This yatra of ours saw three of Amma’s precepts merging into one experience: Divinity, caring for nature and cleanliness: they are not three different teachings anymore for us Amma’s children, who by Her Grace took to ABC work in Sabarimala and Pampa, in the first week of November, 2011.
Just as Amma has said on her 57th birthday, we saw that ‘Nature on its own is indeed beautiful and clean.’ The hills and rivers do not need us to clean them. In fact it is nature’s water which cleans us; it is trees which purify air for us. But because we have littered, because we have spoilt its pristine purity, we have to own it up and do our duty towards it.
For us, who went to Sannidhaanam, climbing the mountain or doing the cleaning work, it was not a pilgrimage meant to rid us of our prarabdha. It was pure joy of Guru Seva. Amma has said that it shall be done and we are being made to do it. That’s all! That is a lot of joy!!! For those of us who have a subtle voice asking the why behind everything, Amma has provided, in all Her compassion, the required explanation in Her Satsangs.
As we drove from Amritapuri that morning, after the long distance of urbanised part of the earth, we entered the hilly region. It was green yes, but the hills were all rubber plantations. The ground was green with some non-descript vines covering the earth and the numerous rubber trees were uniformly standing above them, bleeding rubber liquid to bulge someone’s pockets. After Amma has opened our eyes to what really nature is, we can’t accept a plantation area as ‘natural’; we can see it only as a commercial site! When Amma describes an ashram with a living Guru, She compares it to a dense forest, and one without a living Guru to a good office. The dense forest, Amma describes as one with many trees and plants and vines and shrubs and bushes all of them interwoven and living on together like that. Just the way we live in Amritapuri: we people of different description and no description, live in our distinct ways but make up Amma’s pristine woodland.
The air was as warm as before till we entered the jungle area, the god’s region. Instantly one could feel the special coolness. Just as Amma has said, the air blowing from the trees did carry special coolness, of love from trees, which is always giving us without expecting anything in turn. Amma also has said that though God is all pervading, His presence is perceptible in temples; Amma gives the simile of the cool air under the trees: ‘Though air is all pervading one feels its coolness under a tree.’
With Amma who ‘Sees God and only God, and nothing but God,’ similes of nature soon and invariably become metaphors themselves!!!
‘The silence in our hearts and the silence in Nature is the same,’ Amma has said. We could feel the dense silence pervading the mountains all around, even in spite of the little noises we made. We didn’t need to sit down to meditate to feel it.
After a brief stopover at Amma’s hospital for lunch at Pampa, we took to walking.
The path is all cemented, and rails are provided throughout the length of the climb till one reaches the temple. There is no danger absolutely as far as the path is concerned. But it is steep in places. Though it would rain often it was not slippery anywhere. This was beyond explanation: just the other side of the cemented path is the dense jungle, yet the path is unaffected!
For one who has seen many jungles in the country, this one seemed one of the densest forests. Even for an errand one cannot step one step into the jungle!!! One really wonders how pilgrims made it when the path was not cleared like now. How Ayyappa Swami lives in that remote valley with his bhaktas and followers! That is the strength of devotion and dedication, for us to see and learn.
We a group of 45 women in the age group of 50 to 75 years made it to the top in less than 2.30 hours, like any other group. We did it leisurely, even enjoying natural beauty, singing songs, and so on. The doctor in the hospital had given us, following Amma’s special care and instruction, tips to follow while climbing. He had told us more about problems that may happen in connection with our hearts. But as we climbed, I reminded to myself how Amma is in the hearts of these aged but enthusiastic Ammamars, and so how their hearts were functioning excellently.
All the Ammamars were carrying luggage in their backpacks. Some worker or young devotee passing by us would insistently take their luggage and carry it to the top; same thing happened while coming down. (Not everybody’s, but many of ours!) It was Amma sent, they would say with gratitude. Some carried sticks. Some took off shoes. Some rested for a while, while most of them did not even sit for a while.
Every day we did morning archana and evening bhajans without fail. It was sheer joy to do it seeing the sky changing from light to dark and vice versa. We were facing the side of the temple with golden roof. Between the temple top and us was our Lamp representing Amma.
The first evening Melsanthi of the temple came to participate. He was a very satwik presence. The third day he opened for us the pradakshina vali; and invited us into his chamber to give prasad. When we were wondering if we should not take bath before entering, it seems he said, ‘That is not necessary, for Amma’s children are always clean…!’ Just imagine, to me from Karnataka, Sabarimala is known for many strict ritualistic practices…!!! But here, the Amma-factor had rubbed divinity (cleanliness) on one and all.
Even though the sri-kovil was closed, we all saw God in Sabarimala as we took to it in Amma-spirit.
We were shown a big hill of waste collected over years; that was our karma bhumi. At first it looked an impossible task. I remember telling myself, no, grumbling, ‘why, it is impossible! We could just spread a thick layer of sand, and cordon off the land prohibiting dumping!’ The end of the police barracks led to a valley which had become a dumping place. Now the valley was even in level with the barracks. Pigs, not pigs but boars, (remember Obelix’s favourite dish? Yes, them, the boars! Safe and happy here!) had a happy time on the garbage hill. They walked in from the forests, ate and shat around, and went into the wild as and when they wished.
