to you tomorrow. Now you go to sleep.” It took two days for my father to finally write the letter.
My father wrote and signed: “I have no objection in my son joining the Ashram.”
Elated, I prostrated at my parents’ feet and came back to the ashram with great joy.
After all this ordeal, Amma didn’t even look at that letter once!
The Guru’s instructions are always to gauge how much dispassion, faith and devotion we have. The four of us, my father, mother, sister and I, did everything together, eat, sleep shop etc. together. My sister and I handled our parents’ salaries. Four of us, we were one close-knit team. Therefore, I postulated that their blessings were needed to make meaningful progress in my spiritual life. Perhaps, this is why Amma sent me to my parents.
No one is ours and nothing is our own
After a few months in the Ashram, I was on the way to Amma’s Kasargode program.
My mind was preoccupied. I kept thinking of my students. Before joining the ashram, I used to conduct spiritual classes for ~120 school children at home. Thoughts of those children flooded my mind. I wanted to see them. I thought, “There is no way they would come to Kasargod. I didn’t have a phone, nor did they.” I kept thinking, “How do I contact them?” My mind was restless. I told Amma about the state of my mind. Amma replied with a smile. And she sang two lines from a bhajan for me. ബന്ധമില്ല ബന്ധുവില്ല സ്വന്തം അല്ലൊന്നും നമ്മൾക്കന്ത്യകാലം ബന്ധു എന്നത് സ്വന്തം ആത്മാവ് bandhamilla bandhuvilla svantaṁ alleānnuṁ nam’maḷkkantyakālaṁ bandhu ennat svantaṁ ātmāv No one is ours and nothing is there to call as our own. In our last days, only our true self remains to call as our own.
And just like that, my mind calmed down. The bonds of those relationships dissolved completely. This is the greatness of a Guru. You may be familiar with scriptures or you may have heard certain advice before; but the effect is greater when you hear it directly from the guru.
Amma’s words that the Atma has no attachments was not new information. I had learnt them in scriptures. But, to absorb, assimilate and apply in practice, was the challenge. Amma’s words had a profound effect on me. Since then, to this day, such thoughts have not bothered me.
It is said that when Guru advises us, a fraction of their life force is infused into us. If we have shraddha in guru’s words, then this has the potential to transform our lives. Therefore, so much importance is given to listening (Shravanam) in spiritual life.
A week in the joy of accomplishing In 1997, I was in Thrissur district as part of the AmritaKuteeram Housing project for the poor. Building materials such as cement and steel were stored at the local Amrita Vidyalayam School. We used to transport the materials to the worksite as & when needed.
One day, a truck load of cement arrived at the school. Workers from the local freight union also arrived to help unload. I welcomed them and said, “Please help me. This is for building free houses for the poor. But I won’t be able to afford you.” They insisted on getting paid. I was not ready to pay as their charges were exorbitant. They did not agree. In fact, they insisted that they get paid even if someone else did the job! “But, if swamis’ do it then we won’t ask for the money”, they said.
Two of the union workers who were creating trouble, were in fact also the beneficiaries of this project! We decided to not engage them as that was adharmic. Br Sumedhamrita Chaitanya (Jayashankar) and I, along with two others started to unload the cement truck. Each sack weighed 50 kg (110 lbs). We carried it on our shoulders or heads and stacked them in a room.
The workers sat on the school wall, smoking and watching us. They assumed that we would stop in 10 or 15 minutes and will ask for their service. Little did they know that Amma had trained us in all these types of work before sending us on this assignment.
We happily started to unload the truck. After some time, I was a little tired as I had never done such strenuous work. It wasn’t just 10 or 50 sacks, there were 450! We weren’t ready to give up. Chanting our mantras, we unloaded all the 450 sacks in 2 hours. The union workers left disappointed.
Having accomplished this big task, we went and bathed, ate and slept. In that joy of accomplishing the seva, we didn’t get up from our bed for a week – we were down with body pain!
When I cried first time As part of this project, we went to check the site of one of the applicants, Kathu Amma. When we finally got to the site, what we saw shocked us. They were living in dire conditions. We saw a 60-year-old elderly lady, who had not eaten any food in days. She was sleeping in the shade of palm leaves that were leaning against a jackfruit tree. Clothes in tatters, pale eyes, she looked more like a dead person.
She had four children, all mentally challenged. The eldest was sleeping under a tree. Grass had grown around him. One of the daughters abandoned them. Second daughter would verbally abuse everyone. The youngest one was slightly better, but he too was mentally challenged. However, he was the only breadwinner for the family.
