After the massive Toulon program, Amma drove to her ashram near the historic town Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume where Mary Magdelene is said to be buried. The ashram building was once an old mill and a river flows behind it and a stream under it, which once powered the mill wheel. A small waterfall is within view down a short path to the side of the structure. The buildings are made of thousands of small stones cemented together with lime. Like Hof Herrenberg, the German ashram, the ashram is adjacent to horse farms and we enjoyed watching the young foals run circles around the field.
The next morning Amma was expected to serve lunch at 11 a.m., but came out unexpectedly, 45 minutes early, as she wanted to tour the grounds. She headed immediately to the water fall a short distance down a wooded path. She spotted a decrepit looking kayak and she and a senior European ashramite began reminiscing about times when she went out in boats at the end of the Europe tour, including one time when she capsized. Amma was ready to jump in the kayak and head out on the river, but perhaps due to the capsize story the organizers worked hard to convince her that she should tour the gardens instead. Always willing to please, Amma walked around the herb garden in front of the ashram and then moved to the vegetable garden on the side of the ashram. There she spotted a huge tomato, slightly misshapen and blemished (obviously heirloom and organic)! She asked,”Takkalee, takkalee” in amazement. She looked like she had just met an old friend. She bent down and touched it and someone asked if she wanted it. She said, yes, but someone else should cut it off the stem, as she couldn’t bear to do it! She gave it to the gardener as prasad and said that she could feel their love (of those who had planted and cared for it).
As she walked back through the graveled drive and large parking lot, she said that she wanted to eat outside in front of the ashram so she could see the sky, rather than in the lovely, but cramped, prayer hall. That meant moving the kitchen setup, and moving out a number of cars and vans. However, she looked up at one part of the sky and said, “Bad colour.” and sure enough it soon began sprinkling. So, into the hall we went. The kitchen set up was replaced. After moving the chair three times trying to find the best location for people to see her, she asked the organizer how many people she had invited. Seven hundred was the answer. Back outside we went as Amma said they wouldn’t fit inside and would be sad not to be able to see Amma. How true. The sprinkles of rain had stopped. Once gain the kitchen setup was moved, but everyone was in good cheer. After all, we’ve all heard the story of Milarepa!
Plates were filled and passed rapid fire from both sides to Amma. She held one end and placed a Prasad chocolate that a devotee had brought in the corner of each tray. It was a delicious lunch of pizza, broccoli, mixed vegetables and chocolate cake, + Prasad chocolate. Amma quickly passed the trays to everyone and other people came around with chai. It was a stunning site to see Amma sitting just to the left of the front door of Lou Paradou with its light yellow plastered wall and old stones. She kept trying to add more height by sitting a second chair on top of the armchair and finally on a pile of cushions. She was so sensitive to the desire of her children to see her well. The chant of Om Namah Shivaya echoed around the courtyard. Amma said, “Mange, Mange”. Eat, eat in Italian to the delight of the locals. She then asked if anyone complained about not being invited. That would seem unlikely with 700 invitees, but Amma must have been sensing something. She said to look around and see if anyone was missing and to tell them that Amma thought of them and missed them. She said that next time there was an opportunity, Amma wanted them to come.
After everyone had eaten, Amma asked for spiritual questions. A young mother asked how to respect the interior freedom of the children and also lead them on the spiritual path. Amma said that when children become 12/13 many tendencies come up and the children don’t listen to their parents and want to live their own lives. It is a very challenging time for most parents. Some children can learn only by experience. One can’t force them, but can lovingly advise.
The best thing is to give them values when they are young. It is much easier at that age and they will retain about 70% of these values after they grow up. Even if they go astray in later life, their conscience tells them what is right and they will return to their childhood values.
Amma finished this festive occasion with a joyous rendition of “Jaya Om Shree Mata”. Everyone sang and clapped hands together under the somber sky, surrounded by the autumn foliage and the singing river. At the end Amma chanted, “Shanti, shanti, shanti,” and went into deep meditation. Then she gestured, sweeping everyone into her heart and mind, and the tour group headed toward Milano, along one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world.
Europe Yatra, 2013