Sugunanandan-Acchan’s 86th Jayanti

May 27, 2009 Kamala Amma's Grace

Dearest Friends and Family,

Yesterday, Tuesday, May 26, 2009, was Amma’s Father- Sugunanandan-Acchan’s 86th birthday. It was so sweet. The bell rang around 10:45, the residents filled the Bhajan hall, where Amma sings evening Bhajans. A smaller area had been made within it, screened off with the palm thatch screens, which are simply beautiful.  There was a chair and table for Acchan to sit and speak at, with decorative religious cloths spread over. Amma’s large photo altar was nearby, festooned in flowers, with trays of flowers beneath it. It was a quietly elegant atmosphere.

First came Damayanti-Amma, she was brought in, in a chair, everyone stood-up. We have not gotten to see her for quite a few days, and it seems more decline is occuring. For a while, and at several points during the talk and event, it appeared she was cognizant of the crowd avidly watching her. At other moments, she seemed to snooze a little, at one point, everyone was quite on the edge of their seats, in fear that she would fall over, when Sajini, the youngest daughter and sister of Amma, went and sat on the floor near her.

Sugunanandan-Acchan was also brought in a wheelchair. The general decline in their physical health, was, I feel, hard for everyone to see.  Last year, he could walk over to his chair. Nonetheless, Sugunanandan-Acchan was able to get out of the wheelchair and into the other chair, and address the audience. Swami Turiyamrita, gave him a beautiful kavi (ochre-orange) shawl, which Acchan wore for the duration. It was obvious that despite physical limitations, his mind is completely clear. I realized watching them both sitting there, that Acchan has a great intellectual brilliance about him, he has Tejas, intellectual vitality. Owing to the poverty of his youth, other factors did not perhaps allow him to shine in the numerous ways that he might have otherwise. When one is busy striving to feed, clothe and educate those around you, there is not much time for other things….including wrong things and wrong thinkings.

It seems that material difficulties can in many ways be blessings. I remember during Anni’s leaving time, we were reading some teachings from Abdul Baha to her. In one of them, he was discussing the education of children, and noted how it was important to face certain trials, hardships and deprivations in youth. I believe this is so that our outlook in the future, towards all things, bears the Stamp of Reality with it. Only those with time on their hands can develop their perversions, including intellectual perversions that make us use our intellects for creating, sustaining, useless things, things harmful to the earth, manipulations and machinations against each other. When we just look at what the human intellect has done to the planet, we can see it has been wrongly applied. Hard work is a great moral sustainer, and cleanser. More and more, I appreciate Gandhi’s emphasis on Bread labour.

People who never experience physical want in anyway, have little patience, tolerance, wisdom or sense of duty. Poverty makes the priorities real, duty clearer. We see in the massive labor force in India, children under 16 year old, the fine and upright, dutiful sons of many a family. They leave their villages, and go out, far from their homes, far from people who speak their mother-tongues, to responsibly hold down a job, begining their life careers which hold little to no advancement, no retirement packages. They work as daily wage slaves, sending the money home so the rest of the family can eat, or get to school. I have not seen on a general level, this type of sense of duty and ability to assume responsibility in any western nation. Not that all the poor learn the lessons right, but, generally speaking, it is so.

Because of the material deprivations of her youth, Amma is fully aware of the real value of things.  Amma gives this description of both the educative and Reality Stamp value of material hardship in early youth:

“Amma grew up knowing hardship. She knows the value of each paisa. She has had to struggle just to get enough firewood to make tea. Because She knows the hardships of poverty, She doesn’t let even a speck go to waste. When She sees a piece of wood She thinks about its value and how it can be used. But if you children saw it lying in your path, you’d just kick it away. Or if you saw it lying in the rain, you’d never think of picking it up, drying it and saving it. Children, would we throw away a five paisa coin? No, because it’s five paisas. Without dry firewood, how can we cook anything? Even if we hold hundreds of rupees in our hands, we still need firewood to light a fire, don’t we? We should be aware of the value and possible use of everything. Then we won’t allow ourselves to waste anything.” (from Eternal Wisdom 2:176-177.)

This awareness is actually the experience of the majority of human beings. Most of the people on the planet are not having adequate food, clothing or shelter, as we all see, and the education we receive does not really inspire us to do anything about this situation.

I really don’t know what Sugunanandan-Acchan said, it was all in Malayalam with no translation. The entire time, a mynah bird was singing its heart out at the edge of the big hall, near the pillars. I think it was the same one that is actually singing during archana every morning in the small garden areas that surround Amma’s room. I’m sure the talk Acchan gave had charming and beautiful stories about Amma, Damayanti-Amma, and earlier life. Amma’s devotion to Damayanti-Amma in her childhood was unparalleled. At several points, the audience who could understand laughed. When he intially started speaking, Acchan’s voice was quite weak, but as his talk wore on, it became firmer and clearer.

