Memories of Amma’s first USA Yatra 1987 – First part
(Gretchen Kusuma is recollecting how Amma’s first world tour happened in 1987 on this 25th year of Amma’s visit to USA)
25 May 2011, writing from the Denver airport….
We were about twenty renunuciates living with Amma at the Idammanel family compound in April of 1986 when the invitation for Amma to visit America came and was accepted by Amma. The invitation was from Nealu’s (now known as Sw.Paramatmananda) brother and sister-in-law, Earl & Judy Rosner of San Francisco.
At the time I was the ashram cook and was in the midst of preparing lunch. Amma sent Sw.Paramatmananda to ask me what should be done to prepare for the trip to America which had been confirmed moments before.
I remember putting down the soup ladle and glancing at the flames of the open fire cooking the rice for a moment of thought. Then blurting out a few items off the top of my head – passports would be needed, visas, warm socks!, a place for Amma to sing bhajans, and posters. Lots of posters would need to be put up because no one knew of Amma in America.” He left to go inform Amma, and I thought, “What do I know about such things? ” and went back to the cooking.
Not two hours had passed when there was a knock on the door of my hut. It was Sw.Paramatmananda standing there holding a rusty typewriter. “I think you are going to need this,” and handed it over. “Amma said you should get those things ready for the visit.”
With Amma’s blessings, on June 2, 1986 I travelled to the US for the first of three organizing trips back and forth across the country in order to get things ready for Amma’s visit in the following year. My family bought me a ticket to ‘visit’ them. Little did they know what a whirlwind visit it would be! Little did I know that those hundreds of miles would turn into thousands of miles of effort to bring Amma to the West for what would become Amma’s First World Tour in May of 1987.
Landing in San Francisco with a backpack containing one change of clothes, twenty copies of the booklet, “Mother of Sweet Bliss”, and a video which was called, “A Day With Mother”. I set off across the country and finally the world, showing the video to as many people as possible in every city where there was family or friend.
I had no idea what to do but let Amma lead me in the next direction that seemed obvious. I had no plan to follow, no devotees to contact. Listening with my heart to what Amma wanted was my constant compass. Amma told me before I set out, “My children are everywhere. They are crying for Amma, but cannot find me. Amma must go to them.” And so I went in every direction possible, showing the “Day with Mother” video as many times as could. I had no money at all to do any of this. Amma had told me, “Daughter, never ask for anything and everything will come to you.” And so I moved forward in an eastward direction around the world with absolute faith in those words of Amma.
New Mexico, where I had first seen Amma’s picture in 1983, was a location I could easily work from because of the circle of friends there. Nealu’s cousin Ron Gottsegen in Carmel California, my old friends from the University of California-Berkeley, a new friend George Brunswig and the late Larry Kelly, Tina Jenks & Nancy Crawford of Berkeley, Earl & Judie in San Francisco, Susan Cappadocia of Mt.Shasta, Candace Strand of Seattle, friends of the Rosner’s: Steve & Kathy Schmidt of Santa Fe, Nealu’s mom in Chicago, his first yoga teacher Barbara Lawrence and her husband David in Madison, Wisconsin, new friends Mary LaMar and Michael Price also of Madison, my parents near Washington DC and Boston were the backbone of this first organizing effort. In those places I could always count on food and shelter, loving kindness and generosity of spirit. From this network of people sprang new connections, more video shows, more contact of Amma with Her children through my effort directed by Amma’s invisible but constantly present guidance.
Amma had blessed a simple brass oil lamp for my journey which was lit before each showing of the video. A notebook I carried recorded each person’s name and address if they were interested to learn about Amma’s upcoming visit. Speaking of my time with Amma since 1983 and all of the experiences I had in Her presence were the bread and butter of each video show. Often it would be very obvious to me which people would be instrumental in hosting Amma’s first world tour.
By August 14th, 1986 I returned to Amma’s fledgling ashram having visited Singapore, San Francisco, Carmel, Santa Cruz, Mt. Shasta, Seattle, Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Boulder, Madison, Wisconsin, Chicago, Washington DC, New York, Boston, London, Zurich & Schweibenalpe, Switzerland, and Graz, Austria.