After collecting their information I asked Kathu Amma, “Did you eat anything?” She said, “No” “How about breakfast?” “No” “Did you eat anything last night?” “No” “When was the last time you ate?” “A week ago!” “What did you eat?” “A few raw onions” “Where did you get that from?” “leftovers from a wedding reception”
I could not believe my eyes and ears. I did not want to ask any more questions. I was afraid to ask when she ate before that.
I have heard about dire poverty, but I have never witnessed one. That too in literate Kerala.
I asked someone from our group to go buy some rice, Tapioca, sugar and tea. They lived on a hill and do not have access to fresh water and had to go down the hill and fetch it. Kathu Amma could not even get up. We fetched water and poured some into a bowl and started preparing tea & rice for them using the stone stove. They didn’t even have a match to light the fire. Luckily, one of the volunteers accompanying us used to smoke and he had a matchbox. I thought, “at least smoking has some benefit, the matchbox can be used to light someone else’s stove”
We approved their application for a house and returned to the ashram.
I could not eat or sleep for about a week. Whenever I was about to eat food, their faces would fill my mind. I would cry at night thinking about them. Amma taught me to cry for others.
I put them first on the priority list and the first house that we built was theirs.
“മോക്ഷത്തിലാശയുണ്ടെങ്കിൽ മക്കൾ സ്വാർത്ഥതാ ഭാവം ത്യജിക്കൂ ദീനജനത്തിന്റെ തേങ്ങൽ ധ്വനികളെ കാതുറ്റു കേൾക്കാൻ ശ്രമിക്കൂ” – അമ്മ “If there is a desire for salvation, children you should renounce selfishness Listen to the anguish and painful sighs of the poor & downtrodden” – Amma
Until then, Amma’s teaching such as -Compassion for the poor is duty to God; There are plenty of starving poor in the world so don’t waste food; People do not have a roof over their head, so avoid luxurious life. And all of Amma’s other advice was just ideals for me until then. Little did I realize that it was the naked truth of life.
My first photo, first selfie with Amma If my memory serves me right, I got my first digital camera in 1997.
During one of the Indian tours, everyone was swimming in the Bhavani river with Amma. Since I had a slight fever, I just took a quick dip and came out. I sat on a bund in the river. After swimming for a while, Amma came towards me. The bund I was sitting on did not have any step, and the river there was deep. Amma cannot climb directly on to the bund from the river, so I extended my left arm towards Amma and with my right I took our picture. It was my first photo of Amma, our first selfie in 1997!
After I started using the camera, I began to recognize the innumerable subtle expressions on Amma’s face. My mind became more focused on Amma.
Shihab, an award-winning photographer from Manorama newspaper, was taking lot of pictures of Amma. I then asked him, if he takes so many pictures of others as well. He said, “No” I asked, “Then why do you take so many photos of Amma?” He replied, “Swami, I have never seen a great personality like Amma. No two photos taken from the same angle at the same time are the same. Every photo is different” I know that this is 150% true. Now-a-days, we can see Amma’s face up close through the TV screen. Her expressions clearly visible. Amma’s expressions changes every second, according to the person approaching her. Like a mirror, Amma just reflects the person in front of her. She is not attached to anyone.
This photo was taken on her 64th birthday after a 28-hour marathon darshan! Amma had been on the stage without any sleep, food, or rest. Look at those eyes, they are detached, at peace and radiant.
I cried a lot looking at this picture, thinking of Amma’s love and compassion for us. Amma has given herself to the world, for us. Amma gives her everything for us.
Satyam Shivam Sundaram & Samadhi
[Truth, Auspiciousness, Beauty] is an Indian concept of God. Where there is truth, there is auspiciousness, where there is auspiciousness that is beautiful.
When I stand in front of Amma with a camera, only her facial expressions fill my mind. Usually, when we stand near Amma’s pathway, we think, “Amma should look at me”. But when I am with a camera, I just look at Amma. The thought that “Amma should look at me” is absent. I forget myself; my mind becomes focused through the eyes of the camera. In this state, I become one with that. Thatvamasi. Only Amma exists. The creator and creation become one.
Any seva we get to do around Amma or whatever seva she has entrusted us, can be a means of reaching her. We can turn every experience into samadhi – if the settings of our mind are right!
Golden era of my Ashram life
We have heard people talking about the past golden era of ashram life. But did they really feel the same during that time? Today, during the corona era, where food, pulisheri and rasam is served at our doorsteps and bhajans are live streamed, will I be able to say that these corona days are the best days of my ashram life? If not, we are living in past (memories) or future (dreams), not in this beautiful present.
