Om Namo Narayani
Om Namo Narayani
Om Namo Narayani
I surrender to the Divine Mother.
Lucy Roberts inspired me during our first workshop together. Her strong, grounded practice came from a calm place. When I heard she was coming to Namaste Bahrain for a second workshop, I immediately signed up to experience the Divine Shakti she invoked during class. I asked if she could share a bit more about her yoga practice with me. We spent an hour talking together after class.
A seventeen-year yoga veteran, she has been busy traveling the world for the last twelve years, teaching Hatha yoga. I was curious about the teachers that inspired her, especially the South Indian saint, Sri Sakthi Amma, who, according to her website, “is slowly but surely teaching me what Love is.”
Many Shakti devotees live in south India. Shakti is the Divine Feminine force, the primordial Energy, from which all life is created. Shiva is her consort, the male energy which sparks her creativity. My Hindi is non-existent, but I assumed Lucy’s Amma, meaning an embodiment of the Divine mother, was a woman. I was curious what she taught about love.
The first thing Lucy did was correct me about Sri Sakthi Narayani Amma.
“You know Amma, the hugging saint?” she asked me, her Australian accent adding an r and making it sound, to my ear, like Ammar.
I nodded yes as I was familiar with the well-known Indian, female saint, or swamini, who had been born in Kerala. It is estimated she has hugged 32 million people, literally enveloping them in love.
Lucy continued, “It is confusing because Amma means mother, but Narayani Amma is a man. He is still quite young, only thirty-seven, and embodies Narayani, the feminine energy of Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswathi combined. He is an Avatar.”
The movie Avatar is James Cameron’s Hollywood interpretation of the Indian concept of a mind inhabiting a specially created body.
Within the Vedic traditions, Avatars are embodiments of the Divine Mind who manifest periodically on earth to help us. It is said that several centuries ago, in the area around the village Thirumalaikodi, sages and saints prayed intensely to the Divine Mother to protect all of creation during this Kaliyuga, the dark age of greed and ignorance. Because of their penance, the Divine Mother came to earth as Narayani Amma in 1976.
I must have been looking at Lucy strangely. She nodded her head.
“I had to wrap my mind around that too. It makes some sense that the Goddess manifested as a man since in India that makes it much easier to get things done”, she said, alluding to the current, pervasive, male bias in India. “Although the real reason as to why it happened like that I do not really know. I do know though, that Amma gets a lot done!”
It was only recently while reading David Frawley that I began to understand the Hindu concept of God’s infinite manifestations. Frawley wrote that Westerners’ view of Eastern yoga, Hinduism and Buddhism being polytheistic is not true. These Eastern practices believe there is only One Reality which, being all powerful and creative, has the ability to manifest in an infinite number of ways. The result is a pluralistic view of God and allows for hundreds of thousands of ways to worship the Divine.
Lucy explained how she witnessed the Goddess’ presence in India.
“The Goddess Lakshmi’s essence manifests material, as well as spiritual wealth and abundance, and harmonious functioning of society,” she explained. “Amma, as a living embodiment of that Divine energy, has transformed what was once a very small, poor, rural village. Amma initiated many incredible, humanitarian projects, for the betterment of the local people, as well as the environment.”
“Lakshmi’s domain includes health care, and so, a 200-bed charitable hospital has been built, as well as a nursing college, and outreach projects to take health care into the surrounding villages.”
“As Saraswati (Goddess of wisdom and knowledge) a school and kindergarten have been built. This was a miracle for the village where 70% of the students are first-generation learners, and now 95% go on to tertiary education, many receiving full scholarships.”
“Since Amma came, the entire village and the environment has benefitted. SAAP (Shakti Amma Afforestation Project) has raised and re-planted tens of thousands of trees on the surrounding hillsides, and Exnora, the recycling plant, won the award for India’s Greenest Temple.”
“How did you find Narayani Amma?”
“Two years ago, Edo and Jo, who are kirtan artists, took me there. I was really touched by the beauty of the place and the people, and felt things happening to my heart that my mind could not explain. I knew I was in the right place.”
Being an American who still has to schedule my daily meditation and asana practices, I had to ask, “But what do you DO there?”
She sighed. Her family had probably asked her the same question.
“We practice bhakti yoga, devotional yoga.”
Within yoga tradition, there are numerous paths one can take to reach enlightenment called Samadhi. My yoga teacher practiced Bhakti yoga, or service yoga, which in my mind meant “to be of service” such as running a soup kitchen. Lucy clarified how she practiced bhakti yoga.
“It’s a path of surrender and total trust in the Divine, which is, of course, nothing outside of ourselves, but the guru inside our very own heart. But because of our ignorance and confusion, we don’t always feel so wise or divine! Because of that, it is incredible to be in the presence of a Being who is free from that confusion, transmitting nothing but clarity, devotion, and divine love. Instead of trying to think through problems, we learn to offer them up to the Goddess.”
“We sit in front of Amma performing beautiful pujas (devotional rituals) and soak in that divinity. I realize that every day he is the same, no agenda, no storyline. If I have a story, or a gripe about something… a like or dislike… if I’m happy or sad, then that fluctuation is so obviously mine, because there is nothing in Amma to ‘stick’ to. There is no-one to react and feed my thought. Amma is a clear mirror. He teaches by demonstration, both mindfulness and unwavering devotion to the Goddess. All day long, every day, he attends the Goddess. It is so beautiful that sometimes I sit weeping with happiness.”
“How has meeting Amma affected your yoga practice?” I asked referring to her Hatha teachings.
“Asana is the effort, the discipline. Today, I feel myself moving towards bhakti, letting go of effort and learning to get out of the way, to surrender. I am learning devotion by being peace.”
“Modern Yoga has been watered down to the physical aspect, asana, and maybe, if the students are lucky, some breathing and meditation. But Yoga is a spiritual practice. It requires faith in the Divine, the magical, mystical power that is bigger than all of us.”
“I have certainly questioned whether teaching Hatha Yoga is what I am meant to be doing. But when I ask Amma should I continue teaching asana, he always tells me,
“Lucy, you keep teaching asana. People like it. It’s like a sugar coating. Give them what they like, but inside of that you share wisdom and love”.
If you would like to keep up with the tales of this yogini with the expanding heart, you can read her blog at www.lucyroberts.com.
I am also an Amma devotee…thank you for this lovely post 🙂
That is so FANTASTIC. Have you had any interesting insights or experiences being around Amma?
Thank you for responding. What a small world. Maybe you’ll meet Lucy one day.
I have been so lucky to visit Amma three time in the last 12 months. Two times with my Mum and once with my whole family (husband, two sons, niece and my Mum). We were at Sripuram for Edo and Jo’s wedding which was amazing. Seeing Amma refocuses me on being of service to others. Last time in India I taught art at the Sri Narayani Vidyalaya School ~ it was such a fantastic experience. I am blessed to have found Amma 🙂
Have you met Lucy? She is also friends with Jo and Edo?
I am so curious about the experience and what it does to people. It is such a different concept of spirituality than we are accustomed to in the West.
We did meet Lucy but there were so many people at the ashram at the time she might not remember 🙂 The first time I entered the temple at Peedam and saw Amma I sighed and felt at home. I have been travelling to India for many years though and maybe that helps you to be open more easily to spiritual experiences?
So great to meet you. I hope you like the Amma bits on my blog ~ my blog is drenched in Amma’s peace…I hope 🙂