Apart from being sensitive to women’s issues Mata Amritanandmayi is also involved in social and environmental matters, representing the compassionate dimension of Hinduism.
Women are not inferior to men on the basis of intellectual power or ability. Women have the willpower and creative energy to do any type of work. Whatever the form of action, women can attain extraordinary heights, and this is true especially on the spiritual path.
Let us remember that real leadership is not to dominate or to control, but to serve others with love and compassion, and to inspire women and men alike through the example of our lives.
Helping to ease suffering and pain
Amma’s parents could not understand her. Amma explains, “In India, women are expected to remain in the background. It is said that ‘even the walls should not hear them.’ My family could not understand my way of reaching out to people; they had no idea of the spiritual principles.” In Amma’s community, it was not permissible for a girl to touch others, especially men. But despite adverse reactions by her parents, Amma followed her heart, later explaining, “I don’t see if it is a man or a woman. I don’t see anyone different from my own self. A continuous stream of love flows from me to all of creation. This is my inborn nature. The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering.”
From the prevailing cultural point of view, it is very unusual that a woman should consecrate a temple. Yet, Amma has elaborately consecrated 17 such Brahmasthanam temples, in India and abroad since 1987. In these same temples, Amma has invested women as priests, marking the first time since ancient history that women have served as priests in India.
Amma was deeply affected by the profound suffering she witnessed. According to Hinduism, the suffering of the individual is due to his or her own karma – the results of actions performed in the past. Amma accepted this concept, but she refused to accept it as a justification for inaction. Amma contemplated the principle of karma until she revealed an even more profound truth, asking a question which she continues to ask each of us today. “If it is one man’s karma to suffer, isn’t it our dharma (duty) to help ease his suffering and pain?”
While Amma is widely regarded as India’s foremost spiritual leader and one of the guiding lights of Hinduism, Amma says that her religion is love. Amma has never asked anyone to change their religion but only to contemplate the essential principles of their own faith and to try to live accordingly.
Mata Amritananda Devi is known as Amma (mother) to millions of her followers. She is a Hindu spiritual leader with a global following. Her principal ashram is in Amritapuri, Kerala, India.
Hinduism has three principal paths to liberation. The path of knowledge in one. Advaita or non-dualism is part of this tradition, which is less concerned with the personal God, but an universal energy that is both without form or qualities. Then there is the devotional path with a god that has form and qualities, like Krishna or Shiva or Ganesh. Finally there is the path of action , or service, which was Gandhi’s way. (Editor's note)