Life of the master
Whom we know as the “hugging saint” today, was born as Sudhamani Idamannel in 1953 in a village called Parayakadavu in Kerala. Her father was a fisherman and their family was poor.
She was devoted to Krishna since childhood and by the age of 5 she had composed beautiful hymns for Krishna. She used to experience meditative and ecstatic states as a child, which sometimes annoyed their family. When she was 9, her mother fell ill, and Sudhamani had to leave school to take care of her family. She worked from dawn to midnight for her family.
As a part of her work, she had to collect food wastes from her neighbourhood to feed the cows. As she roamed the local villages she learnt about the suffering people had. At that time 90% of her village families were daily wage earners having no savings or deposits. Many people were sick and starving.
Touched by the suffering of the people around her, she started taking care of people around her including her own family. She would share her food with the starving, bathe and fed the deserted elderly. Throughout all her duties she would sing Krishna’s name offering all her work to the lord.
By 1975, the age of 22, she was fully established in the Krishna bhava and was blissed all the time. One day she felt the strong urge to be absorbed in the Supreme being without coming back. At that time she heard an inner voice which said, “Thousands and thousands of people in the world are steeped in misery. I have much for you to do, you who are one with Me.“
Soon after her experience of Krishna, she had a vision of Adi Parashakti, the divine mother. So enrapturing was the vision of divine mother that Sudhamani forgot everything and sat, yearning for a glimpse of the mother. She forgot everything, including taking care of her family, she forgot to eat, bath or take care of her body as well. Enraged at her irresponsibility, her elder brother threw her out of the house, after which she lived outdoors all by herself.
Outdoors, the animals would take care of her. An eagle dropped fish for her, a family cow would give her udder to her, a dog would bring her a packet of biscuit. Even the animals felt her longing and would often shed tears.
Her longing bore fruit and she experienced the divine mother again, which she describes in the poem “Ananda veethi”. After that experience, people were naturally drawn towards her. She would listen to their sorrows and would embrace them.
In 1979, her first disciples came to stay with her permanently. It was the disciples who gave her the name Mata Amritanandamayi. In 1981, a few thatched huts were built near her home which marked the beginning of Mata Amritanandamayi math.
As people from outside the country also requested her presence, Amma left on a world tour in 1987 for the first time.
Now Amma travels the world, hugging people, giving darshans and conducts many more activities of the math.
Amritanandamayi has embraced more than 33 million people throughout the world for over 30 years.
Mata Amritanandamayi math began in 1981 after many people started visiting her Amma’s home for darshan. Amma is the founder and the chairman of the math. The organisation along with the Mata Amritanandamayi mission trust, are responsible for the work of Amma worldwide.
Besides training sanyasins and imparting spiritual knowledge to people, the organisation is involved in all possible activities to promote the well-being of people.
The organization provides the poor with the five basic needs of food, shelter, healthcare, education and livelihood. It is also involved in disaster management programs and ecological protection programs.
Her teachings are based on Advaita Vedanta, and she says that Karma, jnana and bhakti are all essential.
She accepts the prayers and technique of all religions and that all lead to the same experience.
The organization conducts retreats and darshan sessions.
They also teach a meditation technique called integrated amrita meditation (IAM meditation).