Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma), a world-renowned humanitarian and spiritual leader will be in New Delhi on March 15th and 16th as part of her annual India tour that started this January from Thiruvananthapuram.
Perhaps the most personally accessible spiritual leader in history, Amma has embraced more than 3.7 crore people throughout the world, giving spiritual programs not only throughout India, but also throughout Europe, the United States, Japan, Africa, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries, giving her the acronym of ‘the hugging saint’.
Amma’s Bharat Yatra has been an annual event for more 30 years now. She has been holding world tours for the same duration, making deep bonds with people across cultures, languages, nationalities and religions.
But for those in the sphere of CSR, Amma can well be a prime example of serving with selfless love and compassion and creating impact on a mammoth scale. Amma’s volunteer organization, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (known globally as Embracing the World), is focused to help alleviate the burden of the poor through helping to meet each of their five basic needs: food, shelter, healthcare, education, and livelihood. And the sheer volumes and numbers at which the organization operates makes for a good case study of how to scale up impact when it comes to CSR activities.
The Math is especially focused on meeting those needs in the aftermath of major disasters, having dedicated more than Rupees 475 crore in disaster-relief work since 2005. After the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, Amma acted quickly, providing concrete homes for the homeless within six months after the disaster. Since then, Amma has done similar work in response to flooding in Mumbai, Gujarat, Chennai and Bihar, Uttarakhand and Jammu-Kashmir, as well as in response to earthquakes in Kashmir, Nepal, Haiti and Japan, cyclones in West Bengal and the Philippines, and hurricanes in the United States. Through MAM’s hospitals and other healthcare programs, the organization has provided totally free medical care to more than 4.3 lakh people since 1998. It has built more than 47,000 homes for the homeless throughout India and has provided financial aid for more than one lakh people unable to care for themselves. MAM is providing scholarships to more than 50,000 impoverished students annually, and also offers vocational-training, literacy-training, runs orphanages, hospices and elder-care homes. MAM volunteers serve more than one crore meals to the homeless and hungry each year, including 150,000 meals in 50 cities across North America.
Augmenting these efforts; Embracing The World works in the fields of environmental conservation and sustainability. It has planted more than 10 lakh trees as part of the United Nations’ Billion Tree Campaign. It regularly cleans rivers and other public areas as part of its environmental campaigns, and it teaches and assists poor villagers in remote areas to build their own toilets. In 2015, MAM donated Rupees 100 crores to support the Government’s Namami Gange Project. MAM is also currently undertaking an additional Rupees 100-crore-worth of toilet construction and other environmental endeavours in its home state of Kerala; as part of this it has already constructed more than 10,000 toilets in Kerala.
Amma has delivered addresses at the United Nations several times and has spoken twice at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Among other accolades, she has received the Gandhi-King Award for Nonviolence in Geneva, the James Parks Morton Interfaith Award in New York, and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the State University of New York. In 2014, at the invitation of His Holiness Pope Francis, Amma was one of 12 religious and spiritual leaders to travel to the Vatican to sign a joint declaration against modern slavery.
Amma also serves as chancellor of the five-campus Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. As chancellor, Amma has guided the university along a path that stresses both modern educational excellence as well service-mindedness — a combination that has led to Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham being ranked as the ninth best university in all of India by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) in 2017, and the No. 1 private university in all of India by the Times Higher Educational Supplement in 2016. In 2015, Amma addressed researchers representing 93 leading international universities at a conference co-hosted by Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and the United Nations Academic Impact at the UN in New York. Stressing the importance of research aimed at uplifting the poor and needy, she said, “Today, universities and their researchers are ranked mainly based on the amount of funding they receive, the number of papers they publish and their intellectual calibre, but along with this, we should take into consideration how much we have been able to use their research to serve the lowest and most vulnerable strata of society.” Through Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, researchers are innovating new means of delivery of goods, knowledge, information, energy and healthcare to get help to those in need wherever they are.
Amma’s birthplace in Kerala is also the headquarters of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math. It is home to more than 3,000 residents, who have dedicated themselves to imbibing Amma’s teachings, studying the spiritual scriptures, practicing meditation, and dedicating themselves to Amma’s humanitarian projects. When asked where she gets the energy to help so many people while also building and running a massive humanitarian organization, Amma answers: “Where there is true love, everything is effortless. Love transforms.”
As part of the Bharat Yatra 2018 which ends on 18th March, 2018 in Chandigarh, 'The Hugging Saint' will be visiting 13 cities including Madurai, Chennai, Coimbatore, Mangalore, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Chandigarh to shower her blessings on the devotees and spread the message of love and peace.
“Amma is able to establish perfect communication with people of all nations, languages and cultures because her real language is not Malayalam but a universal one – the Language of Love,” says Amma’s head disciple, Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri. “Amma is able to communicate through the Language of Love because she understands people’s heart – their deep-seated sorrows, their hidden pains. And just as importantly, she also knows how to forever heal those hearts as well.”
For more information, visit www.amritapuri.org