Activism: Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, Humanitarian Extraordinaire, by Sunanda Jordon
Mata Amritanandamayi Devi – Humanitarian Extraordinaire
by Sunanda Jordon
Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, also known simply as Amma, was born on the 27th day of September, 1953 in a small, poor fishing village, Parayakadavu in the Quilon district of Kerala, India. Amma was an extraordinary child from the moment she came into this world, not crying as most babies tend to do, but with a beaming smile on her face.
As a child, Amma would share her food with hungry neighbours, she would bathe and clothe the sick and elderly and was often punished for giving away her own family’s belongings to the poor. Although often punished by her parents for doing so, Amma simply couldn’t bear the pain of human suffering and would continue to help, console and comfort whenever and wherever possible.
“As a child, I always wanted to know the cause of misery of mankind and thought that if sorrow is a truth, then there must be a cause and a way out. I realize my purpose is to console, to personally wipe away tears through selfless love, compassion, and service.” Amma explains.
Through the example of her own life, Amma has inspired innumerable humanitarian activities all over the world. In 1981, after various seekers had begun residing at her parents’ property in Parayakadavu in the hopes of becoming Amma’s disciples, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, a worldwide foundation, was founded. Amma serves as chairperson of the Math. Today the Mata Amritanandmayi Math is engaged in many spiritual and charitable activities and has grown into a huge network that includes programs to house homeless, build orphanages, and provide relief-and-rehabilitation in the aftermath of disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
Amma also provides free medical care through the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS Hospital), which treats over 35,000 inpatients a year. Furthermore, there are programs to provide pensions for widows and disabled people, aid environmental protection groups, renovate and urbanize slums, build care facilities for the elderly and provide free legal advice.
All the organizations who run these individual charities are collectively known as Embracing the World. When asked about her charitable mission’s development, Amma said: “As for the activities, there was no planning. Everything happened spontaneously. One thing led to another on seeing the plight of the poor and the distressed. As Amma meets each and every person, she sees their problems face to face and tries to do something to alleviate their suffering.”
The majority of work is done by volunteers as a form of spiritual practice. “It is Amma’s wish that all of her children should dedicate their lives to spreading love and peace throughout the world. Real love and devotion for God is to have compassion for the poor and the suffering,” Amma says. “My children, feed those who are hungry, help the poor, console the sorrowful, comfort the suffering, be charitable to all.”