Recently a group of visitors spent the day at Amrita Niketan, Amma’s orphanage and boarding school for disadvantaged children in Parippally. They met many children and heard of the sad stories of their experiences before coming to the Niketan. Alcoholism, acute poverty, domestic violence, and suicides previously had been a part of many children’s everyday experiences. The question that almost always comes up at this point is: what kind of psychological therapy do the children receive? This is the typical Western way to look at matters. It is expected by many that the children would need intense long term counseling sessions or face lifelong impairment of various kinds.
We explained that the children have Amma as their chief therapist, with a supporting cast of caregivers and friends as healers. The children have the opportunity to go to Amma several times a year and have darshan. Amma also tells them they can write to her at any time, open their hearts and share their problems with her. Amma keeps close tabs on the Niketan and calls there frequently, even when she is traveling abroad. The children also have loving ashramite-caregivers and are very supportive and nurturing with each other.
Despite all this explanation, most of the visitors seem a little skeptical that this will work until they spend a few hours with the children. The children go on dancing and singing for as long as time allows, fully absorbed, happy and enthusiastic. They walk about arm in arm, clearly at ease and happy with each other. Moreover, they are completely at home and open with these visitors from various countries. Most of the children are not comfortable speaking English and many visitors actually don’t know any English, but this is no barrier to creative interactions and affection shared with people from different countries whom they meet for the first time and who are twice to even six times their age!
At the end of the visit, the visitor who was the most vehement about the children’s presumed need for specialized therapy said, “You are right. They don’t need psychologists. The singing and dancing, the love and security in their environment, Amma’s presence in their lives- this is the best possible therapy!”
The visitors and residents at Amritapuri have also been treated to Amma’s therapy these last two months. August, September, and October are the great festival months when Independence Day, Krishna Jayanti, Onam, the Ganesh Festival, Amma’s Birthday and Navaratri all take place. Amma gave us a festival of singing and dancing therapy on so many occasions in these months.
Krishna Jayanti was particularly memorable this year as the rain forced the uriyadi games indoors to the back stage. This venue gave the small kids the perfect place to play, but left out the older students. Amma then switched to the original venue in the field near the hall for the older boys and university students. The sound system had been disconnected and covered with plastic and there was a delay in launching the usual music, but Amma did not wait. She began singing “Hari Bol” so vibrantly that we seemed to be lifting off the ground along with her. Amma sang and sang during the entire uriyadi games and then sang a beautiful set of bhajans and sang and had us dance again at midnight to celebrate Krishna’s birth.
Onam gave us the transcendent experience of dancing with Amma as she sang “Radhe Govinda Gopi Gopala” and in the evening we had ice cream therapy as well. And who can forget the dancing in those dead hours of the morning when Amma’s brother got the whole stage up and dancing, including the prasad queue. Amma danced along on her peetham from time to time, encouraging everyone and upping the bliss level. And on the dreaded final day of her departure for the two month foreign tour, there was swimming therapy with singing and dancing in the water.
Indeed, Amma is the greatest therapist. She succeeds in getting us to stop thinking for a few minutes, to even forget our body consciousness and revel in pure experience. The happiness and peace of mind she gives is rarely found anywhere else.