On the morning of the 27th of September 1953, in a small poor fishing village, Parayakadavu in the Quilon district of Kerala, a baby girl was born. Her parents gave her the name Sudhamani. She came into this world not in tears as babies usually do, but with a beaming smile on her face, as if prophesying the joy and bliss she was to bring to the world.
Sudhamani spent the years of her childhood and teens immersed in intense spiritual practices in order to present a living example for the world. Even as a small child, she could often be found absorbed in deep meditation, totally oblivious of her surroundings. By the age of five, she had already begun composing devotional songs laden with deep mystical insight.
Another quality that was clearly manifest in Sudhamani from this tender age was her love and compassion toward her fellow human beings. Though only a child, Sudhamani did whatever she could to ease the suffering of her elderly neighbors. She washed their clothes, bathed them and even brought them food and clothing from her own home. This habit of giving away things from her family’s house landed her in deep trouble. However, no amount physical abuse or punishment could stop the expression of her inborn compassion. She later said, " An unbroken stream of Love flows from me towards all beings in the cosmos. That is my inborn nature."
‘Amma’ as she is known all over the world today, has inspired and started innumerable humanitarian services. She has earned international recognition for her outstanding contributions to the world community. She is recognized as an extraordinary spiritual leader by the United Nations and by the people all over the world.
Though Amma makes no claims herself, those who watch her closely notice that she is the greatest example of her teaching. Her disciples and believers imbibe her teachings by just watching her.
For the past 30 years Amma has dedicated her life to the uplifting of suffering humanity through the simplest of gestures – an embrace. In this intimate manner Amma had blessed and consoled more than 21 million people throughout the world.
When someone asked Amma why she receives every person who comes to her in a loving embrace Amma replied, “ If you ask the river,' why do you flow?' what can it say?”
Amma spends most of her waking hours receiving the distressed and all who come to her for comfort, day after day without a break.
Once a press reporter asked Amma how was it possible for her to embrace each and every one in the same loving way, even if they were diseased or unpleasant. Amma replied, “ When a bee hovers over a garden of varied flowers, what it beholds is not the difference between the flowers but the honey within them. Similarly Amma sees the same Supreme Self in each and every one.”
As Dr. Jane Goodall, while presenting Amma with the 2002 Gandhi-King Award for Non-violence said,
" She stands here in front of us. God's love in a human body."
Amma's life is her message. In other words, Amma does not teach anything that she herself does not practice. Living from moment to moment in a constant state of supreme happiness, Amma warmly embraces thousands of people day after day, wiping their tears, giving them her divine guidance and offering solace to all who come to her. Amma recommends the path of selfless-service through the example of her own life.
Amma says, "The beauty and charm of selfless love and service should not die away from the face of the earth. The world should know that a life of dedication is possible, that a life inspired by love and service to humanity is possible.
Meditation and studying the scriptures are like two sides of a coin. The engraving on that coin is selfless service, and that is what gives it its real value. Our compassion and acts of selflessness take us to the deeper truths. Through selfless action we can eradicate the ego that conceals the Self. Detached, selfless action leads to liberation. Such action is not just work; it is karma yoga."
Amma always points out that the purpose of one's life is to realize who we really are. She says, "By realizing our own Self we become full, with nothing more to gain in life. Life becomes perfect."
To attain this goal, Amma says that no particular path or spiritual practice can be recommended for all. "Just as a doctor gives different dosages or even different medications to patients with the same ailment according to their constitution, so does a Spiritual Master prescribe different methods to different people to reach the same goal. Spirituality is the practical science of life. Apart from taking us to the ultimate goal of Self-realization it also teaches us the nature of the world, and how to understand life and live fully in the best way possible."
However, Amma says that the path of devotion and selfless-service is the safest and most conducive path for many people.