AMMA, Celebrated Humanitarian and “Hugging Saint” to Receive Thousands in Los Angeles, June 21-25, 2005

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AMMA, a world-renowned Humanitarian and Spiritual Leader from India is coming to LA in June 2005 for two free public spiritual programs to raise money for Tsunami victims in India and other charitable activities. Her intense love of the Divine has transformed millions and she has been honored by several international organizations for her Selfless Service for the poor.

Reputed as a tireless humanitarian, Mata Amritanandamayi, better known as “Amma” or “Ammachi,” visits the Southlands from June 21-25, where she will receive thousands with her blessing–a healing embrace. Free public programs take place at the Hilton LAX Airport, 5711 W. Century Blvd.

Considered a living Saint in her homeland, Amma, 51, has quietly gained an extraordinary reputation over the last 30 years as a result of the extensive charity institutions she has established, and for her personal outreach. Sleeping merely a couple hours per day, she teaches by the constant example of her own life, emphasizing selfless social service.

Following the deadly tsunami which killed thousands in India and throughout Asia, Amma’s disaster relief pledge of one billion rupees ($23 million) made international headlines such as The New York Times, ABC Evening News with Peter Jennings, and BBC News.

Under Amma’s direction, within the first ten hours of the tsunami strike, 15,000 people had been evacuated and fed, 3,000 were sheltered, and medical teams and ambulances had begun treating throngs. Today, as part of a vast volunteer crisis response program, 20,000 are fed daily, 3,000 earthquake resistant homes are in final stages of construction, 15,000 household starter kit grants (living stipends) have been granted, and 500 orphaned children have been adopted, as well as ten entire villages.

“She has been compared to Mother Teresa and Mohandas K. Gandhi who devoted their lives to the poor.” -Washington Post

At the U.N. in Geneva, Amma was recognized with the Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence, an award previously given only to Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, and Dr. Jane Goodall.

Free Public Programs at Hilton Los Angeles Airport: Darshan.

It is expected that thousands will visit Amma for her darshan programs in Los Angeles. Darshan is a Sanskrit term describing “audience in the presence of a holy person”. In a radical departure from Indian tradition (particularly for a woman), Amma’s darshan consists of a long tender embrace. She has been doing this, as a natural expression of love, since she was a teen. It is estimated that Amma has given over 25 million hugs in her life. In India, vast crowds usually assemble to the point where Amma may individually receive and hug over 35,000 people in one day, sitting continuously. She will never turn anyone away, nor charge any money.

Humanitarian Institutions: “Compassion to the poor is our duty to God”

In addition to Amma’s individual/personal outreach, she has inspired thousands around the world to volunteer their time and services on behalf of the needy. Three distinct groups of institutions have been created: 1) direct aid to the poor; 2) educational institutions designed to help the underprivileged help themselves.

Direct aid activities are wide-reaching and include disaster relief (Gujarat Earthquake, Tsunami) hospitals, clinics, hospices, women’s shelters, orphanages, monthly pensions for widows, and the building of 100,000 homes for the poor, just to name a few. For example, the 800-bed Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) hospital in South India offers state-of-the-art medical treatment including open-heart surgery, neurosurgery, and organ transplants—free of charge to the needy.

Secondly, a vast network of elementary, secondary, vocational, and graduate schools ranging from remote tribal classrooms to advanced vocational certification has been built under Amma’s supervision. Within a short time, the engineering, computer sciences, and medical college have come to be regarded as some of the very best in India. And thirdly, a government joint project called Green Friends, has enthused thousands of youth to eco-awareness and the planting of hundreds of thousands of tree saplings on an annual basis.

Mother’s Kitchen

In an effort to extend Amma’s example of volunteerism in North America, numerous charitable projects have been launched, the first being “Mother’s Kitchen,” a soup kitchen project for inner city poor. Since beginning in Oakland, CA in 1996, the success of this initiative has expanded to 40 cities in the U.S., including Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara, wherein local volunteers caringly prepare and serve thousands of meals on a weekly basis.

Unity of all great religions

Though born into the Hindu faith, Amma steadfastly supports all great religions, encouraging aspirants to go deeper in their own traditional path. “There is no harm in having many religions and faiths”, she says, “but it is harmful to think they are different, and that one faith is higher and another lower.” In her speech at the U.N., Amma described the real source of historical world conflict as “lack of awareness of our true nature”.

Personal History

Born in 1953, the daughter of a poor fisherman in the Kerala backwaters (a remote coastal area in South India along the Arabian Sea), Amma has heeded the call to help others since early childhood. At the age of ten, her schooling ended as she was forced into full time family chores. Though treated as a “household slave”, Amma dwelt in constant remembrance of God and never complained, although she adamantly refused to be married-off by her family.

As a young mystic, she began to attract crowds drawn to her God-intoxicated states. In the early phases of her life, she confronted a traditional Indian society, who vehemently condemned her unconventional behavior. (In India, the notion of a young holy woman hugging strangers is so unorthodox that one member of her own family attempted to kill her. Amma did not waver in her compassionate approach, and eventually former detractors became supporters. Amma is recognized as the first major spiritual figure in India to allow women to serve as temple priests, challenging the male-dominated tradition.

Recognition in the West:

In 1993 Amma was a selected President at the Centenary Parliament of World Religions in Chicago and in 1995 was a keynote speaker at the United Nations 50th Anniversary Commemoration. At the invitation of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Amma addressed the U.N. at The Millennium World Peace Summit, in 2000 as part of a select delegation of “preeminent religious and spiritual leaders”, In 2002, Amma was greeted by a standing ovation at the U.N. in Geneva, upon being awarded the Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence, presented by Dr, Jane Goodall. At, the 2004 Parliament of The World’s Religions in Barcelona, Amma gave the closing plenary address. The opening addresses were programmed with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.

Program Schedule:

Free public programs will take place beginning at 10am: Hilton Los Angeles Airport, 5711 West Century Blvd., Los Angeles, CA –with a quick meditation and darshan, which runs to mid-late afternoon.

Evening Sessions begin at 7:30PM, with a talk, and music led by Amma. Darshan begins around 9:30PM and goes late into the night; Amma will not leave until everyone who wishes to receive her personal blessing has been received.

Exceptionally, an intimate Retreat with Amma (pre-registration is required) will take place June 23-25 followed by a final free public program beginning at 6:30pm on the 25th of June. For retreat registration visit http://www.amma.org

Contact: Bhavesh (Bob) Pandya 1-510-326-6225 bhavli@aol.com or Rob Sidon, Tel: 415-505-1410 robsidon@yahoo.com All Program Information: M.A. Center: (510) 537-9417, or locally at (310)-226-6979 Website: http://www.amma.org

Amma is available for interviews during public programs; please call Rob Sidon

In a time when newswires are dominated by stories of crime and war, it is inspiring to know there are stories of distinguished spiritual leaders such as the Dalai Lama, and the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who remind us of what is beautiful and deep about the human spirit.

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Robert J Pandya

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