In the days leading up to Chancellor Amma’s birthday, Amritapuri campus buzzes with activity as enthusiastic students work alongside ashram residents to transform the campus into a temple of sacred celebration.
Almost like magic, the student mess is taken down, and in its place comes the gigantic birthday pandal. In the blink of an eye, the empty area in front of the institution building is suddenly overflowing with food, book, educational and medical stalls.
Behind the scenes, in the kitchen constructed especially for the occasion, countless people work long hours, selflessly chopping vegetables and cooking. Amma’s prasad meal is served to lakhs of devotees attending the birthday celebrations.
For students and faculty, the outer metamorphosis of the campus is a visible transformation that all witness and experience each year. As Amma’s birthday nears, all have come to expect that structures will be torn down, quickly built up and then torn down again. But what many may not perhaps realize is that while the campus is being externally transformed, a transformation within is also taking place.
The subtle, yet significant changes that Amma makes in our lives during the birthday celebrations and throughout the years we spend with her may not immediately be apparent. However, in time, one begins to recognize that somehow one has become happier, more peaceful and more content. And wanting to serve.
Amma isn’t just changing our lives; she’s also simultaneously changing society. Each year on Amma’s birthday, new charitable projects are begun. This year, a free online tuition program was inaugurated for all college students across the nation. Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham's award winning e-learning platform, A-VIEW, will facilitate the program, which is supported by the Government of India’s National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology.
In addition, the landmark Amrita Santvanam project was initiated to address the growing healthcare needs of the home-bound aged, sick and disabled. Through Amrita’s network of medical institutions, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math will equip 10,000 women with six months of home nursing training during which they will receive a stipend.
As the festivities rolled on and Amma began giving darshan on her birthday, thousands of students from all Amrita campuses served food and water to the devotees, washed their plates, assisted with crowd control and helped keep the grounds clean. Observing their zeal, a devotee remarked, “Amma knows the youth have the energy and enthusiasm to make a real difference. They will help realize Amma’s humanitarian vision.”
Students not only served, they also whole heartedly celebrated. As Amma’s darshan went on and on, they danced, sang and cheered. Even late into the night and early morning hours, they were bursting with energy.
The combination of values and knowledge is the most powerful instrument for the welfare of humankind. The greatest gift Amma gives us is perhaps this – she transforms the institution, students, faculty, devotees and ashram residents into instruments that can truly benefit the world.
The lamp of love was lit in countless hearts at the Amrita campus on Amma’s birthday. May we take that light with us wherever we go, shedding light and illuminating the entire world.
September 27, 2011