Amma is very intriguing. She’s called the hugging saint. Her community in Kerala sounds close to heaven on earth. I hope to see her on one of her NYC visits.
In mainstream American culture, movie stars and celebrities fill the role of idolized being. Robert De Niro, Denzel Washington, and Madonna take the place in our hearts previously held by saints and martyrs.
But celebrities aren’t here to help us find peace and enlightenment. They’re often looking for help just as hard as we are.
So what is a spiritual seeker to do?
Maybe you can’t voyage to Asia to find your own guru.
Perhaps you didn’t grow up in any religious or spiritual tradition, or, if you did, never felt like it was quite the right match for you.
While you are searching, maybe you have to be your own guru.
Here’s an untutored American version of Amma’s practice:
Do you like to hug people? I do — but physical contact, especially a squeeze, especially with strangers, doesn’t work in our bustling urban culture.
So what can we offer?
Silent, hidden, heartfelt kisses!
Look at a person, probably not in their eyes, but any other part of their body, it could be their back, knee, or hand, then gently press your lips together and make a tiny smooch.
This is a subtle gesture, no one will notice it consciously, but they will feel your loving kindness.
You can send these airborne gestures at your office, in class, on the subway.
Enjoy and share the limitlessness of your love, kindness, and caring.
[On a side note: what these guides offer is complementary to the Christianity in which I was raised. Buddhism, and Christianity, and lessons from other religious traditions can enrich and inform each other. Enlightenment is not a zero sum game. For example, I really like the pastor, Reverend Meeter, at the church I’ve been attending, and some of his sermons are truly great (like this one on the prodigal son), as are those of the ministers Susan Reisinger and Joel Blunk from my hometown church in Pennsylvania.]