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