There are two types of poverty in the world,” Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, popularly known as Amma, says. “One is the poverty of love and compassion. The other is the poverty of clothing, food, and shelter. If we develop love and compassion, then we will naturally start giving others food, shelter and clothing and save them. Therefore, poverty of love is the greatest enemy and must be done away with.”
Under the pressure of modern life the qualities of love, compassion, empathy and tolerance have all but disappeared. Through her loving embrace and charitable activities, Amma is healing the heart of the world, rekindling love and mutual respect, and awakening people to their true selves. Be they young or old, sick or healthy, rich or poor, everyone who comes to her receives the same unconditional love.
It is through this philosophy that this renowned humanitarian and spiritual leader has been attempting to transform the face of the world. In the last three decades Amma has travelled extensively in India and abroad, spreading her message of love and compassion. She has physically embraced more than 31 million people in her tender, motherly embrace. And this simple yet poignant gesture has inspired millions of people the world over to volunteer their time to help the ever growing network of social welfare programmes managed by her organisation, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM). At the root of these services lies Amma’s teaching that the divine exists in everything - in every person, plant and animal. Perceiving this unity is the essence of spirituality and the means to end all suffering.
MAM has been providing relief and undertaking rehabilitation work for several decades. The Math has reached out to victims of a series of natural disasters all over the world and provided everything from food, medicine and temporary shelter to new homes, counselling and jobs.
The Math’s Amrithakuteeram project constructs free houses for the poor in several states across India. The Math has also undertaken slum renovation and rehousing projects in Hyderabad and Pune. Amma’s belief that education is a basic right of all citizens has been the foundation stone of all educational institutes run by the math: the Amrita Institute of Technology and Science, the Amrita Institute of Management and AIMS Medical College, conferred with the Deemed University status by the Government of India, are much sought after by students.
Amma’s desire to provide outstanding and affordable medical care to the poor resulted in the construction of AIMS (Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences) in Kochi, Kerala. This 1,400 bed super-specialty tertiary-care health science campus integrated to a medical college hospital is now one of the leading high-tech hospitals in Asia. AIMS is one of those rare places where science meets life.
Amma’s latest effort has been in the field of cleaning public places in towns and cities. A large group of Amma’s devotes and volunteers have been involved in cleaning the famous Sabarimala Temple in Kerala, which receives about 50 to 52 million visitors every year. Inspired by this the Kerala Government chalked out a system in which each devotee can participate so that cleanliness in and around the temple is maintained all the time.
Several honours have been bestowed on Amma from all over the world for her spiritual and humanitarian activities: Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence in 2002, Karma Yogi Award, Hindu Renaissance Award, the James Parks Morton Interfaith Award in New York to name just a few.
Amma is the only spiritual leader to have been invited by the UNAOC (United Nations Alliance of Civilizations) to Shanghai, China, to speak at the two-day Shanghai Consultations titled ‘Harmony through Diversity and Dialogue’. Her speech on ‘Coexistence and Engagement between Cultures’ was much appreciated and she has received an invitation to visit China again. In the second week of January this year, the Swami Vivekananda Sarda Shati Samaroh invited Amma to inaugurate the celebration of Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary.
Amma is a master who leads by example. She energetically participates in the various charitable activities the Math undertakes. Her entire life is dedicated to serving humanity and trying to alleviate the sorrow and sufferings of people in innumerable ways.