Anni’s Sweeping Seva

August 24, 2007 Kamala Amma's Grace

Dearest Friends and Family,
I feel I need to say something about our ‘sweeping in the ashram’ as Anni is most often visually remembered here this way. This we did for over 6 years. When we first came to the ashram in 1999, we desperately wanted to help Amma. There was nothing that we could do. She obviously, crowded to the gills on all sides, had no need of us to be right near her, although we longed to be. We began to wait for her to come in and out of her house, as it was really the only time and way that we could see her without several hundred people stuck on her, or around her. As we began to wait we saw things that we felt should not be there – sharp pebbles, bits of garbage, pigeon poop, uncovered sputum globs, uneven ground surfaces, etc. – at that time, it was all dirt. Things that could actually harm Amma. And she has diabetes, so, any injury to her feet could be long suffering…
My children were very young, 10 and 12. I needed to keep a sharp eye on their activities, moral and mental development, and working together was a great blessing for us. Slowly, we began to observe more and more little things that we could do, to make her path clean for her. Love, after all, seeks to serve.
Initially, we were very shy to be around her or her house. We always picked up, and made orderly what we could, then stood casually by, as though having just arrived… At that time there was no place to keep our cleaning supplies, and we kept all the brooms, buckets, etc in our small flat, which consequently looked like a janitor’s closet. I remember that it was after several months, of hesitantly putting flowers on the sides of her steps, that one day, I had the courage to put the flowers all the way up to the top of the first set of steps. The next night, we broke through that reservation, and had flowers all the way around the landing, up to the top of all her stairs, then a few days later, to the door that enters her room….we were always acutely aware of sounds around her room, and knew she needed quiet and order below her room….we could never speak if we knew she was in her room…
Eventually, it became an extremely vigorous and rigorous cleaning seva, that included handrails, other visuals, which necessitated our involvement in gardening, and later mosaics, painting, etc., and surfaces all around the outside of her house. It started hours before she came in or out of her room. For a while it went from the bookstall to the main entrance by beach road. The Kalari soon picked up that side, and we didn’t have to do it. With the arrival of the elephants, and their visits, the night cleaning took on efforts to remove and reduce the amount of odor causing things below her room, as well as make a pleasant place for all her vip children to sit…. None of this did Amma ever ask us to do, and none of it, did she care for, it was really for our own satisfaction – we felt that as Amma is who she Is to Us, we did not want her to step out into a dirty ashram…we wanted her to see cleanliness and thankfulness that she is here with us, everywhere. I mean, if its really your house, you take
care of it, and make it beautiful… especially for the one who heads the house… When she was not in the ashram, we often picked neglected areas and tried to straighten them up, and beautify them… for she had told us that the ashram is her body. Now, unfortunately, we cannot do these things anymore. My health does not permit it. As a team, we were all in perfect sync, there was no question of unwillingness or procrastination, nor was there any sense of position about it… Eventually, it expanded to the tours, etc.
The darshan hut had come into our care after we noticed during a translation that all the cushions that Amma would potentially be sitting on, were reeking with musty mold smell…without asking anyone, I put them all in the sun for airing…the next day, Lakshmi asked me to take care of the hut as the brahmacharis who had been in charge were apparently too busy to give it proper attention… we had great fun with all the projects, involving as many people as possible, who also yearned to be able to feel that they were in some way, of personal service to Amma…But, it was very clear, always, in our minds, that all the cleaning was for our satisfaction as to how we felt it should righteously be, for some one of Amma’s stature, in her ashram, in our hearts…from that position, we learned a tremendous amount about the nature of people…for no one feels that they have to give the sweeping lady, or her kids, especially one who appears to be a single mother in India, (and boy o’boy, can I say a lot about this one!) give
any particular notice or ceremony, or often, human civility and respect. We were often dirty, sweaty, covered with dust and heavens knows what else, or soaking wet depending on the season. So, we got a real solid view of human nature here on earth, which Amma says is her goal…yep, by and large, it’s a small minded world…the children were definitely made to suffer what other’s perceptions of me, as an unmanned mother, were. In India, one of the most inauspicious things is a woman with children but no man.
We enjoyed what became ‘our seva’ despite its physically hard nature. Our hearts and minds were always on Amma’s feet, her hands, her eyes, her nose, what was above her head….Now, as with everything, it has now evolved into a ‘position’ around Amma. In fact it was not until the last year that we did it, that people began to ‘officially’ assist us. We are grateful, that at least the recognition is finally there in the ashram psyche that such labor is imperative, until such date that the entire ashram is spotless and loved up. Care should always be taken that where Amma’s feet, hands and eyes fall, there should be loving harmony and cleanliness in everything around her…to us, its just common sense….Disney land is the model of cleanliness that needs to be followed in the ashram. Has anyone ever observed how spotless Disney land is despite the thousands thronging the place? One never sees an overflowing garbage can, or a place smudged with countless grimy fingers, or a clogged up or stinking toilet… such
cleanliness is mentally uplifting.
I remember, I had a landlord once, who told me if the toilet is dirty, you cannot pass the bowels or even urinate in full peace of mind, if the kitchen is dirty, you cannot eat peaceably…etc…I have always found dirt to be tamasic, to invite subtle and weird energies which are negative and have a downward pull on the mind….maybe its just me…but, that’s how we trained the children…
As the seva refined itself, Anni often took what was once the dirt path on the side of the large bhajan hall and the ramp. There she was probably often observed by others. Most days, our seva took 4-5 hours. On special darshan days, often 6 or more, on holidays, 8-10 hours depending on how may times Amma came in and out of her room…. Anni used to make beautiful patterns in the sand, with the coconut frond stick broom. Then, we would try to zealously guard her work, her own offering, until Amma came. There again, human nature revealed itself. Many people would walk though, simply unaware, others would go through, although aware, after all, who were we to have our offering respected? We never got upset, it was just part of the drama…with cleaning, you can not be attached. Its like diapers – Never ending. Clean one on, soon to be changed….When others came to work with us, they got upset. I began to think there was something wrong with us, that we did not get upset with what was often deliberate
arrogance before…but, we didn’t want that energy on the path, in the atmosphere around her, to greet her…we were gratified when we were told that once Amma asked, who had prepared her path so beautifully, she was told the Westerners, (although we don’t consider ourselves westerners), and she said that it reminded her of when she was a child, she would sweep all around her home, and then imagine that the next footprints in the freshly swept sand would be God’s.
We are grateful that this is now an ‘ashram seva’ although, for us, it was a result of an increasingly deep inner listening, to our own sense of what was right and appropriate for who Amma is…the pathway, is for anyone who does it with heart, a delightful work that opens the heart in pure devotion. We learned tons, had great adventures. As one participant later said, “this seva is the Best, its’ got everything in it…obsession, tension, culminating in pure gratification…”
Its hard to recall the adventures of pathway cleaning to the uninitiated. It might sound ridiculous, or really weird. But, then, you have to understand our minds and hearts, and who Amma is to us, to know what we mean…not said to alienate in anyway, but, just to explain….those were the days of our highest joy, despite very real problems…it was a time of honing our team into a perfect cohesive machine of love and service, honesty and hard workingness…a time of cultivating virtues intensely, and we loved it. The endless outer humiliations only made us laugh…..those were the best days of our lives… and now, the one who really was the most exquisitely beautiful adornment of the ashram, of our family team, is no longer here….
I find now, that we created so many avenues for future work during those years, that if we can now finish what we have started, it will be good…at least we have all these directions to go that we started all together….

Well, I wanted to address this.
Loving you,
Kamala Aunty

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