By Jaime Stover Schmitt, FES Certified Practitioner
When a bee hovers over a garden of varied flowers,
Mata Amritanandamayi (Mother of Immortal Bliss), or Ammachi (Dear Mother) as she is familiarly called, embodies the essence of both the Splendid Mariposa Lily, and, to many who follow her, the healing love of the Mariposa Lily. The Mariposa Lily, a flower in the Flower Essence Society repertory, assists souls who have, in some way, been injured or neglected by their earthly mothers. This essence helps such souls receive what they may have missed during their upbringing through their earthy mother-child relationship.1 Splendid Mariposa Lily, a member of the Flower Essence Society’s Range of Light collection, raises the properties of the mother archetype to a higher level.2 Splendid Mariposa Lily encapsulates the Universal Mother’s indefatigable traits of boundless love, joyful care, unfailing support, sweet compassion and tender mercy (to name but a few).
A devoted mother will lovingly attend to every single need and sorrow of each of her children, shepherding them through the tribulations of life; this devotion may require great sacrifice, and may be on call even during times of great duress. Splendid Mariposa Lily assists souls who are willing to lovingly embrace the world by becoming a vessel for the holy work of attentively caring for the needs and spiritual development of all sentient beings. This flower essence supports an individual soul’s ability to sustain connection with the Divine Mother, the Source of sustenance, in order to embody—feel and demonstrate—unflinching care for others, even under harsh conditions.
The cup-like shape of the Splendid Mariposa Lily flower forms a container, which is perhaps the most recognized primal image of the universal feminine principle. The cup, container, yoni, chalice, or grail, is the sub specie aeternitatis symbol of that which receives, contains, and supports, as it is the wondrous mother vessel. As such, the vessel becomes the incubator, the receiver, the crucible or cooking pot of transformation, the funerary vessel, the renewing infinite fountain, ever-abundant horn of plenty, or any of the other functions of this archetypal numinous pattern.3
In the Splendid Mariposa Lily, and in the Mariposa Lily, three petals of even size, placement and formation make up what most people see as the “flower” or the cup of the flower, with the three narrow tapered sepals showing between the petals.
The prime number, three, is a powerful prototype in itself. While it is not only associated with the feminine archetype, it has been used as the symbolic number indicating the three phases of a woman’s life, the maiden, matron, and crone, as well as the menses cycle—a time of filling or coming into, a time of being, and a time of emptying. This triune sequence refers as well to the lunar cycles, and in a larger way, to the natural rhythms and life cycles of all living beings. To be alive is to step on the wheel of the cycle of births and deaths—and that wheel of existence is comprised of space and time. In Indic lore, this is the realm of Shakti, the Universal Mother Goddess of all manifest form.
In Vedic and Tantric wisdom, time, kala, is represented by the particular Goddess, Kali, a dark mother figure who assumes responsibility for the transitory features of life, notably its entrance and exit—birth and death. By those not fully informed of Her deep compassion, She is often feared and loathed. This is primarily because human beings fear death, and often fear and resist change, not wanting to be reminded of the transitory nature of the sensory world. The transformative aspect of Kali is said to become active when a soul is clinging to something that is no more—perhaps a way of life, or a period of time—and is unable to move on, transform, or grow, especially if the change requires reduction, letting go, diminishing in some way. Kali is one of the goddess figures with which Ammachi is mainly associated. Ammachi is from Kerala, a state in southwest India that is still a stronghold for devotees who worship Mother Kali as a compassionate, divine matron of her earthly children.
One more relevant feature of lilies in general, is their prominent display of sexual apparatus. In this regard, they possess attributes of fertility. Although this trait belongs to both sexes, it reveals the lily family’s indication of life-giving profusion and abundance, and perhaps on a human scale, even hope. In many images portraying the Annunciation, the moment in which Mary, the Blessed Mother of Christ Jesus, receives news of her divine conception, the Archangel Gabriel is shown holding white lily flowers. Even the royal purple fleur-de-lys emblem gives, in its form and coloration, a nod to the plenum of the feminine archetype. Its purple colored lily form inherently expresses that when a kingdom is in balance, its feminine principle is honored and protected, which in turn allows the richness of life to flow in abundance for all to enjoy.
