Amma bows down to all, who are embodiments of pure love and the supreme self.
Amma is very pleased to participate in this summit, one of the most esteemed among the C-20 conferences, and to meet personally with the distinguished members of the steering committee, CSO and NGO speakers who are offering their valued input for this endeavour.
Humanity is facing many extraordinary challenges today. There are also numerous challenges on subtler levels, which we may be unable to perceive or understand. At this point, human beings need two qualities: the wisdom to recognize the problem and the mental attitude and intelligence to correct it.
Unfortunately, we are like a student who starts studying the day before the exam. We think correctly only when we are on the brink of disaster. Only then do we realize that we need to do something.
The COVID pandemic was a testing period that lasted three long years. While going through this crisis, people resolved to do better in the future. We vowed to change our wastefulness, our disregard for Mother Nature, and our dependence on depleting resources . However, such resolutions do not last long. People inevitably return to their old habits once again.
The future belongs not to the ‘single’ entities, who stand divided, but to those who mingle and cooperate with others. Countries and societies that try to rise on their own will surely fail. This is a warning from nature to mankind. Hence, let our mantra be ‘Mingle, not ‘Single.
Humanity does have a certain degree of freedom to live life as they choose. However, we cannot change the laws of nature at will, like changing television channels. It is the way of God and nature to be all-inclusive. To exclude is the way of man alone.
Everyone who lives in this world must obey the universal law of inclusion. If we try to forcefully impose laws of exclusion, it will only result in disharmony and danger. What we are experiencing today is the result of many people interfering with the fabric of the universe.
Along with trying to change and protect the environment, we should also be ready to change our mentality.
In times past, parents used to advise their children to ‘behave well, speak the truth, be loving to everyone, help others, and study well.’ But today, we hear some parents teaching their children by advising them to be “a smart, savvy, winner, and don’t interact with people below you.” But how did parents bring up their children in the past?
Amma remembers her childhood, saying
“My birth mother taught me by her own example sixty-five years ago. In the village where I was born, there were about a thousand homes. Only about a hundred of those families had jobs with fixed incomes. Around nine hundred families earned a daily living by fishing, eating only if they earned money that day, and going hungry otherwise. They had no bank accounts. They would sometimes return early from the sea with a good catch, or sometimes come home late in the evening empty-handed, and on that day their families would have nothing to eat.
In those days, people lived in joint families. When the food was ready in our home, my mother would think first of the neighboring home. “That neighbor is not yet back from fishing; their children will be hungry.” She would pack food for two or three of the children and ask me to take it to them. At the same time, she would be anxious for her own children…
“Wait a bit,” she would say to us, “I will give you food in a little while.” After some time, she would let us eat, but she would first put aside some food for any unexpected guest who might turn up. Even later, when we went for seconds, she would set aside a large quantity of food before she fed us, thinking of the guests who might be on their way. If unexpected guest arrived, my mother would feed them first, then give us rice water mixed with scraped coconut. Even after the guest had eaten and left, my mother would worry if the guest left satisfied, with a full stomach.
This was the example set by my mother. When I was in fourth grade, there were around sixty children in one class. Twenty-five per cent of them went home for lunch. Around fifteen to twenty per cent of them brought a packed lunch to school. The rest would drink some water during lunch break and sit quietly under a tree, hungry. They would have skipped breakfast as well.
I had a friend who lived two doors away. She used to bring a big lunch but would eat only a small portion and throw away the rest. I told her, “You bring more food than you need. Why don’t we both share some of our food with a hungry classmate?” The friend agreed. After two or three days, a few other children joined us in sharing food. This made a big difference. Within about fifteen days, all the hungry children were invited to share food with the others. In the end, there was no one in that class who went without lunch. In this way, if we are mindful, we can certainly bring about a transformation.
People experience two types of poverty in this world. The first is the poverty of food, clothing and shelter. The second is the poverty of love and compassion. If we have love and compassion, we will be able to relieve the suffering of the first set of people, as well. These qualities are what we should cultivate, and they are the reason that it is necessary for our modern culture to include spiritual values.
