Interview by Priyan
Vyasa (Gregory Mc Farland, USA) has been a devotee of Amma for 31 years now! He is visiting Amritapuri for a month, to be with Amma for her 60th Birthday Celebrations. Even though since Her 1st world tour in 1987, he meets Amma every year when She visits the USA, it has now been 18 years since he came to Amritapuri… I fixed a meeting with him to ask him to share his memories from his earliest visits to Amma back in 1982 and 1983…
“In 1979, I was living in Santa Fe (New Mexico), when a friend who knew of my interest in Buddhism and Zen Buddhism, told me of a young spiritual seeker who lived in India following the Hindu tradition, and was visiting his family in Santa Fe for a short time. This is how I met Neal (Swami Paramatmananda). He hadn’t met Amma yet but had been doing very strict sadhana in Tiruvanamalai serving Swami Ratnamji who had been a personal attendant to Ramana Maharshi himself. His knowledge of the Hindu scriptures was impressive and he very obviously was a serious sadhak who was imposing on himself strict discipline and practices, despite his frail health condition. I enjoyed interacting with him until he returned back to India shortly afterwards.”
“About 3 years later, I met a cousin of Nealu at a grocery store and he informed me that Nealu was back for a visit. I of course was interested in meeting him again. When I saw him, I was shocked at a major change that had occurred to him. He was now more loving, warm and sweet. He soon shared with me his most recent experiences and I started to understand the reason for this change. With great enthusiasm and liveliness, Nealu told me that he had met this great Indian young woman in Kerala, who is a Mahatma. That She had become his guru and that he now lived by Her side. He showed me photos of Amma and played an audio cassette of Her singing. As I was discovering bits and bytes about Amma, I was getting a clear conviction that I had to go to India at the earliest to meet this lady and maybe stay there for good!
“Nealu was traveling back in 3 weeks, and it didn’t seem possible and reasonable for me to accompany him: I was living with my wife and young son, had a job and responsibilities. I still needed a passport and a visa and had to deal with some property. Still, like magic, everything cleared out on time and without obstacles and I was able to join Nealu on his next trip to India, to Amma… It was August 1982.”
Q: “Vyasa, could you describe this first visit to Amma?”
A: “Our plane landed in Madras, and I remember being completely exhausted by the travel, especially that Nealu was very sick and weak to the extent that I was wondering whether he would really make it with me to Kerala! He had brought with him a lot of things. This held at the airport customs for hours. Finally when we were ‘released’, all we could do was get a hotel and rest for a couple of days in Madras, before taking a flight to Trivandrum. From there we took a taxi to Vallickavu. When we reached, the heat, heavy humidity and discomforts of the ride had completely worn me down. I remember Amma coming to meet us outside and giving me a first hugging darshan. But I was too tired to feel in it any special spiritual energy.
“I remember having barely had the time to settle in with Nealu in his hut and take a brief rest that I was told that a big event was to start shortly. Crowds started to flock to the place: It was Krishna Bhava!”
Q: “How did this place look back then?”
A: “The place consisted of a cowshed standing next to Amma’s parents’ house where Amma used to give darshan and hold the Krishna and Devi Bhavas. A short distance from the cowshed, were 2 rows of thatched huts, forming an L shape. I stayed with Nealu in one of these huts. Amma had a hut where she met people sometimes during the day; and the other huts were used by the 12 other seekers who stayed with Amma. All around were coconut groves, swamps, backwaters and open areas where we would wash or help with some household activities. The ashram was not officially established, so Amma’s father had just allowed them to stay in these huts next to the house.
Q: “Could you tell us more about that first Krishna/Devi Bhava night with Amma?”
A: “A totally fantastic and mysterious experience! It was way too much for me to comprehend or explain to myself. Maybe it would have been easier to land on planet Mars! And as soon as the beaming and all-shaking Krishna was gone, Devi replaced him with Her crown and special garments!! It was an experience far beyond what any reading or others stories could prepare you for. Nealu had spoken to me about the bhavas, but this live/life experience was way more than the mind and intellect could process.
“During these days I remember that we often discussed among ourselves whether Amma was just channeling Krishna and Devi during the bhavas, mimicking them, being possessed by them, or simply being fully them… I concluded after my first bhavas that Amma was none other than the Goddess Devi Herself, the historical Krishna himself. Nealu had done studies of the scriptures to prove this, and it was very convincing.
“I believe about 300 to 600 devotees would come to the bhavas, which took place 3 days a week! Barely time for me to rest from these repeated all-night sleepless events.”