Sudhamani Idamannel (Ammachi’s birth name) was born into a family of eight children in the fishing village of Parayakadavu on the southwest coast of India. It is reported that at her birth she did not cry but smiled, and that she was a dark blue color until about six months of age. Mythically, this color is associated not only with Lord Krishna, but also with the Divine Mother Kali. Sudhamani’s very dark skin tone caused her family members to treat her as far less than equal. With her mother’s ailing health (having had thirteen pregnancies, with eight surviving children), the existing skin-color prejudice, and Sudhamani’s uncomplaining attitude and willingness to be of service, she became the servant to the family. In the primary grades, she woke before dawn, went to school, did her lessons, then did housework, child, and animal care into the night. By age nine, she left school to attend to her household duties full-time.4
As one of her many chores, Sudhamani had to gather food scraps from neighbors to help feed her family’s livestock. Instead of bringing what was gathered home, she often gave these things, as well as clothes, food and jewelry from her own home, to poor people she saw in her village. Since her family was just getting by, and had many mouths to feed, she was punished for this behavior. But this did not deter her from doing whatever she could to assuage the suffering of others.5 She was relegated to live in the adjoined cowshed outside her family’s main house. However she was not alone there with the cows; an abandoned woman and her child, who had nowhere to go, joined her in the shed.6
Due to her dark skin and state of servitude, Sudhamani did not attend school during her early teen years. Because of this, she was sent to work as a servant in the households of several extended family members. Traveling to and from these locations she would, on occasion, lose consciousness of external reality, and merge into Samadhi, the blissful Unitive State. No one understood this about her, and, with their prejudice already in place, merely thought something else was wrong with her. Neither did they understand why children, the poor, and even animals were attracted to her like bees to honey, even though she was not allowed to sew, wear new or brightly colored clothes, or make friends.
When she returned to her family’s home at age sixteen, her mother had developed7 chronic rheumatism, now aggravated by the housework she had had to do without Sduhamani around. As Sudhamani was still taking small items from the places she worked, and giving them to destitute people, she had gained a bad reputation. At this, her mother became even more hot-tempered and cruel. Ammachi reports:
She [Ammachi’s mother] observed all my actions meticulously. If there was even a little scrap in the courtyard after sweeping, she would hit me. When all the vessels were washed, she scrutinized them, and if there was even a tiny trace of dirt, she would scold me. If even a single twig of the broom happened to fall on the ground as I swept, she would not spare me. If a speck of dust or ash fell into the cooking pot, punishment would follow. Mother expected her daughters to say their prayers early in the morning; she would not hesitate to pour a pot of water on our faces, particularly on mine, if we were late to rise because of exhaustion. When I plucked grass for the cows she would watch to see if I indulged in gossip with others. She even hit me with a wooden pestle used for pounding rice.8
Sudhamani’s mother would also kick and bite her and come after her with a machete used for opening coconuts. This was accompanied by vulgar verbal abuse, including harsh criticism, and cursing of the child.9
The severity of Sudhamani’s early childhood included being sent away for many delicate years in servitude to extended family households, misinterpretation of her heavenly behavior as derangement, lack of respect, severe beatings, control and abuse from family members, social isolation, and frightful living conditions. Yet, in all of this, she was hard working, uncomplaining, caring to everyone, especially others even less fortunate, forgiving, and entirely devoted to God. An account of Ammachi’s deplorable treatment by her mother and others during her childhood appeared in Ammachi: A Biography of Mata Amritanandamayi. When questioned about her mother’s treatment of her, Ammachi explained, “Damayanti was not punishing me. She was treating me poorly only because of her limited vision. All those trials led me along a correct path, so I have no hatred toward her.”10 Surely, Sudhamani embodied the hardships symbolically pictured in da Vinci’s, Madonna on the Rocks figure, a painting said to represent the Mariposa Lily by Flower Essence practitioners around the world.11 Sudhamani, the young Ammachi, carries the experience of abandonment, abuse and trauma along with all who would be benefited by the knowledge and use of the Mariposa Lily Flower Essence. As the repertory states:
Ammachi could certainly be considered someone whose childhood life experiences would have proved crippling. Instead however, they fueled her propulsion into a fierce and unrelenting desire for union with God. As she grew, her entire attention became more and more centered on her deep and abiding longing for union with God. When she would do the washing, carrying wash baskets on her head in the backwaters, her clothes would be wet all day and night. She remarks, “I wanted so badly to see my clothes dry! Even though I had so much work, I would pray to God for more, so that I could always be busy dedicating my actions to Him.”13
At night she would call out to God:
“My darling Kanna,14 I desire nothing else but complete oneness with You. Oh Lord, didn’t you see my suffering today? Oh Lord, please come! Let me see Your Divine Form! These miseries are nothing for me, but the separation from You is agony.”15
In these examples of Sudhamani’s life, we see not only that was she abused by, and separated from, motherly and familiar figures of sustenance and support, but she as well aligned herself with Universal forces of love and care. By her constant show of care for animals and the poor, even as a very young child, we see her activating the archetypal qualities of mothering addressed by the Splendid Mariposa Lily.
