Amma. A name, a face, a smile that I have seen represented so many times. Her reputation and aura precede her wherever she goes, and she happened to come close to where I lived. So I went, not knowing what to expect, apart from the Indian ceremonial, a good dose of devotion, and her embrace, this simple gesture for which she has become famous the world over.
Waiting for Amma’s appearance, the immense hall had the flavour not so much of intense devotion, but of an easiness, a casualness, bearing little indication on the spiritual nature of the assembly. I could only be in admiration and awe for this woman who, though coming from a poor background in South India, has by her bare presence and loving hugs reached out to the entire world. …
“Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven
belongs to such as these.”
~ Mark 10:14
I’m sure we can all remember this. We were small children, we were playing in the courtyard near our house with our little friends. Maybe running after a ball. Then, pushed by a rough little boy, we fell and hurt our knee on the ground. It was painful. We got confused and a rush of pain and sadness overwhelmed us. We froze for a second, and then what? Then we ran to the house to find our dear mother. Our mother’s love is always here, at hand, available, so we cried and complained for a while, but something magic happened. In our mother’s lap we were gradually consoled and reassured until our sadness and pain gently melted and disappeared in no time. Why was I hurt in the first place? It’s such a tiny little wound! So we rushed back to our playground, eager to continue our game and be with our little friends again. …
I remember one day being at the breakfast table, my eyes peeking randomly through the window. They landed on the courtyard down below where a thin layer of snow were covering the lawns. I was attracted by the curious behaviour of a couple of magpies. One was so to speak climbing up a tree, branch after branch, until it reached a spot where the building of a nest was being started. It wasn’t just flying there, in one big leap, and I wondered why. The other magpie was leisurely sitting on a bicycle shed looking at its friend, attentive, but somewhat unconcerned. I watched this little dance for a while, but realised that there was more to see.
On the lawn, there was a big ball of snow, may be an unfinished snowman or something of the kind. It had been pushed there by the arms of a few playful children, and became this big, somewhat dirty giant ball sitting strangely in the courtyard. It was massive, solid, and yet had an odd, ethereal presence that drew me to it. It appeared as if it was not really there, somewhat absent in spite of its size and solidity. My mind wandered for a while, finding the snowball to be a perfect analogy for the ‘me’, this ‘thing’ that we assume to be the person, the doer. There is ‘somebody’ there, inside the skull so to say, that is directing the show, and for whom all actions are being undertaken. …
“I have been an [explorer] and still am.
But I stopped asking the books and the stars.
I started listening to the teachings of my own soul.”
It is not because I have read a few books, bathed in the presence of some beautiful beings, and participated to many retreats that I know where I am, what I am at, and can now follow the upward course of a promised, enlightened destination. I’m not like an arrow steadily cutting through the air. It’s not like that I’m afraid. I confess: I’m a lost bird. One that’s flapping its wings on the winds of uncertainty, not knowing how, where and what to proceed. I spend all my time in the forest, flying around like a mad bird, thinking that I have one thousand things to do to secure a more decent life for myself. And this is an endless, confusing activity. …
I love, during my walks in Paris, to stop in one of the many small parks that you find in the capital. I sit on a bench and rest while observing, listening. Some children are having some fun a little further, pushing each other on the slides, playing on the swings. I hear the gate slam from time to time, when a mother arrives with her child, an old man leaves with his dog. All the benches are not occupied. Some old ladies are chattering on one of them, two lovers are kissing tenderly. Some older men are playing pétanque and the balls are slamming, breaking the joyous monotony of the carousel music. Some children are shouting with joy. Suddenly, a din of flapping wings falls on me. A swarm of pigeons, lured by abundant crumbs of bread, swoops down on the nearby bench. A few scattered sparrows come to join in the feast. A couple is passing by, stopping for a moment, while their little dog is stretching in the lawn. A young woman is walking fast. Friction of wings. All around, the trees rise majestically and protect all this little world from the warm rays of the sun. They are like big umbrellas and their tall rough trunks spring from the ground, sometimes seeming to counterbalance their bending choice, like big tensed muscles. …
There is a secret. Do you want to hear it?… So come closer, because like all secrets, it must be whispered. We mustn’t scare anyone.
Are you ready? Here it is: The world is not as it was presented to you. You have been fooled. There is a misundestanding.
It is the best kept secret in the universe. Why? Simply because it is not hidden. Or rather, it is hidden in view of all, in full light. Every religion has tried to conquer it and has failed. Not by lack of believing, as they would like us to think, but by excess of belief, of fascination.
Only the most mystical of their representatives, the most courageous, the most eager to know the truth beyond all other considerations, have approached it, discovered it intimately. Because this secret requires everything, it wants the whole of you. It won’t let you know it from a distance. It wants a total union, therefore a sacrifice.
So, are you ready?
Look carefully. Become impregnated with consciousness, feel it, be ‘it’, to the exclusion of all that you have been taught about yourself. After all, do you really believe that you are your body, to which you gave a name? Do you really think that you have an age, that your thoughts describe you, model you? Do you believe yourself to be so small, so narrow? Is your life just a series of experiences that happen to you, and that will make you either beautiful or stupid, mediocre or refined?
Look again. Are you not experience itself, are you not the world? Are you not absent to the presence of the world? And therefore immense, infinite, eternal, your body marrying the outlines, the confines of the universe? Are you not the very vessel, the One of all things, of which you would be both a part and the totality?
The world is not separate from you, doesn’t stand at a distance, and you are not a small thing lost, cut off from everything. You are the experience itself, without any separation between a body, a mind, that would be yourself, and the rest of life and the world that would impose its experience on you. There is only experience, and that is ‘you’.
You are everything, the entirety of what exists. One piece. Nothing that exists is foreign to you. The world is you. Do you hear it? You are the world. Nothing is foreign to you. Nothing that would not be ‘you’. You are your own constituent, and all that, the world, is you! Do you hear it?