This Hindu woman, the radiant Mata Amritanandamayi, has spent most of her life hugging people. It is estimated, if my memory serves me correctly, she has hugged 31 million people.
There is no charge for her hug which can last up to 4 minutes. People have been known to burst into tears following Amma’s hug which suggests that many people don’t get too much affection in their lives and perhaps feel alienated much of the time.
“When each person comes to me, I am their mother and they are my child,” she beams, rather cheerily. “In everyone, there is a little child, and if their cries are not being heard, if that child remains unattended, it creates a vacuum that can only be filled with love. And the purest love that exists is between mother and child; as a mother, you are part of that child and, in the same way, I see myself as an extension of everyone.”
“She never tires, she never complains, she never cancels an event,” says her swami assistant admiringly. “In India, the groups are even bigger; sometimes she will hug 2,000 people in one hour.” Which, you have got to agree, is some serious hugging.
It’s an improvement compared with her early life, in the Kerala fishing village of Parayakadavu. As an unworldly young girl, given to devotional singing and meditating, she was beaten by her parents, forced to give up school to look after her seven siblings, and subjected to regular poisoning attempts (laced milk, deadly thorns) from locals who didn’t like her spiritual inclinations.
However, ask about her hard life then and now, and Amma, now 58, replies with a shrug and what sounds like the Malayalam equivalent of “It’s what I do”. And that people queue for hours to get her hug is testament to the emptiness or fear or stress that many people feel in this warring, dog-eat-dog world. Amma, as well as tirelessly hugging, has also set up orphanages, hospitals, universities, homes for the homeless, etc.
Perhaps the U.S. and Britain instead of making arms and killing people and stealing their resources could encourage their citizens to dress in white robes and, following introductory courses on what love is, become huggers then go forth into the world and start hugging!
It would certainly alter the path that the world is on and, who knows, we might even experienced peace in the world for the first time and a tsunami of love!