Love Research adventures, street interviews, and photos chronicling my search for love around New York City.
July 12, 2009
Last week, I visited the Manhattan Center to hear Sri Mata Amritanandamayi, an Indian humanitarian and spiritual known as Amma speak. I had heard about her from my sister who read an article about her visit to Seattle. Amma subscribes to no formal religion, but rather says that her religion is Love. She spends her life traveling around the world speaking about her message and offering Darshan, which is a Sanskrit term describing the experience of having an audience with a saint or sage. Amma’s darshan takes the unique form of a tender, motherly embrace. Over the past four decades she has physically embraced more than 27 million people worldwide.
Intrigued I stood in line for 30 minutes with thousands of other New Yorkers in order to get a chance to hear her speak. I was given a small token in order to get an embrace from Amma. It was a strange experience. When I finally entered the building I was led to a hall. There was a living chain of people clad in white saris and red sashes chanting together and making an entranceway for newcomers. The first thing I saw when I entered were many booths filled with Amma products for sale: ayurdevic oils and beauty products, silk saris, meditation supplies, postcards, calendars, and even small hand-made dolls in her image.
The market overwhelmed me. I made my way to the front of the hall where she was speaking from a stage. She spoke in Malayalam, and a translator with a resonant voice gave her words in English. He was speaking about how when we are born into the world we come with nothing, when we die we also take nothing with us, so our pursuit of material possessions is really pointless. I agreed with this sentiment but was confused by all the Amma products. I do believe that the proceeds she raises from the sales go towards her many charitable projects in India. Amma has established 53 schools, two million people are fed every year by Amma’s organizations, and 30,000 free homes have been built.
I participated in the meditation and fully enjoyed her talk, unfortunately I didn’t get my hug. My token said Q and I knew it would be at least 11 pm before my turn came up. Exhausted by the crowds I departed quietly. But her words lingered in my mind. ”Love is what fills life constantly with newness,” and “True happiness is when the love that is within us finds expression in external activities.” –Amma