In the end, we all came up to pay our respects to our beloved Parents, and were treated to ‘Unni-appam’ a kind of deep-fried sweet-bread, particular to Kerala. Like most Indian sweets, you have one, and you kind of crave another one. This kind is very oily. I remember once when Amma was offered one, she squoze the oil of it onto her arms, legs and hands, and rubbed it into her skin. I thought she was telling us all that the oil had better places than inside the body.

Its interesting. I remember a few years ago, say 20, in the US, there was a conscious and deliberate marketing shift to target 12 year olds. With this shift, which was designed to create a few more years of high consumption levels of diposable items, so a few people could amass more and more, the entire focus on people shifted also., 45 came to be viewed as ‘ old’. Now that the 1960 babies are all in their 50’s the marketing strategies have changed again, trying to psyche people into being sexy-sixty year olds, busy with self-gratuitous entertainments. Really, its a relentless pounding on the psyche in the media, buy! Covet! Get! Experience! Adventure!More!More! More! This is now going on in India, all over the world. Those exposed to it all are sick of it, but the new generations, just getting indoctrinated and conditioned, have yet to get sick of it. With the new marketing shift, it seems alot of people think there is nothing to see or gain in growing old, only to
dread, and deny, with creams, dyes, cosmetic operations, and so forth.

In India, we see that Ayurveda holds that a person does not really begin to unfold their wisdom in its fullness, till around 60 years. There are age limits on how young a President can be in the US. (must be at least 45 years of age), regulations put in when society was not yet blinded to the genuine wisdom that a mature human being who has intelligently digested their life experience bears as a gift for the guidance of the rest of the society. The maturing process has so much to teach us personally, and society wis­e, That we should dread, rather than welcome it only shows our complete ignorance, the extent to which we have bought into all the lies crammed down our throats, and stuffed into our eyes, ears and nostrils. I personally, am grateful to be getting older, the distracting fascinations of youth fade away, and the crystal within becomes more clear.

Even the debilitations of age, although sometimes frustratin’ are nothing to fear, for we gain new eyes , new hands, a different mind, and new things to see, new perspectives. What is real, eternal, lasting, worthwhile, becomes more succinct.  We get wonderful lessons, whose import we understand. We see larger patterns, in the chaotic swirl around, the impenetrable screen between the I-mind and the universal mind becomes more porous. Who would want to deny all that? Those who are younger, or have not matured, cannot really understand the fruits of maturity in life…hence the long recognized need of respect and reverence towards the aged. Oftentimes, I have felt embarrassed for older people, watching younger people actually ‘baby-talk’ them. I have seen the older person take it all in good resignation, yet, it is clear that they are in an entirely different space from the person treating or communicating with them in that way. They are patient, tolerant, forgiving,
in a very deep way, as with a child, which the glib younger is utterly unaware of.

Nobody, it seems really talks or thinks about these things.

Societies that sincerely honor the participation of the aged, gain the benefit of all of their digested maturity, and run smoothly, the children raised in peaceful harmony, raised well, with care and attention. They are the wise people, to whom all turn for advice on any course of action. This guidance, is ideally suited to its time and place through each aging person who has learned all the pitfalls and nuances of their clime and age, in their own unique way. It is an evolutionary way to keep humam society on ethical track. I guess that is what Amma meant, when she said once that we are all ‘Incarnations’ . Or at least, that’s one way to look at that teaching.

It was how all human society went on for milleniums, until the hell-hound of unbridled greed and marketing came, were everything and everyone tries to sell themselves. Now our aged, many of them, ruined by societies that value the material rather than the Real, the Eternal, the Reality, are confused, immature, unable to cope and unwanted, unvalued by society and family. For in denying their own natural maturing processes, they have become miserable within themselves, and many are not wise giving people filled with Love.

This is not the case with Amma’s parents. Damayanti-Amma literally exudes a beautiful fragrance of peace and Beauty. We see in her the fruit of the human being’s feminine maturity, despite the limitations and deprivations she materially experienced in much of her life. The experience of a mature human being is something very sweet and cherishable. Their presence in society literally helps others to recognise the value of the ethical ideal, over temporal distractions. Real human maturity faces truth, nakedly., and stays there, with its new eyes, hands, mind, perceptions, its new internal body, it doesn’t deny itself. It’s such a great light, that it reflects back into the society as ineffable sweetness.

It was a precious and rare event for the ashram as a whole. I honestly do not know if we will be so fortunate again. These are the Great Grand-Parents of the whole place. Here is a photo Sugunanandan Acchan gave to us to use. It was just a few years ago. In it, both Sugunandan Acchan and Damayanti-Amma have just been garlanded with huge lotus-bud malas, made by Japanese devotees who had come to see them.

All those of you who have aged parents, grandparents, relatives and friends, please enjoy them and learn from them, seek their advices while you can, and please give them our Pranaams, in honor of Sugunanandan-Acchan Jayanti.

Loving you,

Kamala Aunty

Sugunanandan Acchan and Damayanti Amma

Sugunanandan Acchan and Damayanti Amma

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