Rising in Love
My Wild and Crazy Ride to Here and Now,
with Amma, the Hugging Saint
by Ram Das Batchelder
Chapter 1: Kali’s Fireworks
Children, when we fall in love with the Universal Mother,
we don’t fall; we rise in love.
I met Amma in July of 1987, when I was 25 years old. I’d had a powerful spiritual awakening in college four years earlier, and through such books as Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda and Miracle of Love by the American teacher Ram Dass,2 I discovered the lives and teachings of the Hindu Masters. Inspired by the teachings of the great Saint, Anandamayi Ma, I became a vegetarian, and after a month of eating nothing but veggie food I was surprised to notice that I definitely felt more peaceful. I had no idea that a change in diet could have such a powerful effect on your emotional life!
A month after my twenty-fourth birthday I moved into the Sivananda Yoga Center in Manhattan, and while doing temp word-processing jobs I started reading Swami Sivananda’s teachings, and practicing hatha yoga. Within a few weeks I was leading their morning bhajan program on the harmonium.
Six months later, at a Kriya Yoga retreat in Massachusetts, I met Anjeline, a beautiful lady from Amherst who said she wanted a partner with whom she could study A Course in Miracles. She then winked, and we soon fell in love, and within a couple of months we were living together and practicing tantric sex, and really enjoying our relationship. But after we’d been together for about eight months, I was shocked to discover that my appetite for sex was satiated. I didn’t know such a thing was possible! Although our relationship had been very healing and empowering for me, it was now clear that sex and romance only fulfilled one level of my being. It certainly didn’t fulfill my most essential hunger: the yearning for God-Realization. I was increasingly feeling the call to become a monk, maybe move to India, and give up everything and try to become like the great yogis I’d read about in Autobiography of a Yogi.
Anji, naturally, didn’t like that idea at all. She said the only reason she’d ever go to India would be to buy clothes, and two weeks would be her limit. “And what did you mean, monk? What about US?”
“Us? I want GOD!”
Quarrel number five that month. She just didn’t get my obsession with this God-Realization thing. Her idea of spirituality was praying to angels to protect her cat, and that’s fine, and I did love her very much, she had so many sweet qualities… But did we really have a future together?
We went to a three-day retreat focused on ‘Death and Dying’ at the Providence Zen Center in Rhode Island, both of us hoping, to greater or lesser degrees, that it wasn’t our relationship that was dying. There I had a conversation with one of the Zen nuns while doing kitchen work (Anji was busy elsewhere), and mentioned that I might be interested in becoming a monk and living in India. She said, “Well, there’s a Saint from India coming to our Boston center in six weeks. I’ve heard she’s wonderful. Why don’t you go see her?” I took down the information and promised myself I’d go.
A week or so later, in the library of our Course in Miracles center, I found a copy of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, which I’d heard was a must-read spiritual classic. Lying in a yard chair behind Anji’s house, I opened the book at random to a photograph of the statue of Kali that Sri Ramakrishna had worshipped.
And in the same moment –
BANG BANG BANGETY BANG POW!
I almost fell out of the chair!
Someone in the next yard had set off some very loud firecrackers! The synchronicity was not lost on me, and I soon became intoxicated with the life and teachings of this amazing Master. Sri Ramakrishna was a Divine Incarnation of the 19th century whose overwhelming devotion to God led him to the direct revelation of his beloved Kali, whom he worshipped as the Supreme Power and Source of all manifestation. He believed that Kali, the creative aspect of God, is inseparable from Brahman,10 the Absolute, “like fire and its power to burn.” As he put it, “Brahman is Kali; Kali is Brahman. They are two aspects, male and female, of the same supreme Reality: Satchitananda, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute.” As his spiritual practices continued, he eventually received visions and intimate communion with every primary deity in the Hindu pantheon. At one point he dressed up as a woman, in order to more fully experience the devotion of Radha (the childhood consort of Krishna)11 for her beloved Lord, and eventually he received many visions of Krishna. As guided by his Guru, Totapuri, he then spent months on end in samadhi, a state of complete absorption in Brahman. During this time his disciples had to care for his body, since he was incapable of doing so himself. When he eventually came down from samadhi, he was guided by Kali to explore Christianity, and soon received a powerful vision of Jesus; the divine figure merged in him, sending him into a profound samadhi. He then tried focusing on the essential principles of Islam for a few days, and soon received a potent vision of Mohammed. His life thus reveals that all religions are essentially true and lead to the same goal: the direct revelation of the Supreme Being.
My thirst for God-Realization was growing by the minute!
When the day of the Saint’s program arrived, I drove from western Massachusetts into Boston to the Zen meditation hall where the program was being held. Having had a hard time finding a parking space, I arrived late for the program and took a seat at the back… but there was Amma, a small, dark, radiant gem of a woman, spiritedly leading a program of bhajans on a small stage. I couldn’t help but be impressed both by the energy of the music and the look of extraordinary dedication on the faces of the disciples on stage with her. When the music ended, a line formed and people began going up, one at a time, to receive a hug from her. Somewhat reluctantly, I joined the line.
When I got within a few feet of Amma, I suddenly noticed a subtle heat in the air, a gentle but fiery vibration penetrating into my body. She then pulled me into her arms and gave me a remarkably intimate and intense hug. After a couple of minutes, she dipped her right index finger in sandalwood paste, and then touched it to my forehead for several seconds, as if channeling energy into my third eye. With a sweet smile she pressed a piece of foil-wrapped chocolate into my hand, and stunned me by looking directly into my eyes, her face conveying intense affection. Hmm.
I sat down, ate the chocolate, and then closed my eyes – and saw bolts of white lightning flashing through my inner vision, emanating from the spot where her finger had touched. Realizing there must be something very powerful here, I changed my plans: instead of returning to Amherst that night, I decided to stay overnight in my car, call in sick for work the next day, and see Amma again at the next morning’s program, where I’d been told there would be an opportunity to ask questions.
I was up all night with an electrical storm blazing in my brain, apparently the result of that three-second touch of Amma’s finger.
Who IS this woman?
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