Guru Recognizes your Innocent face A Guru once asked his disciple, “How long have you been here? I do not remember your face.” The disciple was shocked. He thought, “I have been in the monastery for about 10 years. I am the one who takes care of all the Guru’s needs, do his laundry, clean the room and even cooks his food. Just yesterday, I was the one who put the shoes on for him. What kind of Guru is he who still doesn’t know me?” The disciple left the thinking that he made a huge mistake joining the ashram.
The Guru sees our innocent face, not our outer face. For the last 10 years, he may not have done any innocent action that reflected in Guru’s heart. In the question, Guru’s emphasis was not on “how many years” but was on “Here”. “How long have you been living in the present”, was the import of Guru’s question
If you live in the present, then naturally innocence will come to your mind. Your innocent mind will reflect in the Guru. “I could not see that innocent face”, this was the gist of what the Guru meant.
You may have done a lot of hard work, it does not matter. How many of us worshiped and have done homas. Why does Amma remember the pooja performed by Delhi Rajesh without any pooja ingredients or remember the poem recited by Dharmamrita Swami? Only when there is innocence in our minds, our face will reflect in Amma’s mind.
What is innocence? What is innocence? Innocence means there is no separation. Never try to hide anything from the Guru. Guru knows what we have done and what you are about to do. When we try to hide, we turn away from the Guru. Nevertheless, the Guru knows. We need to have an attitude of openness with the Guru about what we have done, right or wrong.
This does not mean we have to go and say every minute detail about everything. It is not practical to talk to Amma physically all the time, but you can look at her picture and talk. However, we must sense Amma’s divine presence in the photo. Then when we share our thoughts with Amma, our divisive mind dissolves. We become one with Amma. Some people are afraid to tell Amma directly. They look at her picture and talk, that is not right. That is done out of fear, not out of love.
देह बुद्ध्या तु दासॊहं जीव बुद्ध्या त्वदन्शककः | आत्म बुद्ध्या त्वमेवाहं इति मे निश्चिता मतिः || dēha bud’dhyā tu dāsohaṁ jīva bud’dhyā tvadanśakaha ātma bud’dhyā tvamēvāhaṁ iti mē niścitā matihi. When I think I am the body, I am your servant. When think I am an individual, I am part of you. When I think I am Atman, I am you. I have no confusion about this. This is the attitude of Lord Hanuman we should cultivate.
We should keep our heart ready for Amma to come and go as she pleases. Leave it open. Do not worry thinking it is unclean or has rubbish in it. It is the Amma’s duty to clean, not ours. That’s why we have come to Amma. If you find dirt and grime, do not try to cover it, leave it open in front of Amma. That is innocence. What we need is intellectual honesty, and that takes courage. Then we will have simplicity in our life. Being naïve, blurting out nonsense or saying silly comments is not innocence. That is ignorance. There is no spiritual awakening in it.
Mandokya Upanishad & Innocence In Mandokya Upanishad’s commentary, Sri Shankara says the 3 things needed for attaining enlightenment are
Scholarship, 2. Child-like innocence 3. Silence. Scholarship is the knowledge gained about the atman through listening (shruti/scriptures).
Child-like innocence is the ability to forget and forgive the mistakes of others. To be free from prejudice, to learn to enjoy even the smallest events in life, to be able to smile and laugh from the heart. This childlike innocence is what is required. Do not hide anything from yourself and your guru. Why? To have control of your mind. You must be able to control your thoughts and feelings. Just like how sunlight enters through an open window, when we open our hearts to our Guru, we will then recognize our ignorance and misconceptions. We need to make an effort to change. That is innocence.
We should not try to justify and hide our mistakes. We need to recognize them they are – for that, we need innocence.
We should realize that Amma is correcting our mistakes. Amma has no hatred, only compassion. Amma has no prejudices, only Dharma. We must have the purity to realize that all that Amma does is to uplift us. To know all these aspects, we need innocence.
Harsh Words & Shraddha Amma may use harsh words, but that is not out of anger against us. This is to awaken our sraddha.
After the bhajans on Diwali day, I went to take a picture of Amma against the backdrop of Diwali lights. Amma asked, “Why are you taking photos during this corona period? Do you want to give it to your girlfriend?” Startled, I searched within, “Is there anyone hiding in my mind?” “No. Phew! Just one friend.” “A complete friend – who no matter how good the photo is, she will not approve it.” I looked at Amma and laughed.