In today’s world, being kind and helpful may be seen as a sign of weakness, and deceit and falsehood as strengths. For example, Dhritarashtra and Gandhari (the royal couple in the Mahabharata) brought up their evil son, Duryodhana, with this irrational mindset, which is the same direction our society is heading.
The minds of small children are like freshly laid cement. When you walk on that cement, the impressions stay forever. In a similar way, when values are given at a young age, they stay throughout your life and benefit both oneself and others.
The huge leap in science and technology, along with misuse of the internet and increasing drug abuse among students, are all contributing to the predicament we face today.
For example, let us consider technology. It has truly revolutionized human life, but its negative aspects raise alarming concerns about the future of humankind. Now we see a new generation growing up devoid of a conscience and moral values—and what is the result? Violence, in various names and forms, is rising.
We are always afraid—whether walking down the street, shopping at the store, working at the office, nursing our child in our own home, or bathing. We are even afraid to use a public washroom, or to hum a tune. Yet, we pride ourselves for being ‘modern and sophisticated’.
In the past, it used to be easy to distinguish between our enemies and friends, but today it is the opposite! No one knows when a friend can turn against you, or where, when and in what form an adversary may assault you. I remembers a story in this regard.
Story: Street rowdy
There once lived a notorious hooligan in a small town. Just before sunset, he would establish himself at the main crossroad. He would torment every passerby. He would molest women, beat up men, and snatch their belongings. Fearing his rowdiness, people started avoiding that area after dusk. They began using side roads and other streets instead.
One day, all of a sudden, news spread around that the hooligan had fallen sick and died.
A few days later, a journalist arrived. He asked, “Usually, it is only the women who stay indoors after dusk. But here, I cannot see even a single man on the street after sunset, either! What happened?”
“There used to be a hooligan here,” the locals explained. “When he was alive, we knew where he would be every evening, in which corner of the crossroads. We just had to avoid that area, and would be free from danger. But now, it is his ghost that is tormenting us. A ghost has no particular form. No one knows when, how, where, and in what form he will attack us. Moreover, he will be stronger than before because he is in a subtle form now!”
Similarly, our new discoveries and sophistication usually come with a negative side. The once evident problems have now shifted from the gross to the subtle and, consequently, become stronger.
Technology is very important. It has increased conveniences and made life comfortable. But, at the same time, the abuse of technology has also increased… and so have its dangers.
This is why extensive research on the negative impact of any new invention or discovery is essential, before it is deployed to the population at large. The ‘new’ should never be allowed to trample on the ‘old’. The saying ‘It is better to prevent than to cure’ is apt in this regard. New discoveries can also mean unique, new hazards. Before such discoveries become a permanent headache to society, we need to find solutions to their potential negative repercussions and threats that could manifest.
The world will bring us countless experiences—both bitter and sweet. We consider both as opportunities for introspection.
The world population is like a beautiful garland made of flowers in different shapes and colors. The diversity and variety of the flowers add to its beauty and fragrance. Such a healthy mingling of diversity is essential for human culture to flourish. A single nation, race, or religion cannot survive in isolation. This Earth belongs to us all.
Of course, our government, under the able leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has accomplished a great deal of progress, which is creating a huge transformation. Our organization, though limited in its reach, is trying to help to the best of its ability. In this regard, I would like to give some examples—just a few of the thousands I have personally seen.
Around ten years ago, the ashram adopted many villages in India. A number of them were engaged entirely in wheat farming. Their diet included only the wheat they cultivated, so their immunity was found to be deficient, which led to various diseases. They could have traded some of their wheat for vegetables, but they didn’t.
In another group of villages, they were not aware of the shift in the environment and climate change. They continued cultivation in the same old pattern passed on to them by their ancestors. Because of the change in rain patterns, their crops failed, and they had to go hungry. Most of them do not wish to leave the village for outside jobs. So, instead of leaving to earn a living, they remain hungry in their homes. Like leeches that latch onto the skin, they prefer to stay at home, without going to the ration shop, or availing of whatever benefits they are due.
In other villages, due to unpredictable rain patterns and their dwindling income, they switched to marijuana cultivation. Initially, they were unwilling to disclose it, but later they explained that they started cultivating because they could earn much more money (five lakhs in three months) and live a comfortable life. So, when their regular lifestyle is disrupted, we see how they make wrong choices and consequently destroy so many lives.
