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Amma, the Hugging Saint, Boston Retreat 2013

by Marie Aunio

The operative word in my life for the last year has been one: overwhelmed. Often not visible on the outside but within, it is there. As soon as I complete what’s needed, double comes back. It’s the Blob eating everything in its path and getting bigger with each thing it eats! How do I escape and stop this?!?

Going on a retreat last week was my answer. Ironically though, in being with my guru, Amma, it reminded me instead of the world I left behind. What a contradiction! Here is Amma outwardly constantly and famously in action. As of recent count, she has hugged over 30 million times and has produced more philanthropic initiatives than any other in this day and age. Inwardly however, she is immovable, silent and centered.

Just like the first time I saw her in 1998, Amma sat for endless hours in the morning and evening giving darshan. She hugs every single person, weeps and comforts their woes, plays with them, gives a caress, says a prayer or song in their ear, answers individual questions from the side, does sankalpa (special prayer) for wishes asked, and then hands them Prasad (blest offering) before she lets them go. Each darshan is unique. No one feels ever feels shortchanged in her embrace; every single person will speak movingly at how amazing those few minutes are. In the meantime in my eyes, seeing the lines of those coming for a hug, I’d be mentally wigging out. In NYC alone she hugged 40,000 times. That’s a ‘to do’ list that’s 40,000 long!?!

(photo credit:

It seems that only after 15 years of my watching Amma did it dawn on me. For the Self-Realized Master, the teachings say, there is no such thing as time. The future and the past do not exist for such a one. Amma is that Truth. No longer identified with the body and the mind, vehicles for the ego or personality, she is eternally centered in the state of Divine Consciousness, complete oneness with all. Being present to the moment alone, there is no context for tiredness. There is no mental calculation of what do, when to do and how to do anything. In this place of being, with no ego involved, miracles happen instantaneously and ceaselessly. It is effortless because it is mindless.

I was mind trapped and therefore ego strapped. This was the root of constantly feeling out of time-- “I” was doing something or need to do something. The mind, being restless as a monkey, constantly swings between thoughts of the future (all that I needed to get done) and the past (all that I had already done and how long all that took!). Mind cannot help itself. This is its nature.

Amma says the sign of a true devotee (lover of God) is one who has completely surrendered to God. It is from this place of surrender, being present in the moment alone, that grace flows freely and infinitely. The proof is in the pudding. It’s easy to be convinced when witnessing one who walks the talk. Amma hugs and serves millions and also donates in the millions of dollars. Her life is teachings lived: blissful and ceaseless selfless service to all.

On Friday morning as I drove back home to NJ, I came to understand that one need not leave the ‘world’ to go on a retreat. If I do not identify with the mind and the ego, with Guru’s grace, life becomes an endless retreat for there is no longer an “I” doing anything. 


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