Having spent so much of my life with my Krishna, I think in the beginning of Bhagavad Gita where Lord Sri Krishna says, क्लैब्यं मास्म गम पार्थ klaibyaṁ māsma gama pārt’thā .. (Arjuna, this neither male nor female behavior does not suit you) It seems to me that this is not the way Sri Krishna might have said this, as they were friends for over 40 years. He might have said. “Dude, just shut up, get up and fight. Are you fit to only eat, drink and poop? If you can’t fight, say so. I’ll get the girls to come and fight. They will do a better job. You’ll just bring disgrace to your warrior legacy.”
My Guru & the Guru of the world Amma didn’t become Jagadguru because she is my guru. Amma didn’t become the mother of the universe because she is my mother. Instead, Amma became my guru because she is the guru of the world. Amma became my Atma because she is the Atma of the world. She became my mother because she is the mother of the world. There will be no sorrow if we think this way. This will help us to avoid jealousy, envy, anger and resentment.
Without a pure mind, no one can know me How do you understand this Amma? Many years ago, after the bhajans, Amma used to talk to a girl every day for at least an hour. This went on for months. One day she was talking to Amma’s in her room all alone. Later I made a comment, how lucky that girl is, as she gets to talk to Amma for so long. I meant well and I did not say that out of jealousy. But Amma’s face changed. She was very serious. “You shouldn’t say that. It does not matter how much or how long one stays with me. Without a clear and pure mind, no one can know me.” “Okay Amma, I’m sorry” I apologized. After that, it did not matter how long anyone walked, talked or sat with Amma. I did not feel any envy or confusion.
It was a practical translation of a Gita hymn यतन्तोप्य कृतात्मानो नैनं पश्यन्त्यचेतसः Yatanthopyakrithamano Nainampashyanti Achetasah 15:11
Let me grow under you shade Amma says “Learning gita is to become sri Krishna”. Our lives should become the Gita. On this auspicious day of Gita Jayanti, I am grateful that I could share my thoughts in Amma’s divine presence. എന്നെഅറിഞ്ഞു ഞാൻ നിന്നിലെത്തും വരെ നിൻ തണലിൽ നീവളർത്തൂ അമ്മേ… Until I know myself and reach you, let me grow under you shade. This is my prayer to MY Sri Krishna.
When we listen to the Aarati bell every day, while we sing the line “… Paramahamsa nilaye devi …”one more day passes without truly knowing Amma. Our hearts musts yearn to realize Her.
We need to expand our understanding from
This Amma whom we see, hug, laugh with and who caresses us,
To the Amma who pervades the whole universe, who is the substratum of all living beings And from that to
The Amma who is Brahman. Praying that our minds will be cleansed, and wisdom will dawn to recognize and reach her. I offer my words as flowers of worship at Amma’s lotus feet,
well known carnatic classical violinists, mysore nagaraj and mysore manjunath, also known as the ‘mysore brothers’ came to meet amma and performed for her near the end of darshan. they were sitting by her side for some time and as darshan ended, amma decided to sing. she sang two songs, they then took out their instruments and started playing along with amma. after two songs amma asked them to play alone. they played the famous song “raghupati raghava raja ram” while amma sat clapping and enjoying the music, especially the sound of the violin. the whole crowd joined amma in clapping along to the music. after the marvelous performance amma once again blessed them.
“this is the best and most memorable experience we have had in the last 40 years of career,” said arjun kumar, who was accompanying the mysore brothers on mridangam. he continued, “for me, the mridangam has always been my goddess. but today i saw the goddess alive.”
this is the first time that i am watching professional artists who came to meet amma, then perform along with her and sit around her darshan chair and playing for her.
while leaving they were saying “we will come back, we will come back soon.”
at the end of darshan in jaipur amma asked all devotees to help to stack the chairs which was used at the program grounds. there were thousands.. and she specifically asked me to go and take chairs. i did. then came the second command. take a pic and post on fb! lol.. here it is .. even if we cannot do everything guru says, whatever possible we must do na?
may her grace be there with us always. 2 april 2016, jaipur.
early in the day it was very much in the air that amma may play holi. when? no one knew. i saw some devotees walking around with some colour powder. so it was obvious that something might happen. but when? no one knew.