The government has implemented schemes specifically for rainwater harvesting projects. But, unfortunately, these villagers were unaware of how to apply for, or avail of these schemes, so they missed the opportunity to learn. In one of the adopted villages, we implemented rainwater harvesting systems and trained the locals to maintain them, which resulted in increased crop production and income. It would be of immense benefit if educational institutions could take the responsibility to train people in nearby villages in a similar manner.
In some villages, we found that, due to a lack of potable water, they were drinking contaminated water. They were contracting diseases like cholera. As a solution to this, the university did research and developed a filter named ‘Jivamritam’ [Nectar of Life]. This was first installed near the Amritapuri ashram for testing, and we found that the incidence of communicable diseases reduced. After this, Amma had these filters deployed in our adopted villages and this significantly brought down water-borne diseases in these regions.
In other villages, we found that women had to walk long distances every morning to fetch water for household use. They spent all their time fetching water and completing their chores, so they could not earn and supplement their family income. We dug borewells in such places, bringing them water to their homes, but we later discovered that those who lived near the borewells with a continuous water supply were now wasting it indiscriminately. In contrast, those who come from further away still used it with care. The university has also been able to create a app that monitors the usage of water, so wastage can be easily detected and corrected. Even so, from the next deployment onwards, Amma advised to dig borewells in a central location of the village, to avoid wasting water. And Amma recommends other organisations to consider implementing a similar strategy.
The main income source in a few villages is cattle rearing and dairy farming. The milk they produced would often be purchased at half the going rate. The poor farmers work tirelessly to earn this meagre income, which is hardly enough to make ends meet. We intervened and established a dairy cooperative to provide members with an assured market for their milk. Subsequently, they have begun to earn a good income. This was also an initiative implemented by the government. But it has not yet trickled down to the reach of all villagers.
In some village schools, even today we found that many grade levels—for example, classes 4, 5, 6 and 7—were being taught together in one room. Students were seated facing four different directions, but there was only one teacher. The same teacher would first teach one subject in one grade level, then move on to teach another subject to another grade level, then move on again to teach the next grade level, and once again to the last grade level. The teacher, also, was not well-educated.
When these children graduated from middle school to secondary school, they could not cope with educational challenges, like speaking English. Children in such situations became depressed and began to drop out of school.
To counter this, our university faculty started providing personalized online tutoring. We are beginning to see improvement in the children’s studies. Other organisations and universities can adopt this method and provide online classes for children. One of the limitations we encountered was that even though phones were provided from the government, the lack of a stable internet connection in these regions made online learning impossible. During the COVID pandemic, the government ensured that all schools provided online education for all students. But, many children in villages were unable to use this service because they did not have access to internet. In such places, we should identify a location in the village, where internet is available and provide a TV screen for the children to watch and learn. I feel that this is a good option for such regions, especially mountainous areas.
In Attapadi, a region of Palakkad district in Kerala, the people were mainly tribal, living in forest settlements. They gathered forest produce and had little inclination toward formal education, nor did they understand its value. We constructed small houses in the forest region, used food and candy to coax the tribal students to attend, and gave them an education. We started this program more than 33 years ago—before the orphanage was founded. We brought children from these tribal settlements and gave them a higher education. Today, many of these children have completed their college education and some have become engineers. Currently, we run this orphanage with four hundred children. Yet, sadly, there is so much more to do…
The government supplies the power, but in certain places the voltage is low, so the students are unable to use the resources provided for the online education in an effective manner. To counter this, we have installed solar panels, to provide seamless electric power for them to study using the online facility. In some other areas, we developed micro hydroelectric power plants by utilizing the available waterfalls as a renewable energy source, and the power generated was used it for the village. In such scenarios, installing transformers in every small town is costly, rather installing solar panels may be more cost-effective. Perhaps, different CSOs can adopt different villages and help defray these costs, or the government can provide a subsidy for alternative electrical sources.
