An interesting cross-section of people visit the Amrita University table to find out about Amma’s university, or see about teaching, attending or interning. In the Netherlands, we spoke to some people who told us particularly moving stories. One woman began telling us about poverty in Holland. We were surprised as we had thought people in Holland were quite well off. However, she told us that there are 3 million people living in poverty there. It’s not so obvious as one doesn’t see homeless people on the street, as everyone has a roof over their heads. According to our informant, the problem is that housing takes so much of their income, that there is not enough for other basic needs. She continued that the real poverty, however, was the feeling of loneliness and isolation. She was hoping that the new Dutch Centre would be a place to help alleviate that by connecting people and doing service work for those in both material and spiritual need.
Another visitor to the table was interested in Amrita SeRVe, Amma’s village rehabilitation project. She saw that one of the outreach areas is organic agriculture. She said that she was trained in permaculture and organic agriculture and expressed an interest in volunteering. She then told us that her father had also been an organic farmer, but 50 years ago farmers in Holland had to choose between diary and were pressured to use pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Her father, who was a master farmer, who really knew how to get the most out of his soil by natural methods and also had a knowledge of herbal medicine, decided to leave farming. He didn’t want to expose his family to toxic chemicals and although it broke his heart, he took a job in a factory. He became depressed and it destroyed their family life. Now his daughter is thinking of coming to India so that other families won’t have to make such choices, but will be able to grow food safely.
Our table was next to the Green Friends table and they were giving out a lot of information about Amma’s ecological initiatives and showing the many activities of the Netherlands’s GreenFriends group. On display, they had an amazingly simple beehive made from bamboo sticks placed in a tin can. The bees make their hive in the bamboo sticks and they were giving away bamboo to anyone who wanted to make a hive.
The Netherlands group recently acquired a large house for a Centre. It is an attractive brick building with ample parking and space for gardening, which is already underway. Amma visited it at the end of a long Devi Bhava. As she left, she happily told people on her way out that she was going to the ashram. She also said that she would serve everyone dinner at 5:30pm. Around 5 the tour group joined the locals in a large room in the back of the building, although not large enough to hold all the people who had come. The tour group gave precedence to the locals and many were outside looking through the windows. Amma looked distinctly displeased at this and questioned the organizers, but they explained there was no other option, so a light was moved outside and chairs set up. Amma said that at first it had been that Amma would visit with just a small group of people travelling with her, around 20. Then it grew to 120 including locals and then to everyone, as otherwise, people would be sad. And as we know, Amma will go to great lengths to keep people from being sad. Amma served a delicious meal of pasta, salad, broccoli and halva.
Before leaving, a local devotee asked her if she liked the Centre. She said she likes the Centre, but the ever practical Amma pointed out that for the Centre to function, it needs sincere and focused people like the questioner to be active in it. She pointed out that if all work together, they can offer something very creative for the society. They can find out what is needed in the area and help. We thought back to the woman who had talked to us about the needs of the society that she saw. It seems indeed her wish that the Centre will help people will soon come true!
Europe Yatra 2014