by Ram Das Batchelder
I met Amma in Boston in 1987, and after receiving my first hug from her was up all night with flashes of lightning in my brain, apparently the result of the 3-second touch of Amma’s finger to my forehead! It was instantly obvious that Amma is no ordinary woman.
Although she makes no such declarations herself, after many years in her ashram and countless hours in her presence I can say that, in my experience, Amma is a fully God-Realized Master walking among us in the guise of a humble humanitarian. Amma’s hugs are the primary vehicle for her blessings to humanity, an outpouring of God’s compassion for the world, and there is no doubt that they have been literally life-transforming for millions of people. There have been countless reports of healings, both physical and emotional, stemming from Amma’s embrace; as one example, I recently read the testimony of a woman whose 18 month depression suddenly lifted after receiving one of Amma’s hugs. Numerous women who had been unable to have children, and asked Amma for help, were soon able to conceive. This kind of thing happens all the time with Amma; she is truly a fulfiller of desires and a healer of broken hearts. Yet such healings are often merely gateways into a deeper spiritual blossoming that occurs through continued contact with her.
In India Amma often gives as many as 40,000 hugs in a single sitting, sometimes going for 20 hours straight, and she gives the same quality of attention to each person. There’s nothing mechanical about those hugs, and the contact isn’t limited to an embrace, either – she listens to people’s stories, wipes away their tears, gives words of comfort and guidance, examines the medical reports some bring, and may even consult with doctors sitting nearby. In response to their notes and prayers she may whisper sweet words to one, hand a blessed banana to another, and give stern advice to someone else, such as “Stop drinking!”, making her meaning clear by turning her hand into a mock bottle! With others she’ll be laughing like a child, or playfully kissing the feet of a baby, and yet a few minutes later she’ll be shedding tears along with someone who’s suffering. She’s a spontaneously flowing river of love, ever changing in her expressions, but always of the same exquisite essence.
As I sat behind her for the umpteenth time a few weeks ago in Cochin, Kerala, watching this amazing outpouring of superhuman energy and compassion which continued literally all night long, it dawned on me with great clarity that in the history of the world this has never before been done. No doubt there have been many great humanitarians, saints, and divine incarnations, who have all given profound benefit to humanity. But on the physical plane, no one has ever before given 30 million hugs; no other Master has been this accessible, and worked so hard to give so many a direct taste of the Divine.
But hugs are only the beginning of Amma’s mission. She runs a massive charitable organization helping uplift people in thousands of ways around the globe, with 10 million free meals given to those in need each year, 45,000 houses built for the poor and victims of natural disasters, medical care (including one of the finest hospitals in India), education (including 50 K-12 schools and an excellent university), extensive disaster relief programs, pensions for 100,000 widows, three orphanages, scholarships for poor students, vocational training for women, and a large fund to prevent farmer suicides, to name a few of her programs. (For the latest details, see www.embracingtheworld.org.)
Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, Kerala (in southern India) is, on the one hand, a hub of vigorous activity, where volunteers lovingly work around the clock to keep Amma’s charitable mission thriving. On the other, it’s a wonderful place for meditation, yoga, devotional singing and Vedic chanting. To me—especially when Amma is there in person—it’s a heaven realm. I’ve spent 18 years there, and totally love it. There’s a great joy in being surrounded by people who share in the secret of Amma’s divinity, and want to dedicate their lives to the service of humanity. The precious daily contact we have with Amma there instantly inspires and deepens our faith, because she visibly embodies all divine qualities. You just can’t doubt God’s existence, or the attainability of Enlightenment, when Amma is before your eyes as living proof of both! To sit near her is to bathe in the light of a giant sun that’s radiating bliss and peace in all directions. There’s just nothing like Amma’s presence to awaken the inherent divinity within each one of us.
Although I never expect others to have the same conception, in my personal experience Amma is an omniscient, omnipresent divine being who knows my every thought and can respond to any question I may have on the inner plane, without any need for spoken words. For me, each embrace is precious direct contact with the Divine, and a profound step forward on the spiritual path. But one aspect of Amma’s mission that I greatly cherish is that each person is completely free to conceive of Amma in any way they wish, and create their own relationship with her. Each person’s experience and conception is valid, and honored. There’s no one at the programs telling you what you should think and feel; your hug is between you and Amma, and you can think of her in whatever way you like.
The best way to get a real taste of who Amma is, of course, is to come and receive a hug yourself. She begins a 6-week tour of the USA starting in Seattle on May 30th, 2015, concluding in New York on July 14th before heading up to Toronto for a few days. The majority of the programs are free; there are also several short retreats available, and they’re very reasonably priced. (For the tour schedule and details, see www.amma.org.) In addition to a hug from Amma (which is always free), you can partake in such exotic activities at the programs as a Jyotish astrology session, a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor, a Swedish massage, a tasty Indian meal, and shopping for fine gifts from India, knowing that every penny will be going to support Amma’s charitable projects.
For me, the discovery of Amma has proven to be totally life-transforming — a blessing greater than anything I could ever have imagined – which is why I was inspired to write my book, Rising In Love, all about her, and her impact on my life. Over the last 28 years she’s led me step by step into a beautifully fulfilled life, and given me not only creative success and a charming wife (Amma married us 13 years ago), but profound spiritual fulfillment. What she’s shown me in meditation is beyond words. I can only hope that readers will partake of this opportunity, and give themselves the blessing of coming to meet Amma, the Hugging Saint.
An ocean of Love awaits you. Dive in!
About the author:
Ram Das Batchelder is the author of of “Rising in Love: My Wild and Crazy Ride to Here and Now, with Amma, the Hugging Saint.” He was born in the USA in 1961, had a spiritual awakening in his early twenties and has spent most of the last 25 years in India as a devotee of Amma, the “hugging Saint.” He has written four children’s books for Amma’s ashram, each of which have been translated into four European languages. He also wrote a novel in rhyming verse (“Sathyaram Discovers the Mother of All”), three full-length plays, and 40 original songs. In 2012, he and his wife, Tarini Ma, wrote and co-taught a university course on Hinduism in Venezuela.