Embracing the World

Amma HuggingJust got back from having darshan with Amma, “the Hugging Saint,” at her ashram in San Ramon, California.

Here are 3 realizations I made during this mini-pilgrimage:

Check Your Baggage at the Door

Due to the larger crowds, they now ask all visitors to check their bags before entering the ashram. As a parent of a potty-training 3 year old who is allergic to peanuts, I feel naked without my diaper bag full of wet-wipes and EpiPen injectors, yet I hesitantly handed all my belongings to the bag check. Walking back to the ashram, I happened across a tour. The tour guide was explaining how everything Amma does is in service to others: “Even the clothes Amma wears were donated to her. When people give her gifts, she gives them to  the ashram who sell these items to raise money for her charities.”

I realized that we were being asked to “check our baggage at the door” for a number of reasons. After a full day of events with no baggage, I learned how little we really need in this world as long as we have love and kindness.

An event occurred that solidified this realization. Having arrived early, my family was seated in the coveted seats directly in front of the stage. My wife and sons went to the bathroom, while I “saved” their seats for them. A number of people asked if the seats were taken, even though I had clearly marked them with personal belongings. Finally, a large muscular man tossed my wife’s hat aside and sat down. I mentioned that I was saving the seat for my wife, and he commanded, “I’m going to sit here until she gets back.”

When a seat opened up in a row in front, he jumped up and took that seat. I was a bit offended that 1) he didn’t have the courtesy to ask if he could sit in my wife’s seat and 2) he didn’t say thank you for using the seat. Then I realized that 1) I did not own the seat and 2) I did not need the seat. In fact, I offered the seat to another woman who sat there until a few minutes before my family’s return. Funny how we claim things as our own that aren’t ours to begin with, then get upset when someone uses “our” things. I should have checked that baggage at the door.

Hugging is Contagious

With tokens in hand, we patiently waited for our hugs. We still had an hour before Amma arrived and a guided meditation before the hugging began. Since we woke our sons up at 7 am to make sure we got to the token line early, I was worried about how restless they would be sitting in the ashram for an hour and a half.

For some strange reason, my sons just started hugging each other. Over and over, giggling and laughing. They continued this hugging game until a video began about Amma. When Amma arrived, my sons broke out in laughter when they realized that the video images being shown were live images from the front of the ashram where we had entered earlier in the morning.

During the guided meditation, my sons cracked up every time the meditation leader chanted Om. At first I was going to shush them, but then I realized that they were experiencing pure joy, which is what many of us devotees were searching for. Obviously, my sons knew the real meaning of this pilgrimage. They didn’t have any ulterior motives of ego gratification, emotional neediness, or spiritual notches for their belt. For them, it was all about love and joy.

Ego Catch 22

When we were finally hugged, I opened my heart as wide as I could to let Amma’s love, wisdom, and guidance in. She hugged my younger son and I for a long time, then painted something on our foreheads and hugged us again. She then hugged my wife and older son. After painting something on my wife’s forehead, she hugged us as a family. Then she sprinkled us with flowers and had us seated on the stage. I have been attending darshan with Amma since 1999 and this was by far the longest hug I had ever received.

While sitting on the stage, my wife asked me if Amma hugged everyone for the same amount of time. “Does it matter?” I snapped back.

I then realized that I was being an ass. I was acting like I was free from attachments, when I, too, was basking in the specialness of such a long hug. Amazing how quickly ego jumps back in after receiving unconditional love. Sadly, I immediately became enamored with myself believing I was better than other devotees who were getting short hugs.

Sandalwood blessing we accepted for all Bloggers for Peace

Sandalwood blessing we accepted for all Bloggers for Peace

Then a woman approached us and told us that the sandalwood markings on our foreheads were really special. She said that she had been wanting Amma to mark her “third eye chakra” for years, but still had not received the blessing. Once again, my ego grew exponentially.

Writing this post, I realize that we constantly have to balance unconditional love and ego. When we experience unconditional love, our egos inflate because we feel special. Yet in order to give unconditional love to others, we need to minimize our egos. The larger our egos the more disconnected we are from others. The trick seems to be to experience unconditional love while diminishing ego.

I’m toying with the idea that when we receive love, we are accepting love for all humanity. When we give love, we are giving love to all humanity through the vessel of an individual sentient being. If we truly believe that we are all connected, then this necessarily has to be true.

Amma claims that there are two types of poverty: 1) poverty of physical goods such as shelter, food, and clothing; and 2) poverty of the heart which includes a lack of compassion and love. “If we solve the poverty of the heart, the other will take care of itself.”

