Diary Excerpt 1
8-11 April 2005 -
My first tour with Amma: The 19th Brahmasthanam Temple
a western devotee experiences life at the ashram
We set off after lunch in a convoy of MA Math coaches, as excited as young children setting out on a school trip. There is something very special about travelling with Amma; her warmth surrounded us, and we all felt totally cared for.
The next morning, we woke to vivid blue skies and the sounds of the brahmacharis chanting, 'Om shiva shakty'aikya-rupinyai namaha,' the mantra symbolising the union of the inner male and female, which would fill the air for the following two days. Outside we all rushed to the temple to get a glimpse of Amma on a temporary platform on the temple roof. A group of temple musicians played cymbals, sickle-shaped horns and temple drums to an intense and resounding, ever-increasing crescendo. Amma installed the golden, shining stupa on the top of the temple and she joined in the chanting of the shiva shakti mantra. The air was charged throughout; it was beyond words, something timeless.
On the second day, the crowds were larger and the people crushed in around the temple to glimpse Amma inside. Three towering, old elephants with polished tusks and red and gold head-dresses were ridden in to face the front of the temple. They stood grandly with calm and peaceful eyes, still throughout. Amma installed the stone deity, bearing images of the divine on each of its sides representing, Devi, Shiva, Ganapathi and Rahu/Muruga. This concept came from Amma's divine intuition. She sought to teach people how to worship, and to instruct us to see the one God in all forms. Amma has said, "Those who install images should not be those who cannot control their own prana. They should be able to imbue the image with their pranasakthi and impart spiritual power to it"
Later that day, those who wanted to could join in with the Mars puja. The pujas conducted at the Brahmastanam temples help to eradicate malefic planetary influences. Unexpectedly, Amma came out to lead it, and to complete the puja, we walked to the temple to circle it, wide-eyed at the perfection of this sacred place and the candle-lit hypnotic gestures of the pujari within. It again felt beyond time, to think that the only sacred places we see in Europe are hundreds of years old, here one was created before our eyes, and we made the first footsteps on the newly laid stones.
On the last day before we left, many of us sat and meditated around the temple. Reluctantly, we drew ourselves away to get onto the coaches, witnesses of a new chapter in the history of temple worship.