Toulon is now the biggest program on the tour, with overflow crowds filling the stadium and more waiting outside to get in. They are orderly and disciplined, making crowd control easy. They are also a lighthearted dancing crowd who will be joyously dancing one minute and seriously meditating the next. The organization to produce this program is daunting and over 900 volunteers were on hand for hall set up, crowd control and security, darshan assisting, pot washing, veggie chopping, cooking and serving, cleaning, flower preparation and more. And their job was not over at the end of the huge Devi Bhava darshan.
Amma came to the nearby ashram, Lou Paradou, to spend the night, and the whole group needed to be supplied with dinner that night and breakfast and lunch the next day. Dinner was efficiently served to around 300 people in a moonlight courtyard in the shadow of tall cypress trees. In the late morning sunlight, sitting behind a beautiful yellow leafed tree, and to the accompaniment of the sound of a rushing stream, Amma served lunch to even more people, including all the local volunteers who could come and the tour group. Before lunch, she gave a satsang which stressed the importance of focusing on spiritual practice right now and not waiting for a time in the future that may never come. This year’s “signature song” for special occasions seems to be “Mere Guruvan di wani”. (Listen to the words of the great masters. These words are sweeter than concentrated sugar syrup and at the same time thinner than water. These words are out of this world.” And indeed, as Amma sings these words, she seems to go out of this world and takes us with her. But Amma and the group had to come back to earth as it was time to go to Milano.
The camper had pulled up right next to where Amma was sitting, but Amma was not ready to board. She made a short tour of the garden and then walked behind the ashram along the river to the waterfall. Every year that she visits, she has made a beeline to the waterfall, enjoying the pristine river and water rushing over the falls. She then boarded the camper and the group helped the locals clean up before heading to the buses. The drive to Milano was spectacular with snowcapped mountains on the left and terraced hills marching to the sparkling blue sea on the right.
We arrived in Milano to the news that we should go straight to the dining hall as Amma was serving again! We were amazed that Amma was serving food to a huge group twice in one day. This was the first time her schedule had allowed her to serve a meal and sit with the local volunteers in Milano. The Italians could hardly believe they were getting this opportunity and wide smiles lit all faces. They began singing “Chamundaye” and “Shiva Shiva Shiva Shambo” to Amma as she passed the plates. Amma seemed to really enjoy this. When Amma had served everyone, they kept saying, “Grazie, grazie Amma” and she wished them “Bon Appetito!”
After dinner she sang again and had everyone clap hands with each other. The Italians really wholeheartedly participated in this and Amma stopped singing a couple of times, lost in delightedly looking at them. At the end, she fell into meditation, motionless, smiling, with her hands folded in prayer and everyone either gazed at her raptly or joined her in silent bliss. Then she walked to her room, stopping briefly to admire some giant pumpkins displayed in the dining room. For the volunteers and tour group, it was time to go back to work and prepare for next day’s program, when several thousand people in one of the largest crowds in Euorpe were expected to experience the bliss of darshan with Amma.
Europe Yatra, 2014