From dawn to dusk, the chants of ‘Archana’, the 1,000 names of the Divine Mother, vibrate around the temple devoted to the Indian Goddess Kali in Amma’s ashram, Amritapuri. The thin finger of land between the Kerala backwaters and the Arabian Sea in southern India is the birthplace of Amma, known around the world as the ‘Hugging Saint’. The state of Kerala is also the home of Ayurveda, a holistic system to both heal and prevent disease. Originating over 5,000 years ago as a means of fine-tuning the body, mind and spirit for optimum health, it includes the deep detox practice known as ‘Panchakarma’ in which treatments, such as Abhyanga and Shirodara using warm oil, are
prescribed according to body type. At Amma’s ashram they are, perhaps uniquely, administered by devotees chanting ‘Archana’ as a monastic discipline .

“It’s a sadhana, or spiritual practice, not a spa”, says one of the doctors at the Panchakarma clinic, which along with a detox diet prescribes rest and meditation. While locations all over the world may offer the deeply cleansing experience, which facilitates the purging of negativity in both mind and body. Here at Amritapuri participants are encouraged to approach anything that comes up with real awareness and compassion, an approach that is at the heart of Amma’s teachings. Also known as ‘Mother’ or ‘Mahatma’, Amma gives daily darshan or ‘blessing’ whether in India or on her almost constant world tours. Not confining her work to loving hugs, the infinitely practical Amma has been recognized by the United Nations for her humanitarian work helping the world’s poor.

As part of her ‘Embracing the World’ initiative, Amma gave $23 million in relief aid when the 2004 tsunami struck, has instigated groundbreaking women’s and yoga projects around the globe and has also adopted 100 Indian villages.

At the Ayurvedic hospital she founded across the sliver of backwater from the ashram, treatment is given free to those in need. In its Ayurvedic garden, traditional medicinal plants are grown and made into treatments by the resident  , or  ‘monks’. Although Panchakarma is also offered at the hospital, it is only in the ashram clinic, an annex of the Amrita Ayurveda College and Hospital, that it is accompanied by the chants of Archana.

Some describe their positive vibrations as an energetic shower that nourishes and heals the mind, body and spirit. Easily digestible food is part of the programme, which in India means a very simple menu consisting of little more than plain dosas (rice pancakes) and kitchari (dhal and rice with ghee). This can be a challenge, although local delights
such as fresh coconut water and tulasi (‘holy basil’) herbal tea provide some delicious relief.

“Being in Amma’s presence seems to bring to the surface whatever is going on for us. Being in unconditional while conscious of the nature of awareness deeply and inherently healing.”

The treatment is as holistic as the life of the ashram itself, which has love and community at its core. The effect of Amma’s presence is powerful for many, as are the results of Panchakarma. Awareness and compassion are at the heart of the two-part strategy to deal with both disease and daily life in the ashram. Residents and Panchakarma participants are presented with useful examples of ‘compassionate mindfulness’ such as nonjudgment, non-attachment, acceptance, patience and trust.

After Panchakarama some people report a deep relaxation of body and mind and a dramatic improvement in mental clarity. Others experience the disappearance of long-term medical complaints such as migraines and a dramatic drop in inflammation, the precursor to degenerative diseases from Alzheimer’s to cancer. “The effects of the treatments are powerful, even although they may feel subtle”, one of the doctors tells me.

“Imagine your whole body being filled with golden light, like stars, or the light from sparklers”, says Amma in a meditation at the beach backed by cashew and banana trees. “It is highly beneficial for health and wellbeing”, she says, something that scientific studies support. Singing of bhajans and teaching of Amma’s I am meditation technique which includes visualizing light in the body are all part of the methodology aimed at raising our individual vibration.

There is something innately accessible, practical and holistic about this work, which runs the whole way through Amma’s endeavors. Her Amrita yoga programmes in India and other parts of the world are very focused on people’s contemporary needs and their innate potential. Their aim is, like Amma’s women’s projects, to empower and to help us realize our potential, which is our greatest service to the world.

With 50 centers worldwide working in the corporate world, education and universities and a 30-year-old yoga programme in the ashram offering outreach and retreats, Amrita’s core message is that awareness in every moment is the essence of yoga. It is also the message of the  I am meditation, which aims to bring out the inner light of our soul.The ancient chant ‘Loka Samastha Sukhino  Bhavantu’ daily echoes around the ashram.

This prayer for all the beings in the world to be happy and free is made in Sanskrit. Its sounds hold the primordial power of the heart of creation, the highest universal vibration. The ashram’s Ayurveda clinic has its own chant for wellness, which could be described to act as an audial meditation and a high vibrational healing. “Being in Amma’s presence seems to bring to the surface whatever is going on for us. Being in unconditional love while conscious of the nature of awareness is deeply and inherently healing” sums up one of the doctors at Amritapuri.

Panchakarma accelerates this process, as does the unique community at the ashram. There is an increasing body of wisdom even in traditional Western medicine that ‘community heals’, which is both Amma’s and Amritapuri’s approach. For more information, visit amritapuri.org and embracingtheworld.org Images from the Mata Amritanandamayi Center 52 YOGAMAGAZINE.COM



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