The waste that we collected, sorting it as we collected, was not any typical waste found in city areas: not biscuit or wafer wrappers, not cigarette buds or packs, not liquor bottles, not hospital waste (I remember how in one hospital area one of us found a plastic box tightly closed, and it had contained the mucus -spittle of a patient God knows with what disease!) No, not the products of the curse called urbanisation. But they were mainly plastic bags torn and caught between other things, little plastic bottles-5 inches long- that were containers of rose water and 2 inches bottles that had contained honey- both used in puja. Of course the garbage had many other things also. (The only disgusting thing was the boars’ shit and piss mixed in all that! But we didn’t mind it. We were here to see oneness in all. A great opportunity Amma had provided!) So it looked like if these items, used by none other than Ayyappa devotee pilgrims, were shown a place soon after their use, they would not be dumped as waste. The solution is not far from common sense.
As we pulled torn shapeless stretches of plastic bags from different layers of the earth, one western woman exclaimed, “Oh, how happy the mountain feels to be able to breathe again! Oh, the birds are chirping saying ‘Thank you, Amma!’” Is this not what Amma says is compassion? com-passion! To feel with the other: to feel how the mountains can breathe…!!!
As the dumping areas were being cleared, the stream by the bhasma kulam, which had stopped flowing, began to flow. What a feeling of relief and relaxation came over us when we heard this!
The next day when we were done, the place was beyond recognition. Pigs did not want to walk through this area. Now walked in a cow, a dark brown one with big majestic horns. She just stood among us for a while, clearly looking around the changes brought about. After about 5 -6 minutes the cow sat there and continued looking around… It felt that gods were happy for the work done. Go-mata was pleased.
But boars are also creatures; they can’t be rejected. Here nobody scares them off into jungles. They move about freely, pulling down any piled waste, cutting open our plastic bags filled with garbage collection… The he- boar has horn like canines. Till I remembered Varaha avatar of Lord Vishnu, I could not stand the sight of these boars… it felt very appalling, disgusting to see.. I could not look at their eyes, felt like they were beings of lowest nether world… so on. The first evening I tried hard to accommodate them into my scheme of things, however silly it is right now. As a last effort, all I could do was resort to Amma’s reference to pigs. My mind applied Search and I found the Search Item: “Avatars descend into the world of pigs and live as one among them; that it their greatness!” (The statement may not be exact) Ooh God, am I as disgusting as this boar I don’t even want to see! Accept sandhya, accept!
Those few days was not ‘Ayyappa season’ but ‘Amma season’ in Sabarimala. On the fourth of November itself we were about 2000 people in the Sannidhanam. Next three days saw hundreds of Amma devotees from different parts of Kerala pouring in for seva; they included women of senior age group. Students from all campuses of Amma’s university poured in. They (after travelling 12-14 hours on road) climbed the mountain in the dead of the night, arriving at any time like 1-00 am or 3-00 am and so on. Remember the dense jungle on either side of the pathway, and the wild animals and snakes that these mountains are known for! Work went on round the clock. Now and then from a distant spot (there were 13 intensive cleaning areas) we heard `Mata Rani ki Jai!’ Jaikar to Amma!
Eating place was nothing but a miracle place. People who don’t know each other but were from Amma family, came there to finish off with eating and to return to complete the work… On every body’s mind was the attitude of the ants at work…! However, I don’t know why, it was not like a brahmasthanam festival! It was distinct and special, though!
Atta or the leeches were very well known there. We were given some neem oil to rub on our feet to keep them away. We were also told, if a leech succeeds in catching us, apply some common salt, the leech will fall off instantly. People close to nature deal softly with nature, even if it is for defense; their remedies are so simple and harmless! These leeches are really curious: chocolate brown in color, they show two inches length, but can stretch longer. They fix their face (or mouth) on the surface, and let out their tail like feeler looking for a spot. As it finds one, the head moves there. This is how the being moves. When the tail finds your body, soon the face/mouth comes and attaches to your body; it begins to suck blood from you without causing you a bit of pain. The leech bloats and bloats to its fill. Then it drops off. Now the impaired vein continues to ooze blood, and that draws your attention. “Haa! BlooD!” you exclaim!
As we came down to Pampa river, the Chief Minister’s program was over. What a sight lay before us: Hundreds of Amalabharatam orange jakecters were at work. They were moving about in lines and groups, knowing well what their job is. From that height, in an in-tuned attitude, one could see One hand from Above doing all that work, One heart residing in them all!
Normally Barcelona is a very huge program for Amma. This year every place in Europe was huge; at that rate one need not strain to imagine the hugeness of Barcelona crowd: still Amma was calling br Raju often, enquiring about us, even from the time of our departure. Amma said “My Ammamar children are like dear parrots to Me. They should be well taken care of.” Often Amma would want to see all the work going on, all our happy faces… br Ramkumar had a team of cameramen to supply the visuals. Amma guided the entire project directly though She was on a hectic Europe tour. It is simply unbelievable the way Amma deals with details there, here, everywhere…. directly. Amma was literally monitoring the ABC Yagna.
One of us was heard saying, Amma is the only one who could speak about this need for cleaning work so boldly in public… How many socially important persons have dared touch this topic? Also, Amma is the only One who is getting the work done directly: who would send an army of thousands, devotees from all countries and walks of life, young students and all, on a cleanup mission? Amma talks! Amma not only talks, but also Amma walks her talks.
There is a lot more to write. May be some other time…..