What the Woman Who’s Embraced Over 34 Million People Knows About Love
© 2014 Mata Amritanandamayi Math
Her real name is Mata Amritanandamayi, but if you’ve ever heard of her, you probably know her as Amma (“Mother”). The name was given to her when she was just a girl because of her selfless love and compassion for all beings. She’s dedicated her entire life to alleviating the pain of the poor and those suffering both physically and emotionally by exhibiting the power of love every waking moment.
To many, being in Amma’s presence is similar to a religious experience. After her arena-filling talks, people wait for hours in line just to embrace her and be comforted by her. And Amma will be of service to every single one of the audience members right up until the last one has gone home.
Through her nonprofit organization, Embracing the World, based in India, Amma has traveled the world spreading kindness and compassion, and helping more than 34 million people with her warm embrace.
We got the chance to speak with this amazing luminary about the power of love, and why so many people need it now.
Dustin Clendenen: Do you remember the first time you comforted someone as a child? Did you know you would have such a powerful impact?
Amma: There was no particular point when it started. Even as a little girl, feeling love and compassion for others, listening to their problems, wanting to do something kind for them—it was just spontaneous for me. Perhaps because of this being my nature, more and more people opened up to me, sharing their hearts, even sharing things they would be afraid to tell anyone else. It was not something calculated. When someone unburdens his heart and is received with selfless love—it is only natural that a transformation will arise.
DC: What was it like to realize the impact that your love had on other people?
A: In reality there is nothing to realize; it is only uncovering your inner potential. Currently, our love and innocence are like a mirror covered with dust. It’s not that we’ve lost them; we have only forgotten them. Just as the mirror regains its power to reflect when the dust is wiped away, so, too, we regain our love and innocence when we wipe the dust of selfishness away from our minds. It’s almost like waking up from a dream.
DC: Where do you think your innate, caring nature comes from?
A: Love is everyone’s true nature. This nature just needs to be rediscovered. A mother will do anything for her child. She will sacrifice to no end. Her child awakens that capacity in her because she considers the child as hers, but the motherhood is innate. Universal motherhood—the ability to stop confining and compartmentalizing your capacity to love, limiting it to certain people and objects and goals—will come naturally if we can expand our sense of “I” and “mine.” I’ve just always naturally seen everyone as my child.
DC: Obviously, your desire to spread love to other people is so strong that it has become your life’s work. Do you feel that all people have the same inherent desire?
A: The longing to experience true love is in everyone. It informs our every word and action. However, our search to experience love is misdirected. We think we will find it in other people and objects. But don’t we see so many wealthy, famous, and powerful people who are unhappy? They have all the things we believe will make us happy, but yet love and contentment continue to elude them. Only when people begin looking within will they find what they are searching for. Once that love is discovered as your true nature, then society’s influence has no impact. You will see that the idea that love is limited and is only for our family, friends, and the things we own is a sham.
DC: Were your parents ever able to see the powerful, positive impact your caring nature has had on so many millions of people?
A: Initially, due to strong traditional and cultural beliefs, they had difficulty accepting my ways, especially because I am a woman. But gradually, their understanding grew, and they eventually came to fully support my way of being.
DC: How can parents instill values of love in their children?
A: Parents should take a special initiative to instill values in their children from a very young age. Their words and actions can either inspire or depress their children. So, parents must become good role models. In fact, we should all try our best to be noble in word and deed because someone, somewhere, is looking to us for inspiration. Everyone should remember this great responsibility entrusted to us by the Divine.
DC: So much of your life is about giving to others. How do you show compassion to yourself to stay refreshed and focused?
A: Once all divisions and separations between you and Supreme Love disappear, when all sense of duality ceases to exist, when the realization “I am love” dawns within you, you stay refreshed and focused forever, no matter where you are or what you are doing.
DC: What advice do you have for the Millennial Generation that wants to make a positive impact?
A: The existence of God may be a subject of debate, but no one can deny the existence of suffering people in the world. They need your help, so remember them. Even if it is through small acts, love them, serve them, and be compassionate to them. Similarly, see nature as the manifestation of God, the power behind everything. Be kind to her, nurture her, and show reverence to her.
DC: What are the goals you and your organization hope to accomplish by the end of 2015?
A: My one and only goal is to help people realize their inner potential—to help them rise and soar to the vast expansiveness of love. However, our organization has many humanitarian projects in India and other parts of the world, including building houses for the poor, monthly pension for widows, educational assistance to children from poor families, environmental programs such as planting trees and providing free medical care for those who cannot afford it. With the earthquake in Nepal, we’ve already sent a huge consignment of medicine, food, warm clothes and materials for building temporary shelters. As the next step, we would like to participate in the rehabilitation process there as well. We are looking forward to building houses for those who have lost everything.