In most villages, schools have been established. But children often have to walk four kilometres, especially from mountainous regions, to reach where the school bus comes. If there are three students in a family going to school, for bus fees they have to pay three thousand rupees a month on average. Due to this expense, when the children reach sixth or tenth grade, two drop out of school, letting the third child continue their studies. Even recently, a few tribal children told me this. For such students, the ashram has sponsored their education which includes tuition fees, transportation fees, and funds for educational materials. Some of these students have been admitted to our school in Parippally. Thus, even though numerous schools have been built, a lot of children are unable to continue their studies, due to financial constraints.
One of the health-related provisions made by the government is to provide pregnant women with vitamins and other supplements. However, this is not good enough to ensure fetal health. For example, adding fertilizer to a mango tree that has already begun to flower will not give better fruit. The fruit can still wither and fall, be stunted in growth, or be infested with worms. Women should be given nutritious foods that builds immunity right from childhood.
Sixty-five years ago, in our villages, once a week, my mother used to prepare dishes using ayurvedic leaves in the village for our meals. This led to boosting of their immunity level. In the same way, these village women need to be given the awareness to plant ayurvedic trees and make them learn the cooking of different dishes with these leaves. This will boost their immune system.
This change will safeguard women’s health during pregnancy and prevent maternal and infant death.
It is difficult to get doctors and teachers to work in remote areas. Twenty-five years ago, we established a charitable hospital in Kalpetta. Somehow, like two angels from heaven, we were able to get two doctors to work there. They arrived in Mananthavady with a deep love for the spirit of service. However, no patients were willing to come to the hospital. These doctors had to go out to them into their tribal hamlets, carrying a packet of food and other items, offering their services to examine and treat patients door-to-door. In this way, they cultivated good relations with the communities, and now an average of three hundred patients visit the hospitals daily. But, even today, these doctors still have to entice the tribals to visit the hospital for their own healthcare. They even make door-to-door visits to ensure that everyone receives proper healthcare and medicine. I feel that in such places where doctors are not available, we could bring mobile clinic services in vehicles and conduct frequent health camps in remote areas. Telemedicine services can be provided for remote diagnosis and treatment of patients using telecommunication technology. Remote patient monitoring also offers peace of mind.
Another immediate concern is the mental health of children after the COVID pandemic. The children appear to be quite different from their former selves. Forty percent of the children seem to have a different appearance altogether. Their behavior has changed, as well as their mental health. In rural places, due to their ignorance, this behavior will be defined as ‘being possessed,’ or the result of occult activity. What they have is the beginning of a depression and anxiety disorder that results from smartphone overuse. They have lost interest in their studies. A large number of students have also become addicted to drugs. If we catch it at the beginning and offer timely counselling, it can be prevented from deepening into a psychological problem. Otherwise, they will become psychologically affected for life.
Here is what can be done. Psychologists and psychiatrists who have the heart to serve can communicate with schools and colleges, and provide two or three hours of free counselling per week to such students. Fifteen years ago, Amma had encouraged devotees in some countries to provide such services to children in their inner-city schools. This suggestion comes from the experience of seeing the difference among those children.
10 years ago, we adopted over 108 villages to alleviate poverty and to promote sustainable development. Now we work in over 500 villages. In order to understand the social systems and perspectives, and to deliver socially beneficial solutions, we have employed a minimum of two people from each village. We now have more than three hundred village employees on the ground, working with our volunteers to bring about change. Otherwise, when our volunteers go to these areas from our institutions, no matter how compassionate and embracing they are, the villagers see us as aliens from a different planet!
When we held village community meetings, both men and women attended, but only the men would speak, even though the panchayat president was a woman. The women remained silent. When we realised that we would not get the opinion of the women in the community event, we initiated meetings with the women separately. To our surprise, the women began expressing themselves vividly. This showed us the lack of freedom they felt to speak before men, due to the existing social structure.
The first thing we should assess when we go to a new village is to understand the cultural norms and practices they follow. Our engagement with them should be based on this understanding. Only then can we encourage them to take advantage of technology, education, and skill training to improve their life and the future of their family.
In the olden days, cow dung was applied on wounds, to expedite healing, but if we do this today, the wound will become infected. In the olden days, cattle were fed with sesame, ground nut and coconuts cakes, and pesticide-free hay. As a result, everything that came from a cow—milk, urine and dung—was medicinal. Now that all cattle fodder is sprayed with pesticides, everything that used to be medicinal is now toxic. This is how polluted the world has become.
The Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched numerous significant schemes, like jandhan yojana, which is a revolutionary financial inclusion scheme of delivering the benefits directly to the bank account of the vulnerable and low-income sections of society. Then there are Skill India Mission, Ayushman Bharat Health Insurance scheme, and the list goes on… It is important that people have the awareness to avail these schemes, also. It is not enough for a diabetic to take the medicines—they also have to maintain a regular diet. In a similar way, it is important to be aware of properly using the benefits they are receiving.
The urgent need of the hour is good leaders with a holistic vision. We do not need those who speak the language of war but those who spread a message of peace. The entire world is looking to them for help. The world needs not separation and division today, but joining and unification. The mind is like a pair of scissors while the heart is like a needle. To make a wearable outfit, we have to cut and divide with the scissors and join and sew together with the needle. The mind should be used in its place and the heart in its place. The heart is like a parachute. If it doesn’t open, we will endanger ourselves.
May all of us be endowed with an expansive heart that can bring people together and eliminate all differences.
India, Bharat, is the land of spirituality. The vibrations from the spiritual austerity and sacrifice of our ancient rshis pervade the atmosphere to this day. The rshis realized that “the atma, the consciousness, that abides within each and every object in creation, sentient and insentient, is the same, and I am that supreme truth.” Realizing this, their prayer was
sarve bhavantu sukhinah,
sarve santu niraamaya,
sarve bhadraani pashyantu,
maa kaschit dukhabhaag bhavet.
May all beings be happy and without sorrows. May all see
only the good that is in everything.
While we are in a hurry to connect to science, technology and the internet—there are so many fields from which we have become completely disconnected. We have become disconnected from our true self, our atma. We have become disconnected from our environment, and from nature.
We have become disconnected from love and life, without realizing that they are not two, but one. And this disconnected us from God. Most importantly, we have become disconnected from spiritual values, which can heal all the disconnections in our life.
There is education for earning a living and education for life. Education for a living is essential for success in the academic and material sense. Thirty-five years ago, Amma spoke about the concept of these two types of education, during the inauguration of the very first Amrita Vidyalayam. It is based on this concept that the entire Amrita educational systems have been built. Education for life air-conditions the mind, while the former brings external air-conditioning. External air-conditioning brings only limited comfort—many commit suicide in air-conditioned (AC) rooms or cannot sleep without sleeping pills. Peace depends on the mind. Education for life teaches the principles by which the mind becomes peaceful and air-conditioned.
Man has learned to fly like a bird and swim like a fish, but has forgotten how to walk and live like a human. The Creator and the creation are not two, but one, just like gold is inherent in gold ornaments, and ornaments are inherent in gold. See God in others and love and serve them as such. The sun does not need a candle to light its way. Similarly, God does not need anything from us. We must develop such an attitude.
It is when we understand this and begin to love and serve the entire creation that we become receptive to the grace of God. Even if we drive carefully, another person may drive carelessly and crash into us. This is why God’s grace is necessary for every situation. To receive this grace, positive actions are needed from our side.
There is an underlying rhythm to our universe; the universe and every living thing in it have an unbreakable connection to each other. The cosmos is like a vast, interconnected network. Think of a net that is stretched out by four people holding its four corners. If it is shaken slightly in one corner, the vibration is felt all over the net. Similarly, whether we know it or not, all of our actions reverberate throughout creation—whether done by an individual or a group. So let us not think ‘I will change after they do’; rather, even if they do not change, if we change, we can bring this change in others.
From ancient times, ‘The world is one family’ has been the mantra of Indian soil. It still is today, and will continue to be so in the future. The presidency of the G-20 nations is a unique opportunity to model this truth before the world. May this initiative undertaken by Hon. Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi and the government under his leadership inspire change in the world’s outlook.
Let us light a new lamp of change here. May innumerable lamps be lit from this flame and carried across the world. May the conch call of this great yajna [holy offering] resound worldwide. May it throw open the closed doors of human hearts! May it bring light everywhere! May you become the light! May Grace bless my children!
lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu