Ammachi in Michigan November 13 - 16th, 2002
Holiday Inn, Dearborn, Michigan
An exclusive miindia.com interview with Ammachi
I had heard about Ammachi's visit to Michigan but did not know much about her nor had I come across anyone else that did. A Google search brought up ammachi.org and I read through all the interesting write-ups. I decided to meet Ammachi in Michigan and share my experience with others on miindia.com.
Wednesday, November 13th 2002 was just another cool Fall day and I woke up with a mental scan of my schedule for the day. I had been in touch with the organizers regarding my interest in interviewing Ammachi. I was asked to come by at 9:30 am shortly before the start of the program at 10 am.
I walked into Holiday Inn, Dearborn and noticed a swarm of people dressed in white clothing. Most of them were white Americans, which surprised me. Everybody was waiting for Amma's arrival. Everyone seemed so much more at ease with the ambiance than I was that I felt like I did not belong there. I moved away from the activity and ended up in a conversation with a reporter from WWJ news radio. This individual was unsure of what to expect either. Now I had some company.
A few minutes later everybody's attention was diverted towards the entrance. Amma walked in with a small group of people. She was clad in a simple white sari and an enigmatic smile, resplendent under a decorative gold colored canopy. Meditation commenced followed by singing of melodious bhajans.
I returned at noon to interview Amma. I was observing people seeking Amma's darshan and it felt uncomfortable witnessing the highly emotional state of people who were moved by her presence. It seemed like forever before I finally got the nod to talk to Amma. I was unsure about the protocol ... questions I can and cannot ask. It wasn’t easy.
I asked Amma whether her mission was "charity" or "spreading the message of peace and love". Amma replied (she spoke in Malayalam while her assistant translated to English) that they are both inter-related. Metaphorically speaking, peace and love provide direction just like the head of a dove, while charity and goodwill enable you to reach your goal just like the wings of a dove.
My next question was based on a personal tidbit about Ammachi that caught my attention. I was awed by the fact that she sleeps for only two hours a day, especially since most of us feel sleep deprived when we get less than 7-8 hours of sleep. I asked her how she goes through her hectic schedule of meeting thousands of people and constant world travel on so little sleep. Amma replied that she derives her energy from within, by doing what she does every single day . . . expressing her love and affection to everybody that comes to see her. When asked if it was possible for someone ordinary person like me accomplish such a feat, she said we are all extraordinary beings. There is a tremendous amount of energy within us and we alone have the capability of harnessing it. Each person is like a battery that does not need an external charge but renews itself through its own willpower; like a candle that always remains lit – spreading its brightness and glow around.
Earlier that morning, I had talked to a few individuals who told me how Amma had changed their lives. Cases of physical healing were common. I asked Amma about her ability to heal suffering people through her divine powers. Her humble response stumped me. She said she had surrendered herself to God and any healing brought about was by divine grace. She did not claim to perform any miracles and it would be best to talk to her followers about their faith.
I thanked Amma for the time she spent with me. It seemed like everybody in the auditorium was in a trance by being in her presence, except for me. I tend to be skeptical of such happenings and had no expectations whatsoever. Now, it was my turn to find out for myself what it was all about. I stepped over to receive her blessings in the form of a hug. Amma embraced me in a warm and affectionate hug for almost one minute and whispered "mother's child" (in Malayalam) in my ear a few times. I felt a strange sort of electric energy flowing through me. I felt calm and peaceful afterwards.
Curiosity and the desire to write this article were the only motivators for my visit to the event. Yet I left feeling different. I do not have words to illustrate the experience. What touched me the most was that Amma spoke to me in all humility, like a friend without an ounce of ego or attitude. I cannot claim to be a completely changed person but the love I felt in Amma’s presence did leave a mark on me. The radiant smile and total sincerity in her interaction with every single person (continuously for hours) was astounding. The experiences of this day will remain forever etched in my memory. God bless Ammachi.
Brought to you by miindia.com's special reporter
More about Ammachi from other publications:
Ammachi has established a number of charity institutions. In a radical departure from Indian tradition (particularly for a woman), Ammachi's darshan consists of a long tender embrace. She has been doing this, as a natural expression of love, since she was a teen. It is estimated that Ammachi has hugged over 20 million times in her life.
On October 7, 2002, Ammachi was an honored keynote speaker at the United Nations in Geneva for The World Conference of Women's Religious and Spiritual Leaders. During this conference, she received the Gandhi-King award for non-violence.
At the invitation of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Amma addressed the United Nations at the Millennium World Peace Summit, as part of a select delegation of "preeminent religious leaders".