One night, after Sudhamani had been experiencing union with God in the form of Krishna for some time, she had a vision. In the vision, she was being led by no other than Krishna to the Mother Divine.16 She now felt the Divine Mother’s presence in everything, and when not enraptured in sacred union, cried out for Her, “Amma! Amma!”17 By this time her family had decided she had gone mad as she had periods of unconscious rapture that left her body lying wherever she was taken. Although people from the village began to care for her, she lived outdoors with animals that collected peacefully around her. She no longer slept; the only food she could eat had to be carefully prepared with mantra recitation, eventually discontinuing eating all together. She dug holes to sit in to remain in her state of blissful union.18
Then one day she heard:
This was only about six months after people had begun hanging around her in order to be in her presence when she was in a “divine mood.” With this transformation, her gestures, facial expressions, laughter, even her personality changed. She no longer took any abuse and began instructing those who came to see her in spiritual practices. Referring to that time Ammachi said, “ from that day onwards I could see nothing as different from my own Formless Self wherein the entire universe exists as a tiny bubble...”20
Ammachi, or Mata Amritanandamayi, as She was then called, had merged her small ego-based “self” into the Formless Self, and could take on any form she chose.21 Her soul aligned, as does the Splendid Mariposa Lily, with the Mother of the World archetype. Ammachi recognizes all beings as Her children, and works tirelessly to relieve their suffering.
More and more spiritual seekers continued to gather on Amma’s parents’ property until, in 1981, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, a worldwide charitable organization, was founded.22 In 1987, at her devotee’s behest, Ammachi began to offer programs around the globe traveling to Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritis, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lank, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, the United States, and throughout India. She continues an extensive and constant travel schedule to this day.
Ammachi’s charitable mission, called collectively, Embracing the World, includes programs to: house the homeless, build and run orphanages, provide natural disaster relief (having donated over one billion dollars to the Indian Ocean Tsunami relief effort, and millions to the Japan Tsunami, Katrina, and Haitian relief efforts), offer free medical care pensions for widows and the disabled, participate meaningfully in sustainable projects and environmental protection programs, renovate urban areas to help the poor, create care facilities for the elderly, and supply free food and clothing to the poor. Through these efforts she implored followers to, “feed those who are hungry, help the poor, console the sorrowful, comfort the suffering, be charitable to all.”23 In this, her message fully embodies the qualities of the Splendid Mariposa Lily’s enlivening to “activate transcendent forces of mothering and mercy for all of the human family.”24
But perhaps equally remarkable is her manner of caring for the souls that approach her and ask for her “darshan,” a Sanskrit term that implies being seen or blessed by a Divine embodiment. Ammachi literally hugs each and every person who comes to her. Experiencing her hug might be equivalent to being held, metaphysically, by the exquisitely beautiful cup of the Splendid Mariposa Flower. For Amma, darshan might include, at one sitting, a queue of thirty-five thousand people whom she continuously, without distraction, and with full loving attention, receives, at times counsels, and then embraces every single individual. This process may continue for a period of more than twenty straight hours with no break.
As long as these hands can move a little bit and reach out to those who come to her, and as long as there is a little strength and energy to place her hands on a crying person’s shoulder and caress and wipe their tears, Amma will continue giving darshan. To lovingly caress people, console and wipe their tears, until the end of this mortal frame is Amma’s wish.25
Ammachi has received people nearly every day of the year since the 1970s. Overall, it is estimated that she has personally seen and embraced at least thirty-one million people to date. When asked during a CNN interview why she hugs everyone, Ammachi replied, “I want to awaken motherhood in both men and women. Motherhood is something fast disappearing in the world. It is very much needed in today’s world.”26
Ammachi truly exemplifies the compassionate actions supported by the Splendid Mariposa Lily. Ammachi invites charity and selfless service from all with the capacity to serve the world and its many needs. She beseeches individuals to care for the mother earth and to work for sustainability. Through her loving embrace, Ammachi supports those who engage with this work, giving strength and courage to face the “orphan state of consciousness at the root of humanity”;27 a state based on human ignorance, and not on the perpetually supporting love of the Mother Divine. Splendid Mariposa Lily is an excellent essence for all those engaged in serving humanity, and all beings of the Living Earth, whether in association with Ammachi’s mission, or at the direction of their own inner Shakti (Universal Creative) force.
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
Amritaswarupananda, Swami. Amma: A Biography of Mata Amritanandamayi. San Ramon, CA: Mata Amritanandamayi Center, 1994.
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