BY SEÁN P. FEENY
NEXT weekend a large group of Donegal people from all parts of the county will be travelling to Dublin to meet a world-renowned spiritual leader and humanitarian who is making a very welcome return to Ireland.
Mata Amritanandamayi is known throughout the world as Amma, or Mother, for her selfless love and compassion toward all beings. Her entire life has been dedicated to alleviating the pain of the poor, and those suffering physically and emotionally.
Amma returns to Dublin on Saturday and Sunday, November 17/18, where she will greet up to 3,000 people a day at the National Show Centre.
The spiritual leader is renowned for having embraced 32 million people world-wide, of all religions, creeds and from all walks of life, making herself available to everyone who wants to meet her in person, comforting, consoling and uplifting thousands of people.
In Ireland alone she has a very loyal following, including some very notable names such as Liam Ó Maonlaí (Hothouse Flowers), members of Kíla, Cathy Jordan (Dervish) and Donegal native, well-known artist Deirdre Brennan.
Deirdre is a member of Amma Ireland, the voluntary group that hosts the spiritual leaders regular visits and organises the event which takes place every two year.
Through an interest in Bhajan/Kirtan, hindu devotional music, and Peter Gabriel’s Real Word label in the late 1980s, Deirdre first encountered Amma.
Amma herself promotes a healthy scepticism not to just ‘follow anybody’, and Deirdre immediately was intrigued by the humble woman from India.
“I first spent several months in India and met Amma in the early 1990s and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and her message was so simple, it’s all about compassion and love and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially not in this day and age.
“This is my 22nd year supporting Amma and she truly is a very special person and her humility is incredible, despite having been given accolades all around the world.”
Deirdre said Amma’s message is not about religion, in fact, she encourages you to follow the principles your own religion and be open-minded towards all religions.
“The is absolutely no agenda other than to relieve human suffering and you see her doing this every single day with her message of love and compassion.”
Deirdre said Amma has now been coming to Ireland since 2004 and gained a very loyal following and even converted some of the hardened sceptics, including well-known RTÉ broadcasters such as Philip Bromwell and Derek Mooney along the way.
She said: “Philip Bromwell asked in 2010 what the whole event was about and Amma replied that it was a festival of love, which is so true, it’s such a wonderful gathering without an airy fairy feel to it.”
In more recent years in the age of technology, Deirdre said, Amma says that while we are all getting smarter, ‘computer screens are getting bigger and the hearts smaller’.
“We are all connecting through various means, but are we really connecting with each other. People are getting lonelier and Amma wants to encourage people to get together more as a community and help one another rather than be isolated.”
Amma never asks for money and all the events organised on her behalf are free, but like any charitable organisation fund-raisers, like Amma Ireland, fund-raise to be able to host the well-respected humanitarian in Ireland every two years.
Everything is done voluntarily and every penny raised through donations or the sale of the food goes to Amma’s charities with devotees of Amma donating the cost of the hall, food etc.
Deirdre said: “Amma has so many charitable projects back home in India, including a housing and pension scheme for widows who have no status whatsoever, building a hospital in her native region and much more, all done by volunteers.”
Deirdre is very much looking forward to this weekend’s gathering in Dublin, which is always a very joyous occasion, she said. “The energy in the centre is just fantastic and there will be music, dance, food and of course Amma hugging thousands of people.
Amma is very well-respected around the world, amongst presidents, humanitarians, members of the United Nations and the late Yolanda King, daughter of Civil Rights Activist Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, once said of her that ‘Amma walks the talk!’.
Deirdre said: “Amma meets everyone that wants to meet her. This is a great opportunity to meet someone of that calibre who preaches religious tolerance and wants to alleviate suffering, which is a very appropriate message in this time.”
For full details of the programme including times of inspirational talks, darshan (meeting Amma for a hug), as well as details of accommodation locally, check out the website www.ammaireland.org and accommodation is available at Amma rates at Bewley’s Hotel (€60 a room sleeps 3). For information call Mary at 0868780912.
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