remember? back in 2007, in mysore, one devotee took powder hiding under her sari while going for darshan and she she took out the powder and smeared it on amma’s cheek. she gave amma the rest of the bowl. then amma started smearing golden yellow colour on everyone who was coming for darshan. and lo!! it was the IVUSA japanese students who were in the line. they were meeting amma for the first time. they didn’t know anything about holi. amma was applying the yellow powder on their faces. one of my brother jokingly said that they thought that it was part of the darshan !!!
but today, the news was spreading around. amma will play holi at the end of darshan. so many little ones of the asrham were running towards the stage at the end of darshan for playing holi with amma.
there was a padapuja. after the puja one devotee brought powder and water. amma started spraying water and throwing colour powder all around. i was standing near her chair. amma took a handful of pink powder and smeared it on my face. she took time to make sure that its all over my face. every one was laughing. then she threw all around, on the sides, in the front, upwards, and even towards the back taking everyone by surprise. the fan above made sure that everyone will have their quota of colours.
amma was joyously singing ‘aaye he holi, bhar pichkari’ (holi has come! water pistols are filled with colours). i was helping amma to fill up the pichkari and handing it over to her. i never expected that she will aim straight back at my face as soon as I offered it to her! yes she did. she pointed the pichkari to my face and emptied all that water. she didnt forget to pour some into my shirt – i mean inside of it.
then amma started the next song ‘vraj me isa.. much gaya shor‘… this particilar line – ‘kanha ek, gopi anek’ (krishna is one, gopis are many). some girls standing in front of amma started dancing while singing, pointing to amma meaning that krishna/amma is one. next line was ‘see the leela of shyam (krishna)’… i started acting out, pointing to amma – ‘shyam ke ye” .. then to my face “leela ko dekh” (see the leela) amma started laughing. amma kept on singing those line for some more time.
it was superb. after amma left the stage we collected the remaining coloured powder and went around, painting all those we crossed, amongst laughter and joyful screams till we ran out of powder.
i went back to the room. took off my shirt. my chest was full of colours. looked at my shirt several times and decide to archive it – as a memory of holi that my krishna played with me. ~ dhyanamrita
whenever i travel, especially with amma, i am reminded of what amma said about yatra. she says that when the mind is on the ride, we are traveling. if not, then we are not, even if the body is moving. such a person’s mind is centered in the self..
the bharata yatra of 2010 has started with the programs in talassery, one of the northern districts of kerala. amma has been coming to talassery for a long time. i still remember one of the earlier programs that happened at the sree rama temple. it might have been in late eighties. the crowd was sooooo big, the temple compound was overflowing with people who came to meet amma for the first time. at that time amma was not giving satsangs, only bhajans. bhajan would last nearly 3 hours and the darshan would start afterwards. for the morning programs there will be ‘vilakku puja.’ amma would lead the devotees in step by step of the puja to the lamp lit in front of them. it was always very nice to watch them all sitting in line and chanting the 1000 names of devi as devi herself lead the chant. one or two bhajans will be there at the conclusion of the program. that 3 hours program was also fantastic, which will take you beyond this world.
this year in talassery we were staying in a room next to amma’s. there are about 30 brahmacharis in the hall and only one bathroom on that floor. so the toilet was busy through out. everyone was given 3 minutes to 5 minutes to finish their cleaning activites. when the time is over the person waiting will knock at the door. always there is a que. and the interesting thing is you see brahmacharis doing some yoga, chanting mantra, meditating, even studying mandookya upanishad while they wait for the toilet. time is precious. as amma says time lost cannot be retrieved. money lost can be recovered. so without wasting time try to realise god.
living with amma gives more opportunities to practice what amma teaches.
more than 1300 westerners were there in the ashram for celebrating christmas and the new year with amma.
the festivities are over and it is time to go back and resume work. usually, they take amma’s darshan before they leave. today, one devotee from europe came for darshan. she tried to speak in malayalam with amma. she said that she is leaving next morning and asked whether amma will be with her. with a lovely mischievous smile amma said, “if you take me, i will be there.”
yesterday there was a padapuja by a lady and her mother who is in her 80s. they did the puja with great devotion. after the puja the lady talked to me. she introduced her mother.
the old lady was planning to go to vaishno devi, the famous devi temple in jammu, at a height of 5200 feet above the sea level. you have to walk 14 km up mountains to reach this famous devi temple. recently she had a heart surgery, so she could not make it to vaishno devi.
but her daughter, who is from mumbai, told her that she was going to amma and invited her to come to amritapuri. the mother agreed. so she was here, doing padapuja with her daughter. she was meeting amma for the first time. “i could not go to vaishno devi, but i saw vaishno devi and did puja to her”.
the old lady was in bliss.