I believe that Bloggers for Peace work on poverty of the heart everyday. I hope we can continue to give love to all of humanity. Thank you for all you do for peace. Some of us might not be able to donate huge sums of money to cure poverty of physical goods, but everyone can give and accept love for all humanity.

Love all/Serve all.

bannerThank you for reading, sharing, and/or smiling.

Where have you experienced unconditional love? How do you diminish ego? Please share.


75 comments on “Embracing the World

  1. lauriesnotes says:

    Whenever I start feeling more specisl for somethinv I remember that that tskes me further away from what makes us all so special..
    Much love-

  2. diannegray says:

    I experience unconditional love from my children, Kozo (children are good like that, no matter how old they are!) 😉

    I’m not sure how I diminish ego. We all have ego, that I know for sure because it would be hard to survive in this world without it – but I think it depends on how big the ego is. When I receive unconditional love I don’t think it actually boosts my ego, it seems to boost my spirit.

    I’m so glad you and the family had such a wonderful experience with the Hugging Saint and how fantastic that you received the third eye chakra – beautiful! {{{hugs}}}

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      The fact that receiving this love doesn’t boost your ego, but boosts your spirit shows how spiritually advanced you are. (Did that boost your ego? haha) Maybe it is just me, but everything seems to boost my ego. 😦
      I totally agree with receiving unconditional love from our children. I was thinking that I am blessed to have a hugging saint who grabs my ears and holds me close everyday. I’m glad that children continue to shower us with this love no matter how old they are.
      {{{Hugs}}} to you, my dear friend. Love, Kozo

  3. I love how you noticed that ego and love are always searching for the center position with the ego trying to play first fiddle every chance it gets.
    What an amazing experience you got to share with your family Kozo and reading your words I can feel the love permeating through the screen. Thank you for sharing, hugs to you and to your family 🙂

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Yes, Anyes, the love is “permeating through the screen.” I believe that all posts for peace and love, like yours, permeate peace and love through the screen. I’m glad you can feel it, because I can feel your love in your posts and comments.
      Yeah, that pesky ego reminds me of my sons when they say, “I don’t want to share.” Funny how I still act this way even as an adult. Thank God, blogging and friends like you make me realize that sharing is where it is at. {{{hugs]}} Kozo

  4. I love how you make us notice that love and ego are trying to win center stage and how ego often times wants to play center fiddle in our heart and our minds.
    What a beautiful experience you got have with your family, thank you so much for sharing it here. Hugs to you and to your beautiful family Kozo 🙂

  5. rarasaur says:

    How do I diminish ego? Easy, I call up one of my siblings. 😉 My brothers act like it’s their full time job to keep my ego in check.:D The funny thing is, even if they don’t say anything ego-smashing, just their existence keeps me in line. They share in my joys because we’re a team– I’m 1 of 6, and I’ll always be, so my successes are their successes, and shared successes are not about me– they’re about “us”.

    I love the thought about poverty. It’s quite profound.

    It sounds like you guys had a great time. 😀 Welcome back, *hugs*

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      What a wonderful team, Rara. Let me know if you need a bench warmer. 🙂 I love the idea of shared successes. What if we treated all others like teammates? I used to get really jealous when others succeeded in areas where I was just starting or struggling in. For example, I would get really jealous of blogs that had thousands of followers or who were freshly pressed because no one was reading my blog. But you of all people changed that for me. I felt so happy for your successes, Rara. (Which reminds me, I have to catch up and read your 3rd freshly pressed article.) I don’t know what it is about you, but I feel like I can share in your successes. Thank you for that. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  6. yaussiechick says:

    I always loved hugs and always will love hugs. I totally get what you are saying about ego. I find that I am always checking myself on that one or like rarasaur so aptly stated, talk to one of my siblings. They always get my feet back on the ground.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Now that I think about it, Dianna, my cousin does the same for me. He constantly reminds me of how self-serving I can be. It used to get me really upset, but now I use it to point me in the right direction.
      If you love hugs, you need to get one from Amma–best hugger in the world. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  7. PaulaB says:

    What a wonderful experience. I love how by exposing your own ego, you show how competitive we can all be at times. I guess it just goes to show that lessons are all around us, everyday, if we are open to them.

