Home' Nova National : NOVA NATIONAL FEBRUARY 2012 Contents Coming
A visit to our shores in 2012
by a great living saint will
give joy and hope to many.
Margaret Evans previews
the visit by Amma in April.
10 © NOVA FEBRUARY 2012
It 's hard to imagine a more worldly
milieu than the movie industry -- and
the Indian movie industry at that. So
the life transition from documentary
movie director to North American head
of one of the world's most loved and
respected spiritual organisations is all the
Quietly spoken Swami Dayamrita
Chaitanya made the abrupt about-turn in
his career 28 years ago when he attended,
for the first time, a gathering with the
much loved and admired "hugging saint
of India", Amma. Such was his disconnect
from any sense of a spiritual life, as he
freely admits, he went along to her rally
with the intention of exposing her as a
fake miracle healer. Rather than find the
scoop he was anticipating, he was drawn
to see Amma a second time -- and immed-
iately knew his life was beginning an
entirely new journey.
It was her act of licking the sores of a
leper -- an extraordinary deed that has
been well documented -- that convinced
him that, far from being a fake, Amma
was a being of deep compassion and
absolute, unconditional love. "Beyond the
fact that she did not contract leprosy and
he was completely healed, the very act of
seeing one human being show so much
compassion to another human being
touched my life," says Swami Dayamrita.
After another 18 months in which he
worked for the organisation, the movie
director made the commitment to join it.
Speaking by phone from Hawaii where
he is engaged in preparing for Amma's
upcoming North American tour in June
and July, he talks of "coming to Amma".
Listening to him, I begin to think that,
perhaps, his own experience is not so
unusual after all in this age of rampant
commercialism and the cynicism and
disillusionment it breeds.
The influence of Amma's Embracing
the World organisation is now remarkable,
and nowhere is this more obvious than
in the United States and Canada, where
it has established six main centres -- two
in California including Los Angeles, Santa
Fe New Mexico, Ann Arbor Michigan,
Washington DC and Toronto -- and
110 smaller community centres where
her followers meet every week or two.
Swami Dayamrita tells me that her North
American tour will visit 11 cities in all,
indicative of a following of perhaps millions
in the world's wealthiest country and its
While we've heard much since the
GFC of late 2008, of hard times for
many in America, it nonetheless comes
as a shock to discover the scale of aid
Amma's organisation distributes there.
One of its many initiatives is Mother's
Kitchen, which distributes 80,000 meals to
more than 65,000 people each year in 15
Its work in the US began in the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August
2005 when it donated US $1 million
dollars to the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund.
Embracing the World has also been
active in the Caribbean where it donated
another US $1 million dollars to victims
of the catastrophic Haiti earthquake of
January 2010, officially the world's worst-
ever humanitarian disaster.
A characteristic of the organisation has
been to establish and maintain ongoing
aid programs to support communities
long after the global media spotlight has
moved on from the immediacy of the
disaster. What began with its response
in Kerala to victims of the Boxing Day
tsunami of 2004 continues in Haiti, for
instance, with scholarships for children.
While recent economic news out of
the US gives rise to cautious optimism,
Swami Dayamrita believes it is still taking
time to filter down to the average person:
"It takes a little time for the people to
experience that upturn because it takes
a while to flow through the economy
in the number of jobs. Recently a lot of
people, who have lost a lot of money in
the market meltdown haven't been able
to sustain what they had and have become
homeless. The economic situation is still
depressed right now."
Lack of wealth in the form of assets
is only one manifestation of poverty,
says Swami Dayamrita, warming to one
of Amma's key messages and one that
resonates so deeply with a Western aud-
ience, aware of our affluence compared
with most of the world.
"Amma says there are two types of
poverty, lack of wealth and lack of love.
Poverty due to the lack of wealth is not
as great as the poverty due to the lack of
love. That is the greatest poverty.
"Amma sees one of the biggest problems
in society at present is the lack of values,
"Poverty due to the lack of
wealth is not as great as the
poverty due to the lack of
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