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Shraddhanjali:  An Offering of Reverence 

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    I offer my gratitude and obeisance to Ammachi, and I believe that this collection of poems is the direct result of her grace.
    After meeting Ammachi in 1992, I began to meditate and pray every morning.  Before the spring of 1998, the thought of writing poems had never even crossed my mind.  One morning during meditation in May 1998 I felt a sudden urge to write.  But surprisingly, I did not know what topic I would be writing about.  After I got up from my meditation and came to the kitchen table, I suddenly started composing the very first poem entitled Shriddhanjali (Offering of reverence).  After finishing the poem, I realized that my first experience with Ammachi was being expressed in this poem.  Poems have been coming to me from time to time ever since then.  Sometimes I wonder whether I have written these poems myself, because they have come so spontaneously.
    It almost seems like a coincidence that I met Ammachi.  While I was leaving on a trip to Florida in the summer of 1992, I happened to hear that a woman saint from Kerala was coming to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I was totally uninformed about her at that time, and I was rather skeptical about the usefulness of making an effort to see her.  Nevertheless, out of curiosity, I made a detour to Santa Fe to visit her.  When I reached the tent where Ammachi was receiving visitors, with the very first glimpse of Ammachi I felt that I was seeing the personification of compassion and maternal love.  I experienced instantaneous bliss on that first meeting; I was overwhelmed by emotion and tears came to my eyes.  I was in a confused state of mind and asked myself why I was crying.
    I wanted to know more about her, so I bought her biography.  I learned that she was born to a fisherman's family in a remote village in southern India.  Her education is limited to the fourth grade.  Her parents had dreams of divine beings before she was born.  She began singing devotional songs to Krishna at the age of two, and she began composing her own devotional poetry at the age of nine.  From her childhood to her youth, Ammachi had a very difficult life.  Because of her unusual behavior, her parents thought she had a mental problem and had been possessed by an evil spirit.  They began to treat her as if she were a family servant, and they began to abuse her.  Often she would give her own food to the destitute people in her neighborhood, but she was punished for even this generosity.
    During her teenage years, Ammachi went through a major spiritual transformation.  She had a vision of Lord Krishna, one of the most beloved deities of Hinduism.  She also had a vision of Devi, the Divine Mother who is the feminine aspect of God.  She began to see Devi in everything and everyone around her.  Eventually she had an experience in which Devi became a divine effulgence that merged into her own heart.  Although many villagers recognized the divine power within her, others became highly critical and even attempted to kill her.  Yet she showed compassion to even those who were trying to cause her harm.
    As if to satisfy those who demanded proof of her divinity, she displayed many miracles.  On one occasion, she asked a skeptic to bring a pot that he had just filled with water.  She asked him to dip his finger into the pot, and when he pulled it out, he was amazed to see that his finger was coated with milk.  She asked him to dip his finger into it again, and this time he found it coated with  rice pudding that had a beautiful fragrance.  On another occasion, she healed a leper named Dattan by sucking the pus out of his wounds with her own mouth and then spitting it out.  I personally know of a family near my hometown in the United States in which there was a young girl with an advanced brain tumor.  Her doctors had told the family that they could not do anything more to save the girl.  Even though the girl's parents did not believe that Ammachi had any extraordinary powers, they took their daughter to see Ammachi as a last resort because of what they had heard about her from other people.  She reassured them that their daughter would recover.  In the months that followed, the girl's brain tumor disappeared, leaving her parents and her doctors astonished.
    I have another acquaintance who has a doctorate degree who was diagnosed with a malignant tumor of the pancreas more than six years ago when he was in his sixties.  The tumor was more than an inch in diameter when it was discovered.  Such a cancer is usually fatal within a matter of months to a couple of years.  This man underwent surgery in November 1998, and afterwards he went to see Ammachi, whom he had seen on many occasions during prior years.  He said that whenever he saw Ammachi he experienced an indescribable feeling of unconditional love.  Ammachi gave him some vibhuti ( which is ash that is considered sacred) to apply on the area where the surgeons had operated.  He faithfully did so every morning after meditation.  He seems to have made a remarkable recovery, and his cancer doctors are continually amazed to see him still alive.  He says, "with utter gratitude, I submit to Amma and say 'this is your grace' to let me enjoy another beautiful day."
    Ammachi has also rendered extraordinary humanitarian service on a global scale.  In 1985 her name was changed to Mata Amritanandamayi (Mother Filled with the Nectar of Bliss), and an ashram (spiritual community) was opened in her name.  Since then, her efforts have resulted in the opening of many highly advanced hospitals, technical colleges, schools, and homes for the destitute throughout the world.  In the West, she is known as "the hugging saint" because it has been estimated that she has given about twenty million personal embraces through her many years of service.  In 2002, Ammachi was the keynote speaker at the United Nations Global Peace Initiative of women spiritual leaders in Geneva, Switzerland, and she also gave a keynote address at the Millennium Peace Summit in the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
    I am very grateful to have received these poems through Ammachi's grace.  For the convenience of those readers who may have a limited knowledge of Hindi, I have provided a transliteration of the Hindi words into English letters, as well as a translation of the poems' meanings into English.  I hope that these poems are able to bring you a little of the joy that I have experienced as a result of my contact with Ammachi.

Usha Srivastava, Antitoch CA 2005.