How does one become self-actualized, let go of ego and live the selfless life, or become one with the Universal Consciousness? For millions of people worldwide, you emulate Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, better known as “The Hugging Saint.”
Born in 1953 as Sudhamani Idamannel, Mata Amritanandamayi began her personal journey toward selflessness at the age of 14, much to the distress of her parents and others of her village in the Kollam district of India. She could not pass by anyone in distress, either physically or spiritually, and would hold a person to express consolation.
This practice of touching another, especially any man, was not acceptable within that society for any young girl. Despite repeated instructions to desist, this loving girl continued her personal ministry into adulthood, while refusing to entertain thoughts of marriage and family life.
Instead, she spread love wherever she walked. She held those in need of solace, understanding, and reassurance. Mata Amritanandamayi Devi hugged her way to the top of the spiritual leader board. For her, there was no discrimination by sex, age, background, religion, or disease. For her, all people were as she is; one with the universe.
Since the establishment of her charitable foundation, Mata Amritanandamayi Math, in 1981, she has taken her programs, as requested, to the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and wherever needs arise. New devotees to her philosophy and her practices flock to her side at every opportunity.
This tiny lady, in her stark white sari, has roamed the world dispensing her hugs to all who approach her. It is common for her to stand or sit for hours without respite or refreshment as she performs her Darshan, which means “to see” in Sanskrit. It is said that she has embraced over 30 million people in her years of ministry.
In the Hindu tradition, Darshan refers to “seeing” the sacred. When Mata Amritanandamayi hugs someone, she sees the sacred in that individual. In her philosophy all living things are connected and are all sacred creations of the universe.
As to how this began, Amritanandamayi says, “People used to come and tell [me] their troubles. They would cry and I would wipe their tears. When they fell weeping into my lap, I used to hug them. Then the next person too wanted it… And so the habit picked up.”
Some have posited that Mata Amritanandamayi Devi is an avatar, an incarnation of the Divine on earth. Whether she is praised or reviled, misunderstood or dismissed, Amritanandamayi continues to spread her love and acceptance of all wherever she goes. She does not appear to take great note of historical events or disruptions in politics. Rather she looks to the people and their needs.
When asked for guidance, she instructs; Serve God and surrender the ego and all its desires. As for freeing oneself of earthly concerns and ego, Amritanandamayi says, “Contentment ensues from egolessness. And egolessness comes from devotion, love and utter surrender to the Supreme Lord.”
This leader by example embraces all philosophical beliefs, for to do otherwise is to overlook fragments of understanding. Love is all inclusive. And Mata Amritanandamayi Devi believes in and practices only Love.
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