A couple of years ago, I attended an event in NYC by amma.org, a non-profit whose spiritual leader is known as Amma, also known as the Hugging Mother or Hugging Saint. The event at Jacob Javitz Center drew over 1,000 people who were all there to get a hug from Amma. To many it seems to be a little strange to get a hug from a total stranger. But for many, Amma is regarded as a saint, and her unconditional love to all, regardless of religion, is definitely worth experiencing.
Many years back I was touring India and went to Amma’s home state of Kerala. While on the backwaters of Kerala our guide informed us about this Hugging Mother whose ashram was right on the river banks. We decided to stop and take our chances trying to see her, and ironically, or rather by divine intervention, we happened to arrive when she was giving hugs to the public. The hug felt good—it was powerful. While hugging you, she whispers something into your ear. I couldn’t quite fathom what it was, but all I know is that I came out of the encounter feeling good. I wasn’t a follower of Amma after that, but since then whenever she’s touring in America and comes to New York, I do try to attend her events. Some observations from my weekend:
To many who believe, she represents the feminine Divine Energy in us—the feminine aspect of God, the unconditional, loving nature of God. That weekend, I watched in awe at how she continuously gave hugs to those who came from far and near. She did not stop, she just kept going and didn’t seem tired. I thought to myself: where does she get that energy? Each of us has that divine energy within us that needs to be sparked—all we have to do is actually recognize it and that power source will be abundant. The difference is that we aren’t aware of our divinity or our true nature and we often live in fear of exploring our true energy. It’s amazing when we’re able to access that power source and see what it can accomplish.
Observation # 2: Amma loves unconditionally
Can one really love unconditionally? Can each of us accept each other without judgement and criticism? Is that really possible? That weekend brought these thoughts to mind. Here was this woman hugging individuals of every kind; Hugs represent love. It’s the way humans connect with each other to express how much they care about each other. Watching Amma give hugs made me look at love in a different way. Loving without expectation was the message here. Loving because it is our true nature.
Observation # 3: The importance of hugs
Hugs are important. We often forget to hug each other. We underestimate the power of touch and how healing hugs can be for us. Hugs begin with us as infants, and it’s something that’s taught to children by adults, but as we get older and into adulthood, we as adults seem to hug less and less.
As I sat and watched the looks of the many individuals who received hugs from Amma, I saw various emotions on their faces. For some it was a reaffirmation of their spirit. Somehow on our journey into adulthood the act of hugging gets lost. And I can’t stress enough that this should not get lost. We need to get back to that as a society.
The physical act of embracing with both our arms around another person is a connection of the human spirit without words. It’s a silent communication between two individuals that conveys a message of acceptance, caring, love. It’s a way of connecting with the human spirit without any egos involved, just pure love. And that’s what Amma’s message is about—pure unconditional love. As Amma says, “Love is the only medicine that heals the wounds of the world.” Regardless of whether you believe or not, regardless of whether you’re a follower or not, it’s definitely worth keeping the value of hugs and the importance of love to heart.
by Anjali Mani