Hugging SaintJANUARY 24, 2009
- Krissy Clark experiences Amma's hug
- (Janani Noia, M. A. Center (Copyright 2006))
- View the Slideshow
More From Krissy Clark
If it's cold where you are this weekend, you can hug for warmth. There's nothing like body heat. Freezing outside, 98.6 degrees inside. Chances are, if you hug, it will be with someone you know. Such is not the case with a woman named Amma. In the last few days, Amma has hugged about 10,000 people. And next week she'll hug several thousand more. Amma is known as the hugging saint of India. Hindus consider her a holy woman. She's known for her humanitarian work with orphans, prostitutes and tsunami refugees. But she's most famous for hugging somewhere in the vicinity of 20 million people over the last 20 years. A couple years ago, she hugged Weekend America's Krissy Clark in San Francisco.
An excerpt of Amma's Geneva Speech on women
Amma remembers a story. In a village there lived a deeply spiritual woman who found immense happiness in serving others. The religious leaders of the village chose her as one of their priests. She was the first appointed woman priest in the area, and the male priests didn't like it one bit. Her great compassion, humility and wisdom were appreciated by the villagers. This caused a lot of jealousy among the male priests.
One day all the priests were invited to a religious gathering on an island, three hours away by boat. As the priests boarded the boat they discovered, to their dismay, that the woman priest was already seated inside. They muttered among themselves, "What a pain! She just won't leave us alone!" The boat set off. But an hour later, the engine suddenly died and the boat came to a standstill. The captain exclaimed, "Oh, no! We're stuck! I forgot to fill the tank!" Nobody knew what to do. There was no other boat in sight. At this point the woman priest stood up and said, "Don't worry, brothers! I'll go and fetch more fuel." Having said this, she stepped out of the boat and proceeded to walk away across the water. The priests watched with great astonishment, but were quick to remark, "Look at her! She doesn't even know how to swim!"
This is the attitude of men in general. It lies in their nature to belittle and condemn the achievements of women. Women are not decorations or objects meant to be controlled by men. Men treat women like potted plants, making it impossible for them to grow to their full potential. Women were not created for the enjoyment of men. They were not made to host tea parties. Men use women like a tape recorder, which they like to control according to their whims and fancies, as if they were pressing play and pause buttons.
Men consider themselves superior to women, both physically and intellectually. The arrogance of men's mistaken attitude-that women cannot survive in society without depending on men-is obvious in everything that men do.
If a woman's character is considered flawed, even if she is an innocent victim, she will be rejected by society and often by her family. Whereas, a man can be as immoral as he likes and get away with it. He is seldom questioned.
Even in materially developed countries, women are pushed back when it comes to sharing political power with men. It is interesting to see that, compared to developed countries, developing countries are far ahead in providing opportunities for women to rise in politics. But, except for a few who can be counted on one's fingers, how many women can be seen in the arena of world politics? Is it this way because women are incapable, or is it due to the arrogance of men?
The right circumstances and support of others will certainly help women to awaken and arise. But this alone is not enough. They need to draw inspiration from those circumstances and find strength within themselves. Real power and strength do not come from the outside; they are to be found within.
Women have to find their courage. Courage is an attribute of the mind; it is not a quality of the body. Women have the power to fight against the social rules that prevent their progress. This is Amma's own experience. Though a lot of changes have taken place, India is a country where male supremacy is still the rule. Even today, women are exploited in the name of religious convention and tradition. In India, too, women are waking up and springing into action. Until recently, women were not allowed to worship in the inner sanctum of a temple; nor could women consecrate a temple or perform Vedic rituals. Women didn't even have the freedom to chant Vedic mantras. But Amma is encouraging and appointing women to do these things. And it is Amma who performs the consecration ceremony in all the temples built by our ashram. There were many who protested against women doing these things, because for generations all those ceremonies and rituals had been done only by men. To those who questioned what we were doing, Amma explained that we are worshipping a God who is beyond all differences, who does not differentiate between male and female. As it turns out, the majority of people have supported this revolutionary move. Those prohibitions against women were never actually a part of ancient Hindu tradition. They were in all likelihood invented later by men who belonged to the higher classes of society, in order to exploit and oppress women. They didn't exist in ancient India.