    I “get” what your saying about ego…I for a long time felt special because of the love my Mom gave, not just to me, but to everyone she touched. I felt that I was entitled. I now realize that whatever we are given, stops at our door if we do not learn how to share it. Whatever you give out into the world comes back to you…:-)

    thank you Kozo for sharing {{{hugs}}}

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      That is brilliant–“whatever we are given, stops at our door if we do not learn how to share it” Yes, we need to keep the love train going, and it does come back to us ten-fold. Great reminder. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  8. kaycers says:

    It IS crazy how quickly ego creeps back in after those moments of unconditional love! I have noticed lately that I will be feeling empty, wide open and beautiful one second…and completely attached the very next. I’m hoping that just in noticing I will be able to grow and change over time. Thank you for this beautiful post and something to reflect on today.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      I have the same hopes as you, Kaycie. I’m banking on awareness leading to growth and guiding me towards the Light.
      Funny, after that amazing experience yesterday, I woke up this morning to find a rejection email for an article I submitted to a syndicated blog, but I still feel blessed. Maybe it is due to the lingering love of Amma, or maybe it is kind and thoughtful comments like your that are boosting my spirit. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  9. Lovely Kozo! I saw Amma a few years ago when I lived in Seattle – a beautiful experience! Namaste _/l\_

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Glad you got to experience first hand what I am talking about, Julianne. We are so blessed that she has an ashram about 45 minutes from our house. I would love to hear about your experience sometime. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  10. I loved this already, and then you ended it with a quote from Saul Williams and my love for it grew! Thanks for sharing Kozu, as always this is thought provoking and inspiring.

  11. One of the hardest battles is against or huge egos, we tend to confuse self esteem with ego right?
    Great post as usual.


    • Kozo Hattori says:

      So true, Leo. Yes we tend to confuse self-esteem with ego. That is why I am all for cultivating self-compassion rather than self-esteem. Still struggling with ego today even after getting hugged just yesterday. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  12. BroadBlogs says:

    Check your baggage at the door: great advice for us all. Thanks!

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Yeah, Georgia. Wish I would remember this more often. Imagine how peaceful discussions/arguments would be if we checked our baggage at the door. I see classes like yours as baggage identifiers. We often don’t recognize our baggage until someone points it out to us. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  13. Wonderful reflection 🙂 What a beautiful experience for your sons. The beautiful path you are setting for them is truly admirable…not to mention the whole family is growing together, which is absolutely amazing!Thank you for sharing, and inspiring and teaching .

  14. utesmile says:

    It soulnds like an amazing experience, and how wonderful you took the whole family. ALos amazing how much it makes youthink about your ego about unconditional love. Children are so pure and show love easily to us parents. You and yourr family a re priviledged to have been able to go there and get hugs. Another hug from me now! {{{hug}}}

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Yay, more hugs. Thank you, Ute. I think Amma tours in Europe. Maybe even Germany. If she comes around, you would really enjoy the {{{hugs}}}. I am so grateful that she comes here every year, so my older son has already been hugged 5 times. Check amma.org for her schedule. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  15. prayingforoneday says:

    You are one blessed man Kozo…
    We are lucky to know you..

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Lucky to be here, Shaun. As you can see, I’ve been busy and away from the computer. I saw your email and have been contemplating it. Will get back to you soon. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

      • prayingforoneday says:

        That would be brilliant Kozo. I know you are a busy man, but imagine what this could do..

        Hugs back my friend

  16. Sandy says:

    What a wonderful experience – and I love the insights it provided. “Leave your baggage at the door” should be written on every door – hahaha!
    Loving and sharing all that I have. Much Love, Sandy

  17. gita4elamats says:

    Reblogged this on ELANA – The Voice of the Future and commented:
    Amma claims that there are two types of poverty: 1) poverty of physical goods such as shelter, food, and clothing; and 2) poverty of the heart which includes a lack of compassion and love. “If we solve the poverty of the heart, the other will take care of itself.”

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Thanks so much for the reblog, Gita4elamats. I appreciate you helping spread Amma’s message. Hopefully, we can all help end poverty of the heart, even if it is only within ourselves. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  18. Lakshmi Loves To Shop says:

    A hug from Amma is such a blessing…just thinking about it makes me smile with happiness 🙂

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      I knew you would be familiar with Amma, LL2S. I had a different experience with Sai Baba, but it still highlighted my ego. I will post on that experience in the future. Glad you had an Amma smile. 🙂 {{{hugs]}} Kozo

  19. theINFP says:

    Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story 🙂

  20. Rohan 7 Things says:

    So much food for though in this article! It’s so funny isn’t it how we are so conditioned to compare and on-up each other all the time that even an exercise in unconditional love can turn into “who got the longest hug” haha!

    It’s great though that you identified that inside yourself and challenged it, a very good sign I’d say. And I love what you said about the kids giggling. A room full of adults trying to get a piece of that pure joy, it would have been so ironic to tell them to shush. Again kudos for noticing that!

