(Darshan means “to see” in Sanskrit. In the Hindu ritual tradition, it refers to seeing the sacred. This typically corresponds to seeing the sacred in the image of a deity while at temple. Darshan is believed to have the capacity to bring good fortune, well-being, and grace to those who participate in the act.)
On Monday morning, I traveled to Castro Valley to see Mātā Amṛtānandamayī Devī primarily know as Amma (mother). Amma is a spiritual leader and guru, who is revered as a saint by her followers and is described as “the hugging saint”. This is the fourth time I have gone to see Amma for a hug. The first time I heard about Amma was at my Vinyasa class when I lived in New York City. I was curious, so I went to go check it out. I waited about three hours and decided to head home without my hug. The other three times I was lucky enough to come to the Castro Vallet location and I was patient enough to get my hugs.
I waited for my token in the cold foggy morning with several hundred others. Amma came into the temple at 11:00am. She has such a loving presence. We all practiced a long meditation before the program began. It was such a deep meditative experience for me, almost like I was fully asleep but sitting up. A few times I started to lean and fall over. I felt very lucky to be able to sit with Amma and her devotes. It’s not very often you get to meditate with a saint!
I stood in line for the hug around 2pm, I was nervous. The kirtan band was playing, I kept getting closer to stage, her presence building and getting stronger. There were many devotees around guiding the line up to Amma. I was next, I knelt down, she buried my face in her bosom, she was wearing a white robe, you could see all the makeup and tears from all the other people before me, Amma rocked me and whispered a mantra, I got a blessed Hershey’s chocolate kiss and a rose petal handed to me then I was on my way.
I got up from my hug disoriented and I sat on stage for a little bit to collect myself. Something magical and amazing just happened but I could not put it into words much less thoughts, so I sat and rested and let it all soak in. Savasana came to me at that moment, they say it’s the most important pose in the practice, so you can assimilate all the energy shift that happened during the class. This sitting was my Savasana; I needed to let what just happen sink in.
It has been two days after my darshan and I still can’t really put into words what that experience was like for me. All I know that I will continue to go see Amma and hopefully one day I will have some idea of what that exchange meant.
Please comment below on your experience with Amma, the hugging saint.
Rebecca Vizcarrondo(firstname.lastname@example.org) has been practicing yoga on and off the mat since 2003 and currently resides in San Francisco CA.