- Amritanandamayi Ma
- (1953– )teacher who embodies the Divine MotherAmmachi (beloved Mother), as Amritanandamayi Ma is affectionately known, is a world-renowned Hindu guru recognized as an incarnation of the Holy Mother of Hinduism.Sudhamani (her birth name) was born on September 27, 1953, to a poor fisherman in the small village of Parayakadavu in the state of Ker-ala, showing signs of divinity from the start. The birth itself, which was foreseen by a wandering religious mendicant, was said to be painless for her mother, and the infant did not cry, beaming a happy smile instead. At six months she began speaking prayers and singing songs in praise of Krishna. Her fervor increased, and by age six she was found daily immersed in JAPA (MANTRA recitation), devotional singing, and quiet MEDITA-TION. This practice estranged her from family and friends who did not understand. She took refuge in a deep spirituality.In the mid-1970s she had a series of pro-found visions and meditative experiences, which firmly established her intimate relationship with the Divine Mother and set her on her present mission to Amritanandamayi Ma (b. 1953), a famous devotional teacher from South India known for physically embrac-ing all who go to her (Ma Amritananda Center, San Ramon, California)“Give solace to suffering humanity.” Her mission has matured into a dynamic global congregation. She runs an orphanage near her ASHRAM, housing about 400 poor villagers. She has built hospitals in Bombay and Ernakulam and industrial and com-puter training centers to help poor students learn vocational skills. She advocates the establishment of schools at every ashram to impart religious education.The house where Ammachi was born has become an ashram and the headquarters of Mata Amritananda Mayi Trust. The ashram, Amritapuri, offers food and accommodations for travelers, funds social services for indigents, and sponsors humanitarian activities around the world. Hundreds of devotees work there on social service projects all day and attend daily sessions with Ammachi. At each of her daily appearances, Ammachi sits on a simple chair on stage with 30 male students, brahmacharis, seated on mats on her right and 30 female students, brahmachari-nis, seated on her left, all dressed in white. Each DARSHAN, which can last for six to eight hours, includes the singing of BHAJANS while each of the attendees walks forward for a blessing and an embrace from Ammachi, who remains on stage until all have experienced her embrace.Ammachi tours the globe with a constant schedule of appearances held at major cities in many countries. She does not deliver teachings or speeches. Instead, she blesses all those who go forward. Often thousands of admirers stand in line for hours to be hugged by Ammachi. She says that her life itself is her message and teaching. “An unbroken stream of love flows from me towards all beings in the universe,” she has said. “That is my inborn nature.”At gatherings she disappears behind a screen, where she puts on the clothes of KRISHNA or DEVI, the goddess. She returns to serve as a channel for God, blessing the audience. She says, “The ATMAN, or Self, that is in me is also within you. If you can realize that Indivisible Principle ever shining in you, you will become That.”Ammachi has initiated 11 senior disciples into the order of sannyas (renunciants), two of whom are women. She has followed Hindu tradition by having Swami Dhruvananda of the RAMAKRISHNA MAT H AND MISSION give the rites of sannyas to Swami Amritaswarupananda, her first disciple to renounce worldly life. Since then, Amritaswaru-pananda has performed the rites with Ammachi in attendance.In 1993 Ammachi was named one of three presidents of Hinduism by the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. That same year Hin-duism Today bestowed a “Hindu of the Year” award upon her. In 1995 she spoke at the interreligion meeting of the United Nations. A movie, Darshan, released in 2006, portrays her life and the services organized by the headquarters of her trust.Further reading: Amritanandamayi, Awaken Children: Dialogues with Sri Sri Mata Amritanandamayi. Adapta-tion and translation by Swami Amritaswarupananda 3d ed. (Kerala: Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust, 1992); ———, Eternal Wisdom. Compiled by Swami Jnanamritananda Puri. English translation from the original Malayalam by M. N. Namboodiri (San Ramon, Calif.: Mata Amritanandamayi Center, 1999); Swami Amritaswarupananda, Ammachi: A Biography of Mata Amritanandamayi (San Ramon, Calif.: Mata Amritanan-damayi Center, 1991).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.