    Thanks for sharing Kozo, we can always work toward that heart abundance, a little every day 🙂



    • Kozo Hattori says:

      I love the way you put that, Rohan–“we can always work toward that heart abundance, a little everyday.” Drip by drip, we will have peace. {{{hugs}}} kozo

  21. bloomlisa says:

    I was in Seattle with my beautiful 6 year old to see Amma on Memorial Day weekend. Her first and my second time. You & I are connecting in many ways here:) One of our friends that we traveled with received the third eye also, and I had that moment of – why didn’t I get one? I love your post and had many parallel moments with my daughter. We were lucky enough to receive 3 Darshans and I really felt the golden energy of Amma pouring into us & continue to. I also feel “upgraded” since we got back….& that is not saying it has all been rainbows and lollipops. I look forward to your posts and thank you for sharing. You are an eloquent & insightful blogger, namaste!!!

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Yay, Lisa. So glad you and your daughter were able to see Amma in Seattle. I really believe that it changes kids’ lives when they get to experience something like this. It is funny, but my sons want to see Amma more than they want to their grandmothers. 🙂
      I’ve never gotten the third eye before. I didn’t even know about it. I truly believe that Amma is blessing the work we are doing with Bloggers for Peace. For the first time in my life, I am devoting all my energy to peace. I try to practice peace every moment of my day, although like you said, it hasn’t been all “rainbows and lollipops.”
      I had some blow ups yesterday with my son and wife. I was frustrated because I did not get to blog all day. I felt like I was behind in my work. I did not sleep well the night before. Funny, how days after getting darshan I had a perfect storm of frustration. But now, I am setting my sights on rainbows again.

      {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  22. Unconditional love comes only from my immediate family–although I crave it very much from certain others which is okay (that Im not given what I greatly desire) because, that alone keeps me humble and liberal with the love I share to those outside my immediate family.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Well-said, 1G4AW. I think if we continue to give liberally, the one day we will receive from those outside our immediate family. I am just grateful for the unconditional love I get from my sons. Sometimes I think that is more than I need. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  23. Alison says:

    I’m a bit late to the party Kozo, but I finally made it 🙂
    I love what Amma says – solve the poverty of the heart and the rest will take care of itself. Beautiful. And ultimately the only thing that will bring change.
    Ah ego – that dragon! All the compliments on my blog – big head Alison rises up lol. I just watch, try not to take it too seriously. I think I can say that I’m not as lost in ego as I used to be, which is encouraging. I can also that I’m not as judgemental of ego (mine or others) as I used to be, and that’s liberating.
    Blessings to you my friend

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Love that tip about not being as judgmental of ego, Allison. I have to keep reminding myself to be more gentle with myself. I keep getting these tips to “gently return to your breathing” during meditation, but I always beat myself up about my “monkey mind.” Same thing with ego, blogging, career, diet, and relationships. Thank you so much for your reminder to be more self-compassionate.
      I was just going to write, “sorry about the late response,” but then I realized that I was beating myself up again. 🙂
      {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  24. Geo Sans says:


    with my daughter

    in the trails



    smile warmly

    to each other


    unconditional love


    in nature

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      I was just thinking about the same thing, Geo Sans. I was amazed how strangers can offer smiles and joy without judging on a daily basis. It makes me think that this is the natural way to be, which is why I love the last stanza of your comment/poem. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  25. Stuck Sucks says:

    This is wonderful. I really appreciate your response to the person who “borrowed” your wife’s seat. As soon as I read that I felt angry, and your response just took me out of myself. Thank you.

    In terms of the ego, I am getting to a point where I believe that to be unconditionally loving, we must also love our egos – or at the very least accept them, since (when we are aware of them) they do help us be compassionate to others. I realized recently that accepting what is, all of what is, is unconditional love.

    Thank you for this post. As always, I learned something. {{{Hugs to you}}}

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Wise words, BSS. Yes, unconditional love means loving our egos as they are. I surmise that loving these egos as they are will lead to diminishing them. Anything that helps us be compassionate to others deserves our utmost respect. {{{hugs}} Kozo

  26. ladarayblog says:

    Amma clearly marked your third eye ever since your awareness/ consciousness blossomed. It’s a distinction similar to the flower sermon, when the Buddha held up a flower. No one in the audience understood the Flower Sermon except Mahākāśyapa, who smiled. You can enjoy the moment, and laugh along with your little buddhas! You guys are sooo adorable. {{{big hug}}}

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      What a wonderful thing to say, Lada. The Flower Sermon always confused me because I never knew exactly what Mahākāśyapa was smiling at. 🙂 But your explanation of enjoying the moment makes complete sense. Thank you for the insight and love. {{{Little Buddha Hugs}}} to you my dear friend.

