“Tulsi reawakens our inherent longing in humanity to honor the divinity of Mother Nature.” – Tulasi Devi by Savarga
Yesterday, I was embraced by Mata Amritanandamayi, known as Amma, the hugging guru from Kerala, India. My dear friends who I journeyed around northern India with last March ventured with me to Marlborough, MA where Amma visits every summer.
Amma is the guru I had hoped to visit in India to receive Darshan (blessing in the form of a hug). However, due to logistics (or maybe the Divine orchestration), I was not graced with her physical presence.
This left me feeling sad upon returning to the States. Like, “Hey, I went all the way to the other side of the world and I didn’t get to see Amma?”
I wanted to bring home Tulsi seeds blessed and grown at her ashram for the herb farm in my hometown. As the results oriented person that I am, I was a bit disappointed.
This week, Amma visited Massachusetts to offer Darshan and prayers. My friend Jiyanna, who grew the Tulsi for the event, asked me to deliver the plants to the Green Friends table, which sells seeds and herbal products blessed by Amma.
When we arrived, I watched as Amma began a five hour-long session of hugging hundreds of people. As I followed my friends to sit closer to the stage, I suddenly felt my body being pulled in the opposite direction, back toward the table where I delivered the Tulsi plants.
The seeds- I remembered! Sure enough, there was a basket of Tulsi seeds blessed by Amma at the table. Sarvaga, the woman I handed the plants to earlier, recognized me and we began talking. I told her I am an herbalist and love to grow and use Tulsi in my practice. Sarvaga lives at Amma’s ashram in Kerala and grows the Tulsi. “When you come to Kerala, come work with me in the gardens!” she said.
I had no words, just a wide beaming smile. “Yes, I would love to,” I replied. “We will grow Tulsi together.”
I purchased a few Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) plants from her, the Krishna variety grown at the ashram in India. Sarvaga explained how to care for them in the New England climate and wished me the best.
“Here, take these,” she said, “I will give you a big bag of seeds for you to grow next spring,” she said.
“Thank you,” I said. “This means so much to me. We will plant a garden of Amma’s Tulsi at the farm and I will bring you more plants next summer.”
I am deeply humbled by the experience of receiving Tulsi seeds directly from the grower in Kerala. Again, the spirits of the plants work in mysterious ways, always showing up when we are ready. How can I dare to feel anything but joy when I am surrounded by an abundance of Tulsi flowering at the farm this summer?From my knees, I hand Amma a bouquet of flowers grown at Full Kettle Farm– anise hyssop, echinacea, elecampane, and Tulsi. She accepts and they disappear into the hands of a devotee. She caresses the back of my heart. I feel comforted. Affirmation for everything I Do, everything I Be.
These are not her words, but what I felt by her embrace: “Rest, my child. You are taken care of. I told you, while you sat on those banks of the Ganges to let me come to you. Stop worrying. Trust. Keep up your beautiful work in the world, and remember, everything you do must be of service to your heart.”
Then, she handed me a pink rose petal wrapped around a Hershey kiss and gently pushed me upright as the devotees escorted me to step aside.
Amma has hugged over 36 million people. What if every hug is like hugging all of those people? We are one giant web, interconnected by the heart line- the line of Love.
As I went down to the river to pray the night before Darshan with Amma, I felt truly at home. The Connecticut River is my Ganges. All water is connected be the oceans. Sending Tulsi flowers down the river reminded me of puja in India- the ritual of floating candles in flower boats downriver at sunset.
It’s all here. Right here. Right now. This land. This body. This lifetime.
The roots beneath my feet sink down into the silt soil on the edge of the life-giving Connecticut River. I thanked the river for all she supports- the trees, insects, animals, and people.
What if we praised our rivers each day? I know they could really use our recognition after so many decades of mistreatment. Waterways are the purification systems of the Earth.
As I surrendered my sunbaked body in the arms of the cool river, I chanted the mantra Amma gave to me a few years ago. It is mantra to praise Mother Nature.
In the book, The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise, by Martín Prechtel, he writes that when we offer our praise, it is like offering rain to the dry, cracked soils of the Earth.
We sure need a lot of rain right, now! Send out your praise in whatever ways you feel moved.My prayers are praise for all the seen and unseen life-giving forces surrounding me. May it rain and fill the dry cracked Earth with nourishment to bear fruits of life!