At five in the morning, a small group armed with flashlights to light her way, waited to greet Amma at her ashram in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Amma hadn’t been here for many years. The programs had outgrown the tent on the land and had moved to urban hotels. For the last years the programs had been held in a city over an hour away to the south and west and Amma had not been able to come here. This year she would be able to spend the night at the Schmidt’s residence, adjacent to the Santa Fe ashram and Amma Center, before proceeding to the venue north of Santa Fe called Buffalo Thunder.
It was completely quiet, the full moon created deep shadows under the pinon and juniper trees as it began its descent below the horizon. Low mountains were silhouetted against the gradually lightening sky. Faintly in the distance we heard the sound of engines, a few headlights were seen at the top of the long hilly winding driveway and we heard the crunch of gravel as the vehicles approached. And then, with a wave of laughter, the feather touch of her fingers, Amma finally set foot on this land and moved into the house.
On entering the house, she went into the living room and looked around. Someone showed her a picture of herself in Devi Bhava in this very living room in 1987. Amma sat down on the couch and looked around and then began counting how many people could have fit in the living room, adjoining dining room in closest proximity. 100. Amma relaxed and chatted with the locals before moving to her room. Later she told her hosts how much she had enjoyed watching the sun rise on the land.
We naturally had hopes that Amma might come out and do something that day, but nothing was confirmed until about an hour after she arrived. Amma announced that she would record songs at the ashram and serve food to the tour group and local sevites at the Amma Center temple. This small temple and satsang center marks the spot where Amma was in Devi Bhava for many years. Immediately the phones were ringing and devotees arrived to set up the dining spot and help the staff to cook the meal.
In the late afternoon Amma walked down from the house to the ashram puja room, enjoying reminiscing about the “old days” when the programs were held in a tent on rare flat piece of ground between the ashram and the house. She stopped to admire the ashram flower garden and stroke a branch of the central cherry tree. Then to our delight she invited us to sit in the dining room before the sliding doors to the puja room. She told us that we could listen to the rehearsals of the bhajans, and then the doors would be closed during recording to avoid noise. She saw that some people couldn’t see and asked for more chairs to be brought in. We watched as she practiced each bhajan, fine tuning pronunciation and rhythm, joking…It was a rare chance to experience Amma in a unique and informal setting. Then the doors would close and we could hear the bhajan being recorded. After the final notes, the doors would slide open again and we would watch the next rehearsal. After two and a half hours, Amma again walked up the hill where she sat in the middle of the temple on a large wooden stage that had been used for programs in past years and taken out of storage for this event.
As soon as Amma sat down, she told us how glad she was to be with us here again after so many years. Then she began singing “Shristiyum Niye” in the heartfelt way that only Amma can. Next she mentioned that in the intervening years, several devotees had left their bodies. Amma asked us to remember them and to set aside 5-6 plates for them, saying that they were still here, all around us.
She then asked for Juan, the now retired, ill and elderly caretaker of the grounds for many years. He lived nearby and someone went to fetch him and soon he arrived, hat in hand, to receive his prasad meal personally from Amma. It was a beautiful lesson in how Amma never forgets anyone. As one of her bhajans proclaims, “Her mind is vast enough to hold ALL of her children.” The children then had a chance to tell jokes and stories and Amma sang one last joyous song before walking back to the house. She stopped on the way and gave all the devotees so much love and attention. There were many sevites and satsang members there that work hard all year for Amma’s charities and to produce the program and manage to keep Amma in their hearts during their busy lives. She clearly knew and remembered each and every person and her eyes brimmed with love, as only Amma’s eyes can.
Was it our imagination or were the birds singing more joyously? Were the trees waving in the wind dancing? Did the light have a special quality that evening? It seemed that not only her children, but all of nature was rejoicing in her visit. Amma walked up the steps to the house, before entering she turned and gave one more glorious smile and saying “Om Namah Shivaya”, hands folded overhead. Her re-energized children then scattered to clean up after the dinner smiling and sharing their joy. Many headed to Buffalo Thunder for late night set up as we still had four more glorious days with Amma in New Mexico.
USA Yatra 2014
Amma Center of New Mexico