  27. What an amazing experience, Kozo. I’m so sorry I got to this post late. Better late than never, though, right?
    I have to agree with our lovely friend Dianne on this one. I receive unconditional love from my son. It doesn’t really inflate my ego – it just makes me appreciate life.
    However, in the past I think attention from men used to boost my ego for all the wrong reasons, but alas, I was young and dumb.
    I think I keep my ego in check because I still have issues with self-esteem at times. It’s a horrible monster that’s been haunting me most of my life. I think I’m finally coming to terms with it, though.

  28. Sunshine says:

    you know, Kozo, when you mentioned about your sons perspective (when you caught yourself ready to shush them) on this event, that it was, “for them,… all about love and joy,” i realized, we need to clear our minds and become more like your sons. when i sit in church and see parents attempting to temper down their kids, now i am wondering… i bet many adults would like to get up and start making small rackets and scene just to get the preacher to hurry up and finish. ☺ i know, off the subject. on unconditional love? my parents…on how to diminish ego? umm, for now, i accept and embrace my ego. if it tries to get too powerful…☼sunZAP it down.☺
    ha ha. love you xoxo

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Yes, Sunshine, it is all about love and joy. Note to self, remember it is all about love and joy. You are blessed to have unconditional love from your parents. And yes, embracing the ego will diminish it, especially when you have sunZAPS as back-up. {{{hugs}}} to you my dear friend. Love, Kozo

    • 1EarthUnited says:

      Lol zen master Sunshine, ☼sunZAP it all down is right. 😀
      We’re all creatures of habit and conditioning whether we admit to it or not. When we witness children behaving joyfully and free, it threatens our egoic sense of conformity… oh, what would other people think of me – god forbid my children are not under control!
      Definitely agree with you Kozo, you are wise to look to your kids, they will surely set you free with their infinite joy and love. What a happy and precious experience for all of you, thanks for making my day with this post. My grin is as wide as Amma’s hugs are long. ♥ :))))
      Blessing Kozosan and little buddha-sans. *\o/*

      • Kozo Hattori says:

        My grin is as wide as Amma’s hugs are long. ♥ 🙂 )))

        LOL, Maddy. Yes, I am blessed to have little buddha-sans to guide me. I was feeling sorry for myself today, and my sons made me realize that I have nothing to be sorry for.

        Maddy, I don’t know where you get your wisdom from, but it is uncanny. Later in the day, my eldest son threw a stick and hit a little girl. I screamed, “JETT, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Screaming at an ashram is like farting at a wedding–it happens, but people avoid it at all costs. I now realize that I was reacting to my “egoic sense of conformity” and was angry because my kid was not under control. Other devotees must have been looking at me and wondering, “How did this guy get the third-eye blessing?” 🙂
        {{{hugs}}} to you, my wise friend. Love, Kozo

  29. Blessings Kozo – how very lovely 🙂

  30. […] Everyday Gurus.     Every day, everywhere we are guided towards […]

  31. That’s a very good observation, about receiving love inflating the ego. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can see that in myself. It does make me feel ‘special’ when I receive that kind of love, I guess it is the RARITY of unconditional love has made it seem so special.

    If unconditional love were the norm, as it could/should be, then we might not experience this inflation of ego, and things would be as they ought to be. We would go on reflecting that unconditional love without needing to navigate around the speed bump of ego.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Again, a comment full of wisdom. Thank you. Yes, we need to make unconditional love the norm. I’m working with the saying, “Give and you shall receive.” Let’s practice that with unconditional love.
      {{{hugs}}} Kozo
      hate those ego speed bumps. haha

  32. Angeline M says:

    What a wonderful blog you have that I’ve discovered through Alison and Don’s blog today, and I think it was meant to be that I find you here. I almost jumped out of my chair when I saw this post and that Amma has an Ashram in San Ramon. I live about 30 minutes away, used to live in San Ramon. Where is the Ashram? I am so excited to find this.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Her ashram is right off Crow Canyon Road. She just finished a tour there. She is in LA this week. She will be back in November. Hope to see you there. {{{Hugs]}} Kozo

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you!!!!! I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot! I will look for the dates she will be there, and hope it is before we leave for Mexico towards the end of the month. Thanks so much again. Super {{{Hugs}}} to you too 🙂

  33. Barbara says:

    Thank you for sharing so much of your human-ness, for that’s all it is, to want to be special, and to have to keep remembering that we are all but grains of sand (some with long hugs and sandalwood eyes though)

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