First morning at Sri Narayani Amma’s incredible ashram near Vellore in Tamil Nadu, Southern India.
We are staying in ‘B’ block ashram accommodation, which is walking distance from Amma’s Temples. The room is huge. There are two desks, two single beds with simple bedding, fans, lights an en-suite bathroom and air conditioning (which cannot be undervalued in 40 degree heat). What an ashram!
Amma has kindly build a magnificent roof top meditation space for us where our food is served and we can do practice as a group. There are about 50 in the group at present and this will swell to 80 when the group from Nepal arrives.
We began practice this morning at 6.30am as the sun was rising. We had a great Indian breakfast of different breads, mild curry and fruit, then off for a 9.30am tour of some of Amma’s projects.
We first visited the recycling plant, which deals with all the trash from the 10,000 visitors per day the Golden Temple sees. This is all done by hand. People have offered Amma machines to do it, but he is clear he does not want families to loose income by loosing jobs to machines. We met the founder of the plant who proudly told us that the plant makes about $3000 per month, which we were told by Indian standards is a lot. They recycle everything, they even have the oldest woman there whose job it is to go through the tickets and remove the staples. Some of the separated material is re-used in the ashram and some of it sent to Chennai to be recycled there.
Next to the forestry project. When Amma was a young man the land in the area was barren. People had cut down the trees to build things and use for firewood. This had caused a number of problems to the environment, including making the area even hotter than it is today. Amma started re-planting the whole valley about 15 years ago and already it is lush and green for as far as I can see from the Ashram rooftop.
Amma is all about employing the local people and giving them a way to make money. All his projects focus around this. As visitors we have the opportunity to buy a family a pregnant cow. This cow is then given to a local family in need. The idea is that the family can drink the milk from one cow and when the other is old enough they can sell the milk from the other, to give them an income.
After the tour we had lunch and a rest and then went to see Amma do a religious devotional practice called Abushakum in an area called the Peedam. The Peedam is a collection of Temples in an enclosure located opposite the Golden Temple and down the road a bit. Most of the tourists and visitors to the Temple go to the Golden Temple, not the Peedam. The Golden Temple is absolutely magnificent and the energy there is exquisite, but Amma does his Puja (spiritual devotional practice) in the Peedam, so that is where we went.
I walk in just as Amma was beginning pouring the first mixture of kumkum and water over a statue of Laxmi. The energy washed over me like he was pouring it through me, honoring and revering me. A huge wave of energy flooded my body and I knew I had finally really ‘landed’. Just like my last visit in April when we experienced this practice really close up, I was back, and loving it! He continued to bath Laxmi with different oils, ghee, flowers, rice, kumkum, turmeric, and many other things I could not see or identify. As I merged and observed the pure love flowing out of Amma and felt wave after wave of energy flowing through me I could feel each had a slightly different flavor, or texture as the energy moved through me. It was incredible. It felt like when Amma does Abushakum he is cleaning us all, being in devotion to us all. It is like nothing I have ever felt and I feel so honored and blessed to have been invited to witness it.
Tomorrow I will tell you about the Golden Temple and the Star Path.