The word “ashram” comes from the Sanskrit root “srama”, which means “to toil” and the “a” prefix indicates the negative i.e. not to toil. An ashram refers to a place of spiritual activity and there are many throughout India; places where people can live together in a community sometimes by paying a small fee per day (2-3 USD) or even for free, by volunteering within the community itself.
People in the ashram can practice yoga, meditiation, teachings, music, dancing and can just live together in peace and harmony. A guru (teacher) also often lives in an ashram, performing spiritual teachings. One example is the “Amma – the Mother of Love “of whom you will read about today.
I heard about Amma (“Amma” actually means mother in Hindu) a few years ago from my father when he was reading an article about her and, since I was curious, I started to research a little online and found out that she transmits her positive energy by hugging people. She has embraced 33 million people all over the world, spreading love and compassion wherever she goes. I am amazed about her movement and am eager to meet her too …
Now I am in South India, not far from Amritapuri ,where Amma’s ashram is located. Since I want to have a closer look at it to see what it is all about, I decide to go there.
In order to get there, I have to take a bus and a train. When I get of the train, it is already late evening and there are no longer any buses travelling to the ashram so I have to take an overpriced auto rickshaw (tuktuk). The journey takes about 20 minutes and, because it is dark, it’s not possible to see anything at all. However, I can smell the sea which is wonderful!
As soon as I pass through the gate, I see many people wearing loose white clothes, simply walking around as well as three very tall buildings, around eleven-floors high. I head over to the information counter which is thankfully still open. A family with two children, probably from Skandinavia, is already waiting there. The women at the counter seems a little bit stressed since it is already 8 pm and people are still coming with different queries.
Now it’s my turn and I tell her my name and for how long I would like to stay here. She asks me for my passport and a small donation fee of 3 USD for my food and bed. She also wants to know my zodiac sign (the reason for this, I don’t quite understand in this moment), hands me the key to my room, tells me that check-out time is at 9 am, dinner is at 9 pm and she then points me in the direction of my room, to the left, and to the right for the dinner. I am feeling a little bit lost but hopefully I will adjust quite soon …
I head over to the building which is written on my card: 3rd floor, room number 23. In front of the room there are 2 pairs of shoes and, when I open the door, I see two girls with curly hair inside: my new roomates. We exchange some words and they seem really nice. The room is very simple, basically there is abslutely nothing apart from three individual matrasses on the floor and a toilet – that’s it!
After dropping off my bag, I head out for dinner because I am starving. People of every race are walking between the beautiful palm trees decorating the area and everyone seems very helpful, friendly, happy with a peaceful smile on their faces. This is a very interesting place with an awesome atmosphere all around: some people play the guitar, sing, kids are running around and many old Indian women and men are sitting in chairs in front of the building enjoying their evening.
I head over to the food section and queue up with the others. While waiting, I speak to the people next to me and someone explains that they have three different choices of food here: the regular free Indian food and fancier Indian and Western food, both of which you have to pay for. At first I take one plate of the free food but because I have been eating this food for the past few months and I am also a little bit late (the rice and lentils are very watery and really don’t taste good anymore), I don’t really enjoy this food.
However, I forced myself to eat at least most of it but then I head over to the Western food section to find something sweet also. There they offer a huge variety of food – vegetarian and non-vegetarian, different cakes, salads, pizza, coffee, etc. – all for a very good price. The cake is really delicious and I am already excited about breakfast tomorrow morning.
I am feeling very lucky that I am here in the ashram while the Darshan is being held. Now I want to have a look outside the ashram to explore the area and enjoy the freh air of the sea. Thankfully the ashram is not at all like the previous meditation centre I stayed at, for example: you are free to use your phone at anytime, although it is forbidden to take photos or videos due to privacy reasons, and you are free to leave the ashram and come back whenever you wish. Generally men and women live seperately but they even make exceptions for couples.
It takes me less than five minutes to walk to the beach. The sea is quite wild and the waves which are crashing against the rocks create an almost hypnotic atmosphere. To make this picture perfect, there is a woman standing alone on the shore, wearing a white dress which moves as the wind touches it; she is singing with an opera-like voice. Her voice and the waves are harmonizing now and I feel as if I am part of an orchestra when some birds join them too.
I will never forget this image and this voice – it was a perfect moment for me. After sitting there for some time enjoying the view, I head back to my room as tomorrow an exciting day awaits me …
Note: If you wish to read more about Amma, click here.
|Mata Amritanandamayi||JLA974, Audebaud Jean louis||CC BY 2.0|