If someone told me I'd be spending the night of the resurrection being blessed by a living saint, I'd have been hard pressed to believe them. But that is exactly what happened.
Easter Sunday started as any other. Awoken at 5am by the children's discoveries, and pulled out of bed with the promise of an Easter egg! We spent the early morning at home, and then packed our picnic things for a lunch with our extended family. It was here that Mum handed my cousin's wife a piece of paper that would change the course of my day.
Lana had lent Mum and I a book to read last year. It was called Ammachi. It is the biography of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. We all read the book, loved it and marvelled at this incredible woman. A woman who defies all human logic, and who permeates unconditional and extreme love from every cell in her body. She is known simply as Amma, and she is considered a living saint - the Mother of All. She is revered throughout the world as one of the most outstanding humanitarian and spiritual leaders of our time. Amma subscribes to no formal religion, but rather says that her religion is love. A love that shows no limitation of caste, religion, race or nationality.
The piece of paper that Mum handed to Lana was cut from the weekend's newspaper, and it was an invitation to be a part of an evening with Amma. Unbeknownst to us, Amma is on her Australian tour and this weekend she held a retreat on the Gold Coast. Sunday evening was a free event open to the public. A chance for everyone to hear her speak and to receive darshan. Darshan is quite literally a 'vision' or 'to see'.
Amma's darshan is unique. Most guru's or masters are traditionally only to be seen and not touched. Amma does quite the opposite. She embraces you. Not just a quick hug, but a loving, motherly embrace. She has been known to bless as many as 50,000 people in one sitting, and on one occasion in Spain, she hugged continually for three days. Without once taking a break for food or sleep. We had to line up for a token in order to receive darshan. Thankfully we had called earlier to find out what the evening entailed, so we knew to arrive early. Aside from the retreat participants, we were almost first in line to receive our tokens. There would have been close to two thousand arriving later in the night, and we were told that darshan would continue until everyone had received theirs - most likely until dawn.
The evening was called Devi Bhava, which is translated as 'the mood of the Divine Mother'. It is an incredibly special even that celebrates the feminine aspect of God, and God's unconditional love and compassion for all humanity. We were first handed some holy water that had been blessed in front of us by Amma, and told to take it home to share with our loved ones. Amma then spoke for an hour or so (translated by one of her followers) about the beauty of dispassion. There was music, singing, meditation and the chanting of the names of the Divine Mother. After this, darshan began.
Lana and I waited for about an hour to receive our hugs, Mum even longer. It went very quickly though as the whole place was a feast for the eyes. So many different people, from all walks of life! We had to approach Amma on our knees, and we were guided to her lap by her helpers. I didn't realise that we weren't meant to hug her back (I found out later from Mum, that she had been told to place her hands on either side of Amma's chair), and I wrapped my arms around her. She pulled me in tight, with my head on her bosom, and whispered into my ear, 'my daughter...my daughter...my daughter'. I felt safe and incredibly emotional. Her body was pulsating. Not like she was moving, and not like the vibrations some of us may feel when we touch crystals etc, but a deep, heart-beat like pulsation coming from her core. It was probably the most amazing thing (aside from having my children) that I have ever felt in my life. The darshan lasted maybe 5 seconds, but felt like minutes. Amma handed me a sweet and a rose petal, and I left the stage. Almost in a daze.
I can only imagine a world where love is given as freely as it is from Amma. To experience it like we did last night, was truly a gift. Amma tours Australia every two years, and I know I will be first in line to receive her again.
"Motherhood, in its ultimate sense, has nothing to do with bearing a child, but with love, compassion and selflessness. It lies in totally giving to others." - Amma