Sabarimala, Equality and Spiritual Wisdom: Mata Amritanandmayi

By: C.V.Rajan (an earnest spiritual seeker)

Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) was invited as the Chief guest in the huge conglomeration of Ayyapa devotees at the Ayyappa Bhakta Sangamam on 20th Jan 2019 at Thiruvananthapuram, in which several heads of Hindu religious institutions and prominent citizens participated.

The following is the translation of Amma’s Malayalam speech at the gathering:

“Whatever incidents that have happened recently related to Sabarimala are quite unfortunate. The root cause of the problem is the absence of adequate knowledge about the specific nature of conception of each deity worshiped in a temple and the practices of austerities associated with each of them. Ignoring or discontinuing them is not correct.

“When we consider the nature of deities worshiped in a temple, we should understand the difference between them and the concept of God as an all pervading Truth. God as almighty has no limitations of constraints; there is no difference of male or female in Him. There is a difference between the fish in the ocean and the ornamental fish nurtured in a fish tank at home. For the fish in the tank, we have to feed food, provide oxygen and also change waters. There is no such limitation for the fish in the ocean.

“When we take bath in a river, we don’t have any procedures to follow. At the same time, when a swimming pool is filled with the water from the same river, the water has to be filtered and chlorinated. People who want to swim in the pool have to wash their bodies first to remove sweat; they should also remove their old clothes and wear specific swimming suits. One should not use soap in a swimming pool.

“Though only the water of the river has been used in the swimming pool, the rules of cleanliness are different. Likewise, even though only the all pervading Almighty is worshiped in a deity, the rules regarding following cleanliness for worshiping the deity are different and specific.

“How we keep our mindset reflects in what we gain. When we sow a seed, we get fruits in future only if we water the sapling, apply manure regularly and take proper care of the plant. Likewise, the formerly consecrated deity in a temple has to be worshiped as per established procedures, offered food etc and whatever rules of cleanliness, dos and don’ts must be followed strictly. But there are no such rules for God as the all pervading Almighty.

“Every deity in different temples has different rules to be followed for worship. For example, the procedures of worship of Devi (goddess) in a temple where She has been consecrated in a fiery mood is different from Devi in another temple where she is conceptualized as a peaceful Goddess. If those specific procedures are not followed, it can affect the sanctity of the temple.

“In our shastras, the deity worshipped in a temple is conceptualized as a minor. Just as a child requires the care of parents and teachers, the deity also requires the care of Tantris and pujaris. The role of devotees of the deity is also of paramount importance. In fact the deity indeed exists for the sake of devotees!

“Sabarimala Ayyappa was a Naishtika Brahmachari (Strict follower of celibacy). It is believed by devotees that before he entered into Samadhi, Swami Ayyappa had expressed his wish that all the practices of austerities must be followed by his devotees.

“Changes according to changing times are necessary, but when it comes to temples, if we start changing things at will, then there is scope of losing our fundamental values. It is like trying to bathe a child again and again and losing the child itself in the process!

“Sri Shankaracharya, Sri Narayana Guru and Sri Chattambi Swamikal were all proponents of Advaita philosophy. But they, after attaining that highest state, came back and established temples for worship and outlined the procedural norms for the worship of those deities. I have been invited to visit such temples too and I have gone there. In some Shiva temples, I was asked not to circumambulate there and I was asked to go back. Bowing to the procedures followed in such temples, Amma did obey them and returned.

“Even when Amma consecrated Brahmasthana temples at her Ashrams, Amma consulted experts and pundits and took their advice. When Amma gave Sanyasa to some of her brahmacharis, Amma followed the established procedures by inviting a Sanyasi of a specific sect to carryout the procedural norms. Thus Amma has not relinquished the norms despite seeing everything as manifestations of God.

“Temples are indeed like the pillars of our religious culture. We are duty bound to take care of them. Otherwise they will be like flying kites with thread cut off.

“Even in the outer world, we can see that in earlier days, smoking was permitted anywhere in places like Airports but nowadays there are strict norms that smoking can be done only in specific places earmarked for the purpose. People do follow such restrictions.

“In Mannar Salai, a woman is the priest. It is the norm for that temple. In some places there are schools exclusively for boys or girls. One does not demand gender equality there. In Sabarimala, one cannot say there is gender discrimination as ladies of specific age group are permitted to worship as per the norms of the temple.

“When parents say to little children that if you tell a lie, your eyesight would be lost or nose will get cut, it is just to instill some fear in children to prevent them from lying. It is done with a practical application of mind, by coming down to the level of children for their comprehension. If it were true, practically all of us would be without eyes and noses!

“A little girl showed a picture drawn by her to her father and said, “Father, see the elephant I have drawn!” The father who was busy with some work saw it and noticed only some lines scribbled there. He said, “Where is the elephant? I don’t see such anything in your sketch”. The child got disappointed and started crying. The father, realizing his mistake said, “Oh, yes! Earlier I did not see the picture clearly as I was not wearing my specs! Now that I am wearing it, I can see a beautiful elephant there!” The child felt very happy. It is how the language of the heart is spoken. One has to come down to the level of others to communicate certain things.

“God is the ultimate truth and to attain him, temples are useful as the steps to the upper floor. The upper floor and the steps are made of the same bricks, cement and mortar. Everything is indeed God. It does not mean that the steps are not needed. For everybody to reach the higher floor, steps are indeed necessary.

“Amma did a small research in the past spanning a period of 10 to 15 years. She would send her messengers to various hospitals during Sabarimala season to find out the pattern of influx of patients. She could observe that during Sabarimala season, the number of patients coming to hospitals dropped by 20 to 30% . It was so because, during the season, many men (on account of practicing austerities for going to Sabarimala) did not drink, did not consume non-vegetarian food, did not fight with their wives and also did pooja and chanting by sitting as a family together. Thus Sabarimala temple’s influence in bringing positive vibes in both in the body and mind of the people in the society is obvious.

“Thus it is important that these traditions are nurtured and maintained in the society. The society remains bound to good values this way. Everyone should mind this and move forward.

“When Arjuna wanted to commence the war and sought permission from Krishna, Krishna said “Take permission from Bhishma who is the right authority to give you the green signal on this matter.” Likewise, there are certain things that are to be left to the decision of the right authorities who are the most appropriate and competent ones to give the right direction.

“What I want to say here is that in this specific issue, it is the devout Tantris and poojaris of Sabarimala and ardent devotees like you who are to sit together, discuss and come to a conclusion. There is a saying in Malayalam that if you eat very slowly, you can even eat a palm tree. I don’t have anything more to say and many people who spoke before me have mostly said what has to be said on this issue. 

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